Alive (4-21-2019)

It’s always hard to narrow down the choices on Easter Sunday.  There’s so many great songs that declare “Jesus lives.”  We also can’t acknowledge that He was resurrected without acknowledging what He went through.  I hope these songs tell a wonderful story about a wonderful Savior.

1. Jesus is Well and Alive Today (Blue Skies and Rainbows)

One of the first songs I can remember singing in chapel during elementary school.  This may get categorized as a children’s song, but I think the message is just as important a reminder for us adults: “Nevermore will I be all alone since He promised me that we never would part.”

2. Shout Hallelujah

While this song doesn’t reference the resurrection, this certainly should be our response to it!

3. Before the Throne of God Above

This will be my first time leading this song.  Verse 2 reminds us that Satan will tempt us to despair, which is very easy to do if we only focus on Jesus’ death.  That’s not where the story ends, though.  I love the image in verse 3 of “the Risen Lamb,” and the reminder that “my life is hid with Christ on high.”

4. Precious Memories (Easter edition)

No, we’re not singing about “Precious father, loving mother” and “old home scenes of my childhood.”  This is the same hymn but with verses re-written to tell the story leading up to Jesus on the cross.  Verse 1 begins with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane.  Verse 2 tells about Peter’s denial.  Verse 3 depicts the scene at the cross.  Verse 4 end with the stone being rolled away!  We’ll precede each verse with a scripture reading corresponding with the story being told in the verse.

5. Low in the Grave He Lay

I dare say that no song better represents the transition from the grave to the resurrection better than this one.  The verse is sung very low and solemn, but that all changes when we sing “up from the grave He arose!”  We’ll sing all three verses together, then the chorus.

6. Highly Exalted

This is one our church learned last year.  This is another song that provides such a beautiful contrast.  The verses speak words such as “despised” and “rejected,” but then the chorus declares that God has enthroned Jesus “on high.”  (The ending of this song has proven to be a little tricky, so we’ll go straight from the last chorus into the next song.)

7. Jesus, Name Above All Names

The idea to go straight into this song came to me last Sunday.  I was singing “Highly Exalted,” trying to think of another way to end that song since the ending to that song doesn’t seem to go well.  After singing the line “Jesus, the name above all names” in Highly Exalted,” my mind came to this song which begins with the nearly identical line “Jesus, name above all names.”

8. Because He Lives

The Gaither’s have left an undeniable mark on gospel music.  This one is arguably their most popular one.  Rather than contrasting the grave and the resurrection, this song provides a different type of contrast.  The chorus tells us that while there may be fear and uncertainty of our future, “life is worth the living just because He lives!”

9. I Believe in Jesus

“I believe that the tomb was found empty!”  What more needs to be said?

10. Our God, He is Alive

As we finish our worship with this song, I hope you leave with joy in your heart from the story that all these songs have told of a risen Savior!

In Him,
Aaron Shotts

WELCOME

Jesus is Well and Alive Today (Blue Skies and Rainbows)

Shout Hallelujah

Before the Throne of God Above

PRAYER

Precious Memories (Easter Edition)

Low in the Grave He Lay (All verses, then chorus)

COMMUNION
OFFERING

Highly Exalted

Jesus, Name Above All Names

Because He Lives (1,3)

SCRIPTURE READING – John 11:17-25

SERMON

I Believe in Jesus

Our God, He is Alive (1,4)

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Hold On (3-31-2019)

For this Sunday, I was asked to put together a set of songs about being tempted and tried.  There was just one problem…that was the exact same theme I did the last time I led!  So instead, I focused on songs that help us through times of trial by focusing on Him…leaning on Him and holding His hand.

1. Leaning on the Everlasting Arms

Despite how upbeat this song sounds, the origin of it was born out of sadness and loss.  Anthony Showalter, a singing school teacher, received letters from two former students who had both lost their wives.  Trying to find some words of comfort for them, the lyrics of the chorus of this song began to come to him.

2. Lean On His Arm

This is one song I wish I could find more information on.  Internet searches turn up no information at all.  My guess is that this song originated in the Church of Christ.  Who else would write such a dynamite four part chorus?

3. Cornerstone

This is the last of our songs to focus on “leaning” before we move on to songs referencing holding His “hand.”  This song begins with familiar words but a new tune, and then proceeds into a brand new chorus.

4. Hand in Hand With Jesus

This is one of my favorite hymns.  But this hymn wasn’t always a “standard” hymn.  It was written in 1940, and much like the contemporary songs we sing today (just like “Cornertsone”), it gained popularity on the radio.  The Foggy Mountain Boys sang it on The Grand Ole Opry.  Skeeter Davis released a cover of it in 1967.  This helped the song find its way into churches.  So who says hymns are so different from contemporary songs?  All songs were new at one point!

5. Til the Storm Passes By

Another one of my favorite hymns.  (Maybe it brings me comfort being a pilot?)  This song was written by Mosie Lister.  Mosie is another example of a composer’s songs gaining popularity via radio before being sung in church.  After all, Elvis Presley recorded several of his songs, including “He Knows Just What I Need.”

6. My God and I

I had the privilege of recording this song last week with 225 other singers.  Until that recording is released, here is another stellar version by the Harding University Concert Choir (another group I sang with back in 1998-1999).

7. I Know Who Holds Tomorrow

Ira Stanphill went through a separation from his wife and eventually divorce in 1948.  So given the copyright on this song is 1950, it’s easy to see where the inspiration came from.  He would go on to face more challenging times as he was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1976.  It takes faith during those times to be able to declare “But I know who holds tomorrow and I know who holds my hand!”

8. Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand

There are few things in life that don’t change.  I’m so thankful that when Jennie Wilson wrote these words, she didn’t just say “Hold to God’s hand,” but instead hold to His unchanging hand!  He is the one constant in our lives we can always depend on.

In Him,
Aaron Shotts

ORDER OF SERVICE

WELCOME

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms (1,2,3)
Lean On His Arm (1,2,4)

PRAYER

Cornerstone

Hand in Hand With Jesus (1,2,4)

COMMUNION
OFFERING

Til the Storm Passes By (1,2)

My God and I (1,2,3)

SCRIPTURE READING – 1 Corinthians 10:12-13

SERMON

I Know Who Holds Tomorrow (1,3)

Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand (1,4)

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Faith Without Answers (2-3-2019)

Just like last month, I was asked to pick a set of worship songs without knowing what the sermon was going to be about.  As I looked over my list of potential songs that I know, the songs that started catching my attention were about living faithfully even when we don’t understand.  If you are going through a trial and don’t understand why, I hope these songs bring you comfort.

1. Living By Fatih

This song is a perfect one to start us off on this theme.  This song is unusual in that the verse and the chorus are written in two different time signatures.  See if you can hear the shift in count when it happens.

2. Trials Dark on Every Hand (When Morning Comes)

Often times, songs that have a strong message of keeping faith during trials are born from people who have been through hard times.  Charles Tindley was born the son of a slave, and his mother died when he was only 4 years old.  Despite these challenges, he taught himself to read and write and became a preacher of the gospel.  He also wrote many great songs like this one.

3. Farther Along

While the last two songs take a more upbeat approach about living faithfully during trials, this one is a little more melancholy.  But I think that is very appropriate because that is how life is.  There are times when we feel “tempted and tried,” but just like the last song, this song also takes comfort in the fact that we’ll “understand it all by and by.”

4. Communion Medley:
Tis Midnight and on Olive’s Brow
The Old Rugged Cross
Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone

If there is ever a story in the Bible of living faithfully when we don’t understand, certainly Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane fits that description.  We know that He didn’t fully understand because He asked God to “take this cup,” yet He also prayed for God’s will to be done.

5. Rescue Me

This song is a great reminder that in those times when we do feel down and defeated, it is okay to ask God for help.  This was a prayer of King David that comes from Psalm 17.

6. Trust and Obey

I have yet to find a video of this song where they sing it as fast as I do.  (Some arrangements of this song are written in 3/4 time, as sung here.  Other arrangements are written in 6/8 time, which is how I lead it).  Nevertheless, this is a great rendition by the Harding University Chorus under the direction of Dr. Ganus.  I had the privilege of being directed by Dr. Ganus on a few occasions when I attended Harding.

7. Had It Not Been the Lord

This is our second song this week that comes directly from this Psalms, this one being from Psalm 124.  While most of the songs we’ve sung thus far are looking forward to the day we will understand, this song takes a different approach in that it looks back on where we’ve been and acknowledges God was with us.

8. The Joy of the Lord

As we close out our worship, I thought it was important to instill some strength for those who are indeed struggling.  Twila Paris reminds us in this song all the ways that “the joy of the Lord is (our) strength.”

In Him,
Aaron Shotts

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Faithful and Present (1-13-2018)

Sometimes I have to come up with a set list for worship without ANY information on the sermon.  Such is the case this week.  When I sat down to put it together, I asked myself what our congregation needs to hear right now.  (We’ve dealt with some very heavy news recently.)  Two themes came to mind: God’s faithfulness and God’s presence.  You’ll see those two themes intertwined throughout each song this week.  I hope they bring everyone, including our minister Randy Daw, great peace and comfort.

1. Ten Thousand Reasons

Based on Psalm 103 (which we will have as a scripture reading just prior to singing), this song is a wonderful reminder of God’s blessings, even during times of adversity.

2. I Will Sing of the Mercies of the Lord

I feel like this song was way ahead of its time.  Written in the late 1800’s, it almost sounds as if it is a modern day praise song.

3. Holy Ground / Holy Ground

These two songs not only have the same title, they sound so similar that many people probably don’t realize that they are in fact two different songs.

4. Great is Thy Faithfulness

I can’t remember where I learned this song; I did not grow up singing it in church.  But wherever I first heard it, it was an obviously powerful hymn.

5. I Am a Sheep

Dennis Jernigan is one of my favorite modern composers.  You’ll recognize some of his other songs we sing in church: You Are My All in All, Thank You Lord (for all that You’ve done I will thank You).  This one reminds us that God is constantly watching over us.  What a great reminder of His presence.

6. Surround Us, Lord

It’s good not only to remind us of God’s presence, but to remind ourselves how much we NEED His presence.  Based on Psalm 125:2, this modern day hymn reminds us that God surrounds His people.

9. Walking Alone at Eve

The imagery in this classic puts us in God’s presence by walking with Him, as well as reminding us of the home we have with Him in the future.

In Him,
Aaron Shotts

WELCOME

SCRIPTURE READING – Psalm 103:1-8 (NKJV)

Ten Thousand Reasons

I Will Sing of the Mercies of the Lord

PRAYER

Holy Ground
Holy Ground

COMMUNION
OFFERING

Great is Thy Faithfulness (1,3)

I Am a Sheep

SERMON

Surround Us, Lord

Walking Alone at Eve (1,3)

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Christ, Our Friend (12-16-2018)

There are many things to call Jesus: Savior, Redeemer, Counselor, etc.  But perhaps the most endearing term of all is friend.  We’ll be singing that word a lot this Sunday!  (Anyone want to attempt to count how many times we sing it?)

1. What a Friend We Have in Jesus

You get the feeling when you hear the words to this song that the author had his fair share of trials.  That is certainly the case.  Joseph Scriven lost his fiance the day before their wedding when she drowned in an accident.  Joseph wrote these words to send to his mother as some comfort, but they’re now words known around the world.

2. There’s Not a Friend (No Not One)

You might be surprised to know that many of the songs we sing actually started out as Sunday school songs for children.  Such is probably the case with this song.  This song teaches simple, yet important truths about Jesus.  We never get too old for needing such reminders as this.

3. I Love My Savior Too

One thing that generally distinguishes the southern gospel music movement was that the lyrics were written to express personal faith.  This song is no exception, and the words were written by J. R. Baxter, co-founder of the southern gospel publishing company Stamps-Baxter (based in Dallas for many years).

4. I’ll Be a Friend to Jesus

It’s interesting that of these first four songs about Jesus being our friend, the lyrics to this one were written by the same man who wrote the lyrics to “There’s Not a Friend (No Not One).”  In fact, Johnson Oatman is estimated to have written lyrics for over 5,000 gospel songs, many of which contained the word “friend.”  What a testament to his life.

5. Faithful Love

This song is one of our more contemporary selections of the week.  Written in 1993 by Ken Young, the song personalizes what Jesus’ love does for us with some truly beautiful lyrics.  “Faithful love is a friend just when hope seems to end.”  If you feel like your hope has run out, take comfort in this song.

6. O Sacred Head

We go from a modern song to the oldest song in our list this week.  This song is based on a Latin text written during the middle ages.  After the first verse reminds us of the pain Christ went through, I love how the second verse personalizes the sacrifice He made for each of us: “What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend?”

7. O Holy Night

You might be surprised to know that this song contains the word “friend” in the lesser known second verse: “The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger, in all our trials born to be our friend.”

8. My God is Singing Over Me

This song is based on Zephaniah 3:17.  The second verse, however, is based on Romans 15:5-6.  I’d highly encourage you to read those scriptures to make the song even more meaningful.  You’ll hear our keyword of “Friend” again in this song at the end of the second verse.

9. Where Could I Go?

What a thought to consider for our invitation: “Needing a friend to save me in the end–where could I go but to the Lord?”

10. The Great Redeemer

Jesus is indeed “the precious Friend, who died for me!”  I love picking a closing song that will stick in your head…hope you walk out humming this song and take it to the world.

In Him,
Aaron Shotts

ORDER OF SERVICE

WELCOME

What a Friend We Have in Jesus (1,2)
There’s Not a Friend (1,2)

I Love My Savior Too (1,3)
I’ll Be a Friend to Jesus (1,3,4)

PRAYER

Faithful Love (1,2)
O Sacred Head (1,2)

COMMUNION
OFFERING

O Holy Night (1,2)

My God is Singing Over Me (1,2)

SCRIPTURE READING – John 15:13-15

SERMON

Where Could I Go? (1,3)

The Great Redeemer (1,3)

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Jesus First! (9-30-2018)

Randy sent me his sermon thesis summed up in just two sentences: “Jesus must be first; nothing may come before Him.”  So when it came to songs, the first thing that popped in my head were songs that encourage us to follow and walk with Him.  There’s no better way to follow Him!

1. Not a Step Without Jesus

It’s interesting to read the lyrics of a song and try and put yourself in the shoes of the lyricist.  What was Ira Brister going through when he wrote this song?  The line that strikes me the most when thinking of his life is “though I often am tempted to leave Him.”  It could be easy for us to think ‘why would someone ever leave Jesus?’  But I don’t think that’s what he was saying.  When we choose to sin, we are straying from Jesus’ will for our lives.  In that sense, we leave Him often.  But praise God He’s always waiting for our return.

2. Stepping in the Light

This hymn always has just a little bit of contention attached to it.  I have heard some people make the argument (as well as read on the Internet) that they’re not comfortable with the opening phrase of “trying to walk in the steps of the Savior.”  They argue the the word “trying” is too passive.  However, I would argue that Eliza Hewitt was just being honest by using the word “trying,” indicating that she may not always be successful, as none of us are.  Not only that, take into account that she had a spinal malady and was a shut-in for much of her life, that puts a whole new meaning into “trying to walk.”  I’m so glad she didn’t just use her time as a shut-in to sit idly but instead wrote words to this and numerous other songs.

3. Each Step I Take

Would you believe this song was written by a nineteen year old?  That is shocking both musically and lyrically.  Lyrically, the words show someone with great faith at such a young age.  From the standpoint of the music, this song is one of the most harmonically rich songs in our hymnal.  Most songs we sing tend to stick to the diatonic scale (Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So La Ti), limiting to just 7 notes.  But this song makes great use of the chromatic scale (Do, Do sharp, Re, Re sharp, etc…), which expands the choices to 12 notes.  That provides for a rich sound.  See if you can hear those chromatic steps.  (Hint: listen to the melody on the phrases “loving hand” and “higher ground.”)

4. Follow Me

When we’re feeling down or sorry for ourselves, one of the best ways we can put things in perspective is by looking at what others have gone through.  There is no shortage of people who have suffered much greater than I have.  That is exactly what this song accomplishes.  In verse 1, Ira Stanphill finds himself complaining how he is being treated by others.  Jesus answers by reminding Him how He was mistreated on the road to Calvary. (Just like the last song used the chromatic scale, listen for it in this song in the alto part.)

5. Lord, Take Control

This is one of those songs that you better think hard BEFORE you sing it.  “My heart, my mind, my body, my soul, I give to You–take control!”  If we’re honest, we don’t always like to relinquish control of all those things.  If that’s the case for you, let this song be a prayer that you would learn how to relinquish control to Him each and every day.

6. In Christ Alone

It’s hard to believe this song is over 15 years old when it’s still in the top 20 most used songs in the church in the United States.  This song fits our theme of “Jesus First!” because if we place our hope in Christ alone, not only will He be first, He will be our only hope.  (As He should be!)

7. El Shaddai

What truly motivates someone to put God first is when we can see how He puts us first.  This song tells the story of how God had a plan from the very beginning, saving Abraham’s son Isaac, leading the Israelites out of Egpyt, all the way to the death of Jesus.  When we realize that, our response is to “praise and lift You high, El Shaddai.”

8. Who Will Follow Jesus?

Remember how I said earlier that Eliza Hewitt wrote numerous songs in her lifetime?  (She was the one who wrote “Stepping in the Light.”)  Here is another one of her works!  What a great message for us to leave with: “I am on the Lord’s side; Master, here am I.”

In Him,
Aaron Shotts

ORDER OF SERVICE

WELCOME

Not a Step Without Jesus (1,2,3)

Stepping in the Light (1,2,3)

PRAYER

Each Step I Take (1,3)

Follow Me (1,2,3)

COMMUNION
OFFERING

Lord, Take Control

In Christ Alone (1,2,3,4)

SCRIPTURE READING – Luke 14:26-27

SERMON

El Shaddai

Who Will Follow Jesus? (1,2)

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I’m Weak, He’s Strong (6-10-2018)

One of the best ways we can spread Christianity is to share our weaknesses.  This can be counter-intuitive to us as humans.  We like to put on our mask, pretend we don’t have problems or sin in our life, and show that side of us to the world.  But when we share our struggles with others, that allows others to see how Christ has changed our lives.  I hope our songs this week remind you where your strength comes from, despite your weakness.

1. One Step at a Time

I just recently learned this song, but it’s actually an old standard.  It’s a peppy song, so it’s a great start for our worship this week.  It reminds us that while we have struggles in this life, if we take one step at a time with God, our faith and hope grow stronger!

2. Cornerstone

It’s hard to believe that this song is 7 years old now.  It’s currently in the top 100 songs being sung in churches across America.  Its message of Christ being the cornerstone of our lives is a wonderful reminder of His strength in our lives.

3. When My Love to Christ Grows Weak

When it comes to songs that confess our weakness, this song is the epitome of that sentiment.  That’s exactly the message that John Wreford conveys in his lyrics to this song.  I love how his imagery takes us to a time when Christ felt weak–in the garden of Gethsemane.  What a wonderful reminder that Christ struggled just as we did.

4. Jesus Loves Me

I love seeing the look on the faces of children when we sing this song in church.  They can be off in their own little world, but they light up when they hear this one.  We adults would do well to follow their example.  How much would our lives change if we remembered each and every day how much He loves us?

5. You Are My All in All

Dennis Jernigan’s music has been sung widely in churches since the early 1990’s.  This one is by far his most popular.  The message has resonated with people around the world.  The verses contrast our weakness with Christ’s strength in many different ways.  It also shows the brilliance of Dennis’ songwriting that the verses can be sung as a counterpart with the chorus.

6. Hear Me When I Call

It’s always a joy to lead Tillit Teddlie songs at congregations in Texas.  I almost always have someone come up to me afterward and talk about how they knew him, or were even baptized by him.  Brother Teddlie wrote this song in 1962 when he was 77 years old.  (He was still several years from the end of his life as he lived to the age 102!)  In this song, we can hear a man who recognized his need for God due to his own weaknesses.

7. My God is Singing Over Me

By request, we’ll be singing a song that we learned at our Wednesday night singing last week.  I hope it’s a blessing to you to know that even though we are weak, God “is a mighty savior.  He will take delight in you with gladness.  With his love, he will calm all your fears.  He will rejoice over you with singing.”  (Zephaniah 3:17)

In Him,
Aaron Shotts

ORDER OF SERVICE

WELCOME

One Step at a Time

Cornerstone

PRAYER

When My Love to Christ Grows Weak

COMMUNION
OFFERING

Jesus Loves Me

You Are My All in All

SCRIPTURE READING – Deut. 5:9

SERMON

Hear Me When I Call

My God is Singing Over Me

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