Music Mondays

111 Songs for Advent

Brett McCracken of The Gospel Coalition has compiled a playlist on Spotify of ‘111 Great Songs for Advent’. He explains the playlist here:

...I have curated a new playlist of 111 Advent songs. Not “holiday” songs, mind you. Advent songs. You won’t find “Deck the Halls” or “Let It Snow” on this list (lovely as they are). But you will find songs that beautifully capture the theological gravitas of this season in the Christian calendar—a season that is about both joy and longing, celebration and expectation, gratitude and petition.

If you are a Spotify user, you can follow this link to start listening to his playlist.

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He will quiet you... with loud singing!

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Any other reason to sing? God Sings!

A good friend of mine encouraged me to choose a few Christian songs to regularly sing with our daughter Delilah at bedtime. Initially I thought, “oh great, I'll add it to the ‘how to be the perfect parent’ task list which already tallies around 100 things to ‘spend-a-quarter-of-an-hour-with-your-child-doing’ between getting home from work and bedtime.” However, I was persuaded to try it and did give it a go.

It doesn’t happen every night, and it doesn’t always go to plan (i.e. she’s wide awake tonight, well after we've finished singing several songs!) but sometimes, just sometimes, she falls asleep and I finish singing over her and then quietly leave her to snooze away.

Zephaniah, one of the Old Testament Prophets, prophesied about the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and then its full future restoration not just for the people of Israel, but for all nations. He wrote these words about a day when God will bring all people who trust in him into a new city safe from harm:

Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout O Israel!...
...The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
— Zephaniah 3:14-17

Our God sings to us! He rejoices over us, His children. He demonstrates His love with loud singing. I think it's an incredible audio-visual image, and if ever there was a reason to sing, surely this is it: our God sings!

This is an idea I think Will Reagan and United Pursuit capture really well in their song ‘I Can Tell’;

You’ll be singing that sweet, sweet melody and I’m listening 
to You singing out life, love and peace

Christmas Music Gift Ideas

Here are 3 albums to request for yourself, to gift someone else (or preferably both) this Christmas:

Behold (A Christmas Collection) -  Lauren Daigle

If you could imagine Adele accompanied by Louis Armstrong covering Christmas classics, you’d be somewhere close to the experience of listening to Lauren Daigle’s ‘Behold’ album. It starts with standards like ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’, ‘Winter Wonderland’ and ‘Jingle Bells’ and with a jazz tinge it goes in directions you wouldn’t expect. There are Christmas carols throughout such as ‘Silent Night’ and ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’, but the highlight of the album is surprisingly the most stripped back of them all, it’s an original called ‘Light of the World’

Glory to the light of the world,
for all who wait, for all who hunger,
for all who’ve prayed, for all who wonder,
Behold your King, Behold Messiah
Emmanuel, Emmanuel

This is an album you could buy for anyone you know or have playing when you have friends and family round this Christmas. It’s fun, it’s nostalgic, but at it’s heart it celebrates God’s plan for us in Jesus, which is the reason for the season, right?


Good News - Rend Collective

As the title suggests, this album is about the ‘Good News’ or ‘Gospel’ presented in a folk-roots style. The tone of the album is joy and hope in Jesus. 

Like all the Rend Collective albums it’s low-fi, not in terms of quality (which is excellent) but in everything they do they manage to keep their close-knit, campfire sound - as if you are right in there with the band. Expect lots of banjo, fiddle, singing, stomping, shouting and general raucous joy. 

I think the song “Resurrection Day” epitomises the album, the joy of salvation today, and the sure hope of the life to come in Jesus. 

Because You’re risen I can rise, 
Because You’re living I’m alive...
This is my resurrection day, 
nothing’s gonna hold me in the grave

Songs Of Common Prayer - Greg Lafollette

Lord open our lips, 
and our mouths shall sing your praise

These are the first words sung on the album, lifted from Psalm 51 and used in Anglican Liturgy as an invitation to worship. This sets the theme for this album of ten songs based on the Book of Common Prayer (clue in the title again). These are simple, short songs with interesting melodies and harmonies; it has an acoustic feel but there are synths and electric organ on this record as well.

This album certainly was a grower for me and was my wildcard choice for this recommendation. Whatever your opinion on liturgy, for me, this setting helped me see the words anew and gave me a new love for the great Bible based summaries of the gospel. I hope it will for you too, and maybe you could think of someone who might appreciate this as well.

Songs for real people in real situations

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A few weeks ago I met a guy called Sol Fenne, and apart from having an incredible name, Sol is a real inspiration. He works for an organisation called 20schemes which is a gospel church planting organisation reaching the poorest communities on council estates (or schemes) in Scotland.

I met Sol at the Sovereign Grace conference I blogged about a couple of weeks ago. Sol is a songwriter and has written songs/hymns for the 20schemes churches to sing. He has written them with specific people in various life situations in mind. He performed a couple of these songs at the conference with his wife Carlie and Devon Kauflin.

Recently I have been doing some distance learning Bible study and trying to think about this very issue: how we use music in our church. In the apostle Paul’s letter to the christians in Ephesus he says he wants them to be “speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit” and what better way to do that than with songs founded in scripture with real life situations woven in.

‘Revelation Hymn’ is written from the book of Revelation in the Bible. The song is focussed on the final day, when Jesus will judge all people, and “some will shout with joy, some will fall in fear.” The challenge in the final verse of the song is which one these will you be; “time is running out, are we safe in Christ to stand before the throne?”

‘Flee From Sin/Run To Jesus’ is written to reassure us that though trusting Jesus is a daily war, we have victory when we flee from sin and run to Jesus: “when I fear my addictions won’t be overcome, there is hope through Christ’s resurrection day”

Songs written for real people in real situations, trying to trust Jesus despite the daily doubts and difficulties. Different people, yes, different situations, yes, but all of us brothers and sisters in Jesus. “God provides all the help I need to persevere, Praise His name! That my life is found in Him!”

For it is good to sing praises to our God

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Why worship with singing? Worship isn't just singing, but it is part of it.

When I’m singing worship in my church...

I heard someone say this on a podcast recentlywhat do you think when you hear a phrase like that? Do you think “I’m not sure that’s right, 'worship' is a whole life attitude not just something we do on a Sunday?”

Or do you think, “Well 'worship' is singing, right?"

Or do you think something else entirely? Well the apostle Paul wrote a letter in the first century AD to instruct the church in Rome to 

...present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
— Romans 12:1-2

Worship is to be a sacrifice of our whole bodies, our whole lives, and we need to consider all the things we do as acts of worship. That has big implications for how we worship God; in our jobs, with our families, through our illnesses, in rest and celebration. So praising God in church is worship, just as honouring God at work is, or thanking God at mealtimes.

So some might think, “great, I’ll tick the ‘worshiping God at home and work’ box and I won’t have to do the ‘singing worship’ part.” A trip to any church on a Sunday would provide loud vocal evidence to suggest this isn’t a biblical conclusion! In the Bible we see time and time again that part of what we present to God in worship should be singing, Psalm 147:1 puts it like this: 

Praise the Lord! 
For it is good to sing praises to our God

I actually enjoy singing. Perhaps it’s the frequencies, resonance, interesting song melodies and words, I couldn't pinpoint it; I have just always found playing guitar and singing to be cathartic.

However, I know that’s not true for all of us, singing is definitely a sacrifice for some people. Whether that’s because society imposes a certain view of singing being acceptable (especially for men) or whether it’s because you’re not good at it you don’t enjoy it, it is part of our spiritual worship, presenting sacrifices to God.

Something that I learnt from a talk by Bob Kauflin on worship is that the Bible has over four hundred references to singing and fifty direct commands to sing: you can’t get away from it! If someone asked you 400 times to do something, you'd maybe get the hint that it was important to them.

So I hope you’ll join me in ‘singing worship to God this Sunday’, even if you don’t necessarily want to, knowing that living lives of worship means sacrifice, and for some of us, part of that sacrifice includes singing on Sunday. 

On the theme of sacrifice, this is a song by Dustin Kensrue based on the famous ‘Suffering Servant’ passage in the book of Isaiah: 

Though all of us have gone astray…
His punishment has brought us peace…
He died to save His people from their sin

You can listen to or read that full Bob Kauflin talk here.


Sovereign Grace Conference

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Matt Wiltshire recently went to a music conference in Bristol and tells us about it here:

Sovereign Grace is a large organisation of churches in the US who produce a lot of good quality Christian music and some great resources for church music leaders. We have been using their songs and resources at CCW for years, so when I heard they were putting on a worship conference in the UK I thought it would be worth a trip to Bristol to see what we could learn from them.

The day I attended was pretty full on (9am-9pm!) It covered a lot of topics such as planning services, arranging music and the centrality of God’s word, and we spent plenty of time of singing and praising God together. It was massively encouraging: the musicianship was excellent and the band lead us well so that the priority of God’s words was really obvious when we were singing together.

There were several parts of the day that were particularly encouraging and I’ll blog about them in future, but one of the highlights was a talk by a pastor of a Sovereign Grace church in Minneapolis. He drew our attention to some words from the Bible from the first letter of Peter to Christians in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey):

You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
— 1 Peter 2v5

It’s a bit of a weird one, telling us we are like living stones, especially strange when I was in a room full of people with whom, apart from the music leader connection, I had very little else in common. Some were a lot older, from other countries, speaking different languages, representing various religious denominations and all sorts of different professions and careers. But that was kind of the point, we were a bunch of odd, funny shaped stones, that on the face of it didn’t fit together, but when we came together before God’s word, to sing, pray and worship our creator God, we were being built into God’s house in order to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you” as Peter put in his letter just a few verses later.

A house can’t be built with just one stone and we cant come to God and just be on our own. In a wall, each stone depends on the others to hold it up, and in God’s house, each stone is hewn and shaped with intention to look its best when it is placed alongside and connected with others. What’s more, Peter tells us that Christ is the cornerstone, not just part of this building - he sets the dimensions, shape and layout of the whole thing! So we are not just a pile of stones, we are sculpted stones built together into something that is much greater than it’s constituent parts.

It means that sometimes, when we feel like we have very little in common with others in our church - different professions, personalities (and musical preferences!) - we shouldn’t be surprised. The reality is we are all odd shaped stones. But we are living stones, being built into a spiritual house, God's house, where He dwells and where we have one joy to proclaim the excellencies of our God. How incredible is it, that as we meet in worship this Sunday, together we are a hand-crafted, architectural masterpiece, a stunning edifice being built for God’s glory!

The full CV...

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On the blog we’re starting a new series called ‘Music Mondays’ which will feature a post written by one of our musicians, or relating to our music or worship. Below is the first, written by Matt Wiltshire:

Why do we worship? God reveals himself, so we respond.

Have you ever met your idol? I'm not talking about someone or something you hold in higher esteem than God (though if that is what sprang to mind then there are some previous blog posts on the 10 Commandments that you should read!) but have you ever met someone you truly admire? How did the conversation go?

When I was a teenager I remember unexpectedly meeting Steve. He introduced himself and then mentioned he was in The Stands, one of my favourite bands at the time. I was awestruck, and after I pulled myself together I started to tell him how much I loved his album, especially one particular song. Thankfully he graciously humoured me.

Steve had revealed a part of who he was, something I was in awe of, and I responded, maybe a little over the top. I'm sure you can think of similar experiences, though I imagine you probably composed yourself better than me!

When it comes to meeting God, there is a legitimate sense of awe, and the revelation and response go much further. One of the places we see this is when Moses experiences the glory of God recounted in Exodus 34:6-8:

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed “The Lord, The Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness...” And Moses quickly bowed his head towards the earth and worshiped

God stated who He is and Moses worshipped. Moses knew who to worship as he had just been given a mini CV, a LinkedIn profile: God the merciful, gracious, patient, loving, faithful and just. We have a much more complete CV to draw on in our worship, as in the Bible we have the full revelation of God in Jesus. 

We can learn from Moses; when God reveals himself, our response should be worship. This song by Manchester band Rivers and Robots encourages us, just as Moses did, to bow our heads to the earth before God and worship;

To Your name alone belongs all the glory... 

and in Your presence we will fall down