Tag Archives: Amazing Grace

Just As I Am: Singing to God

It would be hard for me to fully express the role that worship songs- especially hymns, have had in my life. God used the lyrics to “Amazing Grace” to reach me when I was a teenager, finally and reluctantly confessing I was a sinner on my bed at night. Words I never knew existed in my memory bank came rushing back to me from childhood and all at once the word “wretch” struck my heart with tremendous force. I was a wretch, it was true. But the song said God had an interest in saving wretches like me. I didn’t know how yet, or why He could save a wretch like me, but I’m grateful He shone a light in my heart and kept on drawing me.

I had started attending church around that time, and having not grown up in one, witnessing people worship was fascinating to me. It just seemed amazing that people could really sing to God, and the looks on their faces were like they actually knew Him. I still have a poem I wrote as a teenager reflecting on what I experienced during this time they called “worship”:

I stand, swaying just enough
To blend in with the world
As they are wrapped up in their ecstasy.
Shouts of joy bounce off the walls
And I try to reach out;
To catch it without making a statement
Of my obvious attempts.

There are those who wear their love so
Glorious across their faces,
And I would expect them to be proud
Yet they are the meekest.

Often I hear words of great inspiration,
And the thirst deep inside of me pleads
To be filled.

(I smirk every so often, so that the
Stranger next to me won’t know the ways
Of which I have been intrigued)

I walked to the back of the room
Into a corner where no one would see,
And tried to speak a word to God
(To the air?)
My heart raced…
“It’s because you fear God!”
Or is it only for the people who have glanced back?

It’s kind of funny to have this poem as a little reminder of the foreignness and intrigue a “worship service” held for me then. I remember having a sense of the seriousness of singing songs to God. One Sunday morning I was singing a song, something about giving Jesus all of my life. But it wasn’t true. He didn’t have my life, and I knew it full well. I also knew the guy leading worship- a highschool friend, and that Jesus didn’t have his life either. I just remember shutting my mouth mid-song. How could I sing to God words that weren’t true? Words that I didn’t mean? The weight of it felt heavy enough to crush me so I fled, but on the way I asked the worship leader’s mom to send him outside when the singing was over. Continue reading Just As I Am: Singing to God

Of My Own Free Will?

One day the Bright and Morning Star arose in my heart.  I was sitting in the shadows of death, a prisoner bound and condemned to die.  My hands hung limp at my side and I had run out of the strength to try and free myself from my chains.  Glimpses of light here and there offered hope, but always they eluded me.  The darkness, with its strange appeal, crowded closer in each day.  My eyes we sore and weary of seeking a way out.  The darkness, though I knew it bound me, seemed to me the only way.  I tried to resist its approach, but how could I?  It didn’t only come from outside, it sprung up from within, overflowing from my own heart.

What were these words upon my tongue?  Lies.  Blasphemy.  Hatred.  I walked among a people of unclean lips.  My tongue had been a rudder to steer hell’s own ship.  Wickedness sprang forth from wellsprings of deceit.  The overflow of my hard heart had caused my Father’s grief.

Yes lonely, lost, and helpless I sat but not so that any should pity me.  Willingly, wickedly, and guilty I sat.  The cost of following Christ?  Too high.  His standards?  Unattainable, so why even try?

I was deceived by Satan and knew it.  I recognized his voice and followed in his ways.  Can you hear the depth of deception in the words I wrote at this point in my life?  Read this and try to tell me that I chose Christ of my own good sense, that I deserved salvation, that I was not a willing and passionate participant in sinning against a Holy God.

“But tonight,
Tonight we have surpassed the screaming corridor
And we’ve lost sight of both the darkness and the light.
Tonight I’ll take your hand and we’ll walk backwards,
For if we forget our sins we can forge this fight.

The serpent sings a lullaby,
And we shall dance the night away
For never have we been more blessed
Then right now throwing our lives away.”

The strange thing is that in those days I would call myself a Christian, yet at the same time knew that I was a fake.  I even wrote about being a fraud.

“The falling words slit upwards
Streaking shards of guilt across
The sun rise,
A shadowing display is peaking through
The blinds,
And I am terrified the world will know
That I am a disguise.”

And in song lyrics that I wrote:

“Which part of me is dead?

The part I fake,

The part that struggles to say no.

It’s easy to tell them who I want to be

It’s easy to criticize everyone but me

Every night I pray

But what happens to God during the day?”

The truth is by my own free will I remained in that prison cell, refusing to take the only way out.  I knew that God hated my sin, that if I died I would find myself in Hell, and even that living for Jesus was a noble and better way.  I even admired those who did.  But sin captivated my heart; it was my identity and was to me the thing that both kept me breathing and strangled my breath at the same time.  Christ required me to forsake my sin, and though a worthy act, I could not make myself want to do such a thing.

Isaiah 42:6-7 “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.”

Matthew 4:16 “The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”

One day the Bright and Morning Star arose in my heart.

The light broke forth into my prison cell, my shackles were shattered, and my blind eyes were opened to see the Glory of Jesus Christ standing before me.  Knowing intellectually that Jesus Christ saves sinners, and having that truth explode within your heart are two very different things.  Suddenly the words made sense: “Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!  I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see!”  I felt my wretchedness tear me up within, and suddenly understood that Jesus had a profound interest in saving wretches.  It wasn’t empty words; it was truth and He was truth.  There He stood, the way, the truth and the life and He stretched out His hand to me.

I would have never invited Him.  I could never have found the way or the will to get my chained body off of the cold prison floor, to venture over to His Kingdom’s door and invite myself in.  I was a seething enemy with no true appetite for Christ.

“And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Saviour’s blood?  Died He for me, who caused His pain, for me who Him to death pursued…‘Tis mercy all immense and free, for Oh my God it found out me.” –Charles Wesley. 

He took my heart of stone and gave me a heart of flesh.  Once cold towards God and unfeeling towards man, He burst the bonds that restricted me from loving anything more than myself.  Slowly my heart began to beat and I felt the presence of God dwell within.

When imprisoned the cross left me guilty, but when He opened my eyes the cross made me free.  When the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.

Life once empty and dry was now full to overflowing.  Mountains, trees, flowers, and sunsets that had lost to me their grandeur now seemed to break forth with great clapping and praise.

His statutes – once so burdensome, became life and delight for me.

Christ picked me up out of the miry clay

He carried me from darkness into brightest day

He set me on an eternal rock

Upheld forever, He has wrought

Himself in me and it would be

Impossible that I could walk away.


Salvation is a gift.  It is free and undeserved.  It is Christ’s soul purchasing work.

Did I choose Him?  Can a dead man tell Himself to “Live?”  But rather God says “When I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’  I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ (Ez 16:8).”

 John 5:21 “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.”

John 6:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail.”

John 15:16 “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should remain.”

All Glory be to God alone for His salvation to men, and His redeeming love for sinful people.

“Long my imprisoned spirit lay,

Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;

Thine eye diffused a quickening ray;

I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;

My chains fell off, my heart was free,

I rose, went forth, and followed thee.

No condemnation now I dread;

Jesus and all in Him is mine;

Alive in Him, my living Head

And clothed in righteousness divine,

Bold I approach the eternal throne

And claim the crown through Christ my own.”

Charles Wesley