Girl on Fire (Points from Power Ballads, Psalms and Songs Series)

I grew up in the late 70’s and 80’s.  We invented the power ballad.  What child of the most eclectic and unreal generation of music hasn’t sat at a red light belting out Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” and actually thought you sound just like Steve Perry?  I do.

When a power ballad charts it defines a moment for a generation.  Power ballads make a strong statement about empowerment and overcoming some of life’s most difficult trials.  
The Book of Psalms also has a collection of power ballads.  Psalm 30 provides an example of a redeeming moment in David’s life when he was struck down, but somehow rose again.  The result is a classic for his generation that would also be used at the dedication of the Temple.  
Yet in comparing Psalm 30 with the power ballads of our culture’s pop music we find a major difference.  Today’s power ballads are about self-sufficiency; yet it was David’s self-sufficiency that was also his undoing.  “As for me, I said in my prosperity, I shall never be moved.  By your favor, O LORD, you made my mountain stand strong.”  
David was on top of the world.  Even though he was enjoying the blessings of God, he forgot his benefactor.  The end result was that he was dismayed when God turned His favor away from David (30:7b).  The lyric in verse 2 implies that he must have gone from being on top of the world to being gravely ill.  In the end David cried out to God and rose again a worshiper instead of a self-promoter (30:8-12).  
What you overcome may not be as important as how you overcome it.  
We all go through trials, but when you land on your feet is the resulting power ballad of your story full of pride, determination, and self-promotion or is it a story of contrition, spiritual growth, and a marked change of direction?
Alicia Keys is arguably our generation’s most talented singer, songwriter, and musician.  She is Whitney Houston with a keyboard.  When she released the chart topping Girl on Fire, she also released this statement to her fans.
“Girl On Fire is about new beginnings, new perspectives and fresh starts. It’s about finding your own inner strength and channeling it in a way you’ve never tried before. To be “on fire” is to allow yourself the freedom to take full control of who you are and how you want to live your life. To live your passion and shine your light unabashedly!! It’s that moment you choose to claim your power and be extraordinary!With this album, I hope to empower you in the way you have me… I hope to move you to be your own phenomenal self in life. Thank you for your tremendous support throughout my career and for being a part of my journey as an artist. I’m so proud to share Girl On Fire with you all. I can’t contain the flame!!!! Never contain yours!!!”
While this statement sounds encouraging and persuasive, it is ultimately empty and void of truth.  Look at it.  Over and over again by affirming one’s self-sufficiency Keys is declaring that we are ultimately on our own.  The world is all about you, “allow yourself the freedom to take full control of who you are and how you want to live your life?”  Really?  I’m sure if she said that in a concert the crowd would give her an uncritical and thoughtless roar of approval, but tell me on what planet that ideology actually works.
She goes on to say,
It doesn't matter who you are," she continued, "how you are, in what way you express it - that's what's important about it.” 
I’m sure she means that as a statement to lift our self-esteem, but in the end it is self-defeating, empty propaganda.  Think about it, “It doesn’t matter who you are.”  Oprah would applaud her here, but is there any worth in us if it doesn’t matter who we are?  Keys says, “it doesn’t matter how you are.  It doesn’t matter in what way you express it.” 
What she is trying to say is that you are so incredible what ever you do is acceptable, but what she ends up saying is that you are worthless. Why?  If you can do whatever you want to do, be however you want to be, and do it any way you want to do it and it doesn’t matter - well then, “you don’t matter.”
But we do.
The problem with the philosophy of self-sufficiency is the misguided belief that value is drawn from the well of self.  Yet when we lower the bucket into the pool of self-sufficiency we find nothing there.  You may have a lot of confidence in yourself as a serial killer, but you are worthless to society.  You may have a lot of confidence in yourself as a child molester, but you are worthless to a society that values children.  You may have a lot of confidence in your ability to conquer every Halo world in 2 hours, but the time you spend sitting for days on end in a basement by yourself with a video game is worthless to a society in desperate need of productivity.
The Bible teaches that we are not autonomous.  We live in a world created by a moral God who is aware and responsive to our actions.  What we do matters.  How we do it matter.  Who you are - matters!
In Psalm 30 David tried to be his own man on top of the mountain.  Borrowing a lyric from Alicia, David felt like a “Man on fire.”  “I shall not be moved.”  But in the next breath, he found himself dismayed.
We will all need at some point to overcome and land on our feet, but what sort of person will you be on the other side?  Will you be more confident but clueless?  Will you be more skeptical or hopeful?  Will you be a self-promoter or a worshiper?
Katy Perry - Roaring
Katy Perry’s lyrical journey is proof that what you overcome is not as important as how you overcome it.  She is representative of a generation of kids raised in church who rejected faith as they entered adult life.  In 2001 she was Katy Hudson singing Faith Won’t Fail.  In 2008 she was Katy Perry singing I Kissed a Girl.  A few years later came the power ballad for homosexual teens, Firework.  After a difficult separation from Russell Brand, Perry came out with Wide Awake.  It was sort of her power ballad of the fallen ready to rebound.  She even included lyrics which recalled her former faith.
I'm wide awake
Yeah, I am born again
Out of the lion's den
I don't have to pretend
And it's too late
The story's over now, the end”
Next from Perry came Roar.  Roar is a me against the world type power ballad that expresses her intent to voice a new message.  A message once censored by her past will soon be proclaimed.
I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath
Scared to rock the boat and make a mess
So I sat quietly, agreed politely
I guess that I forgot I had a choice
I let you push me past the breaking point
I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything

You held me down, but I got up (HEY!)
Already brushing off the dust
You hear my voice, you hear that sound
Like thunder gonna shake the ground
You held me down, but I got up (HEY!)
Get ready 'cause I’ve had enough
I see it all, I see it now

I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire
'Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
'Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
You’re gonna hear me roar
What is that message?  Perry is currently topping the charts with Dark Horse.  The accompanying video and performances have been laced with unmistakably dark pagan and satanic themes.  In response to her Grammy performance of the song E! news tweeted, “”Um, did we just witness actual witchcraft during Katy Perry's #Grammys performance?”
What you overcome is not as important as how you overcome it.
No matter the trial of life, do you want to come out on the other side saddled to a witch’s broomstick?  If we come out on the other side and hate life more, love God less, and as Perry proclaims in Dark Horse, a perfect storm of black magic that is more dangerous than ever before, are we really better off or simply poised for an even more tragic mistake?

Some would argue that Dark Horse is not about Katy Perry, it is a song about drugs.  Oh.  My mistake.  But is that progress or a sign that a girl that God loves is even more deeply disturbed?

I pray Katy Perry finds what David found in Psalm 30.  Can you imagine a redeemed singer standing up at the Grammy's, not simply thanking God for "this award" but actually saying what David said in his Psalm?  Can you imagine Katy Perry standing on the world stage saying that she has been to Hell and back (Psalm 30:3) and has found that "His anger is but for a moment, and his favor for a lifetime (30:5)."  Can you imagine Katy Perry standing before millions saying at a time in my life when I was least committed to Him, Christ remained committed to me?  It is only when we become "wide awake" to this reality that we can truly overcome.
In Psalm 30 David cried out to a  God who heals and restores.  He was crushed as a dismayed self-promoter, but raised from the dust of death a worshiper.  In the end David proclaims that if he dies, the only thing God has done is that He has lost another worshiper.
“What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?
Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me!
O LORD, be my helper!”  (Psalm 30:9-10 ESV)
I want to reprint a testimony from Sarah who grew up in the church I pastored in Birmingham.  As her pastor, I saw Sarah, her mother and sisters go through some very tumultuous circumstances.  Sarah certainly had a lot to overcome.  A year and a half ago, Sarah made a tragic mistake that took her to the place David found himself, the dust of death.  As you read her testimony, notice the absence of self-promotion and the sense that she has been raised purposefully by God as a worshiper.  What you overcome is not as important as how you overcome it.
“Today marks 18 months that I should have died. I was supposed to be taking care of a 98 year old lady (who is now 100 years old!), but instead, she saved my life. My dependence on pain medication was no joke, and my senseless choice of drinking vodka on top of popping pills inevitably stopped my breathing. I should have died. My GOD SAVED ME by having this amazing woman make the calls for an ambulance to come. She had seen my heart and stomach convulsing, and the paramedics said that they were seriously about to intubate me- right as I finally started breathing. For so long, I was ashamed. Yes, I was angry at myself for making such stupid decisions to put those things in my body. I was very upset when I saw the faces of the people I love, and who love me, not just in the emergency room, but even after that horrible night for a long, long time. You think you're in control until you aren't. I wouldn't have known how people would have reacted, but the thought of my family and friends hearing the news of my death due to an accidental overdose had me in tears. How selfish of me to be so careless. Hurting people I love is unbearable. Then that guilt and shame comes with coping, analyzing why we do certain things, and opening up to work through the issues. Negative people will easily remind you of your mistakes and problems which will bring back that guilt. I am not ashamed anymore, and I want to help people who have been stuck in this awful place. I am not using Facebook as a platform for gaining attention, and I am definitely not bragging about my weaknesses and issues with addiction. If you struggle with meds (prescribed or not), or know someone who is, I encourage you to get help. Accountability is the most important way to keep on track (for me, anyway). I HAVE to testify and exclaim that my Savior has me here, still, and here for a reason. For His Glory, I must live. So many awful things happen to good people as well as good things happen to awful people. I do not know why I was given another chance... but I will definitely take it. To the wonderful family I was working for, who I've known my whole life, You know who you all are, and I am thankful for you brothers and sisters in Christ. I still think about Mamaw everyday. I don't know if she would remember me, but please tell her- the girl whose life she saved says Hello and that I thank God for her everyday (I thank God for all of you and the lengths you all went to so that my family would know).”
“Life is SO short, as we all know. But seriously, use this time to not only tell the people you love that you love them, but show it to them. I love you all!”
That is a girl on fire!


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