Elijah prayed

Elijah prayed

At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: ‘Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.’

Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, ‘The Lord – he is God! The Lord – he is God!’

Open

Song Story | Open

Open was a really fun song to work on, and a relatively quick process as far as songs can go. Also I got to write with my good friend Samuel Lane again. It started one night last year when I had an amazingly vivid dream. I saw a vision of heaven. It was absolutely mind blowing. In it I saw a walled city on a green hill that was so bright it was almost blinding. And the people inside were literally on fire, blazing with a passion that poured out of the middle of them, spilling out light in every direction.

But it was the sound was the first thing that caught me. It was worship, but not like anything I had heard before, it was almost scary to be honest, it was so loud, so beautifully shocking. I remember not being able to stand because of it. They were singing so loudly, directing their worship to the King, who was seated above the city. And even though I knew individually they were all singing words, the full sound of it was like a storm. Then, from where I was standing I was suddenly aware that this city and the whole hill was advancing towards me and opening outwards. I was stuck fast, I couldn't move. But I didn't want to. My heart was bursting with anticipation at being consumed into the city that had just one focus of singing this awe filled song!

I woke up and my heart was racing. It was very early in the morning and I desperately wanted to wake my wife up and tell her about it (but wisely thought maybe I should wait for a more reasonable hour). So I jumped out of bed and grabbed some paper and went into the living room trying my best to write down everything I'd seen and heard, and how I felt. And I grabbed my guitar and worshipped for a good long while. I don't think I've ever felt as caught up and free in worship as I did that night, which was quite ironic because I was having to play and sing so quietly because I didn't want to wake my wife.

The thing that stayed with me over the next few days as I thought on it was this feeling of urgency, a sense of something coming, God and His Kingdom moving closer. New things being opened.

After a couple of weeks, I'd started to form my thoughts and notes into a song of sorts, and I shared it with Sam and told him about the dream. Over the following couple of months we spent time writing and rewriting it, sending ideas back and forth, and slowly crafting and refining the song. A process that is always fun. I really enjoy writing with Sam. He recorded a rough demo and we emailed it over to Vineyard Records to see what they thought of it. Before we knew it Jimmy Cooke had put some crazy drums on it and was pushing for it to be the title track of their new studio album they were working on.

Then Mr David ‘Professor’ Plumb got his musical hands on it and added all sorts of beats, bleeps and celestial sweeps, turning it into the song that you hear now on the 'Open' album.

An interesting side note for you, Sam’s vocal track is the very same one that he recorded for the rough demo in our little church studio. That boy has got a seriously good set of pipes on him! We're really pleased with how it has come out. The lyrics have changed a lot from the original draft, but are true to that initial dream, and the main thing we really wanted to express is that sense of invitation into this amazing thing that is opening up. That Heaven's door is indeed open!


Put down your pens

We don’t need anymore songs…. do we?

On my drive to the workshop this morning I was listening to an interview with John Mark McMillan that someone posted on a Facebook feed, and in it he paraphrased a quote from a Bob Dylan interview on songs and song writing. It struck me and stuck. It was still hanging in my head when i got home, so i decided i would try and find it, which proved trickier that i had thought, but i persisted, and found the transcript of the interview.

In it Dylan was being asked lots of questions about his songs, and other singer songwriters he respected etc, and in answer to one of these questions he replied with this quote.

“The world doesn’t need any more songs. They’ve got enough. They’ve got way too many. As a matter of fact, if nobody wrote any songs from this day on, the world ain’t gonna suffer for it. Nobody cares. There’s enough songs for people to listen to, if they want to listen to songs. For every man, woman and child on earth, they could be sent, probably, each of them, a hundred records, and never be repeated. There’s enough songs. Unless someone’s gonna come along with a pure heart and has something to say. That’s a different story”.

It was the last part of the quote that seemed to have grabbed me the most. Unless someone’s going to come along with a pure heart and has something to say….

I found myself wondering if this is an area that our churches need to face up to? Are we doing this songwriting thing justice? Do we really have something to say when we sit down to write, or are we just writing more songs for the sake of it? Do our churches have enough songs already? Are our songs just products to be consumed for a time and then replaced? Are we writing songs just so that people have something to sing, or are we writing songs because we have something to say?

Are we writing from the correct motivational stand point? Is our relationship with the Father informing and instructing us, or are our insecurities and worldly desires directing us?

I personally believe that there are not enough people writing songs because they truly have something to say.

The biggest battle that many worship leaders face is the need for affirmation from the world and a search for significance and fame, and this unfortunately is what I believe drives a lot of worship songs today.

There are plenty of songs out there floating about which sound great with all the band and all the pedals, but don’t really say much, and are found out in a small intimate setting. We already have a million and one songs about how great God is and how much He loves us, and rightly so, but is this because these are the easiest things for us to write about? Autopilot song writing? Do we need anymore? My answer would be yes, but only if the song is born out out of someone really wanting to write it because they have been caught up in just how great He is or how much He loves us. These seem to be the songs that really have impact anyway. You can always tell when a song has been written from experience, the passion in it translates across to the people engaging in it.

Don’t get me wrong, there will never be enough ways to write about how great our God is, and I’m not saying we necessarily even need to find new ways of saying it, but I am saying that we are doing ourselves, our churches, and our God a disservice if the songs we are writing are not born out of a pure heart that has been formed from an ongoing relationship with Him, pouring out what we really have to say about who He is, what He has done, who we are, and where we are. Not copying a formula that seems to work with ideas (as true as they are), that are not really our own.

So this is my call to arms… Lets write amazing songs, inspired by our walk with Jesus and motivated by nothing other than glorifying the One who is most worthy of all of our affection, adoration and praise. Let us pursue holiness again, laying down our insecurities before him, seeking forgiveness for where we have sought to glorify ourselves before God. Let’s get on our knees so that when we do write, we have something to say. Let’s put everything we can into making our songs the most passionate, truthful and life changing songs for people. Let’s not be lazy, and let’s not settle for anything other than writing the best songs we can bring Him.

You can pick up your pens again now……

Hand of God

Hand of God | Darren & Jessie Clarke

Darren and Jessie Clarke (writers of I Love Your Presence and Your Love Endures (featured on The Fire)) have been making music and recording all their lives, but this is their first ever full length Indie Worship record. It’s a self released beauty. A lovely collection of heartfelt songs. There’s such an innocence to the sound, a raw purity to it, it’s hard to describe. There’s no striving to make it big here, no sense they’re trying to prove themselves. They know who they are, they know God loves them, and they just want to express some of that in return. And they do it all with some masterful songwriting.

My particular favourites are ‘Hand of God’ and 'God Does Wonderful Things’. If you only listen to a couple songs make sure you check these two out! Have a good listen and give them your support!

P.S. Jessie’s my sister!

Embrace The Space

I’ve been given a few pieces of advice over the years from other worship leaders and pastors, and there is one thing that im really holding onto at the moment in particular, to embrace the space. Those spaces in worship that are just that, space. Im aware that when I was a little more wet behind the ears as a worship leader, my nerves would sometimes get the better of me, and I would find myself rattling my way through a worship set. I know that I’m not the only person who has had the tendency to do this. I have been in services where the worship time has left me feeling somewhat windswept, and not in a good way!

I dont think I can over emphasize the importance of leaving some breathing space in our worship times. These spaces when the songs we sing transition are very valuable, and if we rush them by we might rob our congregations of a time to find their individual songs to God, to pray out those prayers, to simply stop and listen. We as worship leaders need to embrace that space!

It can be a very vulnerable place, and can sometimes feel a little awkward as people get used to the prolonged times of not being ‘led’ by the person standing in front of them, but you know what, once your church gets past that awkward feeling and has learnt that they have the freedom to bring Him worship in their own way, that’s when our times of worshipping Him tend to find new depths.

We must keep in mind, that we need to lead the congragation into and through these spaces. You cant just expect the church to know what to do when you are circling through that chord progression. Sure there is probably a number of folk in your church who are familiar with how these times work, and may sing out, or pray out a prayer, or bring words etc, but every church is full of people in different stages of their walk, and there should hopefully be people who have not yet made that first step to follow Jesus.

Its simply a case of telling them what you’re doing. Verbal prompts are great. Simply giving the congregation the heads up that you are going to wait in a section of a song, and that there is no rush to move on. Again this may feel a little awkward the first few times you do it, but once your church embraces it, its amazing! The culture of your worship times will change, and people will open up to it more and more. But the verbal promts will still be necessary for the same reason as before. Any good and growing church will have people coming who need these promtings.

I think the more you lead people in worship, and the more experience you gain, the better you will be equipped to know when its right to open these spaces up. Sometimes they will be fruitful, and sometimes they may be less so, but keep with it, there are songs laying just below the surface waiting to be sung!

Here is a little story of the beauty of these spaces in our worship…

God is always moving and always speaking. I was in a time of worship at my church in St Albans one Sunday back last year when one of these spaces opened up and I was healed of a broken rib.

My friend Sam was leading, and from memory I believe we had been singing Our Father. He told us that we were going to wait for a while, and one of our strings players just spent some time soloing over a section of the song for a few moments. In that space the spirit moved in an amazing way. I was standing over to the left of the building when the spirit moved visibly. From the front to the back, just in our section of seats people began sobbing almost in a mexican wave style as He rolled over us like a wave. In that moment I heard Him say the word ‘healing’ to me.

I actually misread what He was saying because there was a girl sitting in front of me who I knew was unwell, and I thought I should be praying for, but it was only then that I realised I was being healed and was in no pain. I actually hit myself a number of times in my ribs to see if there was any pain, and I was completely healed. It was amazing!

I had chickened out of praying for the girl, I’m ashamed to say, but a few weeks later she had obviously heard about this, and came up to me to tell me that she had been healed in that same moment! God is just so good…. Embrace the space!

Thoughts On His Presence

Are we taking it for granted?

It struck me during a time of worship while in Brazil that I think I have started to take the presence of God for granted. I am well used to experiencing the peace that is available to us when we find ourselves somehow caught up in that place, but as I was looking out on the congregation worshipping and praying for one another, I suddenly had a thought. It was a simple thought (because God knows how to talk to me), but it was as clear as crystal, and it has changed my view on what the sung worship portion of our services should look like. Why do we not utilise the power that is available to us when we find ourselves in that place? His presence brings freedom, His presence brings power to heal, power to overcome the darkest places in our lives and pour light into them. I knew that God wanted to take us to a deeper place. I knew that He wanted to heal broken hearts. So I did something that I don’t do enough, I started to sing out an instruction. I kept it simple because of the language barrier, but i simply started singing out that there was healing in that place, and that there was joy to overcome troubled minds.

I wish I could have taken a snapshot of what happened next, because something heavenly was unlocked and the atmosphere truly changed. It was almost like everyone’s faith levels kicked up a few hundred notches, and the sound levels went through the roof. I was blessed to witness several people who suffered from depression be filled with God’s joy, and be freed from their darkness. I witnessed people being healed of sicknesses. I saw people turn from their old lives and take the first steps of accepting Jesus as their saviour. How much more power is there than when God grants us the grace to believe and trust in Him!

As worshippers we shouldn’t go into our sung worship or indeed or lives of worship thinking ‘what can i get out of this?’, because as we know worship is always about God. We focus on His beauty and give him the glory and the praise and the admiration that He deserves. But He is an awesome God who loves to bless us, and so we often find that in our times of worshipping Him and directing our attention and affections towards him, God by his holy spirit truly shows us what is meant by God Emmanuel. He is with us, He moves among us and ministers to us.

The challenge that I believe God was laying on my heart as I looked out across that room, was to go deeper with him in those times. Not to just bath in the shallows of his presence, where his peace is, but to fully submerge and explore the power that he offers us in that place.

As worship leaders we have the responsibility to obviously lead our churches into his presence, but more than that, we need to guide them while we are there too. The Torwalt’s tapped into this in the bridge of their song Holy Spirit. It says ‘Let us become more aware of Your presence, let us experience the glory of Your goodness’. We need to become more aware of what His presence holds within it. Yes He brings peace, and I love Him for it, but I have realised that I can sometimes think that’s all I need, and that it’s all that is on offer!

I love His peace, I truly love it, and if that were all that was on offer it would be enough, but I believe it is just the edge. That it’s almost like the surrounding aura or residue of His presence. When our spirits meet His, and they overlap and mingle we first experience that peace. But the invitation is to come in deeper, to draw up face to face with Jesus and hear His voice speak the words He wants to speak over us.

We know as worshippers and worship leaders that our private times of worship are so valuable, because there we learn to paddle in the shallows of His presence and slowly swim out into deeper waters.

So the challenge that I believe God has offered me and that I’m passing on to whoever might read this is to explore the depths of his presence. And to learn to step out and instruct others that we lead on a sunday or whenever, to go deeper, to seek with boldness, and to press into and use the power that is available to us when God is in the room!