The Other Side (Live)

We lost a couple dear members from our local congregation this past month. Strong disciples of Jesus, they have crossed over to “the other side” to be with him in Paradise, but we sure miss them! Singing this song as a congregation was therapeutic for us as we reflect on our own journeys and what really matters.  (See here for an earlier posting of an album recording of this song.)  


It Will Be Provided

I wrote this song almost exactly 10 years ago for a conference that was to take place the following summer. As we have gone through difficulties as followers of Christ in various nations around the world, it’s good to be reminded that God has provided for us and will continue to provide for us. See Genesis 22 for context of the song, what the rabbis call the “Binding of Isaac.” The test of Abraham’s faith became a lesson about the provision of God. That is so true for my life, anytime I have been tested, God always comes through – he walks with me through hard times, he gives me just what I need at just the right moment. “On the mountain of the Lord it WILL be provided.”

This video is part of a “Regional” worship service, my congregation South Bay Church joining several of the other congregations of the LA Church of Christ. The young woman singing the song (Jayde Matthew) is a part of a great family, and her dad was appointed an elder for our church at the end of the service. Here’s the whole worship service. Here’s a video of the song when it was introduced at the conference back in 2012.


Not By Might

I had a few new worship tunes that I feel like the Lord gifted me during the many long months of Covid isolation. One of the songs was based on a cool passage from the book of Zechariah. Here’s the scripture and a bit of commentary on it (and I preached a sermon from this text last Christmas if you’re interested in hearing more):

6 Then he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts. 7 Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’”

8 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 9 “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. 10 For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. – Zechariah 4:6-10 (ESV)

Zechariah is a pretty weird book to our Western ears, but here is a bit of context. It helps to also look at Haggai, a contemporary book. This is the beginning of what’s known as the “Second Temple” period in the history of God’s people. As this new temple was taking shape, there were some of the older folks who had seen the glory of Solomon’s temple in their youth and thought this new one just didn’t measure up (Haggai 2:3). But God’s message to them was “do not fear, I am with you, my Spirit is with you” (2:4). It wasn’t about the amount of gold or silver or even all the riches of the world —God has all that already (2:8) it is HE that will fill the temple with glory even greater than the former temple (2:9). So that helps us understand the Zechariah passage. It’s not about human might or power, it’s about what GOD’S SPIRIT can do and where HE dwells (Zech 4:6). Even a mountain can become a plain with God’s power (4:7, cf Matt 17:20).

I love the NLT translation for verse 10: “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” God was rejoicing just to see the work begin even with just the tape measure in the leader’s hand. Don’t make light of small victories – that’s often how God works! Little by little. Or with “little” people. There is a theme throughout scripture: God delights in the little. He chooses the weak and unknown. He lifts up the lowly. It’s easy for us to be down on ourselves, or to dwell on how we wish things would be, especially during times like this. But God rejoices in small beginnings. Let us take time to celebrate special moments like the first block in a new temple, or a newborn king in a humble manger. As we’re coming out of Covid hiding, let’s rejoice in every spiritual victory God gives us in his church. There’s a lot of big changes that need to happen in our world. God’s going to make a difference not by might, nor by power but by his Spirit (and perhaps by using our “small beginnings”).

NOT BY MIGHT (Zech 4:6-10)

Not by might
Nor by power
But by the Spirit
Of Almighty God

What are you?
Oh mighty mountain
Before us you
Become a plain
Only God
Can bring a blessing
In his Spirit
We proclaim

In His hands
A firm foundation
Jesus is
Our cornerstone
Joining hands
We build his temple
By his Spirit
In his name

In your hands
Our small beginnings
Through us you can
Bring change to earth
Use us now
To serve your mission
By your Spirit
Heal the world


Emptied All

Some think that Philippians 2:6-11 was an early hymn sung by the church, so I though it would be really cool to write a modern worship song using that section of scripture as the chorus. My exegesis of the surrounding passages led me to an idea that the hymn represented the center of a chiastic structure in Paul’s thought:

.  a Paul’s struggle (Phil 1:20-24)
.      b Paul’s relationship with the Philippians (Phil 1:25-30)
.          c Philippians’ relationships with each other (Phil 2:1-4)
.                d Example of Jesus (Phil 2:5-11)
.           c’ Philippians’ relationships with each other (Phil 2:12-15)
.      b’ Paul’s relationship with the Philippians (Phil 2:16)
.  a’ Paul’s struggle (Phil 2:17-18)

Here is a basic recording of the song.  Below that are the lyrics and a paper that provides more study of the biblical passage.

Emptied All – band demo

Philippians 2, 1-11 – Having the Mindset of Christ – paper

EMPTIED ALL

Verse 1
(from Philippians 2:1-5)
All that we’ve been given
Every blessing in Christ
we share
We should be like-minded;
We should be one
No selfish ambition
Putting others above ourselves
We’ll look to Jesus
in our minds

Chorus
(from Philippians 2:6-11)
Emptied all,
though He was fully divine
To the cross
humbled Himself,
there to die
So exalted be His name,
lifted high
He is Lord
Jesus is Lord
Jesus is Lord

Verse 2
(from Philippians 2:14-18)
So easy to argue
So easy to grumble, but
If we think like Jesus,
we’re gonna shine
Like stars in the heavens,
Holding on to the word of life
Though we be poured out
in sacrifice

Verse 3
(from Philippians 3:13-21)
Forget what’s behind us
Straining forward
to what’s ahead
We’re focused on a
heavenward prize
Not like those around us
Their minds set on
earthly things
We’re waiting for our
heavenly King

Verse 4
(from Philippians 4:4-9)
Be always rejoicing
Believing the Lord is near
And with thanksgiving
we will pray
Peace past understanding
Will be guarding our
hearts and minds
Whatever you think,
think like Christ


I Belong

Hey everyone… happy Monday! We met for church in person yesterday (outdoors) for just the second time since the lockdown over a year ago. It was so great to see everyone, to hear the voice of everybody. There is nothing like being in the Temple of the Lord (which is now the Church). God has taught us new lessons of what it means to be the church over this last year. Our connections to one another have been tested, along with our faith. We have had to work through divisions caused by the pandemic, racial tensions, and political upheaval… and, prayerfully, we have come through it all together in Christ. Thank God for his amazing church, his Holy Temple. There is no where I want to be except with God and with the people of God.

In keeping with this idea I wanted to share a song today called “I Belong,” inspired by Psalm 84. I share in the video a bit about the story behind the song. This video was the opening of a virtual workshop called “Belong 2021” happening today and tomorrow with ministers from our family of churches across the Pacific Islands and Southwest US.

I Belong
(inspired by Psalm 84)

You know all that I’m
Longing for, and my
Being cries out for you
I can’t wait to be
Where you are and see
Everything that you do

Singing praises, onward we go
Through the desert, make water flow
Like a sparrow has found a home
Next to you…
I belong, I belong with you
I’m at home, I’m at home with you

Single day with you
Can’t compare it to
A thousand out in the world
May your son give light
May your spirit guide
Every step, every turn

Hear my prayer
Let me stay here
Close to you, my God
Grant me favor
May I be where

Verse
C / G/B / Am / Am
F / C / Gsus / Gsus
C / G/B / Am / Am
F / C / Gsus / Gsus

Prechorus
F / F2 / C / Gsus
F / F2 / C / Gsus
F / F2 / C / Gsus
F2 / F2 / F2 / (break)

Chorus
C / C / G/B / G/B
Am / Am / F2 / F2

Bridge
Am / Am / F2 / F2
C / C / G / G
Am / Am / F2 / F2
C / C / G / G
G / (break)


Turning Sorrow into Song: Interview with Michael Aggabao

Michael Aggabao is a great friend of mine who is also a “man of sorrows,” losing his beloved daughter at a young age to a rare genetic disorder, a loss he carries with him every day of his life.  He’s also the most prolific songwriter I know, turning to God with both his joys and his sorrows, much like the authors of the biblical psalms.  He draws often from the language of these ancient songs to communicate and connect with our loving Father and to express his heartache and longing to see his daughter again in paradise someday.  And he writes really catchy songs!  

In this free-ranging interview we talk about songwriting, recording techniques, challenges of a global pandemic (Michael is also a health professional), and turning sorrow into song.

Subscribe to Michael’s youtube channel to hear new songs he is writing all the time:

Hear his albums on Spotify, Apple Music, or Youtube Music:


Holy Temple – Michael Aggabao

Hey everybody, happy Monday!  Today I’m sharing a song from my friend Michael Aggabao – singer/songwriter, worship leader. Had the privilege of studying the Bible with him many years ago and he always encourages me.  I’d been spending some time thinking about the concept of the Temple, which represents God’s presence.  Solomon’s prayer of dedication in I Kings 8 is really so amazing if you think about all the Temple represents (and how now in the New Covenant we–the family of Christare the temple).  Also been battling some anxiety with all we’ve been going through.  And then I got this song and message from Michael and it ministered to me, and tied in to what I had been thinking about in terms of God’s presence.  Hope it encourages you too.  If you’re not familiar with Michael’s work please check out his channel on YouTube and his music on streaming platforms.

From Michael:

“I was filled with grief and anxiety yesterday, just glued to the bed, thinking of my daughter Katrina and my son Jared. One of Jared’s FA friend is now on hospice care which added more to my anxieties. But our ‘Papa/Daddy’ was quick to save and pointed me to Jonah 2:7 then I was awaken with this tune…so grateful to our Father, that He has a song for each one of us….

“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”
                        – Zephaniah 3:17 NIV

“When I had lost all hope, I turned my thoughts once more to the Lord. And my earnest prayer went to you in your holy Temple.”
                        – Jonah 2:7 Living Bible

 

Holy Temple (original 2/9/21)

verse 1
My mind is racing, O Lord.
I can’t control my thoughts.
I’m sinking in fear, O Lord.
Help me clear my thoughts.

chorus
When I had lost all hope.
I turned my thoughts to you, Lord.
My earnest prayers went out to you.
In your Holy Temple

verse 2
I know you hear my prayers, Lord
So I lay it all before you.
All my fears and failures.
O Lord lift me up.

Bridge
Where are you sending me?
I’m lost in the vastness of the sea.
Where should I go from here?
When my fears and doubts overwhelms.

Tag
I remember you Lord.
I remember you Lord.
You are faithful.
I remember you Lord
I remember you Lord.
Your my Savior.
Your my salvation, my deliverer.
Your my healer, my protector…….


Breakthrough featuring Betty Collins

Happy New Year!

Today I’m sharing another song from our Better Haiti Concert.  Years ago I wrote this song for a conference (I share the story here) but it has taken on new meaning through the year 2020!  We used the song for a virtual choir video over the summer as we were experiencing the dual challenges of wrestling with racial injustice as well as the global pandemic.  We added the new ending and prayer section as a time of calling on God as a congregation.

Here is the rendition from our concert, featuring my good friend and fellow worship leader Betty Collins on lead vocal.  Love singing with Betty.  And today’s her birthday — happy birthday, Betty!

 

BREAKTHROUGH

You hung the sun and moon
a universe in tune
Caused the dry earth to bloom
brought it to life
Gave men your spirit’s spark
turned them to light from dark
By your blood set apart
made us to shine

Give us a breakthrough
There’s so much more to do
Your kingdom come through us
Your will be done in us
Give us your heart
Give us a breakthrough
It’s gotta come from you
You are unstoppable
Everything’s possible
Almighty God
Give us a breakthrough

You set the captives free
You split apart the sea
Told us to watch and see
all you would do
Brought water from a stone
gave those exiled a home
Your Holy One enthroned
King of all kings

Fill every heart with love
Teach us to overcome
Lead us with power from
your Spirit’s fire
We sing your praises loud
sing to the stumbling crowd
Till all the whole world ’round
knows who you are

BREAKTHROUGH (in E)

Verse:
E / E / Bsus / Bsus
A2 / A2 / E / E
E / E / Bsus / Bsus
A2 / A2 / Bsus / B

Chorus
E / B/E / C#m / B/C#m
F#m7 / A / Bsus / B
E / B/E / C#m / B/C#m
F#m7 / A / Bsus / B
E / E

Outro
F#m / Asus / E / Bsus (repeating)


Praises Heard Around the World (live recording 2020)

Happy Monday!  Merry Christmas!  Happy New Year!  What a crazy year it’s been.  Things are really bad right now in my area (Los Angeles County) so we are still in lock down mode, even tighter now.  Glad we have vaccines and better times on the way.  One cool thing from 2020 was doing a fundraiser concert for Better Haiti, with some of my popular church tunes they asked me to sing.  The audio turned out pretty well, so I decided to release it as a live album (now available on streaming platforms or for download).  Over the next several weeks I’ll post one video at a time from the concert.

This first song has become a favorite among International Churches of Christ, as it celebrates our family of churches “all around the world.”  The melody and lyrics for the chorus of this song were written by my friend Tony Martin for a small worship leader conference we both helped to put on around 15 years ago.  It was kind of a catchy “jingle” he came up with to celebrate the praises we were singing at this international gathering.  He asked me to help turn the tune into a congregational song that our churches could sing.  I worked on orchestrating a groove, harmony parts, and verses for the song.  The acoustic part was influenced by a Jack Johnson style of playing, who I was probably listening to at the time, and kind of an island type groove.  It really caught on right away — it’s fun and celebratory, inspiring, and motiving to think about the ways God is moving through all the nations of the earth.   It reminds us we are heading towards a future together with God along with a family of brothers and sisters of every nation, tongue, tribe, and language (Revelation 7).  (By the way, check out this video of disciples from around the world singing the song in their own native languages.)

 


Christmas Songs 2020

Wow, who would have thought this year would be this crazy. One of the biggest losses for us has been being able to meet together as a church for worship. Christmas time especially is one of those seasons I love coming together and singing timeless carols and new arrangements of traditional worship songs.  This year I took some of the arrangements I had put together for our Christmas Regional Service last year, and produced some new digital editing projects to be able to sing all together again (at least with the worship team).  It is fun to listen to each person’s individual video and then see the multiplying effect of all the performances coming together.  From the feedback we’ve gotten, these songs really brought some Christmas cheer and “good news of great tidings” to the brothers and sisters worshipping along at home over our live stream. Praying next Christmas we can be back all together again!  Or maybe we’ll have to do a Christmas sing-along in July this year if we don’t want to wait that long.

Here is a 20+ min playlist of Christmas worship music from our live stream. Feel free to use it for worship services – just message me for a download link for a song(s) you want. These were put together by singers and musicians from our church Region and teens from our local ministry. Marshall Craig and Sam Matthew did the video editing and I did the music production and audio mixing. They turned out great. Therapeutic listening!

https://tinyurl.com/ChristmasWorship2020