Sunday, January 4, 2015

Some of my Favorite Hymns


             
This is a departure from many of my previous articles. I thought I would take a moment and share with you some of my favorite hymns. I grew up in (and still attend) a contemporary Charismatic Christian church. At this church, we rarely sing hymns. That is, unless my mom leads worship. Mom was raised in the Baptist and, as such, knows all the classic hymns! Through her, I learned to love this theologically rich brand of Christian music. I gravitate toward hymns because of the lyrics. It never ceases to amaze me how much depth the writers of old put into their songs of praise. I have many hymns I enjoy but, for the sake of brevity, I have selected three to share with you. Two of them you have probably never heard. The third is much better known.

1. O Lord is Thee is All My Trust by Thomas Tallis

Thomas Tallis was a composer in the 1500’s. Tallis’ music is a call back to the grand cathedrals and stoic preachers of medieval England. It has an almost Gregorian quality to it. Unlike the Gregorian chants, his music utilizes polyphonic lyrics (a musical form where many voices sing different melodies and, yet, stay in harmony.) It greatly reminds me of what I imagine music in Heaven will be like! This piece is my favorite by him. It begins with the cry of a sinner, begging God to save him from God’s wrath. He then comes to the realization that God must deal with sinners in judgment. The only way of escape is to repent, turn from his sins, and trust in the blood of Christ. For the sake of understanding, I will explain what a few of the antiquated Old English words mean. Shent means to put to shame. Sith is not a user of the dark side of the Force but a preposition meaning since. Ire means wrath.



Lyrics:

O Lord, in thee is all my trust.
Give ear unto my woeful cries.
Refuse me not, that am unjust,
but bowing down thy heav’nly eyes,
behold how I do still lament
my sins wherein I thee offend.
O Lord, for them shall I be shent,
sith thee to please I do intend?

No, no, not so! Thy will is bent
to deal with sinners in thine ire:
but when in heart they shall repent
thou grant’st with speed their just desire.
To thee therefore still shall I cry,
to wash away my sinful crime.
Thy blood, O Lord, is not yet dry,
but that it may help me in time.

Haste now, O Lord, haste now, I say,
to pour on me the gifts of grace
that when this life must flit away
in heav’n with thee I may have place
where thou dost reign eternally
with God which once did down thee send,
where angels sing continually.
To thee be praise, world without end. Amen.”

2. It is a Thing Most Wonderful by William Walsham How (Arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams)

We now jump 300 years forward to 1872. I happened upon this hymn when researching my favorite classical composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams. Vaughan Williams, a lover of folk music, arranged many hymns. I was curious to see which hymns Vaughan Williams chose to arrange. As I listened through a series of them, this one stood out to me. As I listened to it, I pulled up the lyrics. I was struck by its incredible truth. Tears came to my eyes. The song speaks of the incredible love of God. Christ died for those who hated Him. Those who shouted “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” as He stood before Pilate. The next to last stanza in particular resonated with me. “It is most wonderful to know his love for me so free and sure; but 'tis more wonderful to see my love for him so faint and poor.” Very rarely, have I resonated with a song to the extent that it drew tears from me. Perhaps you will have a similar experience. 



Lyrics:

“It is a thing most wonderful,
almost too wonderful to be,
that God's own Son should come from heaven,
and die to save a child like me.

And yet I know that it is true:
he chose a poor and humble lot,
and wept, and toiled, and mourned, and died,
for love of those who loved him not.

I cannot tell how he would love
a child so weak and full of sin;
his love must be most wonderful,
if he could die my love to win.

I sometimes think about the cross,
and shut my eyes, and try to see
the cruel nails and crown of thorns
and Jesus crucified for me.

But even could I see him die,
I could but see a little part
of that great love, which, like a fire,
is always burning in his heart.

It is most wonderful to know
his love for me so free and sure;
but 'tis more wonderful to see
my love for him so faint and poor.

And yet I want to love thee, Lord;
O light the flame within my heart,
and I will love thee more and more,
until I see thee as thou art.”

3. In Christ Alone by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend

I don’t know if this can rightly be called a hymn, it was composed in 2001. However, when I first heard it, I was unaware of its contemporary origin. Due to its sound and the depth of its lyrics, I assumed it was a hymn. All of these songs have pointed to Christ, but no song more than this. It includes the entire gospel within its lyrics. I consider it one of the best-written contemporary songs I have ever heard. These two lines stuck with me. “Till on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied; for ev'ry sin on Him was laid—here in the death of Christ I live.” “And as He stands in victory, sin's curse has lost its grip on me; for I am His and He is mine—bought with the precious blood of Christ.” 



Lyrics:

“In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev'ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow'r of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow'r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow'r of Christ I'll stand.”

All of these songs have one message. We were wretched sinners. We violated God and were worthy of Hell, Thy will is bent to deal with sinners in thine ire,” but God wouldn’t have it that way. He loved us with an amazing love we will never understand! “It is a thing most wonderful, almost too wonderful to be, that God's own Son should come from heaven, and die to save a child like me.” Christ lived a perfect life. He never sinned. And then, one day, He died, crucified by the men He came to save. On that cross, Christ took the punishment we deserved for our sins. Christ bore the punishments of Hell for us. “Scorned by the ones He came to save. Till on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied; for ev'ry sin on Him was laid—here in the death of Christ I live.” But the grave could not hold Him! Three days later, He rose to life, victorious over Hell and death! “There in the ground His body lay, Light of the world by darkness slain; then bursting forth in glorious day, up from the grave He rose again!” And now, if we will trust in Him and repent (turn from) our sins, we can be as spotless as Christ was! “but when in heart they shall repent thou grant’st with speed their just desire. To thee therefore still shall I cry, to wash away my sinful crime. Thy blood, O Lord, is not yet dry, but that it may help me in time.”

This is why I love these hymns, they point toward the message of the gospel, the message I owe my life to, and the message I will tell until the day I die. I hope these songs blessed you as much as they did me!

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