On Sunday night, November 8th, thousands of worshipers gathered together in the Sydney Entertainment Center in a collective expression of worship, recording the latest live album from Hillsong Church.
The fact that an album was being recorded seemed incidental, inconsequential even, as thousands of voices ascended heavenward, filling the stadium with a heartfelt expression of worship.
The presence of God was tangible, the focus singular--a beautiful exchange: Perfection took our place, when only love could make a way, you gave your life in a beautiful exchange...
From the first song, you are carried on a journey from awakening to awe for this overwhelmingly infinite and yet intensely intimate God. That night, thousands of people knelt at the feet of their magnificent Saviour in adoration; a beautiful exchange on so many levels.
In her final interview for NewReleaseTuesday.com, Angel spoke with songwriters and Hillsong LIVE worship leaders Reuben Morgan and Ben Fielding to talk about the new release, A Beautiful Exchange.
Hi, Reuben and Ben. We’re so glad you could join us to talk about Hillsong LIVE’s latest release, A Beautiful Exchange. Let’s start by talking about the album’s title track. Please tell us what "A Beautiful Exchange" represents to you.
Ben: "A Beautiful Exchange" is such an amazing song that was written by Joel Houston. When he wrote it, I believe he was thinking about what Christ achieved on the cross. One of the first lines in the second verse says: “Trading Your life for my offenses / For my redemption / You carried all the blame / Breaking the curse of our condition / Perfection took our place.” And that’s really the theme of this song. It’s about the exchange that took place on the cross when Jesus sacrificed His life for our sins and our shame in order to restore us and give us new life in Him. That’s actually a beautiful exchange and singing this song has brought a lot of life and hope into our church.
Reuben: In many ways, the concept of “a beautiful exchange” has woven itself throughout the messages in our church as well as through our songs over the last year. It really is a powerful thought because Jesus is exchanging all of His rights and privileges as a king to take up our sins and weaknesses, and He’s exchanging His crown for a crown of thorns so that we can have eternal life. Then, on the other hand, it’s about you and me exchanging our lives to take on His life, and I feel the thought of this exchange weaves itself throughout the Gospels. In other words, it really is about letting go of everything, so we can take on all that God is. And the greatness of God is such a beautiful concept!
What message did you want to convey through the song, “Forever Reign”?
Reuben: I would like to think of this song as a great invitation, where God in His greatness says: “Come, run into my arms. Come, because I’m your everything!” The opening lyrics of the song say, “You are good, You are good / When there’s nothing good in me.” The thought I love is that even when I feel there is nothing good in me, even when I don’t feel any joy or peace, He is joy, and He is peace. Even when I feel I have nothing left to give, He is great, and He is beautiful. So let us cast all our cares on Jesus and run into His arms because He’s all you’ll ever need! And no matter how you come, He is welcoming you, as long as you do come.
The song “Open My Eyes” takes its inspiration from Scripture in the New Testament. What Bible verses are this song based upon?
Reuben: The Apostle Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, often began and ended his letters addressed to the church in prayer. In Ephesians 1:18-19, Paul prays that “the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.” Likewise, the heart of this song is something I’m personally standing in faith for-—as well as for the church—-that the eyes of our understanding may be enlightened, and all that we are may be enlarged toward God.
“Open My Eyes” is a good song to sing first thing on Sunday morning. You see, there’ve been times when I’ve walked into church feeling somewhat burdened down with care. So I’ll begin the worship service by praying: “Open my eyes to all that you are God. Open my eyes so I may know the ways of Your heart and Your plan for my life.” And that prayer is really echoing the Apostle Paul’s prayer.
Ben, what’s the story behind the song, “The One Who Saves”?
Ben: Last year, I wrote “The One Who Saves” at a time when I received a bad report that a family member had been diagnosed with cancer. It was a pretty hopeless situation, to be honest and as a family, we were really feeling it. During that time though, I remember thinking about the hope we have in Christ, which really needs to be our confession—especially when we’re in need of a breakthrough. When we’re facing a very difficult situation, we must continually remind ourselves of what we have in Christ. The chorus of this song is a statement of faith in times such as these. It says: "We have found our hope / We have found our peace / We have found our rest / In the One who loves / He will light the way / He will lead us home / As we offer all / To the One who saves us." Then, the bridge of this song talks about the love of God. It says: “His love endures forever”--and we sing that over and over again.
So the idea behind “The One Who Saves” is about salvation in addition to the character of God. Like everyone else, I’ve had my ups and downs. And regardless of my circumstances, I’ve realized that I can always put my hope and confidence in Christ. Just remember that no matter what you’re going through, God’s love for you is relentless, and He’s passionately pursuing you because He wants to be in a relationship with you. He will make a way, and I love that! I really hope this song will lift people up and encourage them, as it did for me.
As for Christians, we really have to refocus our attention on the things of God and stir the faith that’s in us to believe. I love the fact that music can stir our faith both individually and collectively as a church. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why I feel so passionately about writing songs that will uplift and encourage others. Please pray that the songs we write will always do this for our church, and if it goes beyond that, then that’s fantastic, too!
Ben, everyone at NewReleaseTuesday.com will certainly be praying for your family member’s health as well as for the Hillsong worship team. Speaking of going beyond the walls of the church, Reuben, how would you explain worship to someone who has never stepped foot inside of a church?
Reuben: That’s a good question. I was fortunate to grow up in church, and even though we sang worship songs every week in the sanctuary, I don’t think I ever felt any kind of connection with a living God. It wasn’t until it was explained to me properly that I really gave myself to God, and that’s when I was able to sense His presence.
I would describe worship as a passionate experience where you do come into the presence of a real and living God, and that’s why we sing songs like “Open My Eyes.” Obviously, God is invisible, but there is a sense that He does speak to us when we worship Him. And there is a sense that He does allow us to know more of who He is. So I’d say to experience worship is to make a connection with God.
Reuben, how did you get started as a worship leader, and did you have to make a lot of sacrifices along the way?
Reuben: My journey began after high school when I moved from Melbourne to Sydney—-the town we’re living in now-—to study jazz guitar, and music composition and arrangement at the Australian Institute of Music. Eventually, I decided to go to Hillsong Church and began volunteering in the youth ministry. Then, much to my surprise, I wrote a number of songs that our congregation ended up singing. It wasn’t long before someone asked me to lead worship-—although when I was done, I thought they’d never ask me again! Obviously, they did and now I’m the worship leader at Hillsong Church. I’d say that this position is one of the many things God has given to me-—probably like most everything else-—that I just stumbled into. In my wildest dreams, I never thought I’d become a worship leader!
I definitely had to make a lot of sacrifices. In fact, it’s ongoing, and I can think of a number of times when I had to reprioritize my life in order to fulfill the call of God. When God calls you to something, you will have to make some very difficult decisions along the way. Over the long haul, I discovered that whatever I had to give up for God, I’ve always received a much greater reward in return. That might sound cliché, but that really has been my experience. I’ve received so much more than I’ve ever had to give up!
Reuben and Ben, it was great talking with you! Before we go, please tell us what you want A Beautiful Exchange to ultimately accomplish in the hearts of those who experience it?
Reuben: Our goal for this project, and our other projects, is for people to connect with God in an exciting new way. As God speaks through us, we want people to experience all that He is and receive everything He has for them. My dream is that, when people listen to A Beautiful Exchange-—whether on their iPods, in their cars, or as they fall asleep-—they would know in their hearts that God is real and would be greatly encouraged by our music. We want these songs to be relevant to the churches and to be songs of faith and songs of life and songs of truth to the faith community all around the world. That’s our dream for this album, and we’re so proud of these songs. Over the last few months, these songs have been such a blessing to our church, and we really hope they will bless many other churches as well.
Angel, a concert photographer and writer, loves Christian music and currently lives in FL with her husband.