What We Gained When We Lost Our Hymnals

A few weeks ago I wrote an article titled What We Lost When We Lost Our Hymnals and was rather surprised to see 300,000 people stop by to read it! I meant to point out that there are consequences in shifting from one medium to another—in this case, shifting from hymnals to PowerPoint projection. (I use “PowerPoint” to stand in for all forms of projection.) It is true of every new technology that it brings benefits and drawbacks. Neither hymnals …

What We Lost When We Lost Our Hymnals

I don’t think we should go back to using hymnals. But I do think there’s value in considering what we lost when, over the course of a relatively short period of time, we gave up hymnals for PowerPoint projection. Not all of us, mind you, but most of us. It’s worth considering because it helpfully shows what we stand to lose when we switch from one media to another, and especially when we do so quickly and without due consideration. …

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Hymn Stories: Onward, Christian Soldiers

Onward, Christian Soldiers” was written in 1865 with no intention of ever being published, especially in adult hymn books. Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould, its author, was at that time the curate of a parish in Yorkshire county in the north of England, and he recounts how and why he wrote it: It was written in a very simple fashion … Whitmonday is a great day for school festivals in Yorkshire, and one Whitmonday it was arranged that our school should join …

Hymn Stories: Take My Life and Let It Be

Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-1879) was an unusually gifted and passionate saint. The daughter of a church rector, she was raised in Worcester, England and attended schools in England and Germany. In her love of learning, she grew to become an able scholar (even becoming proficient in both Hebrew and Greek) and a talented singer and pianist. The deepest desire of her heart, however, was in “personal spiritual influence upon others” (Benson). This led her to value most of all her …

Hymn Stories: Just As I Am

Just As I Am” is one of the few hymns for which we know not only the author’s story but also the exact circumstances in which it was written. Charlotte Elliott of Brighton, England (1789–1871) was either born, or in early life had become, an invalid. Her life was a testimony to patient endurance in suffering, not only physical, but also emotional and spiritual. This was the context in which she wrote the hymn, as her nephew the Rev. Handley …

Blood Work

Christianity is a bloody faith. It is a bloody faith because it is the faith of sinful people and the Bible tells us that sin requires blood. For sin to be forgiven, for sinful people to be made right with God, there must be a payment of blood. That payment was made by Jesus Christ on a blood-soaked cross and through the centuries Christians have been praising God for providing the one thing they need most that they cannot do …

Hymn Stories: God Moves in a Mysterious Way

William Cowper was keenly aware of the truth that God moves in mysterious ways. His life, as John Piper describes it in his biography of Cowper, seems to have been “one long accumulation of pain,” especially mental pain. But this hymn writer trusted by faith–not perfectly, but perseveringly–that in this mysterious and maddening providence, God was working wonders. Cowper was born in 1731 in Berkhamsted, England. His mother died when he was only 6 years old, leaving him to be …

Hymn Stories: How Firm a Foundation (+ Free Download)

In 1787 Dr. John Rippon published A Selection of Hymns from the Best Authors as a supplement to Isaac Watts’ classic Psalms and Hymns. The book was an immense success. “The remarkable feature of the book,” writes Louis Benson, “is the great number of original hymns secured by him and there first printed.” Among these original hymns was the title “How Firm a Foundation.” As you can see in this facsimile of the original publication, Rippon attributed the authorship simply to “K——.” …

Approach, My Soul, the Mercy Seat

Every now and again I like to post a favorite song that we sing at Grace Fellowship Church. In worship this morning we sang an old Newton hymn that has become a favorite. It’s a hymn you may well know, one titled “Approach, My Soul, the Mercy Seat.” It is one of Newton’s Olney Hymns. We use the third stanza as a chorus, singing in that chorus that though we are bowed down beneath a load of sin, we find …

Confessions of a Failed Worshiper

Today’s guest blog comes courtesy of Matthew Smith. Matthew is a singer-songwriter from Nashville who takes old hymn lyrics and sets them to new music. He is a founding member of the Indelible Grace community, and tours full time, playing concerts of hymns at churches. I blogged here last week about his new song “Goodnight,” from his forthcoming album Watch The Rising Day. For this article I simply asked Matthew to writes about how he came to find such joy …