Revivals and Revolutions – The Future of Worship Songs

IMAG0449I was invited this last May to be part of a three-day conversation about the future of worship music at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I felt a little out of my league there among some great thinkers and theologians from Duke University, Fuller Theological Seminary, and Calvin, but the atmosphere was casual and warm, so I soon felt right at home. Also in attendance were some amazing writers, artists, and worship leaders like Charlie Hall and David Crowder. Interestingly, we didn’t sing even one song until the last few minutes of the last hour on the third day as we closed. It was a blast.

We took the bulk of the first two days to create a timeline of worship from the late 19th Century into the early 20th, especially revivalist and early Gospel music. We then traced its development and influence from the 1950’s to today. It was a powerful experience for me to see that I had actually lived through a part of one of the most revolutionary times in history as Christian music became a force in the American culture and then rocked the world for Jesus.

I’m not sure I could have ever appreciated it all in the same way without having seen it taped to the wall of that Calvin meeting room on large easel paper, but there it was. A relatively small group of people, insignificant, really, when compared to large corporations or countries, but we changed the world with songs. I can’t adequately express the awe I felt as I looked at that timeline and saw how God used the words and melodies of people I knew to bring expressions of hope, worship, and even salvation to untold millions of people. It proved to me, once again, that Robb Redman was right in his book The Great Worship Awakening (2002, Jossey-Bass) when he identified that what we’ve been a part of was indeed comparable to any of the Great Revivals in history.

And that’s where you come in. Whether you’re a writer, an artist, a publisher, or a worship leader, God has given you a song to write, sing, publish, or lead. You have an amazing part to play in the movement of the Gospel throughout the world. You see, every movement in history is made up of countless little things that lead to the singular “big” things like revolutions and revivals. Every great revival has had its hymnody and this revival of worship is no different. So don’t stop writing, singing, and celebrating God’s goodness. The next page on the wall is waiting for your name.

ChizBESTJohn Chisum is an internationally appreciated worship leader, songwriter, mentor, and clinician. Click here for information on The Worship Leader’s One-on-One Coaching with John Chisum. For information about booking John for a worship seminar, worship concert, or special event, contact him directly at john@johnchisum.org, or call 251-533-5960.

My Worst Sin Revealed (And Yours, Too!)

IMG_1818Our sins say a lot more about us than that we’re just weak, awful people. Usually only the weak part is true, but whatever’s behind the weakness is the real issue and the greatest key to our healing and freedom from the sin itself.

While some people’s response to sin is something like  just stop it! the people who’ve struggled with compulsivity know all too well that “just stopping” is the one thing they can’t do. That’s the problem – they can’t stop. Something’s driving them into repetitive behavior that is bigger than they are, stronger than they are, and whatever it is has gotten the upper hand to the point that just stopping is no longer an option. Even if they did stop the outward behaviors, the inner hurts or deficits pushing them are still there, if not dealt with. Ever heard of a dry drunk?

Jesus said, “…how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house (Matthew 12:29).” Sometimes even once strong men in the Lord have allowed themselves to become “entangled again in the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1) and need some serious help getting free. There are many pastor’s names that came to light on the Ashleigh Madison list some time back, and very sadly, a worship leader I know of committed suicide because of it, leaving a beautiful wife and three precious sons, as well as a ministry cut short and lost to us all.

But here’s the Grand Irony.

While we are repulsed by sin, God is drawn to it.

Paul wrote, “Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound (Romans 5:20).

We’ve been schooled to hate the idea of sin so much that we’ve lost any real love for those caught up in it. We say that awful hate the sin, love the sinner thing, but we don’t really love the sinner to begin with. Our separatist language betrays us as we think and speak of them and us. Our bigotry and disdain of people’s lifestyles and choices would never allow us to get close enough to love them, much less to allow them to hear and feel the love of Jesus coming out of us, if it really is coming out of us. Jesus willingly sacrificed His reputation to hang out with some very unseemly people (Mark 2:16), but do we?

Sin is nothing to God.

He conquered all of it on the victorious cross and it’s no longer a problem to Him.

The problem is ours, and, until we can get over our sin-o-phobia, we will continue to divide the Body of Christ and fail to love the world Jesus still loves with all of His heart, despite how they/we live. Jesus has ended the sin problem once and for all, even though there are plenty of people who don’t know it.

In the end, there are two kinds of sinners in the world – those who know Jesus loves them and those who don’t.

Christians can be some of the most judgmental and even some of the meanest people on the face of the earth, feeling justified by their self-righteousness and “corner on the truth.”

But Americans, even Christian Americans who tithe and vote Republican, spend 30 billion dollars a year on porn, much of that being child pornography. It is estimated that almost 50% of Americans are addicted to porn–men and women, Jews and Gentiles, saints and sinners, including many of the ones shouting the loudest about Biblical orthodoxy and about who is saved and who isn’t. Obviously, legislated morality is a bust, even for professing Christians.

Our thirst for graphic sexuality is pointing to a deep need for authentic intimacy in our relationships and in our communities, as well as the need for something deeper in our churches, and something even deeper than repentance itself – the true worship of God.

You see, a sin problem in us is always a worship problem first.

When sins pop up in our lives, they’re telling us that the deepest need of all is going unmet, that of valuing God more than anything else and understanding our intrinsic worth to Him above everything else. If we understood Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27b), we wouldn’t dishonor Him, others, or ourselves, but operate in His kind of love that brings nothing but life and freedom.

Repentance is useless without love (1 Cor. 13).

Telling God we’re sorry for looking at bad things isn’t repentance, but a childish attempt to feel better about what we’ve done. Even stopping looking at bad things isn’t real repentance, necessarily, especially if the insatiable desire is still present, albeit un-acted upon. Sometimes the way to holiness is though the therapist’s office where we come to understand some of the unchallenged childhood beliefs that are still driving us to act out irrationally, childishly, and even dangerously.

White-knuckling isn’t repentance.

True repentance happens when we finally see that what Jesus offers is much, much better than what we lust after. It’s that revelation that heals us. When we see Him for who He is, for who He really is, grace allows us to replace lust or control or power or whatever it is that’s gotten hold of us with true worship.

The sin loses its hold on us because it is replaced with the presence of God. Then repentance is easy. It’s like we finally want the sparkling clear water rather than the vile, dark, nasty sludge we’ve been drinking. The lost son in Luke 15 discovered this when he came to his senses in the pigpen and corn husks for breakfast were no longer appealing.

The constant, nagging, bottomless desire to act out inappropriately is also telling us that we’ve probably not dealt well with childhood attachment/rejection issues, our own sexual development and maturity, or a problem in our marriage we’ve ignored.

Compulsive sexual sins are like smoke signals from our soul trying to warn us that something in us is needing more attention than we’ve given it. Hurt people hurt people. Stuffed emotions and un-dealt with hurts will always show up somewhere, be it rage, alcoholism, addiction, over spending, religious dogmatism, or overbearing control issues.

So, here’s my worst sin – and yours – we love the thought that we’re better than “the world” more than we love the actual people in it the way Jesus loves them.

Instead of tenderly restoring pastors or others caught in adultery or pornography, we throw the stones of disgust instead of realizing that their sins, and ours, point to a deeper need that isn’t being addressed somehow.

We’ve subtly begun to believe that our Christian lives are a good reason for God to love us and we have, once again, moved out of grace into works, thinking we’ve earned our salvation. It is then that we become holier-than-thou in our attitudes and conversations and cease to be anything like Jesus (see John 8:7).

There are terrible consequences in this life to some of our sins, but not to all.

Those pastors and others outed by the Ashleigh Madison hack will pay dearly, though our prayer should be for the complete restoration of their hearts, families, and good ministries. But many of our own daily sins, those “little sins” we cherish like envy, slander, or malicious gossip, may never be found out til we see Jesus. 1 Timothy 5:24 says, “Remember, the sins of some people are obvious, leading them to certain judgment. But there are others whose sins will not be revealed until later.”

We all sin.

We all fail to meet the mark. We all blunder and transgress and mess up. Some commit the “big sins” and some don’t, but in the end, sin is sin. No one can live a completely sinless life like Jesus did. That’s why He’s the Savior and we’re not. That’s why only His blood could pay the highest price, the complete ransom of our souls, cheating death and buying us back from ultimate sin and death forever. That’s why He can still “break the power of canceled sin” as Charles Wesley wrote, even the big ones.

So for my friends who are sinless most of the time, well done and watch out. Jesus told Peter that “Satan has desired to have you” (Luke 22:31) and we should all remember that the devil “as a roaring lion walks about seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).” To Satan, people being eaten up by religious bigotry and hatefulness is just as effective as being eaten up by porn. Neither brings about the kingdom of God or makes His love grow among us.

For my friends who are struggling with addictions and lust, feeling lost in the abyss of self-hatred and fear, turn and look deep into the eyes of  Jesus, the Man who transcends all human concepts of love and religion. Drink deeply of the love and total acceptance pouring out from Him right now over you. He’s been with you through every hurt, abuse, fear, and sinful act. He knows the hours you’ve lost to the internet and the hurt you’ve caused your loved ones. He sees you. He knows you. He loves you. Let Him hold you as you weep tears of true repentance, feeling deep in yourself, maybe for the first time, that He isn’t condemning you for even one thing you’ve done. He is with you this moment to help you start the journey to total freedom and the truest worship, an undivided heart.

ChizBESTJohn Chisum is an internationally appreciated worship leader, songwriter, mentor, and clinician. For information about booking John for a worship seminar, worship concert, or special event, contact him directly at john@johnchisum.org, or call 615-649-7034.

How I’ve Lost Over 20 Lbs Since June 8th! (And How You Can, Too!)

scales“Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” Paul to the young Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:8

I used to be “okay” with being the pudgy little man who played guitar and sang worship songs. As long as they made jeans in bigger sizes, I wasn’t too concerned with how much I weighed. In fact, I used to quote Paul from the verse above saying, “See, even PAUL didn’t think it was important, at least for long, to exercise. Being a godly man is most important!”

I was really just covering up for my laziness. It’s true-if you HAVE to choose between physical fitness and godliness, well, then being more like Jesus wins out. But, most of us don’t have to make that choice and often don’t even make either of them. Like me, many people are satisfied with being average, living average lives, and being “just healthy enough” and “just holy enough” to get by. Well, I’m done with that.

You see, I was using food and drink to cover a lot of emotional pain in my life. I was eating too much of the wrong foods and drinking too much of the wrong drinks to give my body the nourishment it needs. I wasn’t just a couch potato. I was past that. The roots of my pudgy potato self had sprouted and were coiling down through the couch cushions. I was about to become a full-on potato patch if something didn’t change. Thankfully, something BIG changed. My thinking.

On June 8th, Donna, my wife, and I made a quality decision to do a 10-day Daniel Fast. No sugar, no meat, no alcohol, no desserts, no bread, and nothing but whatever you can harvest from the ground with water to drink and a lot of soul searching in the meantime. We added in walking briskly around our little neighborhood the first day and have walked almost every day since. It didn’t take us long to begin jogging short distances and pretty soon we were jogging the entire neighborhood. No one has been any more shocked than us that we’re actually running again!

Before June 8th, I was sluggish, unhealthy, unhappy, and pushing 200 lbs, a weight that is considered obese for my height. Today, only two months later, I’m happier, healthier, motivated, and taking massive action to use everything in my life, even a healthier body, to make Jesus known to as many people as possible. Plus, I weighed in at 175.7 lbs this morning and my clothes are fitting again. Donna’s loving my newfound energy and inspiration, too!

A friend of mine says, “Angels talk to those who walk.” For me, it’s more like the Spirit of God wells up from somewhere deep in me as I’m out walking and running, assuring me that He is with me, has healed me, has already secured my future, and that He is walking and running with me all the way. I can’t encourage you enough to start where you are, today, by trying a Daniel Fast and even a short daily walk. Don’t do too much, but do what you can do. You might be surprised at where you are only two months from now!

ChizBESTJohn Chisum is an internationally appreciated worship leader, songwriter, mentor, and clinician. Click here for information on The Worship Leader’s One-on-One Coaching with John Chisum. For information about booking John for a worship seminar, worship concert, or special event, contact him directly at john@johnchisum.org, or call 251-533-5960.

How God Uses the Worst Things Imaginable

IMG_0402“Our greatest ministry comes out of our deepest pain.”                                                                                   ~Rick Warren in The Purpose-Driven Life

There’s a joke about three young boys bragging on their fathers one day in the school yard. The first one says, “My dad owns the bank and  we have a million dollars!” The second chimes in with, “Yeah? Well my daddy owns a big company and WE have a million dollars, too!” The third boy, whose father was a pastor at the small local church, thought for a moment and then finally blurted out, “Awwww, that’s nothing! My daddy owns HELL ‘cuz he said the deacons gave it to him!”

Whatever the deacons were angry about with this third’s kid’s pastor-dad, chances are it constituted both a trial and an opportunity for him, as these things do for all of us. Trials, tests, and troubles are “equal opportunity employers” and hit each of us throughout life and every time one comes we have the opportunity to let God do His wonderful work in our hearts and behaviors. How will we react? Will we let the character, nature, and attributes of Jesus shine through us as we react to the anger of others, a cancer setback, or a relational meltdown?

In every situation there lies the hidden struggle of control-surrender, hope-despair, and sometimes even life-death. If we’re consumed with our own needs and wants, it’s all too easy to miss the bigger picture God has in mind for us and to disregard the admonition from The Book of James to, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).”

In my new song Mercy in the Fire the chorus sings, “There’s a mercy in the fire and there’s a promise in the pain/There’s a wonder in the weakness when we find His strength again/In every trial, test, and trouble hides the purpose He desires/And the gold will be revealed as we find mercy in the fire (Words and Music by John Chisum, Copyright 2015 by Donnaluv Music/ASCAP All Rights Reserved).” The mercy we can find in the fires of life, if we take time to look for it, is nothing short of the presence of Christ. The ultimate purpose of every trial is to reveal “Christ in us” (Colossians 1:27) and to reveal more of His love and power to us, in us, and through us as a testimony to the world of His overcoming power.

God uses the worst things imaginable in order to bring us to completeness and maturity in our faith (see James). He doesn’t cause them, but He uses them. Trials are always on the menu in the cafe of life, but our loving Father is discontent to let them destroy us if we will only trust His higher purposes to reveal His goodness, faithfulness, and loving presence through everything we go through. Remember – there’s always mercy in the fire, no matter how hot it gets.

ChizBESTJohn Chisum is an internationally appreciated worship leader, songwriter, mentor, and clinician. Click here for information on The Worship Leader’s One-on-One Coaching with John Chisum. For information about booking John for a worship seminar, worship concert, or special event, contact him directly at john@johnchisum.org, or call 251-533-5960.

Widening The Circle of Suffering

circles“I am happy to suffer for you now. In my body I am completing whatever remains of Christ’s sufferings. I am doing this on behalf of his body, the church.”    Colossians 1:24 God’s Word Translation

Donna and I were hiking in east Tennessee today. The weather was nice, mid-80’s with moderate humidity. We were talking about a sign I saw in a Nashville area coffee shop recently that reads, “People are going to hurt you. You have to decide which ones are worth suffering for.” As we managed the occasionally rocky and steep climb back up the path, we were discussing just who we would suffer for.

We named each other, for starters. Good married people begin there and work out. Our daughter made the list, of course. A few in-laws and friends later we were out of specific names of people we would choose willingly to suffer for. I then remarked, “That’s a pretty small circle of suffering. I’m glad Jesus’ circle of suffering encompassed all of humanity for all of time, including us.” We then spoke of missionaries, especially, that wonderfully selfless breed of people who intentionally widen their circle of suffering to include people groups and communities they have no familial connection with for the sake of the Gospel. The world has been changed by missionaries.

Not five minutes later, we passed a young lady on the path with a t-shirt that read, “Pray for Nigeria.” She had a beautiful dark-skinned girl with her, obviously not her own. Since I will be in Lagos next week for a worship tour, I spoke to her and questioned her about the country I’ve come to love. Turns out, she and her husband are missionaries in Jos, a city in northern Nigeria fraught with danger and Christian persecution, where they help young women there find freedom from human trafficking.

I’m just going over to sing. Maybe it’s time to think about widening my own circle of suffering. What about you?

ChizBESTJohn Chisum is an internationally appreciated worship leader, songwriter, mentor, and clinician. Click here for information on The Worship Leader’s One-on-One Coaching with John Chisum. For information about booking John for a worship seminar, worship concert, or special event, contact him directly at john@johnchisum.org, or call 251-533-5960.