Every Song our Church Sang in 2022

I believe it was Gordon Fee who said something like this: “Show me a church’s songs and I’ll show you their theology.” Most churches have a doctrinal statement, but what does your selection of songs say about your theology?

In 2021, I was listening to the “Sound + Doctrine” Podcast, featuring Bob Kauflin and David Zimmer from Sovereign Grace Music, which is a wonderful resource for any church musician and music leader. Bob Kauflin recommended for music/worship pastors to keep a list of every song that your church sings, whether in an Excel file, Word doc, Google Doc, or something else. I decided to do this in 2022, and I must say, this is one of the most helpful tips for music planning. So, if you’re a music leader in a church, or if you’re simply looking for a good variety of “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” to have in your church, take a look at this full year of song lists. Enjoy!

*Note: You may notice that occasionally we will repeat a song 3-4 weeks in a row. That’s when we are teaching a new song to the congregation (the first week), and then learning it together for another 2 or 3 weeks. After that, we try to take a rest from the song for variety’s sake.

1/2/221/9/221/16/221/23/221/30/222/6/222/13/222/20/222/27/223/6/223/13/223/20/223/27/224/3/224/10/224/17/224/23/225/1/225/8/225/15/225/22/225/29/226/5/226/12/226/19/226/26/227/3/227/10/227/17/227/24/227/31/228/7/228/14/228/21/228/28/229/4/229/11/229/18/229/25/2210/2/2210/9/2210/16/2210/23/2210/30/2211/6/2211/13/2211/20/2211/27/2212/4/2212/11/2212/18/2212/24/2212/25/22
O Great GodI Sing the Mighty Power of God**Snow day/Online**Joyful, Joyful We Adore TheeTrust & ObeyEncounterAll Hail the Power of Jesus’ NameSend the LightBrethren, We Have Met to WorshipO, For a Thousand Tongues to SingStand Up for JesusGuide Me O Thou Great JehovahCome Thou FountPraise Ye the Lord, the AlmightyBlessed Be the Name*Easter Services*Are You Washed in the Blood?Holy, Holy, HolyTo God Be the GloryO Worship the KingCrown Him with Many CrownsAnd Can it BeBehold Our GodCome Thou FountMy Faith Has Found a Resting PlaceRedeemedMy Country ‘Tis of TheeI Sing the Mighty Power of GodOh How I Love JesusAll Hail the Power of Jesus’ NamePraise Ye the Lord, the AlmightyCome Praise and GlorifyAll Creatures of Our God and KingImmortal, Invisible GodCome Praise and GlorifyThere is a FountainRedeemedGrace Greater Than Our SinI Sing the Mighty Power of GodCome, Christians, Join to SingCome Thou FountWe Will GlorifyPraise Ye the Lord, the AlmightySend the LightAcross the LandsAnd Can it BeBlessed AssuranceO Great GodO Come, All Ye FaithfulO Come, O Come EmmanuelCome, Thou Long Expected JesusO Come O Come EmmanuelO Come All Ye Faithful
Immortal, InvisibleHow Great is Our God (Tomlin)Victory in Jesus*Creation SingsSeek Ye FirstRevivalBy FaithAcross the LandsWorthy of WorshipHis Mercy is MoreBy FaithHow Great is Our God (Wild’s)He Will Hold Me FastMy Worth is Not in What I OwnBe Unto Your Name**Sunrise Service**His Robes For MineOnly a Holy GodOnly a Holy GodOnly a Holy GodOnly a Holy GodOnly a Holy GodBlessed Be the NameJesus is BetterBy FaithThere is a RedeemerCrown Him with Many CrownsO Great GodPower of the CrossAcross the LandsWorthy of WorshipO For a Thousand TonguesCome Praise and GlorifyCome Praise and GlorifyO Worship the KingHis Mercy is MoreThere is a RedeemerThe Gospel SongPower in the BloodO Church AriseJesus Thank You/O Praise the NameAll Hail the Power of Jesus’ NameCome Praise and GlorifyFor the Sake of His NameI Love to Tell the StoryHow Deep the Father’s LoveO Praise the NameWorthy of WorshipHark! The Herald Angels SingAdvent HymnOur God With UsThe First NoelAngels We Have Heard on High
The Solid RockO Lord, My Rock & My RedeemerHow Great is Our God*O Lord, My Rock & My RedeemerA Shelter in a Time of StormTeamPower in the BloodRescue the PerishingLead Me to CalvaryLike a River GloriousHe Will Hold Me FastI Am Thine, O LordHoly, Holy, HolyAt the CrossIt Was Finished Upon That CrossChrist the Lord is Risen TodayJesus SavesImmortal InvisibleBlessed AssuranceHow Firm a FoundationSavior, Like a Shepherd Lead UsO God Our Help in Ages PastMy Worth is Not in What I OwnBe Thou My VisionHow Deep the Father’s LoveGuide Me, O Thou Great JehovahWonderful, Merciful SaviorBlessed Be the NameI Run to ChristI Run to ChristThe Solid RockJesus Paid it AllCreation SingsHow Great is Our God (Wild’s)Behold Our GodThe Cleansing WaveJesus SavesOur Great SaviorPower of the CrossSavior, Like a Shepherd Lead UsBe Thou My VisionWonderful Merciful SaviorThe Lord Almighty ReignsThe Lord Almighty ReignsThe Lord Almighty ReignsMy Savior’s LoveThe Goodness of GodThe Solid RockWhat Child is This?Bethlehem SkiesO Little Town of BethlehemEmmanuelAway in a Manger
O Lord, My Rock & My RedeemerBe Thou My VisionLiving Hope*Tis So Sweet to Trust in JesusAs the Deer*no songs*Power of the CrossFor the Sake of His NameMy Jesus, FairHe Will Hold Me FastNearer, My God, to TheeHe Will Hold Me FastGod, the Uncreated OneIt Was Finished Upon That CrossHow Firm a FoundationNothing But the BloodAcross the LandsWonderful Merciful SaviorIn Christ AloneSpeak, O LordYet Not I But Through Christ in MeAncient of DaysTo God Be the GloryAll I Have is ChristAlmighty FatherO Lord, My Rock and My RedeemerI Run to ChristWe Will GlorifyTis So Sweet to Trust in JesusTake My Life and Let it BeI Run to ChristIn Christ AloneLiving HopeGreat is Thy FaithfulnessOnly a Holy GodMy Worth is Not in What I OwnAcross the LandsThe Christian’s Hidden LifeThe Christian’s Hidden LifeThe Christian’s Hidden LifeIn Christ AloneLiving HopeHallelujah, What a Savior!Seek Ye First I Surrender AllThe Love of GodThe Lord Almighty ReignsTrust and ObeyOur God With UsOur God With UsThe First NoelOur God With UsPrepare Him Room
O Church Arise


I Surrender All
Jesus, Thank YouI Will GoThe Precious BloodHoly Spirit (acoustic special)
In Christ AloneTake My Life and Let it BeAll I Have is ChristYet Not I But Through Christ in MeCome People of the Risen KingI Have Decided to Follow JesusHow Great is Our GodMore Precious Than Silver
I Love You, LordJesus, Thank You
Search Me, O GodVictory in Jesus (vs. 1 only)He Will Hold Me FastJust As I Am (I Come Broken)He is ExaltedHis Robes for Mine
Yet Not I But Through Christ in MeComplete in Thee
Come Praise and GlorifyNothing But the BloodAmazing GraceAll I Have is ChristJesus, Thank YouYet Not I But Through Christ in Me

Nearer, My God, to Thee


Here is LoveO Lord, My Rock and My RedeemerI Have Decided to Follow JesusStand Up for JesusMessiahSilent NightSilent Night








Wonderful, Merciful Savior





**Morning Service**

























*pm service*


How Firm a Foundation

How Low Was Our Redeemer Brought











*pm service*


*pm service*
There is a Redeemer (kids)






*pm service*






*pm service*









How Great is Our God (Tomlin)


Thank You, Lord

Holy Child










Behold Our God (w/ Holy, Holy, Holy)


Wonderful, Merciful Savior
Mercy Tree






Praise Him! Praise Him!






Redeemed









I Will Wait for You





Hark! Ther Herald Angels Sing










I Need Thee Every Hour


Crown Him With Many Crowns
Man of Sorrows






All I Have is Christ






O Praise the Name









Immortal, Invisible





Here With Us










Before the Throne of God Above


Ancient of Days
The Solid Rock






Great is Thy Faithfulness






Jesus, Thank You









He Will Hold Me Fast





He Shall Reign Forevermore














Doxology
Christ Our Hope in Life and Death

























Doxology





Joy to the World
















It Was Finished Upon That Cross
































Prepare Him Room
















Jesus Paid it All


















































Complete in Thee


















































Because He Lives (Amen)


















































Hail the Day That Christ Arose


















































Thank You Jesus for the Blood




































John 3:16

I doubt that there is a more famous verse from the Bible than John 3:16. Even for those that have never stepped into a church building before, they have probably seen someone holding up a large sign at a football game with this Bible reference or have passed a billboard by the side of a highway with “John 3:16” posted in an enormous font. Despite not being anywhere near the shortest verse in the Bible, it’s typically one of the first verses kids learn in children’s programs. I’ve even heard kids hold contests to see who can say this verse the fastest!

Probably the main reason John 3:16 is so well-versed (pardon the pun) is that it’s one of the best single-verse summaries of the gospel message in the Bible. It has explanation (what God has done) and an invitation (believe in Him).

And while we should absolutely, 100% keep instilling the memorization of John 3:16, one of the hidden “dangers” of familiarity is that sometimes we gloss over what is right in front of us. And while John 3:16 is a very familiar verse, there’s quite a lot to unpack from it, and perhaps there are even some features in the verse that have gone unnoticed. Let’s take a look at it.

The background to the verse includes how Nicodemus came to Jesus at night to speak with Him privately. Jesus reveals to this Pharisee that a man must be born again in order to see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). Jesus compares the Old Testament example of the Israelites looking to Moses’ serpent in the wilderness. And then we get to verse 16, which begins, “For God so loved the world.”

We usually think of the word “so” to mean “very.” For example, you might say, “I love ice cream, it’s so good.” But the word here for “so” in John 3:16 could actually be translated “in this way.” Therefore, we could render the first phrase, “For God loved the world in this way.”

What was the way in which He showed love to the world? “That he gave his only begotten Son.” The Father gave us His Son as “an expression of generosity.” And specifically, the Father gave His “only begotten” Son. This refers to the uniqueness of Christ, that He is the “one and only” Son of God, unparalleled by anyone else.

“That whosoever believeth in him should not perish” can also be rendered, “in order that the believing ones in Him shall not perish.” What does it mean to “perish” though? It can mean to die, but it can also mean to be lost or destroyed. Biblically speaking, those who die outside of Christ (instead of believing “in Him”) suffer the “second death,” an eternity lost and separated from God (Revelation 20:6). Jesus also says in John 10:28 that those who have eternal life will “never perish.” And here as well, the final words to John 3:16 include, “but have everlasting life.”

Jesus clearly defines what He means by everlasting/eternal life. It’s not simply a matter of quantity (though it includes that); it’s even about quality of one’s spiritual life: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). Knowing God is eternal life. This isn’t just a promise about “life after death”; this is a promise about right now.

It’s easy to hear or read John 3:16 for the five hundredth or one thousandth time and completely overlook the gravity of what is said in this amazing verse. For God loved the world in this way: that He gave His one and only (unique/unparalleled) Son, so that the believing ones in Him shall not perish (or be lost/destroyed), but have everlasting life (which is knowing God now and for eternity).

Take some time to consider the weight of these words today and enjoy John 3:16 anew.

Review of the Legacy Standard Bible

We do not have a shortage of English translations of the Bible. This is a wonderful reality to English-readers, as many languages do not have the full Bible, and plenty of others still have nothing translated. New English translations are not necessarily always good either (see here for a critique of the Passion Translation). However, I was very much intrigued when I first heard about the Legacy Standard Bible. (for the LSB on Logos Bible Software, get it here)

Essentially the foundation that housed the rights to the New American Standard Bible (NASB) had formed an agreement with “Three Sixteen Publishing” and “The John MacArthur Charitable Trust” to allow for a new translation that would essentially follow in the footsteps of the NASB as an intentionally literal translation from the original languages. Meanwhile, this all took place while the NASB 2020 retained that familiar name but had plenty of updates itself from the 1995 edition, particularly in areas of gender renderings. Basically, then, we stand at a crossroads from the stream of the NASB’s history and future: the NASB 2020 (for a more “modern” approach to Bible translation, which I frankly don’t like since it places a greater priority on modern audience preferences) or the LSB (for a more historical approach).

Now, a third option, of course, is just to ignore the NASB 2020 and LSB and stick with the NASB 1995 version (or any other preferred translation like the ESV, CSB, NKJV, etc.). And while that option would still very much allow the reader plenty of great translation choices, I would suggest that giving the LSB a try is worth considering.

Why the LSB is Recommended

First of all, as advertised, it is a very literal, word-for-word translation of the Bible. Now, as one of my professors in Bible college said, “Every translation is an interpretation.” And the LSB is obviously no different. Translators have to make hard decisions, no matter how many textual notes they add. And while I do enjoy reading from some of the more “dynamic equivalent” (thought-for-thought) translations, I find that the more literal translations tend to be more reliable for discerning textual decisions. So, if you want a trustworthy translation from the original languages (and by that, I mean that they strived to be faithful to the original intent of the author), then the LSB really is one of the best translations on the market for that. NASB fans (from the 1995 edition) will find the LSB to be rather similar in its literal renderings.

There are also a couple of unique decisions that the LSB has made in this translation as well. When the Hebrew name for God (YHWH, the “tetragrammaton”), the LSB has decided to consistently translate this, “Yahweh,” reminding the readers of the specific name used in a given text. Now, many other English translation do the same, but with the all capital letters, “LORD.” But I’ve found that the name “Yahweh” really causes me to remember exactly the name used from the Hebrew text more so when I see the translation, “LORD.” Another semi-controversial decision regards the Greek word doulos. For a further treatment of this subject, which the Master’s University & Seminary professors has used here in the LSB, see John MacArthur’s book, Slave. MacArthur is the Chancellor at the school, and no doubt had some influence on the rendering of doulos to be “slave” rather than “servant” or “bondservant.” Once again, this decision might not suit everyone, but when I read the text and see “slave,” it does remind me that the word here is doulos (even if there are some potential caveats and lexical debates to be had in the background).

The final thing of note is the most surprising thing to me about the LSB: it’s a genuinely beautiful translation. I had a good idea coming into reading from it that the text would be a pretty literal translation from the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. However, it also reads remarkably well. Here’s an example from Philippians 4:10-14:

“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived thinking about me; indeed, you were thinking about me before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in abundance; in any and all things I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Nevertheless, you have done well to fellowship with me in my affliction.”

Or take this example from Psalm 4:1-3:

“Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Be gracious to me and hear my prayer. O sons of men, how long will my glory become a reproach? How long will you love what is worthless and seek falsehood? Selah. But know that Yahweh has set apart the holy one for Himself; Yahweh hears when I call to Him.”

As you may be able to tell (Greek and Hebrew readers out there), this is very faithful to the original languages. But I personally find it aesthetically quite pleasing as well. Perhaps it’s the syntax and some of the updated renderings from the NASB 1995 edition (or maybe I just like the translation choices over others), but overall I find that it’s a smooth read. Take a look at this comparison from the NASB 1995 with the LSB, for example:

Clearly, these differences are minor, but I think they are “just enough” to take a very literal translation (NASB 1995) and make it smoother (LSB), all while staying faithful to the original Greek (in this example). The biggest difference comes in vs. 5, which has to do with a translation choice for the word, tropos (character vs. way [of life]).

One Critique

If there is one critique, I would have to say that it has nothing to do with the translation, but the formatting. I’m using Logos Bible Software to read the LSB, which is an amazing function since I have all my links right there at the click of a button (in the screenshot, I did turn off the footnote indicators as a way to see the text with less busyness). There is a bolded verse where paragraph changes are indicated, but it would be a nice way to view the text in a paragraph style rather than verse-by-verse. On the flip side, having the layout as verse-by-verse makes it extremely helpful for preaching and teaching.

Conclusion

All in all, I wasn’t sure if I would truly love the LSB before purchasing it. But after reading several passages this past week since it first became available on Logos Bible Software, I’m definitely on board with it. Time will tell if this becomes my #1 preferred translation–it’s certainly possible–but for now I would say that the LSB is worth checking out for yourself.

Tears for Food (Psalm 42)

Many of us are probably familiar with the line from Psalm 42 describing how the deer pants after water, and so also do we thirst for God. That’s a vivid image of what it looks like to desire God and find satisfaction in Him. But that psalm quickly turns to distress. Psalm 42:3 says, “My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?” We know those words are true in the first two verses—that God satisfies us like water satisfies the deer in the wilderness. So, why does the opposite seem to happen here in verse 3? Instead of being satisfied with the “living water” (see also John 4:10), believers can often feel like tears from our eyes are the only substance that we are consuming. 

The word used here for “meat” is the Hebrew word “lechem,” which is often rendered “bread” (the city of Bethlehem is the “City of Bread,” or beth-lechem in Hebrew). This is what we take in for survival and nourishment. We need “lechem.” Sadly, the psalmist is saying that the only product he’s been consuming is his own tears. And notice that this diet is going on “day and night.” Meanwhile, his own tears are asking him, “Where is your God?” This diet isn’t truly nourishing. You might even say his own body is fighting against him to trust in God.

But it’s not just his tears that are asking him the question, “Where is your God?” His own enemies come to him, questioning where his God is (Psalm 42:10). The psalmist even starts to believe some of this. He asks in verse 9, “I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me?” 

There’s a deep struggle here. But finally, there’s a resolution to this diet of tears and constant questioning. The questioning turns away from targeting God to asking himself, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me?” (Psalm 42:11). The idea of being “cast down” can also mean to melt or dissolve. Perhaps even to be in turmoil. We certainly sense that about the psalmist’s soul. Then he says to himself, “Hope thou in God.” In Hebrew, to hope means to “wait.” It’s a confident state of being, knowing that God is present, despite the accusations of his own tears and of the mockery of his enemies. After all, God is the “health of my countenance,” literally meaning He is the “salvation of my face.”

Most Christians know what it’s like to have days of panting after God and finding satisfaction. But we also are familiar with the anguish of when pressures in life make it easy to be led to the streams of tears of our unfettered emotions instead of waiting on the living waters to ease our restless souls. Our true “lechem,” the Bread of Life (John 6:35), is the Good Shepherd that leads us beside the still waters (Psalm 23:2). We just need to ask our souls, “Why are you cast down?” And then remind ourselves to “hope in God.” 

The 10 Best Modern Hymn-writers

One of the fascinating (and very encouraging) trends of the modern American church is the resurgence of the hymns for worship music. Sometimes these hymns are played in a similar format to earlier generations, other times they are freshened up some to a more contemporary sound, but whatever the case, biblically-rich hymns are not going away. At the same time, many of those responsible for the revitalization of classic hymns are also writing some excellent new hymns. But who are these people? Actually, a Google search won’t provide too many clear results. That’s why I’d like to share my list of the 10 best modern hymn-writers.

A few caveats are in order to begin, however.

First, there is some level of subjectivity in this list. I do try to shy away from making this a popularity contest, but a major criterion for choosing whomever in this list has to do with influence.

Second, I tried to distinguish hymn-writer from general songwriter. There are some very talented songwriters that I love, such as Andrew Peterson or Phil Wickham, and while they have written some incredible hymns (see Peterson’s “Is He Worthy” or Wickham’s “Hymn of Heaven”), a large portion of their writings are a little broad in style. I tend to view “hymns” as songs that are designed for corporate worship that are purposefully singable (to all generations), thus, they usually avoid syncopated rhythms and informal lyrics.

Third, you will have to forgive me for a lack of consistency in distinguishing collective groups from individual artists. There’s a lot of overlap in this, and I actually that’s a good thing. It tends to hedge against the desire for platforming. More than anything, I just hope that this list will provide churches with resources for incorporating new songs to their music repertoire.

Finally, here is the list:

10) Aaron Keyes

Probably among the lesser known in the list here, I actually have enjoyed songs by Aaron Keyes for several years. However, he has been quite influential in songwriting and worship leading training. In 2007, he co-wrote “Psalm 62 (My Soul Finds Rest)” with Stuart Townend. More recently, he helped write one of my favorite modern hymns: “God The Uncreated One (King Forevermore).” It was also interesting to read his chapter on worship leading and discipleship in Doxology and Theology (ed. by Matt Boswell), and see how he has trained young men to lead worship as a means of discipleship. See his website for more information on how he has continued in his discipleship ministry, as well as other resources.

9) Joyful Noise

This collective, Joyful Noise, is by far the most recent group that I’ve discovered (through my wife’s recommendations on Spotify, I should add). Based in the UK, this group has put together several songs in the last couple of years. I wouldn’t be surprised if we start to see more from this group as they are gifted in composing beautiful and biblically-rich hymns that tend to be easy for congregational singing. For fans of CityAlight (a group below on this list), you will find some similarities in how they write music, in my opinion.

8) Matt Redman

I almost didn’t include Redman on this list, not because of a lack of talent or influence (he has both), but because some of his music is more of a modern worship music style. However, he has an impressive array of modern hymns as well, so I did include him after all. “10,000 Reasons” would easily fall into the hymn category. He teamed up not too long ago with songwriters from the Getty Music team (Matt Boswell and Matt Papa) to write “Lovingkindness.” Several others are sort of a blend between modern worship song and hymn, so I would say that some traditional churches may struggle with singing other songs from Redman, but most would gladly benefit from singing “The Heart of Worship” or some others from him.

7) Chris Anderson

This hymn-writer is probably more well known in traditional church music circles, though church of all musical styles would benefit from checking into what Chris Anderson has written. My favorite hymns from Anderson are “His Robes for Mine,” “My Jesus, Fair,” and “I Run to Christ.” But he has a whole growing collection to see here. Also highly recommended is Chris Anderson’s book, Theology That Sticks: The Life-Changing Power of Exceptional Hymns. He has a tremendously helpful grid for choosing the very best songs for corporate worship, plus several other practical ministry tips.

6) Indelible Grace Music

Kevin Twit is essentially the ministry mastermind behind Indelible Grace. It was birthed from a group of college students to whom he served as a campus minister. Twit realized that many of these 19 to 20-something year olds really gravitated towards the rich theology of old hymns, some of which aren’t even well known. There are multiple artists that have written music with Indelible Grace, perhaps most notably Matthew Smith, Sandra McCracken, and Matthew Perryman Jones. I first discovered one of their CD’s (their first album) at a New Jersey record store several years ago, and I’ve seen their music get some more traction since then. One caveat is that while their music has wonderfully rich theology, their style of music is very eclectic and largely written as a ministry to young people (though now their original audience is aging millennials). Some predominately traditional churches might have a harder time adjusting to some of the songs. But their process of taking old (sometimes forgotten) hymns and reviving them for a new generation has had a big influence on me.

5) Sovereign Grace Music

There are so many resources of note from Sovereign Grace Music. Their website has so many songs with an unbelievable amount of free resources. This is the group that put together “Behold Our God,” “All I Have is Christ,” “O Great God,” and “Jesus, Thank You.” Their rich theology is matched with singable melodies. They curated a list of songs (some of their own, some in public domain) by themes, which is very helpful for selecting songs for corporate worship (click here). Also, I highly recommend their podcast, Sound + Doctrine.

4) The “Matts”: Matt Boswell, Matt Papa, and Matt Merker

This is probably the most questionable combination for just one of the ten on this list. These three “Matts” have served in local churches for many years, but in the last several years they’ve also partnered with the Getty Music team for writing some of the best songs in the last several decades. Here’s a brief list: “His Mercy is More,” “Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery,” “Christ Our Hope in Life and Death,” and “He Will Hold Me Fast.” Not all three worked on all these songs, but altogether these three (with the Getty Music team) have so richly blessed the Church with robust theological hymns that are singable and memorable.

3) CityAlight

I was so excited to hear CityAlight share several of their songs live at the Sing! Conference in 2022. This is a collective group from Australia (not to be confused with Hillsong) that has written several instantly singable hymns in the last few years. One of the writers remarked that one of the critiques of their songwriting is that they could be “more…interesting.” But their retort is that they would rather have songs that sound 300 years out of date than 3 years out of date. They’re writing very simple songs (melody-wise), but the lyrics are biblically faithful and theologically instructive. If you’re less familiar with CityAlight, you need to check out “Yet Not I But Through Christ in Me,” “Only a Holy God,” and “Ancient of Days” right away.

2) Stuart Townend

One of the veterans in this list, Stuart Townend co-wrote what is probably the greatest hymn of the last century, “In Christ Alone.” Another modern classic is “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.” He’s written multiple others of similar unparalleled substance with Keith Getty, including “O Church Arise,” “Speak O Lord,” “Behold the Lamb,” and “The Power of the Cross.” Our church sings these and many others that Townend authored.

1) Keith & Kristyn Getty

Thom Rainer recently said the following about the Gettys: “The influence of Keith and Kristyn Getty is clear and profound in introducing hymns to a new generation.” Any church musician, worship leader, or pastor would be richly blessed by attending the yearly Sing! Conference in Nashville, TN, hosted by the Getty Music team. I don’t think there’s anyone even close as being most influential for reviving hymnody than Keith and Kristyn Getty. Multiple songs listed above were co-written with one or both of Gettys. “My Worth is Not in What I Own” is a personal favorite among their newer releases. See this link for more of their treasure trove of resources.

That concludes the list of the 10 best modern hymn-writers. Please share any suggestions for other great modern hymn-writers in the comments!

The Emptying of Christ

When my family took a nearly 7-hour drive on Tuesday, we were just 20 minutes away from our hotel in Florence, Kentucky (which is nicely located at about 20 minutes from the Creation Museum and 30 minutes from the Ark) but ran into some traffic. This wasn’t just a matter of slow-moving vehicles; we were virtually at a standstill for over a half an hour. At first, I didn’t think much of it, but I realized we were at about 1/8 of a tank of gas—normally no problem since Florence has gas stations all over the place. But the car kept running while we could’ve walked at a higher speed. Finally, things were moving again and we just made it in time to a gas station to fill up.

In the book of Philippians, there’s an amazing passage that describes the “emptying” of Jesus Christ. Philippians 2:6-8 says, “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” That phrase, “made himself of no reputation” is simply from one Greek word. One resource renders this word as meaning “to completely remove or eliminate elements of high status or rank by eliminating all privileges or prerogatives associated with such status or rank” (BDAG). Or more simply, “to empty oneself, to divest oneself of position.” I think that latter definition really gets the point across from Philippians 2. Jesus, fully human and fully divine, put aside His privileges as being very God of very God, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. He could have readily come to earth and demanded us all bow down in allegiance (indeed, see verse 10 on that matter). But instead of coming down to earth in splendor and glory, He condescended to us as a servant.

Notice also the use of the word “form” in verses 6 and 7. This is from the Greek word “morphe.” This can mean that Jesus took on the nature and status of a servant. As God, He possessed all prestige and honor imaginable. When He took on the form of a servant, He didn’t lose His deity in any way. He simply put aside those privileges so that He could display the most righteous act of humility possible, with the example of Him voluntarily giving Himself up for us on the cross as the capstone.

This really is a mind-blowing passage of Scripture. The God of the universe didn’t just put on flesh to be adorned as a king; He became as the lowest of the low on par with being a slave (that’s probably a more appropriate rendering of “servant” in verse 7). And while we might have a headache trying to think about how Jesus’ “emptying” involved “addition” (becoming a man), the key point from the Apostle Paul is found in verse 5: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” What kind of mindset? The humility of a slave. 

Theologians call this the “kenosis” passage. There are countless articles and chapters of books devoted to this very issue. But the main point is simply that we as Christians would think and serve like Christ did. 

As you go about your day, keep these words at the forefront of your mind: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”

How to Take Sermon Notes in Logos Bible Software

Logos Bible Software has been in the news very recently with its recent upgrades to Logos 10. You can click here for a link for 10% off of various Logos packages, plus 5 free books when you make that purchase. While I would like to follow suit in upgrading soon, for now I wanted to share some insights on making the most out of Logos Bible Software (no matter if you’re in Logos 9 or 10). Recently, in an online Logos group on Facebook, I shared about a hoped for feature, which many others shared in a similar sentiment: taking sermon notes in Logos.

Now, this isn’t to be confused with the Sermon Builder feature–these are not the sermon notes that the pastors takes on stage to preach a message. What I’m talking about is how to use Logos while sitting in the pews (or chairs…depending on the church building). And I don’t mean acting as a live fact-checker either, parsing every Greek and Hebrew verb as the pastor carefully proceeds to the next point with your looks of disagreement as you sift through your dozens of resources at your fingertips.

What I have in mind is using Logos for taking down notes from your pastor’s (or special speaker’s) sermons. Many Logos users are senior pastors who take in the bulk of the preaching, but there are many like me who serve in an associate pastor role (or some other ministry, whether paid staff or otherwise) that would like to use Logos as a way to dig deep into the sermon and also record notes for future consideration.

This is a little harder with topical messages, but for expository sermons that largely stay within one main passage, using the Notes tool can be a great resource.

Take a look at the passage, Colossians 4:2-6. This message has a note anchored to it (not just verse 2).

In Notes, you can stick with the traditional yellow card-like icon, but if you want to distinguish your many notes from one another–especially if you solely use one icon for taking your sermon notes from your pastor–then something like this green icon that looks like a cartoon quotation box might be a good fit.

As you listen, you can certainly take a look at your Logos resources, but as your pastor shares the outline, you can follow with proceedings points. You can add in special quotes if you want, and I would suggest that if there’s a key point (a thesis to the message) to add that at the top. See below:

While perhaps Logos Bible Software will create a special sermon note tool in the future, for now, it might be worth starting a practice of taking sermon notes in a fashion similar to what I’ve recommended above.

Please share any comments for recommendations, fellow Logos users!

Disclaimer: The link above for the 10% off Logos packages was made possible through my partnership with Logos as an affiliate.

Book Review: “Theology That Sticks: The Life-Changing Power of Exceptional Hymns” by Chris Anderson

Order a copy on Amazon.com here

Chris Anderson’s suggestion for music pastors/song leaders/worship leaders (there’s quite a spread for what designates the person who leads a given church’s ministry of music) is quite simple: identify great hymns and then sing them. The church is saturated with plenty of Christian songs right now, and while some are less than desirable, many of them are good–but not all of them are “great.” And thus, while Anderson’s advice is incredible straightforward–identify great hymns and then sing them–it also provokes some follow up questions, especially in how to determine what is properly understood to be a “great” hymn. That’s why a bulk of the book takes readers through a grid, which I find to be tremendously helpful.

The first grid (New Testament focused) encourages churches to sing songs that are biblical, doctrinal, “Christian,” Trinitarian, congregational, and unifying. And the second grid surveys themes from the Psalms: sing songs that are inspired, diverse, emotive, experiential, beautiful, and doxological. Not every song will fit every single category, of course. But if a song is selected that fails to meet any of these grid filters, then there’s a good chance that such a song can be left alone.

“Theology That Sticks” is one of the best books I’ve read on music ministry in the local church. Anderson writes with quite a bit of humor, wit, clarity, and theological conviction–but of course, showing much grace to fellow believers who might come from a different theological stripe. This is not a “worship wars” book that uncritically lifts up classic hymns while eschewing any contemporary songs written since the fall of the Soviet Union. But it’s certainly not a “get with the program” and “let’s sing the radio hits” book either. Anderson proposes a very responsible approach that can help both contemporary and traditional churches alike to choose not just good songs to sing for corporate worship, but the very best songs. And then he also offers plenty of extra resources in his appendices, which makes this book almost a 2-for-1 deal, matching doctrinal convictions with practical wisdom from Anderson’s many years of experience.

Disclaimer: I received “Theology That Sticks” as a media review copy from the publisher. All opinions were my own.

Book Review: “Ruth: A Guide to Reading Biblical Hebrew” by Adam J. Howell

The book of Ruth is a beautiful book of the Bible. I’m not necessarily referring to all the romantic elements that are so often highlighted (and sometimes superimposed on the text). The beauty is found in the meaning of the text itself, which can be most vividly exegeted when studying it from the original language of Hebrew. I am personally working through writing a Bible study curriculum on the book of Ruth, and a glaring weakness I discovered in the field of biblical studies was in finding a real robust study of the book of Ruth based on the original language. But that is no longer the case. Adam Howel’s “Ruth: A Guide to Reading Biblical Hebrew” is an excellent contribution worth considering for those in pastoral ministry, linguistics, seminary, and lovers of Scripture (with an intermediate handle of biblical Hebrew). For Logos Bible Software users, here’s a link for purchasing that in a matter of seconds. (note: I am a Logos affiliate partner)

This is not the kind of book you would necessarily read quickly or for relaxation–“Ruth” is indeed a “guide” or walkthrough of sorts through every word of this brief Old Testament book. Howell clearly explains all that is happening with the Hebrew text, parsing verbs with precision, but also adds some wonderful exegetical insights. These exegetical gems are worth the price of admission and then some. It is basically like having a seminary professor sitting next to you and pointing out the many nuances of the biblical Hebrew found in Ruth.

The one “drawback” is mostly in regards to accessibility and sales. It really is essential that the reader knows some biblical Hebrew. Merely memorizing the alphabet won’t do in this case. You certainly don’t need to be an expert, but it would probably be overwhelming to people with just one semester of Hebrew under their belts. Because of this, there is a bit of a limit as to whom would benefit from this book. But for those with even a lower end of intermediate handle of Hebrew, the value of this book is well beyond the price tag.

Academics would certainly benefit from Howell’s guide to Ruth. Seminary professors could quite readily use this book as a resource to teach through this wonderful book. But pastors should not overlook this as merely academic exercise. Pastors would be wise to use exegetically-rich books like Howell’s to learn the Scripture for themselves and then be able to minister to others most effectively. The well is deep, but the guidance offers a sturdy hand. I would heartily recommend Howell’s book on Ruth.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for media review. I am sharing this review freely without any compulsion.

Outline of the Book of Ruth

  • Introduction to the Story (1:1-5)
    • Context:
      • During the days of the judges (1:1)
      • During a famine in Bethlehem (1:1)
    • Characters:
      • Elimelech and his wife, Naomi (1:2)
      • Sons, Mahlon and Chilion, who were Ephrathites (1:2)
    • Transition: The Family Moves to Moab (1:2)
    • Crisis: Elimelech Dies (1:3)
    • Naomi and Elimelech’s Sons:
      • They marry the Moabittes, Orpah and Ruth (1:4)
      • Mahlon and Chilion die after being in Moab for about ten years (1:5)
  • Naomi’s Return to Her Homeland (1:6-22)
    • Naomi’s Decisions:
      • Naomi plans to return to Bethlehem upon good news of God’s blessing to His people of providing food for them again (1:6)
      • Naomi and her daughters-in-law head to Judah (1:7)
      • Naomi encourages her daughters-in-law to return to Moab (1:8)
      • Naomi wishes God’s blessings on her daughters-in-law (1:8)
      • Naomi hopes that her daughters-in-law will find rest (1:9)
      • Naomi kisses and weeps with her daughters-in-law (1:9)
    • Ruth and Orpah’s Decisions:
      • They pledge to return with Naomi to her people (1:10)
      • Naomi’s first set responses:
        1. Naomi urges them to turn back (1:11)
        2. Naomi rhetorically asks if she has more sons in her womb for them to marry (1:11)
        3. Naomi urges them to turn back once again (1:12)
        4. Naomi reasons that she is too old to have a husband (1:12)
        5. Naomi hypothetically questions that even if she had a brand new husband, would they wait until her new sons for them were grown (1:12-13)
        6. Naomi concedes that she has a bitter life and that the LORD’S hand is against her (1:13)
      • Differing reactions from the daughters-in-law:
        1. Both lift up their voices and weep (1:14)
        2. Orpah kisses Naomi (1:14)
        3. Ruth clings to Naomi (1:14)
      • Naomi’s second set of responses:
        1. Naomi tells Ruth that Orpah has returned to her people and her gods (1:15)
        2. Naomi tells Ruth to follow her sister-in-law (1:15)
      • Ruth’s follow-up:
        1. Ruth asks that she not be told to turn away from Naomi (1:16)
        2. Ruth pledges to go where Naomi goes and stay where Naomi stays (1:16)
        3. Ruth declares that Naomi’s people will become her people (1:16)
        4. Ruth desires Naomi’s God to become her own God (1:16)
        5. Ruth wishes to die where Naomi will die, and then be buried in the same place (1:17)
        6. Ruth swears to these promises, and welcomes curses from the LORD if she lets anything separate them (1:17)
      • Naomi’s final responses:
        1. Naomi saw Ruth’s resolve and stopped trying to convince Ruth otherwise (1:18)
        2. Naomi and Ruth arrive at Bethlehem (1:19)
    • Naomi and Ruth’s Welcome:
      • The people’s reactions:
        1. Their return sparked a surprised response (1:19)
        2. The women question if the returning lady was indeed Naomi (1:19)
      • Naomi’s response:
        1. Naomi questions calling her Naomi (1:20)
          1. Naomi asks that she be called “Mara” (1:20)
          2. Naomi explains that her name is representative of how God has allegedly dealt “bitterly” with her (1:20)
          3. Naomi shares how she left Bethlehem full, but the LORD has brought her back empty (1:21)
        2. Naomi questions again about calling her Naomi (1:21)
          1. Naomi testifies that God has brought calamity upon her (1:21)
      • Summary of the context:
        1. Naomi and Ruth returned from Moab (1:22)
        2. They came to Bethlehem when the barley harvest started (1:22)
  • III. Ruth Encounters Boaz (2:1-16)
    • Introduction to the Context for the Next Episode 
      • Naomi’s relative is described: (2:1)
        1. He was a man of powerful wealth
        2. He was from the clan of Elimelech
      • Naomi’s relative is identified: Boaz
    • Ruth Sets Out to Obtain Grain 
      • Ruth asks to glean for grain in the fields (2:2)
      • Naomi allows her daughter-in-law to go (2:2)
      • Ruth goes to glean and ends up in the field of Boaz (2:3)
    • Boaz Discovers Ruth 
      • Boaz comes on the scene, blessing the reapers, and they do the same to him (2:4)
      • Boaz inquires about Ruth from a young man in charge of the reapers (2:5)
      • The man tells Boaz that she is a young Moabite woman who came with Naomi (2:6)
      • Ruth’s request to glean is communicated to Boaz (2:7)
      • Ruth is described as gleaning since early morning, only resting in the house a little (2:7)
    • Boaz and Ruth Meet
      • Boaz initiates the conversation:
        1. Boaz tells Ruth not to glean in other fields, but to stay near the other young women in this field (2:8-9)
        2. Boaz also says that he has demanded the young men not to touch her (2:9)
        3. Boaz likewise invites Ruth to drink from the vessels the young men have filled when she is thirsty (2:9)
      • Ruth responds to Boaz by falling on her face to the ground, asking Boaz why she—a foreigner—has found favor in his sight? (2:10)
      • Boaz answers Ruth:
        1. Boaz reveals that he has heard what Ruth has done for Naomi since her husband’s death (2:11)
        2. Boaz recalls how Ruth left her father, mother, and native land to come to an unfamiliar people (2:11)
        3. Boaz wishes the LORD’s favor and reward upon Ruth for her decisions (2:12)
        4. Boaz describes Ruth’s obedience as her coming under the “wings” of the God of Israel, in whom she has taken refuge (2:12)
      • Ruth responds to Boaz a second time:
        1. Ruth acknowledges that she has found favor in Boaz’s sight (2:13)
        2. Ruth explains that Boaz has comforted her by his kindness, despite not being his servant (2:13)
    • Boaz Continues in His Kindness to Ruth
      • During a meal, Boaz invites Ruth to eat bread and dip some in the wine (2:14)
      • Ruth is granted privileges of sitting beside the reapers, received roasted grain, and eating to her full satisfaction, even with leftovers (2:14)
      • When Ruth gleaned more, Boaz allowed her to glean among the sheaves, warning the young men, not shaming her (2:15)
      • Additionally, the young men were to intentionally leave out bundles of grain for Ruth, not rebuking her (2:16)
    • Ruth Returns to Naomi
      • The aftermath of the workday is described:
        1. Ruth gleaned until the evening (2:17)
        2. Ruth’s final count was an “ephah” of barley (2:17)
      • Ruth returned to the city to Naomi (2:18)
      • Naomi sees all that Ruth gleaned (2:18)
      • Ruth gives the leftover food to Naomi (2:18)
      • Naomi asks Ruth about where she gleaned (2:19)
      • Naomi blesses the man who took care of her (2:19)
      • Ruth identifies the man as Boaz (2:19)
      • Naomi responds to this identification:
        1. Naomi wishes the LORD’s blessings upon Boaz (2:20)
        2. Naomi acknowledges that the LORD’s kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead (2:20)
        3. Naomi reveals that Boaz is a close relative, even a redeemer (2:20)
      • Ruth follows up to Naomi’s comments by sharing Boaz’s affirmations of allowing her to stay close to the young men while she harvested (2:21)
      • Naomi reiterates that it is wise for Ruth to stay close to the other young women in Boaz’s field, lest she be attacked in another field (2:22)
      • The conclusion to this episode:
        1. Ruth listened to Naomi’s instruction from vs. 22 (2:23)
        2. Ruth continued to glean through the end of the barley and wheat harvests (2:23)
        3. Ruth lived with Naomi (2:23)
  • Ruth, Boaz, and the Threshing Floor (3:1-18)
    • Naomi Provides a Plan for Ruth:
      • Naomi rhetorically ask if she should not seek “rest” and wellbeing for Ruth (3:1)
      • Naomi reminds Ruth that Boaz is a relative and has connections with the other young women in his field (3:2)
      • The plan is revealed:
        1. Naomi mentions that Boaz will be winnowing barley at the threshing floor (3:2)
        2. Naomi tells Ruth to wash, anoint herself, and put on her cloak (3:3)
        3. Ruth is to go down to the threshing floor, but she is to stay hidden until Boaz has finished eating and drinking (3:3)
        4. Naomi tells Ruth to see where Boaz lies down to sleep (3:4)
        5. Naomi tells Ruth to uncover his feet and lie down (3:4)
        6. The result of the plan: Boaz will tell Ruth what to do (3:4)
      • Ruth pledges to do what Naomi has said (3:5)
    • Ruth Acts Upon Naomi’s Plan:
      • Preview of the following events: Ruth went to the threshing floor and did what Naomi commanded (3:6)
      • The events detailed:
        1. Boaz eats and drink so that his heart “did well” (3:7)
        2. Boaz lied down at the place where the grain was in a heap (3:7)
        3. Ruth quietly came to Boaz, uncovered his feet, and laid down (3:7)
        4. Boaz is startled at midnight, turns over, and sees a woman laying at his feet (3:8)
        5. Boaz asks for the woman’s identity (3:9)
        6. Ruth reveals that it is her, his servant (3:9)
        7. Ruth asks for her redeemer to spread his “wings” over her (3:9)
      • Boaz responds:
        1. Boaz wishes for Ruth to be blessed by the LORD (3:10)
        2. Boaz describes Ruth’s action as a kindness, not having gone after younger men, whether for wealth or not (3:10)
        3. Boaz tells Ruth not to fear (3:11)
        4. Boaz pledges to do all that Ruth has asked, and shares about the positive impressions from townsmen about her character (3:11)
        5. Boaz explains of a potential hindrance to her redeemer request: while he is one, there is a redeemer still closer (3:12)
        6. Boaz instructs Ruth to remain there for the night, and in the morning they would find out if the closer redeemer would redeem her (3:13)
        7. If the closer redeemer does not redeem Ruth, then Boaz would, pledging to God that he would do so (3:13)
        8. Boaz tells Ruth to lie down until the morning (3:13)
    • Results from Naomi’s Plan
      • Ruth slept at Boaz’s feet and then arose while it was still dark (3:14)
      • Boaz warned of letting her time overnight at the threshing floor to become public (3:14)
      • Boaz places six measures of barley on her garment to carry home (3:15)
      • Naomi asks Ruth how everything went with her plan (3:16)
      • Ruth shared all that Boaz had done for her (3:16)
      • Ruth reveals that the six measures of barley were for Naomi not to be without food (3:17)
      • Naomi responds to Ruth, asking her to wait until she finds out what happens with the redeemer, and stating that Boaz will settle the matter that day and will not rest until doing so (3:18)
  • Boaz Redeems Ruth (4:1-17)
    • Boaz and the Redeemer Meet 
      • Boaz heads to the city gate, waiting for the nearer redeemer (4:1)
      • The nearer redeemer comes by (4:1)
      • Boaz asks for the nearer redeemer to sit with him (4:1)
      • Boaz asks for ten elders of the city also to sit down with him (4:2)
      • Boaz inquires of the nearer redeemer about the potential transaction (4:3)
        1. Naomi, having come back from Moab, is described as selling the land formerly owned by their relative, Elimelech (4:3)
        2. Boaz invites the nearer redeemer to buy the land if he wishes, but if not, then Boaz would do so (4:4)
        3. The nearer redeemer responds in confirming that he will purchase the land (4:4)
        4. Boaz then reveals that Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead, would be involved in this transaction (4:5)
          1. This practice is to raise up the name of the dead (4:5)
        5. Upon hearing this additional information, the nearer redeemer no longer desires to redeem the land (4:6)
          1. The nearer redeemer reasons that this transaction would destroy his inheritance (4:6)
          2. The nearer redeemer grants Boaz to proceed with the redemption instead (4:6)
    • Historical Observations from the Author 
      • The biblical author explains how Israelites formerly had a custom of redeeming and exchanging (4:7)
      • The custom explained: one person would take his sandal and give it to the other (4:7)
      • The custom in context: The nearer redeemer gave his sandal to Boaz, encouraging him to buy it (4:8) 
    • Boaz Speaks to the Elders 
      • Boaz declares that they are witnesses of the land purchase from Naomi (4:9)
      • The purchase includes all that belonged to Chilion and Mahlon (4:9)
      • The purchase also involves Ruth, who would become his wife (4:10)
        1. This is for the purpose of raising up the name of the dead (4:10)
        2. This is also so that the name of the dead will not be cut off from his brothers or from the gate (4:10)
      • Boaz declares again that they are witnesses (4:10)
      • The people and the elders respond:
        1. They accept their position as witnesses (4:11)
        2. They ask the LORD to make Ruth like Rachel and Leah, who had built up the house of Israel (4:11)
        3. They hope that Boaz will become powerful in Ephrathah and well known in Bethlehem (4:11)
        4. They wish that the house of Boaz and Ruth will be like Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah (4:12)
          1. This wish is based on the desire of the LORD giving Boaz and Ruth offspring (4:12)
    • Boaz Marries Ruth 
      • Their marriage described: 
        1. Boaz took Ruth for his wife (4:13)
        2. Boaz had sexual relations with her, and the LORD caused her to conceive and to bare a song (4:13)
      • The women’s response to Naomi:
        1. They blessed the LORD for not leaving Naomi without a redeemer (4:14)
        2. They hope for his name to become well known in Israel (4:14)
        3. They desire for him to become a restorer of life and sustain her in her old age (4:15)
        4. The reason for these blessings: 
          1. Ruth—Naomi’s daughter-in-law—loves her (4:15)
          2. Ruth is better than seven sons (4:15)
          3. Ruth has given birth to a son (4:15)
  • VI.Postlude to the Story (4:16-22)
    • Naomi’s Response to these Events:
      • She took the child, laid him in her lap, and nursed him (4:16)
    • The Women’s Response to these Events:
      • They proclaim how a son has been born to Naomi (4:17)
    • The Final Narrative to these Events:
      • This son was named Obed (4:17)
      • Obed is the father of Jesse, who is the father of David (4:17)
    • The Generations Detailed:
      • Perez to Hezron (4:18)
      • Hezron to Ram (4:19)
      • Ram to Amminadab (4:19)
      • Amminadab to Nashon (4:20)
      • Nashon to Salmon (4:20)
      • Salmon to Boaz (4:21) 
      • Boaz to Obed (4:21)
      • Obed to Jesse (4:22)
      • Jesse to David (4:22)