There are many twists, turns and bumps in life.
Early in 2020 our nation hit a huge bump in the road and our family took a turn towards full time pastoral ministry.
We never expected this decision would come with such a strong handed twist. Such is life!
We are grateful for God's calling and election as both of them are solidified in our hearts forever. There were many who opposed us. Envy ran rampant and the light we carried exposed their evil. They scattered headlong into the realm of darkness, handbags in hand. We wiped the dust off of our feet.
Nevertheless, I was called once again into the realm of the dead by a few keepers of the flame who had kept their lamps burning in this treacherous nether region of our state.
I would not make this journey alone. This time I took two armor bearers with me. Men of worship. Men of music. Men of battle.
Just prior to our band taking stage, the night had come and most of the crowd was seen heading for their vehicles, their departure due to an early service the following morning. We were not discouraged when most people left but rather prepared ourselves for an anointed time of worship to an audience of one.
An hour later, our time on the outdoor stage was over and we were refreshed to know the handful of mostly unchurched people who stuck around had thoroughly enjoyed the music and ministry.
During the set I saw the music and ministry was connecting with the owner of the establishment and I was encouraged.
It never ceases to amaze me how the most unlikely people will respond to God's truth in ways which overshadows those half hearted responses from those who have been "trained" to respond a certain way.
When the set was over, I continued to praise God and thank everyone for their time, talent and hard work.
As we wrapped up our equipment I was approached by the sound engineer who was also working for a very large Christian radio network in the region. "Nobody Loves Me Like Jesus is going to be a hit," he exclaimed. "Please send that one over to me so I can submit it to the station for their review!"
"Praise God" I replied. Absolutely.
Sometimes blessings come at the most unexpected times and in a most unexpected way. The enemy of our souls does his best to make it seem like we've wasted our time and energy, but our heavenly Father sees us and is taking care of us in mysterious ways. The eyes of the Lord are in every place...
Shortly after my discussion with the sound engineer I gathered my armor bearers and asked them if they would be interested in keeping the night going. The restrooms at this venue were hidden inside the steakhouse saloon and we had already played a game or two at the billiard table. It seemed right to all of us that we take our music and message inside. These folks were anything but enthusiastic for the "Christian music" which blared outside in the field.
Despite the fact that they seemed to have very little interest in our music or message, I was prompted to offer them a pick me up.
I walked inside and addressed the small crowd of 10-12 people at the bar. "I would like to provide some live music for all of you... free of charge" I announced. From the back corner of the bar shouted a blonde haired lady, "NOT IF IT'S CHRISTIAN MUSIC! I'LL LEAVE!"
Yes, there was clear opposition. However, I was able to explain to them how I've played music across the country for many types of venues and that I would make it fun for them. The rest of the group seemed open to the idea so I told them I would be back.
After the van was fully packed we set up our bare essentials at floor level near the bar and began to perform a few songs unamped. I eyed up the group and landed a few of their favorites, singing widely known covers. This small group was loving it. And just about the time everyone forgot I was a Christian artist I bolded an introduction to the ever infamous song, I Can Only Imagine. "I'm going to play a Christian song now!" I shouted as a painful groan was heard once again from the lady at the back corner of the bar. "I'll leave," shouted the blonde naysayer.
"This Christian song is one of my favorites and I know you're gonna love it," I replied.
She didn't leave. She stayed. And so did everyone else.
A request for Chris Stapeleton's "Tennessee Whiskey" was called out and I agreed to play it for them. If you've ever heard the song you can't deny it's indeed a great song to play in a bar. Even more so if you can sing it unto Jesus, which is exactly what I did. "I'm singing this song to Jesus for real," I explained as the first chords of the song rang out.
I could feel the power of the Holy Spirit convicting hearts because I was able to sing every lyric with conviction and devotion to the Lord. It's true! His love is more smooth than Tennessee whiskey... more sweet than strawberry wine... more warm than a glass of brandy.
I had thoroughly entertained this crowd and they were wanting more. I had a bit of fun telling them I was done and then getting more requests to stay and play more.
I was determined to close out this free live session with an original. I could not think of a better song to play to a group of downhearted liquor lovers than "NLMLJ!"
I shared a brief message about the song and began playing it for the group. To my surprise, the majority of the people were up and out of their seats, dancing to the music. The lyric, "Nobody Loves Me Like Jesus" was heard loud and clear as this group was singing loudly from beginning to end.
"Thank you good night" I shouted as I began to put my guitar back in its case.
Just then, there was a sound of heaven from the back corner where the naysaying critic sat. This woman had one request and it was a very specific one. She quietly asked "How about if you stay and play one more of your Christian songs?"
"I'll do it... but only for you," I responded.
As I prayed for wisdom, suddenly I knew exactly which song I should sing. I played a Christian song written by someone else.
Whether you've struggled with this song being sung in church or not, one thing is for sure. In this moment there was no greater song to sing. It was absolutely perfect for the moment.
Can you guess which one it was?
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NLMLJ (Nobody Loves Me Like Jesus)!
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