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How sweet the sound

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The power and influence of hymns seem timeless

“…be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Ephesians 5:18b-20

My childhood home church in B.C.’s Fraser Valley held German and English services. We listened to sermons and sang hymns in both languages. There was also a tongue-in-cheek sentiment bandied about that although English was graciously accommodated for the sake of the ‘young’ people, German was unquestionably God’s favoured worship language. I must confess that I felt hymns sung in German had a richness about them that English couldn’t compare. As a young adult, I still recall my ‘English’ girlfriend (now spouse) struggling to sing German hymns under the watchful gaze of my protective omi. Over the decades since that time, I have come to deeply appreciate hymns, regardless of language, as a powerful and influential aspect of my discipleship.

Hymns have a set of intrinsic ‘spirit influencing’ rudiments that can be life-transforming for the disciple of Jesus. These elements include:

A God-centered perspective on all of life.
A Jesus-centered approach to life.
A Holy Spirit-centered empowerment for life.
A Bible-centered foundation for life.

I am convinced that the intertwining of music and convictions of faith latent in hymns communicate a supernatural ‘message’ where words alone fall short. Their very constitution is a powerful medium for revealing the deeper things of the human heart and the mysterious divine things of God. Artistically, the late English poet John Betjeman once said, “Hymns are the poetry of the people.” Like poetry, hymns reveal, teach, inspire, evoke, and humble; they shape, mould, and transform the person who genuinely engages them. Each hymn has a story from which it was birthed: a narrative that speaks to the heart.

In my own spiritual pilgrimage, hymns have…

  • instilled hope in times of trial
  • inspired dreams in times of despair
  • brought peace in times of trouble
  • fostered faith in times of doubt
  • reminded me that all of life has a purpose
  • deepened my understanding of God
  • moved me to mission

The intent of my writing on the precious nature of hymns is to share their impact on my discipleship and encourage you as disciples to consider supplementing your own devotional time with hymns. A part of my spiritual respite with the Father includes singing or reading a hymn. It is a discipline worthy of any follower of Jesus.

Consider, for example, what meditating on the declaration of Edward Mote would do to your spirit as you begin your day:

“My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus name.”

The Solid Rock, 1834

Contemplate the celebration of hope that would well up in your soul as you read these words penned by Fanny J. Crosby just before you offer your morning prayer:

“A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,
He taketh my burden away;
He holdeth me up and I shall not be moved,
He giveth me strength as my day.”

He Hideth My Soul, 1890

What might happen as you meditate upon the welcoming character of the Heavenly Father in the lyrics written by Charlotte Elliot while studying texts like Romans 8:1?

“Just as I am without one plea
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou biddst me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!”

Just As I Am, 1835

Soak in the call to obedience and willing surrender of Frances Ridley Havergal’s hymn as you journal your application of Luke 9:23.

“Take my will and make it Thine –
it shall be no-longer mine;
take my heart – it is Thine own,
it shall be Thy royal throne.”

Take My Life and Let it Be, 1874

Mark my words, friends, the inclusion of hymns in your quiet moments with God will indeed leave one inspired, encouraged and transformed.

I leave the last musical testimony to John Newton:

“Amazing grace how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
was blind but now I see.”

Amazing Grace, 1772

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