Here is an interview I did for South African journalist Antoinette McDonald. It’s a nice little summary of the new record.
1: How would you sum up this album?
It’s a pretty happy record! Somehow in the middle of a lot of crazy stuff in our lives, we’ve experienced the peace and joy of the Lord. So the songs have reflected some of that. I guess the verse that keeps coming back is from Psalm 16, ”in His presence is fullness of joy’. On top of that we’ve been playing together as a band solidly for the last 2 years – Daniel Ornellas (another South African), has played with me solidly for the last 4 years. So musically I guess we’re comfortable enough with each other to really try stuff we wouldn’t have before. I think it makes for better music. It’s definitely more fun!
2: Do you have a favorite song on the record? Why?
I love Joyful for the energy and happiness. I love Our God is mercy for the same reason. Can I have two? Wait, i really like Lindsay (McCaul) singing on We lift you up.
3: Best thing about the process of making this album?
So fast, so fun!
And the toughest?
4: Our God is mercy… blessed if you are torn apart… our God is near… How easy is it to sing these words – to declare this in song when you’ve known such rough seasons – like losing a child and suffering from ME?
Okay. It’s hard not to answer this question without sounding like some giant, historical saint. (It’s probably the reason I stalled on giving this interview). But the truth is this: God is near to the brokenhearted. Seriously. He is very very close to us when we are suffering. So close sometimes, that His nearness overwhelms the loss and pain we are experiencing , and replaces it with a peace and even sometimes a joy that makes no sense at all. He really is the treasure worth having above all other treasures. But – and this is the important part – the promise of His nearness is not limited to the broken hearted. The promise is this: peace on earth, good will to all mankind! How great is this news!
5: Joyful… What’s the difference between joy and being happy? Tell us about track two and what inspired it?
I once preached an interactive sermon on this very question. And the conclusion we came to as a congregation was that there is something not quite right about differentiating between joy and happiness (sorry!). It often feels like one of those small-print caveats that advertisers are forced to admit (not to be used between the ages of 2 and 92, may cause heart attacks, bleeding, depression and death). Christians say things like I may not be happy but I have real joy. Nope. I’m not buying it!!
If there is any difference between happiness and joy it may be this: joy is the kind of happiness that goes all the way down to the bottom of our hearts. It’s the kind of happiness that overwhelms not just feelings of sadness, or depression or worry. It’s the kind of joy that overwhelms every single question we’ve ever asked, every single regret and sin and disappointment and disillusion we’ve ever had. Happiness doesn’t answer our questions. It makes them unimportant….I once heard that one of the truer tests of christian maturity is how much joy is evident in a person’s life. I like this very much. Of course the same applies to any of the ‘fruits of the spirit’ – patience, kindness, endurance….
6: We lift you up… When did you write this track? Why’d you write it? What does it mean to lift Him up?
Started writing this song after an Alpha conference I lead at in California. The reason I feel comfortable spending so much time making much of Jesus is that he is historically better than any human who has ever lived. Fact. The life he lived was so extraordinary and so essentially good it is worth all ascriptions of worth and honor we bring to him. The only person who never once failed to live up to the requirements of God’s law. The only person to have loved completely and well. The only person to have returned from the dead and not died again. He is worth the praise we give to him.
8. Glorious… There’s SUCH power in this track – it feels like an anthem! What’s it like to lead this song in a worship setting? What do you love about leading worship?
Thank you. It’s so much fun getting to sing this song. I guess what’s true about We lift you up is also true of this song. Scripture tells us that Jesus is the image of the unseen God. We have seen him and He is exceptional.
My favorite part about leading worship – or any music really – is when the band disappears and every eye and heart in the room is up! There’s a clarity to my faith that happens in those moments that is hard to describe.
9. His name… What have the names of God taught you about Him and your relationship with Him?
If Jesus – the image of the unseen God – is called wonderful, counsellor, prince peace or everlasting father – then all these things are true of the Creator of the heavens and the earth. They are true of GOD.
They need not have been true. There’s no logical imperative for God to have been kind or patient or peaceful, a counsellor or even our father! He could have been angry, impatient, vengeful, lustful, selfish and wanting nothing to do with us. He could have. This could have been the reality. We have no outstanding rights in this respect. If anything, God would have been entirely justified in being this way. We are not entitled to a good GOD or even a fair GOD. We are not entitled to anything!! Our behavior as individuals and as humanity doesn’t morally demand it. If anything, it demands the opposite. But the surprising news is that God is good!! And not only that, He is good to us. What?!
10. Arise and sing… I’ve heard “arise and shine” but arise and sing is new – beautiful! What’s significant about arising… and then about singing?
Everybody knows that as good as life gets, the truth has been that everyone dies. As beautiful as life can be on occasion, we all know it ends badly. But the actions of our King, our risen King, have overruled this particular ending. Death is not the end. Death is the beginning of forever. Our King has done this. He has changed the shape of the story.
Sometimes news is so good, that speaking doesn’t do it justice.
11. All I want… Seems like a really personal track. Where did this song come from?
It could have come from any number of occasions when I’ve missed it. The important part for me is not that I miss it. That part is obvious and certainly not worth singing about. It’s not news. The news is what happens after I miss it. That God’s forgiveness comes so swiftly and so completely that it staggers me. That despite everything i’ve done not to merit his attention, He chooses me, and chooses to call me his son.
12. Higher (Empires Fall) … Such a declaration of God’s bigness. How do stay in awe of God – keeping a big picture of how BIG he really is. (PS: Sounds like a Tree 63 song – you sound just like John Ellis in this track)
Thanks!! Scripture and creation are probably the easiest ways for me to recognize God’s greatness and our smallness. If I allow these two things into my life my heart can change.
13. Good News… How good is the good news to you?
It’s extremely good. But it’s not for cowards.
14. All For You… This song is filled with intimate worship moments. How easy is it as a man to be in love with Him – to see yourself as His bride?
I’m not 100 percent sure I’d use the language of romantic love – being ‘in love’ – to describe my relationship with God. In fact, I have problems with that language for romantic love itself! Being ‘in love’ sounds like a high school musical. But love itself is more about what we bring to someone – patience, kindness, selflessness. This song really is a song about bringing an offering to God. Rather than about feeling feelings for God! We get to choose what we bring, but we don’t always get to choose what we feel. The first is important. The second flips between fuel and obstacles for worship. All God requires is the first.
I’ve been fortunate to lead sung worship in a lot of different rooms with a lot of different people. But not everybody loves music the way my band or I do. Not everyone loves our music! And sometimes there are people in the room who are going through extreme trial who aren’t able to sing. Their offering to God is at least as valid as ours is! Probably more so. This song is an attempt to recognize and include those people. That God’s heart is for everyone, all of us have known his generous ways.
‘Silent prayers and bended knees, every kind of offering, all of it’s intended for your throne..’