What Songs Work Well for Advent?

This coming Sunday is the first Sunday in Advent. Advent is based off of the Latin word “adventus” and literally means “coming”. We are expectantly awaiting the celebration of Jesus’ coming on Christmas, and we’re expectantly awaiting his coming in glory. It’s a very cool season and provides congregations several weeks to express our cries of “how long”? Not only “how long until we can finally sing Christmas carols and open presents?” but “how long until you finally come back, Jesus?”

Two years ago I wrote some posts on songs that work well in Advent.

The first post had to do with “what to do with Advent” and some good hymns to sing. The second post had suggestions of newer, more contemporary songs that work congregationally. The third post had a couple of songs that worked as special/not congregational songs.

Here are some other songs I’ve become aware of that might work during Advent.

Soon (Brooke Ligertwood)
– Slow, tender song about when we will finally see Jesus
– Either a congregational song or a solo, but probably better as a solo
– “Soon and very soon, my King is coming, clothed in righteousness and crowned with love…”
– You can listen to the whole song, read the lyrics, and download the music here

All to Us (Redman/Maher/Reeves/Tomlin)
– Slow/midtempo song
– Either as a congregational song or a solo
– The recorded key of C is too high. I find A to be better
– “We are waiting on you, Jesus”. “When this passing world is over, we will see You face to face…”
– You can listen to the whole song, read the lyrics, and download the sheet music for free here

We Belong to the Day (Mike Morrow)
– Midtempo song
– Either as a congregational song or a solo
– “We belong to the day, to the day that is to come when the night falls away and our Savior will return…”
– Bob Kauflin featured this song on Worship Matters in June and linked to free downloads of the recording and the music

How Long? (The Reckoning) (Andrew Peterson)
– An upbeat song of lament/longing for Jesus to return
– From his excellent CD, “Counting Stars”
– Would work as a special (not congregational) song
– “How long until this curtain is lifted? How long is this the song that we sing? How long until the reckoning?”
– Justin Taylor at The Gospel Coalition featured this song last year. Click here to listen to the song and read the lyrics.

God With Us (Jamie Brown)
– Slow song
– OK, I wasn’t going to share this song because (a) the recording is awful and (b) I don’t want to push my own stuff. But, hey it’s free, you don’t have to like it, and it it’s helpful, then great
– The verses describe different people and situations that look hopeless, but actually “God with us”, Jesus, is right there in the middle
– Would work as a special (not congregational) song
– A female vocalists should sing the response part in the chorus. But again, this recording is so bad, from several years ago, that I tried to take care of both parts
– The lyrics are below the audio player

In the long, cold winter of waiting,
Every day a new door is closed
No job for so long and no money
Every letter, every call, a new “no”
God with us

She has cried, she has prayed for a husband
Still she lies in her bed all alone
Every Christmas, every birthday, every morning
Every baby – another one that’s not her own
God with us

Surely he has borne our griefs (God with us)
He has carried all our sorrows (God with us)
His chastisement brought us peace (God with us)
Yesterday, today, and tomorrow
God with us

He has lost his ability to fight it}
It has stained every corner of his mind
He is drowning in the darkness in private
Every click – a step back from his bride
God with us   (chorus)

The baby in her womb is not her husband’s
They have fled from their home to hide
But she believes what the angel told her
That she would bear the Son of the Most High: God with us

Surely he will bear our griefs (God with us)
He will carry all our sorrows (God with us)
His chastisement will bring us peace (God with us)
Yesterday, today, and tomorrow
God with us

Jamie Brown. © 2011 Worthily Magnify Music. CCLI Song # 6026949.

 

Song Recommendation: Grace is Not Earned

A few months ago I came across this new song from Kate Simmons and wanted to recommend it to you. It’s called “Grace is Not Earned”.

Here are the lyrics:

Grace is not earned, nor deserved,
It is a gift from God.
Saved by Your mercy alone,
Rescued by Your great love.
Grace is the heart of the Father,
Grace is the gift of the Son,
Grace is the work of the Spirit,
Revealing the wonder of an amazing God.

You know how often I fail
And all that I can’t undo,
Stains I’ve no means to erase,
How can I stand before You?
Christ takes the cross on His shoulders,
Steadfast to Calvary’s hill,
Leaving my sin in the grave
He rises, the conquering Son,
Such amazing love!

Raised by Your life, now in Christ,
Chosen and dearly loved,
I am now seen through Your eyes:
Righteous through Jesus’ blood!
Ransomed, restored and forgiven,
My sins are remembered no more!
Though still I’ll stumble, You’ll keep me.
By grace, I’ll continue on in unending love!

Oh the mercy, oh the mercy of our God, of our God. (repeat)

Kate Simmonds. © 2010 Phat Music / Administered by Song Solutions CopyCare. 14 Horsted Square, Uckfield, East Sussex, TN22 1QG England. info@songsolutions.org

Here’s a video of Kate singing the song:

What I like about the song:
– It says things in a new way. I love the line: “Grace is the heart of the Father, grace is the gift of the Son, grace is the work of the Spirit…” So good.
– It points us to the finished work of Christ on the cross and what that means for us.
– It’s clear. You can’t read the lyrics of this song and wonder what it means.
– It teaches. The very first line is key: “Grace is not earned, nor deserved, it is a gift from God”. This is worth singing about.

You can purchase the mp3 and PDF of the music here.

What We Sang This Past Sunday and Why We Sang It

I always find it helpful to hear what other churches are singing, what new songs worship leaders are introducing, and how worship leaders pick songs to match the theme of a service or sermon. So, from time to time on this blog, I’ll walk you through what songs we sang on a Sunday morning at my church, and why I picked them.

The sermon text of the morning was Hebrews 12:3-17, and the sermon title was “Learning From Discipline”. Based on this I attempted to choose songs that highlighted God’s faithfulness, his restoration, and the cross.

We started off the service with “Praise is Rising” by Paul Baloche and Brenton Brown, a song that cries “Hosanna! You are the God who saves us…” and proclaims the good news that: “in Your kingdom broken lives are made new. You make us new”. We sang that verse a couple of times in order to emphasize that truth. This song can be overdone – especially as an opening song – but it seemed to work this particular week.

After the welcome by one of our pastors we sang four songs. First, “Here is Love Vast as the Ocean” written by William Reese in 1850 and adapted by Matt Redman a few years ago with a new chorus. This focused us the cross of Christ and his ”grace and love like mighty rivers”. We sang the third verse that was written in 1900 that says “thou alone shall be my glory, nothing in this world I see. Thou hast cleansed and sanctified me. Thou thyself hast set me free”.

In response to this we sang A Thousand Amensby Tim Timmons which is the old text of the Doxology set to new music, along with a new chorus based off of Psalm 92:2 “unfailing love comes with the morning. It’s your faithfulness we sing at night” and Romans 2:4 “it’s your kindness, Lord, that leads to repentance.” (Note that the original version says “…leads to our healing”. I change it to match the scripture reference.) After this we sang How Great is our God”.

We closed this opening time with a song called To Him Who is Able, written by Lou and Nathan Fellingham and Gary Sadler. This is a rich song focusing our attention on Jesus. The second verse says “to him who is able to save me completely, who has poured out his blood as the offering for sin, and raised me to life by the power of the Spirit, and sealed me for heaven to reign there with him…” before leading into the chorus which says “to him be the glory, blessing and honor and praise. All saints now adore him. Worship the glorious name of Jesus our King”.

Following the readings, creed, prayers, and announcements, we sang a song by Matt Redman called This is How We Know”. Since this was directly before the sermon, I thought it would be helpful (as always) to focus on God’s love for us as displayed in the cross. The chorus says, “For you so loved the world that you gave your only Son, love amazing, so divine, we will love you in return. For this life that you give and this death that you have died, love amazing, so divine, we will love you in reply, Lord”.

Robert then preached on the text from Hebrews, and we responded with the song O Great Godby Bob Kauflin, the text of which is based on a Puritan prayer found in the book Valley of Vision. The song talks about God disciplining us by occupying “our lowly heart” and conquering “every rebel power”. The last verse is a powerful prayer: “help me now to live a life that’s dependent on your grace, keep my heart and guard my soul from the evils that I face. You are worthy to be praised with my every thought and deed. O great God of highest heaven, glorify your name through me”.

New Songs That Have Worked at My Church

I’m always looking for good new songs to add to the repertoire at my church. Here are some new songs that have seemed to work well over the last year.

A Thousand Amens
This is an upbeat song of celebration that takes the words of the doxology and adds a chorus based off of Psalm 92:2. My two criticisms of this song are: (1) in the chorus it says “it’s your kindness, Lord, that leads to our healing”. Since he’s basing this off of Romans 2:4, which says God’s kindness leads us “to repentance”, I think it makes more sense to go ahead and sing it that way. So I change the words (with the writer’s permission) to “it’s your kindness, Lord, that leads to repentance”. (2) The closing bridge of “amen, amen, amen, amen…” is a bit monotonous. If you explain to the congregation that “amen” means “so be it”, and that when we sing that part we’re all agreeing together and affirming God’s faithfulness, then it helps give it context. Having said that, I actually really like this song and it has worked well on Sunday mornings.
– Written by Tim Timmons
– Featured on the Catalyst Music Project
– I’m working on finding a chord chart for free/download
– Listen to the song here
– Watch a video of it here
– Download the song on iTunes here

Center
My church is studying the book of Hebrews this year, and this song fits well with Hebrews 1:3 which says “(Jesus) is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power”. The verse of the song says “you’re the center of the universe, everything was made in you, Jesus. Breath of every living thing, everyone was made for you. You hold everything together…” And then the chorus is a prayer: “Oh Christ, be the center of our lives, be the place we fix our eyes, be the center of our lives”. It’s a simple song and people grabbed hold of it pretty quickly.
– Written and recorded by Charlie Hall on Flying Into Daybreak and Passion: Everything Glorious
– Watch a video of the song here
– Download a free chord chart here
– Download the song on iTunes here

Completely Done
I have to be careful not to pick this song every Sunday. There’s nothing better than declaring “the old is gone, the new has come… we’re heirs with Christ, the victory won, what you complete is completely done”. 
– Written by Jonathan Baird, Ryan Raird, and Rich Gunderlock
– Featured on Sovereign Grace Music’s Sons and Daughters
– Download a free chord chart here
– Download a free lead sheet here
– Download the a free mp3 here

Desert Song
A song about the worthiness of God to be praised in every season of life. Halfway through hearing it the first time, it seemed like people were ready to stand up and sing it with us. That’s always a good sign. It feels good in the key of E.
– Written and recorded by Brooke Fraser on Hillsong’s This is Our God
– Purchase the music here
– Watch a video of the song here
– Download the song on iTunes here

Greater Than We Can Imagine
This song has been around since August 2008, but it took me a while to introduce it. We taught it almost exactly a year ago, and I’m really glad we did. It’s based off of Psalm 145 and is a strong, upbeat, truth-filled declaration of praise. Comfortable in the keys of G or A.
– Written by Mark Altrogge
– Featured on Sovereign Grace Music’s Psalms
– Download a free chord chart here
– Download a free lead sheet here
– Download the mp3 here

How Great is Your Faithfulness
A solid mid-tempo song about the faithfulness of God “from generation to generation”. Like many songs, it’s recorded in a key that’s unrealistic for most members of most congregations. We moved it down to the key of G and it worked well.
– Written by Matt Redman and Jonas Myrin
– Featured on Matt Redman’s We Shall Not Be Shaken
– Download a free chord chart here
– Watch a video of the song here
– Download the song on iTunes here

Revelation Song
This song has grown on me. I’ve always liked the first verse and chorus, but wondered if the second and third verses were too difficult to sing. We went ahead and tried it and I’m glad we did. Since the chorus is so singable and the verses are so rich, this song seemed to really resonate with the congregation, especially if the singers are able to lead it clearly. Feels good in the key of D.
– Written by Jennie Lee Riddle
– Featured on various CDs, my favorite version being on Kari Jobe’s self-titled CD
– Listen to the whole song here
– Purchase the music here
– Watch a video of the song here
– Download the song on iTunes here

To Him Who is Able
Once in a while your congregation surprises you when they really like a song. They surprised me on this one. Here’s the first verse: “To him who is able to save me completely / Who has poured out his blood as the offering for sin / And raised me to life by the power of the Spirit / And sealed me for heaven to reign there with him”. The chorus declares: “To him be the glory, blessing and honor and praise / All saints now adore him / Worship the glorious name of Jesus the King”. Great song. I do it in the key of A.
– Written by Lou and Nathan Fellingham and Gary Sadler
– Featured on Lou Fellingham’s Step Into the Light
– Download sheet music here
– Download the song on iTunes here

You Alone Can Rescue
The first time I heard this song, I wondered if Matt Redman had added a new chorus to an old hymn. The verses articulated the problem of our sin and the goodness of God’s grace in such a way that they must have written a hundred years ago! I was wrong about that. It’s a great new song proclaiming a timeless truth.
– Written by Matt Redman and Jonas Myrin
– Featured on Matt Redman’s We Shall Not Be Shaken
– Download a free chord chart here
– Watch a video of the song here
– Download the song on iTunes here

Song Recommendation – “We Have a Great Priest”

I first heard David Clifton’s “We Have a Great Priest” about ten years ago, when I picked up a copy of the CD “Praise God” that he recorded along with Andy Piercy. It struck me as a beautiful song and great setting of Hebrews 10:21-23, but I never used it in a congregational setting until last week.

After introducing it, I wondered what took me so long.

It was written in 1996, but since I just recently re-discovered it and suspect you might not be familiar with it, I’d like to recommend it. David has kindly agreed to let me share the chord chart and let you listen to a recording of the song.

Here are the lyrics:

We have a great priest
Over the house of God
So let us draw near to God  with a sincere heart
In full assurance, assurance of our faith
Having our hearts touched
To cleanse us from all guilt

For he who promised is faithful
For he who promised is faithful
Is faithful to me

Give me a pure heart, holding to Your hope
The hope I profess, Lord, lead me in Your way
Be now my strength, Lord
And all of my trust, Lord
And I will fear no-one,
For You are with me.

– David Clifton  © IQ Music 1996

Here’s why I like this song:
– The first verse and chorus are straight from scripture
– I don’t know of another song that lets us dwell on the words “he who promised is faithful” several times
– The simple prayer in the second verse is God-centered
– The melody is memorable and easy to sing
– The “feel” on the verses is unpredictable and different
– It helps stir up a gratefulness for Jesus

You can listen to the song below:

For a PDF chord chart, click here.

To download an mp3 of the song on iTunes, click here.

Song Recommendation – “You Alone Can Rescue”

Matt Redman released his CD “We Shall Not Be Shaken” in August 2009. There are a bunch of great songs on it, and one that stood out from the beginning and has been a great addition to the repertoire at my church is “You Alone Can Rescue”. Here are the lyrics:

Who, oh Lord, could save themselves
Their own sin could heal?
Our shame was deeper than the sea
Your grace is deeper still

You alone can rescue, You alone can save
You alone can lift us from the grave
You came down to find us, led us out of death
To You alone belongs the highest praise

You, oh Lord, have made a way
The great divide You heal
For when our hearts were far away
Your love went further still
Yes, your love goes further still

We lift up our eyes, lift up our eyes
You’re the Giver of Life

Matt Redman, Jonas Myrin. (C) 2008 Thankyou Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing) sixsteps Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing) Said And Done Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing) SHOUT! Publishing (Admin. by Integrity Music, Inc.)

Here’s a video of Matt performing the song on The 700 Club:


Here’s why I like the song:
It’s easy for a congregation to learn. Sing it once or twice and they’ll be able to join in.
It’s simple but not trite. Two verses, a chorus, and a bridge, but full of truth.
It’s flexible. You can lead this song with a full band or just one instrument, arrange it quietly, or arrange it like Matt does.
It’s Christ-centered.

When I lead this song I make two little changes to make it easier for the congregation to sing:
– Move it down to the key of A or Bb. The recorded key of B feels a bit high in the chorus.
– Instead of repeating the last line of the second verse “…yes, Your love goes further still!” and jumping up an octave like Matt, I just cut that part out and go straight to the chorus. I might put this part back in some day, or use it in a higher-energy setting, but found that jumping up an octave there was a bit jarring the couple of times we did it that way.

Listen to the whole song on Matt’s MySpace
Download the song on iTunes for $.99
Download the album on iTunes for $9.99
Buy the album from Amazon for $12.05
Download the free chord chart from Matt’s website
Purchase the sheet music from musicnotes.com

Song Recommendation – “To See the King of Heaven Fall (Gethsemane)”

With the season of Lent a little over one week away, and Holy Week and Easter in the not-too-distant future, I wanted to recommend an excellent song called “To See the King of Heaven Fall (Gethsemane)”, which was written by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty.

This song would work well all year round, but it seems especially fitting for Maundy Thursday or Good Friday services when a song conveying the terrible sorrow that Jesus endured in being obedient to giving up his life on the cross is needed.

It’s not enough to sing a song that says Jesus was crucified and leave it at that. A sad sounding, minor-key song might set the right mood, but not point people to why Jesus died and what he accomplished on the cross. This song is a gift for worship leaders looking for a song that derives its emotion out of the truth it contains.

Here are the lyrics:

To See the King of Heaven Fall (Gethsemane)
To see the King of heaven fall
In anguish to His knees,
The Light and Hope of all the world
Now overwhelmed with grief.
What nameless horrors must He see,
To cry out in the garden:
“Oh, take this cup away from me –
Yet not my will but Yours,
Yet not my will but Yours.”

To know each friend will fall away,
And heaven’s voice be still,
For hell to have its vengeful day
Upon Golgotha’s hill.
No words describe the Savior’s plight –
To be by God forsaken
Till wrath and love are satisfied
And every sin is paid
And every sin is paid

What took Him to this wretched place,
What kept Him on this road?
His love for Adam’s curséd race,
For every broken soul.
No sin too slight to overlook,
No crime too great to carry,
All mingled in this poisoned cup –
And yet He drank it all,
The Savior drank it all,
The Savior drank it all.
Stuart Townend & Keith Getty Copyright © 2009 Thankyou Music

You can download the sheet music here, and purchase an mp3 of the song from iTunes here.

Here is a YouTube video of  a live recording of the song from Stuart Townend’s church. This version can be found on Church of Christ the King Brighton’s CD called “Have You Heard”.  The video starts off with a reading of Mark 14:32-36 and an instrumental prelude. The song starts around 1:45.