Saturday, January 8, 2011

01/09/11: 40 (U2), Mighty to Save, He is Exalted, Stronger, Christ is Risen, You are My King (Amazing Love)

40 (U2)

Psalm 40

1 I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the LORD
and put their trust in him.

This song was written directly from Psalm 40, which Gary will be quoting in his sermon this Sunday. Click here to see a clip of U2 playing it at RedRocks back in the glory days. Then, click forward to about 3:45 to see Bono leading the "congregation" like a worship leader.

Mighty to Save

Our catalogue can be divided into three sections: originals, hymns, and familiar songs (leaving out, for the most part, the idea of playing new, unfamiliar songs that weren't written by someone in the band). "Mighty to Save" is at the top our "familiar" list. It is, by most accounts, the most sung worship song in the world today. And it's good to see a worship video with almost 10 million hits. 420 million more and we will have caught up with Justin Bieber. Click Here to view the video ("Mighty to Save", not "Baby ft. Ludacris")

He is Exalted

If you didn't grow up singing this song: 1. God has rescued you from a non-Christian background, or 2. You are young. Either way, you should be informed that "He is Exalted" was the hottest worship jam of 1992, and its lyrics are as simple, singable, biblical, and vertical as a song can get. Sorry Twila, but I set out to find the most dated, embarrassing video of this tune on YouTube, and I succeeded. Click Here and click forward to about 3:00


I am amazed every time I see a live clip from the Hillsong conference in Australia. Like "Mighty to Save," this video has the propensity to throw its viewers into a state of worship, right there in front of the computer screen: Click here

Christ is Risen

I love it when this happens. I don't need to tell the story behind the song, because the songwriter has already done it for me. In this video, Matt Maher explains how this song was inspired by John Chrysostom's third century sermon, which details how "Christ used death to destroy death": Click Here

You are My King (Amazing Love)

Chris Tomlin led worship at my church's youth camp, when I was in high school, and I remember always showing up, anxious to hear what new songs Chris had written that year. He wrote songs like "Famous One" and "We Fall Down" while he was at our particular camp, so it was always a thrilling week, especially for the aspiring worship songwriters in the crowd. But Chris is a worship leader first, and a songwriter second. No matter how many new, fresh original songs he had up his sleeve, he always left room for the familiar.
By my senior year of high school, You are My King (Amazing Love) had run its course in youth groups across the country in much the same way that "Lord, I life your name on high" had done in the mid-90s. We hadn't sung it at our youth group for a couple of years, and Chris hadn't sung it at camp since I was a freshman. But one night, after all the new songs had been sung, and it was clear that the Spirit was still moving, Chris began singing this song.

It was like the place had been filled with a breath of fresh air.
Now, if we had been singing "Amazing Love" during the invitation, every night of camp, every year since the song was written (as many Churches did), it wouldn't have had the same impact on the room. But every once in a while, we need to be reminded of the songs that God used to draw us closer to Him at a former stage of life. My prayer is that God will press these lyrics upon your heart in a fresh way, as we sing them together tomorrow morning.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

01/02/11: Our God, When Heaven Came Down, In Christ Alone, Holy Holy Holy, Share

Our God (Chris Tomlin)
Click here to see a video of Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman telling the story behind this song.

When Heaven Came Down (Logan Walter)
I finally put the chords and lyrics to this song on YouTube. Click here to learn how to play it!

In Christ Alone (Keith Getty and Stuart Townend)
Click Here to read an interview with Keith Getty, in which he discusses the hard work of avoiding clich├ęs in worship songwriting and explains how his melodies are influenced by Irish folk music

Holy Holy Holy (Words: Reginald Heber, Music: John B. Dykes)
Two centuries ago, most churches sang psalms straight from scripture with no two people in the room singing the same melody. According to most reports, congregational worship music across the world was uninspired and chaotic. Reginald Heber wrote this beautiful song to help his congregation sing passionately to their maker. Click here to read the entire hymn story

Share (Logan Walter)
We have four core values at The Heights: Worship, Grow, Serve, Share. In 2008-2009, we put a special emphasis on Serve, and I wrote "Call to Action" for our push to "not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth" (1 John 3:18). In 2010-2011, we are focussing on Share, and the church has been charged with the call to engage in spiritual conversations with strangers at least once per week. This may sound simple, but how often do we engage strangers in any kind of conversation whatsoever? The first week, I shared with my TV repairman, Julio. The second week, a pipe conveniently broke in our house, giving me the opportunity to share my faith with the plumber, Jesus. Ironically, he was not a church goer. The third week, I found myself in a predicament. We were in Houston, playing for a week long event at an all-Christian, conservative private school. Everyone was a Christian. No one was a stranger. It was hopeless. But on the last night of the event, the band decided to take a trip to Barnes & Noble, where I always hang out in the Christian Literature section. Come to think of it, the bible section probably wasn't the best place to look for a lost soul, but God made it happen.

The following is a summary of an hour long conversation I had with an Iranian man, named Hamed, who spotted me reading a Bible in B&N:

Hamed: "Are you Christian?"
Me: "Yes, are you?"
Hamed: "No."
Me (silent prayer): Thank You, Jesus (the carpenter)
Hamed: "My wife is a Christian. My kids go to Christian church. But I am Baha'i. Are you familiar with Baha'i?"
Me: "No, are you?"
Hamed: "Yes. I am Baha'i."
Me: "Ah yes."
Hamed: "I believe there are many paths to God. The Baha'i embrace all major world religions as Truth." (this was actually a twenty minute explanation. I just listened and learned and waited to ask the only question on my mind.)
Me: "Who do you say Jesus is?"
Hamed: "Oh, I love Jesus. Jesus is my prophet, Jesus is my lord."
Me: "What do you mean when you say that Jesus is your lord?"
Hamed: "Jesus is my lord, Budah is my lord, Mohammed is my lord. I have many lords."
Me: "But Christians believe that Jesus is God."
Up to this point, Hamed had been talking 100 miles per hour with 100% conviction and an air of certainty about everything he was saying. But nobody had ever told him that Jesus is God. His wife claims to be a "Christian." His kids attend church on Sunday mornings. He, himself, attends every Christmas and Easter service with his family, yet the Divinity of Christ was a completely foreign concept to him.
Hamed: (confused) "What do you mean 'Jesus is God'?"
Me: "I mean that Jesus was both fully man and fully God. If I had a Bible with me, I could show you several passages that point straight to Christ's divinity."
Hamed: "There's like a hundred Bibles right behind you."
Me: "Ah yes."
I then pointed Hamed to John 1:1-14, which is the passage Neil McClendon will be preaching from in his sermon this Sunday at The Heights.
Me: "See here it says 'in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God,' and then in verse 14 it says 'the Word became flesh," that's talking about Jesus. Jesus was the Word, and the Word was God. Then if you flip over a few pages to chapter 8, Jesus says in verse 58, 'before Abraham was, I AM.' And everybody in the crowd would've known that 'I AM' was the name God gave to Himself in the Old Testament. When Jesus says "I AM," He is claiming to be God.
Hamed and I talked for another twenty minutes, then I went to his house and met his Christian wife, who was verbally abusive to their children (Hamed was clearly the more Christ-like parent). Hamed gave me several Baha'i books and wrote down my recommendations, before I said goodbye. And though he didn't convert to Christianity that night, a seed of truth was planted. That's what happens when we share our faith with others. We become seed planters. And, eventually, many of these seeds will grow and bear fruit. So "let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." We all 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). So let us be witnesses to what we have seen. Let us be witnesses to the light (John 1:8).

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

09/05/10: Logan's Worship Blog

God of this City (Bluetree)
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Acts 1:8

My dear friend and accountability partner, Daniel Carson, was on one of his many trips around the world when he heard an unknown band called Bluetree playing a worship chorus that specifically asked God to move in their city of Belfast, Ireland. As the guitarist for Chris Tomlin, Daniel felt God leading him to tell his own band leader about this song.

A few days later, Daniel was back in the States and had me listening to "God of this City" on Bluetree's myspace page. There was something special about it, but I dismissed it in my own mind, as I wasn't sure how it could be used in a worship set. Later that day, we met with Chris for lunch at Chuy's in Austin and heard his own dream for the song. "This passion tour we're about to go on," Chris said. "We'll sing this song everywhere we go, asking God to bring revival in each city along the way."

Less than a year later, a new Passion album was released entitled - "Passion: God of this City." I'm thankful for people like Daniel and Chris who have a vision for worship beyond that of my own. At the Heights, we sing this song for the the greater Dallas area, for God desires to do greater things through us to reach our community, not just in service, but in our conversations, as I will explain through the lyrics of "Call to Action"...

Call to Action (Logan Walter)
"I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ." Philemon 1:6

I wrote this song in response to our church's call to "serve" or "engage the community with our service." But this Sunday, Gary preached about a different way to "engage," as he taught from Philemon about how to "share" or "engage the community with our conversations." There's a line in this song that might seem inappropriate for a "share" Sunday. It reads:

It's not enough to testify with words
Reach out in love, and the message will be heard

And while it's true that I wrote these lyrics with "serve" in mind, I believe this line also applies to "share." How do we "reach out in love" when sharing with those around us? Through our words? Yes! But our conversations must begin with a willingness to listen. Read this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer and consider the implications it has for "share":

The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists of listening to them. As love to God begins with listening to his Word, so the beginning of love for others is learning to listen to them. It can be greater service than speaking. There's an impatient, inattentive listening that despises, only waiting for a chance to speak. -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Nothing But Your Blood (Matt Redman)
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:13

We make the Lord's Supper available to the entire congregation every Sunday morning at the Heights during the 10:50 hour. And though I remind everyone about this sacrament at the beginning of each service, I rarely re-emphasize its importance during the worship set. But this Sunday, before singing this song of gratitude for Christ's blood, I felt led to share something I read in my Tim Keller bible study the previous week. The study is in outline form and addresses the question "How do we worship?" The first answer to this question comes from John 4:23 - we must worship "in Spirit and in Truth." I want you to read the outline for the second answer. Prayerfully consider point "d":

2. We must worship "in Word and Sacrament." Worship is not just a time of teaching and inspiration.

a) It is a re-enactment of our union with Christ through the Gospel.

b) God's unmerited grace comes to us as a word to believe not as a deed to be performed. Therefore every worship service consists of hearing God's word of grace followed by our response to it.

c) God's word is read and we respond with confession of sin. God's word is preached and we respond with song, or with an offering of our lives and substance.

d) But especially in the sacraments - in baptism and the Lord's Supper - we see the gospel re-enacted. The bread and wine are tokens of Jesus' self-offering on the cross, and we respond by giving ourselves to him as we partake of them.

e) in every case, the worship service is a covenant renewal ceremony, in which we renew and deepen our remembrance of what Jesus has done for us and of what we have promised Him.

Other songs from this Sunday:
Christ is Risen (Matt Maher) - see the 08/22 post for my thoughts about Matt Maher
"We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him." 1 Thes 4:14

Stronger (Hillsong) - see the 08/22 post for a video of this song
"The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him." Exodus 15:2

Friday, September 3, 2010

08/29/10: Logan's Worship Blog

Wonderful Cross (Isaac Watts w/ chorus by Chris Tomlin)
"Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha)." John 19:17

Before singing this song on Sunday, I had the congregation read the following quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. As you read it, keep in mind that Bonhoeffer followed the call to "come and die" to the end, as he was imprisoned and killed by the Nazis for his beliefs during World War II.

"Cheap grace is the enemy of the church. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth... an intellectual assent to that idea is held to be itself sufficient to secure remission of sins. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance... grace without discipleship, grace without a cross... Costly grace is the gospel (of the church)... It is costly because it costs a man his life, and grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his son... it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God... When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die. That is why the rich young man was so loath to follow Jesus, for the cost of his following was the death of his will. In fact, every command of Jesus is a call to die, with all our affections and lusts."

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Come Thou Fount (Robert Robinson)

"O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago." Isaiah 25:1

The background for the next two songs can be found in a book called "101 Hymn Stories"

Robert Robinson was born of lowly parents in Swaffham, Norfolk, England, on September 27, 1735. His father died when Robert was eight, and at the age of fourteen he was sent by his mother to London to learn the barbering trade. Here for the next few years he was associated with a notorious gang of hoodlums and lived a debauched life. At the age of seventeen he attended a meeting where George Whitefield was preaching. Robinson and his friends went for the purpose of "scoffing at the poor, deluded Methodists." However, Whitefield's strong evangelistic preaching so impressed young Robinson that he was converted to Christ. Several years later he felt called to preach and entered the ministry of the Methodist Church. Subsequently, he left the Methodist Church when he moved to Cambridge and became a Baptist pastor. Here he became known as an able theologian through his writing of many theological works as well as several hymns.

This hymn text, written when Robinson was only twenty-three years of age, contains an interesting expression in the second stanza, "Here I raise mine Ebenezer - Hither by Thy help I'm come." This language is taken from 1 Samuel 7:12, where the Ebenezer is a symbol of God's faithfulness. An expression in the third verse, "Prone to wander - Lord, I feel it - Prone to leave the God I love," seems to have been prophetic of Robinson's later years, as once again his life became characterized by lapses into sin, unstableness, and an involvement with the doctrines of Unitarianism.

The story is told that Robinson was one day riding a stagecoach when he noticed a woman deeply engrossed with a hymn book. During an ensuing conversation the lady turned to Robinson and asked what he thought of the hymn she was humming. Robinson burst into tears and said, "Madam, I am the poor unhappy man who wrote that hymn many years ago, and I would give a thousand worlds, if I had them, to enjoy the feelings I had then."

All Creatures of Our God and King (Francis of Assisi)

"All you have made will praise you, O LORD; your saints will extol you. They will tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might" Psalm 145:10-11

This inspiring expression of praise found in nearly every hymnal was originally written in 1225 by one of the most interesting figures in all of church history. Giovanni Bernardone, who was better known as Saint Francis of Assisi, was a mystic, medieval monk who spent his lifetime as an itinerant evangelist, preaching and helping the poor people of Italy.

Saint Francis was born in Assisi, Italy, in 1182. After an early indulgent life as a soldier, he reformed his ways dramatically, at the age of twenty-five, and determined to serve God by imitating the selfless life of Christ in all that he did. Although his family were people of considerable means, Francis scorned the possession of material goods, denounced his inherited wealth, denied himself everything but the most meager necessities, and devoted himself completely to moving about his area as Christ's representative. At the age of twenty-eight Francis founded the influential Franciscan Order of Friars, which developed into a large movement of young men and some women who adopted his religious beliefs and ascetic style of life.

Saint Francis was known as a great lover of nature, seeing the hand of God in all creation. One of the well known master painting from this time was done by the famous Italian artist, Giotto, and shows Saint Francis feeding the birds. The following well-known verse was writtten in tribute to this man:

"Saint Francis came to preach - with smiles he met the friendless, fed the poor, freed a trapped bird, led home a child; Although he spoke no word - his text, God's love, the town did not forget."

"All Creatures of Our God and King" is from one of Saint Francis's writings entitled "Canticles of the Sun," said to have been written one hot summer day in 1225, one year before his death, while Francis was very ill and suffering the loss of his eyesight. Throughout his life Saint Francis made much use of singing and believed strongly in the importance of church music. In all he wrote more than sixty hymns for use in the monastery. This beautiful expression of praise is one that has survived the passing of these several hundred years.

Although there is much that is difficult to understand and explain about the author of this text, we certainly can be thankful that God ordained the birth, translation and the preservation of this fine expression of praise for His people to enjoy even to the present time.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

08/22/10: Logan's Worship Blog

You are Here (Dutton)
It's the coolest thing that's happened to me in the first quarter century of my life, so I don't mind sharing the link one more time. Here's a clip of this song being playing in outer space. Click forward to 0:58 to hear our friend, Shane, give us a shout out from the international space station:

STS-126 crew wake-up call, Flight Day 9

Christ is Risen (Matt Maher)
I met Matt Maher in 2005 when we were both community group worship leaders for the Passion Conference in Nashville. We had an immediate connection as I was good friends with his hero, David Crowder, and he was wearing a Darth Vader shirt that said "Who's you daddy?" What I love most about Matt is that he is a reminder of how much we have in common as Christians, if we remain focussed on the cross. Because Matt is not a southern Baptist, no. Matt isn't even a protestant. Matt, my friends, is...brace yourself...

Catholic (gasp!).

I've always relished the irony that a man from the Catholic Church, which is so often criticized for leaning on tradition over scripture, wrote a song called "Your Grace is Enough," which is one of the most Gospel-oriented songs being played in Protestant circles today. "Christ is Risen" is equally focussed on the cross, and is one more step in the process of unifying Christ's church.

Stronger (Hillsong)
I'm always encouraged, humbled, and strengthened when I hear about what's happening in Australia with Hillsong's ministry. Right now, you are sitting at your computer with, presumably, enough free time to be reading this worship blog. If you've been able to read this far, I would encourage you to take a few more moments and allow yourself to worship right where you are, in front of your computer, as you soak in God's presence with this video. And if you're by yourself, sing along. Out loud! Stronger - Hillsong 2008

When Heaven Came Down (Dutton)
If you've ever wondered what it's like to worship with us when we're on the road, this video is closest you will get to the experience. And 1:20 into it, you can hear the crowd singing the "Oh's" on this song: Dutton Worship Video #1

Our God (Chris Tomlin)
I was recently approached by a record label executive and asked about the music I write. After I poured out my heart, the executive informed me that worship music is "no longer the trend." I then informed the executive that "worship music" is the only eternal genre of music. She informed me that she was talking about current radio trends. I informed her that I only listen to my iPod, and then I conceded the argument. However, I was a little confused - after the conversation - when I looked at the charts and saw this song at #1. God will receive His glory long after worship music stops trending, but I am not going to take this era for granted. Passion, Hillsong, Chris Tomlin, and David Crowder albums consistently debut near the top of the secular Billboard 200 chart. To God be the glory.

08/15/10: Logan's Worship Blog

Sing Sing Sing (Tomlin)
Psalm 13:6 - I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.

Come and Listen (Crowder)
psalm 145:11-12 - They will tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might, so that all men may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

Christ is Risen (Maher)
1 Thes 4:14 - We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

Sometimes (Dutton)
psalm 130:3-4 - If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.

Stronger (Hillsong)
Isaiah 40:29 - He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

08/08/10: Logan's Worship Blog

Christ is Risen (Matt Maher)
1 Cor 15:55 - "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"

Our God (Tomlin)
Psalm 77:14 - "You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples."

Our God Reigns (Delirious)
Rev 19:6 - "Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: "Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns."

After All (Dutton)
John 15:2 - "He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful."

Awakening (Tomlin)
Psalm 57:8 - "Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn."