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» Worship Values: Worship Must Be Gospel Centered

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[ We've been working on rewriting our mission and also creating a series of "values" about worship that will communicate our vision for what worship should be all about. While those aren't completely finalized, I think it will be helpful to share some thoughts about each value in a series of short posts. ]

What kind of worship do we want to cultivate? First: Gospel Centered

I know that the term "gospel centered" or "cross centered" is definitely a current buzz-word, but I can think of no clearer way to succinctly communicate this foundational value. I use the word gospel here as a shorthand for the story of God's grace shown to undeserving sinners through the substitutionary death of His Son. The gospel is not simply a story about events, but rather it is a story about who Jesus is and what He has done. So to say that worship is "gospel centered" means that the central aim of Christian worship is to celebrate and cherish Jesus.

Another way to put this is to say that worship is in and for Jesus. It is in Jesus because His... (continue reading...)

» Why We Publish Simple Recordings

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Some of you who regularly visit Reformed Praise and listen to our songs might wonder why many of our songs have such crude recordings, especially compared to other publishing companies or performing artists who write or share worship songs. I thought it would be helpful to offer an apology for why we choose to publish such simple audio tracks for our songs, especially if they sometimes disappoint your sonic pallet.

If you step back and survey all of the worship songs being published or shared today, you'll really only find two publishing models. Even though I run the risk of conjuring up stylistic associations with these terms, I'm going to use the words "contemporary" and "traditional" to describe the two publishing models.

The traditional model has been around for hundreds of years: it relies largely on written music such as piano scores, hymnals, or choral music to share and distribute songs. I have worked with Hope Publishing Company and got to interview them about their business and they assured me that this method of influencing the church and getting songs out is alive and well. Hope still publishes many, many hymnals. For... (continue reading...)

» A Sermon on the Incarnation

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I had the privilege of preaching this sermon to my local church family on Sunday, December 19th, 2010. While it is not related specifically to worship or music, it does tie nicely to one of our songs, My Precious Savior Gave His All, a song about how Jesus humbled Himself for our sakes.

The Mystery of the Incarnation
Philippians 2:6-8

The Farmer and the Sparrows
One raw winter night a farmer heard an irregular thumping sound against his kitchen storm door. He went to a window and watched as tiny, shivering sparrows, attracted to the evident warmth inside, beat in vain against the glass. Touched, the farmer bundled up and trudged through fresh snow to open the barn door for the struggling birds. He turned on the lights and tossed some hay in the corner. But the sparrows, which had scattered in all directions when he emerged from the house, hid in the darkness, afraid.

The man tried various tactics to get them into the barn. He laid down a trail of Saltine cracker crumbs to direct them. He tried circling behind the birds to drive them to the barn.... (continue reading...)

» Hymn for the Thanksgiving Table

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I'd like to call your attention to a hymn text that's buried in our site and encourage you to give it a try this Thanksgiving with your family. One of our family traditions is to sing this one-stanza hymn together before meals in addition to praying. If you aren't familiar with the hymn tune it may seem strange at first, but I promise that it can be learned by even very small children. At dinner tonight I had the pleasure of watching my just-turned-3 year old sing all of the words. May we, amidst the joy and pleasure of our Thanksgiving meals, be looking to our "living" bread, Jesus, for true and lasting joy and pleasure.

Heav'nly Father, Grant Your Blessing

Heavínly Father, grant Your blessing
On the food before us spread.
All our tongues are now confessing:
By Your hand alone weíre fed.
Never let us be forgetting:
Jesus is our Living Bread.

» Worship: The Christian's Purpose, Privilege and Pleasure

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I had the privilege of preaching this sermon to my local church family on Sunday, November 14th, 2010

Have you ever kept a journal of how you spend your time? It can be a very eye-opening experience. I did a little bit of research this week into how Americans spend their time and the results were pretty surprising. According to the 2009 American Time Use Survey, the average person age 15 and over spent 8.7 hours sleeping, 1.2 hours eating, 1.8 hours doing housework, 3.5 hours at their job or other work, and 5.3 hours enjoying leisure activities. TV viewing garnered the lion's share of those 5.3 hours of leisure with the average American watching almost 3 hours a day. Nestled into the leisure category was the amount of time people spent doing religious activities or volunteering: a whopping 9 minutes each.

I was also curious about how Americans spend their money. According to the 2009 Consumer Expenditure Survey, the average household spent 34% on shelter, 13% on food, 16% on transportation, 6% on healthcare, 5% on leisure, and a whopping 1.4% of gross income giving to churches of all faiths.... (continue reading...)

» What the Bible Has to Say About Singing, Part 7

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Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. - Colossians 3:16 (NASB)

Colossians 3:16 instructs us about congregational singing in at least 7 ways.

The CAUSE and COROLLARY of our singing is Godís Word
Godís Word should be the CONTENT of our singing
Singing is a COMMUNITY activity
Singing is a COMMAND
There are a variety of CATEGORIES of congregational songs
The CORE of singing is the heart attitude behind it
» The CULMINATION of singing must be Godís glory


The culmination of singing must be Godís glory
"singing ... to God"

The last phrase of our verse is of foundational importance. We are instructed to teach and admonish one another by singing together to God. Does this mean that all of our songs must be addressed to God in the second person, taking this instructional to literally influence the grammar of our song lyrics? If that were the case, the Psalms themselves would not measure up. The person of the Psalms is varied: sometimes the... (continue reading...)

» Indelible Grace Documentary

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Our friends and fellow hymn tune updaters, Indelible Grace Music, are making a documentary about their movement and music, and Reformed Praise is proud to support their project. You can pre-order the DVD, which includes video footage or their recent hymn-sing at the Ryman theater and interviews with songwriters, by supporting the project. It will make a wonderful Christmas gift. Here's their informational video:

» What the Bible Has to Say About Singing, Part 6

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Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. - Colossians 3:16 (NASB)

Colossians 3:16 instructs us about congregational singing in at least 7 ways.

The CAUSE and COROLLARY of our singing is Godís Word
Godís Word should be the CONTENT of our singing
Singing is a COMMUNITY activity
Singing is a COMMAND
There are a variety of CATEGORIES of congregational songs
» The CORE of singing is the heart attitude behind it
The CULMINATION of singing must be Godís glory


The core of singing is the heart attitude behind it
"singing with thankfulness in your hearts"

Now that we're at lesson six of seven, let's take a step back and remind ourselves of what God cares most about when it comes to our songs and congregational singing. It is all too easy for us to operate on the assumption that God is more pleased with us when we choose "good" songs, demonstrating our thoughtfulness and grasp of the theology of worship, and execute them with creativity and musicianship. ... (continue reading...)

» Guitar Chords for Though I Was Born an Orphan

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This Sunday is being celebrated as "Orphan Sunday" by many churches, following the lead of the Christian Alliance for Orphans who started calling on churches to recognize such a day in 2009. We wrote a modern hymn called Though I Was Born an Orphan to address the theme of adoption and the mandate to care for orphans and to give the church a congregational song about this important topic. To help musicians learn and perform this song with their local churches, we have added a guitar chord chart (for use with a capo) to make playing along with (or instead of) a piano easier. Just head on over to the song's official post and look for the chord chart on the right-hand side of the page.

May God strengthen our love and propel us to greater care for orphans this Sunday, and year-round.

» Suggestions for Reformation Sunday

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This coming Sunday, October 31st, is celebrated as "Reformation Sunday" by many protestant churches. This is a day when we take time to acknowledge and give gratitude to God for the sacrifices made and doctrine defended during the 15th and 16th centuries in Europe. If you've never publicly acknowledged the Reformation during a worship service, let me make two suggestions. The first one is simple: use hymns from Martin Luther. His famous hymn A Mighty Fortress Is Our God has been called the battle hymn of the reformation and includes several of the biblical principles that Luther fought to return to the church. Another popular hymn text from Martin Luther is From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee. I set an alternate English translation into a more traditional sounding tune in the song By Grace Alone. Indelible Grace also has a contemporary tune for this hymn.

The second suggestion is to use the service liturgy to rehearse the biblical principles that the reformers taught and defended. I can't remember where I got this idea and some of the liturgy text, but it may have been from my friend Ron... (continue reading...)


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