Category Archives: Hymn Reflections

Thursday Hymn Reflection: “Faithful Love”

[Each Thursday, we reflect on a hymn suggested by our readers. If you would like to add your favorites to our list please leave a comment with up to 3 songs.]

Written in 1993, “Faithful Love” has become quite popular. The tune is quite simple, but it is the words that give the song its strength.

“Faithful Love” is a song that goes against one common theme of many of our songs. Most songs contain fairly long statements that cover a line or two. Ken Young’s “Faithful Love,” though, contains many very brief statements–some as short as two words–that support the idea of the title of the first line of the song. The hymn begins with “Faithful love flowing down from the thorn-covered crown.” In many ways, the rest of the song simply gives support to those words about Christ.

The chorus of the song also contains very powerful words, because the song ends by stating, “And I’ll never be the same; for I’ve seen faithful love face-to-face, and Jesus is His name.” When we “see” Jesus, we should never be the same! When we sing these words, let’s make sure we live them. Christ should be our hope, our example, and our life.

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While it takes a few seconds to get to the song in this video, enjoy this version of “Faithful Love.”

Thursday Hymn Reflection: “Abide with Me”

[Each Thursday, we reflect on a hymn suggested by our readers. To add your favorites to our list, leave a comment with up to three songs.]

Written by Henry Lyte in 1847, Abide with Me continues to be sung often, and has been used in many formal services and even films (including Shane) and TV series (including Touched by an Angel). For a song of this age, it is amazing to me how many of all ages, including young people, enjoy singing it.

Originally containing eight stanzas (which most modern song books shorten to four or five), the song is a prayer for God’s protection through the difficult times in life, including even the hour of our death. Often this song is sung at the end of a day of worship (e.g., concluding a Sunday night service). While that can be an application of the lyrics, a closer reading of the entire poem shows that it is speaking more of the “day” of our life, and that we wish for God to be with us in those darkest hours.

My favorite lyric from the song is in a verse that is often not sung. The end of what is commonly the second verse contrasts what our world contains with the greatness of God. Lyte wrote, “Change and decay in all around I see;/ O Thou who changest not, abide with Me.”

Christians love thinking about God as the One who is with us at our hour of need, but Abide with Me takes that thought a step further. We need to spend time in prayer and praise before those difficulties come. Doing so is right, but it also settles the heart of the Christian before calamity comes. For the Christian, even our hour of death is a time when we know that God is near. Whether it is a long and expected departure, or a tragic accident, the Christian is reassured, knowing that God is present.

Here are the eight original verses to this grand prayer hymn:

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word;
But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.

Come not in terrors, as the King of kings,
But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings,
Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea—
Come, Friend of sinners, and thus bide with me.

Thou on my head in early youth didst smile;
And, though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee,
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

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Enjoy this arrangement of the hymn as you share your thoughts.

Thursday Hymn Reflection: “Be Thou My Vision”

[Each Thursday, we "reflect" on a hymn suggested by our readers. If you would like to add your favorites to our list, leave a comment with no more than 3 suggestions.]

Outside of the songs that come directly from the pages of Scripture, “Be Thou My Vision” is one of the oldest songs still in regular use among Christians. The words come from an old Irish hymn, and are estimated to be from the 8th Century. This history suggests why you will often hear the tune played in Celtic instrumentation, and will sometimes still hear it in movies and TV shows.

“Be Thou My Vision” is a song of deep trust in God. It is written in the form of a prayer, both asking God for guidance and praising Him for His leadership. As far as I can tell, the song originally had 16 couplet verses (please let me know if this is not correct). Most song books put some of these together and made 5 verses, while most print four. One of the amazing features of the song is that, while it is 12 centuries old, it is still “understandable” in its language. It is, in many ways, timeless in its praise and prayer.

There is simply no way for me to select my favorite phrase from this song, but I’ll share one (among many) that I think are powerful. The song states, “Riches I heed not, no man’s empty praise; Thou mine inheritance, now and always.” That line stands out for me because of the simple worrd “empty.” The praise of men only lasts so long, but, when our faith and trust are in God, that is an eternal bond, and one that provides true hope.

Before printing the lyrics, I thought you might find it interesting to know that Van Morrison recorded the song in 1991 on his album Hymns to the Silence.

Here are the five verses we most often see in our song books:

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.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

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.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

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Enjoy this beautiful recording of the song while you share your thoughts on the song in the comments:

Thursday Hymn Reflection: “Step by Step”

[Each Thursday, we "reflect" on a song submitted by our readers. If you would like to add your favorites to our list, leave a comment with no more than 3 suggestions.]

This song was suggested by one of our readers, but it has also been in my head today. This simple song is a great expression of faith, because it expresses praise, but also speaks of how growing in faith over a lifetime. As we face good days and bad days, we need to  have similar thoughts on our heart.

The power of this brief song is in its promise to the Lord to be with Him constantly and for the rest of our lives. Those are words that are easy to sing, but we need to think about how strong of a statement that is!

Here are the lyrics to this short, but very powerful, song.

O God, You are my God,

And I will ever praise You.

O God, You are my God,

And I will ever praise You.

I will seek You in the morning

And I will learn to walk in Your ways.

And step by step You’ll lead me,

And I will follow all of my days.

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What are your thoughts on this hymn?

Thursday Hymn Reflection: “God of Wonders”

[Each Thursday, we "reflect" on a hymn suggested by our readers. To add your favorites, leave a list of up to three in the comments. NOTE: We have about 25 still on our list, but add yours now. We do not do these in any specific order. If you add yours now, it may be written about in 6 months, or in a couple of weeks!]

Each time I hear of sing “God of Wonders,” I can’t help but think of Psalm 19, which begins with the immortal words, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge” (verses 1-2). It is common for us to sing about the creation and of how it speaks of God’s power and wisdom. Songs such as “This is My Father’s World” and “How Great Thou Art” have been helping us express those thoughts for many years. “God of Wonders” continues that type of song.

The song “God of Wonders” tries to show how expansive an awe-inspiring creation is, but how they all bring glory to their Creator, because they declare of Him. While there are not many lyrics to the song, the verses are very powerful in their wording. My favorite part of the song speaks of glorifying God in both the early morning and “as I stumble through the darkness.” Those words express to us that all creation show us God and should remind us to praise Him.

I have to admit something here. I love living in a city. One thing that living in a city has caused us to do, though, is to appreciate it when we get to see more of the natural things in creation. We love spending time while driving noticing trees, lakes, and fields. I hope we always remember that God made it all, that God is over it all, and that all of it speaks of Him.

Here are the lyrics of this good new song:

Lord of all creation
Of water, earth, and sky
The heavens are Your tabernacle
Glory to the Lord on High

God of wonders, beyond out galaxy
You are holy, holy
The universe declares Your majesty
You are holy, holy

Lord of heaven and earth (2X)

Early in the morning
I will celebrate the light
And as I stumble through the darkness
I will call Your name by night

God of wonders, beyond out galaxy
You are holy, holy
The universe declares Your majesty
You are holy, holy

Lord of heaven and earth (2X)

Hallelujah to the Lord of heaven and earth (3X)

Lord of heaven and earth
Lord of heaven and earth

Early in the morning
I will celebrate the light
and as I stumble through the darkness
I will call your name by night

God of wonders beyond our galaxy
You are holy, holy
The universe declares your majesty
You are holy, holy

Lord of heaven and earth
Lord of heaven and earth

hallelujah to the Lord of heaven and earth
hallelujah to the Lord of heaven and earth

God of wonders beyond our galaxy
You are holy, holy
Precious Lord reveal your heart to me
Father holy, holy

the universe declares your majesty
you are holy, holy, holy, holy

hallelujah to the Lord of heaven and earth

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What are your thoughts on this song?

By the way, I try to post videos to most of the songs in our Thursday Hymn Reflections. I couldn’t find one that met the standards I shoot for. The videos must be (1) fairly good quality, (2) fairly good singing, and (3) acapella. If you know of a video of this song that meets those requirements, let me know so I can add it.

Thursday Hymn Reflection: “The Old Rugged Cross”

[Each Thursday, we "reflect" on a hymn recommended by our readers. To add your favorites to our list, leave a comment with up to three suggestions.]

“The emblem of suffering and shame.” That single phrase makes “The Old Rugged Cross” one of my favorite old standard hymns. Written in 1913, George Bennard’s best-known hymn continues to be sung as widely as just about any other old “standard.” Robert Morgan, in his book Then Sings My Soul, gives this brief history of the song:

On one occasion, after a difficult season of ministry, George realized he needed to better understand the power of the Cross of Christ. He later said, “I was praying for a full understanding of the Cross … I read and studied and prayed … The Christ of the Cross became more than a symbol …It was like seeing John 3:16 leave the printed page, take form, and act out the meaning of redemption. While watching this scene with my mind’s eye, the theme of the song came to me.”

It took several months for the words to formulate in his mind. As he preached through the Midwest, George would carry the words with him, working on them, polishing them, and sometimes singing them in his meetings. It always struck a chord with his audiences. (page 275)

When I sing and reflect on “The Old Rugged Cross,” I am struck by the way the words are able to take very deep Scriptural truths, but focus on the simple truth of what happened on Calvary, and our love for it. Maybe nowhere is that better seen than in the second verse:

O that old rugged cross,

So despised by the world,

Has a wondrous attraction for me;

For the dear Lamb of God

left His glory above,

To bear it to dark Calvary.

Preachers, you could preach a series on the themes found in that one verse!

I really think people still enjoy singing this hymn, not just because it is older, and not just because many were raised singing it, but because it is profound in its teaching. To be honest, “The Old Rugged Cross” isn’t the most musical of hymns. It certainly has a beauty to the music, but it is not as musical as other older hymns. But few (if any?) songs can match the depth of meaning found in these four simple verses.

Each verse of the song focuses on what the cross means to us now, but it is the chorus that adds the eternality of the cross to our thoughts. “I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it some day for a crown.” We bear a cross here, but it will be worth it!

Song leaders, keep this old hymn alive. The depth of what it teaches is hard to match.

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What are your reflections on “The Old Rugged Cross?”

Enjoy this video of the song as you reflect:

Thursday Hymn Reflection: “Higher Ground”

[Each Thursday, we "reflect" on a hymn suggested by our readers. If you would like to add your favorites to our list, please leave your list--up to three--in the comments, and we'll get to it.]

A song that is often sung with great excitement, “Higher Ground” has become a great song of faith. Christianmusic.com begins a short article on the song with these words:

They are right. The song takes a look at heaven, but in a way that other songs do not. Instead of just singing about the beauty and glory of heaven, “Higher Ground” speaks of the great contrast between where we live now and heaven. It expresses the depths of our desire to be on that “higher plane.”

Johnson Oatman, the writer of the poem, expressed what he was thinking as he had a great desire to be with the Lord, which, as Paul stated, is far better. My favorite line of the song is “My heart has no desire to stay where doubts arise and fears dismay.” When we think of the beauty of heaven, even the things on this earth seem like nothing more than tears! John said that, in heaven, “The former things will be done away with.” He was speaking of tears, death, and other terrible things.

But we cannot do it alone, so “Higher Ground” expresses the prayer of our heart that God will help us. “But still I’ll pray ’til heaven I’ve found, ‘Lord, lead me on to higher ground’.” God has laid out the pathway for us and has paid the price for our salvation. Aren’t we thankful that he also accompanies us on that pathway!

Maybe the hardest line to sing (and really mean) is “I want to live above the world, Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled.” Sometimes we like the things this world has to offer, and we are drawn to them. We must continue to sing that we want to be better than the things this world offers. We need to have that song in our heart, because the things of this world simply do not last.

Here are all the lyrics to this grand hymn:

I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I’m onward bound,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where those abound,
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.

I want to live above the world,
Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
For faith has caught the joyful sound,
The song of saints on higher ground.

I want to scale the utmost height
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I’ll pray till heav’n I’ve found,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

Lord, lift me up and let me stand,
By faith, on Heaven’s tableland,
A higher plane than I have found;
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

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What are your reflections on this hymn?

Enjoy this great recording of the hymn in 4/4 time (instead of 3/4 as it is in many of our song books).

Thursday Hymn Reflection: “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow”

[Every Thursday, we "reflect" on a hymn suggested by our readers. To add your favorites to our list, leave a comment with no more than 3 suggestions, and we'll reflect on it in the future!]

In our uncertain times, this song seems to be regaining some level of usage. A great song of faith, “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow” helps us express something that only Christians can have in dark and difficult times.

Written by Ira Stanphill, the song shares statements of trust in unsettled times. The song focuses on two reasons why Christians can have strong faith in times that are difficult.

First, the song suggests that we are looking forward to heaven. “There the sun is always shining; there no tear will dim the eye.” Christians look constantly toward the place that is better, the place where God dwells. Revelation describes it as the place where “the former things have passed away.” We know that suffering will be a part of our life here, but that, if we remain faithful, there will be no suffering in heaven. That should help strengthen our faith.

More than that, though, the song speaks of our faith in difficult times because we know that God knows the future and is always with us. As Jesus ended the Great Commission, He stated, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” We are told in Scripture that God will never leave nor forsake us. It is an amazing promise that the Creator of the universe “is not far from any one of us.”

Christians have a great ability to cope with trials and struggles because the One who created us also stands with us and walks with us. Above that, He (as the song says) “knows what it ahead.” The faithful can place their trust in Him because He is able to see what lies down the road. We may not know where this struggle will lead, but He does. That being the case, the song can state, “Every step is getting brighter.” Even in difficulty, the Christian is able to see the silver lining!

My favorite part of the song is the ending of the final verse, because it incorporates two great Biblical word pictures. The song states that we can be strong because “His presence goes before me, and I’m covered with His blood.” First John chapter 1 teaches us that the blood of Jesus will continually cleanse us from sin if we walk in the light. And I like the picture of God’s presence not going with us, but before us. It reminds me of the pillar of cloud and of fire in the Old Testament. It went ahead of God’s people, leading them through the wilderness. While God doesn’t do that in a miraculous way today, His Word guides every step we take, if we will let it.

Here are the lyrics of this great hymn:

I don’t know about tomorrow,

I just live from day to day;

I don’t borrow from its sunshine,

For its skies may turn to gray.

I don’t worry o’er the future,

For I know what Jesus said;

And today I’ll walk beside Him,

For He knows what is ahead.

Ev’ry step is getting brighter,

As the golden stairs I climb;

Ev’ry burden’s getting lighter,

Ev’ry cloud is silver lined.

There the sun is always shining,

There no tear will dim the eye;

At the ending of the rainbow,

Where the mountains touch the sky.

I don’t know about tomorrow,

It may bring me poverty;

But the One who feeds the sparrow,

Is the One who stands by me.

And the path that be my portion

May be through the flame or flood,

But His presence goes before me,

And I’m covered with His blood.

Many things about tomorrow,

I don’t seem to understand;

But I know who holds tomorrow,

And I know who holds my hand.

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What are your reflections on this hymn, especially in the times in which we find ourselves?

Thursday Hymn Reflection: “You Never Mentioned Him to Me”

[Each Thursday, we "reflect" on a hymn. If you would like to add your favorites to our list for future posts, leave a note in the comments with  no more than 3 songs.]

One of the most haunting songs ever written, this simple song is one of the most motivating hymns we regularly sing. Or, maybe we don’t! It may just be me, but it seems to me that we don’t sing this song as much as we used to. Could it be out of guilt?

The lyrics to “You Never Mentioned Him to Me” were written by poet James Rowe, who is probably more well-known for his hymn “Love Lifted Me.” However, this song gets to the heart of evangelism: sharing Christ.

The song pictures Judgment Day, but one where we are waiting for our sentencing. Then, one who has learned his fate is to an eternal hell, cries out, “You met me day by day and knew I was astray, yet never mentioned Him to me.” Those words are chilling, and the thought is horrible, but the song is more than that.

Once we sing the first verse and that chilling chorus, the other two verses contain great encouragement to work. My favorite line in the song is, “So work as days go by, that yonder none may cry, ‘You  never mentioned Him to me’.” In reality, that’s the emphasis of the song. It may be a hard song to take, but the emphasis is on doing our work as much as we possibly can.

When we study the Scriptures, we learn that such is our work. Paul stated that he had planted, Apollos had watered, but God gave the increase. Our work is to sow the seed; it is up to the lost to decide to come to Christ. If we can honestly say we are truly sharing Christ with others, songs like this will be great motivation.

If not, though, these songs are chilling and haunting. We can feel guilty after singing them, knowing that we aren’t telling others about Christ.

Which is the song for you?

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Enjoy this version of the hymn, and share your thoughts on this song in the comments.

Thursday Hymn Reflection: “Come Share the Lord”

[Each Thursday, we "reflect" on a hymn suggested by our readers. To add your favorites to the list, submit a comment with no more than three suggestions.]

Written in 1984, “Come Share the Lord” has become a often-used song before the Lord’s Supper. The idea of “sharing” is the overarching theme of this simple song, and it brings to mind the concept of unity that is seen so strongly at communion, as we are sharing not only with each other, but also with Jesus.

The writer and composer, Bryan C. Leach, struggled to write this song, though. These are his own words:

In the autumn of 1982, I made an inner resolve to write a communion anthem and promptly forgot about it. During Christmas with my family in England, I invented a melody at the piano, but my mind was barren of any lyric ideas. 

One hot summer day, while visiting a musician friend in Simi Valley, Calif., I played the setting and asked him to react to it. After repeating it, he thought a moment and then said, ‘It’s obvious: Holy Communion.’ I went home and within an hour the words were complete. In the anthem arrangement by Roland Tabell it has become my most popular song to date. (quote from http://www.umportal.org/article.asp?id=3900)

The picturesque words of the song are the driving force behind it. The picture of Christ being with us as we commune is a concept we don’t think about enough. The second verse begins, “He joins us here; He breaks the bread. The Lord who pours the cup is risen from the dead.” When we eat the Lord’s Supper, are we thinking about the concept of Christ not only being honored, but also being present?

My favorite part of the song, though, is the ending. As we commune here on the earth, we are anticipating a greater meeting. So, we sing, “We’ll gather soon where angels sing.” That hope gives us even greater motivation to commune with thought and emotion. And so, this song is able to do something that is rare among songs often sung at the Lord’s Supper: it combines the past, present, and future. But that’s what communion is all about.

Here are the lyrics to this great hymn:

We gather here in Jesus’ name;

His love is burning in our hearts like living flame,

For thro’ the loving Son the Father makes us one;

Come, take the bread; come, drink the cup;

Come share the Lord.

No one is a stranger here;

Everyone belongs.

Finding our forgiveness here,

We in turn forgive all wrongs.

 

He joins us here; He breaks the bread.

The Lord who pours the cup is risen from the dead.

The one we love the most is now our gracious host:

Come, take the break; come, drink the cup;

Come share the Lord.

We are now a family

Of which the Lord is Head;

Tho’ unseen He meets us here

In the breaking of the bread.

 

We’ll gather soon where angels sing;

We’ll see the glory of our Lord and coming King.

Now we anticipate the feast for which we wait:

Come, take the bread; come, drink the cup;

Come, share the Lord.

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What are some of your thoughts on this hymn?