Death and hell call him Victorious!Here’s the line that grabbed me:

Death and hell call Him victorious….

What a great thought.
What a triumphant declaration!

I’m always on the lookout for songs that lift the heart in praise and help us to think theologically. That’s a a hard recipe to get right every time. Let’s face it, not every song is going to be an “In Christ Alone.” The needle may ping more toward doxology or doctrine in a given song, but as long as it’s looking to land between the two, I’m interested. Michael FarrenKrissy Nordhoff and Riley Erin have given us a lovely and moving hymn in Oh Praise (The Only One). The song is very congregation friendly – singable, decent key, etc.. and calls us to praise while reminding us that our praise is rooted in the redemptive work of Christ. I’m looking forward to sharing it with our congregation this month.  It does have the obligatory (these days) “whoaaah whoaaah” section which you keep or let go depending on your aversion to things whoawoey. Lyrics are below along with a video of a live session that really invites you to worship along.  This week the We Are Worship website is offering free downloads of the sheet music and mp3 so go get it now.

There is no greater truth than this
There is no stronger love we know
God Himself comes down to live
And make a sinner’s heart his throne

There is no deeper peace than this
No other kindness can compare
He clothes us in His righteousness
Forever free, forever heirs

Oh praise the only One
Who shines brighter than ten thousand suns
Death and hell call Him victorious
Praise Him
Oh praise the One true King
Lift it loud till earth and heaven ring
Every crown we down at His feet
Praise Him

There is no sweeter joy than this
There is no stronger hope we hold
We are His forever more
Safe, secure by Christ alone

There is no sound that’s like the song
That rises up from grateful saints
We once were lost but now we’re found
One with Him, we bear His name

recording courtesy of CentricWorship

Copyright © 2015 Integrity’s Alleluia! Music/SESAC & Farren Love and War/SESAC & Centricity Music Publishing

CCLI Number: 7030890

Love this!

Far Kingdom is from The Gray Haven’s new album, “Fire and Stone,” released on January 6th, 2015.
There is a far kingdom
A ways from here
Beyond the storm and the sea
There will be no need of darkness
And none for tears
When that far kingdom I see

There’s a river we will know
Ever clear and ever full
From the fount that overflows
In the light of the King

And when we drink it we will find
That this joy, ever full, will ever rise
And it’ll rise on, in the kingdom
In the kingdom

There is a far kingdom
On the other side of the glass
And by a faint light we see
Still there is more gladness
Longing for the sight
Than to behold or be filled, by anything

There’s a river we will know
Ever clear and ever full
From the fount that overflows
In the light of the King
And when we drink it we will find
That this joy, ever full, will ever rise
And it’ll rise on, in the kingdom
In the kingdom

There is a far, far kingdom
There at the end of the sea
Where they know my name
And until that far, far kingdom
Calls me home
Oh, my soul, I will wait

For the river we will know
Ever clear and ever full
From the fount that overflows
In the light of the King

And when we drink it we will find
That this joy, ever full, will ever rise
And it’ll rise on, in the kingdom
In the kingdom
And it’ll rise on, in the kingdom
In the kingdom
released 27 December 2014
Released 06 January 2015
Written and co-written by Dave Radford (SESAC) and Mitch Dane (Satellite Serenade).

“The new year on which we are about to enter is unopened, and we know not what shall befall us; but if we follow Christ we need have no fear. So let us leave the old year with gratitude to God for its mercies, and with penitence for its failures and sins; and let us enter the new year with earnest resolve in Christ’s name to make it the holiest and most beautiful year we have ever lived.”

~ J.R. Miller (From Grace Gems)

What is Worship?

November 10, 2014 — Leave a comment

“Worship is at heart a person offered to God, claiming no rights, making no more selfish demands than a dead man does, but living fully, richly and wholly to God and by His power.”

– Graham Kendrick

Graham Kendrick provides some excellent insight on why singing is disappearing in contemporary services.

Here’s a recap:

Issue 1: Singing has become something specialized in the church. We’re presented with vocalists who soar on high pitched songs with every kind of run that puts the average singer at a disadvantage. It’s the difference between being “sung to” and “singing with.”

Issue 2: Too many new songs. When we don’t let songs “bed in” to the congregation they aren’t retained and remain difficult to remember when singing. Be careful on how many new songs you introduce and the manner in which you do. [My note: – Because so many bands are locked into loops, clicks and the clock, new songs are often just preformed for the congregation. In our own church we introduce a new song by taking people through the verse and the chorus, repeating each so that they get familiar with the melody before we sing the song entirely.]

Issue 3: The songs are too difficult. Graham makes the point that you can hear a noticeable increase in the volume of the singing when a well know and easily singable song is offered. It’s great to enjoy all the new recordings and songs being written but when picking songs for our local church we have to ask, “can we sing this?” Is this “too complex, too high, too sophisticated?” The question goes to the reality of accessibility, age differences and ability. This is especially true when the players and singers can’t “deliver” the material in the same way the CD does. It can become a distraction.

Issue 4: We’re embracing a performance  model that creates a concert atmosphere. In tandem with this is..

Issue 5: The culture of the screen. We have shifted into a mode where we spend more and more time in front of screens – phones, ipads, laptops, xbox, etc.. We expect those screens to deliver something of value to us, to provide an experience for us. Now that screens are a ubiquitous part of contemporary worship, carrying not only words but images of determined drummers, grimacing guitarists and enraptured singers, we wait for them to “do something to us.”

Graham concludes by reminding us that when we come to worship, our praise is a gift that we all bring, We don’t come to worship, we come worshiping to gather with other worshippers. It’s the body of Christ. Not an audience. [ My note: Leaders can fall into the trap of demanding that the congregation “deliver” their praise with enthusiasm to make us feel more validated.  They become our screen!]

What I hear is the need for a renewed focus on God as the sole object of our worship, greater sensitivity to our congregations by making songs accessible and singable, and an honest look at how deeply the culture may be robbing us of the very real need for a company of worshippers in a local church, all bringing their heartfelt praise to God.


Use these lyrics in place of the bridge in the song Oceans. Turn that personal statement of faith into intercession for the persecuted church.

“Open wide the gates of glory for the dying
For the saints who have been faithful
in the dark days of their trial.

Show your mercy to the hungry and the frightened
Scatter all those who love violence
Show the nations you are mighty”

– Sung in place of the bridge in the song “Oceans.”



“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

– Colossians 3:16

church cemetaryAugustine told us that the “law of prayer is the law of belief.”  In other words, what touches the heart is what tends to be remembered and treasured. In our day we could easily say that the law of song is the law of belief. I have many volumes of systematic theology on my shelves. Few of those will ever be read by the average believer, and not one line in any of those books will be remembered more than the lyrics of beloved hymns.  If music is a vital means of imparting spiritual truth to the hearts of God’s people, then it’s important we present as full a spectrum of theology as possible. That includes the reality of death.

“…it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” – Hebrews 9:27

We all face the inevitability of it. Sometimes we’re reminded by the sudden and shocking departure of a loved one, or their slow descent into the shadows of death through disease. Sometimes the descent is our own. What about our young men and women in the military, or our police and rescue squads that place themselves in harms way? What about their families who face the threat with them?  How do we prepare our people to view death through the prism of hope and not despair? In part, we sing about it.

Songs about death don’t fall into the category of “happy-clappy,” and so they are often avoided. But the Scriptures don’t avoid it and neither should we. We must be preparing people to die, not simply react to death when it comes. We sing songs about facing trials and difficulties with faith. Why? Simply as a reaction? No! We sing those worship songs because they prepare the heart and fortify faith for the trials we surely will face. I’m grateful for two “re-tuned” hymns I have found genuinely full of faith in the face of death. These hymns I have used for funerals but, I have also used them in our worship service.They are not maudlin or cheesy, but instead rich in metaphor and truth. They also bring the hope we have in the face of death straight to our hearts and minds. Songs of hope help us live in the power of faith in future grace.

I’m going to share the lyrics to both songs here along with the links to where the sheet music can be obtained. Are there other songs about death you could suggest that might provide the same hope and truth?

It is Not Death to Die – Bob Kauflin

Original Words by Henri Malan (1787-1864), Translated by George Bethune (1847), Music, Chorus, and Alternate Words by Bob Kauflin. Sovereign Grace Music

It is not death to die
To leave this weary road
And join the saints who dwell on high
Who’ve found their home with God
It is not death to close
The eyes long dimmed by tears
And wake in joy before Your throne
Delivered from our fears

O Jesus, conquering the grave
Your precious blood has power to save
Those who trust in You
Will in Your mercy find
That it is not death to die

It is not death to fling
Aside this earthly dust
And rise with strong and noble wing
To live among the just
It is not death to hear
The key unlock the door
That sets us free from mortal years
To praise You evermore

© 2008 Integrity’s Praise! Music/Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)

Lyrics, chord charts, piano and string scores.

Good Night by Matthew Smith

I journey forth rejoicing
From this dark vale of tears
To heavenly joy and freedom
From earthly bonds and fears
Where Christ our Lord shall gather
All His redeemed again,
His kingdom to inherit–
Goodnight, goodnight till then

Why thus so sadly weeping
Beloved ones of my heart?
The Lord is good and gracious
Though now He bids us part
Oft have we met in gladness
And we shall meet again
All sorrow left behind us–
Goodnight, goodnight till then

I go to see His glory
Whom we have loved below
I go, the blessed angels
The holy saints to know.
Our lovely ones departed
I go to find again
And wait for you to join us–
Goodnight, goodnight till then

I hear the Savior calling–
The joyful hour has come
The angel-guards are ready
To guide me to our home
Where Christ our Lord shall gather
All His redeemed again,
His kingdom to inherit–
Goodnight, goodnight till then

from Watch The Rising Day, released 17 August 2010

©2010 Detuned Radio Music
Written by Matthew S. Smith
Based in part on a hymn text by an unknown German writer, translated by Jane Borthwick

Find sheet music for Matthew Smith’s songs here.

Tullian.JPGWe ought to experience God with the totality of our being in worship. Worship services ought to inform the mind intellectually, engage the heart emotionally, and bend the will volitionally. God wants thoughtful worshippers who believe, emotional worshippers who behold, and obedient worshippers who behave. God-centered worship produces people who think deeply about God, feel passionately for God, and live urgently in response to God. Therefore, when we meet God in worship, we should expect a combination of gravity and gladness, depth and delight, doctrine and devotion, precept and passion, truth and love.
– Tullian Tchividjian

Worship by Tullian Tchividjian taken from Don’t Call it a Comeback, edited by Kevin DeYoung, copyright 2011, Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton Illinois 60187,, p. 219-220.

wattsIf you read my blog, you know I am a big fan of Isaac Watts. Yesterday I received an email from Ligonier Ministries that Reformation Trust is offering a Watts bio for free the rest of May. The material below is snipped from that email. I would urge you to read about this most prolific and outstanding hymn writer. 

Until the end of May, Reformation Trust is giving away the eBook edition of Douglas Bond’s The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts.

We all know and love ‘Joy to the World,’ ‘Jesus Shall Reign,’ ‘Alas and Did My Savior Bleed,’ ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,’ ‘O God, Our Help in Ages Past,’ and a host of his other compositions. And yet, most Christians know precious little about the author of these great hymn texts—the man history has dubbed as the ‘Father of English Hymnody.’ At least, until now. Thanks to the prolific and eloquent pen of Douglas Bond, we now have an insightful glimpse into the life, the faith, and the poetic wonder of this remarkable servant of the church: Isaac Watts. This delightful book needs to be put at the top of your must-read list.”

—Dr. George Grant

Available in May as a Free Download

“God is the ultimate musician. His music transforms your life. The notes of redemption rearrange your heart and restore your life. His songs of forgiveness, grace, reconciliation, truth, hope, sovereignty, and love give you back your humanity and restore your identity.”

– Paul David Tripp

God is the Ultimate Musician