My Heart Is Filled With Thankfulness

Hymnology: My Heart Is Filled With Thankfulness

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing hymns and songs and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
~Colossians 3:15-16

Hymn Story

When prolific hymn writers Keith & Kristyn Getty moved to Nashville a few years ago, they decided to pursue a new concept for their next project. They wanted to explore themes not typically covered by modern worship music, such as work, community, and money. The result is their most recent album, “Hymns for the Christian Life.”

While most of the songs on this album were newly composed, the couple chose to include one of their older hymns, co-written by Stuart Townend. “My Heart Is Filled With Thankfulness” is a prayer of thanksgiving for the spiritual blessings we have received in Christ. Continue reading

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Hymnology: Great Is Thy Faithfulness

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.”

~ Lamentations 3:22-23

Hymn Story

So often, when we ask Christians to give their testimony, it seems we expect to hear dramatic stories of conversion and miraculous deliverance from tragedy. Sometimes this can make the vast majority of Christians feel as if our testimonies are too “boring” to share, lacking the excitement of those with a great story to tell. Of course, this isn’t the way it should be. The more we understand about God — about his justice, his love, his mercy, and his faithfulness — the more we will see that every sinner saved by grace is a dramatic story of conversion. When we consider where we would be without Christ’s atoning sacrifice, we see that every Christian has been miraculously delivered from the worst tragedy imaginable! We all have a great story to tell… it’s called the gospel! Continue reading

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Hymnology: Come Thou Fount

On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.
~ Zechariah 13:1

Hymn Story

When Robert Robinson wrote “Come Thou Fount” at the age of 23, he was a young man who understood himself well. He was indeed prone to wander, and prone to leave the God he loved.

When his father died while Robert was a young teen, his widowed mother indentured him to a London barber. During his failed apprenticeship, his master found him more fond of reading than of working at his profession. He often ran off with his friends, eventually becoming part of a street gang. Continue reading

Immovable Our Hope Remains

Hymnology: Immovable Our Hope Remains

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you
will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

~Philippians 1:6

Hymn Story

Though he is known today as the author of one of the most beloved hymns of all times (Rock of Ages), Augustus Montague Toplady was despised by most of his contemporaries… even members of his own family! He was known as “sick and neurotic” by his friends, and as “impulsive, rash-spoken, reckless in misjudgment” by early biographers. When he publicly attacked John Wesley (calling him “the most rancorous hater of the gospel-system that ever appeared on this island,” among other choice insults), Wesley responded dismissively, saying, “I do not fight with chimney sweeps!”

Yet God can use even the most caustic individuals for His glory. Continue reading

Eternal Father, Strong to Save

Hymnology: Eternal Father, Strong to Save

O Lord God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O Lord, with your faithfulness all around you? You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them.
~Psalm 89:8-9

Hymn Story

Often known in America as the “Navy Hymn” because of its association with the U.S. Naval Academy, this is perhaps the best known of the many maritime hymns written during the 19th century. Cross-Atlantic travel was common during this time, but perilous, leading to a genre of prayer-hymns for seafarers. Continue reading

How He Loves

Hymnology: How He LovesTo him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Revelation 1:5-6

What Do We Do When We Don’t Like a Song Used in Worship?

As a worship leader, I have gotten used to the “worship wars” debate over song selection for worship services. I understand that people have different musical preferences, and that it can be genuinely difficult to worship in an unfamiliar genre. I have come to appreciate the grace that our congregation shows here at Stevens Street as we seek to introduce unfamiliar hymns and songs of many different styles during our services. Musical style is never a primary factor in how we choose the songs for our worship services, though it is a necessary consideration. Far more important is the substance of the song; we must ensure that we are singing true things to and about our God (John 4:24).

Sometimes, though, I’m the one who has to try to look past my own preferences. Continue reading

How Deep the Father’s Love for Us

Hymnology: How Deep the Father's Love for Us

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” ~ John 3:16

Hymn Story

Every so often, a song comes along that you know is going to endure. That Christians will still be singing this song in two hundred years. This is one of those hymns. Written in 1995 by Stuart Townend, this hymn became an “instant classic”, and is now sung in churches all over the world.

Stuart Townend is one of the greatest hymnwriters of our generation. We sing his music frequently in our worship services. In addition to How Deep the Father’s Love for Us, he has written or co-written In Christ AloneThe Power of the Cross, and Beautiful Savior. What a blessing to the Church!

Continue reading

Come, Ye Sinners

Hymnology: Come, Ye Sinners

And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” ~Mark 2:17

Hymn Story

The 18th Century was an exciting, yet turbulent time in the history of the church. While God was saving countless sinners through the preaching of some spiritual giants, Christian unity was fracturing along doctrinal lines. At times the vitriol was so potent that it seemed the divide between Calvinists and Arminians was greater than that between Christians and Pagans. The story of hymnist Joseph Hart and his hymn “Come, Ye Sinners” gives us a fascinating glimpse into this period, demonstrating the serious consequences of ideas. Continue reading

Running to the Mercy Seat

Hymnology: The Mercy Seat

I’m deviating a bit from the usual format today, to post an article I wrote several years ago about this song celebrating the tearing of the veil which kept sinful men from the presence of God.

Here’s a performance by the Prestonwood Baptist Church youth choir:

Song Study

The Mercy Seat, composed by Steve Richardson, Mark Carouthers and Jeff Harpole, and first popularized by Vicki Yohe, speaks of Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice as a replacement for the Old Testament sacrificial system. We learn about this in Hebrews 9, one of the most profound passages in the entire Bible. If we imagine someone who has lived their entire life in the Jewish sacrificial system who is hearing this passage for the first time, the shocking message would likely produce a response similar to what we find in the first verse. Continue reading

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

Hymnology: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way.

~ Psalm 46:1-2

Hymn Story

This hymn is arguably one of the best ever written, and almost certainly the most important… at least as far as Protestants are concerned. When Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Chapel on October 31, 1517, it set off a chain reaction throughout Germany, followed by Europe and the rest of the world. Christendom divided over Luther’s revolutionary claims that grace was a free gift of God, and that Scripture was the only authority needed for a person to know God and to learn the gospel of salvation. Continue reading