Archives For Music

I remember as a new Christian people would quote these antiquated, flowery, profound lines from songs. They would skillfully deploy the quote like a baseball player executing a hit-and-run with a line drive over the second basemen’s head. The quotes would drop in the Bible Study or prayer meeting with powerful profundity. This was evidenced by the corporate, “Umm…” or “Amen.” I never quite got to the point of trying to execute this type of poetic contribution, but I have always appreciated it.

Now I believe there is a new bag of powder for our musical muskets. Here in 2013 the new hymns writers are hip-hop artists. Now before you shake me off with a pffffh, hear me out. I have seen a recent swell in the number of references to songs during a time of gospel-shaped discussion. And when I say reference I don’t mean that someone is saying, “Man did you hear Lecrae’s new track, that joint is fresh!” (they may say that but I don’t mean that). What I mean is people reference the hip-hop songs in order to add value to a gospel-shaped conversation.

In the last several months (and even this morning) I have heard multiple people reference a song by Lecrae, Shai Linne, Tedashii, and others to help further elucidate the point being made. This is a marked transition and development.

The question that remains is, “Why?” I’ll give you two reasons.

First, Christians have always reached for music to impress God’s truth upon our hearts. The hymns still do this. However, increasingly the hip-hop tracks are dominating.

Second, many Christian hip-hop artists (particularly the gospel-centered Reformed guys) are filling the doctrinal void left by many in the Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) scene. Instead of singing sappy-ballads and prom songs to Jesus these guys are jamming so much passionate, gospel-rich, theologically dense, personally applicational truth into a 4 minute song. Passionate doctrine resonates.

I think this is a win for the kingdom. It is also a win for me because I not only like the content but the style of the music. I smile when I consider people at our church driving around, working out, or whatever while listening to this genre of music.

Ever since I downloaded Josh Garrels new album it seems like it has been playing. Like so many artists, I enjoy his voice and the overall musical sound. However, unlike many artists, his lyrics are arresting. In particular, as a Christian his songs complete the narrative of life with the gospel. This is so refreshing. I am sure you see how powerful this is. Many musicians are good because they are honest about the narrative of life, but so few are able to complete it with anything except hopelessness on the one hand or pollyanna-ism on the other. And, regrettably, many Christian artists fail to be honest about the pain, guilt, and fear that is present in our lives–and how the gospel answers it! The tragic consequence is an eclipsing of the beautiful power and relevance of the gospel of Christ. This is where Josh Garrels takes center stage and why he is dominating my iPod.

Crazy thing is…it is free. I would easily pay the $8.99 at Amazon for this but he is giving it away on his website. Check it. And pass it on.

Also, take a listen to this song. It is one of my favorites:

“Farther Along” – Josh Garrels from Josh Garrels on Vimeo.

One of the advantages to living in Omaha is the fairly eclectic musical tastes. I have seen this first hand this summer as we travel about to take in my son’s Legion baseball games.

During these games the home teams try to create a bit of atmosphere. As you can imagine music is a big part of things. With the various tastes in various locations, we get a grab-bag of music. Sometimes it’s classic rock, other times it’s hip-hop, still others country. It’s all over the map.

Through this I was surprised to find out something else that is all over the map: low-brow, lame, sex songs.

I am not surprised at what I hear with hip-hop music. I grew up listening to it. I get it. While I cringe, I know what they are doing.

Continue Reading…

This week one of my favorite artists, Bon Iver, released a new album. The lead singer, Justin Vernon, has a unique voice and style. With his eclectic mix of sounds I find myself listening in all sorts of settings (study, running, driving, etc). It usually always works.

Earlier this week I listened to an interview conducted by NPR with Vernon. They touched on an interesting subject. The words. Perhaps, more specifically, what do the words mean?

Vernon didn’t flinch. He basically said that he picked words that sound good. He wasn’t so much concerned with their meanings. He is more concerned with the sound and the feelings it produces.

Now on one hand, I don’t like this. After all, I am a pastor. I spend days on end with words. It is my life to wring out words and fill buckets with meaning in light of context. This goes against the grain of everything I do.

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All I Have is Christ

Erik Raymond —  April 30, 2010

I have enjoyed the album Looked Upon from the Na Band for a couple of years now. There are many soul-stirring, Christ-magnifying songs on there. Recently at the Together for the Gospel conference we sang “All I have is Christ” from this album. It was great. And the song remains great because the truth behind the song is true!

So…in effort to expose more folks to the album and the song here is a video with Devon Kauflin singing the song…enjoy!

(Looked Upon via Amazon)

Today in history, 1873, the steamship Ville du Havre was struck by an iron sailing vessel while crossing the Atlantic. 246 people died, including the four daughters of Chicago lawyer Horatio Spafford. His wife Anna survived. Just two years earlier their four-year-old son died of scarlet fever, and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 financially ruined him.

While sailing the Atlantic to reunite with his wife after the death of their girls, he penned the beloved hymn, It Is Well with My Soul (the original manuscript is pictured to the right).

Here is Mars Hill on his life:

(ht: Justin Taylor)

Shai Linne has quickly become my favorite hip hop artist in this new stream of Reformed rap.  One of the things that I particularly like about him is his clear, quick and weighty rhymes.  He is able to turn a phrase quickly and powerfully with the eternal weight of truth behind it.  One such song on his new album Storiez is The Greatest Story Ever Told whereby he walks through the biblical story from Genesis to Revelation in a clear Christological and not less than doxological manner.  It is quite good!

Here is Shai at the 2009 Worship God conference in Maryland (I have included the lyrics also)..

Here are the lyrics:

It’s the greatest story ever told.

A God pursues foes whose hearts turned cold.

The greatest story ever told.

Restoring all that the enemy stole.

The greatest story ever told.

The glory of Christ is the goal, behold.

The greatest story ever told.

It’s the greatest.

Alright check it: let’s go back in time, brethren. Divine lessons always keep your mind guessing. The glory of the Triune God is what I’m stressing. The origin of humankind was fine. Blessings were plenteous. God is amazingly generous. Crazy benefits in a state of innocence. God told the man what he could taste was limited. Not long after came our nemesis in Genesis. He scammed well, man fell, damned to hell. The whole human race—he represented it. Fooled by the serpent, man through his work, woman through birth—even the earth ruled by the curses. But instead of a wake immediately. God said her Seed would be the One to crush the head of the snake. Yo, wait what is this? Whoa, a gracious gift! In Jehovah’s faithfulness He clothed their nakedness. This was so they would know their Savior’s kiss and bliss. But first, many growing pains exist suffering in the worst form, ugly deeds. Eve’s firstborn seed made his brother bleed. Indeed things got progressively worse. Every section of the earth is been affected by the curse. And though God’s judgments against sin were gory, praise the Lord! It’s not the end of the story.

Next scene: man’s sin was extreme. God gets steamed, man gets creamed. The Lord is so Holy that He drowned them in the water. Fire in the valley of slaughter – Sodom and Gomorrah. But at the same time, He’s so gracious and patient that from one man He created a whole nation. Eventually enslaved by the mentally depraved, they cried out to the only One with the strength that He could save. He brought them out with signs and wonders – satisfied their hunger. Then He appeared on Mount Sinai in thunder. Where He laid down the law for God-ruled government. Commonly referred to as the Mosaic covenant. Sin was imputed. So for man to know he’s unrighteous, God instituted animal sacrifices. This was to show our constant need for atonement. And when it came to sin, the Lord would never condone it. And when His people disobeyed and went astray, He raised up prophets and kings to lead them in the way. But they would get foul with their idolatry—wet and wild prophecy—send them into exile. To take their punishment like a grown man. Then with His own hand He placed them back in their homeland. And while in their forefather’s land they dwelt, they awaited the arrival of Emmanuel.

After 400 silent years filled with sighs and tears. In Bethlehem the Messiah appears. God in the flesh—Second Person of the Trinity. At thirty begins His earthly ministry. Baffling cats with accurate, exact facts and back-to-back miraculous acts. A stumbling block to the self righteous. But the humbled—His flock, said “There’s no one else like this.” He came from heaven to awake the numb. Demonstrated His power over nature, son. A foretaste of the Kingdom and the age to come. But the reason He came was to pay the sum for the depths of our wickedness, our wretched sinfulness. Bless His magnificence! He is perfect and innocent. Yet He was wrecked and His death. He predicted it. Next He was stretched, paid a debt that was infinite. He said that He finished it. Resurrected so the elect would be the recipients of its benefits. Through faith and penitence we get to be intimate. His grace is heaven sent, it never diminishes. Now the Holy Spirit indwelling is the evidence for heaven’s future residents who truly represent Jesus, the Author, Producer, Director, and Star of a story that will never, ever end!

(HT: JT)

Some of the music that is most frequently used by the United States military to torture….err….lawfully interrogate prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay has been recently identified.

A couple of the songs should cause some parents to rethink what they are exposing their children to.  On the top of the list:

  • “I Love You,” from the “Barney and Friends” children’s TV show.
  • “Sesame Street,” theme song from the children’s TV show.

I can see that.  You can just see the extreme terrorist.  He has been training his whole life for his career in terrorism.  He can withstand broken bones, water-boarding, beatings, and verbal abuse.  But when the loud speakers pump in that purple dinosaur and his favorite “I Love You” song, they crumble like blue cheese.

Here are some of the other songs they use.  How many of these are on your iPod?

  • “Enter Sandman,” Metallica.
  • “Bodies,” Drowning Pool.
  • “Shoot to Thrill,” AC/DC.
  • “Hell’s Bells,” AC/DC.
  • “Born in the USA,” Bruce Springsteen.
  • “Babylon,” David Gray.
  • “White America,” Eminem.

I wonder if they turned on the Christian radio station if that music would be Christological enough to torture the militant Muslims.  I am on a bit of a personal rampage against what I’ve heard on the radio.  Maybe its just me but to hide Jesus and his work behind shallow subjectivity is offensive.  To take the LORD and King and make him your boyfriend and prom date is more offensive than what Metallica does.  Anyway, I’m off track (but that is kinda what blogs are for.  More on this topic).

What would be your top torture song?

If I was Obama I would dial this guy up and send him, his hair and his crew (especially the bar tender) to the various camps and give him a microphone.  We would have Bin Laden in a day.

I know that many of you, like me, enjoy the music of Coldplay.  Their “Prospekt’s March EP” (released yesterday) is available for a limited time for $0.99 on Amazon.  This is a great deal, but especially good for new stuff from Coldplay.

Here is the link.

This is for the MP3 Download version only (which operates much like iTunes and even automatically adds it to your library of choice).

This weekend I downloaded several very NICE songs for free.  And I was blessed in sermon prep to hear these glorious truths sung afresh.

First, I am excited to learn that the corporate singing from the Together for the Gospel 2008 conference will be compiled into kind of a live album.  I believe it will be released shortly.  But in the meantime they have permitted the free download of 3 tracks led by Bob Kauflin.

I am totally down with this cd.  On one level, the truths that are sung are so affection stirring and praise swelling.  But on another level, you have these thousands of men singing together, affirming the glory and beauty of God in the gospel.  As a pastor, this is a great encouragement to me.

Here is a sample and my personal favorite:

Jesus Paid it All

Second, Covenant Life Church has put out an album through Sovereign Grace Ministries that presents many of the favorite hymns of the faith in a fresh sound.  I really am enjoying this album.  The cool thing about it is they give you the option as far as how much to pay and it can be as little as nothing if you refer 5 friends.  The box is included below.

I think Bob Kauflin makes some terrific points in this video. Specifically with respect to the unified goal of preaching and singing on Sunday morning. Sadly, we hear of music referred to as the ‘worship’ and preaching as ‘teaching’, as if they exist in separate categories. Instead, all that we do, specifically on Sunday mornings in the corporate gathering of believers, is meant to magnify the greatness of Jesus Christ.

What would Issac Watts’ music sound like if he was alive today and lived in North Philadelphia?  I think it would sound a lot like what we hear on Shai Linne’s latest album, The Atonement. Shai is a hip-hop artist who writes lyrics that are weighty, cross-centered, theologically rich and edifying.

Personally I have never been able to get into ‘Christian’ rap.  The lyrics are often trivial, soft, and lacking the weight that both the message of the gospel and the medium of hip-hop demand.  So when I heard Shai Linne’s album I was not anticipating much, however, I was both impressed and refreshed by what I heard.

As the title indicates The Atonement is about the cross.  In an interview I heard Shai say that the motivation for the album came from his reading of the classic The Cross of Christ by John Stott along with sermons he was hearing from CJ Maheney.  He then wrote the lyrics and got the album together.

If you are familiar with hip-hop the sound is a traditional tough east coast sound, it is gritty and rough-neck; which goes well with the theme.  There are brief interviews or interludes between songs where more is said about the subject at hand (the cross, sin, the resurrection, etc).  In addition, there are samples in the songs by Maheney as well as John Piper.  These samples come from sermons that these men have preached and really serve to punctuate Shai’s message in the respective songs.

Theologically Shai is a Calvinist who packs more theology into a 3 minute song than many evangelical preachers do into a 45 minute sermon.  I have included a link over to his myspace page where you can listen to several of his songs for free.  Listen to “Were you there?” first.

The Atonement is available for download at both at Amazon and iTunes.  I just noticed this week that Amazon’s mp3’s are cheaper than iTunes, so check ‘em out.

If you are interested I thought this video was pretty cool.  Shai is about to do a concert and comes out and rhymes acapella; not sure if this is freestyle (off the top of his head) or something he has already done.  At any rate, it is good stuff.  He starts off a bit slow, but he ends well.  Very encouraging.

I am always in the market for some new music, particularly after a few long recent road trips.  I was glad to hear of the new release from the Na Band entitled Looked Upon.  The Na Band is the band from the guys at New Attitude (Sovereign Grace Ministries).

I am really enjoying the cd.  Devon Kauflin (familiar last name) is the lead songwriter; and for those who have come to enjoy the music and lyrics of Sovereign Grace Ministries, you will not be disappointed.  Musically the sound is a bit more my taste than the traditional SG music, so I am doubly enjoying it.  There are new songs and some older hymns recast a bit for 2008.

You can preview all of the songs here as well as access sheet music.

I have long been anticipating the release of Coldplay’s new album Viva La Vida and thankfully it is now available. It is available for purchase overseas and then for listening worldwide. Here is a link to IHeartMusic or you could go to their MySpace page to listen, both are free. I am really enjoying it, a little bit of a different sound for them, but still, it’s Coldplay.

The album will be available for purchase in the US on June 17th. Here is a link to Amazon for more info.

O Sacred Head Now Wounded

Erik Raymond —  March 21, 2008

This hymn has been an encouragement to me today as I contemplate the Savior’s death in the place of sinners such as me.

O sacred Head, now wounded,
With grief and shame weighed down;
Now scornfully surrounded
With thorns, thine only crown;
O sacred Head, what glory,
What bliss till now was thine!
Yet, though despised and gory,
I joy to call thee mine.


What thou, my Lord, hast suffered
Was all for sinners’ gain:
Mine, mine was the transgression,
But thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Saviour!
‘Tis I deserve thy place;
Look on me with thy favor,
Vouchsafe to me thy grace.


What language shall I borrow
To thank thee, dearest Friend,
For this thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
O make me thine for ever;
And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
Outlive my love to thee.

Be near when I am dying,
O show thy cross to me;
And for my succor flying,
Come, Lord, to set me free:
These eyes, new faith receiving,
From Jesus shall not move;
For he who dies believing,
Dies safely, through thy love.


Erik Raymond —  March 19, 2008

This guy has been getting a lot of air time around our office this week. He is a Jewish rabbi in New York City. The fact that his music (a reggae / hip-hop blend) sounds good is appealing, however, it is his content that is intriguing. I’d love to hear him do a song on Isaiah 53. I’ve included a couple of videos here that I’ve enjoyed.

(Jerusalem -link)

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(Youth -link)

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(Lord Raise Me Up -link)

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Mars Hill Music Podcast

Erik Raymond —  January 27, 2008

I have been tremendously blessed and encouraged by the music ministry of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA. God is rescuing people with the gospel who have significant musical talent and these folks are composing, playing and singing a new song unto Christ. In some cases they sing old hymns that are revised and amplified in other cases they sing Scripture or they write new music. At any rate, I am blessed by God to have quality lyrical content paired together with a sound that I enjoy.

The podcast has been one of my favorites for some time now and I highly recommend it to you for your edification and enjoyment.

Here is the URL for the podcast and here are some sample songs (click the + below to listen)

Psalm 25

Here is Love

Come Ye Sinners



Over the past 5 weeks at OBC we have been studying what the Bible says about worship. Pat Abendroth has been teaching on everything from what worship is to whether or not the Bible specifies what type of music to use.

I have found the study particularly refreshing. There were a few points from my own notes that I wanted to highlight.

/1/ The Devastating Effect of the Sacred / Secular Worldview

Continue Reading…

Some Friday Stuff

Erik Raymond —  June 29, 2007

: Tonight I get the wonderful privilege to perform a wedding here at OBC. Weddings have become one of my favorite things to do as a pastor. It is such a perfect opportunity to put all of the emphasis upon Christ and to be able to preach the gospel to all in attendance. It is interesting and awesome to consider the gospel I proclaimed yesterday in the jail is the same that I preached to myself this morning and will preach again tonight.

:: I am now on Facebook and so is Omaha Bible Church (link)

:: Last week my daughter (Alexis, 3) acted like a liberal protestant female pastor and baptized…err…sprinkled my Treo650 with a bottle of water. It was my bad because it was not in my pocket. Anyway, I was able to upgrade and the 755P is all that. It (the Treo) actually became an avenue to talk about Christ as some guy yelled across the gas station to me to find out if I had a 755 and if it was good. We were able to talk about what I was doing (checking to see if I broke the 45 min preaching rule this sunday am). It was very cool to have a time to talk with this guy about the gospel and ministry.

:: Colin from Unashamed Workman was just blessed with a third child. I love the picture on his blog because it captures that heaven sent gleam in a new parent’s eye. Join them in rejoicing.

:: The new Beastie Boys album is out and is excellent study music. All instrumental; pretty fresh tracks and not what you would think of with the Beastie Boys. Perfect for studying. They have a video up if you are interested. Thanks for all the feedback on study music. We are a diverse people, no doubt, but hopefully chiefly united around and for the gospel.

Study Music

Erik Raymond —  June 26, 2007

I spend a lot of time by myself with the headphones on. Whether I am writing, reading, crafting a sermon, or doing administrative work I more often than not have myself plugged into iTunes listening to something. I think some of this comes from the fact that we did not have ceilings in the offices at our old building (wharehouse) so music was imperative in order to retain concentration.

I am curious if others (not just pastors) listen to music when studying and if so what are some of the favorites? Are you one of those who need silence?

My music style is admittedly eclectic. I find myself bouncing between the genres of Beck, Coldplay, Donovan Frankenreiter, DJ mixes, all the way to classical music. It is strange but I can only study to music that I can drain out the words, so oftentimes Christian music becomes more of a distraction for me. I am all about sound.

Here is a video of something that I have been enjoying for a couple of months now, ever since they appeared on NPR’s All Songs Considered podcast. The group is called The Battles and the whole album is an electronic soundscape that is fun to study to.

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