Midweek Music 09.30.15

“Take Heart” | Hillsong United

The end of September means one thing to me: it’s almost time for Christmas. I know some of you are “purists” who want each of your holidays in order with no intersection whatsoever. But consider that I’m a planner and I work in ministry. I started preparing for Christmas and Advent in late August, it’s the busiest season of the liturgical year, not to mention my favorite!

In my preparation for this season, I’ve spent a good time dwelling on light. I like the idea of Christ personified as light. I take overwhelming comfort in the fact that in this dark world, there is a light of hope to follow. This isn’t a Christmas song per se, but there is definitely an inadvertent Christmas message behind it. With the birth of Christ, we were given a light…a light of hope…a light of hope that we know will never fail.

Take heart, the wait has just begun but our light of hope is on the horizon.


I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Midweek Music, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

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Midweek Music 08.12.15

“Christ is Enough” | Hillsong Worship

We all “need” something from time to time. A new car, new clothes, certain foods, different job, more money, better social status, etc… I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been guilty of “needing” something that, in actuality, I didn’t.

We play a game with God. “Give me (insert item) and I’ll do better about (insert spiritual attribute)”. We treat our relationship with Christ like a points-based reward system. I’m just curious when Christ stopped being good enough. When did his unjustified love and grace towards us stop being more than what we deserve.

It’s hard to live the words of this song. It’s hard living in a material world and not being a material girl (or guy) to reference a song with a different mindset. It’s hard but it’s worth it. Letting Christ be more than enough, let alone enough, is so worth it. Commit yourself to Christ, be encouraged by his unmitigated grace, and follow the direction toward which he is leading you. Let Christ be enough.


I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Midweek Music, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Midweek Music 07.15.15

 

“Tear Down the Walls” Hillsong United

This song is directly tied to what God has constantly placed on my heart as of late. The vast majority of the church has become egocentric. In our outreach, in our corporate and personal worship, in our message…we hide behind a false persona of who we want Christ to be rather than who he actually is.

Rather than let Christ reflect on us so that we can be more like Him, we reflect ourselves onto this false persona of Christ we create…in essence we create a Christ that is simply a model of ourselves and worse yet, we worship it.

We have actively built up walls to shut out the noise of anyone who disagrees with our perception of Christ. We use these walls to protect these perceptions. The thing is, Christ isn’t yours to protect. More so, Christ isn’t yours. Christ doesn’t belong to you, you belong to Christ.

It’s time to tear down the walls, open our eyes, reach out, and love. Lord, let love tear down these walls.

 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Midweek Music, feel free to follow it along with the posts.


Midweek Music is a new series published on Wednesdays that will be replacing Music Monday.

 

Music Monday 04.27.15

“Simplicity” Rend Collective

I recently wrote about the church’s habit of containing worship to a certain style. There is a well known struggle between traditionalists and modernists as to what is the appropriate kind of worship to use in services. I am very vocal about my middle-ground stance. I try to pull both ends of the spectrum to a place where we can appreciate the idea that worship isn’t about us, its about our desire (and responsibility) to glorify God with our talents. That brings me to this week’s Music Monday song.

I’ve used Rend Collective in this series before. They’re a great band who combines excellent music with a great depth of theologically complex and challenging subject matter. One of the lines from their song Simplicity actually serves as the namesake for this entire blog. I’ve written about the song before (not in this series) and it’s humble plea to be overtaken by Christ. It’s a plea from the singer that they would be stripped completely of themselves until the only thing left inhabiting their spirit is Christ.

Lord strip it all away, ’til only You remain

The song encapsulates everything I think worship should be. We need to step back from our pride, strip ourselves bare of ambition and insecurities, and lift up a broken song to the only One worthy of our worship. Our first and foremost love.

 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Music Monday, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Containing Worship

I’m not going to lie to you. Sometimes, it’s really frustrating being a worship leader. I love worshiping God, I love seeing others worship God, and I love music. When all three of those come together in a single moment, it’s absolutely glorious. It gives me goosebumps to feel God’s presence and worship alongside other people. Then there are those moments when the goosebumps fade and I get frustrated. You know the moments I’m talking about. Fast vs. Slow. Soft vs. Loud. Older Hymns vs. Newer Songs. Band vs. Choir. Lighting. Audio. Visual. Effects. Atmosphere. Quality. Acoustic. Electric. Presentation. “Traditional is more reverent.” “Contemporary is more relevant.”

I’ve been around ministry and music long enough that I’ve been involved in more discussions, read more articles, and heard more debates than I can hardly stand anymore. I have the background and have had unique opportunities to be heavily involved in both traditional settings and contemporary settings. Through my experiences, I’ve met a slew of people with a variety of opinions on the subject. The vast majority of them have the best of intentions in their heart. They don’t necessarily believe that one is wrong per se, they just truly believe that one or the other is on a greater spiritual level. They engage in passionate conversations about the depth of which their preferred style reaches beyond the other.

When did worship stop becoming about worshiping? What moment in time did people start having the mindset that “worship” could even be stylized? I think it was around the same time we started treating “worship” as only a noun instead of both a noun and a verb. Worship is supposed to be an expression. It is supposed to be a deep and emotional expression of reverence for something of which the worshiper has great adoration. If we are to believe that is the case (and I very much do believe it), how can we define what style is appropriate for worship? Why would we limit our own ability to worship by placing unnecessary parameters around something that is supposed to be beautiful and intimate?

Now beyond that, and far more importantly, at what moment did we decide worship had anything to do with us in the first place? “The worship just didn’t speak to me.” “The songs just didn’t move me.” “I couldn’t get into the music.” “I didn’t really like the worship leader’s voice.” I’ve heard all of these and have been guilty of saying a few of them. What do they all have in common? The focus is always the worshiper. But the problem is that worship isn’t supposed to be about the worshiper, it’s supposed to be about whatever is being worshiped. When we come together for our church services and the music starts, our thought process shouldn’t be “OMG IT’S THE NEW ONE FROM HILLSONG”. Our thought process should be focused on the one who gives us a reason to worship.

I once had the most incredible privilege of taking a church youth choir I directed into an inner-city church in Chicago. The overwhelming majority of the choir was made up of white, middle to upper-class, suburban high school kids from a United Methodist church in Texas. The independent gospel church we were visiting was in the center of a predominantly black and economically downtrodden neighborhood on the western side of Chicago. From the demographic and regional differences alone, you know that the stereotypical worship styles of the two groups are on vast opposite ends of the spectrum. That night we worshiped together and it was electric. We sang hymns, we sang contemporary songs, we sang gospel songs, there was spoken word, there were scriptures, and there was dancing. There was a cultural and spiritual exchange between these two groups and it transcended stylized worship. Our worship transcended our preferences and became what it should always be, a deep and emotional expression of reverence for God.

On that evening in Chicago, worship was a verb. What might it look like if worship became a verb in our every week worship? What might we be able to accomplish if we get over our preferences and allow worship to take over our hearts. We must stop containing worship as a simple noun, inserting our preferential adjectives and limiting it’s true purpose. Go and express emotional reverence for God. Go and worship.

Music Monday 01.26.15

“Sinking Deep” Hillsong Young and Free

Over MLK Day weekend, I took my middle school youth on a ski retreat up to Lake Junaluska in North Carolina. It’s hosted by the UMC camp and conference center up there with a guest speaker, a worship band, games, and, of course, skiing. We closed each day with a corporate worship service for the entire group. The guest band leading worship for the weekend ended the service every night with this song.

When I heard it the first night, I thought it might an original song of theirs as I had never heard it before and I consider myself reasonably knowledgable about worship music. I did a little research care of Google and Spotify and found out that it was actually written and recorded by Hillsong Young and Free a little over a year ago.

I was enamored with the song. I couldn’t stop playing it. I looped it over and over taking in every word and every note. I dwelled on the lyrics.

“Sinking deep in mercy’s seas”

“Your love so deep is washing over me”

I like the allusion that God’s grace/mercy/love is so vast, so overwhelming, that we can’t possibly contain it. It’s such a force that we can do nothing but sink deeply into it, be completely overtaken by it. It’s immovable, it’s immeasurable, it’s incredible, and it’s yours for the taking.

 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Music Monday, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Music Monday 11.03.14

“Born is the King (It’s Christmas)” by Hillsong Worship

If you know me at all, you know that “Christmas is my favorite” just like Buddy the Elf. That’s why I start listening to Christmas music in October every year…and that’s just for my own personal pleasure. When I was directing choirs, I started listening in August to make our Christmas concert and Advent service selections.

I indulge the fact that most people aren’t quite as in to Christmas as me so I don’t make a big deal about my listening to the music until after Halloween but I simply can’t wait until after Thanksgiving like so many people request.

I first heard this song a couple years ago. The first thing I like about it is that it’s a contemporary Christmas worship song, those are few and far between. What I like most about it is that it’s upbeat and reflects the beauty of this season…the idea that we serve a God who loves us so much that he would come down and take on human form to save us from ourselves. Christmas is celebratory because it’s a time for us to reflect on why we even have a reason to celebrate in the first place.

“Goodwill to all the earth
And peace divine
All of the earth rejoice
It’s Christmas time”

 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Music Monday, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Music Monday 10.20.14

“Forever Reign” by Hillsong Worship

Good. Love. Light. Hope. Peace. True. Joy. Life. More. Lord. Here. God.

One of the biggest reasons I love this song is how it talks about all of the ways God is and wants to be to us. Listed above are all words which are used in this song to describe who God. He is good, He is love, He is light, hope, peace, true, joy, life, Lord, here, and God…but the word that stands out most to me is more. He is “more than my words will ever say”.

Despite all of these being great ways to describe our heavenly Father, we can never adequately capture the depths of His love and affection for us. We can never fully understand or explain exactly who He is to us and what we mean to Him. The best part is that we don’t have to understand, explain, or describe Him completely. Our best is never truly good enough but it’s all He asks of us. All He wants is for us to run to His arms.

 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Music Monday, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Music Monday 10.06.14

“Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)”

I think it would be impossible to have a blog series talking about worship music and not include this song. It’s easily one of the most popular worship songs out right now and I have yet to meet someone who isn’t moved by it’s lyrics or music.

This song is all about faith in dark times, something which obviously speaks to me more than usual right now. I love the whole theme of being called into dark places, being called into hard times yet taking comfort in the fact that we can rely on Him. Nothing from the lyrics stands out to me more than “You’ve never failed and you won’t start now”. It’s just so refreshing to hear and/or sing those words about God’s faithfulness.

Everyone knows the original version sung by Taya Smith of Hillsong. Because she sings it so powerfully, I’ve always thought of this song as “females only”…that was until a month ago when I discovered Shane and Shane’s cover. It’s got a totally different vibe to it, much more acoustic and male lead vocals, but it’s every bit as powerful. I’ve included both the original and the Shane and Shane cover below.

 

 

 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Music Monday, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Music Monday 9.8.14

I’m starting a new thing. Each Monday, I’ll pick a song that I’m just really into at the moment. I’ll include a link to listen and talk a little about it. Here’s the first one:

“This I Believe (The Creed)” by Hillsong Worship

Sometimes contemporary worship gets a bad rap for not being as sincere as traditional worship music. Hymns are considered to be more “high church” with deeper theological grounding. Ben Fielding and Matt Crocker of Hillsong Worship answer that misconception with this powerful song. Its lyrics are based on the Apostle’s Creed and it’s meant to serve as a worship anthem for the modern church. It’s simplistic and at the same time profound. Many worship songs are oftentimes written to be a statement on a certain subject, an accompaniment to a specific topic within our faith. This song was written to be a statement OF our faith. It’s a collective agreement of what we believe as Christians, it’s the very foundation of our faith and it’s put to some excellent music.