"All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him" (Isa. 53:6).
Billy Foote was born into a minister's home in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1966. His parents, Billy and Winky Foote, demonstrated their support of their son's musical aspirations by providing guitar lessons, starting at age nine. He quickly advanced to the point of playing in his dad's revival services.
It was in one of those services that young Billy gave his heart to Christ. He told me, "I would hear my dad preach about the need to have Christ in your life. I remember responding to an invitation. I had been under conviction about my need for about a month before I actually surrendered to Christ."
By age sixteen Billy knew that God had work for him to do. He said, "I had no idea what kind, but I had the assurance that God was going to use me somehow."
Foote enrolled in East Texas Baptist University, in Marshall, Texas, in 1985. In the summer of 1986, he met a person who was to be a friend and mentor-one who would influence him as a worship leader more than any other. That person was David Guion. He was leading worship at a camp in which Billy was a counselor. Billy was greatly affected by the way David led the students in worship. He said, "My eyes were opened to what it means to blend the old and new songs, and to call people to ascribe worth to the Lord."
Billy also said that his eyes were more opened during that camp to what worship can really be in a corporate setting. He told me, "I went back to college and helped start a night of worship each week. We had a time of worship through singing, and then a friend of mine, Neil McClendon, would speak to us. Students were able to make much of God and what he means to them."
Billy said of his early songwriting, "I had been out of college for about six years and had been leading worship full-time since my graduation. At that point in my life, I would not have considered myself a songwriter. In fact, I had only written a couple of songs before You Are My King.'"
Following is how he described the writing of his now famous third song: "I happened to be at a night of worship, and the phrases I'm forgiven because You were forsaken' and I'm accepted' kept running through my mind. I wrote those phrases down on a piece of paper, and the whole song came together.
"I believe the Spirit of God just reminded me of truths I had been taught at a young age. I knew I was forgiven because of what Christ did for us on the cross. I really don't have a grand story of how it came together. I just believe it was a gift from God. As with many of my songs, the melody came with the words. I was able to run the lyrics by a couple of men whom I trust with their understanding of the Bible. They believed the lyrics to be of sound theology, and so I started using the song wherever I was leading worship.
"I remember the first summer church camp that I sang the song. From the very first line, it seemed as if the students had known the song their entire lives. It was incredible to watch students respond to the Lord.
"It is so encouraging to know that this song is being used to help people bless the Lord around the world. We are forgiven and accepted because Christ was forsaken and condemned. We are alive and well because Christ arose from the grave. It really is amazing!"
Billy and his wife, Cindy, lead worship together as a team. Cindy, a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, has become the lead vocalist for the worship band since Billy was diagnosed with a condition that affects his voice. Billy continues to write songs as he seeks to obey God's call on his life.
"Carry the cross patiently and with perfect submission, and it shall carry you" - Thomas à Kempis.
© 2008 by Lindsay Terry. Used by permission.
Lindsay Terry has been a song historian for more than 40 years, and has written widely on the background of great hymns and worship songs including the books I Could Sing of Your Love Forever (2008), from which this piece is excerpted, and The Sacrifice of Praise (2002).