#548 - "You Amaze Us" by Selah
Selah's Todd Smith talks about the communities of believers that inspired their powerful new single.

Christian trio Selah released their ninth Curb Records album You Amaze Us on August 19.  This is their much anticipated follow up to 2011's Hope of the World. Half of the songs are newly written material while the other half are older hymns and modern worship songs done in Selah's signature style, including All Sons and Daughters' and Paul Baloche's "Oh Our Lord" and Gateway Worship's "O The Blood."

The lead single "You Amaze Us" is already breaking records.  It is the first single to ever debut on Billboard's Christian Soft AC Chart at #1. "You Amaze Us" was penned by The Afters' Jordan Mohilowski, along with Matthew Adcox and Douglas Fowler, and was produced by Mohilowski, Jason Kyle, and Selah's Todd Smith and Allan Hall. I had the opportunity to interview Todd Smith about the hit title track.

Please tell me the personal story behind this song.

Basically, Doug Fowler, Matt Adcox and Jordan Mohilowski from The Afters got together to write a song, and "You Amaze Us" is the song that they wrote. They had planned to just sing it at their local church, and had recorded it on a church recording. When they wrote the song, they were facing obstacles with a church building project in getting approval with finances, and it was just one issue after another.

The church leadership didn't know what was going to happen, but they took the approach that they were going to declare God's goodness regardless of what happened. That's when the lyrics started pouring out of them, speaking the promises of God, especially in the unknowns. Whatever we face in life, whether up or down, we need to believe in God's promises. Jordan said that the chorus is an honest outpouring of praise and worship to God. In the bridge it says, "All the glory and honor belongs to You."

Regardless of what happens, whether God answers the prayers the way we want Him to or not, all glory and honor belongs to God. That's a reminder that whether we are in a valley or on the top of the mountain, God deserves our full praise. That's where the song was birthed.

What I love about it is how these guys were writing the song for their local church for a celebration. It is such a great song lyrically and melodically. Our label heard it, and they came to us while we were recording songs for the album and brought us this song. We heard it one time and looked at each other and said "yes, we'll sing that song." We used the same track from the original church recording and kept a lot of the song the same way they did it originally.

Which Bible verses connect to the message of the song?

Revelation 4:9-11 (NASB): And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, "Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created."

Leviticus 17:6 (NKJV): And the priest shall sprinkle the blood on the altar of the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and burn the fat for a sweet aroma to the Lord.

Isaiah 55:11 (NKJV): So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

2 Corinthians 2:15 (NIV): For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.

John 15:20 (NIV): Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his Master.' If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed My teaching, they will obey yours also.

What is the takeaway message?

The Word is Truth. Jesus is Truth. He said "I am the Truth." Jesus tells us over and over again in the Gospel of John, "I tell you the Truth." He told us that He came to testify to the Truth, Who God is, and that He is the Way, The Truth and the Life. Scripture has a way of cutting through everything. It is amazing when someone's heart is ready to hear.

The Holy Spirit has a way of convicting people where suddenly things that seem like a fairy tale become true, like the idea of the Resurrection and the idea that we need to be saved. When God reveals Himself through Scripture, He grabs someone and pulls them in. They realize that they aren't fairy tales but the Word of God, and they are in need of transformation.

That's one of the most amazing things to see, when someone understands that. For those of us who are believers, it can be so easy to go along with life and get comfortable. One thing I've been dealing with personally quite a bit is how in John 15 there are many different aspects of what God reveals. We have Jeremiah 29:11 about knowing the plans God has for us, plans to prosper us and a future for us. I love that one because God has plans for me.

There's also the reality of John 15:20 where Jesus says, "If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you." As you share your faith, you'll be persecuted. I've been doing a project called "The Insanity of God" about persecuted believers, based on a book by Nik Ripken. The theme is about how God calls us to things that seem to be insane. Nik and his wife spent 6 years as missionaries in Somalia and didn't see anyone turn to Christ, and his son died of asthma. His mother-in-law died of cancer. They came back to the US devastated and wondered what it was all for. One of the things was that God brought them through all of that to help them prepare other missionaries to know how to train for the mission field. They interviewed missionaries who asked people to pray for their persecutors.

For me, a truth that has resonated is that we are called to live a life that is not necessarily safe, but the right life. The center of God's will isn't the safest place, but it is the right place to be. We need to be focused on the holiness of God. Yes, He is our Friend. But He is also our Savior, and our God, and He is holy. We are to be in awe of Him. The Truth of the Word reveals that and makes it clear. Music is a reminder, and it is important that it lines up with Scripture because people will probably know our songs better than they know Bible verses.

Music has power as you sing it over and over again. You remember it. If we say it wrong, they might believe it over what Scripture says if they aren't comparing it to God's Word. Everywhere Nik Ripken traveled across the world he would ask "what is your song? What is your heart's verse?" The persecuted believers always had a verse and a hymn or song they went to. We as artists have a responsibility to make sure our songs are based on the Truth.

You are our life
When death is all around
You are our peace
When all else seems to fail
You are our strength
When our weakness overcomes
You are, yes You are...

When our world is shaken
When our hope is broken
Still You are God of all

You amaze us
You alone are worthy
Of our praises
You deserve our worship
We adore You
Your glory and Your majesty
Renew us... Consume us...

Your Word brings light
When darkness falls around
Your Word speaks truth
When we're lost and wandering
You are our God
Above You there's no one else
You are, yes You are...

All the glory and honor belongs to You
All the glory and honor belongs to You
All the glory and honor belongs to You
Our Lord

In my several years of learning the stories behind songs in Christian music, I love hearing examples involving the body of Christ coming together to write and record songs. That's a great picture of the Church. When believers hear this song, they know it is Truth and can agree with and say Amen to every word. That's why the song has connected with so many people.

Something I've long appreciated about Selah's music ministry is the focus on the Word of God in their lyrics, such as in their classics "Wonderful, Merciful Savior" and "Before the Throne of God Above." We know from Isaiah 55:11 (NKJV), "So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void."

As followers of Jesus we can all sing, "You are our life, You are our peace, You are our strength, You are, Yes You are." I love those "You are" statements. I recently have been studying the Old Testament books of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, and throughout those books of the Bible, God describes the sacrifices made by the Israelites as having a "sweet aroma to the Lord."

Something I love about this song which is an offering of praise and worship directly to the Lord is that it has a "sweet aroma" of praise, as we can put all of our hope and trust in Him and Him alone with every lyric of this song. No matter our circumstances or where we are coming from, we can all agree that all glory and honor belongs to God. Ultimately God's plan for us as believers is to use our circumstances to draw us to Himself.

Likewise, Paul describes Christians in 2 Corinthians 2:15 (NIV) this way: "For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing." Something I've been challenged by is to think about whether I'm living as though I believe with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength every word of this song, and then represent as His follower a "pleasing aroma of Christ." That's a worthy calling, and one to pursue with all that we have and all that we are. Then, sing along loudly: "All the glory and honor belongs to You." Amen to that!

(Watch an acoustic performance here.)

NRT Lead Contributor Kevin Davis is a longtime fan of Christian music, an avid music collector and credits the message of Christian music for leading him to Christ. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and three daughters.

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