Here is today’s segment of Tuesdays With Tom on WSTS 100.9 FM. Today we begin sharing my top 5 classic hymns.
Archive for the ‘song lyrics’ Category
I don’t consider myself a songwriter. I do write songs but a “songwriter” is someone who is known for it. I’m certainly not known for the songs I’ve written! A cyber-friend (did I just make up a new term???) of mine, Bobby Gilles, has posted an extremely beneficial post concerning lyric devices that any and all who write songs should feast upon. Bobby and his wife Kristin are a part of the Sojourn Community Church music ministry in the Louisville, KY area. He has been kind to direct others to my blog in the past but that’s not why I’m featuring him in this post. It would be well-worth your time to subscribe to his blog, “My Song In The Night” whether he had promoted this site or not!
I will give you the first few examples here and you can click here for the entire list:
Alliteration: the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of a word, like the “H” sound in “Hark the herald angels sing” or the “L” in Stephen Foster’s “Open thy lattice, love, listen to me.” Count all the alliteration in this brief part of Bob Dylan’s “Chimes Of Freedom” (look for B, F, D,S and M words):
Far between sundown’s finish and midnight’s broken toll
We ducked inside the doorway, thunder crashin’
As majestic bells of bolts struck shadows in the sun
Seeming to be the chimes of freedom flashing
Anadiplosis: Repeating the last word or phrase of one line at the beginning of the next one:
suffering produces endurance,
and endurance produces character,
and character produces hope,
and hope does not put us to shame,
– Romans 5:3-5
Poor man wanna be rich
Rich man wanna be king
And a king ain’t satisfied
Till he rules everything
– “Badlands,” Bruce Springsteen
Anaphora: Repetition of the same words at the beginning of successive lines. Martin Luther King, Jr. used anaphora repeatedly in his “I Have A Dream” speech. Fanny Crosby begins “Redeemed, How I Love To Proclaim It” with three successive lines starting with the word “Redeemed.” And Charles Wesley uses anaphora well in “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus“: “Born Thy people to deliver/ Born a child and yet a King/ Born to reign in us forever.” Look at the way Bill and Gloria Gaither repeat the title song phrase of “Because He lives” in their chorus:
Because He lives I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I Know He holds the future
This life is worth the living, just because He lives
Antimetabole: A figure of speech in which the same phrase or idea is repeated in transposed order, giving the second phrase a different or deeper meaning:
- You can take the girl out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the girl
- “He lived to die; let us die to live”
Antistrophe: Similar to antimetabole, but more limited in scope. Antistrophe occurs when words are repeated in reverse order, meaning essentially the same thing each time:
- One in Three, and Three in One
- All for one, and one for all
Antithesis: The use of opposites in successive phrases, to highlight the distinction or difference:
- “Ah, but I was so much older then / I’m younger than that now” — Bob Dylan, “My Back Pages”
- “Vile and full of sin I am/ Thou art full of truth and grace” — Charles Wesley, “Jesus, Lover of my Soul”
Click here to read the entire post
In my last entry, I shared with you a question that has recently crossed my mind.
Is it best to use singular nouns or plural nouns in our congregational singing?
Notice that I did not ask “Is it wrong to use individual language?” or “Is it sinful to use plural words?”
This is simply a case of better vs. best. So let’s look at a couple of songs that we actually sing at Grace Life Church and analyze their effectiveness. I will select these songs with no agenda to speak against the one and in favor of the other. In other words, I will select an example of each that I believe are both 5-star congregationals in their own right. I will only deal with portions of each for brevity’s sake. (Personal nouns and pronouns will be highlighted.)
SINGULAR: Before the throne of God above/I have a strong and perfect plea/A great High Priest Whose Name is Love/Who ever lives and pleads for me/My name is graven on His hands/My name is written on His heart/I know that while in heav’n He stands/No tongue can bid me thence depart
PLURAL: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God/A bulwark never failing/Our helper He amid the flood/Of mortal ills prevailing/Though still our ancient foe/doth seek to work us woe/His craft and pow’r are great/And armed with cruel hate/On earth is not his equal
MIXED: How deep the Father’s Love for us/How vast beyond all measure/That He should give His only son/To make a wretch His treasure/How great the pain of searing loss/The Father turns His face away/As wounds which mar the chosen One/Bring many sons to glory
With the points that I raised in my last post, I wonder if the first song would be more effective sung this way:
Before the throne of God above/We have a strong and perfect plea/A great High Priest Whose Name is Love/Who ever lives and pleads for us/Our names are graven on His hands/Our name is written on His heart/We know that while in heav’n He stands/No tongue can bid us thence depart
Without repeating what I said earlier, I wonder if doing this would aid those who are prone to think of themselves as ONLY individuals in a church service (at the expense of forsaking seeing themselves as part of a body)? I wonder if this subtlety would send small, incremental messages to those who are prone to think that it’s all about just them (which Americans are constantly battling) when it’s all about the Bride (humanly speaking, of course)?
I realize that one of the changes in my example thwarts the rhyme scheme (I could go all Dr. Seuss and say “Who ever lives and pleads for we”). However, I do like the way that it makes this particular song a declaration of a congregation rather than by a bunch of individuals. I haven’t asked my pastor yet, but I may even try some of this at our church (but only with his permission—which is an entirely different subject!)
I do notice that when I change another example from plural to singular it seems to gives a selfish slant:
A Mighty Fortress Is my God/A bulwark never failing/My helper He amid the flood/Of mortal ills prevailing/Though still my ancient foe/doth seek to work me woe/His craft and pow’r are great/And armed with cruel hate/On earth is not his equal
That’s not to say that there’s anything theologically wrong with singing it this way. I just prefer it to have plural language because it reminds me that the gospel is not only for me but for us.
I may have yet another entry on this subject soon.
The longer I lead congregational singing, the more I wrestle with this subject. It’s not a matter of right vs. wrong. It’s a matter of better vs. best. Is it best to use singular nouns or plural nouns in our congregational singing? You might not have ever considered such a question. To be honest, I’ve not thought about it at all until the last few years. However, there are a few good reasons why such a question must be asked.
Most of the New Testament is written to groups not individuals. I understand that the Psalms (which is our most basic songbook model) primarily uses singular nouns. That cannot be ignored. However, after Jesus’ death and resurrection we see much more imperatives to corporate bodies than singular people. There are exceptions of course (see Paul’s letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon—although it was actually written to three people) but the four Gospels, Acts, Revelation, and most of the rest of the Pauline Epistles are written with a corporate mindset. As my pastor says “All theology is local church theology”.
America is an individualistic culture. From a sociological viewpoint, most believers in this country are bent towards shutting out the rest of the congregation in church services rather than letting them in. I firmly believe that the success of many Charismatic movements has flourished in this country because of their emphasis on the individualistic worship experience (remember, I IS a Charismatic—don’t throw stones at me my friends). So any direction we can take in our song services to point back to the corporate experience rather than the individualistic one—in order to stay in balance—would be a welcome act.
The words we use shape our thinking. There’s little doubting that a person’s language not only reflects their thinking (Luke 6:45) but also influences it (Zeph. 3:9). (Here is one article dealing with this subject.) One only needs to do a basic study into the careful handling of words and language in the holy scriptures to see this importance. To dip back into the sociological realm for a moment, I recall one study that showed that most men in prison have names that are most easily mocked and ridiculed. Racism is most easily inflicted by the sinful use of language. In short, the relationship between the heart’s affects on language and language’s effect on the heart cannot be separated.
In my next post, I will look at practical examples of the use of singular and plural nouns in song services.
I posted this a few Christmases back. I thought it was worth repeating. Again, I’m not trying to call anyone a heretic for using this song (after all–even MacArthur’s church did THIS song at their Christmas Program). I’m just trying to get all of us to look more closely at lyrics and their subtle meanings.
I just got through listening to the Christmas song “The Little Drummer Boy” in my office and was very much struck by the underlying message of that song. On the surface it seems to be a wonderful, innocuous tune with a warm-hearted message of a child’s present to the Baby Jesus. But as we look closer at the lyrics we can see something else. Before we do, please don’t hear this as just another rant of a “know-it-all” on his soapbox. Instead, I implore you to search your own heart and see if and where you might partake in the same misnomers on worship. (I have removed the “pa rum pum pum pum”s to better see the message of the song.)
Come they told me
A new-born king to see
Our finest gifts we bring
To lay before the king
So to honor Him
When we come.
I am a poor boy too
I have no gift to bring
That’s fit to give the King
Shall I play for you
On my drum?
The ox and lamb kept time
I played my drum for Him
I played my best for Him
Then He smiled at me
Me and my drum.
The first verse serves as somewhat of an invitation. “Come” is at the heart of evangelism. I’m alright with that. The third and fourth lines can be alright or they can present problems depending on what is meant. Are they gifts as in a present or as in an offering? Are our gifts we bring to Christ trying to add to His perfection or are they in response to Who He is and an acknowledgement that even what we bring to Him is already His?
The second verse touches on the truth when we say “I have no gift to bring”. We bring nothing worth having to the table when we come to Christ. And certainly nothing is “fit” for Him except in the sense that a broken, wearied heart is something Christ asks for (Matt. 11:28). But you wonder if there is meant a hint of self-pity in that line…..However, the second verse is correct in that “all-of-life worship” is certainly about using everything to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).
But it is the third verse that really drives the point of this song home. (I will not deal with the mention of Mary and the possible Roman Catholic overtones.) The real dead-giveaway is the two lines “I played my best for Him….Then He smiled at me”. That is one of the chief errors that I see in contemporary corporate worship! We see worship leaders and congregations trying to do their best to get God to smile at them. But that is not the gospel.
Our best will never draw the “smile” of Christ. Our efforts only leave us with a certain frown of God’s sore displeasure. It is Christ’s best that finds us in good standing and favor with God! It is the fact that God the Father smiled at the Son “playing His best” (forgive the parallel analogy) with Christ’s perfect fulfillment of the law and going to the cross of punishment that will secure our justification with God.
If you are depending on your talent to “usher in God’s presence” and to “get God to smile” at your song services or to get a reaction from God you are no different than this poor lost little drummer boy. Don’t misunderstand me….We are still to strive to present music in an excellent fashion. But we do so only with the understanding that our striving is in response to Christ’s worth. We don’t do it to get God’s attention.
Brother Music Minister, please point your congregation to Christ’s limitless, perfect, infinite worth as expressed through His accomplishments when you sing!
One last thought: consider the difference between these lyrics and the scripture reference from Handel’s Messiah: “And He shall purify the sons of Levi…that they may offer unto the Lord an offering of righteousness” Mal. 3:3
We talk a lot about “balance” around here at Grace Life Church. I wrote a few days ago about why we’re dropping a verse from the great hymn “The Church’s One Foundation”. So, to “balance” out our subtraction, today I’m sharing with you a verse of “addition” to the song “Shout To The Lord” that we’re singing for the first time this Sunday evening. They came to me from a new friend of mine, Dr. Tom Nettles, who is a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. Dr. Nettles was preaching on a conference in which I was leading the music and he graciously shared them with me. Here they be:
Wretched, deceitful, and blind;
Choosing my path, heedless of wrath,
Enraptured by the shades of death.
But Mercy embraced me,
Lovely the Savior appeared,
He died in my place, so rich was His grace,
And filled my heart with awe and praise.
Shout to the Lord, all the earth let us sing
Power and majesty, praise to the King
Gone my iniquities, drowned in His wounds
In the depths of Calvary.
Ceaseless His mercies of wisdom and love.
Unending the purpose of grace from above,
Eternal life from the beauties so full
I hope you enjoy this rich hymn sung by Huw Priday, a marvelous tenor
He sings a verse in gaelic and then sings these two verses in English written by William Rees (1802-1883):
Here is love, vast as the ocean,
Lovingkindness as the flood,
When the Prince of Life, our Ransom,
Shed for us His precious blood.
Who His love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing His praise?
He can never be forgotten,
Throughout Heav’n’s eternal days.
On the mount of crucifixion,
Fountains opened deep and wide;
Through the floodgates of God’s mercy
Flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers,
Poured incessant from above,
And Heav’n’s peace and perfect justice
Kissed a guilty world in love.
There are two more verses, possibly written by William Williams
Let me all Thy love accepting,
Love Thee, ever all my days;
Let me seek Thy kingdom only
And my life be to Thy praise;
Thou alone shalt be my glory,
Nothing in the world I see.
Thou hast cleansed and sanctified me,
Thou Thyself hast set me free.
In Thy truth Thou dost direct me
By Thy Spirit through Thy Word;
And Thy grace my need is meeting,
As I trust in Thee, my Lord.
Of Thy fullness Thou art pouring
Thy great love and power on me,
Without measure, full and boundless,
Drawing out my heart to Thee.
Here is Sovereign Grace’s version of the same hymn:
I’ve written about dropping songs before. But this is a different situation. We sing a song at Grace Life that I learned once I got here (there have been a number of them). It has quickly become one of my favorites. It may be yours too. However, I have come to realize that I have been participating in singing lyrics that speak of an unbiblical practice and causing our congregation to do the same.
I’m speaking of the hymn “The Church’s One Foundation” a glorious statement of the relationship between Christ and His Bride. It can be found in the 1997 Celebration Hymnal (p. 401) with the following four verses:
The church’s one Foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord;
She is his new creation
By water and the Word:
From heav’n he came and sought her
To be his holy bride;
With his own blood he bought her,
And for her life he died.
Elect from ev’ry nation,
Yet one o’er all the earth,
Her charter of salvation
One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy Name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food.
And to one hope she presses,
With ev’ry grace endued.
‘Mid toil and tribulation,
And tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation
Of peace for evermore;
Till with the vision glorious
Her longing eyes are blest,
And the great church victorious
Shall be the church at rest.
Yet she on earth hath union
With the God the Three in One,
And mystic sweet communion
With those whose rest is won:
O happy ones and holy!
Lord, give us grace that we,
Like them, the meek and lowly,
On high may dwell with thee.
My issue has become evident with the two lines in bold. I must confess that I had not looked closely enough at the lyrics (being that I’ve only sung the song a handful of times) and thought that verse was speaking about the fellowship which believers in Christ’s Church share throughout the earth. However, the last two lines of that same verse give evidence to the fact that the two lines in question are speaking of dead saints.
There’s nothing wrong with singing about the fact that all the saints throughout God’s redemptive history would agree on the gospel. However, these lyrics touch on something deeper—the practice of praying to saints who have died. You can read much more about this practice here and here.
To say that orthodox, protestant believers reject this practice is an understatement. But even more than that, the scriptures give no evidence of supporting this practice either. It is also interesting to note that the 1991 Baptist Hymnal does not include this verse. It only has the first three.
Here’s the good news: Samuel Stone wrote two additional verses!
Though with a scornful wonder
Men see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder,
By heresies distressed,
Yet saints their watch are keeping,
Their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping
Shall be the morn of song.
The church shall never perish!
Her dear Lord to defend,
To guide, sustain and cherish
Is with her to the end;
Though there be those that hate her,
And false sons in her pale,
Against both foe or traitor
She ever shall prevail.
Brother Music Minister, I would encourage you to drop the same verse we’re dropping and instead add one or both of these other two verses. I will chalk the change I’m making up as progressive sanctification.
Well, since I’m on a roll with calling out a song in my last entry, today I’ll give you more songs to consider dropping from your church’s song list. Let’s say I’m trying to make myself less and less popular. J
Before I do, let me make one important clarification from my entry dealing with Mikeschair and their song “Someone Worth Dying For”. Forgive any misunderstanding in that I was not trying to say that the guys in the band are wolves. Only the Lord can truly know that. In fact, under their picture, I expressed that I hoped that they weren’t wolves. I hope and pray—just as I do with anyone that I don’t personally know—that they are genuine, sincere followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The “wolf” in my last entry was false doctrine, i.e. a warping and twisting of the gospel to fit man’s desire and not God’s. It was in that context that I was warning fellow Music Ministers to have discernment. (That’s not to say that people cannot be wolves—they can. But that was not the intent of my post.) We can’t assume that a song is biblically accurate just because it comes from Christian sources. I have asked the guys from Mikeschair to forgive me and trust that they have done that.
With that being said, let’s look at some other songs that you should consider dropping from your church’s repertoire:
In The Garden. It’s not based upon scripture but on a mystical subjective experience. It’s not that it’s heretical but there are many other better songs to sing about Christ’s eminence to us. That’s not to say that we should discount all mystical subjective experiences (as long as they agree with scripture). I pray that you have wonderful times with the Lord in your prayer closet. I just don’t know that we need to sing corporately about them.
I Bowed On My Knees And Cried Holy. While this song has a desire to center on Christ (a good thing) it is based on a dream (a not-so-good thing) and just like the first song in this list, it’s not the best basis from which a congregation should sing. I’ve sung it and directed it in the past but have now determined that there are better songs that center on Christ than this one.
Friend Of God. I’m sure this one will get some return fire. However, I would not include this song for a church service because it centers more on the worshiper than on the Object of Worship—Jesus. There are too many “I’s” in this song and not enough “He’s”. Again, I’m not gonna brand anyone a heretic for doing this one. But it has been done way too much in lieu of other far superior songs that speak of God’s love for His children.
The Heart Of Worship. My main bugaboo with this song is the line “Longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless Your heart” (with “Your” being God). I know what Redman means with this line in that the only worthy sacrifice is that of faith and not of works. However, it’s easy to confuse a congregant into thinking that it’s about making God dependent upon the worshiper as if He were the beneficiary. God is only and will always only be the Benefactor and the worshiper the beneficiary. If that can be properly taught in your church then this song may work fine.
I Love You Lord. You may think I’m being far too picky with this one too but the line “take joy, my King, in what You hear/may it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your Ear” just rubs me the wrong way. I just don’t see in the prevalence of scripture where the effects of worship on God are highlighted. The scriptures speak more of the benefits and blessings of obedience on the worshiper as the worshiper focuses on what God has done.
Above All. It’s just the last line (“you thought of me above all”) that’s the problem. Everything else in this song is gold. Why is the last line the problem? Because Christ thought of His Father above all—not us. He certainly thought of us—without question! But to usurp God the Father’s position in the Mind of Christ with man doesn’t jive with the Book.
God-Shaped Hole. In no way shape or form would I do this one. That title is based on a modern cliché that has no biblical merit. Our hearts are not fitted with a space for God. Our hearts are desperately wicked and filled with hatred for God before conversion. In regeneration, we are given new hearts that now love, cherish, and honor the Lord. God has to do away with our old hearts. This song is based on the premise that we are basically good and just need God to complete our lives. The bible says that we have no life apart from God.
Again, I do not mean to throw stones at any of the writers of these song or anyone who has sung them in the past (or else I would have to bash my own head in!) I’m just asking you to really think through every song that you use in a church service.