His yoke is easy

The thing about a miscarriage is that when it happens your world kind of falls apart. We spent a week crying and praying and holding onto the hope and knowledge that even though our unborn child was conceived a sinner, the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit can regenerate a heart that is incapable of turning away from sin and toward Jesus. We have this hope because it happened to us at our conversions.

We were just as incapable of repenting of our sin as our unborn son, Levi.

But the good news is that it wasn’t our work or our decision to trust in Jesus as our savior and Lord. That we were able to turn from sin is grace. That our hearts were able to feel the depth of our sin and the desperation of our state is grace. All of these things are only ever the work of God.

While we mourned and cried and were filled with sorrow, we were able to avoid despair and anger toward God only by the grace of God. Because we were given the knowledge that we worship a sovereign God. Because Romans 8:28 and Job 1:20-21.

Verses like that only feel cliche until they are put to use within you.


But what about the expiation songs?

If you follow any sort of liturgy for a worship gathering then Advent can either be a relief for planning or difficult. At Redeemer, we use a liturgy that is based off of Isaiah 6 and includes the following elements:

  • Revelation (v. 1–2)
  • Adoration (v. 3–4)
  • Confession (v. 5)
  • Expiation (v. 6–7)
  • Proclamation (v. 8a)
  • Dedication (v. 8b)
  • Commission (v. 9–13)

And for the most part, we are able to choose songs that fit within this structure that match the sermon.

Until Advent…

At Christmastime we tend, rightly and wrongly, to focus on the Incarnation and the birth of Jesus. It’s the start, kinda, of the plan of redemption being put into action. It’s good to remember and find yourself filled with awe at the Word made Flesh but that can’t become the entire focus. Because the purpose of the Incarnation was for Jesus to live a perfect life and die a death He did not deserve before being resurrected.

Which brings me to the problem: There aren’t a lot of Christmas hymns about expiation. As far as Redeemer’s worship leaders and elders are able to discern, there’s pretty much What Child Is This and that’s it. We have songs of expectantly awaiting the Savior, songs of adoration, songs of dedication and commission, but not really anything about expiation. So I made one of them work.

I’ve done this before, having added a couple of lines to the end of The Gospel Song so that rather than ending with Christ’s death, it ends with the hope of His second coming. My pastor wrote a post about that, if you’re interested.

This time around, I took God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and made it into a 5-verse song. We’ve traditionally sung four verses and this one goes right between the last two verses:

His blood would flow down the spear and stain the cross the same

While blameless, willingly he’ll take upon himself our blame

To make propitiation, saving all he calls by name

We sing songs of expiation to remember what Jesus did in our place and for us. By His life, death and resurrection, He didn’t simply wipe the slate clean and make us pure, the way I was taught to believe. When He died on the cross, He took our sins upon Himself, sins that He did not commit. This can’t be boiled down to wiping a chalkboard with a damp rag. While taking upon Himself those sins, He also put His righteousness upon us so that when the Father looks at us, He sees only the work of Christ. By dying the death that He died, He made propitiation meaning He satisfied the Father’s just and holy wrath upon sin.

It’s a lot to try and fit into a song that also acknowledges and celebrates the Jesus came to us at all. But my hope is that I’ve successfully made something that will be helpful and useful for our church and others to include as they sing of the Savior this Advent season.

A Beginner’s Guide To Leading Worship On Electric Guitar

You probably lead worship from an acoustic guitar. That’s a good thing. Acoustic guitars are basically reliable, there’s almost nothing to fiddle with, they’re capable of quite a wide range of sounds just by changing how you play. Acoustic guitars are the best when you weren’t good enough at the piano to lead worship from it.

But the acoustic guitar looks to be taking a back seat as more and more worship albums are made less by leaders and more by bands. This isn’t a bad thing, but it can lead to some interesting sound issues and technical problems that can be avoided by making the transition easy for everybody.

Get an amp that you trust

You want your rig to be reliable as all get out. I’ve had big problems happen in the middle of worship and it’s more stress added to a time when I’m already trying to make sure I get my words right and don’t say an accidental heresy.

Honestly, get a Roland Cube. The biggest one you can afford. They’re inexpensive, they sound amazing, and they have a direct out which will make life easier for your sound guy. Not only that, because they’re solid state, they sound the same no matter what volume you use[1].

Don’t get a bunch of pedals

While you’re leading, you need to have as little distraction as possible. Pedals are a distraction. And they’re mostly unnecessary if you’re the one leading. If you have to have pedals, keep it simple. Three or four max. Don’t be The Mars Volta or Slowdive.

Don’t choose a really clean sound

This is the second-best advice in this whole 500-word guide to leading worship with an electric guitar. Why shouldn’t you use a really clean tone as your base tone? Because expression. The big thing you lose with a really clean tone is the ability to change how it feels just by changing how you play.

When you use a tone that has a bit of dirt, then you end up with the ability to clean up the tone by playing lighter and you can emphasize parts of a song by playing heavier. This will help you translate a lot of your quirks on the acoustic over to the electric.

Some additional thoughts

Don’t fight your sound guy. Seriously, it will only bring tension and division and that has no place in the church. Keep your amp volume as low as you can handle it. The voices are the most important thing. The congregation needs to hear your voice and you really need to hear theirs. Corporate worship is about worshipping together. You’re there to lift up many voices as one church to the glory of the Lord. It isn’t about showmanship or even performance. It’s always, only, ever about Jesus.

If you want to follow along with this project of blogging 500 words everyday for the month of December, follow me on Twitter. I’m not actively tweeting there but this blog autoshares to it. You can also subscribe to this blog’s RSS feed here.

  1. There are some people who will argue this with you and me. Just ignore it. We’re leading worship, not playing for a room full of fans.  ↩