Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Ever been faced with a song during congregational singing which you just couldn't force yourself to sing? There are several on my list nowadays but our church's music service is so good, I don't have to deal with the situation very often. Sometimes the music selection in our prison services leaves something to be desired. One group of men has used a Church of Christ hymnbook for a long time and they sing the corrupted lyrics to a few old standards....hymns which have been gutted of the Gospel of Grace in order to maintain the works-salvation philosophy of that group.

For years, I have found it impossible to sing: I Surrender All. I wish.......Was it Tozer who said: Christians don't tell lies; they just go to church and sing them? I mean, that's a great heart to have: total surrender. If it said: Lord, help me to surrender all; I long to surrender all.........that's singable. But the bold statement: I do surrender all--a lie for me to sing that.

My main complaint about "Southern Gospel Music" is that so much of it is man-centered. (Disclaimer: there is some good sgm....this blurb is not about the good, but the other stuff). I had a Latin teacher who, when referring to the Holy Roman Empire memorably said: It was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire. I remember that 50 years down the road. Well, SGM is like that for the most part: neither Southern, nor Gospel, nor Music. Way too much of it is all about "I" and "Me" and very little about the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and what He did and is doing. It's too often about what "I" did and how "I" feel and "me, us, and them" and little or nothing about Him.

So, after 3 paragraphs let me get to the point. There's a song gaining popularity in my very conservative world which, to me, is of the same ilk--a song with serious "I" trouble. And I wonder if no one sees this but me (and my wife).....or are we just over-the-hill into "crank"-dom? Rather than quote bits and pieces to make my case, here are the lyrics as I found them on a website. Actually these seem a bit different from what I remember, especially the first verse, but the impact is the same. I have highlighted in red the portions which are about "I" (and "we" at one point, whoever "we" is....):


We're an anchor to those who are hurting
We're a harbor for those who are lost
Sometimes it's not always easy
Bearing Calvary's Cross.

We've been ridiculed by those that don't know Him
And mocked by those who don't believe,
Still I love standing up for my Jesus
Cause of all that he's done for me.

That's why I am not ashamed of the gospel
The gospel of Jesus Christ.
I am not afraid to be counted
But I'm willing to give my life.
See, I'm ready to be all he wants me to be
Give up the wrong for the right.
No, I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

For every moment His hand has held mercy
For all the love that He's shown all my life,
A simple thanks doesn't say how I'm feeling
I've got tears in my eyes.
So as for me I'm going to keep on believing
In the one who's been so faithful to me
I'm not out to please this whole world around me
I've got my eyes no eternity.

That why I am not ashamed of the Gospel
The gospel of Jesus Christ
I am not afraid to be counted
But I'm willing to give my life.
You see I'm ready to be all he wants me to be
Give up the wrong for the right.
No I am not ashamed of the gospel
No I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ!

I've got too much behind me
To let this world blind me
To some He's just a name
But to me He's my everything

No I am not ashamed of the Gospel
I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

--- Dawn Thomas

Now, rather than go on and on and on......any more than I have already, I want to make just a few statements and hope that some of you will interact on them. First, my feelings are very strong on this song: I think it's an abomination of pride and maybe it affects me more because I am so convicted about my sinful pride.

1.) Sometimes it's not always easy bearing Calvary's Cross.......Unbelievable statement from anyone who has any knowledge of Scripture! "Sometimes".....like cross-bearing is easy some days? And, "Calvary's Cross"?......We are not bearing that cross. We're told to take up our own cross and follow Him. Only He can bear Calvary's Cross.

2.) "I'm willing to give my life......to be all....." Easy to say......talk is cheap! We should pray that God make us willing, but this attitude of having "arrived" is overpowering throughout this song.

3.) "I'm going to keep on......I'm not out to please........I've got my eyes......." Look at me, me, me.........how holy am I????

4.) "I'm not afraid.........I'm willing........I'm ready to be all......." Especially that "I'm ready........" OK, folks, I have arrived! The arrogance reaches a crescendo........

5.) "I've got too much behind me............." This is the mystery verse to me.......What does that mean? Is it a reference to one's past........or does it mean: I have this Great Power behind me (supporting me) so that the world can't blind me? Well, if past is precedent, it's not about the Lord but about "I" and "me".......

Paul wrote that under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: I am not ashamed of the Gospel............Paul demonstrated that he could indeed say that. I grant Paul that........I long to be able to say it. But I know that I demonstrate my shame for the Gospel all too regularly.......every missed opportunity, every slighted chance to bear witness of my Redeemer is evidence of my shame, diminished it might be from what I demonstrated years ago, I do not, I cannot sing these words.


Wayne Zeitner said...

Twenty years ago at our church in Nashville, some of our folks got up a mixed quartet and sang this song. More than once. Ugh. It's also been recorded many times, including by the renowned Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. But that doesn't make it a good song.

I take your point about the I-Me-My emphasis. But this is, after all, a "testimony" song. The Apostle Paul did say "I have fought the good fight, I have run the race." So I think there's a place for a testimony song, particularly given the difference between a hymn for congregational singing and "specials" or "artist" songs that are justifiably more oriented to

My problem with the song is grammatical. Especially the jaw-dropping redundancy of this: "Sometimes it's not always easy..."

Last I checked, if something is "sometimes" easy, it is, by definition, "not always" easy.

Ed Franklin said...

Thanks for your comment, Wayne. Five and a half years down the road, I will pretty much stick with my statements. I agree with you about poor grammar and syntax (in so much of modern music).

Your defense of this self-glorification as "testimony" does not register with me. What you quote from Paul was his summation of his life. I'm always put off by anyone who compares himself to Paul, John the Baptist, or the Lord Himself when trying to justify his own behavior.

My idea of "testimony" would focus more on what He has done for me, with the emphasis on Him--not this paean to self focused on "what I have done for Him"