This last August I prepared an outline for a 9 month study through the book of Revelation for my high school youth group. I got all 22 chapters of Revelation sectioned into 29 studies. I searched the internet for pop culture titles that seemed to fit each the topic for each section. I gave Rev. 6:1-17 the title, Dark Horse.. as it fits. This week is Revelation 3:1-6.. a letter to the church of Sardis. I entitled this section ‘Counting Stars’... as I noticed the reference in this section about “the seven stars” in Rev. 3:1 and wanted to focus on Jesus… I googled a few things and the ‘Counting Stars’ song came up from OneRepublic. Didn’t know it was that song.. the one I heard on the radio so many times. Briefly read the lyrics and thought it could be a good connection.
Now here I am digging into it… I read about the church of Sardis from David Guzik on blueletterbible.org and he quotes William Barclay… “It is of interest to note that the first coinage ever to be minted in Asia Minor was minted in Sardis in the days of Croesus. These roughly formed electrum staters were the beginning of money in the modern sense of the term. Sardis was the place where modern money was born.” The song obviously has a tone of contrasts.. and themes of spiritual matters and dang.. I’ve heard this song.. but didn’t know how cool it was.
As I was reading it.. these were my thoughts and interpretation…
Lately, I’ve been, I’ve been losing sleep
Dreaming about the things that we could be
Feeling unsatisfied with the humdrum of life.. looking for more significance and meaning than what he was told
But baby, I’ve been, I’ve been praying hard,
Said, no more counting dollars
We’ll be counting stars, yeah we’ll be counting stars
“Praying hard”.. is seeking God in conversation and wrestling with issues. “Said”, seems to imply the response as in “He said”.. the answer in prayer… like the Lord was telling Tedders “don’t focus on the money, making money.. you’ve got a more important role coming up in the future”. The Bible talks about Jesus’ followers having responsibility and a role of importance after this life.. ruling and reigning with Him in His Kingdom. Their identity.. as they live on earth, doesn’t have to do with the earth and the systems it’s invented, money. No counting on bank accounts and checks coming in to feel like “you made it” or are important. All of that is weak.. chump change compared to the fulfilling assignment. The one praying hard, realizes his future role.. which brings a freedom from the current trap that brings frustration and limitations. Lead singer of OneRepublic, Ryan Tedder, was brought up in a charismatic church.. and no doubt the video for Counting Stars with the healing/preacher church meeting above the band practicing on the first floor is a picture with not only what he grew up with, but the content of the lyrics. He probably saw the church and Christian music industry running after money and lived more for money than for what He was reading in the Bible.. seems like Ryan chose to rebel against that church culture and do what Jesus told him to do as he saw in Scripture.
I see this life like a swinging vine
Swing my heart across the line
This life is full of contrasts and struggles with boundaries, crossing the line.. getting involved, getting dirty the way Jesus did. Artists seem to be able to do this more easily.
And in my face is flashing signs
Seek it out and ye shall find
Maybe a Scripture that has stuck with Tedder over the years… in King James language and a reference to Matthew 7:7, Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you”. This can be taken personal or general.. if personal.. it seems God was leading Tedder to launch out and cross boundaries the church wasn’t willing to do and clear signs were in his face all along. After all.. he was told by the church Jesus’ words to “seek it out” and this is where it’s led him.
Old, but I’m not that old
Young, but I’m not that bold
I don’t think the world is sold
I’m just doing what we’re told
Ryan Tedder was 34 when this came out. I see Ryan’s rebellious spirit here against religion and legalistic churchy limitations. The lines with old and young.. seem to be what other people have said about him in the church as Tedder hasn’t followed the typical Christian industry boundaries. People might have said.. yeah he’s older than a kid but not being wise.. he’s young and connects with the kids but he’s not bold enough. Ryan’s view is that he’s just doing what Jesus told him to do.. not what the church told him to do. He doesn’t agree with what the church calls ‘the world’ and that you have to run from all evil. Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors.. Ryan seems to be following the boundaries of love that Jesus had rather than the legalistic church’s approach.
I feel something so right
Doing the wrong thing
I feel something so wrong
Doing the right thing
I could lie, couldn’t I, could lie
Everything that kills me makes me feel alive
Something so right is to cross cultural boundaries for the sake of Jesus’ love and His calling on your life.. that maybe the church has put a lid on. Not outright sin.. getting polluted and wild sex but breaking church boundaries.
I feel the love
And I feel it burn
Down this river every turn
Hope is our four letter word
Make that money, watch it burn
Sink in the river, the lessons I learned