Silence in Worship (3-26-2017)

When it comes to worship leading, the area that seems to be my strong point is song selection.  There are numerous factors that go into picking just the right worship set.  1) Picking songs that fit together thematically.  2) Picking songs that people will be excited to sing.  (“God’s Wonderful People” could fit a sermon on family perfectly, but I probably wouldn’t use it.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say they love to sing that song!)  3) Picking a good mix of fast and slow, old and new.  4) Arranging these songs in an order that makes sense emotionally, typically beginning and ending with uptempo songs.

Why do I bring all this up?  Well, this week I’m NOT following all of my criteria.  Our sermon this week is on silence.  Silence is something that many times we tend to avoid in society.  We turn the TV on to fall asleep to.  We put our earbuds in during a walk/jog outside.  But silence can be a good thing.  To accentuate that point, I thought it was necessary for me to stick to the theme.  As you can imagine, most songs that are related to this topic tend to have a more slow, reflective feel.  In fact, some of our songs will have moments of silence in them!

1. Master the Tempest is Raging

The words to this song can certainly have dual meaning.  Is it telling the story of Jesus calming the stormy sea?  Or is it a metaphor for Jesus calming the “storms” in our life?  I’d say the answer is both, and I think Mary Baker (the lyricist) would agree.  Mary lost her brother when she was only 42 years old, so I imagine he couldn’t have been too much older.  It was devastating to her.  Writing the words to this song helped her find peace through Christ.

2. Be Still and Know

Our scripture reading for our sermon includes Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.”  This song helps reinforce that verse in song.

3. The Lord is in His Holy Temple

This song also comes directly from scripture.  Habakkuk 2:20, “But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”

4. Christ, We Do All Adore Thee

It has been 3 years since I led this song on a Sunday morning.  The reason I so rarely lead it is not because I don’t like it; on the contrary, I like the song, but I feel that we don’t do the song justice.  The words provide such a deep level of adoration for God; paired with the music, it should truly cause our hearts to bow before Him.  The music even calls for a moment of silence before the last line of the song, which is why this came to mind for our theme this week.

5. Night, with Ebon Pinion

If there was ever a time when Christ felt alone, it must have been the Garden of Gethsemane.  It was such a difficult time for Him that an angel came to strengthen Him.  This song poetically depicts the scene in phrases that some may have difficulty understanding.  (What exactly is ebon pinion?)  This video explains.

6. Tis Midnight, and On Olive’s Brow

One of my favorite communion hymns, this song also talks about Jesus being alone in the garden.  It amazes me that musically this song is written in a major key, yet it is still able to depict such sorrow.

7. Highly Exalted

After the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was led to be crucified.  Scripture even refers to the silence in this part of His life.  Isaiah 53:7, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.”

8. Have You Seen Jesus My Lord?

There is something about being out in nature that causes us to be silent and enjoy the view around us.  That was the imagery that came to mind with this song.  Imagine standing by the ocean, listening to the waves crash.  When we stop long enough in moments like that to be silent, we will no doubt experience God.

9. Take Time to Be Holy

The second verse of this song references how important it is to take time to be silent with God.  The world is rushing around, but we should spend time alone with God to keep us from feeling rushed with the rest of the world.

10. Still

I’d say there’s not much for me to say on this song.  I think the title alone says it all!

11. My God is Singing Over Me

One more reason to be silent and listen: God is singing over you!  What is He saying?  What is His plan for your life?  Be sure to take the time to listen as you go about your week.

In Him,
Aaron Shotts

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Scripture Songs – Part 2 (3-12-2017)

Last August, we had a Sunday where our entire worship set consisted of songs that had lyrics directly from scripture.  This Sunday, our sermon is on the importance of reading our Bible.  I thought this would be a great opportunity to do all scripture songs again.  We’re not even going to have to repeat any from last August–yes, there are that many scripture songs!  I hope the words to these songs stay in your heart, thus helping you to remember scripture while having some wonderful music to sing it with.

1. Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah (Psalm 148)

What better place is there to seek words out of the Bible for music than the book of Psalms?  William Kirkpatrick took Psalm 148 and set it to a triumphant tune that we’re still singing over 100 years later.  The refrain to this song is taken from the end of Psalm 148, which could suggest that William only meant for it to be sung after singing all three verses.

2. Unto Thee, O Lord (Psalm 25:1-7)

The Maranatha Music Company has given us many scripture songs and many songs that we would probably categorize as “devotional” songs.  During the 70’s and 80’s, they were churning out a slew of songs that became popular, such as “Humble Thyself,” “Glorify Thy Name,” “Seek Ye First,” and “I Love You, Lord,” to name a few.  This one, written by Charles Monroe, takes the words of King David in Psalm 25 and creates an upbeat, yet earnest plea to God for His direction.

3. As the Deer (Psalm 42:1)

This song was also published by Maranatha Music.  Technically, only the first line of the song is taken directly from scripture.  The sentiment of the entire song still expresses a desire for God, just as Psalm 42 does.  Martin Nystrom wrote this song on the 19th day of a fast, so there’s no doubt his soul was desiring to be filled with God during that time.

4. As the Deer Thirsts (Psalm 42:1-2,4)

It’s amazing how the same words can have such a different feel simply by changing the music.  While the last song was in a major key, this one is in minor.  As a result, when the song reaches the chorus, the words “And I pour out my soul” reflect a yearning that is deep and profound.  This is no doubt what Dennis Jernigan was feeling when he wrote it, as he has experienced deep and profound yearning for God in his life.  You can read his story here.

5. Send Your Light (Psalm 43)

Sometimes when we pray to God, our emotions are all over the map.  That would appear to be the case in Psalm 43.  In one breath he is praising God, but in the next, He is admitting how downcast he feels.  The composer of this song, Gary Pendergrass, went through a similar roller coaster of emotion.  His son was in ICU in a coma.  It was during that time that he finally understood the emotions of the Psalmist and was able to complete this song.  (Happy ending to the story: his son came out of the coma and is doing well!)

6. Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55)

This song, by Randy Gill, is another four part song.  Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us, then, that this song originated within our brotherhood, just as the last song did.  We do quite well at songs with four parts given that we sing four part harmony.  The only downside is that it can be difficult to reflect on the words to the parts you’re not singing.  I hope you’ll use these videos as a chance to really take a look at the words to each part and see how beautifully they depict scripture.

7. Thy Word (Psalm 119:105)

Our scripture reading before the lesson includes this verse, so it felt fitting to sing this song before our sermon.  With words by Amy Grant and music by Michael W. Smith, this is arguably their most popular collaboration.

8. Had It Not Been the Lord (Psalm 124)

If I had to pick a favorite from our set list this week, it would probably be this one.  (I always have trouble deciding favorites.)  It’s always eye opening to stop and think about where our lives would be without God.  It’s even more sobering to think of the times when I was ready to give up, but He wouldn’t give up on me.  Keep that in mind as you sing the words “Blessed be the Lord who would not give us up!”  It will give it a whole new meaning for you personally.

9. I Will Call Upon the Lord (Psalm 18:3,46)

We end with these words of King David put to music by Michael O’Shields.  May all these songs cause you to call on the Lord through scripture and song.  Keep reading your Bible, keep singing, and tune in to God!

In Him,
Aaron Shotts

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CR Sunday (2-19-2017)

Celebrate Recovery is a ministry that is near and dear to my heart.  I’ve seen the way it changes lives, including my own.  Celebrate Recovery Rockwall is celebrating its 4 year anniversary on February 24.  To promote the event, we’re having “CR Sunday” to coincide.  All our songs this week are some of our favorites to sing on Friday nights at our meetings.

1. My Life is in You, Lord

Believe it or not, this has been our opening song every Friday for the last 4 years at CR.  It reminds us that our identity is rooted in Him!

2. One Thing Remains

A common misconception about CR is that it is mainly for people who deal with drugs and alcohol.  The truth is that less than one-third of those who attend deal with those issues.  CR is for any type of hurt, habit, or hang-up.  And the wonderful news is that God’s love can heal ANY problem in this life because it “never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out.”

3. Cornerstone

The last song ends on an unresolved chord, and for good reason.  (If God’s love never runs out, then it makes sense to leave the listener hanging.)  But for those who don’t like ending with that feeling, we’ll flow right into this song using the same key.  Because God’s love never fails us, why shouldn’t we make Him the Cornerstone of our lives?

4. He Gave His Life

This is another song which reminds us of God’s love.  I John 3:16 states “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”  Gary Miller put that thought to music and came up with this beautiful song.  It’s become one of my favorites.

5. A Mighty Fortress

Christy Nockels, co-author of this song, had this to say about writing it: “The idea and the heart around “A Mighty Fortress” is just that…to renew our minds of who God is and then respond with all eyes and hearts set on Him. We live in a cold, unpredictable world, but it is wonderfully alarming and freeing to sing Truth when all around us is crumbling. This song proclaims that we have protection and take refuge in God and His kingdom is an unshakable kingdom, one in which we will someday reign victorious because of Christ!”

6. Shout Hallelujah

Just as we open with the song every week at CR, we close with one of two songs (alternated every other week).  One of them is this one, written by Randy Gill.  We come to Celebrate Recovery to do exactly that: celebrate!  We celebrate not what we have done, but what God has done in our lives.

7. All to Us

Isaiah 28:16 states, “Thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’”  This verse helped inspire this anthem written for the church.

8. At the Name of Jesus

As I mentioned earlier, we rotate our closing song between “Shout Hallelujah” and this song, also written by Randy Gill.  It’s always fun when visitors come to CR and hear acapella singing for the first time.  This song demonstrates great harmony, response and echo between the men and women, and solid Biblical truth, of course.

In Him,
Aaron Shotts

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Clean, Whole, Healed (2-12-2017)

If we’re honest with ourselves, we can look at our lives and see what a mess we make of them.  But then God comes in and does something wonderful.  He cleans house, makes us whole again, and heals us.  Not only that, He arms us with the armor of God to help protect us in this battle.  What an awesome, loving God!

1. Soldiers of Christ Arise

Anyone who knows me is aware that most of my favorite songs are contemporary songs.  This old hymn, however, would make my list.  Charles Wesley wrote the words to this song  around 1740.  Because of its military references and call to arms, it became known as “The Christian bugle blast.”  That would be a fitting title, given the tenors musically sound a call to arms in the first line of the song!

2. Heaven Came Down

John W. Peterson was listening to a man tell about his conversion and becoming a Christian.  The man stated that “It seemed like heaven came down and glory filled my soul.”  John knew it would make a great song.  Clearly he was right, as we’re still singing the song over 50 years later.

3. He Touched Me

Bill Gaither was traveling around with a colleague who was speaking at evangelism meetings.  Bill’s friend noted how much the word “touch” was in the Gospel.  Jesus touched people to heal them, as well as touching people’s lives.  Bill took that word and ran with it.

4. Give Thanks

This is the last song in this medley of 3 songs.  After reflecting on how our lives have changed and how He has touched our lives, what else can we do but say thanks?  We’ll be singing an arrangement of the song which includes the line “And now let the sick say ‘I am whole.'”

5. Create in Me a Clean Heart

One of the best places to go for lyrics is scripture.  Keith Green took David’s words from Psalm 51 and created a wonderful lament that the church has sung worldwide.

6. You Alone Can Rescue

“Who, O Lord, could save themselves, their own soul could heal?”  The answer, of course, is no one!  This song has become a favorite of mine, partially because of the songwriting team.  It was written by Matt Redman and Jonas Myrin, the duo who wrote “10,000 Reasons.”

7. Our God

We continue our emphasis on healing with this song.  If God can create light in the darkness, if He can change water into wine, if He can make beauty out of ashes, what can He do in your life?  (This arrangement is not the one we will be singing, but it’s still a lot of fun to listen to.  The male/female split at the end of the song is lively!)

8. Flawless

What happens after God makes us clean, whole, and healed?  We become flawless!  We sing this song as a hybrid of the old hymn “At the Cross (Alas and Did My Savior Bleed)” with the chorus to the MercyMe song “Flawless.”

9. The Battle Belongs to the Lord

As we leave this place reminded of how God restores us, and how He equips us, let’s not forget that this battle is His!

In Him,
Aaron Shotts

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In Need (2-5-2017)

Do you need Christ every day?  Do you live your life in a way that says so?  This week’s songs remind us of not only of how much we need Him, but how much He is there for us!

1. Restore My Soul

“I stand in need of more strength from your word.”  This song, as many songs do, began as a prayer.  Sylvia Rose was battling depression and began to pray to God.  This song was born as a result.

2. Jesus, Hold My Hand

“I need Thy light to guide me day and night.”  While I don’t have any direct info on the story behind this song, it’s safe to assume this song also started as a prayer song just as the last one.  Albert Brumley asks Jesus to lead and guide him throughout life.  Clearly Albert knew how much he needed God as he states “I need Thee every hour.”  This song was one of his most successful as it was recorded by the likes George Jones, Chuck Wagon Gang, and more.  (His most successful song was “I’ll Fly Away.”)

3. I Must Tell Jesus

“I need a great Savior, One who can help my burdens to bear.”  If you look at Elisha Hoffman’s most popular song, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” he clearly knew what it meant to rely on God.  In this song, he expresses a need to have a relationship with God through prayer.

4. Mighty to Save

“Everyone needs compassion.  Everyone needs forgiveness.”  This song is based on Zephaniah 3:17, which is a great verse to read when you feel in need.  The verse reminds us that God is in our midst!

5. I Need Thee Every Hour

Annie Hawks wrote the lyrics to the verses of this song.  She said she was working at home one day and became so aware of God’s presence, she wondered how anyone could live without it!  Robert Lowry put her words to music and added words to create a chorus.

6. My Only Hope is You

“All that I need is You, Jesus.”  I love the simplicity of this tune.  Written by John Paul Trimble back in 1989, John declares that Jesus is his hope, peace and joy.  Then in the last verse, he boldly claims his need for Jesus.

7. Surround Us, Lord

“We need to be in Your presence.”  There is no better way, in my opinion, to memorize scripture than to learn it through song.  This song comes from Psalm 125:2.  It’s always a crowd favorite at our church.

8. Soul, A Savior Thou Art Needing

This has always been one of my favorite invitation songs.  The text was written by Mrs. Jessie H. Brown Pounds, who also wrote the words to “Anywhere with Jesus” and “The Way of the Cross Leads Home.”  The music was written by James Fillmore, who composed music for “Purer in Heart, O God” and “I am Resolved.”  You probably will not find this song outside the church of Christ, as it seems to have only found popularity within our brotherhood.

9. Everlasting God

“You comfort those in need.”  Rather than try and tell you the story of this song myself, I’d much rather let Brenton Brown, co-author of this song, tell you:

In Him,
Aaron Shotts

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King of Glory (1-22-2017)

Some weeks it’s hard to come up with enough songs for a single theme; on the other hand, there are weeks when it’s hard to narrow down to just a handful of songs.  This was one of those weeks!  There are so many great songs that feature God/Jesus as King.  Here are the ones we’ll be singing this Sunday.

1. Hosanna

This song is such a great call to worship, beginning with the proclamation that we want to lift up His name.  When Carl Tuttle wrote this song back in 1985, one of his goals was to make it singable with an easy melody, thus making it accessible to the masses.  He knew he had achieved this when he heard his song being sung by a huge crowd in the Superdome in New Orleans.

2. O Worship the King

Next we’ll move into a mashup of three different “King” songs (all sung in the same key).  This first one has lyrics penned all the way back in the early 1800’s by Robert Grant.  He never got to see his work become famous, as Robert’s brother published his work after he passed away.  His words were set to a classical piece of music written by Haydn.

3. He’s My King

This song is the more modern of the three songs in this medley.  It was written in 1911, so “modern” is definitely relative!  The music to this song was written by James Vaughan.  He created a men’s quartet and went on the road with them in 1910 to help promote his songbooks.  He also formed a publishing company and even built a radio station in 1928 in Tennessee to help promote his music.  I can imagine this song being played in homes throughout the Smokey Mountains on the radio and then being taken into churches soon after.  That’s very much how music finds its way into churches today, so Vaughan was definitely an innovator.

4. Come, Thou Almighty King

This hymn is the oldest of the three in the medley, so we know very little about it.  The lyricist is unknown.  Some suggest that the words were originally written to be sung to the tune of “God Save the King.”  (For us Americans, that would be the tune of “My Country, Tis of Thee.”)  Lucky for us, somewhere along the line, it was given some a much more upbeat tune.

5. Highly Exalted

We’ve been working on this song for a couple months on Sunday nights, so this felt like the right week to introduce it on a Sunday morning.  While this song does not address our theme of “King,” it felt like a perfect contrast.  This song shows the juxtaposition of Christ’s humanity–He lowered Himself to the lowest point, so that God could highly exalt His name above all other names!

6. We Shall Assemble

“Glory and honor and dominion unto the Lamb, unto the King!”  Most people seem to have a fond affection for songs they learned during their youth.  This song would fall into that category for me, but it deserves to be sung for more reasons than that.  It was written by Twila Paris, who many call the Fanny J. Crosby of our time.  With songs like “We Bow Down,” “We Shall Assemble,” and “Lamb of God” in her catalog, she has a God-given talent for writing songs that bring us into God’s presence.  This song is no exception.

7. Who Shall Stand Before the King?

Our sermon this week will include a look at Psalm 24.  In this Psalm, King David paints a picture of God as the “King of Glory.”  This song comes directly from that Psalm.  After having just declared that “We shall assemble” in the last song, I hope we can all confidently stand and sing this song, knowing that we will stand before the King!

8. Come to the Feast

Our sermon will also be taking a look at the parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22.  It is an amazing thought to think that God is inviting us to His table to feast with Him.  “Hear the invitation!”

9. A New Anointing

This could have been our opening song, as it makes a great declaration to start with by saying “This is the day that the Lord has made.”  I decided to use it as a closing song instead.  What a great declaration to make to the world: “King of glory fill the earth!”

In Him,
Aaron Shotts




O Worship the King (1,2,3)
He’s My King (1,2)
Come, Thou Almighty King (1,2,3)



Highly Exalted


(Sung during offering:)
We Shall Assemble

Who Shall Stand Before the King?


Come to the Feast (1,2,4)


A New Anointing

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Forgiven and Redeemed (1-15-2017)

How much does God love you?  So much that He has made your sin as white as snow, and He has removed your sins as far from the east is from the west.  These songs are all great reminders of those facts!

1. Redeemed

There are two songs named “Redeemed,” so we’re going to sing both!  This first one is written by Fanny J. Crosby and William J. Kirkpatrick, the same amazing songwriting duo that also brought us “A Wonderful Savior.”  Based on Fanny J. Crosby’s lyrics in this song, she had a true appreciation for the forgiveness that she had received from Jesus.

2. How Deep the Father’s Love

I normally don’t like to start with such a slow, reflective song this early in the service.  However, with a topic like forgiveness, it was difficult to come up with very many “peppy” songs.  We will attempt to sing this one a little faster than normal.  Keith Lancaster likes to use a varied tempo with each phrase, as demonstrated in this video.

3. Listen to Our Hearts

This song directly references God’s love stretching from east to west.  After having just contemplated how deep His love is, it can feel like such an impossible task to try and put into words how we feel.  In those moments when it feels impossible, the Spirit helps us communicate.

4. His Grace Reaches Me

Our key text is Isaiah 1:18, “Though your sins are like scarlet they shall be white as snow.”  There are two songs we sing that contain the word scarlet.  This one is definitely a crowd favorite.  Listen to this rendition of Harding’s Concert Choir perform the song as they’re conducted by my former choir director, Dr. Shearin.

7. Always Forgiven

The second verse of this song paints such a beautiful picture of what life is like after we’re forgiven.  God sees us through the perfection of His Son, and it’s as if we’ve never sinned at all.  He truly is the “Father of grace.”

8. Redeemed

As promised, here is the other song with this title, although it is published as “I Have Been Redeemed” in some hymnals.  After having sung about always being forgiven, this seemed like a natural response for our souls to cry out.  “Sweet is the song I am singing today: I’m redeemed!”

9. At the Cross (Love Ran Red)

This song takes us to the place where forgiveness took place.  There are some songs that are difficult to lead…this is one of them.  Not from a technical standpoint, though.  It’s difficult from an emotional standpoint.  “Here arms open wide; Here You saved my life.”  The emotion comes when you truly believe those words.  And there’s a reason that musically the song reaches it’s highest point during that phrase–it’s the culmination of the gospel!

10. Victory in Jesus

“He sought me and bought me with His redeeming love.”  Let this story stay in your heart!

In Him,
Aaron Shotts

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