The Music Channel at crosswalk.com is proud to be able to present the first chapter from a new book written by Steven Curtis Chapman together with Scotty Smith, his pastor from Christ Community Church in Franklin, TN. The book is entitled [Speechless] Living In Awe Of God's Disruptive Grace and is available through Zondervan Publishing.


chapter one
[SPEECHLESS]

"Speechless" from ==Speechless== the album

Words fall like drops of rain
My lips are like clouds
I say so many things
Trying to figure You out
But as mercy opens my eyes
My words are stolen away
With this breathtaking view of Your grace

And I am speechless, I'm astonished and amazed
I am silenced by Your wondrous grace
You have saved me
You have raised me from the grave
And I am speechless in Your presence now
I'm astounded as I consider how
You have shown us
A love that leaves us speechless

So what kind of love could this be
That would trade heaven's throne for a cross
And to think You still celebrate
Over finding just one who was lost
And to know You rejoice over us
The God of this whole universe
It's a story that's too great for words

Oh, how great is the love
The Father has lavished upon us
That we should be called
The sons and the daughters of God
We are speechless, so amazed
(We stand in awe of Your grace)
(We stand in awe of Your mercy)
You have saved us
(We stand in awe of Your love)
From the grave
(We are speechless)

We are speechless in Your presence now
(We stand in awe of Your cross)
We're astounded as we consider how
(We stand in awe of Your power)
You have shown us
A love that leaves us speechless
(We are speechless)

I am speechless


(The following has been written by Steven Curtis Chapman)

I was exhausted and excited as we pulled up to the legendary recording studio in London known as Abbey Road. It was here that the Beatles had recorded so many of their hits, and the week before we arrived, conductor John Williams had just finished recording the sound track for the new Star Wars movie. It was hard to fathom that my music would soon be reverberating off the same walls as the London Symphony would record the string arrangements for my Speechless record.

I had been looking forward to this long weekend for quite a while. I needed it to be a time of refreshment, a time of drinking in the joy of listening to world-class musicians playing their priceless instruments. I was here to watch and to listen as my friend and conductor, J. A. C. Redford, wove a beautiful musical tapestry with the arrangements he had written.

As the writing of my first book got under way, I never knew how scary a blank sheet of paper could be. "Who am I to write a book about grace? I feel like such a mess right now, so weak." My sense of inadequacy progressed as we spent fourteen- and sixteen-hour days laying down the instrumental tracks and recording the vocals for the record. "Lord, what do I have to give?"

In preparation for our time at Abbey Road, I sent J. A. C. the "roughs" of the songs and a little haunting melody that had been running through my head, along with a description of what I hoped Scotty and I would be able to convey through the book that was to be based on the record. After going through all those materials, J. A. C. took the simple melody I plunked out on the piano and wrote a complete piece of music I would later call "The Journey," which profoundly captured the emotion of the last year of life for my family and me.

As J. A. C. took up his baton, sixty members of the London Symphony were poised to bring to life my simple composition and his rich interpretation. As the maestro waved the musicians into action, I was enveloped in the most incredible sound I have ever heard in my life. It felt like the sky had parted and I was being drawn into the music of heaven! Words like amazing, overwhelming, and astonishing just do not do justice in describing what I experienced in that moment. I was, quite honestly, speechless.

I cannot claim to have ever heard the audible voice of God, but as I sat there in my exhausted and exhilarated state, it seemed as though the Lord whispered in my heart, "If you ever wondered what it sounds like for me to rejoice over you with singing, this is a faint hint of what it is like." How could I not weep?

Then it occurred to me: Yes! This is it! This is the whole point. This is what grace is all about. I bring my childlike melody and my tired, broken, weary heart to God, and he makes something beautiful! In that magnificent recording room I was hearing the music within the music, the music of the gospel. Then I remembered a priceless saying of Scotty's mentor, Jack Miller: "Grace runs downhill." We are the best candidates for the love of God when we feel the most unworthy and inadequate.

That day in Abbey Road is now written down in my little book of Ebeneezer experiences. It finds itself among those treasured moments when I can say with no doubt, "Surely the Lord met me there. His Spirit bore witness with my spirit that I am his much loved son." But surely God is calling each of us to hear the sounds of his rejoicing over us more often than we do. How can we?

More Than Notes and Words

When I was eight, my brother Herbie and I first sang "I Believe in Music," a song made popular by Mac Davis. With it the two of us won our first talent contest in the mighty metropolis of Paducah, Kentucky, and before long it had become the theme song of the "Chapman Brothers Duo." One line of that song still comes back to me after all these years: "Music is the universal language." As a third grader, I wasn't certain what that meant, but I liked the ring of it.

I thought of that lyric a few years ago on a visit to Honduras, because suddenly, the universal language of music made sense in a powerful way. On that sun-drenched afternoon I borrowed an old guitar and began playing. I had flown to Central America to meet three beautiful children whom my family had been sponsoring through World Vision, because I wanted these dear ones to be more to us than just an inch-square picture on the front of our refrigerator. Praying for them is far more meaningful when we have seen their faces.

As I played and sang, a crowd started to gather. Before I knew it, a large group of Hondurans was listening intently to a boy from Tennessee sing "Oh How I Love Jesus." Since I didn't speak any Spanish and they didn't understand English, let alone my southern accent, the huge communication gap was bridged by this mysterious language called "music." Our hearts became as one as I sang of our Savior's matchless love.

Music always transcends culture and touches the soul-whether in Latin America, South Africa, North America, or at the North Pole. In all of my travels, I have witnessed this again and again. How humbling it is when God chooses to use one of the songs I have written to bridge the gap not just between people but also between one person and himself. Just last night after performing a concert, I met a woman who explained through her tears how God had used one of my songs to "save her life" after the deep despair arising from the untimely death of her husband.

Each time I hear a story like that I am astonished. Never do I take such testimonies for granted because I know it has nothing to do with me. God has allowed me to see firsthand how tenaciously and tenderly he pursues the weary and brokenhearted, and somehow, through a combination of the right lyric and the right melody he accomplishes things of eternal worth.

This is why I work so hard at songwriting, to achieve that delicate balance. The marriage of words and melodies is a gift that God has entrusted to me, and I have no greater joy than watching God use the fruit of my craft for his glory.

Sometimes when I write a song, the words come first. At other times, a melody courses through my mind and the lyrics come later. When I first wrote the words for my song "The Great Adventure," I knew immediately it was not destined for my "ballad" repertoire. A quiet, restful melody just can't carry words like "saddle up your horses." The music had to make even a non-horseman like myself want to head for the corral in search of a wild stallion-music to wake the sleeping adventurer in us all.

By contrast, when I wrote "I Will Be Here," about my deep love for my wife, Mary Beth, I tried to craft a tender piece of music to complement the lyrics. It's not simply a matter of fitting the two together. When the melody and the lyrics are truly married, something much deeper happens. The sum is greater than the parts. God intends so much more than mere information and entertainment-like the mystery he creates in a marriage.

For me, music is more than a vocation or ministry. It's a means by which I come to a deeper understanding of the heart of God and the astonishing reality of his grace. The more clearly I see God's love for me in Christ, the more I am rendered speechless, silenced by the vastness of God's supply to meet my every need. Great songs help me access God's generosity.

A few years ago I purchased a new CD by {{Rich Mullins}}, one of the best singer/songwriters of our time. He had an incredible way of communicating the truths of Scripture in poetic and imaginative ways, and I continue to be inspired by his work. When I bought the CD, though, I didn't have a player handy, so I simply read the lyrics printed on the insert. Without knowing the melodies, the lyrics profoundly affected me. I remember telling Mary Beth that Rich's poetry was worth the price of the disk alone.

When I heard the melodies to these songs, however, my whole being resonated with what Rich wanted me to know and feel. The music provided a passage into places that the lyrics alone can never go. Yes, the melodies alone would have moved me, but to what end? By combining the music and the lyrics, a powerful dynamic was created that moved the songs' powerful messages from my head to my heart. The melody breathed life into the songs. Every great song has both elements.

The gospel of God's grace also has its own lyrics and music, although unique to the gospel is the way the music is contained in its lyric. Nothing can compare with the wonder that occurs when the truth of the gospel sings in our hearts by the work of the Holy Spirit.

My calling as a songwriter is to continue to work hard to write songs that honor God both in their form and content. My calling as a Christian is to know the lyrics of the gospel so well that its music resonates through my whole being to the delight of my Father, anytime, anywhere.

Writer Stacey Rhinehart tells a story that captures this image:

Once when the Cleveland Symphony was performing The Magic Flute by Mozart, an electrical storm caused the lights to go out. Undaunted by the difficulties, the members of the orchestra knew the music so well that they completed the performance in the dark. At the end of the performance, the audience burst into thunderous applause, and a stagehand illuminated the orchestra and conductor with a flashlight so that they could take their bows.

The only applause that really matters is God's, and it is thunderously heard for each of us in the gospel of his grace.


(The following has been written by Scotty Smith)

Good News or Good Vibrations?

With Steven, I share a deep love for music, though, since high school, the genre that remains my favorite is what we native Carolinians call "beach music." For some of you that conjures images of sun-bleached hair, surfboards, and the tight harmonies of the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean. Right era but wrong beaches-and wrong music! Beach music got its name from the beaches of North and South Carolina, and any decent collection of beach music will include such groups as the Delfonics, the Stylistics, the Intruders, the Chi-Lites, the Temptations, and the Four Tops.

As soon as I hear the opening bass riff of the Temptation's classic "My Girl," memories flood in, I look for my wife's hand, and my feet instinctively begin a dance called the "shag." I am embarrassed to say, however, that if my next meal was contingent upon reciting the lyrics to "My Girl," I would starve. I've never been good at remembering the words to songs, because the melody affects me far more than the lyrics.

The same was true of my early experience of Christianity. I had always had a hard time understanding religious words. In fact, as a child, when I tried to memorize the Lord's Prayer, I thought it said, "Our Father, which art in heaven, hollow is Thy Name ..." I had no idea what hallowed meant, so I simply learned to mimic words that were, indeed, hollow to me. Content didn't matter.

When I became a senior in high school, however, the faith was finally presented to me in a way that did matter. I began to understand that Jesus Christ is the way and the truth and the life, and I came to believe that the gospel is the good news of the revelation of Jesus Christ. I began a lifelong surrender of my mind and emotions in the late sixties to him who alone is worthy. My head and heart found a resting place in the truth and grace of Jesus. But little did I realize then how much I still had to learn.

Mean Christians in an Age of Spiritual Hunger

Still, as a young Christian, it did not take me long to encounter a large and vocal group of Christians who had tons of biblical knowledge but were spiritually flat-even mean at times. Though I had all the arrogance of a new convert, still I struggled to understand how these believers could have so little awe of the wonderful truths they were so zealous to defend and protect. Where is their joy? Their love? I often wondered.

For instance, soon after I became a Christian, my friend Wade, an amazing rock-and-roll guitarist in a local band, began to wonder whether this "Jesus thing" offered him anything of substance. One night, as his hunger to know God intensified, he decided to attend a little church that had a sign out front, announcing, "Revival in Progress!" He sheepishly took a seat in the back of the chapel, feeling out of place in his faded blue jeans and shoulder-length blond hair.

The sermon, according to Wade, was little more than a tirade against liberals, communists, hippies, and people who used any translation of the Bible other than the King James. Nevertheless, Wade responded to the altar call at the end of the service. Walking to the front of the packed auditorium, with a sincere desire to have the evangelist pray with him, my friend received this greeting: "Son, what're you doing here? Go cut your hair, come back, and then we can talk about Jesus." When Wade told me this story, I was furious. Fortunately, his hunger for grace outweighed the wounding his heart took that night. He became a Christian within a couple of weeks.

This represented my first putrid taste of intellectual Pharisaism, the dangerous illusion of confusing knowledge with spirituality. I remember thinking, "If that's what theology does to Christians, then don't give me theology, just give me Jesus." Believers who talked, lived, and prayed with fire and joy commanded my respect a lot more than those biblical hairsplitters. If forced to choose between dead orthodoxy and live heterodoxy, I was determined to choose live heterodoxy every time. I didn't realize then, however, that I had other options.

In the years that followed, my spiritual journey swung between those extremes. As a religion major at the University of North Carolina, I discovered the importance of an intellectual defense of the faith. I read books on apologetics and listened to tapes by speakers who assured me being a Christian does not mean you commit cerebral suicide.

About that time, though, I also had my first encounter with the charismatic renewal movement, an encounter that introduced me to a depth of experiential worship and communion with God that satisfied something deep within my soul.

Don't Think-Just Feel

"Trust me. You're going to love this group of Christians," my friend pleaded as she tried to persuade me to attend my first charismatic gathering with her. I had never dated a Christian before, so I decided the risk would be worth the prospect of more dates. We entered a large ballroom after the meeting had begun. Soft, lilting music filled the banquet hall as hundreds of Christians stood on their feet, most with eyes closed and hands raised, swaying to the soothing sounds of repetitive praise choruses.

These believers both captivated and confused me. But the beauty of seeing so many Christians, young and old, wealthy and poor, black and white, in such unison and peace before the Lord transcended the weirdness. I didn't understand what I observed, but I couldn't deny its attraction.

After the speaker finished, he invited all those longing to be filled with the Spirit to come forward. He stressed the importance of getting over our theological and biblical hang-ups. "Most of you have been under men who had studied at cemeteries called seminaries. They are dead men with dry bones. This is a movement of the Spirit. Just open yourselves up. Stop thinking and start believing."

When he said that, a little alarm went off inside me. I wanted these believers' passion and love for God, but did it only come at the expense of not thinking? I left that night convinced of the reality of their experience but also sad at the cynical disdain for Christians with thinking minds. Nevertheless, I continued to hang out with charismatic believers.

Unfortunately, this meant that I now had two sets of Christian friends. The first, my Francis Schaeffer and C. S. Lewis buddies, loved to think great thoughts and engage in apologetics with the nonbelieving culture. Then there were my charismatic brothers and sisters who were passionate about feeling the presence and seeing the power of God through the work of the Spirit. It was both painful and confusing to have those I loved and respected in each group warn me against the other. "Scotty, watch out for those charismatics. Next thing you know, they'll have you speaking in tongues and casting out demons." "Scotty, give up the idolatry of your mind. Yield to the Spirit. You're missing the beginning of the Third Wave of the Holy Spirit, and you may not be able to stand in the last days without his power."

Only after living for a long time as a spiritual schizophrenic did I discover that the lyrics and the music of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to use Steven's image, are meant to be joined together in one great song.

Over the years I began to identify several false dichotomies that fed my spiritual schizophrenia. As I matured in the faith, I started to see these things, not as discordant notes, but as harmonies. Consider some of these dichotomies that are really unities:

Revering Jesus and Loving Jesus
Being a Student and Being a Worshiper
Defending the Faith and Delighting in the Faith
Identifying False Teachings and Enjoying Good Teaching
Head Engaged and Hands Uplifted
Serving the Lord and Enjoying the Lord
Knowing Theology and Knowing God
Testing the Spirits and Being Filled with the Spirit
Knowing God as Sovereign Lord and Knowing God as Abba, Father
Gospel Precision and Gospel Astonishment

When I allowed these seeming dichotomies to exist as complementary realities, the lyrics and the music of the gospel suddenly came together in my life.

The Lyrics and Music of the Gospel in Balance and Harmony

Though the route has been different, both Steven and I have found the apostle Paul to be the clearest teacher of how both parts of the gospel's song are to be manifest in a believer's heart, church, family, and vocation. What is impressive about Paul is the way the music of the gospel captured his heart. He is overwhelmed at the goodness of the Good News. In Paul's writings we learn that the gospel is not merely cerebral, but also celebrative!

Toward the end of his earthly life, after walking with Jesus for over thirty years, Paul could say,

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-of whom I am the worst. (1 Tim. 1:12-15)

Can you hear the song in Paul's heart-the gratitude, the peace, the joy? This is a man whose whole being has been set free by the truth of what he believes. He knew himself to be so unworthy, so ill-deserving of God's love and yet so fully beloved in Christ. On the road to Damascus, as he prepared to arrest more Christians and destroy the church of Jesus, the love of God literally captured him, and he was saved by a torrential outpouring of God's grace. God is not miserly with his mercy and love.

As he grew older, Paul continued to affirm the one true lyric and the glorious music of this gospel. Paul loved the meat of the gospel and savored its sweet taste and glorious aroma. We are called to do the same-it's just like eating great crab cakes at Picolos Restaurant!

Steven's family and mine were enjoying the beautiful beaches of the Florida Gulf one summer. We decided to meet for a night out at our favorite restaurant in Grayton Beach called Picolos. Grayton Beach is known for two things: first, it is the lightning-strike capital of the United States. Second, its little Bohemian restaurant serves the most incredible crab cakes in the universe, not just in the whole state of Florida.

Friends warned us to get there early because they often quickly sell out of the house specialty, which is served only on Fridays and Saturdays. We placed our order, and before long our waitress returned with four huge plates of salad, garlic mashed potatoes, and two big, succulent crab cakes, whose smell alone was worth the price of the meal.

When we put that first bite of crab cake into our mouths, you would have thought we had just seen a beatific vision. It was culinary music! We moaned and sighed in four-part harmony. We closed our eyes and sank into our seats. "Can you believe this? Have you ever tasted anything as sweet, as good, as incredible? Now this is the mother of all crab cakes!" I'm not sure what those close to our table must have thought of our carrying on. None of us really cared. We were set free!

As with Picolos' crab cakes, so too with the gospel-deep satisfaction comes to those who partake, music to those who feast, dancing to those who linger at the table. In one of the great gospel invitations in the Old Testament, God's grace is presented as a life-giving buffet of his love and provision. A massive banquet of delight is offered to the hungry and thirsty. The price of the meal is our thirst, hunger, and poverty.

Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. (Isa. 55:1-3)
Come and dine!

"The Invitation" from ==Speechless==

In the palace in the land of mercy
The King looked out from His throne
He saw the sick and the homeless and hungry
He saw me lost and without hope
And moved with compassion
He sent out His only Son
With the invitation to come

This is your invitation
Come just the way you are
Come find what your soul has been longing for
Come find your peace
Come join the feast
Come in, this is your invitation

So I stood outside the gates and trembled
In my rags of unworthiness
Afraid to even stand at a distance
In the presence of holiness
But just as I turned to go
The gates swung open wide
And the King and His only Son
They invited me inside

So now will you come with me
To where the gates swing open wide
The King and His only Son
Are inviting us inside

This is our invitation
Come sinner as you are
Come find what your soul has been longing for
Come find your peace
Come join the feast
Come in, this is your invitation
This is our invitation
This is the invitation


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