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Another Plug?


Last year, in their October "Best of the Best 2008" issue, Worship Leader Magazine listed Reform worship. as one of "Three Great Worship Websites." While that was much too generous of them, in this month's "Best of the Best 2009" issue, they plugged us yet again, not as one of the "best" blogs, which is kind of a relief, but by putting in their "Worship Leader Forum" a short email I sent the editor last month. The email was simply an abbreviated version of my blog entry, "How Worshiping God Is Possible," in which I expressed how happy I am with WL Mag for running last month's cover article "The Mediation of Christ in Worship." They must have felt that my encouragement to them was worth sharing with everyone. I would have totally overlooked this had not my buddy Micah pointed it out to me. Click here to see my message to the editor as it appears on page 8 of this month's issue. Thanks, Worship Leader Magazine! Here is what it says:

Regarding Robb Redman's article "The Mediation of Christ in Worship" being front and center in the recent issue, thank you, thank you, thank you! I can't tell you how encouraged I am to see the contemporary worship conversation moving in this direction. This is, IMHO, the most important truth for worship leaders and all Christians to understand if we are going to see a renewal of true worship in the Church today.

Gratefully,
Ryan Flanigan
reformworship.com

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Vintage Worship: Take My Life


This is the second installment of what I'm calling Vintage Worship (here is the first one). It starts with researching an old hymn, looking into the life of the composer, the inspiration and story behind the hymn. Then, in worship I present my discovery to the church. We sing the hymn (usually a contemporary version) and pair it with newer songs of similar themes. The idea is to give worshipers a sense of connectedness to the rich history of the church.

I've shared in a previous post the prelude to Frances Havergal's Book of poetry called The Ministry Of Song. I love her poetry and have looked high and low for a copy of this book. (Big prize for anyone who finds it for me.) She is probably best known for her hymn "Take My Life." Havergal wrote the song on February 4, 1874. Here is the story of the hymn in her own words:

I went for a little visit of five days [to Areley House, Worcestershire, in December 1873]. There were ten persons in the house, some unconverted and long prayed for, some converted but not rejoicing Christians. [God] gave me the prayer, "Lord, give me all this house." And He just did! Before I left the house, everyone had got a blessing. The last night of my visit...I was too happy to sleep and passed most of the night in praise and renewal of my own consecration, and these little couplets formed themselves and chimed in my heart, one after another, till they finished with "Ever, only, all, for Thee."

In years following, Frances pondered the words, "Take my voice and let me sing always, only, for my King." She felt she should give up her secular concerts, despite the demand of her beautiful voice, having frequently sung with the Philharmonic. But from that moment, her lips were exclusively devoted to the songs of the Lord.

Her prayer, “Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold,” was lived out, as Havergal explains in a letter to a friend in August 1878.

The Lord has shown me another little step, and, of course, I have taken it with extreme delight. “Take my silver and my gold” now means shipping off all my ornaments to the church Missionary House, including a jewel cabinet that is really fit for a countess, where all will be accepted and disposed of for me... Nearly fifty articles are being packed up. I don’t think I ever packed a box with such pleasure!

The music traditionally used for the hymn was written by Cesar Malan years prior in 1823. The version I use in worship is a modified version of the one arranged by Passion. Here is the poem in its entirety:

Take my life and let it be
consecrated, Lord, to thee.
Take my moments and my days;
let them flow in endless praise,
let them flow in endless praise.

Take my hands and let them move
at the impulse of thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
swift and beautiful for thee,
swift and beautiful for thee.

Take my voice and let me sing
always, only, for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
filled with messages from thee,
filled with messages from thee.

Take my silver and my gold;
not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
every power as thou shalt choose,
every power as thou shalt choose.

Take my will and make it thine;
it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart it is thine own;
it shall be thy royal throne,
it shall be thy royal throne.

Take my love; my Lord, I pour
at thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be
ever, only, all for thee,
ever, only, all for thee.

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Matt Maher: Life-Changing New Album 1


I don't highly recommend too many albums. They have to come into my life at just the right time, meaning, the creativity and content offered by the artist and producer must resonate deeply with what the Spirit is doing in me. Sometimes I don't "get" what the artist is presenting when I first listen to it, and only later (sometimes years later) am I in the place spiritually where I can truly take it in. Or sometimes the art itself opens my eyes to something beautiful that I would not have otherwise seen. And sometimes the art is really bad, and I have nothing to glean from it and never will. Note that I don't listen to a lot of music, let alone entire albums straight through.

That said, there have been two albums this year that have transformed my life. I have already mentioned one, The Now and Not Yet by Jeremy Riddle. The other has only been in my soul for a week, and I am already a new man.

All I knew of Matt Maher before picking up his new album was that he is a Roman Catholic and that he wrote "Your Grace Is Enough," a song of which our church has had enough. I knew that Chris Tomlin had popularized it and took off the ever-necessary prepositional phrase "of Jacob" from the verses. Then my good friend Micah posted about Maher's new album, so I had a listen. I was impressed enough by the iTunes snippets that I purchased it. And boy am I glad I did!

Matt Maher has a heart like David's. He knows what it means to "dwell in the house of the Lord," and not only that, but it's obvious he personally and regularly experiences the presence of the Lord, gazing upon His beauty and being held in His arms. He is one satisfied dude. This is what I want, and this is what God is beginning to unfold in my life. Matt is helping me.

At the risk of losing some of you, I will end this post here. However, I will review the album in a second post and take a third post to expound upon how this work of art is changing my life. For now, I highly recommend purchasing this record and letting it begin its work in your heart.

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Pure Spiritual Milk


We see throughout the New Testament Paul, Peter, and others exhorting the followers of Jesus not to go after the desires of the flesh. Paul says we sought our satisfaction from the things of this world back when we were dead in our sins (Eph. 2:1-3). Peter says those passions of the flesh wage war against our soul (1 Pet. 2:11), and instead we should long for pure spiritual milk - if we have tasted that the Lord is good (1 Pet. 2:3).

Why do I follow and feast on the sugar-coated crap of this world? There is no nourishment in it. It actually shrivels up my soul and kills it. Instead I stuff myself so full of worldly entertainment, pleasure, and all kinds of idolatry that I have no appetite when I turn my eyes upon Jesus.

I have a five month old son. He drinks milk. When he is hungry, he lets us know, and we feed him. If we weren't to feed him, he would scream and cry until he got some of the goods. I hate to think of this, but if we weren't to feed him at all, he would soon get sick, weak, and... And if we were to feed him anything other than the milk he needs, the same thing would happen.

What Peter is saying is that we are to cry out to God like newborn infants who are hungry, and God will feed us with his goodness. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good. He wants to feed us. He delights to draw near and care for his children. A true child, to continue the nursing metaphor, will latch on to his mother when he is hungry. He won't push her away. Are we seeking God, or pushing him away? Are we crying out to him for pure spiritual milk, the only substance that can satisfy our souls? If not, that is definitely an indicator that we are finding fulfillment elsewhere.

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The Zenith of Worship Leading


A little over two years ago my wife and I were faced with a pretty big decision. I had just finished seminary and was working full-time at a hospital and part-time as a local church worship leader. We were a couple months into being new parents, and I was antsy about getting my career rolling in full-time ministry. The problem was, I had conflicting aspirations, or so I thought. How much of my time and energy would I put into my songwriting career, and what percentage would I put into local church worship ministry? We sought the Lord and his will for our life, and we felt pretty certain he wanted us to pour 100% of ourselves into the life of a local church. So we began the search for a church. As it turned out, River Valley found us, and we have been serving here wholeheartedly for almost two years now.

A few weeks ago I had the joy of attending Vineyard Music's Worship Leader Retreat in Asheville, NC. Absolutely incredible! So many old friends, so many new friends, the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the art of Asheville, late nights at Hannah Flanagan's, sweet encounters with God, deep spiritual encouragement, and on and on. But one thing that has stuck with me the most is what Terry Butler said to us during one of our evening sessions. He quoted Matt Redman saying, "The zenith of worship leading is the local church." It didn't strike me as anything profound immediately, but as I mulled it over with my retreat small group, on the long ride home with Josh, and personally over the past few weeks, it has become monumental.

Since I probably can't re-write it any better, here is what I wrote to my small group guys in an email reflecting upon our time at the retreat, particularly the Redman quote:

"The zenith (highest point) of worship leading is the local church." It shakes me and comforts me to know I've reached the top. The local church is IT. We've made it, guys. It doesn't get any higher than this. We don't have to strive ambitiously to reach any other goal. It's all about the people God has called us to in our communities. If anything is to come of our worship leading, songwriting, or anything else that might bring recognition or increased influence, it will come out of what the Spirit of God is doing through us in our local churches.

I am so thankful that God put it on my wife's heart and mine to give all we have to the local church. I believe he has honored that decision tremendously, and I'm thankful that he has confirmed it once again.

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Living and Lasting Word


Living and lasting Word,
conceiving the souls of mortal men
with seed that cannot die:
Produce in us the same pure love for one another
and for those in whose hearts
you have not yet been planted;
by the Spirit's growth and the Father's selection
for your increase, O Good News. Amen.

(A prayer from 1 Peter 1:22-25)

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