Let Me Understand

letmeunderstandWe just got back from a great marriage retreat weekend with the Coastal LA family of churches.  Rick and Heather Mekemson were our guest speakers and did an amazing job of vulnerably sharing their journey of marital struggle and the miracle story of God healing their marriage and making it stronger than ever before.  It was all topped off with the close of the sermon yesterday when Rick shared powerfully about Jesus in our lives as our advocate (I John 2:1); speaking in our defense even now.  After he prayed for communion he showed a slide show of 35 messages from God to us – it was so encouraging and really ministered to all of us, daily assaulted by Satan’s accusations (Revelation 12:10).

It reminded me of this song, “Let Me Understand,” and I thought I’d share it today.  It’s from an album I put tother several years back of songs all from the perspective of Jesus speaking to his followers.  This song in particular is from his perspective as the advocate, speaking up for us, able to “empathize with us in our weakness” (Hebrews 4:15).  Hope it encourages you!

Let Me Understand



Hush little child
No need to cry now
You’re crushed and you’re tired
Take my peace
Cause now and always
I’m with you and I’ve been through
The ups and downs you’re feeling
Be strong, carry on
The struggle will only make you stronger

Daily I speak in your defense
I’m with you even when you
don’t feel me with you
And though you may be put to the test
Here I am – let me understand

Whatever you might be feeling
If ever your heart is bleeding
Whenever your soul needs healing
Here I am, let me understand

The road is long
The path is narrow
But in me you’re strong
My yoke is easy
And if you only really knew
What lies in store for you
It’s better, and it’s brighter
And it’s fuller than you’d ever imagine

Daily I speak in your defense
I’m with you even when you
don’t think you see me
And though you may be put to the test
Here I am – let me understand

Whatever you might be feeling
If ever your heart is bleeding
Whenever your soul needs healing
Here I am, let me understand

Sometimes you deny
My love by your actions
In guilt, think that I
Would give up on you
But at your very worst
I love you
Though you cost me all I am
Your love is worth it to me

Daily I speak in your defense
I’m with you even when you
are starting over
And though you may be put to the test
Here I am – let me understand

Home with You

home-001Hello and happy Monday!

Wanted to share an upbeat song from my new album we have been singing at our men’s midweeks lately and having a fun time with.  It’s a song I wrote quite a few years ago as an a capella hymn (and it works well with SATB voicing only–see sheet music below).  Last spring when I was putting things together for the album I thought it would be fun to do a band version.  My friend Peter Wade played drums and I did all the other parts.  When I was tracking instruments I took a bit of inspiration for the groove from another song.  Can anybody guess what it is?  Add a comment if so!

Home with You – sheet music with chord charts

Home With You audio file


Life’s evening sun
Is sinking lower and lower
We’re gunna cross over
Take us home with you
Tomorrow comes
We’ll be caught up in the air
We’ll be with our savior
Take us home with you

This world’s not our home
We’re just passing through
Tomorrow you’ll carry us
Home with you, and
We’ll never give up
Till we’ve reached the end
And you will welcome us in…

This world will have trouble
And fears and sighs
But home up in heaven
We’ll never cry, and
Each day we can grow
Through what you allow
To strengthen us in our faith…

This world has a curse
And it’s dying slow
In every direction
The demons go, but
We all have a mission
To spread the Truth
That those who seek you will find…

This world says to follow
The easy way
But we choose to live by
The things you say, and
Your Spirit will give us
The strength we need
To never give up the fight…

Just a Little Talk with Jesus

just-a-little-talkFeeling in a country mood this Monday after attending a friend’s weekend wedding in Pioneertown, CA. Thought I would post something today with some “twang!”

This is a teaching recording (that goes through all the vocal parts) and demo I made a few years back of a good ol’ song I grew up with in church called “Just a Little Talk with Jesus.”  I loved singing the bass part as a young man learning to sing different parts in the congregation –it’s a fun one.  As I got older I grew to appreciate the sentiment of the lyrics as well.  Whatever it is, taking it to Jesus makes all the difference.  Just last night my wife and I were discussing something, and I was wresting with emotions about it.  And just a little talk with Jesus made it right.  I felt such a burden lifted as I prayed it through with the Lord late last night and this morning.  We are promised that whatever we’re anxious about, we can present it to God (with thanksgiving), and the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds (Phil 4:6-7).

Have a great week, and God bless you all!

Just a Little Talk with Jesus – demo

Just a Little Talk with Jesus – teaching recording


I once was lost in sin but Jesus took me in
And then a little light from heaven filled my soul
It bathed my heart in love and wrote my name above
And just a little talk with Jesus made me whole

(Now let us) have a little talk with Jesus
(Let us) tell Him all about our troubles
(He will) hear our faintest cry (and He will) answer by and by
(Now when you) feel a little prayerful yearning
(As your) heart unto heaven is turning
(You will) find a little talk with Jesus makes it right (it makes it right)

Sometimes my path seems drear, without a ray of cheer
And then a cloud of doubt may hide the light of day
The mists of sins may rise and hide the starry skies
But just a little talk with Jesus clears the way

I may have doubts and fears my eyes be filled with tears
But Jesus is a Friend who watches day and night
I go to Him in prayer He knows my ev’ry care
And just a little talk with Jesus makes it right

A   / A   / D   / A
A   / A   / E   / E7
A   / A   / D   / A
F#m / E   / A D A

A   / A   / A   / A
E   / E   / A   / A
D   / D   / A   / A
F#m / E   / A D A

He’s Got the Future In His Hands

hes-got-the-future-002Happy Monday!

I wanted to share one of the songs from my new album, “He’s Got the Future.”  I wrote this song a number of years back just for fun, to try something with a traditional 12-bar blues form.  I was reading the story of the rich fool from Luke 12, and came up with the chorus and verse from that story.  Then I thought about other passages from the Bible with a similar message and wrote the other verses.  Here it is:

He’s Got the Future

In addition the song I thought I’d share a few related resources…

I preached a sermon on the stories from this song a year or so ago and used this song to tie them all together.  The lesson was called “Ungenerous.”


Here are my lesson notes, in case you would want to use the song for a Bible Talk or lesson and this would be helpful.


By the way, in the sermon I played a clip of this fantastic TED Talk by Paul Piff, “Does Money Make You Mean?”  Here is the link.




He’s got the future in his hands.

He’s got the future in his hands.

All He knows, understands,

He’s got the future in his hands.

It don’t matter what you planned,

He’s got the future in his hands.


There once was a king who ruled Babylon,

Drank from the goblets he took from God.

He saw a hand that wrote on the wall,

“This very night you gonna lose it all.”

“You think you’re something,” said the prophet Dan,

“But He’s got the future in his hands.”


There was a wealthy farmer – too much to store.

Rich towards himself but not to the Lord.

Said “Bigger barns will store all my hay.”

“Then I can take it easy, eat, drink and play.”

God said, “You fool, you got your own plan,”

“But I got the future in my hands.”


There was a rich man who couldn’t care less

About the poor man laying at his steps.

But on the same night both passed away,

One to the saints and one to the flame.

“Please tell my family,” said the rich man,

“He’s got the future in his hands!”


Now listen you who say that today

“Gonna go here and there and this and that-a-way.”

“Gonna make some money and live in style.”

But you’re just a mist that’s here for a while.

Why not submit to the master plan?

Cause He’s got the future in his hands!

REACH Conference Worship Sets

Hello everyone!

Sorry I have been so silent on the blog postings for a while.  We had a crazy summer with conferences, camps and retreats for us and our teenage kids.  We are getting back into a normal routine, and I hope to get into a rhythm this fall of sharing songs on Mondays!

In July we had a large gathering for our North American churches, the REACH Summit.  I was a part of the team that planned all of the worship and led the “house band” for our times of singing together in the dome.  I’ve had several ask for the set lists of the songs we did for the summit, so I thought I would share them today as well as some of the resources we used to prepare for the summit worship.  First I thought it might be helpful to share some of the thoughts that went into planning for the singing at the summit.  Click here to listen to a podcast in where Tim Schmidt and I share about this, and I’ll elaborate a bit further below.

reach-crowdWe were praying so much for our times of worship together to be filled with “reverence and awe” (Heb 12:28).  With many thousands of us gathered together we also wanted a real “family reunion feel,” so we tried to have a good chunk of songs that we have historically enjoyed singing together, songs that reflect our unique history.  We wanted to have hymns, popular contemporary Christian songs, gospel songs, and songs written by members of our churches through the years.  We wanted to represent as many different styles of North American worship music as we could reasonably pull off and yet still have everything flow smoothly together.  In addition to a good mix, we also wanted to add a few new songs that were written by several in our fellowship of churches, songs that were already tried and tested in several of our churches and had many of us singing these already: “You Are My Everything” by Betty Collins, “Holy, Perfect, Always, Forever” by Ross Lippencott, and “Deeper” by Chase Mackintosh.  The new theme song was a collaboration as well (with Jeff Mannel’s daughter McCall and the St. Louis team), and I’ll do a future blog post about the formation of that song. 

With so much tension in our country we prayed that God would make our time as the body of Christ be such a celebration of unity and diversity.  And I believe God answered our prayers!  Here is what I typed in my prayer journal a day after the conference ended:

God, thank you for answering the many prayers for a successful conference.  Thank you for how your word was preached and your church was ministered to.  Thank you that both classes [the ones I taught] seemed to go well.  Thank you for the diversity of singers and song leaders, and for the choir doing so well.  Thank you that there was a real spirit of unity even in the midst of such racial tension in our country right now.  On a personal level, thank you for the many many moments of worship and connection with you when tears filled my eyes and chocked my throat and I couldn’t even sing.  There were so many moments that were so moving.  On Zion’s Glorious Summit.  Deeper.  The theme song.  Rick’s song with the hall filled of waving cell phone lights!  Here Am I Send Me.  Can’t remember them all but there were so many great moments.  Thank you for how, as Tina [Crawley] mentioned it, everybody “had their love language spoken to” musically. 

The only negative thing about the set lists I’ve heard more than once is that we didn’t sing the song “Rejoice (I will lift my voice).”  When I’m planning for an event like this my primary concern is what is going to  be the best fit for the moment, but I can struggle with being self-conscious about doing too many of my own songs and I really try to limit how many of them we do.  I’m grateful to work on a team with an evangelist in charge of the event (Jeff Mannel in this case), fellow worship leaders which helps with objectivity and making sure I’m not ruling out songs I shouldn’t.  (Tim Schmidt in this case helped choose all the songs and selected the song leaders and part singers)  However, in the case of Rejoice, that is what happened.  I was thinking that I wasn’t sure how many of our churches sing it, and I didn’t want to do another of my own songs.  That was the only complaint.  (Except for the lyrics problems, lots of complaints about that — I’ll have to write a separate post about that –what a source of frustration and a learning experience that was!)

Anyway, here are the resources and the set lists and I hope they help you in your efforts to lead the congregation in joyful song!…

Here is a link to a resource page that has teaching recordings and videos of the way we planned to blend songs together (we tried some of these things in our local congregation prior to the conference). 

Here are the chord charts for all the songs we did in the sets.

Below are the Reach 2016 Set Lists (the key we did the song in is also listed)


O Lord Our Lord  Eb   

You Are Good  

On The Mountain of the Lord    D     

Opening Production, “Reach” (10min)

Reach (Theme Song)  – introduced, with track and Video  G

Flag Ceremony closes production

Welcome (5 min)

Prayer (30 sec each – Eng / Spanish / French)

On Zion’s Glorious Summit   (a capella)    Ab

10,0000 Reasons (Bless the Lord O My Soul)    F

Scripture reading, Isaiah 12 –

My God is Awesome    E

Our God Em / G  (Eng and Spanish)

He Reigns (All God’s Children Singing) E   

Stand In Awe E   

Short prayer –

Mighty to Save 

Lesson, “Reach Up” – Shawn Wooten (45 min)

Closing Announcements (10 min)

Memorial moment – AT Arneson (2 min)

Special Song, The Witness

Anchor for the Soul G (featuring Speech)


Reach (Theme Song) G   

Home in Heaven (both Eng and Spanish) Am

La Montaña (Spanish song)   Bm

Friend of God (gospel)   C

Welcome (5 min)

Stage time for misc. (10 min)

Deeper D 

What A Fellowship (Leaning on Jesus)  G

You Are My Everything D   

Come Thou Fount   D

Scripture reading – Psalm 103

Praise the Lord O My Soul / How Great Thou Art   G

Let It Rise   G   (a cappella)   

Lesson, “Reach In” Chip Mitchell – (45 min)

Closing Announcements (10 min)

Production: “Beyond Reach” Pt.1 (15 min)

I Hear God Singing to Me  D-E


Feeling Alright / I Feel Good C

His Love Endures Forever E 

Forever A 

Welcome (5 min)

Disciples Today Presentation (15 min)

Reach (Theme Song) G 

Scripture reading, Revelation 7:9-17

Great Among the Nations D

Praises Heard Around the World B

Here Am I Send Me (with rap by Big City) E

Men Who Dream E   

Lesson, “Reach Out” – Douglas Arthur (45 min)

Closing Announcements (10 min)

Special Song, Reach Upside Down – Rick Biordi

Production: “Beyond Reach” Pt.1 (15 min)


Songs with REACH Choir

Power  Dm   

Prayer (30 sec each – Eng / Spanish / French) –

Holy, Holy, Holy D

Jesus Messiah G      

Every Praise  G – A 

Holy, Perfect, Always and Forever  Cm    

Welcome (5 min)

HOPEworldwide Presentation – Robert Carillo (15 min)

It is Well With My Soul D  (a cappella)

When I Survey E – G

Communion Lesson – Jeff Mannel (10 min)

Revelation Song D (after 3 min of meditation)

This Is Amazing Grace G 

I’ll Fly Away / Victory in Jesus 

Lesson, “Within Reach” – Frank Kim (45 min)

Closing Remarks (20 min)

Reach (Theme Song) G   

The Other Side – Music Samples

The Other Side - CDHello everyone, here are some samples of what I have been working on the last few years, coming together in this new release called “The Other Side.”  For a limited time you can help fund the project and receive an autographed copy by clicking on my Go Fund Me project here:


Here are samples of most of the songs on the project.  Do a right-click of the file name to save to your computer, or you should be able to click the play button and stream the audio on your phone or computer.

The Other Side – music samples

Here is what the play list will be on the CD.  Most of these were written for congregational singing.  A couple (“Bent on Conquest,” and “Breakthrough”) were written for conferences.  One is a congregational song written by my good friend Betty Collins, “You Are My Everything.”  Several are in the new “Songs of the Kingdom” book, but I hadn’t released any recordings of these yet.  The versions on the CD aren’t the only way to do these songs by any means, but I had fun recording them the last few years.  (Side note, one of my biggest grins is in hearing how different song leaders or worship teams interpret different songs I’ve written!)

Greater Worth Than Gold
Home with You
You Are My Everything
Shadow of Your Wings
White as Snow
Shine Your Light
Even Greater Things
Bent on Conquest
Lord of Heaven’s Armies
The Other Side
We Make It Our Goal to Please Him
He’s Got the Future
God Our Father


My Worship-Planning Spreadsheet (and a little about planning worship services)

worship team rehearsal


In the last several months I’ve had four or five different people ask me for this, and I’ve shared it with other over the years, so I thought I would post this today.  This is a copy of a spreadsheet I use for all my worship service planning.  It has schedules from all the way back to the end of 2006 and also includes various conferences and concerts.  So there must be around 500 worship sets on here.  (Don’t try to print it!)  Every Sunday I copy the set of what we are doing out of this spreadsheet and paste it onto a blank page for that week’s schedule.  I like doing it this way because I can easily click on the tab from a previous year and see what we did last Mother’s Day, or the year before.  I can scroll back and forth and see several weeks at a glance really quickly (much more easily than in Planning Center – although that is also a great tool).

A few things you might notice as you look through this.

1. We try to keep the list of songs we are singing fairly restricted.  I’ve seen situations where the introduction of too many varied songs hinders the church from really connecting.  As I mention many times to worship leaders, we tire of songs long before the congregation does.  For every one time they hear/ sing the song we have probably heard or sung it a half a dozen times, with all the prep and rehearsal that we do.  Plus musicians tend to have shorter attention spans musically.  So while I enjoy lots of other songs, we keep a pretty tight repertoire of songs that we keep recycling.

2.  We sometimes retire songs we love for a while.  So even given what I said above, there comes a time when you just a sense a song is done for a while.  So there are many songs that I have even written personally (like “Be with Me Lord” or “I Need Your Love”, even “Praises Heard Around the World” or lately, “Anchor for the Soul”) that right now we aren’t singing.  Doesn’t mean we won’t bring them back.  I don’t mind “Sanctuary” any more, after we took about a decade off of singing it🙂

3.  We like a mix of types of songs.  Every group is different, and different groups work for every group.  My local congregation, the South Bay Church (part of the greater LA Church of Christ) has a little under 300 in attendance on Sundays.  We are pretty diverse group in age, ethnicity, economic class, and spiritual age.  We try to have a little gospel, a little contemporary Christian, some of our own songs, some hymns, and even some country once in a while.  Other congregations may like one genre and stick to it.  There is no right way to do it!  I would imagine if we were to hear a worship service from the time of David circa 1000BC, even though the messages of the psalms are amazing – we wouldn’t understand them and the music might sound awful to our western-music-ears.  I used to get a bit tripped up by trying to do it just right.  But it’s like parenting:  just when you think you have it figured out, everything changes and you have to try to figure it out again.  Anyway, we like a mix.  And we still try to make it flow.

4.  When we intro a new song, we keep singing it.  If it’s brand new, we might sing it a couple weeks in a row.  Later, maybe once a month.  There’s no rule to it, you just feel it out with your team.  I make decisions but get lots of feedback.  We talk in rehearsals about what is working and what is not.  While I’d like to be democratic with the song choices, I think one person has to be making the final decisions as far as the service flow and overall objectives, and it’s just too hard if it becomes “committee based.” What I do is have people send me suggestions, I put them in my planning document, and sometimes we end up doing them at some point and sometimes we don’t.  So you might see some suggestions or notes scattered through there.   Finally, we almost never use new songs to open or close a worship time. We usually sandwich those in between familiar songs. Even catchy ones.

If you look at the last few Sundays you’ll see we are working on some of the stuff we are doing at the Reach Conference coming up in a few weeks.  We have been trying out the flow of moving into some songs from others and things like that.  Kind of test-driving a few things.  If it works with my local worship team and my church of 300 it will probably work with the house band at Reach, the singers from around the North American churches, and the huge group of 20K people!

Finally I’ll say as I share this, that I’ve been feeling lately the desire to do more simple songs. The space that we are currently in is pretty dry acoustically, so it’s best suited for full band stuff. But I don’t want to lose some of the simple hymns and stripped-down singing. So I’m gonna probably work on writing more of those and incorporating more that others have written. It seems like we’ve been doing a lot of contemporary Christian songs lately, which is cool but I just want to keep a balance.  I also want to do more to support the congregation singing in harmony.  We do a midweek about once a year where we teach parts.  I want to do more with that – there is something so powerful about hearing the congregation (not just the part-singers) sing in harmony!

So, without further ado, here it is – my planning spreadsheet!  (I use Numbers, but I’ve posted it here in Excel form, hoping everyone will be able to open it that would like to.)


Sunday Services Planning Matrix