Devotions For Every Song From “Grace & Redemption”
But First, the Cover Art…
How do you convey a multitude of messages in one simple picture? That was my challenge in coming up with a concept for the cover of the CD. I thank God for Tim Chapman, who “got” my vision and took it to the next level. What I wanted to convey was that it was through Christ’s death on a rugged cross that moved us from the blackness of our sin (left side background) to the purity in Christ (right side background). This cross was not a squared off factory finished cross as you typically see in Easter Pageants. It was rough wood, likely not even symmetrical in its shape, and yet it was the place where God exhibited grace like never before to a world of sinners, and it was through Christ’s death on this cross that sinners like us can receive this gift of grace and then live a redeemed life because of what He did for us there. The purple “swoosh” is there to represent the majesty of Christ, for He is our King. He is the utmost example of royalty, yet He came to earth as a suffering servant. I left my photo off the front… because this project and this ministry are not about me, it’s about Him. I just want to be a “delivery boy” for the greatest message of all time, and that is how God brings the gifts of Grace & Redemption to sinners like me, and did so through His death on the cross.
“Offering” (opening song)
I was attending a men’s “Ignite” conference at our church in August of 2009 when I was about halfway finished with recording the CD. The praise band not only shared this song, but their interpretation of it, and I was so inspired, that I was determined to include this on my CD. Paul Baloche wrote some beautiful lyrics which I used, but I also wrote a second verse as it applied to my own life (see below).
I realized that this song was also the perfect song to open the CD with, because my CD is truly an offering to my Lord & Savior Jesus Christ. I gave everything I had vocally to try & bring honor to Him through the messages in these songs. Paul talks about our lives being poured out as a drink offering to Him. I believe that is how we as believers are supposed to live. We pour out ourselves in service to Him. We take whatever He has given us and give it all back to him. Read my lyrics I (in italics) from verse 2, along with the original chorus, and see what I mean…
You put the pieces back together
Now it’s my heart’s desire, to magnify you Lord
And give you praise for what you’ve done for me
Because it’s only by your blood
And it’s only through your mercy
Lord I come
I bring an offering of worship to my King
No one on earth deserves the praises that I sing
Jesus may you receive the honor that You’re due
Oh Lord I bring this offering to You
This is another song that God just layed on me while I was in the process of recording. One Sunday morning, my friend Starla Harbin sang this song and though I had never heard it, I got the music and was singing it the following Saturday at the youth detention center I serve in ministry at. My producer Tim Hinds was able to locate an outstanding orchestral track for us to use, and I simply love the message in this song. It reminds us that no matter what color we are, no matter where we are from, no matter anything, we all have something in common… a “sin-sick soul”, for which there is only 1 remedy, and that remedy is Jesus Christ. Although I rewrote part of this song, I want to share some of the original lyrics from Annie McRae that we used that are so powerful to me…
For every color, every race
For every tongue & every language
For every time & every place
Well there’s an answer to the question
There is love for all the hate
There’s a healer for the dying
He’s the Life, The Truth, The Way
There is a Remedy
For every sin sick soul
There is a cure for all
For all the pain, the hurt, the wrong
There is a solution
For all the problems deep inside
There is a Remedy & his name is Jesus Christ
Thank God today that he alone is our Remedy, no matter what we are facing. When I was in school and knew the answer to a question, I raised my hand. Today I raise my hands in praise because I know Him, and He is the answer, no matter which question life poses today.
“Only Grace” (title song 1)
This song contains such a powerful message. It was written by Matthew West & Kenny Greenberg, and though Matthew West sings it far better than me, I am thankful we got to use this. Oddly enough, I started recording the CD before I even considered adding this song. It was about the 7th or 8th song we actually did in the studio, though I then realized the theme of this song was central to the message that I wanted this CD to convey. When I think of this song, I am reminded that we need God’s grace not only when we ask him into our lives, but we need it as Christians as well. I know within my own life (and this may be your story as well) there was a time when my walk with God was far from where it should have been. I carried tremendous guilt over things I had done and believed the lie that even though I was a Christian, that God was done with me, and that He would never want to use me again. That was in the summer of 2008. God then began to provide opportunities for me to share my story and more importantly, His story of unfailing love, mercy, and forgiveness for sinners. Less than 1 year later, God opened the doors for me to begin this project. Do I still feel completely unworthy to be used by God? Absolutely. Yet I consider it the greatest privilege of my life to be called by Him to share the gospel and so I continue to do so and Praise Him for the truth in these words from “Only Grace”…
No pointing fingers, there is no blame.
What happened yesterday has disappeared.
The dirt has washed away and now it’s clear
There’s only grace, There’s only love
There’s only mercy & forgiveness, and that’s enough
Your sins are gone without a trace
And there’s nothing left now, there’s Only Grace
Thank God for the grace He has shown to you, for we are all sinners, and none of us are worthy to receive His love and forgiveness, yet He gives it freely to those of us who have received Him.
“Feels Like Redemption” (title song 2)
Simply put, this song (written by Sam Mizell & Matthew West) tells the story of my own experiences during the most trying time in my life. When we began the process of recording, I knew this song would be as important as any that we added. The night we recorded this in the studio, my producer Tim Hinds commented about how I sang this song with such passion, and I told him it was because I had lived it. For anyone who has been through a time of utter brokenness in your life, you will be able to relate. The wonderful thing is that God takes the broken pieces of our broken lives and molds them into something beautiful so that we can truly experience “Redemption” as described in the powerful words listed below (note I slightly rewrote the opening verse as it applied to my own life)…
When you’re living every day with a broken heart
In my life I know how forgotten feels
Wondering if the world even knows who you are
But I’ve never known anything, or felt anything
Like the Love of Jesus
And it’s hard to describe what’s happening inside
But right now all I know is
It Feels Like Redemption, raining down on me
It Feels like Redemption, has come to set me free
All my chains have been lifted
Cause when the hands of God touch a broken life
It Feels like Redemption
Thank God for the redemption offered to us through the death of His son Jesus Christ. Also, never forget that no matter what your life has been through as a Christian, that God’s redemptive power is always available to you if you will only turn your life back over to Him.
“You Were There”
Though this was not the first song we recorded, I knew from the beginning this would be a part of the CD. I have sung this song for the last few years, and it is no less powerful today. The song tells different accounts of biblical heroes during their times of testing including Abraham, David, and eventually Jesus Christ. Listen to this song over & over so that it can impact you the way it did me when I first heard it sung by Avalon (or better yet, listen to their original recording from a few years ago). The most powerful lines in the entire song as it applies to my own life have to be the following:
So haven’t I learned that my ways are not as high as yours are
I’ve definitely had my moments when obedience to God was completely contrary to my own will at the time, but Praise God I was later able to look back and see with absolute clarity why God did what He did, and why obedience to His will was so critical, not just to my own future, but to those that I loved the most. Thank God today that when He demands obedience from us, it is out of His unfailing love for us. He wants the very best for each one of us, and too often we are not the best judge of what is best for us or even for others. Too often we “play God” and think we are the best judge of what is best for others, even when God shows us differently. It’s always best to trust Him, as His ways are definitely higher than ours.
The other powerful reminder from this song is that no matter the situation, God is there for us. He promises to never leave us or forsake us. That is incredibly comforting news. Praise God for His faithfulness to us, even when we are unfaithful in our walk with Him.
What a powerful, powerful song from the Crabb Family. This group has inspired me in so many ways, but primarily by the passion they show when sharing the gospel in song. This particular song, written by Gerald Crabb, reminds us that the Cross is a symbol too often take for granted. It is not just a piece of jewelry, it is not a fashion statement, it is the total representation of Christ’s death… the moment that split time in two and forever changed the history of mankind. Read these powerful lyrics…
And forever keep the cross in view, for that’s where I was saved
It was a cross made for the son of God at Calvary
Two pieces of rough timber on a hill
Through His hands and through His feet
He took the nails for you and me
Angels watched as He died for the lost
And though He could have walked away
He chose the cross
If I live to be 100, may I never cease to sing about the cross. 3 of the 13 songs on this CD are about the cross, because there is not important subject I could ever share. Without Christ’s death on the cross, there is no hope for mankind. Thank Him for the cross today, and for the sacrifice that Christ gave with His life for you.
“In Christ Alone Medley”
Absolutely the most challenging song for me to sing on the entire project. I came so close to cutting this one as I was never completely content with my vocals, but the message (thankfully) won out over my pride in worrying about how a few notes sounded. Years ago, I loved the original “In Christ Alone” released by Michael English, and I love the new Keith Getty version that we sing in Sons of Jubal. This version (originally released by Phillips Craig & Dean) combines lyrics from both and adds a musical Celtic feel to the piece. The inclusion of this song was originally a request from my Mom, as it’s one of her favorites. I’m so glad I listened to her, as the message could not be clearer, for it is truly in Christ alone that our hope is found as detailed below…
He is my light, my strength , my song
This cornerstone, this gift of love
Scorned by the ones He came to save
and my favorite part from later in the song..
And find my glory in the power of the cross
In every victory
Let it be said of me
My source of strength
My source of hope
Is Christ alone
and the oh so powerful conclusion…
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry
To final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell
No scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
‘Til He returns
Or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I stand
“The Glory of God”
First of all, I have to thank my producer Tim Hinds for this one. One night as I was leaving his studio, I asked him did he know of a song that he thought would be a good fit for the CD, both musically and in the message it conveys. It took him about 5 seconds to some up with this song, previously released by his friend Luke Garrett. Is is simple yet powerful in the message it conveys as detailed in the lyrics below…
In wonderful ways we’ve never seen before
Feel His power,that surrounds us
Unspeakable gifts that come from the hand of the Lord
The glory Of God
Filling this place
The power of love
The healing of grace
It’s all here for you, just as you are
The Lord is good, come taste and see
The wonder and glory of God
Too often, I pray to God like he’s my “buddy”. He is our friend, but he is also the creator God of the universe, the omnipotent and mighty King. He alone has the power to forgive us of our sins. No matter what we can envision, I don’t believe we will ever fully comprehend His “Glory” until the day we see Him face to face in Heaven.
“It’s Still The Cross”
I was introduced to this song by Lawton Roberts, when he chose to add this to our song selection for our Men of Praise concerts. Another member of our group (Mike Graves) normally sings this in our concerts (and does an outstanding job every time), but I got the chance to fill in for him a couple of times when he was away. Though I did not originally plan on including this song, as the project evolved, I thought to myself, what more fitting message could I include?
Sadly, in many of our churches today, the message of the Cross has been forgotten. I actually watched a sermon on TV recently when the theme of the message during a Sunday morning service was focused on what foods to eat. The pastor (and I use that term lightly) kept emphasizing how not to eat white bread. I did not know if I was watching a church service or a diet infomercial.
What a shame that even in many churches, they have forgotten the most important message of all is that Christ came to die on a cross for sinners, and rose again.
Without the cross, we have no hope. Without the cross, we have no victory. Without the cross, we have no joy. Without the cross, we would live every day in fear, for our eternity would be a place of eternal pain & suffering. I thank God for the wonderful Cross of Christ.
On this piece, I was so blessed to bring in guest artists Legacy of Praise (Sid Gordon, Garry Venning, Mike Walsh, & Ron Cole.) They did an outstanding job on this song, and have released a CD as well. There are may verses written for this song, and I chose to combine 2 different verses to use as the 2nd verse in our version as detailed below…
Or ancient history
The cross of Jesus still remains
The price for sin that sets us free
And now the world is out there watching
And what they need from us
Is to see our risen savior reflected in our love
It’s still the cross
It’s still the blood of Calvary
That cleanses sin
And sets the captive free
It’s still the name
The name of Jesus
That has power to save the lost
It’s still the cross.
“Champion of Love”
I love the old Cathedrals quartet. Years ago, while watching one of their DVD’s and hearing about how George Younce and Glen Payne had sung Christian Music for 50 years, I asked God to please give me another 50 years to do the same. I often pray, Lord don’t let me leave this earth with 1 song left unsung. I want to give Him all the praise I can while here, before I do the same in Heaven.
This particular song is a classic Cathedrals piece that paints an image of a boxing match with our Champion (Jesus Christ) in the corner of the “good and the right”. We recorded this song the very first night of recording, and it was so fitting, as my gifted producer Tim Hinds actually worked with the Cathedrals for years.
Read some of the powerful, moving words from the chorus …
Greater than the great
No one will ever take his crown away
He’s more mighty than the mightiest
And he reigns from above
He’s the all-time, undisputed, undefeated
Champion of love
Today, thank God that He is all of the above. He is greater than any battle you are facing, He is stronger than any addiction you are trying to overcome, He is more powerful than any evil influence that comes against you. He is the Champion, no matter who the adversary is. Praise God we don’t have to wonder who will fight for us, for He is always in “our corner.”
“Under Cross Examination”
I love songs that “paint a picture” with words. This song depicts a courtroom setting, as we stand before God the Father. He reviews our lives and all the sordid details… every action, every word, every thought. Yet who stands to defend us in spite of our sins? None other than Jesus Christ, God’s perfect son. He shares that under “Cross Examination” we are found guiltless as detailed in these powerful words…
Under Cross Examination, I find Him free of any blame
When you look upon His life you’ll see
The blood I shed on Calvary
Now His every sin is gone without a trace
Under Cross Examination, I rest my case
Wow. No matter how many times I sing this or read these words, I am so moved by God’s compassion upon us, and the sacrifice paid by His son. Each one of us deserves an eternity in Hell, but if we will accept Christ as our Savior and know that His death on the cross was payment in full for our sins, then we too can be found without blame when that day comes that we all stand before God the Father.
God forgives us of our sins, but He does not take away our memories of them, does He? I believe this is because He wants us to remember where we were, and what He’s brought us through, and what He’s forgiven us of. I know when I think back on some of the sins I’ve committed, I’m reminded of the pain they caused in my life and others. These memories also remind me of how I never want to cause such pain again, as well as what an awesome God I serve, who would love me enough to forgive me, and restore me to a right relationship with Him. Today, thank Him for the forgiveness He’s provided within your life, and the gift of eternal life that Christ paid for with His death on the cross.
“God Bless the USA”
Though I’m sure you are already very familiar with this song, my version is quite different. I’ve sung this song with our Men of Praise group since 2006, and after singing it for several months, I kept thinking how there must be some way I could share the gospel within this song. Lee Greenwood wrote an incredible song already, and I did not want to take away from his original lyrics, but I know that in my life when I sing about Freedom, that it was first given to us through Christ’s death on the cross, for it was through His death that He paid for our eternal freedom.
I’ve also sung in another country (Russia), where at times we were told that we did not have the “freedom” to share Christ as we wanted to. At one concert, the organizers took up the inserts to our programs, which shared the gospel of Christ in their language, as this was not allowed. I am so thankful to live in a country where we can freely worship and share our faith each week with other believers without limitations on doing so, and I thank God and strongly believe that we should honor those in our military that rise up every day to defend those rights to keep us free, as I wrote in these words to the revised 2nd verse (in italics)…
He Gave His Life For You and Me
So That We Would Not Be Lost
And I’m So Very Thankful
That I Can Praise Him Here Today
And To Honor Those Who Defend That Right
I Think It’s Time We Stand And Say
That I’m proud to be an American
Where At Least I Know I’m Free
And I Won’t Forget The Men Who Died
Who Gave That Right to Me
And I’d Gladly Stand Up Next to You
And Defend Her Still Today
Cause There Ain’t No Doubt I Love This Land
God Bless The USA
“The Only Thing Good In Me” (final song)
Talk about a song that hits home for me. This song, originally released by Michael English, tells my story in many ways. It talks about someone getting praise from man for how he lives and things he’s done. Too often, those of us in Christian service get put on a pedestal for what we do. That is the LAST place I ever need to be placed. I am nothing but a screw-up and a failure that God chose to pick up off the ground. I am unworthy to even speak His name. That He would choose to use a sinner like me is something I still cannot comprehend. This song states emphatically that the only thing good in me is Jesus Christ. Some may think this song is too repetitive, but I believe you cannot restate those words enough. It is a reminder we all need. We are nothing apart from Him, and the only good that will ever come from us is what He does through us. Nothing else worthwhile will last. Read these powerful words from verse 2 and the chorus, and the bridge which I wrote new lyrics to (in italics)…
And see things as they really are
I wonder if you might be surprised
Seeing faded walls of pride & fear
And rooms I’ve filled with faithless tears
And corners where I’ve stood in compromise
Oh but you’d see the work his grace has done
You’d know just how far I’ve come
The only thing that’s good in me is Jesus
The only thing that’s good in me is Jesus
I know me well enough to know
No matter what this life may show
The only thing that’s good in me is Jesus
I pray His light I’ll show
And I’ll give Him all the praise
For the rest of my days
We called this the “Bonus” song because I never planned to include it. We had another song planned & recorded, but I just wasn’t happy with it. During the time we were recording the other song, I wrote the new bridge to this one, and we actually recorded this song about 2 months after the other 12 were finished. I remember in the studio that Tim said to me, “This must be a God Thing” for us to have delayed long enough to include this one. I made this the final song, as a reminder that nothing on this project is about me, and nothing on this project should lead to any praise to anyone except my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, for He is truly, truly the “Only Thing Good In Me.”
All Praise to HIM for what HE has done!!!