Monday, January 26, 2015

My Jesus is Life-changing.

"Why do bad things happen to good people if that Jesus character is as powerful as you say He is?" many have asked. God is in the business of changing lives, but because He has promised to give us free choice, He never forces that change on us. This may be a simple concept, but simple is not equated with easy. We get to choose our own way, but we reap the consequences of it as well.

Despite the overall badness of our society, God Himself is good. He is so good. These two-dimentional words on a screen that you're reading right now cannot portray the depth of emotions that flood through one's heart and soul when the Creator of the universe bends down and whispers, "I love you, my child."

There have been many times that Abba Father has whispered His favor to me, but each time is fresh and unique and unforgettable. How often I forget that God is truly relational and wants nothing more than time spent with His children. I'm grateful for His constant reminders.

Seeing others experience that same connection with their Heavenly Father is incredibly rewarding. I had the pleasure of participating in a Land of Promise conference this past week where I saw men and women removing hindrances between them and their Maker and basking in His love. Our group of 160, though strangers to each other, felt completely at home worshiping and praying and crying and generally behaving like we'd all been swept up in the Charismatic Movement. It was truly glorious.

Seeing a famous person's life changed in the same manner is a rare treat, so I was floored when I saw the radical life-change and equally radical testimony of Lacey Sturm. Don't know who she is? Well hold on to your suspenders, I'm about to tell you.

My taste in music is wide and varied. I'm not an indie grassroots you-haven't-heard-of-them hipster by any means, but I like all sorts of different genres. I haven't acquired a taste for opera or country music, but I can enjoy pop, soul, Christian, classical, dubstep, Gospel, techno, a capella, rock, and whatever banjo-twangin' knee-stompin' genre that groups like the Lumineers and Mumford & Sons would classify themselves as.

I used to listen to a large quantity of "Christian" rock when I was in high school. I use air-quotations around "Christian" because although the lyrics were curse- and profanity-free, the spirit involved with the music was definitely rebellious. My friends and I liked to describe the music as "edgy" and "real". One of those bands that I listened to was Flyleaf, who made quite the impression with their eardrum-mangling instrumentals and their lead female vocalist, who could easily be described as "tormented".


The song lyrics had faint traces of Christianity (and you better believe we touted that fact often) but spoke more often of "real" topics like immorality and suicide. The song "All Around Me" spoke of God's presence and contained the lyrics

I can feel you all around me
Thickening the air I'm breathing
Holding on to what I'm feeling
Savoring this heart that's healing

Yet on the very same album, the song "I'm So Sick" portrayed something entirely opposite from the presence of God.

I will break into your thoughts
With what's written on my heart
I will break, break

I'm so sick,
Infected with where I live
Let me live without this
Empty bliss,
I'm so sick
I'm so sick

The band was fairly successful and developed a large following. Christian teens and young adults rejoiced that finally there was a mainstream-accepted band that they could feel comfortable supporting. So when lead vocalist Lacey Sturm announced she was leaving the band in October 2012, there was a lot of confusion. Didn't she realize that she was a pioneer in her field? Who else could we turn to for borderline-screamo songs about Jesus and self-harm?

But it turns out that Jesus was doing a redemptive work in her heart. Here's her story, which I highly recommend you take the time to watch.

No one can survive an encounter with Jesus and preserve their lives unchanged. For Lacey, it shows. Her entire countenance has brightened, as has her music style. How much has it changed? When my friend Benji introduced me to her new(ish) single, I said, "Man, that song is amazing. Who's the artist?"

Benji replied. "Where do you think the singer is from?"
"I dunno." I said, "Her voice has a hint of Irish. Is she from Ireland?"
Ireland seems to pump out a large quantity of excellent worship leaders.
"Nope. She's that chick from Flyleaf." Benji said, matter-of-factly ejecting me from my socks due to sheer surprise.


Sturm's song "Mercy Tree" is one my new favorite worship songs. (Benji, thank you so much for introducing me to the song!) "Mercy Tree" was released in The Cross, a 2013 movie made in honor of Billy Graham's 95th birthday. Like Lacey's testimony, the music video for "Mercy Tree" is most definitely worth your time.

I'm not here to preach against rock music (mainly because I would get instantaneously struck by lightning for my hypocrisy) but I will comment that when a person meets Jesus Christ in a personal way, it changes everything. Could Lacey have continued to produce alternative-metal-genre songs and used her fame to reach unbelievers for the Lord? Perhaps. But we need to get away from the crowd that chants "Well the lyrics aren't bad so the music must be good too" without even once considering the spirits involved with that same music. Food for thought, at least.

Testimonies like Lacey's make me glad that I serve a God that is not only powerful, but relational as well.

I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
Psalm 146:2

So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.
Psalm 63:4

I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.
Psalm 86:12