WedWorship – Hope Has a Name

Sunday morning, as I made breakfast for my family before church, River Valley Worship’s “Hope Has a Name” began playing, and I realized I really love this song and it deserved to be shared with ya’ll.

The lyrics are simple, but so powerful and I can’t help but be filled with hope and joy as I sing (and shout) “Hope has a name, His name is Jesus” and “My Savior’s cross has set this sinner free!”

There is a song, I know it well
A melody that’s never failed
On mountains high, in valleys low
My soul will rest, my confidence, in You alone
Chorus: Hope has a name, His name is Jesus
My Savior’s cross has set this sinner free
Hope has a name, His name is Jesus
Oh, Christ be praised, I have victory
There is a light, salvation’s flame
Christ undefeated, trampled the grave
See now the cross, be lifted high
The light has come, the light has won, behold the Christ

Chorus
There’ll be a day my hope complete
Now home in glory, Your face I’ll see
My pain no more, my fear will cease
I bow my life, I fix my eyes, on Christ my King
I bow my life, I fix my eyes, on Christ my King
Chorus

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WedWorship – Until My Voice is Gone

Today’s worship is “Until My Voice is Gone” by Travis Ryan. Every time I hear this song I can’t help but raise my hands in praise. I like it because it describes why we praise Him, and how even when we’re struggling and feeling weak, He’s still God and deserving of our praise and thanksgiving.

Check out the song for yourself below!

No other King commands our full attention
No other name’s above all other names
No other throne rules over every nation
No other God deserves our highest praise

No other death could buy our sweet redemption
No other blood could wash away our shame
No other cross could lead to resurrection
No other God deserves our highest praise

Chorus: So I raise my hands until my strength has faded
Stand in honor ‘til my knees give way
I will lift my voice and shout a grateful song
I will sing, O I will sing until my voice is gone

No other hope can make our hearts courageous
No other peace can make us stand up brave
No other Love has earned our full affection
No other God deserves our highest praise

Bridge: So when we’ve exhausted every single way
With our bodies weak and with our voices strained
You are still the song in us that never ends
We can’t help but stand and start it all again

WedWorship – Another in the Fire

Today’s worship song is “Another in the Fire” by Hillsong UNITED. Recently, I read Psalm 105 and noted that verses 1-4 were written almost as a “how to worship:”

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon His name;
make known His deeds among the peoples!
Sing to Him, sing praises to Him;
tell of all His wondrous works!
Glory in His holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
Seek the Lord and His strength;
seek His presence continually!

The rest of the chapter goes on to describe the many marvelous deeds that God did for the Israelites; from the covenant God made with Abraham, to the placing of Joseph in a position of authority. The sending of Moses to rescue His people from captivity; the plagues released on Egypt; and His provision of water, quail, and manna while in the desert. So, it’s no wonder that this song, “Another in the Fire,” would strike a cord with me.

I feel like this song does just what Psalm 105 states…It gives thanks to the Lord, talks about His marvelous deeds, and glorifies His holy name. It also makes me recall Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3); Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea (Exodus 14); and Paul and Silas behind those shaking prison walls (Acts 16). Lastly, it’s a beautiful reminder that whatever we may face, this same God–this all-powerful, all-sufficient, everlasting, Light of the world–sent His Son to die for our sins, and promises to never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5).

There’s a grace when the heart is under fire
Another way when the walls are closing in
And when I look at the space between
Where I used to be and this reckoning
I know I will never be alone

There was another in the fire
Standing next to me
There was another in the waters
Holding back the seas
And should I ever need reminding
Of how I’ve been set free
There is a cross that bears the burden
Where another died for me

All my debt left for dead beneath the waters
I’m no longer a slave to my sin anymore
And should I fall in the space between
What remains of me and this reckoning
Either way I won’t bow
To the things of this world
And I know I will never be alone

There is another in the fire
Standing next to me
There is another in the waters
Holding back the seas
And should I ever need reminding
What power set me free
There is a grave that holds no body
And now that power lives in me

And I can see the light in the darkness
As the darkness bows to Him
I can hear the roar in the heavens
As the space between wears thin
I can feel the ground shake beneath us
As the prison walls cave in
Nothing stands between us
Nothing stands between us

There is no other name
But the Name that is Jesus
He who was and still is
And will be through it all
So come what may in the space between
All the things unseen and this reckoning
I know I will never be alone

There’ll be another in the fire
Standing next to me
There’ll be another in the waters
Holding back the seas
And should I ever need reminding
How good You’ve been to me
I’ll count the joy come every battle
‘Cause I know that’s where You’ll be

WedWorship – How Can We Not (Give Praise)

Today’s song is LIFE Worship’s “How Can We Not (Give Praise).” This song has been a favorite of mine for months now. It sings of God as Creator of the universe and how He created everything, including man, to worship Him. My favorite line is taken straight from the Word: Made to worship/If we don’t sing the rocks will soon cry out!

As I sang this song again this morning, I just knew it was the song for today. As we begin this new year, let’s remember that we were created to glorify God, therefore, everything we are, do, and say should worship and honor Him.

Lastly, God is so perfectly good, how can we not give Him praise for all that He is, all that He’s done, and all that He’s promised to do?!

From the start
Before You made the earth and seas and stars
In Your heart
We were set apart

Made to worship
If we don’t sing the rocks will soon cry out
By Your spirit
We are set apart

Chorus: God of the ages, King of the heavens
Matchless in power and strength
Made for Your glory, here to adore You
How can we not give praise

Look to Jesus
Through the battle unto victory
By Your power
We will overcome

Bridge: You are the one
There’s no one above You
Who can compare to You
You are the one
There’s no one beside You
Who else deserves our praise

Let Your Church rise
Spirit, let Your fire now run wild
By Your Spirit
We have overcome
Let Your Church rise
Spirit, let Your fire now run wild
By Your Spirit
We have overcome!
We have overcome!!

Worship Series: Song Selection

If you’ve been following for some time, you’d know that I help out with children’s worship once a month. Well, once a month we also hold a children’s worship practice, where we introduce new songs and motions to our children’s worship team. And every month I struggle with tying to figure out what new songs I’d like to add to our slowly growing list.

Now, it’s not that I don’t have songs that I love, however, everybody has their own style of worship and artists they prefer, and I’m no different. I love upbeat and energetic praise songs and I love worship, but I’m also very lyrically driven. Obviously, I’m a writer, so I tend to be drawn to songs with powerful, biblically sound lyrics. I mean, the Bible says that true worshipers will worship in spirit and in truth, and the Word is Truth (John 4:23-24).

However, when it comes to children’s worship, I can’t always choose to share or lead the same songs that I enjoy during my personal worship time, because the lyrics are sometimes too complex for children between the ages of 5-12. That’s not to say that I choose watered down songs, because that would mean I’d be underestimating the understanding of the children; and children understand much more than we often give them credit for. (That’s why Jesus said that we should be more like little children in Matthew 19, Mark 10, and Luke 18.) However, sometimes I really struggle with finding age-appropriate songs, especially because our group varies so vastly in age.

I think this is a challenge that someone leading any type of worship–adults, children, teens, etc.–faces: choosing the right songs for the particular group you’re leading. Leading adult worship, for instance, means you have to choose songs that reach a multitude of generations (unless your church has only one primary age group).

Here are three things that I started taking into consideration when choosing songs for Children’s Worship:

Tempo

Because I’m working with kids this is an important one. If we want the children to be excited about worship, we need some up-tempo songs to begin with and we have to be careful when we slow down our praise and enter into worship. Usually, I like to have a transition song, something mid-tempo, before going into worship, but sometimes it’s not always possible. Their attention span is pretty short and I’ve found that if we sing any more than one worship song, we usually lose them.

Lyrics

This is the most challenging for me. Some of my favorite worship songs are very lyric heavy. They either have a lot of lyrics or the lyrics are complex. In the days leading up to our most recent practice, for example, I went back and forth on a song that I really loved, but eventually decided against because I felt that the kids couldn’t handle it. The best songs for them tend to be those with simpler lyrics and repeating choruses, although I have found some exceptions. Songs that they are familiar with, because they hear them repeatedly on the radio, tend to do extremely well with this group! So much so, that we’ve begun to use more of such songs during worship.

Song Length

Unfortunately, we don’t have a live band for our children’s worship, so we use tracks (usually, including the lyrics). Sometimes the track we have is too long or there’s too much ad-lib going on in the track. I’ve been making notes of which songs these are, so that I don’t continue to use them or I request that a new/different version of the song be purchased. Again, I can’t lead an 8 minute worship song with this age group, since they just don’t have the attention span, and they don’t know what to do when someone is ad-libbing.

Still, even after taking these things into consideration, we just have to lead the song a few times and see how the children respond to it. Sometimes they pick it up easily and other times we end up disappointed and end up removing the song from our list.

Now I have questions for you…How do you choose which songs to use in your worship services? And how many times do you try/lead a new song before ultimately giving up on it? I’d love to hear your responses below!

Unplug – part 2

Back in December I wrote a post about learning to unplug. In that post I was focused on unplugging from technology, but today, I want to focus more on scheduling quiet time for privately studying the Word, prayer, and worship.

Today, upon reviewing past journal entries during my personal quiet time, I noticed a pattern, and from this pattern, God reminded me of something very important.

First, I realized that every few months I schedule these days—often mornings—of quiet solitude and prayer, out of necessity. I find that I’m forced to schedule such days because I’m exhausted, depressed, and unmotivated. I don’t want to get out of bed, I don’t want to go to work, and I don’t want to be around people. I become short-tempered, refuse to answer my phone, and I don’t want to talk to anybody. I’ve finally come to the realization that if I just scheduled these quiet times more often, I wouldn’t have to take an entire day off from work to rest.

I study the Word, I pray, and I attend church and bible studies regularly, but these quiet moments are worth so much more to me because I’m not rushed, there’s no one around to interrupt me, and I’m focused on only one thing—pouring my heart out to God and listening for His voice. My prayers during these times resemble a conversation one would have with an intimate counselor or closest friend. These are the moments in which I confide my deepest fears and struggles, ask clarifying questions, and seek direction. And I hear His voice!

These moments are so precious to me. He comforts me, covers me with peace, reassures and corrects me, and points the way. And so I question, why don’t I schedule these moments every evening, when I come home from work? Why don’t I release everything over to Him and let Him renew and refresh me, every day?

The truth is, life is hectic. It’s busy and stressful and we’re often consumed by the next activity, the next meeting or party, or the next thing on our to-do list. We’re easily distracted and focused on so many other things that we often neglect the most important thing. More important than the relationships with the people around us, more important than our job, more important than whatever we have planned to do, is the relationship we have with our heavenly Father. I don’t know about you, but I can’t do life alone; I need His presence with me wherever I go and in whatever I do. It’s time we stop pretending we can get by without Him! If we think that we can get by on a few crumbs we receive on Sunday mornings, or Wednesday nights, or the scraps we pick up elsewhere, we’re sadly mistaken. It’s what we do in our personal time to deepen our relationship with Christ that satisfies, strengthens, and changes us.

Second, as I realized that this is what I needed to do, God reminded me that it’s what we all need to do. Whether we have a secular job or work in a ministry setting, God desires these quiet moments with each of us to remind us Who He is, to recharge and refresh us, and to change our perspective about our lives in terms of His kingdom. God wants to do amazing things in and through us for the glory of His Name, and if we’re distracted by our desire and plans, we can’t see the bigger picture and what His desires and plans are. If we’re exhausted and stressed out because of our over commitments, traditions, and lifestyle, then when God calls us to do something, are we willing to be used with joyful heart? Or are we too tired? Too grumpy? Too distracted by all the other things on our to-do list?

To conclude, I recommend we all take a good, hard look at what our current commitments and lifestyle looks like, and make a purposeful stance to schedule absolute alone time with our heavenly Father. If this means heading to our car for an hour, hiding in our prayer closet, locking our bedroom or bathroom door, or heading to a secluded spot in a park, so be it. We need this time with God, our Father, as much as we need food or water, and honestly, many of us are slowly dying of hunger and dehydration. Let’s stop making excuses, and give God the very best of our lives, time, and resources, instead of the leftovers.

As Michael Catt says in his study, Refresh: The Road to Revival, “What we bring to God is a reflection of what we think of Him.” What are our lives reflecting?

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness

for His Name’s sake.

~ Psalm 23:1-3, ESV

How desperate are we…really?

Monday nights we host a Bible study at our local Starbucks. It’s a nine-week study on Michael Catt’s Refresh, which focuses on three areas of our spiritual journey: desperation, surrender, and persistence. So far, we’ve only been focusing on what it means to be desperate.

The power of desperation is something the world cannot comprehend. In a world where strength is lauded, we see that broken people have unexpected power with God. ~Michael Catt, Refresh

Tonight, as we finished up and I began making my way home, I started thinking about Psalm 119. I think it’s the longest psalm, so I’ll just highlight some of the verses that came to mind…

  • Oh, how I love your instructions! I think about them all day long (verse 27, NLT).
  • How sweet your words taste to me; they are sweeter than honey (verse 103, NLT).
  • Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path (verse 105, NLT).
  • Your laws are wonderful. No wonder I obey them (verse 129, NLT)!
  • I pant with expectation, longing for your commands (verse 131, NLT).
  • I rejoice in your word like one who discovers a great treasure (verse 162, NLT).

If you’ve read this chapter, you know that the author is talking about the Word of God; the Law of the Old Testament. But it got me thinking, is this how we feel about the Word of God? Do we pant with expectation and longing for the Word? Do we rejoice as we study the Word, as if we’ve found a great treasure in every verse read? Are we excited by it? Are we desperate for it?

The Word of God is how we get to know God, intimately. It’s how we learn His character, how we learn to understand His heart, and it’s through His Word that we are challenged and transformed into His image. If we claim to be desperate for God, but won’t open a Bible, then are we really desperate for Him? If we claim to be desperate for Him but won’t turn off our television or computer, or we won’t put down our cell phones long enough to spend quality time with Him, then are we really desperate for Him?

Some may be thinking, “But I just can’t. I can’t find the time. I can’t understand the Word. I can’t get excited about the Bible.” These are excuses. I believe that we use the word can’t way too liberally. The word can’t states an impossibility; that we’re mentally or physically incapable of learning, studying, reading, praying. That’s obviously not the case if you’re reading this. The truth is, anything we truly WANT to do, we’ll make time for. We have the freedom to choose how we spend our time–yes, the Holy Spirit can, and often does, prompt us–but we, alone, are responsible for our choices. We can choose to study the Bible. We can choose to spend time in prayer, and ask God to give us a hunger for His Word and to help us understand it. We can choose to worship Him and show Him how truly thankful we are for His grace and mercy. We can choose to be obedient and allow Him to direct our paths and write our story. But we can also make the choice not to. The question is do we really want to?

Desperation for God comes when we recognize that we’re nothing without Him; for without Him we have no hope, no future, no purpose. Desperation for God comes when our heart is overwhelmed and overflowing with gratitude for all He’s done, all He’s doing, and all He’s promised to do! When we’re truly desperate to know God, to have fellowship with Him in an intimate way, we’re not going to let anything come between us and Him. We’re not going to give Him the leftovers of our day, we’re going to give Him the first fruits! We’re not going to find time for Him, we’re going to schedule time for Him; because otherwise all the other things in our busy lives will push Him out.

So, I ask again…how desperate are we…really?