Come all you who thirst! This is a song by Bethany Dillon based on Isaiah 55. Beautiful and encouraging.
This is just astounding.
There must be so many other instances, which we have not yet discovered, where music has the unique power to unlock and overcome problems in our physical bodies, minds and emotions. Thank You for the music!
Worship Together recently posted a series of Advent and Christmas songs as set lists to mix and match. They include traditional carols as well as recent praise and worship songs. You can watch a New Song Cafe video and play along with the charts! I hope you find something useful for your service planning. Blessings!
Set List #1
Set List #2
Set List #3
Set List #4
The New Testament doesn’t talk a great deal about the use of music in the gathering of God’s people – but what it does say is very clear. Singing the Word of Christ together is designed to build up, teach and encourage one another, while declaring the praises of Him who loves us. In fact our praises are a really important part of God’s plan for the new temple. Let me explain.
Psalm 118 (and so many more) describes the Temple of God as the place from which our praises and blessings towards God should come. But when Jesus turns up to this earthy temple (Mark 11:1-12:12) there is no praise coming from this place. Herod’s fancy bricks and mortar monstrosity is the seat of money making and exploitation. This place is wrong; this temple building in Jerusalem is not functioning as the house of God. So where is the true temple? How can such a place of praise be established to the Glory of God?
The answer is Jesus.
Jesus went through suffering, pain, rejection – the Cross. In doing this he established the true temple, where true worshippers will praise his holy name. Where is this true temple? Well, it is found in us! We are God’s holy temple (1 Peter 1:5-6,9 1 Peter 1:4-5, 9-10)
“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…. you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
Worship happens not in one tiny location in far off Israel to the exclusion of all other people. Now under new Management, Jesus’ temple is wherever his people are. His people will bring a prayer for the nations and praise for God’s holy name. We are His people, God’s true temple. What a privilege to be part of the true house of our holy God. He lives within and among us; he inspires us to prayer and praise. When we praise Him together we fulfil Psalm 118: People from all nations praying for the nations. We are to be people who pray without ceasing, people who praise his wonderful name. Pray and praise must sound and resound from our Christian communities and individuals. Does that describe you? does that describe us?
“Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?“ (NLT)
In 1 Corinthians 3:16 the Corinthian church needed Paul to remind them many times about the danger of division amongst God’s people. Paul speaks boldly here, explaining that as a Body of believers, WE ARE the temple of God where He dwells. He lives in us! He no longer chooses to reveal himself and meet with people in an earthly building (as he had done in the past, in Solomon’s temple, God’s house). Now he LIVES in us together. He reveals Himself in us. He has put His Spirit in us, collectively. This echoes the words of Peter (1 Peter 2:5): “you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Peter sees that genuine resounding praise can only come from this new spiritual temple – us! So how important it is for God’s people to major on authentic, true, fresh and relevant praise in our gatherings.
I enjoyed this discussion from Desiring God about praise/worship as meditating together on the truths of the Gospel. It makes me much more enthusiastic about the idea of another chorus repeat.
“Many a modern church-goer has been miffed by repetition in corporate worship.
The Information Age is conditioning us for new content, fresh ideas, new data. Why re-read what we’ve already read, why rehearse what we’ve already heard, when new information is available like never before?
But do we know what our unprecedented access to novelty is doing to us? All indications are that it’s threatening to make us shallower, not wiser and more mature. Running our eyes across the page and mouthing words to a song are not the same thing as experiencing the reality in our hearts. Our hearts simply don’t move as quickly as our eyes and our mouths.
Which makes corporate worship such an important elixir for what is increasingly ailing us today.
Learn to Feel the Truth
Take Psalm 136 as a flashing red light from the divine that our newfound intolerance for repetition is out of step with what it means to be human. The psalm is 26 verses, and each verse ends with “for his steadfast love endures forever.” It rehearses God’s goodness and supremacy, his wonder-working and world-creating, his delivery of his people from slavery and provision for them in a rich land.
Twenty-six times the psalm repeats this refrain — and not one of them is wasted. With each new verse, another attribute or rescue of God is celebrated, and then our souls are ushered deeper into his steadfast, ever-enduring love with each glorious repetition.
“Our hearts simply don’t move as quickly as our eyes and our mouths.”
The goal of the song is not to make his steadfast love old hat, but to help us feel it afresh and at new depth. The dance of each new verse, with each return to the refrain, is designed to bore the central truth about God’s resilient love deeper and deeper into our inner person. The psalm is not atreatise on the unwavering, persistent love of God, but what we call a meditation — less linear and more circular — crafted to help auger the reality of his love from information on our mental surface down to an experience in our hearts.
If you come away bored (unaffected), you’ve missed the point. But if you come away with God bored deeply into your soul (tasting afresh the strength and sweetness of his love), you’ve been carried by the Holy Spirit.
More Than Data
God made humans to meditate. And it is increasingly the lost art in our age. We were made to think deeply on his truth, not just be informed; to ponder reality down to the depths, not just move on to the next piece of data.
Non-Christian forms of meditation seek to empty the mind and transcend concrete specifics into the ethereal, and experience some form of meaningless enlightenment. But Christian meditation fills the mind with biblical truth, and chews on it, seeking to savor every bite.
“Meditation receives the truth into our souls and changes us in our deepest part.”
Unlike mere reading, even slow reading, where our minds and eyes keep moving at some pace, meditation slows us down, way down. We pause and ponder. Reading keeps us marching in linear fashion, while meditation moves us into a more spiral pattern by limiting the information set and seeking to press and apply the truth to our hearts, to actually experience the truth and not just let it run on through our minds on our way to the next thing.
One remarkable aspect of corporate worship is that it gives us the opportunity to meditate together. The pinnacle of a good sermon is typically a form of corporate meditation, led by the preacher, as he circles around his main point and verbally kneads its goodness into our hearts.
And the summits of our best praises together in song are essentially meditative. It’s not the discovery and delivery of an obscure stanza that binds our hearts and draws us highest together toward heaven, but returning to the chorus, which has been enriched with each additional verse. The verses provide fresh information, but the refrain we know so well bores the truth even deeper into our souls. The verses and chorus together help us to know the reality even better, as we collectively digest the truth from our heads into our hearts. They help us actually experience and be affected by the truth in our inner person, not just rehearse the data on the surface.
“God made humans to meditate. And it is increasingly the lost art in our age.”
And only once we’ve taken the truth into the heart, into the core of our soul, do we organically grow external actions and lived-out transformation. Rather than circumventing the heart, by moving from the mind to the actions, meditation receives the truth into our souls and changes us in our deepest part so that our actions aren’t whitewashed, but authentic expressions of the movement of our souls.
Purposeful repetition in corporate worship empowers us to be changed not only as individuals, but as a people. It is not only the truths we read, but the truths we sing — and sing often, and take into our hearts — that mold and shape us for lives of worship.
So, perhaps this weekend, you’ll have a chance to experience corporate repetition afresh, and instead of begrudging the worship leader for it, you may find it to be a new pathway for enjoying the grandeur and love of God.”
Most of the songs we now use to gather Christ’s body together in praise and worship are not written for that specific purpose – for singing together. Rather, they are written to be performed and recorded (for God’s glory), while satisfying the vocal range of an experienced soloist, who most often has a fairly high male (tenor) voice. The melodies are therefore shaped and situated in a vocal range that few of us can manage. Sure, we can sing along with the best of them on our iPods, but unconsciously we do a lot of octave jumping, or harmonising, so that we can sing along. This doesn’t work too well when the congregation is singing together.
Choosing the right key is quite tricky. The default or original key on SongSelect rarely works well. It can end up with a really high melody section in the chorus that no one can sing (bar the tenors) or else the whole thing is too low when you jump down an octave. This low singing equates to really quiet singing, and when we can’t hear each other we are discouraged from singing at all.
You also have to consider the musicians: is this great key the guitarists are happy to play in one which will induce a mild psychosis in the keyboard player, as they scamper around playing on only the black notes?
Here are just four rules of thumb that I find work well when selecting singable and playable keys for church singing (on SongSelect (CCLI) or a similar website).
1. Keep the vocal range between A (below middle C) and D (8 notes above middle C). Remember that D signals Distress for many people, so ensure the transposed melody only has a few passing notes of the high D (and the low A as well, for that matter). If the song ends up with a low G as the anacrusis note in the melody of the verse then teach it as a B instead (it should fit the chord, and won’t really be noticed).
2. Try to maintain the original shape and development of the song, starting with low verse notes and moving to higher chorus notes. If you sabotage the ‘chorus lift’ by a poorly chosen key, or by forcing people to jump down an octave, it can all fall seriously flat.
3. Don’t choose keys that have too many sharps or flats. Stick to maximum of four sharps (E major) and max 3 flats (Eb major). There are a few major keys that work well for both guitar and keys: C, D, E, G and A major. Keyboard players generally don’t mind keys with flats (one flat F major, two flats Bb major), but these will probably make your guitarists unhappy. This leads to my next point.
4. Understand Capos and get your guitarists to understand and use them. The keyboard and the guitarists can play in different keys quite effectively. A guitar capo effectively shortens the guitar strings and produces a higher sound. This enables the guitarists to play in comfortable keys (mostly ones with sharps) while the pianist can play in a key with flats that may mean a better vocal range for the congregation.
For example, if I want to use Matt Redman’s Ten Thousand Reasons in a flat key (Eb major, with three flats), then the guitarists can play in D (with their music in key of D) and capo on the first fret. (Each fret raises the guitar’s pitch by a semitone. So, the guitarists playing in D major want it to sound Eb major. Placing the capo on fret one moves the sound up by a semitone. Success! It sounds in Eb major but they don’t have to play in a key with flats.)
Another example would be Trevor Hodge’s No Other Name (Listen below!) in Bb, which has two flats. The guitarists can play in G major, but sound Bb by placing the capo on fret 3. There are 3 semitone steps to get from G to Bb (go check a keyboard) which is why the guitar must use capo three.
Remember that the guitarist needs to be playing in a key slightly lower than the keyboard player, so that the capo will bring their sound up to pitch, and they will only need to use capo 1, 2 or 3.
Next time: let’s look at a case study and decide what to do with Tomlin’s ‘Jesus, Son of God’ which has a huge vocal range! I’m still working on this one myself.
“Singing is a profound example of how we are made in the image of God. Whether we come to it through the science of the body, the breath drawn in and transfigured into music, just as the breath of God brought the first human to life (according to Genesis); or whether we find it through the mathematics of the intervals of sound that work together to produce beauty; or the soul of the artist, painting with sighs; there is room for everyone to come together with God in that work of creating God’s image on earth.
Whether you are the outgoing type who just has to share all your feelings and words with the people around you; or whether you are more on the shy side, hiding yourself inside the notes, letting the music speak for you, give you a voice, there is room for every image of God in the choir, in the song.
And just as we never reach the end of the image of God, so we never reach the end of the ways that music can speak to us and for us. It is a gift.
And those who sing it show us the image of God, and bless us with the image and echoes of immortality.
Originally published at http://wp.me/p1sWUy-1jn