ÔGod is crazy about you!Õ
Mark Lowry has had audiences laughing their way into a serious consideration of the gospel for more than 20 years. His singing career includes 13 years with the Gaither Vocal Band, and he continues to appear with the Gaithers at Gaither Homecoming events. Lowry spoke recently with Associate Editor Scott Harrup about his current concert tour and the amazement he continues to feel over GodÕs love for all of us.
PE: Your comedy is nationally appreciated, but behind the punch lines you pursue a very serious faith. How would you describe the impact Jesus Christ has had on your life?
LOWRY: HeÕs the best friend IÕve ever had. IÕve always known He loves us, but the fact that He likes us is a wonderful thing. A lot of people I love, I donÕt like. I go through Thanksgiving and Christmas, and thereÕs always one in the family that you would cry at their funeral but you wouldnÕt want to go on vacation with them.
But anybody who loves you enough to die for you is in your corner. HeÕs on your side. When I was growing up, I heard a lot of sermons that made me think that God loved me but He really didnÕt like me very much. He crucified His Son because He was mad at us. But that wasnÕt the case. He crucified His Son because He loved us.
God understands that weÕre broken, that weÕre all sinners. As Christians, we canÕt take an Òus and themÓ attitude toward the world around us. Because itÕs really Òus and Him.Ó God gave us a free will and HeÕll let us walk away. But He left the light on so we could find our way home.
PE: As a musician, what has been your most gratifying ministry opportunity?
LOWRY: When I wrote ÒMary, Did You Know?Ó — I wrote the lyrics and Buddy Greene wrote the music. A number of people have recorded ÒMary,Ó and I guess one of my favorites would be Gary Chapman. Comedy has a short shelf life. ItÕs a great tool to reach people with the gospel. But all comedy turns to corn eventually. ÒMary, Did You Know?Ó is the one thing that will probably outlive me.
PE: How do you keep yourself spiritually energized as you travel and sing with the Gaithers and other groups?
LOWRY: I love to talk about my faith. I think talking about it increases it. The more you talk about what GodÕs teaching you and showing you and the things HeÕs taking you through, the more it strengthens your faith.
And reading the Word — I love reading Eugene PetersonÕs The Message. ItÕs made the Word of God come alive for me and I love to memorize it. You know the passage where Jesus says, ÒCome unto me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you restÓ? The Message says it like this:
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and youÕll recover your life. IÕll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I wonÕt lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and youÕll learn to live freely and lightly. (Matthew 11:28-30)
I memorized that the other day because I love that line, ÒLearn the unforced rhythms of grace.Ó I think, as Christians, we need to learn those unforced rhythms. We need to learn, for example, not to rank sin. All sin separates us from God. The sin of arrogance. The sin of gluttony. You donÕt hear very many preachers preach on gluttony even when most of us have a problem with it.
You know that old saying, ÒLove the sinner. Hate the sinÓ? I think it should be, ÒLove the sinner. Hate your own sin.Ó I donÕt have time to hate anyone elseÕs sin. IÕm too busy hating mine. The Psalmist said, ÒMy sin is ever before me.Ó I think if we could learn to love the sinner and hate our own sin we could be more effective in reaching people who are struggling and hurting and who feel left out. We ostracize the very people Jesus died for, the very people weÕre supposed to reach out to with GodÕs love and grace. ThatÕs why IÕm doing the whole ÒGod Is Crazy About YouÓ tour.
PE: LetÕs talk about that tour. What kind of response are you seeing?
LOWRY: It started a couple of years ago when I began touring again after leaving the Gaither Vocal Band. It evolved. My road manager actually came up with the title. ÒGod is crazy about youÓ is the message that comes across throughout the evening. Anybody who loves you enough to die for you is in your corner. And I try to find stories from my own life to prove that point.
If people go to marklowry.com they can read the e-mails weÕve been getting from people whoÕve been to the concert. ItÕs really been a life-changing event for some people. I love to hear about people who thought God couldnÕt use them, that He was through with them because of their circumstances, and then they discover this whole side of who God is. God has always used freaks, frauds and failures. He never picks people who have it all together. Look at who Jesus chose to be His disciples! A bunch of lowlifes — and they turned the world upside down.
PE: You get a lot of comedic material from observing the church. Despite salvationÕs transforming effect, Christians can still be pretty strange. What are some idiosyncrasies youÕve observed?
LOWRY: We love to eat. We look for the buffet. The LordÕs going to have a challenge in the Rapture getting us off the ground. But the biggest thing I wish weÕd work on isnÕt our waistline. I wish weÕd just be more accepting of people. Let everybody in! Let everybody get next to Jesus, and HeÕll fix whatÕs broken in all of us. But if we keep people away É
You know, weÕre all uninvited guests standing at the door keeping other uninvited guests out. If it hadnÕt been for that sheet falling from the sky in Acts 11, none of us would know God. Peter had all those laws from the Old Testament convincing him that Gentiles shouldnÕt be allowed into the family of God. And God told him, ÒWhat IÕve called clean, donÕt you call unclean.Ó If we can just get people next to Jesus, weÕll discover again how lovely He is, how wonderful He is, and that He knows that we are all broken. WeÕre sinners, but HeÕs going to get us home if weÕll just follow Him.
PE: What are some of the painful life issues you believe your comedy and music help to alleviate for your audiences?
LOWRY: If youÕre a mother of a hyperactive kid É [laughing] I get that a lot. IÕve got ADD. I used to have ADHD, but my age is starting to eliminate the hyperactivity. It gives moms hope when they think I turned out all right.
IÕm not so sure about myself; GodÕs still working on me. This is boot camp. IÕve told God, ÒAs soon as YouÕre done working on me, just take me home. IÕm ready.Ó This is where we walk by faith.
All my eggs are already in one basket. IÕm not trying this God out to see if HeÕs for real. He is for real. He loves me. Jesus proved that on the cross. And when He rose from the dead, He assured our ticket out of here to spend eternity with Him.
PE: What does Christianity offer that the self-help books donÕt?
LOWRY: Help when you canÕt help yourself. Self-help is one thing, but GodÕs help is another thing entirely. I admire people who can pull themselves up by their bootstraps, but I need the grace of God. The wonderful thing about God is He gives grace; He helps you when you canÕt help yourself. And after youÕve tried all the self-help books — and thatÕs fine, go down that rabbit trail if you need it — youÕll come to the end of your rope and youÕll find Him standing there waiting to catch you.
PE: You stand up and share your faith with thousands of people at a time. Do you find it any harder to talk with someone about Christ one on one?
LOWRY: Oh no. ItÕs much easier and I love it so much more. I enjoy standing and sharing with a crowd. But I love sitting on my back porch with somebody who may not know anything about me. They may be an atheist, or struggling with something. And I love it. I never force it. It just happens. God will always crack a door, and IÕll push it open. When you force it, it isnÕt natural. But if you look for the Holy Spirit to crack the door and if youÕll just gently push at it, youÕll discover that people are interested in eternal things. I think thereÕs something in our DNA that remembers Eden. Remembers walking in the cool of the day with God. WeÕre all trying to get back there, regardless of whether weÕre using alcohol or drugs or anything else. WeÕre just drinking at the wrong well. ItÕs like the Samaritan woman. She was thirsty; she just needed to find the right well.
PE: If you were to name three people who have impacted your life the most, who would they be?
LOWRY: Gloria Gaither, Chuck Swindoll and my pastor, Stan Mitchell. Gloria worked on me for 13 years to turn me from a rabid fundamentalist into a person living by grace. Chuck SwindollÕs book The Grace Awakening was a turning point for me that really showed me that God loves me. Stan MitchellÕs sermon series on Henry NouwenÕs book The Life of the Beloved was almost like getting saved again. Those people have created Òglory to gloryÓ experiences for me along the way. You know, every time IÕm with Gloria I get some new revelation from God through her. SheÕs an amazing, insightful woman. And IÕd love everyone to be able to read The Grace Awakening. You can listen to Stan MitchellÕs six-part series on The Life of the Beloved for free at marklowry.com in the ÒoratoryÓ section (under the Òoutside the mindÓ button at the top) where I have some of my favorite preachers. That series turned my life upside down.
PE: WhatÕs a thought youÕd want to leave with someone reading this interview?
LOWRY: I wish I had the words to tell you how much God loves you. I pray every night before I go out on stage, ÒLord, please help me make it clear.Ó I donÕt really think words can convey it, but theyÕre all we have.
I wish you could see yourself the way God sees you. If you have children, the way you look at your children is only a broken image of how God sees us. Jesus told us that if we, being evil, know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more God loves us and wants to take care of us.
God is rarely in our plans. But HeÕs always in the interruptions. And sometimes those interruptions donÕt feel like God is on your side. When you get that doctorÕs report, perhaps, or you go through a divorce, it doesnÕt feel like God is anywhere around. But He is there. HeÕs using those things to draw you to himself.
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