Archive for Hymns

All-conquering Love

A Hymn based on
Christ, the Conquering Lamb

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Sovereign, all-transcending Lord,
Holy mystery, feared, adored,
In Your mighty Son we see
All Your love’s humility.

Christ the Lion, now the Lamb,
Gives Himself, the great I AM.
Christ, the Prince of Paradise,
Dies a slaughtered sacrifice.

Christ the Victor, in defeat,
Makes Your victory all complete.
As He prays His final breath,
Sovereign life now swallows death.

In His conquering strength we see
Deep and glorious mystery
Glowing from Your heart above:
Holy, fierce, all-conquering love.

Lay Aside Your Passing Pleasures

A Hymn for Lent

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Lay aside your passing pleasures.
Look beyond what cannot last.
Shallow hopes are mere distractions.
Earthly comforts soon are past.
See in Christ a grand horizon.
Find a life more rich and vast.

Raise your eyes and see the Savior.
Feel His love, and hear His call.
Follow Him in self-denial.
Find your Father all in all.
Take the cross, accept the suffering.
Soon the cost will seem so small.

Gladly trade your crumbling treasure.
Gain the pearl of greatest price.
Life is more than pain and pleasure.
Life in Him is true delight.
Find your freedom, find your glory,
Find yourself in Jesus Christ.

Christ My Joy

A Hymn based on
Nehemiah 8:10; John 15:11; 17:13; Romans 14:17;
Philippians 2:17-18; 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

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Jesus, Lord,
Truth and grace,
Boundless power,
Tender love,
Face of God my Father,
I rejoice in You!

Bleeding Lamb
Lifted up,
Dying God –
O what love!
Mercy from my Father,
I rejoice in You!

Living Christ,
Breath of God,
Holy life,
Holy love
Flowing here within me,
I rejoice in You!

All I want,
All I need,
All You are
Evermore
Filling all my being,
You are Christ my joy!

A Thankful Heart

A Hymn based on
Mark 10:13-16; Colossians 3:15, 17; 1 John 3:18; 4:7-21

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A thankful heart, a thankful heart,
Lord, grow in me a thankful heart.
So many gifts You give each day!
I ask one more: a thankful heart.

A simple faith, a simple faith,
For every need, a simple faith.
Father, You hold me in Your arms,
So give Your child a simple faith.

A life of love, a life of love,
In Jesus Christ a life of love.
Lord, as I live and breathe in You,
This wealth is mine: a life of love.

A thankful heart, a simple faith,
A life of love in You each day
Till we are one and face to face
And all is joy and endless praise!

Lord of Time

A Hymn based on
Psalm 31:14-15; John 15:5; Ephesians 5:15-16

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I fight with time. I rush. I wait.
I plan. I press. I stay up late.
I try so hard to regulate
What only You control.

Great Lord of time, above its flow,
You give us time to change, to grow,
To learn to live the love we owe
To You, all-gracious God!

In Christ we learn what time can be:
A frame for love unrushed and free,
The pure and perfect harmony
Of life immersed in You.

The fruitfulness that we pursue
Flows not from what our plans can do
But Lord, from living all in You,
The ever-fruitful Vine.

A Thought about Congregational Singing

Like everyone else, I have my own preferences for congregational singing.

But the people of God are to come from all
nations,
peoples,
ages,
classes, and
cultures.
If the Church is what Christ died to make her,
she will be beautifully, amazingly diverse.

Congregational singing is communal.
It is inclusive.
It is uniting.
Its goal, its dream, its aspiration is to connect
all that we are as God’s people to
all that He is.

The Church is bigger than me.
It is wonderfully vast and varied.
Father, don’t shrink her congregational song to my size.
Expand my mind and heart to
embrace everyone You embrace.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: The Reason We Sing
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The Value of Singing

I love singing hymns – hymns of many types and styles. Singing is such a beautiful way of expressing the Word that Christ has planted in us. As we sing, we share that Word with each other. We affirm it together. And we lift it in praise to our God and Savior.

Augustine (and later, Martin Luther) said, “He who sings prays twice.” I never understood that statement until I began singing as part of my prayer life. Singing involves the entire being. It starts from the heart and catches up the mind and body as well. When we sing, we embrace God’s Word physically, mentally, and emotionally. Prayer rises from our whole selves.

As we trust the Word that God speaks to us, joy overflows, and singing is one spillway for that joy. Singing is the music of faith. I’ve long felt that if we have the truth, saying it is not enough. The truth longs to come to life. It cries out for full expression. It yearns to sing and dance, to celebrate with life and feeling and physical joy.

Singing does that. Singing sets the truth free.

Singing unites us. Think of what’s happening when we sing together in worship. The Word of God is in our hearts and minds and on our lips. We lift it to God together. We unite with each other and with Him.

Hymns express our beliefs about God–our theology–but they do so in terms that are heartfelt and life-centered. Yes, abstract, factual hymns have been written, but they generally don’t last. The hymns that God’s children love to sing are those that speak their faith with warmth and vitality, in a way that resonates with personal experience.

Hymns are a feast for the body, mind, and spirit. Enjoy them completely! Don’t just listen to hymns. Sing them! The most life-changing songs are not the ones we hear but the ones we sing. As Paul urged the young church in Colosse, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16, NIV).

Sing! Sing to God! Sing from your heart!

Listen and sing:
Hymn: The Reason We Sing
Recording
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Let Love Lead

Suggestions for those who lead music in the church:

  • Love your people, not your songs.
  • Without love, songs are just noise—“a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1, NIV).
  • Love your people, not their money.
  • Shepherds feed the flock. Wolves feed on the flock. Always be a shepherd.
  • Love is not self-seeking. (1 Corinthians 13:5)
  • Love is the greatest force for innovation, not ambition.
  • When faced with a difficult situation or a need, in love create something new (paraphrased from Dorothy Sayers, The Mind of the Maker).

God of All Music

During forty years in church music publishing, I’ve seen how easily we confuse our biblical beliefs with our cultural preferences. Usually we don’t even realize that these are two different things, much less are we able to distinguish the two. A glance at church history down through the ages proves that the problem is ever with us.

This is certainly true in music. Our personal tastes are deeply, fiercely held, and they seem so “right” to us.

We like to think of ourselves as rational and biblically literate. Whatever our tastes, we learn to support them by scripture and reason. But let’s be honest: with all of us, the head tends to bend to the will of the heart. I am no exception. In the current tension between hymns and praise songs, I have my preferences, and I can support them with logic and chapter and verse.

But God continues to show me that He is the Source and Sovereign of all. He alone is all-knowing. He alone is holy. Thus His purposes and His perspective are so much broader and deeper than I can imagine. His concerns are all-encompassing. They take in every need of every being of every race, nation, age, culture, and personality.

This God of all is the God of all music. From Him and through Him and to Him are all things (Romans 11:36, NASB). Rationally, can I really believe that this all-encompassing Spirit-being limits His creative voice to one particular musical style or set of styles? Hardly! Read His written Word. He speaks through prophets, children, kings, and fools, donkeys, sunsets, wind, and fire, laws, stories, love poems, and songs. Do we really think that such a God speaks only through our narrow range of preferred musical styles?

Read 1 Corinthians12:3:

No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. (NASB)

That seems to apply to sung as well as spoken word. All music that proclaims Jesus as Lord is, in some sense, inspired by the Holy Spirit. It flows from Him, through Him, and to Him, for the glory of God. The same passage goes on to say:

There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, but the same Lord. (1 Corinthians 12:4-5, NASB)

I can give strong, logical reasons why musical styles I don’t prefer are seriously flawed. But every style is seriously flawed, my own included. Every human effort is partial and imperfect. Our music is imperfect. Our praise is imperfect. Even our love is imperfect.

Each of our perspectives is childishly limited. Our motives are uneven. We are more small-minded and self-centered that we ever imagine. But God uses all who trust Him, no matter how stumbling our faith might be. Read the Bible. Consider Noah, Abraham, Hagar, Moses, Samson, Gideon, David, and more.

If Paul made himself all things to all people that he might win some (1 Corinthians 9:19-23), how much more will the Father of All, in His unquenchable love, use all the tools at His disposal that He might reach everyone.

The Bible warns us repeatedly and in the strongest terms not to judge one another. Shouldn’t that include one another’s music as well? I’m not referring to constructive criticism or comparative study done in a Christ-like spirit. Such objective evaluation can be mutually beneficial. But we dare not condemn a style as being unworthy of being offered to God for His glory.

Let’s humble ourselves before our Father and before our brothers and sisters. Let’s admit our smallness, narrowness, and ignorance. Let’s support the Spirit’s work, even when we are unable to fully appreciate it.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: God of All People
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Spirit-driven

Most of the time I’m certain that I am doing what the Lord has called me to do. But every once in a while the doubts creep in. You probably have your own set of familiar doubts. For me as a hymn writer, I occasionally fear that I’ve wasted my life by writing in a relatively traditional style. Should I have consciously reached out to my children’s generation by learning to write in a more contemporary style? Do most who hear my hymns dismiss them as old-fashioned?

But as I pray, I see my situation in a better light. Maybe these observations will help you when your fears whisper in your ear.

1.       Don’t follow the crowd. In my case, thousands, perhaps millions of songs are being written in the contemporary style currently popular. Would I really be of greater service to the Church by simply adding more to that growing number? Even business thinkers like Seth Godin, writing from a non-religious perspective, advise creators not to think mass market but to be content serving their own particular customers.

2.       Be yourself. I need to be the writer God created me to be. I’ve written some songs in a more contemporary style, but for the most part, that style is not native to me. I naturally think and feel in the style in which I write. But it’s more than familiarity that draws me. I genuinely believe that a more traditional style will, in the long run, have a broader and more inclusive appeal.

3.       Each of us is a member of the Body of Christ. We are called to fill our particular role, not to be all things to all people. I read Numbers 4:16-28 and see that even in the Old Testament sanctuary, God appointed each group of priests and Levites to their own very particular duties. They were to focus on doing their daily tasks faithfully and wholeheartedly, out of love for God. That is still the way I approach my hymn writing.

Father, my goal is not to be successful. My goal is to please You. I want to be Spirit-driven, not customer-driven. Where I have failed, please forgive and redirect me. I am Yours completely, now and forever.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: God Alone
Recording
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