#SundaySong 2/8/2015 – Our Dwelling Place: Psalm 84

Woo-hooooo!!  It’s #SundaySong time again!  And I can’t even hold back my excitement on this leg of the journey, because today we’re going to reflect on one of my FAVORITE songs on Centered:  “Our Dwelling Place: Psalm 84.”

I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that it was written and arranged by my favorite man aside from Jesus–my dear, hard-working, fun-loving, joke-cracking, meat-and-potatoes-eating husband, Aaron D. Johnson. My Chocolate Prince Charming and my one and only true love.

(*insert butterflies here*)

(By the way, Doxa‘s debut album is now available via all digital outlets, including iTunesAmazon, and Google Play.)

Lyrics
Unlike the first two songs, this one doesn’t have a traditional English hymn structure or melody.  Still, its simple basic structure (verse, pre-chorus, chorus) is accessible for people who aren’t professional musicians.  The words are also helpful for Scripture memory, since the lyrics were extracted from the text of Psalm 84.  Understanding that the whole Bible speaks about Jesus (Luke 24:13-35) also helps us celebrate and enjoy Him as we sing the chorus’ pinnacle:  “Oh, how lovely is Your dwelling place, O Lord! / Jesus is our Dwelling Place, O Lord!”

Music
“Our Dwelling Place” has a simple melody–great for memorization, like our other songs.  If you haven’t heard it yet, I don’t want to give away too much–especially since it’s my favorite song on the album (and not just because I married the songwriter).  It’s really a surprise hidden gem.

In our gatherings
We actually haven’t sung this in our corporate gatherings in a while, but we would typically end our opening set with a song like this…that placement gives us some freedom for responding to the Lord and staying in the flow of what God might do in culminating that phase of worship through song.

How it speaks to me
I love the journey that this song takes me on. It moves progressively from quiet anticipation to jubilant exaltation! I’m reminded of Psalm 90, where Moses writes that God has been “our dwelling place throughout all generations.” And I’m encouraged to find my rest, shelter, protection, refuge, etc., in the Lord.

How it can speak to you
Here are a few questions to reflect on as you listen to “Our Dwelling Place: Psalm 84” today:

  1. What does your soul yearn for at the deepest level?
  2. What is encumbering your press to spend time with the Lord? (Examples: busyness; don’t know how to get into the Word or have a devotional life with God; preoccupied with other less important things; imbalance between time with others & time with God, etc.)
  3. I asked this in my last two #SundaySong posts:  Are you living each day with a living hope (1 Peter 1:3) in Jesus’ return?  If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, how does knowing that you’ll spend eternity with God frame how you cultivate your relationship with Him now?

By God’s grace, Centered was released on Friday 1/30/2015…and in a week’s time, debuted at #18 on Billboard’s gospel albums chart! 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.

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#SundaySong 2/1/2015

It’s time for the #SundaySong!  We will continue our trek through Centered, Doxa‘s debut album (available for preorder on iTunes and Amazon) with “Our Treasure Is Christ.”

Lyrics
There are 4 verses of this modern-day hymn, and again, the structural/theological concepts in each stanza help with memorization.  The first verse is a call to worship God for His great character and works.  Verse two celebrates the humility of Christ in His incarnation.  In verse three, we declare the purpose of the priesthood of believers.  The final verse welcomes the return of Christ.   Between each verse is a repeated refrain that echoes the text of Psalm 16:11:  “At His right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  And the chorus is the welcome and necessary reminder that Jesus alone is to be our chief satisfaction, joy, and delight.

Music
“Our Treasure Is Christ” has a simple and hymnic melody–great for memorization, just like “You Alone Are God.”  The harmonies and background music both incorporate elements of gospel and jazz.  It’s mid-tempo, but has a moveable pulse.

In our gatherings
Because of its hymnic form, this song can be joyful to sing for people who are “musically challenged” (see my last post). We typically use this at the start of our corporate gatherings as a call to worship to direct our thoughts heavenward–the distractions are many from the car to the building where the church gathers!

How it speaks to me
My favorite verse of the song is the final one, which mentions Christ’s return and our freedom from both the presence and the power of sin.  It’s so easy to get “lost in the sauce” of life:  family responsibilities, errands, leadership, discipleship, miscommunication, physical challenges…I could go on.  I don’t know about you, but I need to remember that Jesus’ return is sure and imminent!  I need the hope of being with Jesus in eternity to anchor me while I live in the hustle and bustle of the here-and-now.  That’s the “woooo-saaaaah” that my soul needs!

How it can speak to you
Here are a few questions to reflect on as you listen to “Our Treasure Is Christ” today:

  1. We all fight idolatry in our hearts.  If you are honest with God and yourself, in what things are you seeking your soul’s deepest satisfaction, joy, and delight? (examples:  your spouse/future hope for a spouse, stability/comfort, food, physical fitness/appearance, social status, family relationships, etc.)
  2. Are you gathering regularly with a local church body to worship God?  Why or why not?  Are you doing it out of duty or out of delight?
  3. I asked this in my last #SundaySong post:  Are you living each day with a living hope (1 Peter 1:3) in Jesus’ return?  Also, what does the surety of Jesus’ second coming awaken in you:  hope and comfort and rest?  Or fear and doubt and worry?

By God’s grace, Centered was released on Friday 1/30/2015. We can’t wait for you to hear it!  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 1/25/2015

Whoopsies–I’m a day late with the #SundaySong!  We will kick off our trek through the track listing of Centered, Doxa‘s debut album (available for preorder on iTunes and Amazon) with a look at the intro & “You Alone Are God.”

Lyrics
There are 5 verses of the song–it’s bit long, but the concepts in each stanza are helpful for memorizing them.  The first verse describes the eternality, immutability, and Triune nature of the Godhead.  Verse two hints at the creation and fall of man.  In verse three, we sing about the incarnation of Jesus.  Verse four celebrates the personal conversion of believers.  And the fifth verse explodes in worshipful commitment to walk with Jesus in obedience and faith from now through eternity.   Each verse ends with a statement affirming God’s character:  unique, all-powerful, holy, and faithful.

Music
“You Alone Are God” uses a call-and-response format, a method of singing common to the African-American slave tradition. The melody is simple and hymnic.  The background music incorporates elements of gospel (the organ!), big band (the horns!), and rock (the guitar!).  It’s mid-tempo, but the head-nodding pulse of it lends a great energy.

In our gatherings
Because of the hymnic melody and call-and-response format, this is a great song for people who are “musically challenged”–i.e., for whom picking up melodies and/or rhythms doesn’t come as naturally as it does for some others.  When I lead, I’m conscious (especially in the first 1-2 verses) of teaching the melody and rhythm to people who aren’t familiar with it (e.g., visitors & occasional attenders).  We typically use this at the start of our corporate gatherings (a call to worship) or before the sermon.  Both placements help direct our minds and affections to the Lord in preparation for later elements in the liturgy (including and especially our discipleship in the Word).

How it speaks to me
My favorite verses of “You Alone Are God” are the last two, because they call me to remember the regenerating work of Christ in my life and to renew my commitment to walking in submission to His Word and His will.

How it can speak to you
I love the idea that music can be used didactically.  I hope that individuals and families will play this song and discuss the rich theological ideas in the lyrics.  Most of all, I hope those ideas move us from head knowledge to heart application!

  1. What does it mean for you to know that God is eternal?  Does that change your focus on the time-bound challenges you encounter?
  2. How does the incarnate ministry of Jesus Christ impact your life today?  How is God compelling you to love and model a particular aspect of Jesus’ character in obedience to the Father?
  3. What aspect of God’s character can you celebrate right now?  His faithfulness?  Holiness?  Might?  Uniqueness?  Transcendence?  Immanence?
  4. In what way can you joyfully and volitionally submit to God’s Word and will?
  5. Are you living each day with a living hope (1 Peter 1:3) for Jesus’ return?

By God’s grace, Centered will be released on Friday 1/30/2015. We can’t wait for you to hear it!  Leave a comment below and let me know what you think about the song, how God is using it in your life, etc.

#SundaySong 1/18/2015

For me, the best thing about winter is not the cold. It’s the comfort of warmth in the midst of the chill.

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Familiar songs, hymns, and spiritual songs are electric blankets, cups of hot tea with honey, bowls of piping hot soup–comforting our souls with the truth that the cold will not envelop us forever.

I was reminded of a song like this during a prayer and Bible study conference call this morning. The teachers began their discussion of Philippians 1:21 with a reading of the hymn, “Jesus Is All the World to Me.”

If we are honest–even those of us who have walked with the Lord for years–we know there are areas of our lives where Jesus is not all the world to us. For us, “To live is ______, and to die is ______.” We can fill in the blanks with our greatest loves and fears.

But singing this lifts my heart and reminds me of real life. Knowing Jesus. Experiencing the depths and heights of friendship with Him. Both now, and eternally.

I hope you will sing to the Lord this morning! May the Lord fill your heart so richly that when you gather with other Christians, the overflow of your personal worship through song spills over into the gathering!

Lyrics:

Jesus is all the world to me,
My life, my joy, my all;
He is my strength from day to day,
Without Him I would fall.
When I am sad, to Him I go,
No other one can cheer me so;
When I am sad, He makes me glad,
He’s my Friend.

Jesus is all the world to me,
My Friend in trials sore;
I go to Him for blessings, and
He gives them o’er and o’er.
He sends the sunshine and the rain,
He sends the harvest’s golden grain;
Sunshine and rain, harvest of grain,
He’s my Friend.

Jesus is all the world to me,
And true to Him I’ll be;
Oh, how could I this Friend deny,
When He’s so true to me?
Following Him I know I’m right,
He watches o’er me day and night;
Following Him by day and night,
He’s my Friend.

Jesus is all the world to me,
I want no better Friend;
I trust Him now, I’ll trust Him when
Life’s fleeting days shall end.
Beautiful life with such a Friend,
Beautiful life that has no end;
Eternal life, eternal joy,
He’s my Friend.

What song is warming your heart today? Please comment below…I want to sing with you!