Lately, whenever I write praise songs, I write them with my brothers who are in jail in mind. I think it’s because their issues and struggles are so clear and easy to pin down that the lyrics just flow naturally. All I have to do is just think about Unit 2 at the Anderson County Detention Facility and imagine I’m in there... I think about what I would need to hear, what I would need to sing about and what I would need to hold onto in order to stay encouraged and loving Jesus. I think about what those guys share and what they have to go through and the songs just write themselves! The great thing I’ve learned from doing this is that these so-called ‘jail’ songs work just fine in our worship services at Christ Community with folks who have never been within a mile of the lockup! In fact, these songs (which are often lyrically more direct than other praise songs) have been absolute home runs with our church people and I think it all has to do with the fact that incarcerated or not, we all basically have the same spiritual struggles and needs!
We all need to be reminded all the time that Jesus still loves us and wants us, no matter how bad we’ve been. We all need to sing about the fact that not only is it okay if we can’t make it on our own, it’s actually better that way! We all need to be told daily that we are weak and completely needy. We all need to be singing about the fact that Jesus didn’t just halfway save us from some of our sins, but He set us free completely from all of our wrong, past, present and future! Our newest praise song for the jail is called “I’m Going Home” and it’s all about heaven... man, you should have heard those brothers singing that song in Unit 2! They had never heard it before, but they brought it like it was their job! Not only that, but we sang the song at CCC on sunday morning and they brought it too!
Tom and I were at the jail one day and one of the brothers told me that the previous Friday marked his third year in Unit 2. Whew... I couldn’t handle that information. I mean, it’s a rough place to be for one hour a week. I can’t imagine three years there with a wife and a little girl on the outside. I asked myself, “What would I be desperate to know and sing about if I had just served my third year in this place?” ...and then I remembered the words of Jesus in John 14 where He said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” I remembered the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 4 which say, “In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”
I would want to sing about heaven! I would be ‘loving His appearing’ and dreaming about that Great Day! Over and over again in the Scriptures, the hope of the Gospel is the hope of heaven: that we have a home that is not of this world - that we have a place we were truly made for where there will be no more pain, sorrow, sin or death ever again - that Jesus Himself is coming back for us to take us to be with Him forever! Oh man, if that’s true, then I can make it through anything! If heaven is real, I can make it through the tough and confusing times, the sad and hopeless times and really whatever kind of times come my way! If this life is short and then at the end, (because I have believed in Jesus) I get to be with Him forever in endless joy and sweet, ceaseless fellowship with everyone who loves Him, well then, I can make it through just about whatever... Now that’s something to sing about!
Isaiah 25 says, “O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago... On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken. In that day they will say, "Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation."