It’s Not Enough – Dustin Kensrue (2013, The Water & The Blood)

Click on image to listen to song for free.

Truth in Tunes returns after a long hiatus to bring you a breath of fresh air in the world of worship music.  This post doesn’t reflect my freedom to write again as much as it reflects the unstoppable drive of the music and truths that simply need to be proclaimed.

Enter Dustin Kensrue.  Do you ever feel that the vast sea of current worship music has become creatively stagnant and theologically watered down?  So does Kensrue.  Dustin, who I have blogged about before, is worship pastor at Mars Hill Church in Bellevue and frontman for the rock group Thrice.  Last year, Kensrue released a new album of songs called “The Water and The Blood” intending to give the body of Christ an injection of lyrically rich and musically fresh tunes.  When I saw that he was doing a worship album I was skeptical because of today’s climate of praise songs: a massive machine manufacturing lollipop versions of half truths that feel sweet and warm, but hardly ever enrich the soul or challenge the mind.  The exceptions to this standard are very hard to find, sometimes.

Along similar lines, Mars Hill Music’s website had this to say about Kensrue’s new album:

“Kensrue laments the fact that most worship music seems to have fallen into a creative rut and has no engagement with the surrounding culture. ‘Our God creates with excellence, and we should as well,’ he explains. Beyond taking issue with the musical monotony, he also has strong feelings about the lyrical content of many popular worship tunes. ‘Growing up and going to church, I felt despair while singing. No matter how flowery or nicely it was stated, the majority of worship songs were essentially just a big dose of Law, of what I needed to do for God. Without first soaking in the good news that Jesus has done it all, that ‘It is Finished’ in him, the Law is condemning because we simply can’t fulfill it.’ These worship songs, creatively stale and theologically lopsided, spurred in Kensrue the desire to write better songs for the church to sing.

Although it can be somewhat vexing to write faith-filled lyrics that are exciting, theologically sound, and easy to digest, Kensrue does it well. But creating that balance wasn’t easy. ‘You can have people that love Jesus and are doing great music as far as the actual music,’ he explains, ‘but if the lyrics aren’t constantly pointing to the sufficiency of Jesus, I think you can unwittingly be causing great harm.’ With all of this in mind, his album The Water and the Blood was created.”

The entire album accomplishes this focus on the sufficiency of Jesus in such a potent way and I recommend every single song on it.  I highly recommend that each reader at least listen to “Suffering Servant” as a prime example (I hope to blog about it at Easter)  But for now, let us focus on our selection for today: “It’s Not Enough”.

Listen to the song by clicking the image above, selecting the right track, and then following the lyrics listed here:

Though all the wealth of men was mine to squander
And towers of ivory rose beneath my feet
Were palaces of pleasure mine to wander
The sum of it would leave me incomplete

Though every soul would hold my name in honor
And truest love was always by my side
My praises sung by grateful sons and daughters
My soul would never still be satisfied

It’s not enough, it’s not enough
I could walk the world forever
Till my shoes were filled with blood
It’s not enough, it’s not enough

Though I could live for all to lift them higher
Or spend the centuries seeking light within
Though I indulged my every dark desire
Exhausting every avenue of sin

It’s not enough, it’s not enough
I could walk the world forever
Till my shoes were filled with blood
It’s not enough, it’s not enough
I could right all wrongs, or ravage
Everything beneath the sun
It’s not enough, it’s not enough

To make me whole
It’s not enough, it never was
Awake my soul
It’s not enough, it never was

It’s not enough, it’s not enough
I could walk the world forever
Till my shoes were filled with blood
It’s not enough, it’s not enough
I could right all wrongs, or ravage
Everything beneath the sun
It’s not enough, it’s not enough
Though all would bow to me
Till I could drink my fill of fear and love
It’s not enough, it’s not enough

I’m such a sucker for songs with dramatic crescendo movements and lyrics with tons of absolute statements.  Jesus can be sung about in so many different ways: a quiet, intimate lullaby about His companionship; a loud, triumphant anthem declaring His victory; or a rock ballad offering Him as our rescuer.  Well, how about a song that finds every way to say that Jesus is simply everything that we need!  This truth is the implication to Dustin’s pronouncement that all other pursuits, even when fully realized, are not enough to quench the thirst of our soul for meaning and significance.

The Gospel is not a call to love and justice.  The Gospel is not an inspiration to become a better spouse, parent or person.  The Gospel is not a contract with God to make it into Heaven.  The Gospel is not even a relationship with God that was restricted from us because of our sin.  The Gospel is first and foremost news.  Good news.

What I mean to say is that the Gospel is primarily the arrival of Jesus Christ.  And His arrival, both in flesh and in connecting with us on the cross, marks the key moment in human history when the human soul was no longer alone.  Of course, the Gospel leads to that list of things mentioned above, but before we race ahead to manifestations and effects, let us first consider what the human soul needs and what Jesus exquisitely did for us at Calgary.

Psalm 73: 25 – 26, 28 says,

“Whom have I in heaven but You?
I desire You more than anything on earth.
 My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart;
He is mine forever…
 But as for me, how good it is to be near God!
I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter,
and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things You do.”

Ecclesiastes 12:1,8 says,

“Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, ‘Life is not pleasant anymore’…’Everything is meaningless,’ says the Teacher, ‘completely meaningless.’”

And then John 1:1-3, 14 says,

“In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through Him,
and nothing was created except through Him…                                                                   So the Word became human and made His home among us.                                            He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.”

These Scriptures emphasize that real satisfaction in life can only come from being near to God; AND that the nearness of God can only be accomplished by God in Christ coming near to us.  This is the Gospel.

Yes, of course, the Gospel leads us to other fruitful, righteous realities such as redemption, spiritual maturity, a calling to moral values and human justice, and so on.  However, the Gospel begins and ends with satisfying a holy God and satisfying a hungry, empty soul that can only be filled with Jesus – and it accomplishes this contentment all in one glorious act.

When Jesus was on the cross, He not only paid our penalty, He joined with our pain.  When Jesus was unjustly sentenced to death, He not only covered our sin, He took our shame.  When Jesus hung on that tree next to criminals, He not only sacrificed for you and me, He became fully connected with our souls, so that the writer of Hebrews (4:15-16) could then say,

“This [Jesus] of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”

The message of the Gospel is that you do not have to be alone and your soul does not have to stay empty, lost and unfulfilled.  Then, out of that connection and satisfaction in Christ comes the rest of the Christian life.

Dustin Kensrue’s song provides a poetic lament that every single human being feels, whether they admit it or not.  Sometimes it takes a while for life to show us our own dissatisfaction, but it always does – sooner or later.  We don’t always feel the blood in our shoes even though it is indeed flowing as we keep trying to walk the whole world in search of God knows what.

In all of your travels and seasons of life, as you search and search for meaning and significance, always remember this: it is not enough.  But the Gospel is simply Jesus stepping towards our very center of who we are and saying to us, “I am enough.”

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Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed, Sojourn (2009, Over The Grave)

click on image to listen to song for free.

Today we close out the Passion aspect of Lent season (I will take the next two weeks on the resurrection) with a song that truly captures the best response that the heart could have to the suffering and death of Christ.  We must consider seriously meditating on how much Jesus did for us: that He laid His life down for sinners like you and me.  We must find a heart of gratitude for these things at the deepest level, no matter how uncomfortable it might be.

Therefore, I am calling out an all-star cast for this occasion.  All-star, meaning our song is a time-tested, hall of fame-like tune performed by a well-loved, veteran group of artists that are at the heart of the “new hymns” movement today.

Without further ado, here is Sojourn performing Isaac Watt’s classic hymn, “Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed” :

Alas! and did my Savior bleed
And did my Sovereign die.
Would He devote that sacred head
For sinners such as I?
His body slain; nailed to the cross
Bathed in his own blood
There received the wrath of God
His soul in anguish stood.
It was for crimes that I had done
That kept him on the tree.
Amazing mercy, matchless grace
And love beyond degree.
When Christ, our own creator died
And took upon our sin
Not even in that darkest hour
Could glory be shut in
My thoughts fixed on His sacrifice
The cross that draws me near
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness
And melt my eyes to tears.
Alas! and did my Savior bleed
And did my Sovereign die.
Would He devote that sacred head
For sinners such as I?
Drops of grief cannot repay
The love I owe to you
Lord, I give myself away
Its all that can do.

I have printed these words out and kept them in my Bible for years now. It seems to capture that initial and essential response to the Cross so perfectly.  It is the very function of worship music to repeatedly take core truths deeper into the heart and mind of the worshipper.

Because of how rich this song is, I encourage all readers to simply focus on the lyrics themselves, more so than my reflections about them.  Re-read the biblical accounts of the crucifixion in companion with this song.  Perhaps intensify things by watching the Passion of the Christ movie in conjunction with your reading and listening to this song.

Don’t let this season pass you by without stepping into the depths of the death of death and sin.  The resurrection is coming and it is supremely grand and important – but it wouldn’t mean a thing if our Savior didn’t bleed for us first.  Watts says is best, “My thoughts fixed on His sacrifice,the cross that draws me near, dissolve my heart in thankfulness, and melt my eyes to tears.

Alas! and did my Savior bleed.”

Hosanna – Andrew Peterson (2008, Resurrection Letters Vol. 2)

click on image to listen to song for free.

Continuing the opening theme of confession within our focus on the passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Andrew Peterson, once again, steps up to the plate for this week’s selection.

Today’s song takes the question of “Why did God have to die in the first place?” and the answer that Page CXVI gave us last week (“You bled by our hands…”) and brings all of it further in and all the way through to the ultimate conclusion: God died.  We put Him there.  But God did it anyway, because He is King of our lives and our hearts!  The “further in” part has to do with Peterson’s humbling and cutting confession as a fallen child of God that we could/should all claim for ourselves.  But listen also to the hinting and foreshadowing of victory that this song offers:

I am tangled up in contradiction. I am strangled by my own two hands.                                 I am hunted by the hounds of addiction. Hosanna!                                                                 I have lied to everyone who trusts me. I have tried to fall when I could stand.                        I have only loved the ones who loves me. Hosanna!

O Hosanna! See the long awaited king come to set his people free. We cry O Hosanna! Come and tear the temple down. Raise it up on holy ground. Hosanna!

I have struggled to remove this raiment, tried to hide every shimmering strand.                   I contend with these ghosts and these hosts of bright angels. Hosanna!                               I have cursed the man that you have made me,                                                                   as I have nursed the beast that bays for my blood.                                                            Oh, I have run from the one who would save me. Save me, Hosanna!

We cry for blood, and we take your life. Hosanna!                                                                 It is blood, it is life that you have given.

You have crushed beneath your heel the vile serpent.                                                       You have carried to the grave the black stain.                                                                   You have torn apart the temple’s holy curtain.                                                                   You have beaten Death at Death’s own game. Hosanna!

O Hosanna! Hail the long awaited king, come to set his people free. We cry O Hosanna! Won’t you tear this temple down, raise it up on holy ground. O Hosanna!                              I will lift my voice and sing: you have come and washed me clean. Hosanna.

This song is set primarily within the story of Jesus arriving in Jerusalem on a donkey and being hailed as King of the Jews by the people (Matthew 21).  This triumphal entry occurs only a week before the same masses would cry out, “Crucify Him!”

The irony that the Gospel authors allude to (and Peterson picks up on in this tune) is that Christ is indeed Israel’s “Saving King” but not in the way that they expected.  The Jews hoped for a physical saving from Roman oppressors, but God meant His Son to be a spiritual savior.  Nevertheless, Christ will reign over all realms in the end and the cry of “Hosanna!” is and will be completely answered.

The other beautiful symbolism in this story is Jesus clearing out the Temple shortly after His regal welcome to the city.  Again, Jesus drives the point towards the spiritual focus that His mission was always centered on.  The Temple is symbolic for our bodies and our man-made religious efforts.  And so the lyrics of our song today rightly call us to plea with God, saying “Come and tear this temple down. Raise it up on holy ground. Hosanna!

In order for Jesus to do this, He had to die.  This song captures the riveting defiance that we pit against the immeasurable offer of sacrificial love given to us by God through Christ.

The word Hosanna in the Greek literally means, “save now!”  What a succinct way of defining both our great need and the great hope that Jesus Christ is exactly the One who can save us.  May we continue to better understand exactly what we are to be saved from (ourselves, the wrath of a holy God, etc.) and Who is doing the saving.  May the cry of “Hosanna!” be written on our hearts over this Lent season more and more.

Lover – Derek Webb (2003, She Must and Shall Go Free)

click on image to listen to song for free. (it’s #5 on the album)

February is here.  Love is in the air, perhaps.  But today’s love song is old, yet unique…romantic, yet tragic.  It is the age old story of boy meets girl, girl plays hard to get, cheats often, and cruelly disregards the treasure of the boy’s love for her.  Boy dies in order to prove love to girl.  Girl appreciates the gesture, but still wanders into other relationships and lesser pleasures, despite the boy’s epic commitment to her and her alone.  And in the end…the boy sets the girl free.  Free from a life of shame and swine, so that boy and girl can be together forever.

Wait, that doesn’t sound like a normal, healthy love relationship to you either?  Nevertheless, it is a rough summary of God’s relationship with the Church.  God always intended to have a sacred place on Earth that we could come and meet with Him.  He never had to give this kind of access to us, but He graciously offers Himself to us in so many ways.  Unfortunately, we have continually and cyclically complained about, ignored, scorned and desecrated these meeting places.

Derek Webb is a pioneer among Christian artists today.  He continues his involvement in the popular band, Caedmon’s Call.  His work with Noisetrade is also worth mentioning, as it serves as one of the best ways for artists and listeners to connect directly and appropriately.  He has been writing music for a long time, including solo projects for the last decade.  Ten years ago, he took on a project that brought a lot of attention and criticism.  A concept album about the state of the Church in America would definitely be a difficult and highly scrutinized ordeal today.  However, it was a prophetic piece and we are in greater need of its message than even last decade.  “She Must and Shall Go Free” includes a song called, “Lover” which is composed from the perspective of Christ speaking to His bride, the Church.

As you listen to the lyrics, consider how reflecting on Jesus’ attitude towards the Temple in the Gospels compares to how He might speak to us, the Church, today:

Like a man comes to an altar, I came into this town
With the world upon my shoulders
And promises passed down
And I went into the water
My father, he was pleased
I built it and I’ll tear it down so you will be set free

I found thieves and salesmen living in my father’s house
I know how they got in here and I know how to get ‘em out
I’m turning this place over from floor to balcony
And then just like these doves and sheep oh you will be set free

I’ve always been a lover from before I drew a breath
Some things I loved easy and some I’ll loved to death
Because love’s no politician, it listens carefully
So of those who come I can’t lose one, so you will be set free

But go on and take my picture, go on and make me up
I’ll still be your defender and you’ll be my missing son
And I’ll send out an army just to bring you back to me
‘Cause regardless of your brother’s lies oh you will be set free
I am my beloved’s and my beloved’s mine
So you bring all your history and I’ll bring the bread and wine
And we’ll have us a party where all drinks are on me
Then as surely as the rising sun oh you will be set free

Ever since the turn of the twenty-first century, America has come down hard on evangelical Christianity.  The younger generations are leaving the church in droves and society isn’t really respecting the Church as a meaningful and positive element of our world.  We only have ourselves to blame for these trends.  We’ve lost our way, once again, and the world is tired of us.

Now, there is no need to push the panic button yet.  There are bright spots here and there and God is certainly active and involved in His bride today.  But, in general, we are failing…we need to return to our First Love and remember the joy of our salvation that still stands strong as the cornerstone of the Church.  We exist to be a lighthouse to a dying world.  Jesus didn’t just die for you and me.  He died and rose again so that we would believe and become His ambassadors.  There is an “us” that we need to submit to and sacrifice for more than we have been willing to embrace as of late.

God knows that we need this reminder often.  Even before He sent His Son, He sent prophets to help us with remembering our place and calling.  One such prophet was Hosea.  Listen: Hosea 2:14-23:

“But then I will win her back once again.
    I will lead her into the desert
    and speak tenderly to her there.
I will return her vineyards to her
    and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope…
 When that day comes,” says the Lord,
    “you will call me ‘my husband’
    instead of ‘my master…’
I will make you my wife forever,
    showing you righteousness and justice,
    unfailing love and compassion.                                                                                               I will be faithful to you and make you mine,
    and you will finally know me as the Lord…
I will show love
    to those I called ‘Not loved.’
And to those I called ‘Not my people,’
    I will say, ‘Now you are my people.’
And they will reply, ‘You are our God!’”

God loves His people!  When we actively look to His love together as one, the world will take notice once again (but, in a good way).  When we let God’s love lead us from the inside out, society will favor us once again.  When we humble ourselves, put the Gospel first in our Churches, the unchurched will want what we have.  Jesus is the greatest lover of all and we are His bride.  May He make us worthy of this title and privilege, so that others can be set free, as well!

All I Have Is Christ – Na Band (2008, Looked Upon)

Click on image to listen to song for free.

Just one post this week, but it is a very special one.  The song is quite simple and plain, instrumentally speaking.  In fact, at first listen, you might toss it right into the heaping pile of modern worship songs that look, sound and feel just about the same.  But, of course, I wouldn’t subject you to such torture without good cause.

First, some background on the artists.  Na Band is a branch of Sovereign Grace – a mega-factory of modern worship music in recent years. My one sentence assessment of SG is that they are talented, but sometimes lack originality in their music; however, lyrically they are unmatched and incredibly faithful to what worship ought to be.   In fact, their leader Bob Kauflin, is THE authority figure on what our churches should be doing with worship.  He pioneered modern Christian music back in the early 70’s with the band GLAD (anyone remember them?) and he literally wrote the book (find it here) on this subject and I recommend it above all other books on Christian music.  Period.

I mention Kauflin because two of his sons have followed in his footsteps, Devon – who sings our selected song, and Jordan – who wrote said tune.  The song is a first person reflection/prayer/psalm about being a sinner saved by grace through faith in Christ (by the way, a much better analysis of this song is also available at the link for listening to the song):

I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way.
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave.
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will.
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still.

But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross.
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace.

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me.
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose.
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You.                                                                                                       

The strength to follow Your commands could never come from me

Powerful words indeed.  Such humility and Christ-centeredness are consistent marks of a Sovereign Grace song.  But there is more to the story of this particular tune.  I mentioned Jordan Kauflin, songwriter of “All I Have Is Christ”.  Little did I know that as I researched him for this blog post I came across a family blog that his wife writes.  I learned that shortly after writing this song, Jordan’s two year old son was diagnosed with Leukemia.  His second child has been in treatment for his cancer for the past two and a half years and is almost finished, now in remission and returning to normal health.

As I read about their story, I thought of the last verse of this song: “Oh Father use my ransomed life in any way You choose…”  I wonder if he had any clue how God was going to take him up on that offer when he was writing these lyrics.  Very few things in life are harder seeing your child suffer.  Having Christ, clinging to a deeper connection with Christ in the midst of that kind of trial is where our lives are truly defined.  There are some events in my life that deeply resonate with this kind of story.

All believers are on a course set for the same destination – to know and love Jesus Christ.  To have Him in His fullness.  And to have Him fully means to literally have nothing else.  There might be some who would look at this and think that this is selfish of God to want all of us and not share, or that this notion is just an unattractive offer since it requires giving up everything else.  If you are thinking this way, then let Paul offer perspective from 1 Corinthians 2:

For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the One who was crucified. I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God.

Yet when I am among mature believers, I do speak with words of wisdom, but not the kind of wisdom that belongs to this world or to the rulers of this world, who are soon forgotten. No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—His plan that was previously hidden, even though He made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. That is what the Scriptures mean when they say,

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
    and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared
    for those who love Him.”

10 But it was to us that God revealed these things by His Spirit. For His Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. 11 No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. 12 And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.

In short, when we cut out everything except Christ, we finally get full access to God’s deep secrets – i.e. “the wonderful things God has freely given us.”  I’ve heard it said many times that when Christ is all you have, you realize that Christ is all you need.  But this statement isn’t big enough.  Jesus isn’t like a some survival kit that only contains the bare essentials of our spiritual journey.  Jesus is the key to unlocking access to all of God!

Abraham had no clue what God was doing with his life when God asked him to sacrifice his son, but he obeyed and trusted God’s plan…and he became the father of God’s people.  Paul was a zealous idiot before Christ grabbed a hold of him on the road to Damascus…and he became the primary leader and writer in New Testament times.  Jordan Kauflin’s two year old son was dying of cancer, yet he didn’t through this song out the window.  My guess is he clung to it with every drop of fear, confusion, rage and hurt that he could muster.  As a father of two children, one of which has faced her battles with Leukemia as well, I fully relate to the struggle of singing a song like this and pressing on through life’s trials towards the goal of Christ alone – even when you feel like giving up.

It is not that everything or everyone else is meaningless.  Far from it!  It is simply that Jesus is the key to it all.  He is the key to redemption, to being a better person, to being a better parent, friend, spouse, etc., to a future and a hope that lasts and is vividly real, AND He is the key to all of God!  Therefore, it is better to say (or in this case sing), “All I have is Christ.”  Because then, my friend, you truly have everything.