wear your heart on your sleeve

Folks, it’s time to write dangerous music. It’s time to take risks. It’s time to wear your heart on your sleeve, and sing about the things that actually matter to you. It’s time to bury the shackles of religious expectation and stop trying to put new cloths on the dead.

Forget about the correct usage of wording for one dang second and sing your heart. How can you “correct” the course of a boat that isn’t willing to acknowledge the waters it sails in?

Give me honesty before correctness. People can argue with me all day long about this and I won’t care, because honesty attracts God and it attracts people. And my two jobs are to love God and love people. Besides, you can never be “right” enough for God. “All our righteousness are like filthy rags” (Isa 64:6). If you want to know what God thinks of your ability to be correct then go ahead and look up the original Hebrew translation for “filthy rags”.

God wants your heart, the whole nasty thing.

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37 comments
  1. Cate said:

    Imperfectly perfectly stated

  2. Ya know… I was just thinking about this. I remember Don saying that God wants us to write our lives not just another song. That's what the Psalms are – the whole honest story right? That seemed to work OK…

  3. Will said:

    Thanks John I needed to hear that! I get so caught up in the details when writing music… Will people connect to it? Will they like it? Is this to deep? Oh it came spontaneously, is theologically correct? Am I going to hell for writing this worship tune? Blah blah blah! It's only when it's out of pure worship and just creating for God that my creativity is truly unleashed. I desperately want my music to be dangerous, and Christians should be setting a standard that no one can live up to musically without the holy spirit. Amen brotha!

  4. I agree completely.But before you lead other people through these songs people need be very careful on the words they lead. People can write all they want in their nasty hearts, but they also need to also acknowledge the possible heresy that might come from it. We have a even greater responsibility as leaders and worship leaders not to lead the church blindly through our nastiness.I ran into a fairly extreme case of this this past weekend. Sketchy.M

  5. Josh said:

    Right on, man. Write on.

  6. Josh said:

    @marshallheppner, a song is not a sermon.

  7. Josh said:

    A song is not a sermon.

  8. I will never be able to hear ISA 64:6 without it sending a shudder down my spine.

  9. yes i am one filthy rag and He is the only thing that can get the stains out

  10. Well John, that sounds really trendy and all but "honesty" doesn't attract God. That's not anywhere in the bible. But, the bible does say that "humility" attracts God. Psalm 34:18 "The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit." It's ok to write honest songs, but they need to be Christ exalting. If they aren't bringing Him glory then what is the song celebrating? I love the prayers of the Puritans because they were honest. About the wickedness of our hearts and how it our depraved hearts cause us to sin against God and the grief it causes. But no prayer ends without a celebration of God's grace. Not trying lecture bro, but there are so many musicians these days more interested in being bohemian and earthy which is wonderful! But without the balance of being Christ exalting it becomes detrimental. I think your song "Death In His Grave" potrays a perfect balance of poeticism and correct doctrine. Truly, it's a song that exalts Christ 🙂

  11. @JarrodJesus doesn't want robots bro, he wants you. It's called a relationship. The problem is you can know the whole Bible and say a the "right" things in worship and still not know Jesus. Like a master surgeon who who may have the knowledge to save the life of his wife in the hospital but can't carry on a conversation with her at home. You can know all the right things and still have no relationship.It means nothing to Jesus to simply hear the correct "exalting" words. My radio can do that.

  12. Besides, what is more humble than honesty?

  13. john mark-i love this post. before I got to the end of the comments i was asking myself, what is more humble than honesty. Jesus was honest when he asked God to take the cup from him…honesty in its purest form.from one filthy rag to another, keep on being raw/honest/real with your music. it inspires me to get on my knees & worship God. it challenges me to think beyond myself & my own ideas of God/bible/christianity. keep on, keepin' on, brother. God through you is amazing.

  14. Patrick said:

    @ Jarrod- One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 88. In this Psalm, there is no closure and no ending with "celebration of God's grace" as you put it. It is just raw emotion. I don't know many Puritan songs that end with "the darkness is my closest friend" but this Psalm does.While I appreciate the reformed tradition of faith, it is just that, a tradition to be appreciated and not a measuring rod by which we judge all other expressions of faith. Great post, John Mark.

  15. i agree john…recently i have thought about this in regards to songs, etc…and was liberated by the idea that i don't have to write what everyone wants to hear/repeat…specifically – how come no one writes as explicitly as the writer of Song of Solomon? It would be a rough go to get those songs on the radio…but is that the point? What do you think?

  16. Robin said:

    To Jarrod who said the following: "Well John, that sounds really trendy and all but "honesty" doesn't attract God. That's not anywhere in the bible." The Bible says clearly, "The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth" (Psalm 145:18). Jarrod, when someone presumes to speak for everything that is or is not in the Bible, one should actually know what is 'in the Bible'. The Bible is very clear and identifies honesty, -calling upon the Lord in truth, as a foundational way God draws near to us.

  17. "Besides, what is more humble than honesty?"God has showed me in the past 2 years that honesty attracts people. The truth cannot be held back forever. It ALWAYS comes out eventually. Just look at politics. Jesus is the TRUTH. Honesty is the truth in action. People are hungry for the truth and I feel that Christian music has let things get in the way of the TRUTH in the name of offense. Should we purposely offend? NO. Should we water down the TRUTH in order not to offend? NO! Creativity creates creativity…God wants our hearts on a platter…if you will… 8-)Love the post, good comments, VERY interesting topic to me…

  18. I've got a mentor genious guy who has been putting the EXACT same input into my life as your blogs have. The only difference is your feet are grounded into the word of God.Amos 5:21 – I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.Isaiah 29:13 – And the Lord said:"Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men.

  19. hey john-i'm glad more people are getting this need for real. especially for worship leaders and musicians that are going for it. can you talk more about your own approach / journey in to this? i think that there are a whole breed of worshippers and musicians that want to go for this as their reality, but are stuck in a "man serving" mind set because of the expectation of how people want to be lead. I think that people like you and Jon Foreman are a great example of an amazing freedom to be who they are in churches and secular venues without being affected by what people will say. popular worship leader "icons" of our generation that everyone would know have told me that they are constantly having to rewrite songs based on what will sell to soccer moms, and therefore watering down the passion of their heart. sad reality, but i think there are many who are growing in to who they are supposed to be, but they are needing people they look up to to give them "permission" so to speak, to be who they are. they need to know how people like you are approaching this personally. does this make sense? can you talk about this?

  20. Nichole said:

    I like what "marshallheppner" said. You can write anything that comes from your heart…go ahead!!! Write on!!! (in fact! I wrote a song with the lyrics going like this…"I want to stab my heart right now") BUT if our responsibility is to lead the church (and the Bible says we will be held accountable for our leading) then I would not want to lead the church in songs that are "not" Biblical or just emotional. JohnMark-you are in a position of leading the church Isaiah 64:8 "…we are the clay, you are the potter, we are all work of your hand." I do not believe God makes crap. He made us in His image and gave us ability to create. Compared to Him we are "filthy rags" but HE gives us an opportunity everyday to change and be more like Him, he gives us the tools to create and make things beautiful. I know He encourages us & leads us in the ways of "His" truth and "His" beautiful knowledge, the way it is "really" supposed to be. He lets us in on His secrets. And calls us to things greater and to be greater. I do not take that lightly.Peter Parker (spiderman) "with great power comes great responsibility". We must not take our leadership lightly. If we lead saying basically we should put out crap because that's all we are anyways…then what you are going to get in your church is "crap". Ungrateful, selfish, negative, disbelieve…etc. crap. But if you lead saying let's put on the "fruit of the Spirit" and lead that way then that's what your going to get… that's what Christ wants from us anyways. geeze. We shouldn't be letting off a bad aroma we should smell like "Christ" and all of His goodness.WRITE FROM YOUR HEART!!! BUT LEAD FROM A WORTHY, HONORABLE. NOBLE HEART!!!!! I think we must follow the Holy Spirit when we are leading the church and writing a song for the congregation to sing. Many songs God gives us are just songs for us, maybe something only you and God share. If a worship songs is for a church to sing praise and bring a person into an intimate, deeper, & meaningful time of connecting with God we should not rely on our own strength & thought to make something happen it should be all "Jesus". John 6:63 "The Spirit brings life; the flesh counts for nothing."Ponder on this:"The church that can't worship must be entertained. And men who can't lead a church to worship must provide the entertainment." A.W. TozerLet's not be an entertainer. Let's ask God what He wants. Let's lean on God's guidance rather than our own understanding.

  21. Way to stir things up! Anyway, your original post here reminds me of one of my favorite people in the Bible, king David. I love all of his carefully scripted Psalms. 😉 (j/k) No, whenever I feel really crappy and I read his words to God, I am so encouraged because he reminds me that, although my life isn't perfect, I can still come to Him & He wants me to come to Him, especially in those times.And, what I don't really understand about the guy, Jarrod's post, is his whole idea of honesty. Without interacting with God's Spirit, having a relationship with the Spirit of truth, we are incapable of becoming or being truly honest or authentic, with ourselves or with Him. Only as I know Him, do I become more honest and authentic (and humble).I think your whole point is that you want people to be able to worship from a place of an honest, authentic experience with God, the ugly and the good, instead of feeling that it all has to be "cleaned up" for Him. Obviously, you have hit a religious nerve, so keep hitting it.

  22. Wendi: said:

    My husband and I both had goose bumps when reading your last post. We are such fans of your music and would love to buy it! We want to support you as an artist and worship writer. Not sure where? Thank you for sharing your gift.

  23. Lo said:

    I needed this….I have so many half written songs and b/c they are either too honest I feel or b/c Im my own worst critic they dont get finishedthanks for speaking truth and reminding us He wants it all

  24. Yes! Bring the honesty. I agree with you that honesty attracts people, and that we should sing honest songs.

  25. But the thing is, you're cutting yourself off at the legs. You point out that God thinks our righteous acts are just "filthy rags." Then you turn around and say that he's attracted to our honesty. You also neglect the very next verse in that passage, which seems to me to support what Jarrod is saying.The Psalm that Robin references says that "God is near," not "God draws near." He is always available to those who call on him in spirit and truth.You love God, and you love people. So your response is to try to attract them?Man, I love, love, love your music, and it points me to God. I believe that you love God and I believe that you love people. So it frustrates me that you jump on brothers like Jarrod who are just offering their view, however rude, and then let Robin and others bully with sarcastic remarks.I don't totally agree with Jarrod, but I don't totally agree with you, either. Is there no room in the body of Christ for different opinions? I think Jarrod's right that our music should exalt Christ, but I think you're right that we shouldn't use the same Christianese that everyone else uses: we should come to Him openly, honestly, with all of who we are, and let that exalt Christ. Let that be the testimony that God has changed us, He has taken our filthy rags and placed them on his Son.I hope this builds you up. I don't want to tear you down. Keep fighting the good fight, even if you have to throw a punch my way.

  26. John Mark…I loved this blog and linked it on my facebook wall..but even more so, I loved what you said above in the comments..the surgeon analogy connected with me "sumthin' fierce"

  27. Over and over, I keep reading this..For one, It's not easy for me to articulate my speech or writing because I've always been a if-it-isn't-my-best, then-don't-do-it-at-all type.Two, honesty and humility have been stewing in my mind & heart for the past weeks. Three, your music making ways have been continually changing the way i think since i first heard it 5 years ago.So, thank you for always putting Him first, no matter what they may say.

  28. All I'm saying is… my thoughts exactly. Your raw lyrics are what attract me to this music the most. Keep on glorifying Him – you already are! 🙂

  29. JK545 said:

    I like how everyone took this into the vein of congregational worship. I thought we were talking about song writing. And let's not argue over symantics, Jesus is the way The TRUTH and the life. Satan is the father of lies. God enjoys an honest song because truth is His nature. So if we are not writing from an honest place in our hearts, employing words and phrases to do what we ought to be doing with our lives, I wonder who that attracts? I'm just sayin'. If it's going to be genuine it has to be genuine.

  30. Ceidra said:

    Thank you for saying this. I don't write good songs yet, but I've been risking to write bloody. Because I am so tired of pretty and shallow, full of the right answers. Seeing you say this helped me write tonight.

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