Matt Maher's been on a musical journey. Back in 2003, he wrote, "Your Grace Is Enough," a song many Christian music listeners probably know by heart. Now, 10 years later, Maher's still overwhelmed when he sings about the grace of God.
"I feel very humble…humbled by the presence of God," says Maher. "It just still amazes me that He just uses us in His story the way that He does."
Ready to see what God will do next through his music and ministry, Maher is full of excitement when it comes to talking about his latest album with Essential Records, All the People Said Amen.
"The thing I love about this project is it really is a snapshot of where I've been and where I am and where I'm going,"
Featuring a live performance of "Your Grace Is Enough", All the People Said Amen literally ties in the singer/songwriter's past. The 13-track album also highlights live recordings of some of Maher's other hits, "Christ Is Risen" and "Hold Us Together".
Speaking of "Your Grace Is Enough", Maher says, "It is a bit nostalgic for me in the sense of looking back and seeing what God has brought me. But I think it's important to do that. It's really hard sometimes to even get a sense of where God has taken you in your life when you're just kind of constantly looking forward."
Not one to dwell on the past, Maher still understands how important it is to see from where God has brought you.
"It's good to look back with the purpose of seeing, 'Well, what did God do and how is God been evident in my life?' And I think it helps to hopefully foster your faith a little bit," he says.
While singing "Your Grace Is Enough" at a church close to his heart, Maher felt himself get "emotionally choked up".
"I felt like God was saying to me, 'Yes, it is. You're absolutely right.' I think sometimes we sing these songs about God or to God, but we don't necessarily stop and say, 'I wonder what God's response is to that statement of us singing that to Him'", Maher says.
"We don't stop to see how that would even affect us. For me to have been writing these songs, even writing songs that say, 'Christ is risen from the dead, trampling over death by death'… And Jesus is saying, 'You're right; I am risen'. Creating a space in your heart for the confirmation of the sins that you sung… that in and of itself is like another movement of God's presence in our life."
"So, I feel a great pull," Maher says. "This is going in ways that I never have envisioned were possible, and it makes me excited about where things are, and it makes me excited about the future."
One of the things Maher says he loves doing as a songwriter is to look at phrases that have become clichés among church folk.
"I think that a lot of Millennials, they would hear a pastor say, "And all God's people said amen," and they would just kind of maybe roll their eyes a little bit at that. Well, first of all, that's scripture. So, please don't roll your eyes at scripture. Take the time and learn the context," Maher says. "There's a history lesson in there; and there's something in the story of the church there, if you're willing to do the work and go look it up."
The commonly used phrase came out of an incredible moment recorded in 1 Chronciles 16, when the Ark of the Covenant has been returned.
"David reads out a Psalm, [thanking] the Lord for His love endures forever. It's the song with that response, the one that Chris Tomlin bases the song "Forever" off of."
David sings God's praises and says to the crowd, "Praise be to our God from everlasting to everlasting."
"'And all the people said, 'Amen.' Now, there's a little bit more weight to it, when you tell it in that context. And so I thought, for me, what are the things that, in the church today, people are willing to say "amen" to? I think it goes back to this notion of the universal proclamation of the Gospel, that Jesus is Lord, that He came for sinners, that He came to announce the message of good news, number one. Number two, that He came to bring liberty to the captives, and He came to relieve the poor of their suffering."
"What I wanted to do with "All the People Said Amen" is have a song that talks about those two things, and that, that's something worth saying "amen" to, that's something worth saying, 'I believe. I agree with that. Yeah, I'm for that.' And so, that was really the heart beyond the song," Maher says.
One of the more worshipful songs on All the People Said Amen is "Lord, I Need You". Written for the 2011 Passion Conference with Kristian Stanfill and Christy Nockels, "Lord, I Need You" was inspired by an old hymn, and quickly turned into a relevant, "honest prayer."
"You never stop needing God," says Maher. "It's not like you can walk with Jesus and be filled with the Holy Spirit and just kind of get to a point where you're like, 'I'm good. I think I've got this now. You can just go ahead and put me on cruise control, Lord.' It just doesn't work that way."
"So, for me, it was a very potent, but poignant prayer because we do live in a time where so much is focused in our culture on independence and self-sufficiency. So, it's really counter-cultural."
Countering the culture by praising and honoring our awesome God. Let's all say "amen" to that.