Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

The sounds of Christmas are here! It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

My favorite Christmas hymn is “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.” One cherished version comes by the guys of Folk Angel. A brother who taught me how to play the guitar some twenty years ago lends his voice. Tolle audite!

One of the Best Loved Hymns

There are some hymns I’m convinced every church should sing. These hymns contain a depth of truth, soaring along a memorable melody, that transcends the age. Hymns that fall in this category would be anthems like “Amazing Grace,” “It is Well,” “There is a Fountain,” and “A Mighty Fortress.”

Another title, for me, that belongs in the discussion is Augustus Toplady’s magnificent “Rock of Ages,” which has been called “the best known, best loved, and most widely used hymn in the English language.” Does your church sing it?

The Story Behind the Song1

In 1756 Toplady was converted at the age of sixteen while listening to a man of God preach the word in a local barn. Six years later he was ordained as an Anglican priest.

One of the more interesting aspects of Toplady’s ministry is his animosity towards John Wesley. As a convinced Calvinist he believed Wesley’s doctrine fell far short of Scripture. He once wrote, “I believe [Wesley] to be the most rancorous hater of the gospel-system that ever appeared on this island.” “Wesley is guilty of satanic shamelessness,” he wrote on another occasion, “of acting the ignoble part of a lurking, shy assassin.”

In 1776 Toplady published an article on the subject of God’s forgiveness and one scholar says it was intended “as a slap at Wesley.” The article ended with an original poem containing the now famous words:

Rock of ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.

The poem far outlived Toplady (who died at the tender age of thirty-eight) and in 1830 Thomas Hastings put it to a melodic line that echoed around the world for almost two centuries.

Take Your Pick

A hymn of gospel richness awaits your people in “Rock of Ages.” Thankfully, some recent arrangements of the hymn have come out and give Toplady’s work an artistic, yet congregational flourish. Check out the lyrics below and a few of the best arrangements available today.


Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
[originally When my eye-strings break in death]
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.

  1. Adapted from Then Sings My Soul by Robert Morgan.

The Spirituality of Vineyard Music

I’ve long had a fascination with music in the church. The churches of my youth were ones where songs were sung with gusto and joy. I sung in the church choir during my middle school years, led songs for countless church services, and played guitar for countless more.

A Personal Journey

vineyFor almost two decades I’ve been attracted to conversations about and convictions on church music. God’s word has much to tell us about singing in the life of the church. Those who know me best probably weren’t surprised when we planted IDC with a desire to be “A Singing Church.” God creates and commands a singing people. And so we want to sing with loving obedience. Such a belief has great bearing on the songs we thus sing in response to God. Simply put: we are in a sad state when “that which is popular” has more power than “that which is biblically best” in deciding which songs our congregations sing.

I could continue, but I must really get off the soapbox and arrive at my point.

Over the last few years I’ve found myself increasingly interested in the history of corporate song, particularly in American evangelicalism. So it was with great delight that I wrote a research paper on the spirituality of The Vineyard movement’s top fifty songs for a recent PhD seminar on “20th Century Spirituality.”

Oh, how interesting and illuminating it was!

Understanding the Vineyard

If you don’t know anything about the Vineyard it was the most influential “Third Wave” movement from the mid-1980s to turn of the 21st century. Led by the rock-star-turned-charismatic-mega-church-practitioner John Wimber, the Vineyard emphasized a spirituality of “kingdom power.” Think “signs and wonders” revealed through power healing, power evangelism, and power warfare.

If evangelism, healing, and warfare were the primary means by which Vineyard churches demonstrated the power of Christ’s kingdom, then musical worship is the main vehicle by which they experienced the love of Christ’s kingdom. Kevin Springer, a key figure in the Vineyard during its peak Wimber years, said, “You don’t understand the Vineyard if you don’t understand the worship music.”

I took up Springer’s challenge and wrote a (long) paper in order to understand not just Vineyard music, but what that music emphasized about spirituality.

Spirituality in the Top 50 Vineyard Songs

I worked with CCLI to identify the fifty most-sung Vineyard songs during the John Wimber era. It seemed wise to limit the songs for analysis to the Wimber period for two reasons: 1) the changing landscape of worship music around the turn of the twentieth century makes it difficult to expect any fluidity should one analyze over thirty-five years of Vineyard Music, thus limiting the time period is advantageous, and 2) one cannot truly grasp the Vineyard’s spiritual heartbeat apart from Wimber’s influence, leadership, and teaching.

To give you an idea of what kind of songs we’re working with, here are the top ten:

  1. “Breathe” (Marie Barnett, © 1995 Mercy / Vineyard Publishing)
  2. “Draw Me Close” (Kelly Carpenter, © 1994 Mercy / Vineyard Publishing)
  3. “Take My Life” (Scott Underwood, © 1995 Mercy / Vineyard Publishing)
  4. “Change My Heart O God” (Eddie Espinosa, © 1982 Mercy / Vineyard Publishing)
  5. “In the Secret” (Andy Park, © 1995 Mercy / Vineyard Publishing)
  6. “Every Move I Make” (David Ruis, © 1996 Mercy / Vineyard Publishing)
  7. “Refiner’s Fire” (Brian Doerksen, © 1990 Mercy / Vineyard Publishing)
  8. “More Love More Power” (Jude Del Hierro, © 1987 Mercy / Vineyard Publishing)
  9. “Spirit Song” (John Wimber, © 1979 Mercy / Vineyard Publishing)
  10. “Holy and Anointed One” (John Barnett, © 1988 Mercy / Vineyard Publishing)

My analysis revealed two core themes to Vineyard spirituality: 1) desperation for God’s presence, and 2) consecration unto holiness. Along the way I try to show what these songs teach us regarding the character of God and the work of His Son. Even the knowledgeable folk may find a few surprising things here.

While there are many things to affirm in the Vineyard’s popular catalogue (devotion to God’s word, using songs as prayers) the Vineyard exported a radical individualism in corporate song. Forty-four of the top fifty songs are written exclusively from the first person singular perspective. The songs are all about “I, me, my, and mine.” Hence why Tanya Luhrmann can say, “The [Vineyard’s] worship is intensely individual, even when everyone sings together” (emphasis added). This radical individualism leads me to the glaring flaw in the Vineyard’s most popular music: it prioritizes God’s immanence to the expense of His transcendence. It’s a spirituality of “lots of love with a little cross.”

I could say more, but you might want to read it for yourself.

Click here to read “Lots of Love with a Little Cross: The Spirituality of Vineyard Music.” Head down to page fourteen if you want to skip over a broad analysis of Vineyard’s history and confessional spirituality.

A Hymn for All Seasons


Part of ordinary ministry is leading our churches to sing the best songs possible. We want songs full of biblical and theological truth that soar on congregational melodies. One such song is the classic, “How Firm a Foundation.”

Singing Scripture’s Powerful Promises

For sixty-three years Rippon pastored Carter’s Lane Baptist Church in London, starting in 1775. During his years at Carter’s Lane Rippon developed a vision for a congregational hymnal and with the help of Robert Keene (his minister of music) A Selection of Hymns from the Best Authors, Intended to Be an Appendix to Dr. Watts’ Psalms and Hymns was published in 1787. It was a runaway bestseller, especially among the Baptists, going through eleven different editions in Rippon’s lifetime.

It was here “How Firm a Foundation” made its debut. No one knows its author as the author’s line simply bore the letter “K.” Thus, our best guest is the song came from the pen of Keene. What’s undeniable is the songs lyrical power. Each of the original seven verses are based on explicit biblical promises, including:

  • “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isa. 41:10)
  • When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” (Isa. 43:2)
  • And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Cor. 12:9)
  • “He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Heb. 13:5)

It is not surprising then to find out the song was originally titled, “Exceedingly Great and Precious Promises.”


How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

In every condition, in sickness, in health;
In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth;
At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

Even down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

Various Arrangements

Here are four different arrangements of the hymn. The first three retain the traditional melody and the fourth channels all the production of modern CCM music.

Songs to Sing

If you aren’t familiar with the work of Indelible Grace Music, then you, my friend, are missing out. Indelible Grace grew out of Reformed University Fellowship (RUF)—the PCA’s ministry to college students. As these students began to taste more of the depth of the gospel and the richness of the hymn tradition, many began to join the music of their culture with the words of our forefathers (and mothers!), and a movement was born.

Ever since Indelible Grace has churned out reworked hymns year after year. I confess that I’m not always keen on their musical arrangements, but the melodies offer a wonderful template on which to build. Case in point: “Go to Dark Gethsemane” and “For all the Saints.” The melodies are congregational and the words are wonderful. If you don’t like the musical accompaniment, have no fear, just put your creative skills to work as each song is quite malleable.

Listen below and see if you don’t agree.

Lyrics to “Go to Dark Gethsemane”

1. Go to dark Gethsemane,
ye that feel the tempter’s power;
your Redeemer’s conflict see,
watch with him one bitter hour.
Turn not from his griefs away;
learn of Jesus Christ to pray.

2. See him at the judgment hall,
beaten, bound, reviled, arraigned;
O the wormwood and the gall!
O the pangs his soul sustained!
Shun not suffering, shame, or loss;
learn of Christ to bear the cross.

3. Calvary’s mournful mountain climb;
there, adoring at his feet,
mark that miracle of time,
God’s own sacrifice complete.
“It is finished!” hear him cry;
learn of Jesus Christ to die.

4. Early hasten to the tomb
where they laid his breathless clay;
all is solitude and gloom.
Who has taken him away?
Christ is risen! He meets our eyes;
Savior, teach us so to rise.

Lyrics to “For All the Saints”

1. For all the saints who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confess,
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest,
Alleluia! Alleluia!

2. Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress, and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well-fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

3. Oh, may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

4. O blest communion, fellowship divine,
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

5. And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

6. But, lo, there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of Glory passes on His way.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

Check out all the Indelible Grace music here on Bandcamp.

Multiplying Hallelujahs

In honor of the NEEDTOBREATHE concert that kept me up way too late last night, prohibiting me from completing the original post for today, I give you a campfire song from the Carolinians.

Sing of His Love

As David selected a few choice stones for battle, so pastors select a few choice songs each week he and his congregation can hurl against the kingdom of darkness. He needs songs sharp in truth and strong in melody. One valuable weapon-like melody is Samuel Trevor Francis’ “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus.” In three short verses Francis manages to visualize the immense love of Christ for His church—a love which bought His people and beat the Devil.

When Crossing the Thames

Francis was born on November 19, 1834, in a village north of London. Having a artist for a father meant Francis developed early on a love and gift in poetry. In time he came to love music and joined the church choir at the age of nine. Yet, just like so many throughout the ages, Francis proceeded to spiritually wander through his teenage years.

One day, as he later wrote, “I was on my way home from work and had to cross Hungerford Bridge to the south of the Thames. During the winter’s night of wind and rain and in the loneliness of that walk, I cried to God to have mercy on me. I stayed for a moment to look at the dark waters flowing under the bridge, and the temptation was whispered to me: ‘Make an end of all this misery.’ I drew back from the evil thought, and suddenly a message was borne into my very soul: ‘You do believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?’ I at once answered, ‘I do believe,’ and I put my whole trust in Him as my Savior.”

Samuel Francis cultivated a deep, deep love for the Savior, joining a local body of believers, preaching the gospel at revivals, and leading worship. He later went on to write this powerful hymn, and he continued to fight the good fight, finishing well the race set before him—after ninety-two years.

A Moving Melody

“O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus,” Francis’ most famous hymn, is set to an appropriately rolling melody called “Ton-Y-Botel” (“Tune in a Bottle”) because of a legend that it was found in a bottle along the Welsh coast. It was actually composed by Thomas J. Williams and first appeared in a 1890 Welsh hymnal entitled Llawlyfn Moliant.

Here are three different recordings of the great hymn—one with the traditional melody, the other with a more contemplative arrangement by Bob Kauflin.


Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free
Rolling as a mighty ocean
In its fullness over me
Underneath me, all around me
Is the current of Your love
Leading onward, leading homeward
To Your glorious rest above

CHORUS (Kauflin arrangement)
Oh the deep, deep love
All I need and trust
Is the deep, deep love of Jesus

Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Spread His praise from shore to shore
How He came to pay our ransom
Through the saving cross He bore
How He watches o’er His loved ones
Those He died to make His own
How for them He’s interceding
Pleading now before the throne

Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Far surpassing all the rest
It’s an ocean full of blessing
In the midst of every test
Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Mighty Savior, precious Friend
You will bring us home to glory
Where Your love will never end

Messenger Hymns

For almost seven years now it’s been a great privilege to call Matt Boswell a friend and partner in the gospel. We served on staff together at Providence Church before we planted IDC in 2013.

I’d say about seventy percent of the songs we sing at IDC are hymns of old. The remaining thirty percent include many songs Bos has written for the church. It’s thus a wonderful day when we can celebrate a new Boswell release. Just this week Bos gave Christ’s church another rich EP entitled Messenger Hymns Vol. 2.

“God Omniscient, God All Knowing” has long been a personal favorite and is a quintessential “call to worship” song. “Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery,” “O Church of Christ, Invincible,” and “God the Spirit” are some of our congregation’s favorites.

You can stream the seven songs below and then go buy the album on iTunes.

A Simple Encouragement

A Singing Church Slider

Pastoral ministry is one of maturing the members (cf. Col. 1:28). Christian maturity depends on teaching (Matt. 28:20), but we also know that much discipling work is more frequently caught than taught. One thing a faithful pastor should want his members to catch from his model is the joy of singing.

Needed: Singing People

Few threads of Christian experience are as woven through all of Scripture as the role of singing. It’s a consistent command (cf Ps. 96:1), the immediate response to redemption (Ex. 15), a mark of a Spirit-filled life (Eph. 5:19), and one of the glories of heaven (Rev. 4-5). Our God is a singing God (Zeph. 3:17) who commands and creates a singing people.

Our churches thus need pastors who visibly and audibly exemplify this singing life. Here are two simple ways you can do this.

They’re Watching and Listening

Sing passionately during your church’s gathered worship. This is quite simple for we one-service-only churches, and it’s a bit more tricky for multiple-service churches. Here’s why: if you have multiple services you might be tempted to join in the singing during only one service while skipping out on the others. For years I’ve seen pastors sit in “the green room” during the singing portion of corporate worship, only coming into the room to preach. I used to be on staff at a church where this was the usual practice. If you’re in the green room as much—or more—than you are out among the congregation during the church’s songs know that you’ve missed out on a sweet opportunity. Not just an opportunity to join in the joy of singing, but to model that joy before your people.

There is something powerful in a pastor sitting at the front of the room and singing with passion. It’s surely true that many church members take occasional, maybe even regular, glances at the pastor during worship to see what he’s doing. Oh, I pray when they look they don’t see a pastor fixated on his sermon notes. I pray they don’t see a pastor seemingly indifferent to the glory of song. I pray they don’t see a pastor talking with staff members or church members more than he sings. What does all that communicate to watching eyes? Singing is not of much value to the pastor. And if it’s not much value for him, why should it be for Mr. Church Member?

What’s better, much better, is for the congregation to see her pastor or pastors singing with passion. Passionate singing means praising God in spirit and truth with volume, expression, joy, and knowledge.

Sing often at other church gatherings. Don’t let the only time your church sings together be the weekend’s gathered worship service. Sing at men’s meeting, women’s meeting, members’ meeting, and prayer meetings. Encourage your small groups to sing one or two songs whenever they meet. I’ve recently been considering how to best incorporate singing into elders’ and deacons’ meetings. If we want to be a singing people we ought to be singing at every station of church life.

Preaching Pastors Should be Singing Pastors

My hope in this post is simple: to see more preaching pastors model the singing life before their people. Let us not relegate the joys of singing to those peculiarly gifted in voice or instrument. God’s given us a voice—however out of pitch it frequently may be—to sing praise to His name and model joy in song for out people.

Apply God’s word and grace wherever it’s needed on this issue. Then go sing with unusual heavenly joy before your people this weekend.

The Song of the Season

Out of all the special days in the Christian calendar the one I love the most is Easter. Actually, I love the whole week leading up to the climax of Easter Sunday. Significant gospel truth and grace saturate each day. I also love Easter because it gives us an excuse to sing one of Charles Wesley’s greatest hymns: “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.”

The Story Behind the Song

charles-wesley_1For almost 300 years Wesley’s anthem of triumph has rung out in Christ’s church. Tim Challies writes, “The earliest forms of the hymn can be traced back to a Latin text from the 14th century. In 1708 the four Latin stanzas were translated into English and published by J. Walsh in Lyra Davidica under the title “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today.” A few decades later, in 1739, a modified version was published by John and Charles Wesley (Charles is pictured to the right) in Hymns and Sacred Poems under the title “Hymn for Easter Day.” It is this version, later shortened and supplemented with the “Alleluia” refrain, that has become the hymn that remains so popular today.”

Stuffed With Stanzas

Many of the famous Wesley songs are full of stanzas churches rarely sing. Most famously, “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing” has 19 different verses! “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” has eleven and each one shouts forth the glory of Christ’s victory. A great devotional practice for this week would be to meditate on a few stanzas of the hymn each day. Here are all 11:

  1. Christ, the Lord, is risen today, Alleluia!
    Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
    Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
    Sing, ye heavens, and earth, reply, Alleluia!
  2. Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
    Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
    Lo! the Sun’s eclipse is over, Alleluia!
    Lo! He sets in blood no more, Alleluia!
  3. Vain the stone, the watch, the seal, Alleluia!
    Christ hath burst the gates of hell, Alleluia!
    Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!
    Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!
  4. Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
    Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
    Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!
    Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!
  5. Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!
    Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
    Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
    Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!
  6. Hail, the Lord of earth and Heaven, Alleluia!
    Praise to Thee by both be given, Alleluia!
    Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
    Hail, the resurrection, thou, Alleluia!
  7. King of glory, Soul of bliss, Alleluia!
    Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
    Thee to know, Thy power to prove, Alleluia!
    Thus to sing and thus to love, Alleluia!
  8. Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
    Unto Christ, our heavenly King, Alleluia!
    Who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!
    Sinners to redeem and save. Alleluia!
  9. But the pains that He endured, Alleluia!
    Our salvation have procured, Alleluia!
    Now above the sky He’s King, Alleluia!
    Where the angels ever sing. Alleluia!
  10. Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
    Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
    Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
    Suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!

A Solid Rendition

If you’re a bit shy of pulling the trigger on having your church sing some Wesley this weekend you might consider this arrangement from NCC: