Tag Archives: Holy is the Lord

Four Living Creatures Singing

Four Living Creatures Singing

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; who was, and is, and is to come!

That’s an entire song you know.

Over, and over, and over.

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; who was, and is, and is to come!
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; who was, and is, and is to come!
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; who was, and is, and is to come!

At infinitim. Countless. Numberless. Multitudinous. Innumerable. Myriad. Boundless. Endless. Inexhaustible. Timeless and dateless. Limitless and unbounded. Just like God himself.

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; who was, and is, and is to come!
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; who was, and is, and is to come!
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; who was, and is, and is to come!
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; who was, and is, and is to come!
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; who was, and is, and is to come!
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; who was, and is, and is to come!

There is simplicity.
There is transcendence.
There is a focus on the right things and not on ourselves.
There is awe and wonder.
There is worship.
There is no mention of style or accompanying instruments.
We do not know the tune.
The words are profound.
There are no structured verses, choruses, bridge and CODA.
There are not a lot of words so we can learn and memorize it easily.
There is lots of repetition.
There is wisdom.
There is power.
There is holiness.
Everyone can understand the lyrics.

Who is singing this beauty? Of course it is the four living creatures addressing God in Revelation 4:8.

And finally, there are indeed lessons to be learned here. I know leaders in the contemporary churches who speak negatively of the repetition found in our traditional liturgies on one hand, and I hear from traditionalists about too much repetition in the newer music.

Repitition is Angelic!

As the story goes, there was a heated debate going on in one fundamentalist church over repetitious praise songs and why they should be avoided. After hours of debate, they concluded that these songs with limited lyrics and unbounded repetitions are to be avoided. They then concluded their gathering with a hearty singing of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.”

Hallelujah!

Worship Review!

Worship Review!

Worship this past Sunday was exciting, uplifting, worshipful and confessional – all rolled up into one Lutheran ball of biblically driven, Christ-centered reverent blessedness. This was a unique service for us as a guest band (The Branches Band) accompanied the musical portions of the liturgy. I knew things would be different when I saw all the Facebook activity including comments, emails and “likes” floating back and forth between members of our church discussing the upcoming worship service. This just doesn’t happen when things are routine. Every church should have the chance to experience something like this.

The Branches Band is comprised of Andy Braun (acoustic guitar, harmonica and vocals), his wife, Rachel Braun (vocals, bongos, tambourine and shaker) and Jeremy Bakken (keyboards, bass guitar, acoustic 12 string guitar and vocals.) Their sound was tight and their harmonies inspiring in spite of the fact that I put them through the test of musical professionalism, which I would think, most Pastors and worship planners in our Synod would do. That is, I asked the band to play songs that thematically matched our worship theme and the scripture readings of the day. This forces the worship team to learn new pieces and puts the focus where it belongs. I got the impression that the band was used to this and that they handled the musical diversity that we required extremely well.

The Branches Band at Messiah Lutheran Church
The Branches Band at Messiah Lutheran Church – Concert Photo

Branches arrangements of our Lutheran hymns are truly refreshing. I was moved from the very start by the gathering hymn (“Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” – CW234) which set the stage for the entire worship service to follow. As a musician, I caught myself glancing over at Andy’s fret hand and saw that he was playing in the key of F, but capoed at the first fret and used chords in the key of E. The chord voicings were complex and colorful with a variety of open strings played in upper neck positions. I was so moved that after the service I raced out to their merchandise table to purchase a copy of the sheet music for the piece – which by the way contains all the chord shapes shown in grid diagrams (a very nice touch for us guitarists!).

After a well attended and participatory worship we were treated to a concert of mostly Pentecost themed music. My favorites were the contemporary pieces: “Holy is the Lord” by Chris Tomlin, “You Never Let Go” by Matt Redman and “My Savior My God” by Aaron Shust but the band’s arrangement of “Nothing but the Blood” was equally incredible as Rachel’s gospel-styled vocals filled the sanctuary. I also greatly enjoyed a very unique arrangement of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” which interestingly enough was marked by Braun’s subtle blues-like accompaniment. Technically he did this by hammering and pulling notes off the first position E-chord changing it from E to Em (a famous guitar blues-lick in any key). I was sitting with my fellow band mate, another guitarist, and we just looked at each other and grinned when we heard Brauns’ fretwork because we understood musically where he was coming from. From a worship perspective, the nicely muted blues vibe made it interesting for several reasons – first, I’ve sung that hymn well over a hundred times and it’s one of those hymns that I don’t need to look at the music because it’s committed to memory, so to me the stylistic change was just enough to make me think about those great lyrics again. And second, if you know the background of the hymn-writers life, you can understand why the blues can work. It is a fact that we can bring our “blues” to God in prayer, and know without a hint of doubt that He is listening, and answering as He sees fit. The congregation was asked to join in on this piece and I will also say that it brought a few tears to my eyes, something that this hymn has not done to me for decades. That’s how good and effective it was. This, the work of the Holy Spirit, for me using Braun’s accompaniment to affect me on some hidden level.

 

There’s so much to this band – Rachel’s lovely voice and her tastefully added percussion, Braun’s guitar work and Bakken’s thumb-thumping bass lines (and he does play with his thumb!) but one other surprise that I wasn’t expecting was the falsetto that both Jeremy and Andy have and they do it well – especially on the a capella pieces.

 

Apply It!

You can contact the band at their website if you are interested in having them accompany worship at your church or to host a concert – http://www.branchesband.com/. I highly recommend this because in our church; both hymn-lovers and contemporary music aficionados alike, were pleased, were comfortable with the worship, and more importantly were all participating in resounding brotherly love. And that, unfortunately, is not an easy thing to do these days!

The Joy of the LORD is Our Strength – Neh 8:10

The Joy of the LORD is Our Strength – Neh 8:10

Here is a responsive reading using several Psalm verses together with Nehemiah 8:10:

P:         The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.  The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.  (Ps 19:8)
All:      The Joy of the LORD is our strength.

P:         You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.  (Ps 16:11)

Men:   The Joy of the LORD is our strength.

P:         The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.  (Ps 28:7)

Women:          The Joy of the LORD is our strength.

P:         May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth.  (Ps 67:4)

All:      The Joy of the LORD is our strength.

P:         Sing for joy to God our strength; shout aloud to the God of Jacob!  (Ps 81:1)

Men:   The Joy of the LORD is our strength.

P:         Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.  (Ps 95:1)

Women:          The Joy of the LORD is our strength.

P:         Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music;  (Ps 98:4)

All:      The Joy of the LORD is our strength.

P:         Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.  (Ps 100:1)

Men:   The Joy of the LORD is our strength.

P:         Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.  (Ps 119:111)

Women:          The Joy of the LORD is our strength.

P:         May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  (Rom 15:13)

Finally, here’s Chris Tomlin singing “Holy is the Lord” about this same verse:

Click here if the above link doesn’t work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAF5CM1pUxg

You can find a free copy of the leadsheet here, but you should report usage to CCLI if you reproduce this:

http://www.helvetia-church.org/pteam/lyrics/Holy%20is%20the%20Lord%20lead%20sheet.pdf

 

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version, Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.  Used by permission of International Bible Society

An Artist, a Song, Nehemiah 8:10 and a Poem

An Artist, a Song, Nehemiah 8:10 and a Poem

Chris performing live in concert in Nashville,...
Chris performing live in concert in Nashville, Tennessee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was listening to Chris Tomlin’s song “Holy is the Lord” recently.   I just love the verse derived from Nehemiah 8:10: 

 

We stand and lift up our hands,

For the joy of the Lord is our strength.

We bow down and worship Him now.

How great, how awesome is He.

And together we sing, Everyone sing,

Holy is the Lord, God Almighty.

The earth is filled with His glory.

 

CCLI Song No. 4158039© 2003 worshiptogether.com songsSix Steps Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)(Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing) Chris Tomlin / Louie Giglio

 

Here’s a link to watch Tomlin play the song if you’ve never heard it:

 

That line “the joy of the Lord is my strength” does something for me because I know that we all face challenges in life.  They are real, often times difficult and tiresome.  They can sap us of our strength if we let them consume us.  Because we are Christians doesn’t exempt us from trials, in fact, it may do the opposite.  But the “joy of the Lord is our strength.”  I’ve come to realize that in everything we do, we can praise God and glorify him.  We can even praise him through our trials and lamentations.  It happens in the Psalms all the time.  It happened with Job, and with Paul.

 

I’m not a poet by any stretch but sometimes we just have to follow an inspiration when it comes.  Here’s my probably one-and-only poem and it’s based on Nehemiah 8:10.

 

The Joy of the Lord is My Strength

When you can’t seem to get a date; remember, that the joy of the Lord is your strength.

If you can’t sleep and you’re up late; the joy of the Lord is your strength.

 

When you wrestle with your own fate; remember that the joy of the Lord is your strength.

If you try and try to lose weight; the joy of the Lord is your strength.

 

When you doubt getting through that narrow gate; remember, that the joy of the Lord is your strength.

If you strive to be more than great; the joy of the Lord is your strength.

 

When you don’t like your very best traits; remember, that the joy of the Lord is your strength.

If you lack patience and can’t wait; the joy of the Lord is your strength.

 

When you hope and pray for a clean slate; remember that the joy of the Lord is your strength.

If you lack the skills to really debate; the joy of the Lord is your strength.

 

When all you can do is to deflate; remember that the joy of the Lord is your strength.

If you have an abnormal heart rate; the joy of the Lord is your strength.

 

When life seems like one long rain date; remember, that the joy of the Lord is your strength.

If you’re old-fashioned and need an update; the joy of the Lord is your strength.

 

When you’re church has a really high attrition rate; remember that the joy of the Lord is your strength.

If you need an improved emotional state; remember, that the joy of the Lord is still your strength.