Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Sovereign Grace Music

Modern Hymns for the Church: From Age to Age by Sovereign Grace Music

Sovereign Grace Music has truly blessed the church. Here is an album of modern hymns that I am happy to wholeheartedly recommend. It is called From Age to Age.

Musically speaking, the album is more eclectic than we’re used to from Sovereign Grace. These songs sound distinct from each other and different than previous SGM releases. At first I wasn’t sure what that would mean, since I’ve enjoyed many of Sovereign Grace’s recent albums. But this one stands apart.

Lyrically, this album is rich. The songs glory in the dynamic interplay of God’s transcendence and immanence and the majesty of the eternal God who revealed himself in the suffering servant.

Spiritually and emotionally, this album is gripping and engaging without being cheesy. I am amazed at how well the individual songwriters did at matching the musical elements to the lyrics so that the climactic points of the music serve to make the words even more worship-compelling.

I want you to hear this album so badly I’m embedding it below so you don’t even have to leave the page to hear it.

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Not Every Psalm is Psalm 119

Psalm 119 is epic. It is theologically profound, it is highly structured, it tells me new and wonderful things that I need to know. It gloriously reflects splendour of both the word of God and the God of the word. And it is long — it spans six pages of my Bible.

Surely Psalm 119 should inform our worship. We should seek to be theologically profound and we should not shy away from length of song or beautiful poetry. We should not be afraid of teaching God’s people to sing worship songs that glory in him because of their length.

But not every Psalm is Psalm 119.

Just two psalms prior we find something very different. Here is Psalm 117 (ESV):

Praise the LORD, all nations!
Extol him, all peoples!
For great is his steadfast love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.

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Why I’m Looking Forward to WorshipGod ’11!

I’m about 24 hours away from setting off on the day-long drive to the Washington, DC area (Gaithersburg, MD, to be exact) for the Worship God Conference. I’m really looking forward to it! Here are a few reasons why…

1. My Wife is Coming With Me!

As a side bonus (a sweet one!) this year, for the first time, Stacey will be able to join me on a trip to Covenant Life Church for a conference. I’m always so blessed by the conferences put on there by the folks at Sovereign Grace Ministries, I’m eager for her to be blessed too. And having her there without the kids for a few days? I’m stoked.

2. The Travelling Fellowship

Two other couples will be joining Stacey and me on our trip: Nick & Alicia and Josh & Amy. For all four of them it’ll be their first time down to an SGM conference as well, so I’m happy to bring them along. But what I’m really looking forward to about having them come is the sweet fellowship I know we’ll enjoy in the car both ways and during our time at the conference. Events like this are always more meaningful when experienced in groups.

3. The Preaching & the Seminars

Will the preaching be good? I have no doubt. I look forward to hearing Thabiti Anyabwile, Craig Cabaniss, and Bob Kauflin again and Bryan Chapell and Ray Ortlund for the first time. And the seminars should be great too: Pat Sczebel, Mark Altrogge, Don Whitney, Shai Linne, Steve & Vikki Cook… It will rock!

4. Engaging in Worship of the Living God

I know, I can do this anywhere. And I do it regularly where God intends for me to do it — in my local church, which I love. But there’s always something special about gathering thousands of worship leaders together to sing in one place. This will be a special time, a focused few days of doing not much apart from corporate worship and engaging our brains in knowing God better.

5. The Theme

The Gathering. I love it. Back in 2008 I wrote Stephen Altrogge an e-mail telling him that we should have more songs and more focus in corporate worship on the church as a whole rather than just individuals. He agreed with me. I like to think that Stephen and I are really the brains behind this whole thing. Bob just stole our idea.

6. Mark Altrogge

I hope he does some ridiculous antics. I just like it when he does that.

7. I Hope I’m an Encouragement

I know that they are having this conference to encourage us, but I hope that somehow our presence at the conference will be a small encouragement to Bob Kauflin and the rest of the leaders of Sovereign Grace Ministries. It’s been a rough season for them, but I want them to know we love them and appreciate them and are thankful for all their labours for the gospel. My prayer is that for these few days ‘The Gathering’ of all these saints from all around North America would help us to fix our eyes on the one who never changes and never fails, so that in light of his unending love for his people at the cross, all are strengthened and encouraged.

8. There Are Lots More…

There are lots more reasons, but I’ll stop here. Anyone else out there going? What are you looking forward to?

Why Singing Music from Sovereign Grace is Better Than Singing Hymns

I also thought about titling this post: Why Stephen Altrogge is better than William Cowper. I decided against that one, though.

In case you haven’t noticed yet, both the title and that first sentence are said with tongue firmly planted in cheek. But I will say, however, that I do agree with those statements, in a qualified sense. Let me try to defend that by way of example and comparison.

First, here is a classic hymn by Cowper–some have even suggested this is the greatest hymn of all-time!

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

I love this hymn. Especially in the context of Cowper’s life. It’s ministered to me huge at a number of points in my life.

That being said, I think the song could be improved. The reality is that the Bible tells us over and over (in narrative, in poetry, in apocalypse, everywhere!) that God moves in mysterious ways. But in Scripture, this always points us to the greatest mystery: the cross & resurrection of Jesus. The hymn never takes us there.

The ‘vindication’ of God’s wisdom and trustworthiness in the midst of what appears to be defeat is the cross. There should be another verse drawing us to the reality of God’s mysterious workings, as shown in the cross, the climax of all God’s revelation.

Now compare Cowper’s classic to a modern song by Sovereign Grace Music on the same theme, by Stephen Altrogge: (© 2002 Sovereign Grace Praise [BMI])

Who can comprehend
Your holy ways O Lord?
Your glorious power without end
From which the stars were born
How could we ever understand
The moving of Your hand?
How could we ever come to grasp
The One who never began?

Oh, what a glorious mystery You are
Oh, what a glorious mystery You are
Though we only see in part
You’ve completely won our hearts
Oh, what a glorious mystery You are

Who can comprehend
Your gracious mercy Lord
Great loving kindness that would send
A Saviour to be born?
Why would you, Jesus, die for us
Who cursed Your perfect name?
Why would You come to reconcile
Those who caused Your shame?

There are many similarities: both songs focus on the mysterious nature of God’s character and God’s works. Both songs glory in God’s sovereignty over all things.

But there are differences too. Frankly, I don’t think Altrogge could match Cowper’s poetic ability. Cowper’s turns of phrase and gripping metaphors are breath-taking and illuminating. But here’s why I’d rather sing Stephen’s song: He glories in the climax of Scripture and points us to the ultimate reason why we can trust a God who seems mysterious; he points us to the cross.

And which is more important? Where will a Christian find true comfort and solace in the midst of suffering or guilt or distraction or despair? In poetic imagery or in simply being reminded of God’s love for him displayed in the death of Jesus?

The reason why I continue to love Bob Kauflin, the Altrogges, and all the folks at Sovereign Grace Music is not because they are the best lyricists or musicians of all time. It is because they faithfully, time-after-time, give us song-after-song that points us to the revelation of God in the cross. And that’s what God loves! And that’s what Christians need.

All that to say, I am super-fantastically excited for the release of Risen coming up in a few days. If I’m certain of anything, it is this: Every song will make much of what God has done for us in Jesus.

And what could possibly be better to sing about?

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