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Singing Songs from Questionable Sources

I had already been working on this post when I received this email from Ethan: “For the past year, I’ve struggled with the idea of playing ‘good’ songs (obviously room for defining some terms there…) from questionable ministries. In playing their songs, am I advocating for their entire ministry? In playing their songs, am I necessarily pushing my people towards their church (i.e., when the CCLI info pops up at the end of the song)?” I took a stab at this question eight years ago when I wrote “Does it Matter Who Writes the Songs we Sing?” Since then, I’ve been asked the question so frequently I’ve tried to refine my thinking on this topic. What …

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Songs and Thoughts from Together for the Gospel

The Together for the Gospel conference, held Apr. 12-14 in Louisville, KY, is an every-other-year feast of insightful Bible teaching, passionate singing, and rich fellowship. It’s the fruit of a friendship between Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, Al Mohler, and my good friend and senior pastor, C.J. Mahaney. That fruit has blossomed to encourage thousands of pastors faithfully serving their local churches. I had the joy of leading the music again this year. It’s a unique experience. A guy at a piano joined by ten thousand voices singing theologically rich, gospel-centered hymns, old and new. We’ve produced two albums from previous T4G conferences …

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Loving and Worshiping the Lamb of God

This past week churches throughout the world remembered and celebrated what is at the heart of the Christian faith: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Songs, sermons, and liturgies reflected the fact that Jesus laid down his life as the Lamb of God, the perfect atoning sacrifice for the sins of all those who would trust in him, and three days later was raised from the dead. It’s worth noting that in the post-resurrection scenes of Revelation, Jesus is still referred to as the Lamb. In fact, of the 34 times Jesus is called the Lamb in the New Testament, 29 are in the book of Revelation. It’s a striking and unusual choice. …

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The Winners of Psalm Songs, Vol. 1

Thanks to everyone who left a comment on my last post about Psalm Songs, Vol. 1. It was so encouraging to read how God has used various Psalms in people’s lives. It reminded me how God gave us the Psalms to help us not only pray and sing to him but to know him better. There really is no emotion or circumstance we go through that isn’t addressed in some way in the Psalms. These are the five comments I picked for their impact and creativity: In the darkest night of my soul, I challenged God to prove His existence. “Though the mountains fall into the heart of the sea” suddenly resounded in my mind. It brought me to Psalm 46. Verse 10 …

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A New Soundtrack for the Psalms

A few weeks ago I came across an album called Psalm Songs, Vol. 1, put out by The Corner Room, aka Adam Wright. I hear hundreds of albums each year and when one stands out, it’s obvious. Psalm Songs stands out. These aren’t congregational songs, but Scripture songs, word for word from the English Standard Version. It’s really difficult to set longer Biblical passages to music without making it sound forced and un-musical. Adam and friends overcame those obstacles. Combining elements of bluegrass, new country, pop music, and folk, these songs are musically fresh, skillfully played, and a joy to listen to. After listening to the …

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Why a Synthesizer Isn’t the Holy Spirit

In recent decades ambient sounds have become omnipresent in church gatherings. Meetings start with a synth swell and every song after that is connected to the next with musical glue. Synth pads play softly behind prayer, Scripture readings, song intros, communion, and in some cases, the preaching. If you don’t have someone who can produce the necessary sounds, no worries. “Worship pads” in every key are available for purchase to smooth out the transitions. Which raises the question: what’s going on? Music and God’s Presence We often see a connection between music and the Holy Spirit’s activity in Scripture. Long before he was …

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What We Did Last Sunday – Feb. 7, 2016

People have asked me for a while to occasionally post the order of a Sunday service at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, my home church. There’s no perfect liturgy, but it can be helpful to hear how others are seeking to lead meetings that are theologically informed, gospel-rich, and spiritually transforming. So here’s what we did in our gathering this past Sunday. The italicized words are transitional comments. CALL TO WORSHIP We typically play instrumental music for 1-2 minutes to draw people in, and then one of the pastors gives the call to worship.  This past Sunday I read from 1 Chronicles 29:11: “Yours, O Lord, is …

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What’s Ahead for Sovereign Grace Music in 2016

I know it’s already February, but people frequently ask me what’s coming up for Sovereign Grace Music in 2016. As always, Sovereign Grace Music will be providing Christ-exalting music and training for local churches from local churches. Here are some of the ways we’ll be doing that this year. Recording Projects We’re currently writing songs for a live album based on the Lord’s Prayer. The working title is Prayers of the Saints, but that could change. It’s exciting to see these songs of praise and petition take shape. We’ll be recording the album some time in early July, with an anticipated release date of October/November. We’re …

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What’s So Special About Singing on Sundays?

People sing. Everywhere. In their cars. In the shower. In choirs. At football games. At birthdays. At weddings and funerals. At rock concerts. In musicals and operas. When there’s sunshine. When it rains. When it’s stormy. In the morning, afternoon, and night. But when the church gathers on Sunday morning (or Saturday night, etc.), our earthly voices join the choirs of heaven and the singing is like no other. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been moved as I added my voice to the beautiful, engaging, powerful, awe-inspiring, robust singing of a congregation. But sometimes our sound is halting and weak. Out of tune and out of …

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A New Season for Sovereign Grace Music

Sovereign Grace Music  has been seeking to produce Christ-exalting songs and training for local churches, from local churches, for over 30 years now. We’ve been deeply encouraged and grateful that God has caused our songs to be sung throughout the world and translated into over 15 languages. All that has happened with a small staff and limited resources, by God’s grace. For a while now, Catapult Distribution has been distributing our digital music, Impact has been handling our fulfillment, and Integrity has been administrating our song catalog. Looking ahead, we wanted to consolidate and hopefully expand the reach of our resources. As …

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Who Would Have Dreamed?

Who would have dreamed or ever foreseen that we could hold God in our hands? That question comes from a song I wrote last year with my good friend, Jason Hansen, called “Who Would Have Dreamed?” for our album Prepare Him Room. We were trying to express the amazing miracle of the Incarnation. Theologian J.I. Packer says the Christmas event of Christ’s birth is where the “profoundest and most unfathomable depths of the Christian revelation lie. . . . Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the Incarnation.” Nothing in fiction is so fantastic. That means stories of Santa Claus, elves, Grinches, sugar plum fairies, and …

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Prepare Him Room Album Tour

“Tour” might be overstating it a bit, but I’m excited that we’re taking Prepare Him Room on the road for three nights in December. Some of the original vocalists and instrumentalists will be joining with local musicians for an event that will combine Scripture, prayer, and the songs from our Christmas CD, Prepare Him Room. Here are the dates: Dec. 10, Thursday, Cornerstone Church, Knoxville, TN, 7:30PM Dec. 16, Wednesday, Crossway Church, Lancaster, PA, 7PM Dec. 17, Thursday, Covenant Fellowship, Glen Mills, PA, 7:30PM We haven’t done anything like this before, but are excited about the opportunity to share these songs in a live setting. We’ll …

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Seven Myths of Contextualization

A wise missionary knows that preaching the gospel to a different culture requires contextualizing your message. The words we use don’t automatically translate to a new culture that lacks the associations and experiences we’re familiar with. We need to find new ways of communicating the old, old story, ways that can be understood, ways that “speak the language” of those we’re ministering to. But even on a local scale, we have to deal with contextualization. That’s because music and liturgy are a language. They can mean different things to different people. In the past few years, much has been written, advocated, and modeled to help us understand …

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The Story Behind He Who is Mighty

He Who is Mighty is one of my favorite songs from our Christmas album, Prepare Him Room. Every time I’ve led it, which I’ve done both during and beyond the Christmas season, the response has been immediate and enthusiastic. I asked Rebecca Elliott, one of the writers, to share a little of the story behind the song, which she co-wrote with Kate DeGraide. For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. (Luke 1:49) The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. (Isaiah 9:2) Mary, Jesus’ mother, has always been a hero of mine, …

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How I’m Using the Songs from Our New Album

Sooner Count the Stars: Worshiping the Triune God is the latest offering from Sovereign Grace Music. On each album we record we try to strike the balance between creative production and accessibility. But at times it can still be difficult to tell what songs might work best for a congregation. So I want to save you some time here and explain the content of each song and how I’ve led or plan to lead them. 1. Sooner Count the Stars A joyful, mid-tempo, straight ahead song that seeks to capture the “unsearchableness” of God. While this song doesn’t address God as Father, Son, and Spirit, it helps us understand though we only know …

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