Tag Archives: worship

What are your favorite Contemporary Christian Songs used in Church?

In the same vein as my previous series on hymns, I am planning a series on contemporary worship songs. To that end, I am asking each of you to share with me those contemporary songs from church that you have found most inspiring, that have spoken most deeply to you. This will allow me to compile a list that I can begin to work from as we look for how God can be glorified through them.

Why They Don’t Sing on Sunday Anymore

As you search the internet it is amazing how many articles you can find on this subject. What strikes me about them is that my experience confirms what they say. And while some may want to say that we are making an issue over contemporary vs traditional, I think they miss the point. The reasons that Thom Schultz gives in his article are clearly not a stylistic preference issue, but an issue of application and presentation. (Schultz does a fair job of further explaining this in his follow-up article listed at the end.) It is this application of the music that has driven people from their involvement, not the style of music. People want to be engaged in the worship and not simply observers, but to often the music is presented in such a way that it discourages people from joining in. Maybe it is time we re-evaluate how we are presenting the music portion of the worship service, and some times the rest of the service as well.

Holy Soup

Looking around the church last Sunday I noticed that the majority weren’t singing. And most of those who were singing barely moved their lips. The only voices I actually heard were those on stage with microphones.

That’s been the case for years now–in churches large and small. What used to be congregational singing has become congregational staring.

Even when the chipper “worship leader” in contemporary churches bounds on stage and predictably beckons everyone to “stand and worship,” the people compliantly obey the stand command, but then they turn into mute mannequins.

What’s behind this phenomenon? What happened to the bygone sounds of sanctuaries overflowing with fervent, harmonizing voices from the pews, singing out with a passion that could be heard down the street? I suspect it’s a number of unfortunate factors.

Spectator set-up. Increasingly, the church has constructed the worship service as a spectator event. Everyone expects the people on stage to…

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Praise Him! Praise Him!

Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessèd Redeemer!
Sing, O Earth, His wonderful love proclaim!
Hail Him! hail Him! highest archangels in glory;
Strength and honor give to His holy Name!
Like a shepherd, Jesus will guard His children,
In His arms He carries them all day long:

Praise Him! Praise Him!
Tell of His excellent greatness.
Praise Him! Praise Him!
Ever in joyful song!

Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessèd Redeemer!
For our sins He suffered, and bled, and died.
He our Rock, our hope of eternal salvation,
Hail Him! hail Him! Jesus the Crucified.
Sound His praises! Jesus who bore our sorrows,
Love unbounded, wonderful, deep and strong.

Praise Him! Praise Him!
Tell of His excellent greatness.
Praise Him! Praise Him!
Ever in joyful song!

Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessèd Redeemer!
Heav’nly portals loud with hosannas ring!
Jesus, Savior, reigneth forever and ever.
Crown Him! Crown Him! Prophet, and Priest, and King!
Christ is coming! over the world victorious,
Pow’r and glory unto the Lord belong.

Praise Him! Praise Him!
Tell of His excellent greatness.
Praise Him! Praise Him!
Ever in joyful song!

Words by Fanny Crosby, 1869
Music by Chester G. Allen,

 


Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.
Psalm 29:2

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts.
Psalm 96:8

Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!
Psalm 150:5 – 6

Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights! Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts! Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all stars of light!
Psalm 138:1 – 3

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:57


 

“Let me tell you about this amazing person I just met. He can do anything. From the first time I met I him I was astounded at the places he had been and the things he had done. I can’t imagine anyone having done more things in this world. And despite all of this, he is quite likely the nicest person I have ever met. . . “

This may seem a bit over the top, but have you ever met someone who so impressed you, that you had to tell everyone about them. You simply were driven to sing his praises. This is the driving force behind Fanny Crosby’s, “Praise Him, Praise Him.”

In the hymn we see that it is Jesus of whom we are driven to sing praises. A message that echoes the message of scripture. Over and over again, we are told to praise God. In Psalm 29:2 we are told to “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.” In Psalm 96:8 we read “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts.” And again in Psalm 150:5 – 6 we are told to “Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!”

It is clear that we are instructed in scripture to sing our praises of and to God. This call then goes beyond us to all of creation. Crosby reminds us of this when she writes, “Hail Him! Hail Him! Highest archangels in glory.” This echoes the words of Psalm 138:2, “Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts!”

So Crosby reminds us that we are called to “Praise Him.” But she does not simply leave it at that. Rather she drives home the truth that He is worthy of the praise we give. She writes “For our sins He suffered, and bled, and died. He our Rock, our hope of eternal salvation, Hail Him! Hail Him! Jesus the Crucified. Sound His praises! Jesus who bore our sorrows, Love unbounded, wonderful, deep and strong.”

This is the God we are called to praise. And when we stop to realize who He is, when we stop to see what He has done, praising Him is not something we need to be told to do, it is something we feel compelled to do. Crosby gives us an amazing list of why to praise Him, but it is far from exhaustive. So when we find our focus on all of these reasons, to give Him praise is the least we can do in response.

And the hymn does not stop there. Not only are we called to praise Him because of who He is, not only are we called to praise Him because of what He has done, but Crosby reminds us that we are called to praise Him because of what He is yet to do. The hymn continues, “Jesus, Savior, reigneth forever and ever; Crown Him! Crown Him! Prophet, and Priest, and King! Christ is coming! over the world victorious.”

As we look to the future we can know the end. He is the prophet, priest, and king. He will reign forever and ever for He is victorious over the world. If this is not enough, he provides us with the way to victory as well. Despite the troubles we face in this world, when we put our faith in Him we will know the victory over this world that is found only in Him. A victory of which Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:57 when he writes, “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Yes, scripture instructs us to praise Him. But when we begin to sing His praise and to realize what we have to praise Him for, we can not keep it to ourselves. We will want everyone to know of Him. So we go out to the world to “Tell of His excellent greatness.”

 

 

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Come, Thou Almighty King

Come, Thou almighty King,
Help us Thy name to sing, help us to praise!
Father all glorious, o’er all victorious,
Come and reign over us, Ancient of Days!

Jesus, our Lord, arise,
Scatter our enemies, and make them fall;
Let Thine almighty aid our sure defense be made,
Our souls on Thee be stayed; Lord, hear our call.

Come, Thou incarnate Word,
Gird on Thy mighty sword, our prayer attend!
Come, and Thy people bless, and give Thy Word success,
Spirit of holiness, on us descend!

Come, holy Comforter,
Thy sacred witness bear in this glad hour.
Thou who almighty art, now rule in every heart,
And ne’er from us depart, Spirit of power!

To Thee, great One in Three,
Eternal praises be, hence, evermore.
Thy sovereign majesty may we in glory see,
And to eternity love and adore!

Words by Anonymous, though some records credited it to Charles Wesley
Music by Felice de Giardini, 1769

 


He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
Revelations 22:20

As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze.
Daniel 7:9

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm. A song. May God arise, may his enemies be scattered; may his foes flee before him.
Psalm 68:1

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.
Isaiah 26:3

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father–the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father–he will testify about me.
John 15:26

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Matthew 28:19


 

We have all been invited to parties or held parties that we invited people to attend.  More often than not, these are just general get togethers, but sometimes they are held for a special occasion. It might be a birthday, a graduation or just to honor a specific person.

I remember many years ago when we hosted a celebration for my parents 25 wedding anniversary.  We planned for the activities, who would speak, and the special music.  We planned a location and a menu, which we then spent many hours preparing. We sent out invitations to friends and family to join us.  Most importantly we made sure the guests of honor would be there.  We asked our parents to do us the honor of joining us in this time of celebration to honor them. It is this type of invitation that is given in the hymn, “Come, Thou Almighty King.”

The hymn begins with those very words, “Come, Thou Almighty King.”  It is the cry of the heart for all those who know him, for our truest desire is to be in his presence.  It is a desire that is reflected in the closing words of the Bible itself. In Revelation 22:20 John writes, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

He is the guest of honor, who we seek to praise and worship.  We want to give him the honor that he deserves, honor that we feel is more than we can give.  So we ask Him to “Help us Thy name to sing, help us to praise!” For he is our Father all glorious” who is “o’er all victorious.” He is our rightful King, to whom we submit and call for him to “Come and reign over us” because He is the “Ancient of Days!” spoken of by Daniel in chapter 7 verse 9 when he writes, “As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze.”

The hymn continues, “Jesus, our Lord, arise, Scatter our enemies, and make them fall.” And so our call is not just our desire to praise and worship him, but to find peace and security. Psalm 68:1 says, “May God arise, may his enemies be scattered; may his foes flee before him.” In this world we face many dangers and adversaries, but we can trust in the truth that the enemy will scatter in the presence of God.  So we can know that if we remain strong in Him we can know peace as Isaiah 26:3 tells us, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” It is in this truth that the hymn writer declares, “Let Thine almighty aid our sure defense be made, Our souls on Thee be stayed; Lord, hear our call.”

The hymn continues to call out to God as it reads, “Come, Thou incarnate Word.” And so we are reminded that the God ee call to has come to us.  He came to us as described in John 1:14 where we read, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Emmanuel, God with us.  So as we reflect back that God did come to us, we look forward to a day when He will return.  He will “Come, and Thy people bless, and give Thy Word success.

But as we remember that He did come and we look forward to His coming again, we are reminded that He has not left us alone.  The hymn calls out, “Come, holy Comforter.” Jesus promised that he would send a comforter, an advocate, a helper in the form of the Holy Spirit.  In John 15:26 Jesus says, “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father–the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father–he will testify about me.” An so the hymn continues, “Thy sacred witness bear in this glad hour. Thou who almighty art, now rule in every heart, And ne’er from us depart, Spirit of power!” The Holy Spirit stands as a witness, to Jesus and the Father.  He dwells within” the heart of the believer and will never abandon them.

So the call has rung out, that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit would come to us.  So the hymn writer concludes by writing, “To Thee, great One in Three.” The recognition that all three person’s of the Godhead are worthy of our praise. That the Godhead, three in one, watches overs us, protects us and comforts us. For we have been called, as presented in Matthew 28:19, “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

The desire of our soul, is to be in the presence of God. Our hope is to know the peace and comfort that come only from His presence.  When we honestly cry out from our heart, we will join in and sing, “Thy sovereign majesty may we in glory see, And to eternity love and adore!

 

 

 

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All People That On Earth Do Dwell

All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.
Him serve with fear, His praise forth tell;
Come ye before Him and rejoice.

The Lord, ye know, is God indeed;
Without our aid He did us make;
We are His folk, He doth us feed,
And for His sheep He doth us take.

O enter then His gates with praise;
Approach with joy His courts unto;
Praise, laud, and bless His Name always,
For it is seemly so to do.

For why? the Lord our God is good;
His mercy is for ever sure;
His truth at all times firmly stood,
And shall from age to age endure.

To Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
The God Whom Heaven and earth adore,
From men and from the angel host
Be praise and glory evermore.

Words by William Kethe, 1561
Music by Louis Bourgeois, 1551

 


Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing. Know that the Lord Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting And His faithfulness to all generations.
Psalm 100

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
James 1:27

do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
Philippians 2:4

Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.
1 Peter 3:8

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:9


 

The earth is a pretty big place.  7.3 billion people by the latest count.  It breaks down to 32% Christian, 23% muslim, 14% Hindu, 7% Buddhist, 12% other faiths, 10% non-religious and 2% atheists.  All these people worshiping who they believe to be God, or choosing to live without a god.  It can seem a pretty sad state of affairs if you look at it.  All these people looking different direction for hope, for a purpose.  Different directions, that do not, can not, meet at a common place. This is what led John Lennon to write, “Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try. No hell below us, above us only sky . . . and no religion, too.” With all the difference, maybe it would be easier if there were none of these separations.  But this is not the only option.  What if rather than no faith, all our voices were joined together in worship of the one true God?  This is the image that is presented in William Kethe’s hymn, “All People That On Earth Do Dwell.”

He sets out to present a restating of Psalm 100.  The hymn begins with the words, “All people that on earth do dwell, Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice. Him serve with fear, His praise forth tell; Come ye before Him and rejoice.” Imagine the picture with me for a minute. Imagine every person on earth singing praises to God.  Imagine every person on earth living their life in service to God, a God whom James tells us in 1:27 sees, “Pure and undefiled religion [as] . . . this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress . . .” A God who Paul tells us to follow the example of “look[ing] out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” in Philippians 2:4.

This is an incredible image of what Peter calls us to in 1 Peter 3:8 when he writes, “Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.” Imagine a world where we live out our faith in Christ by caring from one another. Where we don’t get caught up in our petty differences, where we don’t spend our time arguing and fighting with one another. Instead a world were we always put others needs and feeling ahead of our own. It is a beautiful image of the world we will one day live in, but it is not the world of today.  Instead, we can only seek to live this life today, looking to the future when all of us who are believers in Christ will live in such a world.

The hymn continues, “The Lord, ye know, is God indeed.” This is the challenge, for us to be of one mind, we must agree on this point.  This point, that divides so many.  “Know that the Lord Himself is God.” (Psalm 100:3) He is the maker and sustainer of the world. It is from Him that we receive all that we need. For those of us who have realized and accepted this truth we can “enter then His gates with praise; Approach with joy His courts unto.” We can find peace in knowing that “His loving kindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalm 100:6)

God is faithful and those who have put their faith in him can trust in this.  Yes the world seems divided today.  We may at times, find ourselves wondering where God is in the midst of everything. But we can know that He is there. As Peter tells us in 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” God wants all to come to faith, but we must make that choice.  When we do, we can look forward to the day we imagine. Until then we continue glorify Him, knowing that “To Father, Son and Holy Ghost . . . Be praise and glory evermore.”

 

 

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Modernized hymns: Are you singing hymns, or just contemporary songs with old words?

My problem is not “contemporary worship.”  Yes, I have a preference for the traditional style, but my issue is not style but genuine worship. There are contemporary songs that I believe still maintain a strong sense of worship such as “In Christ Alone.

The argument for contemporized hymns is that they keep the substantive words but give it an updated sound that the people “like” and want to sing. But you see, the substance of worship as found in a song is not simply the words, but also in the music and how they blend and compliment each other to communicate the message.    Many of the old hymns, when you silently listen to them, you can not help but hear the words, for the music itself portrays the message.  Listen to the hymn, “Rock of Ages” for an idea of what I am talking about. The music needs to fit the words.

In the same way, simply adding a chorus to the middle of a hymn does at best little to aid the meaning and at worst causes it to become disjointed and confusing.  In the case of what people know today as “O The Wonderful Cross”, Chris Tomlin adds the chorus, “O the Wonderful Cross” to the middle of the hymn “When I survey.”  The problem is that the music completely changes it tone from solemnly reflective to joyous and feel good.  In addition, the words themselves become disjointed as the words “wondrous” and “wonderful” are two very different things, with very different meanings.  Now I have non question that the cross has become a wonderful thing to those who believe, but this is not the message of “When I Suvey” and takes away from that message.

Now, while I could continue, I would rather share with you the following blog post from “Ponder Anew”.  I think that Jonathan hits the nail right on the head.

Modernized hymns: Are you singing hymns, or just contemporary songs with old words?.

O Worship The King

O worship the King, all glorious above,
O gratefully sing His power and His love;
Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days,
Pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise.

O tell of His might, O sing of His grace,
Whose robe is the light, whose canopy space,
His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form,
And dark is His path on the wings of the storm.

The earth with its store of wonders untold,
Almighty, Thy power hath founded of old;
Established it fast by a changeless decree,
And round it hath cast, like a mantle, the sea.

Thy bountiful care, what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;
It streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
And sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.

Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
In Thee do we trust, nor find Thee to fail;
Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end,
Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.

O measureless might! Ineffable love!
While angels delight to worship Thee above,
The humbler creation, though feeble their lays,
With true adoration shall all sing Thy praise.

Words by Robert Grant, 1833 (based on lyrics by William Kethe, 1561)
Music by Johann Haydn, (1737 – 1806)

 


 

Praise the Lord, my soul. Lord my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty. The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind. He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants.
Psalm 104:1 – 4

Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.
Psalm 103:13 – 14

LORD, don’t hold back your tender mercies from me. Let your unfailing love and faithfulness always protect me.
Psalm 40:11

Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.
Psalm 95:6

But God is my helper. The Lord is my defender.
Psalm 54:4

Our Redeemer–the LORD Almighty is his name– is the Holy One of Israel.
Isaiah 47:4

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
John 15:15


 

I love the hymns of the church. I love how they express such substance and feeling. There are some that teach deep theological truths. Some hymns look to the joys of heaven to come. Still others speak to our situations in life. But sometimes, we need to stop and simply see God for who He is and who we are to him. This is a theme of Robert Grant’s, “O Worship The King.”

As I go through Grant’s hymn, there are two things that draw my attention. The first is the elaborate description given of God and His majesty. He writes, “O tell of His might, O sing of His grace, Whose robe is the light, whose canopy space, His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form, And dark is His path on the wings of the storm.”

What an incredible word picture that he draws straight from Scripture. In Psalm 1:4 we read, “. . . The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent . . . He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind. . .” God is worthy to be praised.

This then leads to the second part to which I am drawn. The counter to the image of a God who is to be praised. Grant writes, “Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail, In Thee do we trust, nor find Thee to fail; Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end,
Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.”

Yes, God is worthy to be praised, yet in contrast, we are nothing. And even though we are nothing, God has compassion on us. He knows our weakness. Psalm 103:14 tells us, “that He is mindful that we are but dust.”

Knowing this, He shows His compassion for us. In Psalm 40:11 we read, “LORD, don’t hold back your tender mercies from me. Let your unfailing love and faithfulness always protect me.” Yes, we are but dust, but God’s mercy reaches to us. He watches over us, protects us and meets our every need, for He is our Maker (Psalm 95:6), Defender (Psalm 54:4), Redeemer (Isaiah 47:4) and Friend (John 15:15).

When we come to realize, despite who we are, that the Almighty Creator of the universe cares for us. When we understand that we can turn to Him to lean on and find strength, what else can we do? We are compelled to sing His praise. We declare with ardent fervor the opening words of the hymn, “O worship the King, all glorious above, O gratefully sing His power and His love.”

 

 

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