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What You Can Expect from Our New Album

In eleven days, we will have a night of worship and release our album down here in Fort Lauderdale. It will be a special night in a lot of ways. For me, it will be the culmination of three hard and wonderful years of ministry as well as the fruit of many more years of songwriting.

What These Songs Have Meant to Us

Julie Anne Vargas and I set out a year and a half ago to begin writing a fresh batch of hymns and worship songs for our congregation. God was pressing certain themes onto our hearts. We gathered a small group of musicians, artists, and enthusiasts together from inside and outside our church and shared our songs with them--a kind of informal singer-songwriter night--to elicit feedback on the front end as we were crafting these songs. We intended to produce an LP, a top-notch full-length record. God had other plans. Shortly after we completed the songwriting process, a seismic bomb blew up at our church and everything unraveled.

Strangely, eerily...well, providentially...Julie Anne and I were discovering that the songs we wrote were the songs that Coral Ridge needed to sing in this season. The last year has been marked by God's gracious hand tenderly stripping us back, exposing our idols, foregrounding our need, and showcasing deeper riches of what it means to be found in Christ and Him alone

The songs of Sacred On Our Tongues all testify to THAT.

What's With the Title?

The phrase, "Sacred On Our Tongues," comes from the opening track's first verse:

Your holy Name is sacred on our tongues
Your Sabbath day is rest for restless ones
Incline our hearts to keep Your Word

We liked the ring of that phrase. There is an incarnational quality to the juxtaposition of "sacred" and "tongues." The title offers a holy gravity which characterizes the feel of every song on the EP--distance and nearness, transcendence and immanence.

The phrase I think also offers a slightly intentional nod to two streams of Christianity that converged on this record--the traditional-liturgical and the charismatic. First, we wrote these songs under the heavy influence of Reformational liturgy and the post-Reformational English hymn tradition. "Almighty God (Our Hearts Are Open)" is a loose setting of Thomas Cranmer's Ten Commandments liturgy at the opening of his 1552 Prayer Book. "High and Lifted Up" is a sung reflection on John 3's exposition of Christ as the bronze snake in the wilderness, with strong poetic leanings into the hymn tradition. "His Be the Victor's Name" is a recasting of our 2013 song, with some significant changes to the Bridge text and to the overall feel of the historic hymn. "All That You Are" is indebted to Joseph Hart's theological vision for "Come Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy," though it goes in a different direction.

But second, we wanted to offer these songs in rudimentary form to friends outside our tradition--brothers who have long been thoughtfully writing in the more charismatic spheres of Christianity. My friends, Matt Jackson and Daniel Bashta, graciously agreed to work on the project and to put their musical stamp on our demos. They helped us produce the record at 1971 Sounds with David Dalton and Mitch Parks in Atlanta, and I have to say that I'm blown away by what I'm hearing.

So, yeah. I'm hoping "sacred" will grab the liturgophiles and "tongues" will excite the Pentecosmics. But, perhaps the old addage will ring true: aim at everyone, hit no one. Who knows? I'm honestly less worried about who the album will reach and touch. I'm simply grateful to have been a part of creating an artifact that built some bridges across some unlikely boundaries. I think both our traditions will be the better for having worked together on this. 

The Songs

Textually, Sacred On Our Tongues is a powerful mixture of theological depth packed into more lyrical simplicity than I'm used to. Musically, the album is far more lush, cinematic, and immersive. The five songs probably all reside in the realms of atmospheric, in your face, moody pop rock. I think that the producers' arrangement choices are tasteful and fresh. The album's aural color palette is far more brilliant than anything I've produced...I guess that's what happens when you give it over to people who know what they're doing in the studio. Here's the track listing. Follow the links to check out the full text, along with (eventual) charts and lead sheets.

1. Almighty God (Our Hearts Are Open)
2. High and Lifted Up
3. Sing in Your Love
4. His Be the Victor's Name (2016)
5. All That You Are 

Where to Get It

Sacred On Our Tongues should drop everywhere Sunday, May 1--iTunes, Spotify, etc. For those who purchase music (which we wholeheartedly encourage), we always try to make the lowest prices available at

Follow Coral Ridge Music:


New Album Coming in a Few Short Months!

God is always giving us a new song to sing. We've been writing and dreaming about this next handful of songs for the church for quite a while. In fact, a lot of the hardship that Coral Ridge has gone through over the last year has threatened to forestall if not shut down this project. But we, being both stubborn and confident in our Warrior-King Jesus's power midst the fiery darts of the enemy, have pressed forward. And we want to share a little bit about the uniqueness of this project.

A New Kind of Production

If you've been following my blog over 2015, you know I've been doing a lot of thinking in the area of emotions and the affections. You know, too, that I've been interacting with brothers and sisters from charismatic backgrounds and traditions beyond my own, trying to learn from the wisdom that I believe they do have to offer me when it comes to worship and emotional/affective formation (some of the fruit of that thinking will come out in my book this year). The more we had conversations together, the more we sensed that we wanted to try something a little different for both of us. My thoughtful, artistic, passionate friends wanted to take a stab at shaping songs that came from a more hymn-based, theologically informed, and historically-rooted context. I wanted to take a stab at giving my songs in demo form over to these qualified producers to see how they might take, tweak, restructure, and reimagine my songs through their lens. 

So...Dan Bashta and the hard workers over at 1971 Sounds in Atlanta are currently working on our new EP, and we should be able to lay down some vocals in February. I can't wait to hear what they have come up with, but thanks to a test run (see below), I'm excited to tell you it's going to sound different...and amazing.

A New Kind of Songwriting

Julie Anne Vargas and I have attempted to write a different batch of songs this time around. They were occasioned for where our church was at and where we were at. They are songs which, for us, fill holes in what's missing in our worship and where God is leading. There are no retuned hymns on this record, but I will say that the songs we've written are heavily haunted by both hymns and Reformational liturgies. Here's what we're cooking:

  • a call to worship song that interacts with the spirit of Thomas Cranmer's opening prayers of his 1552 liturgy...the 10 commandments, hearts cut wide open, and a driving beat
  • a love song to Jesus, grounded in His cruciform love for us
  • an intense worship song that tarries between the bronze serpent and the crucified Son of Man
  • a call to worship song that casts the service under the banner of Christ's finished work
  • a fresh big rock song based on Revelation 4-5

The Test-Run Was Wildly Successful

Last April, we did a dry run and worked with 1971 on reimagining our "His Be the Victor's Name." It is different, and I love it. I think you will, too. My hope is to release it early.

So please stay tuned for more updates. You can probably expect the EP to hit some time around March or April.


Jesus Loves Me releases TODAY!

A while back, Coral Ridge Music purposed to write kids' songs for our local church that gave shape to the liturgical rhythms we hope to instill in our little ones. We wrote several songs that our kids currently sing, and we're writing more. We've written songs of praise, songs of confession, and songs of grace and absolution. The first-fruits of this labor was a project tackled by our interns this past summer: the laying down of our additional verses to "Jesus Loves Me." Our goal with this was to provide simple ways for kids to sing about sin and grace. We wanted it to be accessible, yet profound. Below are the lyrics. We hope you enjoy it. It's available everywhere, and it only costs a buck!

iTunes | Bandcamp | Spotify

Jesus Loves Me (Lyrics)

1. Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak but He is strong

Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
The Bible tells me so 

2. Though I try to run away
God pursues me every day
Sin might lead o’er farthest hill
Jesus’ grace goes farther still

3. Though the enemy accuse
What I have, I cannot lose:
This is mine, no more, no less
Jesus blood and righteousness!

4. When I doubt in guilt and shame
God reminds me of my name:
Child, adopted by the King
He’s my Father, so I sing:

Words: Anna B. Warner, 1860 (verse 1); William Bradbury, 1862 (refrain); Zac Hicks, 2014 (verses 2-4)
Music: William Bradbury, 1862 

Coral Ridge Music Releases - Chelsea Chen Live at Coral Ridge

Friends, I'm so excited to let you know about the release of a live concert recording that our young organist, Chelsea Chen, performed last year on our 7,000-pipe Ruffatti organ. There's a lot of off thinking out there when it comes to musical style in the church these days. One of those skewed ideas is that the pipe organ has no place in the modern church music paradigm. A year ago I engaged an experimental thought project about what the future of the pipe organ might be because of the shifting of the guard in old downtown historic churches, and only a few months ago, I sat at a conference table at Wheaton College with a selected handful of faculty, publishers, and artists who were all asking the question about how the pipe organ fits in the present and the future of church music. I'm thrilled to be a part of a church that is asking that question and seeking answers through generous practices like melding rock music with all of the wonderful aesthetics a pipe organ has to offer.

As we go about those explorations, we continue to be committed to supporting local, national, and international organists who are at the top of their field in our annual concert series.

When I sat through Chelsea's concert last year, I witnessed several in the audience whose preconceptions about the organ were blown away by the sounds, colors, styles, and expressions that an organ can offer when commanded by the hands, feet, intellect, and artistry of a great organist. Chelsea Chen Live at Coral Ridge is a time-stamped testimony to the continued relevance and power of an enduring instrument in the history of church music. 

The whole concert was glorious. My favorite moment was the surprising color that came from "Miroir," by modern composer Ad Wammes. Its minimalist feel with its salsa-like groove struck a particular chord with me.

Please tell all your friends about this project! It's available on iTunes and bandcamp.


Exciting New Projects for Coral Ridge Music

I want to share two things that we're doing with Coral Ridge Music that really light my fire. They are extensions and expressions of the way that we're trying to think pastorally about the way we write and produce music for our local church...with the hope that it will help some other churches out there, too.

A Kids' Worship EP

One of the things we felt burdened to do was to translate for kids some of the ways we're experiencing the Law and the Gospel in worship at Coral Ridge. We also want to be able to bless the young families that are a part of our community by giving them something to bump in their minivans and at home. So, we've tasked our summer interns (Scott Bajgrowicz, Dasia Canales, Caleb Koornneef, & DJ Vining) with recording a kids' EP of six songs. Some of them are simplified rewrites of previously recorded songs, like, "His Be the Victor's Name," and "Wake Up Sleeper." Others are fresh takes on some children's classics: "Jesus Loves Me" has some added verses that flesh out grace for our kids; "Father Abraham" (with a modified tune) weds some sweet covenant theology and Christological themes into a classic. Yet other songs are attempting to liturgically train our kids to experience the gospel narrative in worship, so we've written a confession song called, "I'm Sorry, God," that walks through in a simple way the "thought, word, and deed" of sin in our lives.  This is a blitz project and will be ready for our families and the broader public in the fall. Keep on the lookout for a Kickstarter campaign by our Terns! 

A "Feedback Panel" for Some New Worship Tunes

Julie Anne Vargas and I have been in the woodshed, working on new songs. I can honestly say that I've never worked so hard and put so much effort into crafting these texts and melodies. Many of these songs have been wrestled into submission. We're adding a layer, though, to the songwriting process. Tonight, we're bringing together a small swath of our congregation, along with some friends and local area worship leaders for a "Worship Night Song Panel," where we'll present these songs, talk about them, solicit feedback, and sing them together. Before we fully commit to these songs, we want to create a safe space for them to "hit" our congregation in order to see what sticks. We're anticipating that this night will give us some important insight on the traction that these songs will or will not have in our community. We'll go through six songs in a conversational, coffee house-style format and hopefully God will bless us with a rich sense of His presence among us. We want to worship our way through this experience.

These songs will travel through this process and then hopefully make it on to an EP or LP due out in February 2016.

If you all have done similar things in your churches, I'd be very curious how the process went for you...what it looked like, how successful it was, some do's and don't's you learned. Please comment!


Come and Make Us Free EP - RELEASES TODAY

Cages. We’re well pedigreed engineers of them. We construct them, we think, for comfort. We believe they will save us, either by protecting us from the cruel blows of the world or by protecting the world from us. They keep the world in check, or they keep us in check. Either way, they are wrought-ironed evidence of humanity’s slavery to self-salvation, self-justification. Riffing on Calvin: the human heart is a cage factory, skillfully engineering ten thousand self-made prisons.

Come and Make Us Free is our latest five-track EP exploring our cage-making obsession, entertaining every theme that sits between its diagnosis and deliverance. To get right to the point, the album is about the slavery of sin and the freedom of the gospel. It plays like a mini worship service:

Invocation: “Come Witness this Gospel to Me”

Confession of Sin: “Come and Make Us Free”

Confession of a Savior: “Christ Surrendered All”

Assurance of Salvation: “It is Finished”

Summary & Praise: “Gospel Doxology”

A New Path in Songwriting 

Those who have followed my recording journey over the last five years will note (no surprise) that I love hymns. I’ve spent the bulk of my energies recasting those old gems in new settings. Come and Make Us Free is my first album where all the texts are original (except for the third verse of the doxology). As I said to a friend recently, “It feels like I’ve been now bathing in hymns long enough that I can begin stepping out of the water with the confidence that I’ll honor the heritage.”

Therefore, you’ll hear some songs that are very hymn-like. They’ve got older, poetic language and odd words like “Remembrancer” (thanks, Charles Wesley, for that theologically loaded descriptor of the Holy Spirit). Other songs, though, are a move toward deeper enculturation—pop melodies and more immediately accessible lyrics (“It is Finished”). In any regard, a heavier hand at lyric-writing is probably a sign of where I am headed, though I will never quite be able to let go of hymns (or, probably more accurately, they won’t let go of me).

Probably the principal reason I’m able to step away from the lyrical safety net of hymnody is because I have a great songwriting partner in my co-leader at Coral Ridge, Julie Anne Vargas. She has given the album a lyrical and musical focus and tightness, which have made all our songs sharper. In the craft of putting a song together, she’s the better technician.

I Believe in Every Song

There’s no track on this one that I consider filler. Not every song will fit every context, but I think there’s something for everyone. We taught four out of the five songs to our LIBERATE 2015 attendees last week, and they were all picked up quickly and sung passionately. That gave me great confidence in their integrity.

I also think the production on this album is more consistent than previous albums of mine, largely because of the help of one of South Florida’s best musicians, Matt Calderin, whose own show-stopping bluesy funky rock everyone should check out.

The first track, “Come Witness This Gospel to Me,” is a classically influenced poem that gets at the heart of what I think true “charismatic” worship really is. The middle three tracks are pop-rock worship songs all built on drums, bass, and Rhodes. The final track, “Gospel Doxology,” is a short anthem weaving pipe organ and strings into a big rock ending. In the weeks to come, I will post song stories and descriptions that delve into the music and theology of each track.

For now, please enjoy the album, and tell your friends about it! Gift the album to people you know who are weary of the do-more-try-harder “Christianity” that leaves us all caged and exhausted. Point them to the finished work of Jesus!


Buy the Album

Bandcamp | iTunes | Amazon 

Full Songbook

Lyrics, Charts and More

"Come Witness This Gospel to Me" lyrics | chord chart | lead sheet | piano

"Come and Make Us Free" lyrics | chord chart | lead sheet

"Christ Surrendered All" lyrics | chord chart

"It is Finished" lyrics | chord chart | lead sheet

"Gospel Doxology" lyrics | chord chart | lead sheet


A Trinitarian Call to Worship Song

Posted yesterday over at LIBERATE was my song analysis of our opening track, "Father, How Great Your Delight in the Son" on our November EP, The Magnifcent Three.   

I wanted to write a hymn in Trinitarian shape, similar to "Come Thou Almighty King," though with a bit more focus on the roles of the Persons and their mutual delight. The ultimate goal was to give the Church a song that began worship by looking at how we join into the already-happening delight of the Trinity, pulsating through heaven and garnering earth. 

Go check out my description at LIBERATE for an inside look on the thinking/artistic process and theological vision behind it. As you listen, keep in mind that it can be sung very successfully (we sang it last night at Coral Ridge) to a 6/8 rhythm that doesn't sound anything like the recording. The recorded arrangement was more of an (attempted, at least) artistic statement.


Father, How Great
Your Delight in the Son

listen/buy | lead sheet | chord chart


1. Father, how great Your delight in the Son
Infinite joy ere the worlds were begun
The fullness of Love found in Him, with You one
Father, how great Your delight in the Son

2. Jesus, You reign at the Father’s right hand
In pleasure You rule o’er His sovereignty’s span
You joyfully follow the Father’s commands
Jesus, You reign at the Father’s right hand 

And, now called into Your delight
As we strain to gaze at Your light
With the hosts of the heavens all veiling their sight,
We cry,”Holy, holy, holy”
We cry,”Holy, holy, holy”
We cry,”Holy, holy, holy” 

3. Spirit, You light up the Father and Son
With pleasure You join their affections in One
So pour out their glory as we humbly come
Spirit, You light up the Father and Son 

So we join Your myst’ry divine
As we sing Your Love before time
And we lift up our voices midst glory sublime
And cry,”Holy, holy, holy”
And cry,”Holy, holy, holy”
And cry,”Holy, holy, holy” 

4. O worship the Father, immortal, in light
O worship the Son, at His right hand of might
O worship the Spirit, eternally bright
With saints, angels, elders, and martyrs in white 

So we join the great One in Three
In the praise that ever shall be
And in Christ, through the Spirit, our Father we seek.
And cry,”Holy, holy, holy”
And cry,”Holy, holy, holy”
And cry,”Holy, holy, holy”

Words & Music: Zac Hicks, 2013
©2013 Unbudding Fig Music (ASCAP)

Retuning a Fabulous Forgotten Hymn

Over at LIBERATE, I talk about the 19th century hymn, "His Be the Victor's Name," and the process that led to its retuning. Go check it out! I hope it inspires others to join in this movement of now countless musicians re-gifting old hymns to new generations. Go read the post!