NEEDTOBREATHE is a creative folk rock band from South Carolina about whom I've written before. Their vocalist's voice is unique and you can often find Christian themes in their lyrics. They recently released a new album, "Out of Body," and the current most popular song on that album, according to iTunes, is "Who Am I." The lyrics are deep and reflective of David's Prayer of Gratitude (2 Samuel 7:18-29), and it would make a good offertory song or "special music" piece. Lyrics below:


White lights and desperation Hard times and conversation No one should ever love me like you do Sometimes my bad decisions Define my false suspicions

No one should ever love me like you do While I'm on this road you take my hand Somehow you really love who I really am I push you away, still you won't let go You grow your roses on my barren soul

Who am I, who am I, who am I To be loved by you Last night, confidence was shaken My wounds and my past was saying No one should ever love me like you do

While I'm on this road you take my hand Somehow you really love who I really am I push you away, still you won't let go You grow your roses on my barren soul

Who am I, who am I, who am I To be loved by you The way I push you through it, what you had to see I'm a train wreck, I'm a mess, you see the best and the worst in me Still I can't imagine that I've learned your trust I don't understand where your love comes from

Who am I, who am I, who am I To be loved by you

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I almost got kicked out of biology class. We were dissecting frogs, and we were told not to dissect more than necessary. I think I heard that message too late, because I was really curious to see if our frog’s tongue could stretch as long as I saw in slow-motion videos of documentaries when you see a frog catch a fly with its tongue from what seemed like almost a foot away. So, I cut off the dead frog’s tongue and tried to stretch it, using two of the provided metal utensils. It wouldn’t stretch at all. I never found out why, because my biology teacher caught me and rebuked me. Thankfully, I wasn’t kicked out of biology class and I apologized to my teacher the next day.


Sometimes, I feel like us ambitious Americans have a desire to dissect, analyze and make an “improved” imitation. We look at a product, we analyze how it’s made and delivered, and what makes it “successful,” trying to capture the proverbial scientific formula. Once we’ve found said formula, we try to execute the formula even more efficiently or uniquely. Some of the biggest and well-known American businesses have succeeded because they conjured or imitated formulas for how to efficiently, for example, make and deliver cheeseburgers, create user-friendly electronics, produce an engaging website, maintain a visibly conflict-free work environment and, even, create attractive church worship services.


The problem with formulas, as seemingly efficient as they may be, is that they are impersonal. If you’re a large franchise in our country that’s delivering impersonal products to customers (e.g. coffee, pizza, digital entertainment), then there’s nothing wrong with omitting relational components. But what about the local church, when your “product” is very personal and therefore involves a very diverse “market”?

Sadly, us American Christians tend to like impersonal formulas for spiritual or ministerial “success.” This is Church, Inc.


Some Christians think that believing a longer list of theological/ecclesiological beliefs will earn salvation, ignoring the unhealthy status of their church and the strive to imitate Christ’s character.


Some Christians avoid involvement with the non-Christian world, maintaining a type of felt purity, but sometimes hiding God’s grace from the world and seemingly forgetting that sinful temptation is something inside all of us and, therefore, unavoidable.


Many Christians believe that involvement in politics should only be certain stances. The ethics, methods and character behind the lobbying for and implementation of such policies is irrelevant, because it’s the “successful” formula for God-honoring government.


And many Christian leaders dissect mega- and seemingly successful churches, using statistical and surveyed data and, like a business, impersonal formulas, in the hopes that they can improve upon said formulas and beat the competition with a more attractive church.


But, like the frog’s tongue in my biology class, a dissected tool may not work.


As I’ve said before, the Church is not reliant on political empowerment (or even religious liberty), technological advances, scientific practicalities, professionalism, entertainment value, dare I say holistic theological and moral purity (because we particularly have over-achievers in that arena), or any man-made method to survive come what may and already has. How arrogant of us to think otherwise. The Church survives and thrives through God’s power, the influence of the Holy Spirit, and our faithfulness to God’s commands. We can’t cut corners around that.


I once preached a sermon on 1 Corinthians 13, where Paul, after finishing up a potentially-exhausting explanation of spiritual gifts, emphasizes the importance true God-honoring love, which he introduces as “the most excellent way,” above all the aforementioned spiritual gifts. I rephrased the verses for ministry leaders, based on what’s admired in Church, Inc.


If I speak with passion and I’m personable, gathering the greatest feedback from people on comment cards, but I don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with accessibility, thoroughly proving all Christian theology and socio-political stances to even the worst of skeptics, and I have the faith to pray healing over someone in Jesus’s name and they’re healed, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

If I give everything I own to high-rated Christian organizations and even face execution in a foreign country as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere.

So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Church, Inc. may have a lot of attenders who love the worship service experience, either because they fill out surveys about how they like things done on Sunday morning, or because they appreciate their over-achieving theological or moral purity. But, are they loveless?


Love, as Paul says, is the most excellent way. But the God-honoring love to which the Bible calls us is not emotional or mushy. Neither is it easy. It’s a godly commitment to fellow human beings. Let’s take a look at its requisites:


Love never gives up.

Love cares more for others than for self.

Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.

Love doesn’t strut,

Doesn’t have a swelled head,

Doesn’t force itself on others,

Isn’t always “me first,”

Doesn’t fly off the handle,

Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,

Doesn’t revel when others grovel,

Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,

Puts up with anything,

Trusts God always,

Always looks for the best,

Never looks back,

But keeps going to the end.

American Christians, let’s strive to have biblical love in our churches, our workplaces, and our involvement in politics. God doesn’t want adherence to formulas, or even specific measurable outcomes. He wants biblical love.

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Blacksmoke Music Worldwide is a black-owned gospel record label based in Houston, TX and led by Stellar Awards Hall of Famer Kerry Douglas. Last year, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) recognized "Oh, How I Love You" by Blacksmoke artist Zacardi Cortez as one of the top songs of 2018. And it'd make a good "special music" for your church. (Lyrics below). Blacksmoke Music Worldwide is also associated with Myron Williams and Juanita Bynum, about whose Christmas duet "It's Christmas Time" I've previously written.


It's been a million days and a million nights

Oh, I still remember how your love changed my life

It's not enough words in my vocabulary to express how I feel

And I still pinch myself just to see if it's real

Said a man ain't supposed to cry, but I'll put my pride aside

Let these tears fall from my eyes, I'm so happy you're still in my life


Oh, how I love you and that will never change

Oh how I love you, forever and ever and ever


See I know that I'm a blessed man, and that I don't deserve

See to know you is to love you, always put you first

You see a man ain't supposed to cry, this time I'll put my pride aside

As these tears fall from my eyes, I'm happy your still in my life


Oh, how I love you and that wont ever change

Loving you, loving you is all I wanna do

And I'm gonna do it forever and ever


See no other love compares to the love that you share

No matter how hard they try, you see you're perfect in all of your ways

You're my sunshine on my brightest days

And life's just not the same if I leave you and walk away

Oh, how I love you

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