A Hymn by Any Other Name…

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“Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise!” How true! Those words are from “Come Thou Font of Every Blessing” and describe so eloquently our need for psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Certainly hymns are not our only option when it comes to singing loudest praise. However, copyrights make recounting the lyrics of contemporary works a bit “sketchy,” as my kids would say. And so, let me simply nod to the more modern works you readers listed and say with you, “Well done!”

  • “Here I Am Lord” by James Kilbane
  • “In Christ Alone” by Keith and Kristyn Getty
  • “Because He Lives” by Bill and Gloria Gaither
  • “Holy Spirit You Are Welcome Here” by Jesus Culture with Martin Smith
  • “This Little Light of Mine” (author disputed)

That last one, recommended by one of you with reserve, is actually published in at least 38 hymnals. Its simplicity mirrors the simplicity of our calling as Christians. Let it shine!

Loudest praise. Joyful noises. Making music in our hearts to the Lord. Worship tunes. The Book of Psalms. Historic Hymns. Scriptural Chants. We have a wealth of ways to lift our voices in adoration to the Lord who loves us.

When? As often as possible.

How? In whatever way we are inclined.

Why? Because all that is within us is meant to bless his holy name!

Was your favorite song of worship included in this blog series? I hope so! If not, tell me about it in the comments box. I’d love to read the ones I missed!

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Nutshell Sermons

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The power of a good hymn amazes me. It becomes a nutshell sermon, a few short lines running through my mind a dozen times in a day, teaching and re-teaching important truths from God’s Word. Consider for example “Oh, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing,” written by Charles Wesley to celebrate the first anniversary of his conversion to Christianity. (He described that day as the one on which his real, living life began.[1]) One of my favorite lines says,

Jesus! The name that charms our fears, that bids our sorrows cease.”

Those twelve words, now nearly 300 years old, still answer the question of what to do with fear and sadness. Cry out to Jesus! He is always the answer.

I asked my Facebook friends to list their favorite hymns. They chose works by Charles Wesley more often than hymns by any other author. (No surprise, perhaps, since he wrote over 6000 pieces!) Let me share a few more lines from his works.

  • “My chains fell off, my heart was free. I rose, went forth, and followed thee.” Those words from “And Can It Be That I Should Gain” are a wonderful description of conversion.
  • “My name is written on His hands.” In “Arise, My Soul Arise” Wesley reminds us of one of life’s greatest comforts.

While Charles Wesley did not write “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”—it was penned by Isaac Watts—he is credited with giving it this high compliment: “I would give up all my other hymns to have written this one.” That’s high praise from such a prolific songwriter. Here’s just a snippet from Watts’ beautiful piece.

“Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small. Love so amazing, so Devine, demands my soul, my life my all.”

My soul, my life, my all—are we giving that? The quotes from those four hymns are plenty to think about for this week. If time allows, please let me know how they change the way you go about this day. To God be the glory!

 

 

[1] Many thanks to cyberhymnal.org for providing the backstory information in this blog series.

Two More Hymns

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As the final installment of this hymn sing, I’ll share two hymns, only one of which was familiar to me until recently. When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, written by Isaac Watts in 1707, is the first known hymn to be written in the first person, describing an individual’s spiritual experience. According to cyberhymnal.org, “Charles Wesley reportedly said he would give up all his other hymns to have written this one.”

You can listen to Christ Tomlin’s version here.

When I survey the wondrous cross On which the Prince of glory died, My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, Save in the death of Christ my God! All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.

Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all. 

For All the Saints was written by Anglican Bishop William Walsham. It speaks of faith, of trusting God even in troubled times, and of our hope of heaven. ‘Come to think of it, that’s pretty much what every post in this blog is about, and so this is a fitting way to close this tiny taste of hymn singing.”

Listen here.

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,

Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,

Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.

Alleluia, Alleluia!

Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;

Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;

Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.

Alleluia, Alleluia!

O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,

Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,

And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.

Alleluia, Alleluia!

And there you have it. Won’t you respond by posting a list of your favorite hymns?

Hymn Sing Part Two

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Welcome back to our virtual hymn sing. Are you as amazed as I continue to be at the wealth of music we all have at our fingertips? I hope you’ll have time this week to listen to these inspiring pieces.

From Depths of Woe I Raise to Thee

I think of Martin Luther as a theologian, but he was also a musician. Over three dozen hymns are attributed to him. The best known is A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, but today I’ll share with you the words found in his From Depths of Woe I Raise to Thee, based on Psalm 130. Language has changed over the years, so reading this one takes a bit of extra work. It’s worth it!

From depths of woe I raise to Thee The voice of lamentation; Lord, turn a gracious ear to me And hear my supplication; If Thou iniquities dost mark, Our secret sins and misdeeds dark, O who shall stand before Thee?

To wash away the crimson stain, Grace, grace alone availeth; Our works, alas! are all in vain; In much the best life faileth: No man can glory in Thy sight, All must alike confess Thy might, And live alone by mercy.

Therefore my trust is in the Lord, And not in mine own merit; On Him my soul shall rest, His Word Upholds my fainting spirit: His promised mercy is my fort, My comfort, and my sweet support; I wait for it with patience.

You can listen here.

Blessed Assurance

My dad was an insurance salesman for years. As a child, I thought Blessed Assurance was extolling his line of work. In reality, Fanny Crosby, blind from childhood, yet the author of more than 8000 hymns, was writing about our Lord and Savior. Her words are a great way to end this week’s virtual hymn sing.

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior, all the day long; This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior, all the day long.

Perfect submission, all is at rest I in my Savior am happy and blest, Watching and waiting, looking above, Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

You’ll find Third Day’s version here.

Old Hymns

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If I wasn’t born with a love of old hymns, then my parents instilled that love in me at an early age. I can still hear my mom singing as she washed dishes in our home in Florida long ago. During my years as a student at St. Mark’s Lutheran school, I was required to memorize multiple verses of old hymns. They still pop into my mind, often just when I need a reminder of the deep and encouraging truths they convey.

My brother Brad, now a worship leader in Connecticut, generously shared the transcript of his most recent hymn sing with me. He gets credit for the next three blogs you’ll read—terrific lyrics combined with a little bit of history. You can find Brad, and even ask him for help with worship services, at worshiporchestra.com. I hope you’ll enjoy this departure into age-old wisdom conveyed in verse. May you be left with a song in your heart!

Be Thou My Vision                   

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart; Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art. Thou my best Thought, by day or by night, Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word; I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord; Thou my great Father, I Thy true son; Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise, Thou mine Inheritance, now and always: Thou and Thou only, first in my heart, High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

An Irish monk named Dallan Forgaill wrote Be Thou My Vision, which was later translated into English by Mary Elizabeth Byrne. May God be our vision and focus as well!

You can listen here.

All Creatures of Our God and King

All creatures of our God and King Lift up your voice and with us sing, Alleluia! Alleluia! Thou burning sun with golden beam, Thou silver moon with softer gleam!

O praise Him! O praise Him! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

And all ye men of tender heart, Forgiving others, take your part, O sing ye! Alleluia! Ye who long pain and sorrow bear, Praise God and on Him cast your care!

O praise Him! O praise Him! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Let all things their Creator bless, And worship Him in humbleness, O praise Him! Alleluia! Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son, And praise the Spirit, Three in One!

O praise Him! O praise Him! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Francis of Assisi was born into a wealthy family. He gave up his riches, though, and founded the Franciscan Order of Friars. You’ve probably seen a statue of him surrounded by birds and small animals. When he wrote All Creatures of Our God and King, I expect he may have been thinking of Revelation 13:5, which says, “Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!’”

You can check out the Newsboys’ version here.

Stay tuned next week for more classic hymns.