Monday Music

I sang this beautiful hymn yesterday at a large central London church with a few hundred confident, care free singers. It was a more modern version and arrangement than this one and I didn’t realise it was a very old hymn until I tried to track it down to share with you. A modern rendition does not seem to available so here is the oldie but goodie.

Isaiah 53 – like it was written at the foot of Calvary’s hill


Quite a few things in this post. Firstly, I want you to think about what you know or have heard about Jesus of Nazareth. Jewish Messiah. Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Laid low, so others can be lifted up. Empty, so others may be full. Left home so others could come home. Momentarily lost to the Father so others could be bound to the Father forever. Without, so others could be with. Lifeless, so others could have nothing less than life. Broken, so others could be restored. Poured out, so others could be gathered up.

Consider Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday as you read this prophecy of one called the Suffering Servant from the Hebrew prophet Isaiah – almost 700 years before the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Starting at end of Chapter 52 & moving into 53

See, my servant will act wisely[b];
    he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him[c]
    his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
    and his form marred beyond human likeness—
15 so he will sprinkle many nations,[d]
    and kings will shut their mouths because of him.
For what they were not told, they will see,
    and what they have not heard, they will understand.

Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression[a] and judgment he was taken away.
    Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.[b]
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the Lord makes[c] his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
    he will see the light of life[d] and be satisfied[e];
by his knowledge[f] my righteous servant will justify many,
    and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,[g]
    and he will divide the spoils with the strong,[h]
because he poured out his life unto death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.

Sourced electronically here:

Secondly for the enquirers amongst you here is an academic treatment by a Jewish believer in Christ, Dr. Michael Brown, on how this prophecy refers ultimately and fully to Jesus the Messiah.

Clicking on the pdf button below will download automatically a pdf document written by Dr. Brown. It’s a chapter called Jewish Interpretations of Isaiah 53 from the book The Gospel According to Isaiah 53 – Encountering the Suffering Servant in Jewish and Christian Theology. It’s written at an academic level but is an important piece of work.

Click this PDF button for Chapter download:

pdfOnce downloaded – find it in you your downloads.

Click the book to purchase with free delivery within the UK.


Good Friday to Easter


Favourites at this point – O Sacred Head Now Wounded (meditate on that title for a week and get back to me – changed) and Roll Away the Stone.

I have really enjoyed my first listen through. Quite Christmassy at times. And why not?

Click here to stream the entire album

Website for the band:

Twitter handle: @pagecxvi

Instagram: @pagecxvi

Inline image 1

This is the second release (first release info here) that is focused on this most climactic time in the year for Christians – Easter.

And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.

1 Corinthians 15:14

No conferring

Growing up in the 1970’s and 80’s you got to watch a lot of quiz shows on TV – many with a line that lingers long on the memory. Remember Sale of the Century – it was the “quiz of the week”. Perhaps my favourite was the intellectual gladiator-dome University Challenge with Bamber Gascoigne – way before Jeremy Paxman. At certain points he would say “No conferring”. That meant you are on your own – you must work out the answer on your own.

Some time back I had a very special opportunity do the exact opposite. A bunch of us gathered together to confer – work stuff out together – to progress together.

I was down south of Taupo (New Zealand) to attend a Leadership Conference looking at how to respond to the clear call on the Christian believer to be a bringer of the Gospel and a bringer of compassion for people. Two separate things. More on that distinction in an upcoming post.

Super conference – very stimulating, great time together, no hype, just a great time in God’s presence with God’s people.

I am linking to the resources generally on the Living Stones Leadership Training website but specifically recommending a special series of talks.

Malcomalcolm gilllm Gill (from Sydney Missionary & Bible College) did a wonderful series over three days on The Character of God, The Gospel of God, The Glory of God.

Click on his picture to get to their media section and then pop Malcolm’s name into the Search Archive box to source them.

I would recommend each of them and in the order delivered. Lovely wife and I had very energising conversation with him during the conference – great bloke.

Have a listen and grow. And please do confer.

Lent to Maundy Thursday

Regulars know of my love of hymns. They are often anthemic – so many of them are used as sporting anthems here in the UK. Bread of Heaven – amazing hymn is like the unofficial welsh anthem throughout the rugby stadia of Wales.

They are often so poetic with a  lyrical and theological richness that is hard to match. They, like a loving adult lifting a child up so that they can see over a high wall to splendour beyond, lift you and bring you face to face with many timeless truths.

I have been listening to Page CXVI for a couple of years now and they are really quite special. They re-engineer existing hymns (re-hymn) wonderfully for the modern sensibility and they occasionally write new hymns. They seek to carry us with hymns through the rhythms of the year – Christmas, Lent, Easter etc. Check out their site through the link built into their name above and discover the beautiful origin of their curious name.

They have a new collection of re-hymns out today to mark the journey through the lenten season (starting tomorrow) up to Maundy Thursday (the day before Good Friday). It’s called Lent to Maundy Thursday.

Preview vid here –

You can purchase the digital download for $6.99 or the DD and CD for £9.99. (I still like CDs. I rip them onto my mp3 device but like to have the hardware gathering dust on the shelf. I probably need to stop doing this and just go digital.)


If you subscribe to them (blurb from their site) you will recieve 16 FREE* songs from the band that’s making hymns known again just for subscribing! We won’t share your information with anyone else. We promise.

*For real, they’re free.

I have subcribed to them and only receive occasional emails regarding the seasonal launch of a new set of hymns. So I feel very sound about subscribing to them.

Here is a sample of what these guys can do from a  previous collection of B sides.

Oh and there will be a Good Friday to Easter release on April 15th 2014.

Up to the Future – Hymns that transport

4.7-800x533I haven’t yet spent near enough time blogging about my love of singing – both individual and corporate worship. I like the old stuff (if it’s good) and the new stuff (if it’s good). Something I began to notice recently is a very special feature of many old hymns. The closing verse goes up in pitch and forward in time. By that I mean it raises in fulness and height of notes (or something – I have no musical knowledge or gifts) and it also transports us to a wonderful place in the future.

Boy, I get such a blessing when we get to those verses. I love the crescendo thing that happens but I love the stirring and beautiful imagery that captures a future reality – seen and sung today with eyes of faith. The beautiful, true, full future life in and with God – will be experienced in ways not yet realised. That will be a day, an eternity of days when all will be clear, when Jesus will wipe away every tear.We will know all things we wish to know and all that cannot be known will no longer be yearned for.

Revelation 21:3-7 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more deathor mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.

I do want to encourage you to buy some old hymns. Very very cheap on t’internet. Buy a 4 CD set for under £10 delivered. Copy onto your mp3 player and listen to great and beautiful hymns while journeying to work or school or play. And every now and then you will encounter one with that finale drive upwards and futurewards. As you journey by car, bus, train, bike (careful) a secondary transportation will occur – above and beyond self, beyond time, trouble and tribulations. Upon landing you will feel empowered to face the day. For in these sung truths you will encounter God, his promises and you will be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. Now imagine what that might be like if you experienced this with dozens or hundreds of other worshiping christians. Glorious.


Here are 3 beautiful examples

Amazing Grace

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.


And can it be that I should gain

  1. And can it be that I should gain
    An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?
    Died He for me, who caused His pain?
    For me, who Him to death pursued?
    Amazing love! how can it be
    That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
    Amazing love! how can it be
    That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
  2. ’Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies!
    Who can explore His strange design?
    In vain the firstborn seraph tries
    To sound the depths of love Divine!
    ’Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
    Let angel minds inquire no more.
    ’Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
    Let angel minds inquire no more.
  3. He left His Father’s throne above,
    So free, so infinite His grace;
    Emptied Himself of all but love,
    And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
    ’Tis mercy all, immense and free;
    For, O my God, it found out me.
    ’Tis mercy all, immense and free;
    For, O my God, it found out me.
  4. Long my imprisoned spirit lay
    Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
    Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
    I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
    My chains fell off, my heart was free,
    I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
    My chains fell off, my heart was free,
    I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.iStock_000017265630Cropped
  1. No condemnation now I dread;
    Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
    Alive in Him, my living Head,
    And clothed in righteousness Divine,
    Bold I approach the eternal throne,
    And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
    Bold I approach the eternal throne,
    And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

How great thou art

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”  & chorus


How can we reconcile the Old Testament God and the New Testament God?

I think it would be good for you to hear what D.A. Carson has to say to this important question. Most christians struggle with this issue theologically (what they believe to be true about God) and therefore pastorally (in terms of how they support fellow christians and respond to non christian inquiries and needs.)

For the longest time, after conversion to Christ, I thought that generally speaking, Jesus in his teaching was saying things that were making life more easy. He was moving us ( us being all people who come across his teaching) away from the entirety of  the Jewish law – so filled with obligations. In a complicated sense, I thought he was telling us or more precisely asking us (he is so nice) to just love God with everything we have and to just love our neighbours as self. Just love. We gentiles and the entire West love ideas about Love. We think we are good at it. That’s how we evaluate everything. We are so often mistaken. But it is a reflex at work within so many of us.

In those former years, I naively thought: Old Covenant Law = hard times for Jews where as Jesus’ teaching = easier times for Jews and Gentiles. There is a very real sense in which this couldn’t be further from the truth. Jesus in his use of the ‘Love Law’ – Love God – Love People was not laying on us some kind of easy hippy vibe, like love was the easiest thing in the world. Jesus was driving us to a place of hopelessness not comfort. Actually he was, among many things, driving us to the knowledge of how hopeless our situation actually is. He was taking us to a desolate hopeless place where surpisingly hope would be waiting to ambush us. But you only get there by journeying on the road of the knowledge of hopelessness and despair.


Instead of making things easier he just kept increasing the demands. His ‘Love Law’ was  the most beautiful of the beautiful and the highest of the high. All true. Our sense of (self) righteousness and our memory of life before the rupture in Edens grassy meadows attracts us to this Love Law – the rightness of it, the very warmth of it. This is partly because in the west we fail to see the devasting truth and impossibility of the Love law.  We have been softened by the ‘Jesus demands very little’ mantra – ‘do him a favour – just follow him’ whispers. But Jesus in his extraordinary distillation of the entire law of God expands its claim on us and drives us forcefully off a high ledge we never could have stayed standing on. Never could but foolishly we thought we just might.  So Jesus perhaps confusingly teaches a harder law with a grace never before encountered. There is something about the grace that conceals or blurs that line between hope and despair. You hang out with Jesus as he beigns to invade your life – he is a king, kings invade – you will feel despair and hope. If you are on a journey twoards Jesus and you feel both of these things – rejoice – the kingdom of God is not far from you.

The hope eminates from him to you because although he is never less than the Judge, he is so much more. The despair eminates from you toward him because the life of after the rupture in Eden courses relentlessly through your veins. Jesus is nearby, speaking an impossible law to sinners, a lost people, homeless and refugees; a long way from Eden. Although he says his burden is light his beautiful Love law lights up the sky while darkening the ground of men.

He touches our necrosing hearts, deceitful above all things, with demands that will illuminate our true situation – despair and hopelessness. He knows how to speak the language of the flesh. Adultery is a weapon of choice. Hard demands for frail humans about old fashioned adultery (the flesh and sweat kind) get transformed and appropriated for ‘mind adultery’ – where everyone keeps their clothes on but all are found guilty. He is ramping things up and we are all in trouble.


the only way is up – baby

Because of the glaze that infects the eyes you can miss Jesus bringing this heavier law – yes more ethically beautiful but so deadly on the back. Somehow I missed for years so much of this deadliness, this call to all hearers towards impossible holiness. Looking back I can now see that his sermon on the mount  is equal parts beautiful and deadly. Saw some of this but certainly missed the whole. I thought his Law was the easy one not the impossible one. By easy I mean achievable.  Just love the Lord your God completely and just love your neighbour as you already love yourself. Somehow that seemed refreshingly easy.Do-able.

Crazy? I know. But, wonderfully, the arrival of Jesus also brings more light, more warmth and more hope than ever seen or felt before. Light, heat and hope are only useful and savored by those in the dark, in the cold and in despair. His arrival ultimately is not to condemn. He makes that plain. But the condemnation was already in place. That’s why he has come. You only hear about the cancer treatment after you hear about the cancer diagnosis. But in his coming and in his teaching he is  escalating everything. Maybe the letter of the law gets flexed (we like that) but the spirit of the law goes stratosphheric in its expectations (we miss this).

Condemnation is the polluted water we swim in, the polluted air we breathe and the polluted life we live. Jesus enters into our polluted water, air and life to save us. When the lifeguard grabs you in the ocean, pulls you close to himself and secures you to his frame you can be sure you were drowning. Jesus is the greater life guard. Jesus is the padre who has come to visit a condemned man – rightly convicted, guilty, awaiting certain punishment and death. But the condemned man recognises the Padre – he looks a lot like the Judge. How can the Judge be the Padre? What is he doing now? – Crazy padre! He is swapping his robe for that of the condemned man and goes to the gallows in his stead.



How shocking is that? Very. So Jesus and the agenda of God in the gospel is ramped. Brim-filled with impossible Law, condemnation, wrath, judgement, fierce holiness and love, grace, hope and rescue. In the gospel, through Jesus breathing his last on calvarys polluted hill, the holy love of the holy God is wonderfully holding back punishment from those who deserve punishment (that’s mercy) and providing love, forgiveness and adoption for those who don’t deserve it (that’s grace).

This song of worship from some years back captures that shocking meeting of wrath and mercy. Shocking but so wonderful in providing a way where there was no way. Come & see. Come and see that the LORD is good.

It is what someone says it is. IMHO.

‘The Fuel of Death-Defying Missions’ is a great sermon in my humble opinion. Someone has said it is the greatest recent message on missions. I wouldn’t argue with that.

I had ‘manish flu’ one recent Sunday. It was nothing as severe as ‘man flu’ which we men know is almost fatal. Almost – because we seem to rally on day 5 or thereabouts. Amazing. Our powers of recovery are astounding (high dose of irony at work here).

Consequently I couldn’t get out to church. So I loaded this sermon up and spent the hour ironing work shirts, (“it was the fever that made me do it guv – honest”). What with the stubborn creases – is there any other kind? – and the holding back of tears of joy & worship I was challenged and emboldened. But most of all I was reminded who is in charge of everything, including missions and how he is delighted to use the redeemed donkeys of this world in his work in the field of missions among the reached and magnificently among the unreached.

hearts in need of a haven

hearts in need of a haven

Please do watch it – and let the bits of theology, if any, that are not yours brush past you so that you can be caught up in the vision of this glorious task.

I hope this will be the first of many in a series on missions. This brother David Platt is interesting and I like him. But his apparent ‘sold-outness’ for God challenges and scares me. He is imho not a cool man. I like the uncool. I am uncool. Cool is quite overated. Here is a wonderful message – uncool in the 21st century by a lovely uncool brother.

My favourite kind of bones – Skeleton Bones (by JMMcM)

Standout song and very nice video – John Mark McMillan.

Do get the album if you can swing the dollars. Don’t cheat this brother out of his dues by copying illegally.

Glorious lyrics –

Skeleton Bones 
Peel back our ribs again
and stand inside of our chest.
We just wanna’ love you
 We just wanna’ love you
Peel back the veil of time
And let us see You with our naked eyes
We just wanna’ love you
We just wanna’ love you
Skeleton bones stand at the sound of eternity
On the lips of the found
And gravestones roll
To the rhythm of the sound of you
Skeleton bones stand at the sound of eternity
On the lips of the found
So separate those doors
And let the sun of resurrection in.
Oh let us adore the
Son of Glory dress ed in love
Open up your gates before him
Crown Him, stand Him up
We want your blood to flow inside our body
We want your wind inside our lungs
We just wanna’ love you
We just wanna’ love you

Music to fill your ears – words to fill your heart

My album of the year – 2013 – is Economy by John Mark McMillan.

It is just awesome. Full of noise, heart, grit, tenderness, poetry and the most interesting voice in music for some time. A combination of gravel singing in a tunnel.

loud quiet always wonderful

                        Sometimes loud and sometimes quiet – always wonderful

 This album did that amazing thing of initially disappointing. Thought it was a real mis-step. Especially the opening track Sheet of Night which initially landed on me like an album filler track mistakenly put in pole position. How wrong I was about all of it. Repeated listening lead to increasing appreciation and then on listen number 10 that magical thing happened. Everything fell into place, every note and rif seemed like perfection. We were in unison. The heard and hearer had become one.

Some albums or songs are immediately a friend for life. Others disappoint for quite a while but then something crystalises and you are best buddies from that day onwards and you won’t have a bad word said.

Economy is the follow up album to what was for me the album of the year – 2012. The Medicine was an immediate best bud. This was and is a stunning album and gave us the much covered How He Loves me. So much so that most people who know the song know it as a song sung in part in many churches and that it is a David Crowther Band song. It’s not but they do it great justice.

Couldn't believe how good this album was on first play - 100 plays later - awesome

Couldn’t believe how good this album was on first play – 100 plays later – awesome

Do buy these albums. You will bless the artist and the community that is blessed by him through further releases . Well done JMcM.

The trees of the field will clap their hands

It’s a good thing the mountains and the hills will burst into song because we certainly won’t. This blog post is a post of lament. I am sad and increasingly so. It’s a sadness that just won’t stay away for long. There’s too many reasons for its certain return.

I stood outside a very important city hospital one night in late december. On my way home from work I came across their Christmas carol event around a large handsome tree with dazzling lights and stars lazer projected onto the victorian brick walls behind. Visually, all the magic was in place. And visually is where the magic ended. The softly spoken cleric – anglican – lead us to sing Once in Royal David’s City. A local children’s choir sweetly and gingerly sang the first verse and then the small brass ensemble joined in. This is the traditional arrangement for such a carol. And there at that point the traditional arrangement ended. One would have expected, traditionally, the gathered throng to join in with gusto – singing of the second verse.

light but no spirit

Light but very little spirit

But not this throng. Hardly a peep. Maybe it was the cool of the winter evening or some other kind of coolness. Maybe it was the hum of the passing traffic just yards away. Or maybe it was the fact that this throng was somehow too small to generate a sound – what with it being only a few dozen short of 200 people. I know! 200 people – that used to be a lot. Eventhough we were outside a hospital – that’s an average of 2 lungs per chest. 400 lungs give or take. Anyway I was gutted, still am but unfortunately it was an all too familiar feeling for me. So with my spirit waining and my blood pressure rising I disappeared into the night.

Carols can be the most wonderful of praise songs to sing. Such Father, Son and Spirit honouring songs lift my heart to soaring from late November to January every year. I am resigned to living in a post-Christian world so I had modest expectations of the 200 strong throng. But next to nothing from them? Really? “Let’s not bother to sing the carols at a public outdoor event we show up for!” I just never got that memo.

But I should have seen this coming. If the faithful, the believers have for the most part withdrawn from the sung life of the church then what hope is there for the agnostic at best and atheistic at worst, to throw their breath behind carols celebrating the One for whom David’s royal city played humble host.

We, in the church, to an extent which is concerning seem to have given up the ghost on singing heartily to our great and glorious God. I spent a year in a wonderful fellowship south of the equator where for mysterious reasons, on our worst day (me included) could not or would not sing for toffee. Toffee was never actually offered. Coffee was. The best coffee in the antipodes.

Singing is an artery of life for the christian. Is anyone happy? Let them sing – songs of praise (James 5:13) Singing is the cry of the heart in exaltation to its Maker. Singing is a discipline to be embraced. A muscle to be exercised and built up. Like prayer to God – it’s not a personality or preference thing, it’s a life of worship thing. Songs and singing to the Lord is such a wonderful gift from Him to Him. From Him to Him through us. Let’s do the ‘us’ bit. Start small but have in mind trajectory of great expression in sung worship. Join in with your brothers and sisters. Let the children see that singing is not something you grow out of but something you grow into. Have a think about this. Sing songs of delight, gladness, lament and ache (when they get dusted off occasionally).

I am resigned that I live in a post-christian world but please let’s try bit by bit to push back against a post-christian church. Join the mountains and the hills (Isaiah 55:12) and burst forth into song before our God.