#SundaySong 3/8/2015 – Oh the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus

It’s #SundaySong time–even though my SundaySong post has crept into the wee hours of Monday morning!  LOL!

In today’s stroll through Centered, let’s take a look at “Oh the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus.”

(Shameless plug: Doxa‘s live debut album is available now via all digital outlets, including iTunesAmazon, and Google Play.)

This is a traditional English hymn that my husband Aaron Johnson reimagined for our context at Epiphany Fellowship.  The lyrics were written by Samuel Trevor Francis, a bivocational minister who once contemplated suicide on a bridge over the Thames River–but God met him there in his deepest despair.  That short historical note gives this song so much meaning.  Just imagine–what if the author thought back to that moment when he wrote this song?  Rather than focusing on his deep despair in that moment of contemplation, what if God gave him deep waters as a word picture to describe His vast love for him at the point of his deepest need?  Mercy!!

Introducing an English hymn to a varied urban context like ours means making artistic choices that include considering who’s attending our gatherings, as well as who we would like to attend.  While our context is not comprised solely of African-Americans, a large number of our attendees and residents of the surrounding neighborhood are.

I think the minor feel of this song speaks to the history of African-Americans.  Much (not all, but much) of Black history is steeped in injustice, tragedy, suffering, loss, grief, etc., and those stories simply can’t be fully communicated and experienced with major scales.  By the same token, African-Americans have experienced joy in the midst of pain, and we have tasted hope and victory in the midst of adversity.

We need both the black keys and the white keys as a robust musical palette to paint the spectrum of our human experience.  And in a song with hopeful, heavenward lyrics like this one, isn’t it good to experience the promise of the major chords in the midst of the minor ones?

I think Aaron’s arrangement captures a great perplexity and breadth of the human experience.  He kept the original melody and gives it a rich bed of harmonies to relax in.  The accompaniment includes piano (with jazz flavor by Brett Kinard) and organ (common in African-American church contexts, like the ones in which my husband learned to play), as well as guitar (with a rock edge by Harry Wilson).  And the horns?  Even more ear candy.

In our gatherings
As are most hymns, “Oh the Deep” has a simple, easy-to-learn melody that makes it a great fit for corporate worship at Epiphany Fellowship.  We might place this song in the middle of our opening set–it is mid-tempo, but has enough movement to keep the momentum from the first song going (always a mid-to-up-tempo selection).  And the mood set with the lyrics and arrangement are a great setup (both theologically and artistically) for wherever we land with the final song in the set list.

I am always thinking of ways to communicate the love of God through Jesus Christ to believers and unbelievers.  Depending on the flow of songs on a given day, I might introduce this song by pointing to our depravity to show the depth of our need for God’s love.  And I might end the song by exhorting us to consider the expression of love in Jesus’ death in our place on the cross, to bask in and celebrate God’s great love for us (in light of our depravity), and to share that love with others using both our lives and our words.

How it speaks to me
I am called to a life of love, yet all my attempts at loving are marred by my brokenness.  I need the love of God to dictate and direct my affections so that a Godward focus allows me to love people as He loves them–as He would if He were in my body.

I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless, I live; and the life I now live, I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me (Gal. 2:20, loosely quoted).

The essence of my loving well is completely wrapped up in my identifying with Jesus’ death for me, allowing the Holy Spirit to apply Jesus’ death and life to me, and sharing that love with everyone I encounter.

How it can speak to you

Let’s worship the Lord as we consider a few ideas from “Oh the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus” and apply them to our lives:

  1. Do you think of Jesus’ love as big, broad, deep, vast?  Do you see His love as being for you?  for you?  Or do you feel like you aren’t a candidate for that love, maybe because something you’ve done (or are doing) that isn’t pleasing to God?  Confess. Repent. Embrace the love of God!
  2. How can you “spread his praise from shore to shore” in practical ways?  Is there someone in your sphere of influence with whom you can share the good news about Jesus?  How is God raising you up to be a goer and/or a sender in local, national, and international missions?  Pray for an open door  (Colossians 4:2-6) to share the gospel with someone this week.  And pray that God would clarify the role He’s calling you to participate in  for the spread of Christ’s fame in missions.
  3. Are there other loves in your life that is attempting to compete with Jesus for your nearest and dearest affection?  What are they, and what are you willing and able to do to put these lesser loves in their rightful place?

Centered was released on 1/30/2015, by God’s grace.  Thanks so much to everyone who has already supported the project and spread the word to others!

Leave a comment below and let me know what you think about the album or about today’s #SundaySong, how God is using it in your life, etc.


#SundaySong 3/1/2015 – Hosanna

It’s #SundaySong time!!

In today’s leg of our walk through Centered, I’d like us to consider “Hosanna,” the single from the album.

(Quick plug: Doxa‘s live debut album is available now via all digital outlets, including iTunesAmazon, and Google Play.)

The original version of this song had only a verse and chorus, but additional lyrics were written to expound on the character of God.  The original verse speaks of God’s holiness, power, and might.  The second, of His eternality, immutability, Triune nature, wisdom, and truth.  Verse three hits hard with the sovereignty, righteousness, jealousy (for His own glory), and justice of God, as well as His wrath.  The final verse articulates that God is gracious, patient, faithful, kind, and loving.  These attributes aren’t exhaustive by any means, but they begin to paint a beautiful picture of how God has revealed Himself in Scripture.

The title of the song comes from the chorus:

Hosanna!  Hosanna in the highest!

But what does the word hosanna mean?  It’s not a term that made it into everyday English discourse, is it?  This Desiring God article gives a great summary of the way the word morphed in meaning over the years, as well as how we can embrace it in our own life of worship!

I absolutely LOVE the flute intro by Drew Zaremba–what a light and airy feel it brings to the song!  It makes me feel like I’m on a summer cruise to a tropical island!  (Lord, hear my cry in these single-digit temperatures and negative double-digit windchills!)  The horn arrangements by my husband Aaron Johnson and fellow servant-leader Brian Kilpatrick are a full, bright complement to the low-end of the rhythm section.  And the musical breaks at the end? #dead and #done!

In our gatherings
We go *in* for this song at Epiphany Fellowship gatherings.  We might place this one at the end of our opening set as well, just to give us some room to marinate as needed.  I love how the Holy Spirit will move us during corporate worship to respond to God’s character and works.  He will bring conviction of sin, freedom from sin’s bondage and the enemy’s condemnation, and celebration of the redeeming work of Christ in all of creation–particularly in our own hearts.

How it speaks to me
I need to consider God’s attributes, both the ones He shares with His creation and the ones that belong to Him alone.  I need to remember that I am not God, and that He is.  I need to submit my will to His.  I need Him!

His eternality > my temporality

His power is perfected in my weakness

His holiness & righteousness > my feeble, tainted self-righteousness

His justice > my self-vindication

His perfect love casts out fear

…and so on, and so forth.

When I get lost in the sauce of Me, Myself, and I, I need to be reminded of who He is…not simply as a counterpoint to my waywardness, but simply because GOD IS.

How it can speak to you
Here are a few points of reflection as “Hosanna” points you to worship the Lord today:

  1. Are there any aspects of God’s character in the song that you are unfamiliar or less familiar with?  Take some study tools–concordance, Bible dictionary, English dictionary, etc.–and look up one of them.  Ask a friend to let you borrow a study resource if you don’t have your own, or check one out from the library.  Share your findings with your mentor, discipler, or ministry leader/pastor.
  2. Read the article on Desiring God’s website about the word “hosanna.”  At what times in your life have you used each meaning?  How can you personally embrace it now?  Who in your circle of influence needs to know the Lord in that way?  Pray for an open door  (Colossians 4:2-6) to share the good news with him/her.

Centered was released on 1/30/2015, by God’s grace.  Thanks so much to everyone who has already supported the project and spread the word to others!

Leave a comment below and let me know what you think about the album or about today’s #SundaySong, how God is using it in your life, etc.