From the Archives: Sentimentalizing, Sanitizing, and Spiritualizing Christmas

  It’s difficult, if not impossible, to overstate the significance of the Incarnation. Writers, philosophers, poets, and composers through the centuries have searched in vain for words that adequately capture the wonder, mystery, beauty, and power of Jesus as Emmanuel, God with us. The miracle and meaning of the Incarnation can be so difficult to grasp that we can give up and start to view Christmas in ways that leave us impoverished and unimpressed with the real story. Even in the church our songs and reflections about about Christmas can fail to leave people gasping in amazement or humbled in awe that God would come to dwell …

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Music vs. Truth Experiences – A Testimony

A few months ago I was talking with Jonathan Jackson, a member of Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville who has also led worship in song on a few Sundays this past year. He was telling me how he was noticing a difference in how he approached leading and that the songs we sang were a large part of that. I asked him to write up a few thoughts about what he had been experiencing. He wrote: As a church culture I believe we have strayed away from singing songs that we deem “wordy” or “too deep” and have settled for songs that have one or two basic ideas about who God is or what He has done for us. We go for an experience that is much closer …

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Exposing Perfectionism

This semester I met with a group of interns on Friday afternoons (when I was around). Along with developing some musical skills we read selected chapters from Unceasing Worship by Harold Best. If you haven’t read it and you’re a Christian involved in congregational worship or the arts, I’d strongly encourage you to get a copy. At our last meeting someone referenced this quote from chapter 11: “Authentic worship is not perfect worship. It stands in continual need of examination, repentance, increased depth and humility as well as outpouring meekness and humility.” That led to an extended conversation on the topic of perfectionism. Most Christian …

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All Sovereign Grace Albums on Bandcamp $5 Today!

In the spirit of CyberMonday, we’re selling all our digital albums on Bandcamp today for only $5. That’s right. 5 bucks. That means you can get Grace Has Come (Deluxe Edition), From Age to Age, The Gathering, El Dios Que Adoramos, Together for the Gospel Live II, Risen, Valley of Vision, Sons & Daughters, Upward, Psalms, King of Grace, and more all for only $5. That includes accompaniment trax too. It’s also a great time to get any one of our three kids albums, Awesome God, To Be Like Jesus, and Walking with the Wise. And don’t forget out Christmas album, Savior! If you think someone else might like Christ-exalting, theologically …

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What’s a Young Worship Leader to Do?

Recently, I had the privilege of leading the music at the Conviction to Lead conference, put on by Cornerstone Church of Knoxville. It was a regional men’s conference for the Sovereign Grace Churches in the mid-South. It was a great time of encouragement, equipping, fellowship, and laughter. Topics included The Leader and Conviction, Learning, Vocation, Planning, Parenting, the Home, the Word, and the Church. Messages can be downloaded here. On Friday afternoon I met with about 40 guys for lunch followed by Q&A on topics related to music and worship. One question had to do with what my counsel would be to a worship leader who was just starting …

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Come Join us for WorshipGod UK!

I’m excited to let our European friends know that Sovereign Grace Music will be hosting our first WorshipGod UK conference 5th-8th March, 2014, in Bath, England. The theme is Called to be Faithful. WorshipGod UK is designed to encourage and equip pastors, musicians, vocalists, songwriters, tech personnel, those involved in planning or leading congregational worship, and anyone who wants to grow in their understanding and practice of biblical worship. The lineup of speakers and musicians includes Mike Reeves, Jeff Purswell, Tim Chester, Craig Cabaniss, Donald Whitney, Stuart Townend, Nathan and Lou Fellingham, Philip Percival, and more. The …

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One Day Gathering Event in Indianapolis

On Saturday, Dec. 7, I’m heading to The Chapel in Indianapolis, IN for The Gathering Midwest. The event will take place from 1-9 PM and I’ll be bringing a group of musicians primarily from my home church in Louisville, KY for a day of singing, teaching, food, and fellowship. We’ll start at 1 PM with corporate worship and a message called Gathering Around the Gospel. In the afternoon you’ll have the opportunity to attend two breakout sessions, designed to equip leaders, bands, and songwriters. After dinner, which will be provided, we’ll spend the evening celebrating the gospel in word and song. The idea for The Gathering comes from an album …

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Reflections on My Trip to the Philippines

In a previous post I shared the background to my recent trip to the Philippines. Here’s a follow up report. It’s long, I know, but this is the short version! The People Ten people ended up going on the trip. Representing Sovereign Grace Ministries were Steve Cook and myself, along with Jena Baumer, who is serving as an intern. We also brought the five guys in the Norton Hall band: my son Devon, Jonny Barahona, Jared Hoffman, Jacob Bozarth, and Jeff Dyke. It was a great opportunity to partner with the Division of Biblical Worship at Southern Seminary in gospel mission. The team also included Lynn Baird, a Sovereign Grace pastor who has been …

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It’s Your Grace – The Acoustic Sessions

A few weeks ago we posted the first song from “The Acoustic Sessions,” Our Only Hope is You. These are going to be stripped down versions of songs we’ve recorded on Sovereign Grace albums. We’re starting with songs from Grace Has Come, our latest release, but plan on going back to other albums and recording arrangements that are easier for a smaller church, or any church for that matter, to adapt. In this video, Devon, McKenzie, and Jonatan offer a simpler version of the song, It’s Your Grace. I wrote this song with Doug Plank, a good friend and a pastor at Crossway Church of Lancaster, PA. Right before he left for a two week trip …

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From the Archives: Should Worship be Fun?

More than once I’ve heard Christians insist that worship should be fun, or act like they had a responsibility to prove that Christians knew how to “party” in church. I’ve always been uncomfortable with that connection, so I started thinking about the place of “fun” in worship, if one even exists. I’m going to address this question by answering it as I posed it, and then considering two other ways it might be phrased. Should worship be fun? If we take the exhaustive testimony of Scripture, the answer would have to be a resounding NO. “Fun” wouldn’t characterize any of the scenes in the Bible where people encounter God together, at least …

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Going to the Philippines

A couple years ago Cornelius Ebo, a pastor in the Philippines, came with his  family to spend ten months as part of the Sovereign Grace Pastors College. Cornelius, or Nilo, asked if I could come host a music/worship conference in the Philippines. At the time it seemed like a stretch. But as the Lord would have it, I’m heading to the Philippines next week. I’ll be joined by a number of folks including Steve Cook and Norton Hall, a band led by my son , Devon. Jena Baumer, an intern from Cedarville University will also be with us, as will Lynn Baird, his daughter Meghan, and a few others from Sovereign Grace Church of Pasadena. Sovereign …

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Our Only Hope is You – The Acoustic Sessions

Every time Sovereign Grace Music releases an album we bump up against the competing values of seeking to create fresh sounds and arrangements and recording something that a group of musicians in a small church can pull off. Our most recent album, Grace Has Come, was no exception. One song in particular that received a more dramatic production was “Our Only Hope is You,” by Neil and Kate DeGraide. It opens with a beautiful piano riff (played by Neil), and includes an orchestral cello part and a passionate lead vocal by Kate. The song is full of the angst of living with a hope that is not yet seen, but a hope in which we are fully confident. But …

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And the Winners Are…

Thanks to everyone who left a comment on yesterday’s post which automatically entered you in the drawing for one of 5 free copies of Keith and Kristyn Getty’s new album, Live from The Gospel Coalition. It was fascinating to read the responses. I’m not sure how many people thought they were limited to hymns penned by the Getty’s, but In Christ Alone was cited 44 times. Appropriate, I think. In any case, here’s who will be getting a free album (the number of your comment precedes your name): 61 – James 65 – Tony Weber 160 – MJ Wilson 187 – Sandy Spencer 212 – Stacy Sublett All these five people have to do is send your mailing …

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Win a Copy of Keith & Kristyn Getty’s New Album

My dear friends, Keith & Kristyn Getty, are releasing their first live album, LIVE AT THE GOSPEL COALITION, today. They’ve graciously allowed me to give away five free copies. Up until midnight tonight you can leave a comment below telling us what your favorite hymn is, and you’ll automatically be entered to win. I’ll pick the winners at random and announce them tomorrow morning. If you’d like to read more about the new album, you can do so here. And if you aren’t familiar with Keith and Kristyn, who along with Stuart Townend are writing some of the most theologically thoughtful, gospel-rich modern hymns today , check out their site. UPDATE: …

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Grace Has Come – So Has Our New Album

I’m overjoyed to report that last week (Aug. 1) we released Grace Has Come: Songs from the Book of Romans. I knew when we started this project that it would be a daunting task. It was. There just isn’t any way of adequately communicating the glorious truths in the book of Romans. But we had to try. I thank God that a lot of great songs for congregational worship have been written recently, like Not in Me and Man of Sorrows. More people are trying to write songs that are theologically driven, gospel aware, fresh, and singable. With Grace Has Come we let a book of the Bible drive the whole album. This is by no means an exhaustive musical …

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