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Entries in indelible grace (11)


His Be the Victor's Name EP - Releases Today!

Coral Ridge Music and I are proud to announce the release of His Be the Victor's Name, a small collection of worship songs dedicated to the themes God’s two words of Law and Gospel. It consists of four re-tuned hymns, a confession song based on the Book of Common Prayer, and one full original. With the exception of “From the Depths of Woe” (Indelible Grace / Christopher Miner), all the tunes and additional texts were written by me in collaboration with Coral Ridge Music artist, Julie Anne Osterhus.

The album is a studio pop-rock record, incorporating our organ (and organist Chelsea Chen) in the first track and a stripped down feel in the last. Four of the six songs are staple “favorites” at Coral Ridge, and they go hand-in-hand with our church’s mission to declare and demonstrate the liberating power of the Gospel.  The title track, “His Be the Victor’s Name,” is a favorite whenever I hit the road with Tullian Tchividjian. 

You COULD buy it through iTunes here, but your best price is the unbeatable $4.99 over at Coral Ridge Music's bandcamp site, or in the widget below. If you want the Physical CD, you can also order it through bandcamp.

Take a Listen...then Buy It

Free Songbook!

In addition to this, we've got the entire songbook available for free download. It provides you every song in two formats:

  • words & chords
  • lead sheets (melody line on a staff, w/chords above)

We want your churches singing this stuff!

Tell Everyone About It

We'd appreciate a shout out anywhere and everywhere.

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If you paste this link in Facebook, it can play directly from there, which is a bonus for folks wanting to check it out but not do a lot of clicking:

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If you're on Twitter, here's an autotweet for you, or paste this:

Great new #worship album by @zachicks and @CoralRidgeMusic is out! I'm loving it!



Two Songs that Gain Traction Wherever I Go

Tullian preaching this past week at the CoveThis past week, I was at the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove with my partner in crime, Tullian Tchividjian, and we were leading a little mini-conference on the themes of grace, law and gospel, and how Christian growth happens. The conference was largely a distillation of Tullian's fabulous new book, One Way Love, which is no less than a distillation of the heartbeat and ministry ethos of everything that goes on at Coral Ridge and Liberate these days.  I led music at this conference, and we sang a bunch of familiar old hymns that prized Christ, His perfections, and God's grace through Him by the Spirit. But I also introduced two songs that became immediate "hits" with everyone there.  They kept asking about them and how they could get them. The first will be new to most folks, because it's just been floating around at Coral Ridge, but the second is an "old standard" in Reformed college and church-plant worship circles.

His Be the Victor's Name

Prior to Tullian quoting it to me a year ago, I had never heard of it or its author.  Its chorus (which was originally just one of its verses) is infectious, and it is easily always the most memorable line of the hymn that everyonecomments on.  It has a life of its own. I wrote the tune to this song, also adding the Bridge text, in a hotel room in Alabama as my family was driving on our move from Denver to Ft. Lauderdale back in March. We are in the process of recording it for the release of our His Be the Victor's Name EP out the week of the Liberate Conference, February 20-23.

His Be the Victor's Name  |  lead sheet

1. His be the Victor's Name
Who fought the fight alone;
Triumphant saints no honor claim;
Their conquest was His own.

2. By weakness and defeat
He won the glorious crown;
Trod all His foes beneath His feet
By being trodden down.

What though the vile accuser roar
Of sins that I have done;
I know them well, and thousands more;
My God, He knoweth none

3. He hell in hell laid low;
Made sin, He sin o'erthrew;
Bowed to the grave, destroyed it so,
And death, by dying, slew.

4. Bless, bless the Conqueror slain,
Slain by divine decree!
Who lived, who died, who lives again,
For thee, my soul, for thee.

My sin is cast into the sea
Of God’s forgotten memory
No more to haunt accusingly
For Christ has lived and died for me

Words: Samuel Gandy, 1838 (verses & chorus), alt.; Zac Hicks, 2013 (bridge)
Music: Zac Hicks, 2013
©2013 Unbudding Fig Music (ASCAP)

From the Depths of Woe (Psalm 130)

As I said in my review of Indelible Grace's album, this song has been around a while in all the "Indelible Grace"-type circles, but it really took on new life for me with the arrangement on Joy Beyond the Sorrow.  We utilize that arrangement at Coral Ridge, though we bring it up a few more BPM and give it a little more sonic gas.  It has become a standard for our church.  We sing these old words with gusto.

From the Depths of Woe (Psalm 130)  |  lead sheet & other resources

1. From the depths of woe I raise to Thee 
The voice of lamentation; 
Lord, turn a gracious ear to me 
And hear my supplication; 
If Thou iniquities dost mark, 
Our secret sins and misdeeds dark,

O who shall stand before Thee? (Who shall stand before Thee?) 
O who shall stand before Thee? (Who shall stand before Thee?)

2. To wash away the crimson stain, 
Grace, grace alone availeth; 
Our works, alas! Are all in vain; 
In much the best life faileth; 
No man can glory in Thy sight, 
All must alike confess Thy might,

And live alone by mercy (Live alone by mercy) 
And live alone by mercy (Live alone by mercy)

3. Therefore my trust is in the Lord, 
And not in mine own merit; 
On Him my soul shall rest, His word 
Upholds my fainting spirit; 
His promised mercy is my fort, 
My comfort and my sweet support;

I wait for it with patience (Wait for it with patience) 
I wait for it with patience (Wait for it with patience)

4. What though I wait the live-long night, 
And ’til the dawn appeareth, 
My heart still trusteth in His might; 
It doubteth not nor feareth; 
Do thus, O ye of Israel’s seed, 
Ye of the Spirit born indeed;

And wait ’til God appeareth (Wait ’til God appeareth) 
And wait ’til God appeareth (Wait ’til God appeareth)

5. Though great our sins and sore our woes 
His grace much more aboundeth; 
His helping love no limit knows, 
Our upmost need it soundeth. 
Our Shepherd good and true is He, 
Who will at last His Israel free

From all their sin and sorrow (All their sin and sorrow) 
From all their sin and sorrow (All their sin and sorrow)

Words: Martin Luther, 1523
Music: Christopher Miner, 1997
©1997 Christopher Miner Music

Hail to a Great New Album: Indelible Grace VI

"My heart is stirred by a noble theme" is my best one-shot phrase to describe the experience of hearing (and hearing again) Indelible Grace's latest offering to the Church, Joy Beyond the Sorrow: Indelible Grace VI.  The impressive production choices and continued growth of the artists in the IG coalition alongside unapologetically gospel-drenched hymn lyrics make this album a feast for the ears, mind, heart, and soul.  As a worship leader in a local context, I can say that, per capita, I imagine more songs on this album being sung by my congregation than any of the previous albums.  In other words, I find more songs on this record transferrable to my local context, and I can't wait for us to sing these new, old songs.


Musically, the album is filled with singable melodies, enclosed in an artistic, elegant, country-folk-tinged rock sound.  The production is top notch--it's a beautiful album to hear with a nice set of headphones.  It shimmers with professionalism but doesn't sound plastic.  In other words, it is a human album, and the molecular base of its polish is an organic, not synthetic, compound.  

Theologically, it hits the nail on the head.  It emphasizes what the Bible does--salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone--and it beats that drum continually, fourteen songs strong.

The songs I would most likely employ in my context are: 


This album is not over-arranged.  It is not dense and multi-layered.  You won't find a forty-track "wall of sound" anywhere.  The album breathes with a lot of restful "white space," exemplified in songs like "Thy Will Be Done" and "For the Bread Which You Have Broken."  It feels more mainstream, straight-up rock than their previous, more overtly folk-Americana records--straight beats, acoustic downstrums, epic, bluesy electric solos, plenty of B3 and other tasteful keyboards.  Here and there are touches of strings and country styles and instrumentation (e.g. pedal steel, banjo).

There are no real driving, up-tempo numbers, but there are a few mid-tempo anthems, like "Pensive, Doubting, Fearful Heart," with its paced bluegrass backbeat, "Until the Daybreak," with its hammered Celtic-style turnarounds, and "Hail to the Lord's Anointed," with its four-on-the-floor feel.  There are some very exciting, soulful, bluesy electric guitar solos with great tone and musical fingering.  I'm thinking, in particular, about the epic moment a little over two minutes into "Did Christ Over Sinners Weep"  and the tucked wah-solo about four minutes into "Until the Daybreak."  The album's goal was obviously not to break new ground, musically, but the styles they worked in provide some very fresh, creative touches, like the left-and-right-panned, nearly contrapuntal banjo lines that bookend "From the Depths of Woe."

One note about "From the Depths of Woe."  This song has been around a long time in producer Kevin Twit's Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) circles, and it has made its rounds in many (mainly Presbyterian) churches.  I've always struggled with the song musically, because its syncopation and chord choices made Psalm 130's confessional lamentation feel too unfittingly happy for me.  This album goes to show that tasteful re-arranging and gentle massaging of tempo, singing style, and chord structure can make all the difference.  The slower tempo softens its melody's syncopated punchiness, and the opening two verses which ride around the relative minor of the key (as opposed to the tonic chord) "fix" the song for me.  And then, when in the third verse, the beat comes up and major chord hits, it explodes in glory, perfectly complementing the text for me.  Bravo, Kevin and the gang, for reminding me what good arranging does to tastefully frame a given text.  This is my favorite song on the album.

Theological Content

Seriously, how can you go wrong when your song-texts draw from the wells of Psalm-versification and dead English Calvinist pastors?  :)  As with every other Indelible Grace record, there is a fidelity to the Gospel here, in every second of every track.  Many moments draw me to tears, such as "Upon a Life I Did Not Live":

Upon a life I have not lived
Upon a death I did not die
Another's life, another's death
I stake my whole eternity

Not on the tears which I have shed
Not on the sorrows I have known
Another's tears, another's griefs
On these I rest, on these alone

How can one improve on the direct, simple truth here?  If the Holy Spirit resides within you, how can you not be moved by the "same old story" of Jesus Christ, for us?  Thank you, Horatius Bonar.  One of my favorite texts on the album is "Did Christ Over Sinners Weep," which functions as a "preach the gospel to yourself" kind of song: 

Did Christ over sinners weep, and shall our cheeks be dry?
Let floods of penitential grief burst forth from every eye.

Behold the Son of God in tears the angels wondering see!
Hast thou no wonder, O my soul? He shed those tears for thee! 

He wept that we might weep, might weep for sin and shame;
He wept to show His love for us and bid us love the same. 

Then tender be our hearts, our eyes in sorrow dim;
Till every tear from every eye be wiped away by Him.

People who accuse traditional hymnody of being cold, stoic, and emotionless haven't really experienced the best of the hymn tradition.  This song is doused in the fullness of human emotion.  It exposes that the best meeting place of head and heart is where the Gospel's "high theology" strangles your heart in a death-grip (well, actually, a "life-grip.").  

I could go on and on, but the reality is that if you get this album, you're in for more than a treat.  You're bound to be encouraged for a long time with its life-giving texts, artfully framed by fitting, beautiful music.  Go get it


An Important Dialogue About Worship Music

This has been floating around in many of the online circles I run in.  It's a very, very good dialogue between three guys who I admire for thinking theologically and pastorally about worship--Kevin Twit, Mike Cosper, and Isaac Wardell.

Here are some of my takeaways:

  • On the topic of songs and "singability" of modern musical idioms:
    • It is often said that a lot of "contemporary" music is unsingable...too many flourishes, too many pop-vocal-isms.  People say that about U2's music--too high, too irregular.  And yet, for many reasons, you attend a U2 concert and you find thousands of people joining in songs, where many people who would normally say "I'm not a singer" or "I can't sing" find themselves singing away. There is something profound about this observation.

Click to read more ...


The Latest Developments in Thoughtful Worship

This blog is dedicated to discussions surrounding worship, church, theology, and culture.  A subtext of that agenda is to encourage Christian (and particularly evangelical) worship along its trajectory toward more thoughtfulness, biblical reflection, theological awareness, and historicity.  A sub-subtext of that subtext is to encourage this growing movement of folks dedicated to the setting of old hymns to new music.  I do this not because hymns are the be-all and end-all of the deficiencies of modern worship, but because this one practice embodies so many of the subtext's aforementioned values.  Many hymns are thoughtful.  Many hymns are soaked in scripture.  Many hymns are written from a fiery theological heart.  And all hymns except current-day ones force the Church to reckon with the fact that she is a body rooted in history--a history of God's past worth celebrating. 

So, people might get tired of me barking about this very specific thing called the "hymns movement," but they must remember that this movement is a herald of the shifts taking place with these bigger, more fundamental issues in American/Western Christian worship today.

I am therefore excited to share a brief "status update" of the movement.  More rumblings, more exposure, more buy-in.  The hymns movement continues to affect and infect the Church with greater potency and wider distribution.  Four things stand out.

Less than 48 hours ago, the 2011 Gospel Coalition Conference kicked off with none other than a hymn sing, gathering together and exposing before a new generation of eager, cross-denominational, Gospel-loving evangelicals some of the heavy-hitters in the hymns movement: Kevin Twit and Indelible Grace (Sandra McCracken, Matthew Smith); Mike Cosper and Sojourn Music.  As Cardiphonia likewise reported, Noisetrade is giving away a free sampler of these artists.  One more indicator that the next generation of pastors and church leaders care about deep, substantive worship, exemplified in hymnody.

Seven days ago, High Street Hymns released their third major hymns album, Hearts and Voices, centered on hymns for Lent, Holy Week, and Easter.  It is available at a very affordable price on bandcamp.



In less than two weeks, Sojourn Music will release another album, The Water and the Blood, a second installment of an ongoing project to reshape the hymn texts of Isaac Watts for new ears.  As will be explained in my upcoming review, Sojourn continues to push out the narrow musical boundaries of contemporary/modern worship, forging ahead while reaching back hundreds of years into the vault of Christian hymnody.

In five days, an album will be released which features a bunch of well-known mainstream modern worship leaders headlining re-tuned hymn-texts of Charles Wesley.  It is called Love Divine.  I have already spoken about what a significant mile-marker this is, notwithstanding the fact that it will probably go unnoticed (though I hope not).


A little over two weeks ago, a unique conference took place in St. Louis.  Hymns movement leader Bifrost Arts hosted a gathering on "Liturgy, Music, and Space."  The average age was interestingly young, given that the topics discussed at the conference were ideas that contemporary worship used to say that only "older people" cared about: liturgy, history, aesthetics, theology, inter-generationalism, etc.

Folks, there's no organizing force behind the coincidence of these least no human one.  This can be characterized as nothing short of a movement of the Spirit through renewal of the worship of God.  All this is very significant.


Crowder and the Hymns Movement Converge

The David Crowder Band is hosting a Church Music Conference at Baylor University in Waco, TX, September 30-October 2.  This is exciting on many levels.  I’m pumped to see the name of a Friday breakout workshop: “A New Old Vision for Worship – Liturgical Spirituality for Post-Modern-Semi-Reformed-Hipsters.”

Here's what is truely exciting: more signs of the subversive growth of influence of the hymns movement are on the horizon.  The David Crowder Band (for those who didn’t know) is THE name in modern worship.  Of course, they’re a performance band.  Of course, their most recent records really haven’t been “worship albums.”  Still, Crowder emerged out of the flagship modern worship movement—Passion—and is still tethered to it.  Therefore, this event with Crowder is significant.  Who’s on the roster?  You’d never know from the up-front promotion, but tucked in more detailed advertising, we hear of two names:

The Welcome Wagon

BiFrost Arts

Check out their music some time.  The first thing you notice is that, in the rock genre, they are the polar opposite of Crowder—under-produced, anti-digital, pitchy, lo-fi, quirky, indie, pop-orchestral…Sufjan Stephens-esque.  The second thing you notice is that the text-material for their songs are either old church hymns or songs which are bathed in the thought and life of historic hymnody.

But actually…this isn’t such a far leap from Crowder.  Much of Crowder’s material beyond the radio-friendly hits leans in a direction that shows that the treasure-troll-haired singer appreciates music akin to what BiFrost and the Wagon are doing.

But more is going on here than mere musical appreciation.  People often think that all modern worship has sold out to novelty with no sense of connection to the historic songs of the church.  It’s just not true.  The Passion movement put out Hymns: Ancient and Modern, and littering all of Crowder’s material are hymns as old as the Greek “Phos Hilaron” and as new as “Heaven Came Down.”  Make no mistake.  Crowder loves him some hymns.   And Crowder is obviously appreciating artists like BiFrost Arts and The Welcome Wagon, not only for their musical innovations, but for their textual focus.

Still, this goes even deeper.  The Welcome Wagon and BiFrost Arts are not only intermingled with one another, but they are wedded with the heavy-hitters in the hymns movement—Indelible Grace.  Derek Webb and Sandra McCracken’s connection and collaboration with these two groups are case in point.  They’ve got denominational ties, too: Welcome Wagon’s leader is Vito Aiuto, an ordained PCA minister; Kevin Twit of Indelible Grace is ordained in that denomination, as well.  Many of the artists associated with both groups are PCA die-hards.

All this to say: We have the hymns movement, perhaps for the first time, being welcomed in to a bona fide mainstream evangelical worship event.  Just like Indelible Grace’s Ryman Hymnsing, this is a moment to plant a flag in the sand as a marker of the growing influence of the grass roots hymns movement.  Thank God.


The Big Picture of Indelible Grace: Kevin Twit and the Ryman Hymnsing

"Edible Grace...what?"  That's the type of reaction I get when I talk to mainstream evangelical worship leaders about the hymns movement and their golden boy, Indelible Grace.  IG is a move back to substantive modern worship.  Their M.O. is to combine modern folk and rock instrumentation with old hymn texts.  Many people misunderstand "old hymns to new music" as throwing a contemporary beat and sound on a hymn...just think of all the forced, "contemporary" versions out there of "Great is Thy Faithfulness" and "How Great Thou Art."  No, no.  These are taking the hymns almost like pure poems and setting them to music.  Hear clearly.  They're taking the WORDS of the hymns, and setting those words to new melodies and backing chord structures.  These aren't "jazzed up hymns" or "contemporized hymns" or "updated hymns" in the sense of how those phrases are most often tossed around (hear my lament about an album that falls into this category).  They're actually engaging in the historic practice of resetting old hymn texts in new musical garb

(By the way, "indelible" should be an acceptable word to mainstream evangelicals.  The fact that David Crowder has used it in "Foreverandever Etc." is like an ex cathedra proclamation that it's okay for modern worship...Crowder has spoken.)

In late June, Indelible Grace took the stage at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).  Thousands of people were there to witness what I would consider a watershed event in the life of the hymns movement in particular and modern worship at large.  Most won't pick up on its significance.  The event is important because it is a symbol of the growth and stability of the movement.  The vision articulated that evening, combined with how well it was received by so many different types of "church people," put a stake in the ground--a mile-marker that shows, since IG's birth in the early 2000s, the growth and influence of the movement alongside the maturation and individual success of many of the IG artists.  

In a rare blog post (oh, for more!), Kevin Twit (IG founder) zooms out and wears his visionary heart on his sleeve.  We see his passion for the Gospel, for college students knowing Jesus, and for the nation-wide (if not worldwide) reform of worship toward more substantive, thoughtful, historically-engaged, and theologically-reflective ends.

I wish I could have been at the Ryman that night, if only to cheer on Indelible Grace, Kevin, and the growth of the hymns movement.  But since I wasn't there, consider this post my raising my glass to God's work in and through Kevin Twit and Indelible Grace.


Indelible Grace Finally Gaining Legitimacy in the PCA

Indelible Grace (the pioneer of the hymns movement) is leading a hymnsing at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.  This is exciting!  (The artist list is pretty hot, too.)  What is being undersold about this event is that it's connected with a larger event--the General Assembly (GA) of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).  This is significant.

I was involved with the PCA for 5 years, gaining some important ministry chops at a church plant here in Denver, interacting with the other elders in our region (the Presbytery) as I came under care and pursued a pastoral internship.  I'm now in the EPC, so I'm an outsider looking in (my perspective may be off).  I haven't spoken to Kevin Twit or Matthew Smith (Indelible Grace guys) about this lately, but a conversation we had a few years ago in Nashville gave me the impression that Indelible Grace, to my surprise, was still trying to gain a sense of legitimacy among the old-liners in the very denomination that birthed the movement. 

Because I was involved in a PCA church plant, and because the other PCA churches I was connected with nationally were generally other church plants, "Indelible Grace" was a byword for everything that we wanted our worship to be all about--theological depth, historical-rootedness, cultural-connectedness, gospel-centeredness, old hymns to new music, etc.  But the new church plants do not summarize the ethos of the denomination.  My conversation with Twit and Smith revealed that there were still traditionalists purists who did not care for or even opposed the enterprise of setting old hymns to new music. (This is surprising, because, as I discussed in a previous post, Indelible Grace and those in the hymns movement, are actually MORE true to the practice of historical church music than those who are pure traditionalists.)

So now we find ourselves at the place where Indelible Grace is headlining a major event at the PCA GA.  Even more, the GA's theme is "Love, Sing, Wonder," taken from John Newton's hymn, which has been one of Indelible Grace's more popular hymn re-sets. 

I thank God that the PCA is placing Indelible Grace in a prominent position.  Indelible Grace deserves it.  They've carved a new path that has had considerable grass roots, underground influence on mainstream evangelical worship.  I would very much consider my own passions and desires for the broader church's worship (having come out of a more mainstream evangelical setting growing up) shaped and influenced by IG.  Despite continued traditionalist objections, IG is doing traditional worship a huge favor, and hopefully there will be more of a coming together of traditionalists and those who are comfortable with modern musical styles, because what they DO share is the most important thing--a commitment to biblically rooted, historically informed congregational songs.