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God-Centered Songwriting

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God-Centered Songwriting
By: Marty Mikles

I'm currently reading A.W. Tozer's "Knowledge of the Holy." He sets out to describe how the failure of the Church in the past 100 years has been its dumbing-down the nature of God, the holiness of God, the attributes of God.

It seems to me that I'm letting too much go over my head. I'm not sure if it's because I never thought about it much - the holiness of God. I always just accepted it. And that was it. But now that I'm trying to go deeper, I'm trying to grasp these ideas, these notions about the character of God, and I feel like I've not spent enough time letting it all sink in. I know that thinking about God is a high task. He lets us think about Him. But I feel that human thought has given way to many misconceptions of God. We think and explain Him away, reducing Him to an attainable goal - something that we can reach and then move onto the next thing.

But there is no next thing.

So I feel like I'm dangling between the gift of thought and the curse of thought. I want to think on God - being mentally and intellectually aware of Him. But I don't want to feel as though I've arrived at the completeness of God. That will only happy on the other side of life's journey, when I will no longer have to rely upon my brain's shortcomings.

If I'm heading in the right direction as Tozer, then I'm beginning to realize that arrive at the idea of holiness is what human struggle is all about. God has required us to be holy as He is holy. If it's actually something that can be achieved this side of heaven, then I want to try to get there, no matter how hard it is. That way, even if I don't get there before I'm called to heaven, I'll have lived a life spent in that pursuit.

Bottom line - I now realize what Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin and other songwriters have been emphasizing over the last few years... we need songwriters to write in such a manner that makes as little of us, and as much of God as possible. My argument for years has always been that of a relational one; God is good - to me. God is all-powerful - to me. God is merciful and gracious - to me.

But I'm finding that even that is including or imparting too much of me in the idea of who God is. In these "equations," my variable ("to me") is totally dispensable. I can remove my variable, say all of the above statements, and they would still hold the same amount of verity. God is good! God is all-powerful! God is merciful and gracious!

So now this leaves me in such a sobering position, especially as it relates to my songwriting. It's almost as if I have to re-learn how to write songs that connect His people to God Himself. As Tozer has claimed (my paraphrase, of course), we have not set the bar high enough. I couldn't agree more.

I'm reminded of the last verse of "I Know A Fount" - here we can see how the complete character of God is expressed in a powerfully worshipful way - one that leaves us out of the way, making it obviously clear who the holy one:

Wondrous Deliverer! Sin forgiving Savior!
Cleanser of hearts and unfailing friend and guide!
No one has ever trusted unavailing;
No one has claimed of His love and been denied.

We are reduced to a pile of nothing - without God, we are left as nothing. We can achieve nothing. We are nothing! And even more importantly, HE IS EVERYTHING! He began with everything! He has attained and achieve everything!

So even after concentrating on all this, it's enlightening to think, even as a goal of writing "worship" music, I can include humanity as a dispensable variable. If I must include any humanity in the songs that I write, I need to understand that the truth is evident whether or not humanity is included in the statement.

Finally, if worship is totally for the benefit and enjoyment of God alone, then I've got to write in such a way that would provoke such an idea for the mouths that sing it, and the minds that profess it.

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