Category Archives: Church

Top 10 List: Hymns

How does one even figure out which hymns to include? I can’t guarantee the order is always the same for me, as it tends to depend on my circumstances. Let’s just say these are my most favorite, but in no particular order (even though I’m putting numbers by them).

10. A Mighty Fortress is Our God – (W & M) Martin Luther

Based on Psalm 46, Martin Luther composed this song that quickly became the battle cry of the Reformation.  The power and majesty that is this song always stirs something deep within me.  When I hear or sing this song, the timidity within me vanishes as I remember that  it is not my strength that wins the battle, but “one little word shall fell him.”  And that Word is above all earthly powers.

9. Behold Our God – (W & M) Ryan Baird, Jonathan Baird, Meghan Baird and Stephen Altrogge

I love this song.  It reminds me of the truth that Christ our God is on His throne and there need be no worries.  All we must do is behold Him, adore Him, and let His glory fill the earth.  The power and strength of resting in Christ’s rule is humbling and yet powerful, and I cannot help but sing the verses with heart lowered and sing the chorus with heart boasting in the Lord our God.

8. He Leadeth Me! O Blessed Thought! – (W) Joseph H. Gilmore, (M) William B. Bradbury

I have to admit, the first time I remember hearing this song was on a Gaither’s Homecoming video.  The Martins sang it in such perfect harmony, I listened to it over and over again.  So much of this song speaks truth to various parts of life and reminds that he never leaves nor forsakes, but always leads.  “Sometimes ‘mid scenes of deepest gloom, sometimes where Eden’s flowers bloom, content, whatever lot I see, since ’tis Thy hand that leadeth me.”

7. How Sweet and Aweful is the Place – (W) Isaac Watts, (M) Ancient Irish Melody

I sang this for the first time at a T4G conference and was struck by its words.  Most people, it seems, groan at this song. I have introduced it at two churches that I’ve pastored and few people find it as captivating as I.  That’s okay, though.  Watts outdid himself with these words presenting salvation as a feast and Christ as the Host.  All in one song, he presents the doctrines of grace in splendid fashion.  The last line rings upon my heart (not just because my church is not yet at full-capacity), but because it is the longing of every Christian: “We long to see Thy churches full, that all the chosen race may, with one voice, and heart and soul, sing Thy redeeming grace.”

6. Jesus, Lover of My Soul – (W) Charles Wesley, (M), Simeon B. Marsh

What a prayer Wesley has written!  Such a perfect song to Jesus.  This is a cry for help and refuge and comfort.  It’s a petition for grace and joy.  How could anyone not like this song?

5. All I Have is Christ – (W & M) Jordan Kauflin

Another that was introduced to me at T4G.  Describing how the Lord has transferred me out of darkness into the kingdom of His beloved Son, Kauflin magnificently reminds me that in the end, I have no work and no deed that allows me to stand before God.  All I have is Christ.  Hallelujah!

4. When I Survey the Wondrous Cross – (W) Isaac Watts, (M) Lowell Mason

This has always, as far back as I can remember, been one of my all time favorites.  It wasn’t until reading a biography of Watts, however that I found that a verse is missing.  I understand why this verse is left out, but I wish it wasn’t.  “His dying crimson, like a robe, spread o’r his body on the tree; then I am dead to all the globe, and all the globe is dead to me.”  By Christ’s death I am alive to God and dead to sin.

3. A Debtor to Mercy – (W) Augustus Toplady,* (M) Bob Kauflin

Again, it is all Christ.  It is by the mercy of God that I am saved, and it is by the blood of Christ that I have a righteousness not my own.  The very thought that Christ does not throw me away like some tattered garment brings such joy to my soul that when I sing the last verse I cannot help but hold my head higher knowing that I am His and He is mine.

*Bob Kauflin updated some of the language within this song.

2. In Christ Alone – (W & M) Keith Getty & Stuart Townend

Instant masterpiece and classic.  There are not many modern hymns (or praise and worship songs) that will stand the test of time, but this is one.  This is one of the all time greats as it once again reminds us that we have nothing to offer.  Here in the love of Christ we stand.  Here in the death of Christ we live.  Here in the power of Christ we stand.  Because we were “bought with the precious blood of Christ!”

1. How Great Thou Art – (W) Stuart K. Hine, (M)  Swedish Folk Melody (adapted by Hine)

I remember as an 18 year old young man, just graduated from high school, on a missions trip in the mountains of North Carolina, sitting on a log by a stream, looking at the moon, and being amazed at God’s creative works.  This song came into my mind and I began to sing it.  “When I look down from lofty mountains grandeur, and hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze…”  The peace and joy I felt at that moment is indescribable.  Less than 24 hours later, I would hear news that caused my world to fall apart.  My dad had stepped into glory. As I prayed, the words “Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee; how great Thou art.  How great Thou art,” burst forth from deep within.  The God who brought me to praise him the night before, was worthy of praise even at that moment, even in the midst of weeping.

So that’s it.  What are your favorite hymns?  Why?  Share with us.  Give us a comment.  We’d love to hear from you.

3 Reasons “Bad Little Johnny” Needs to be In Church

I have heard this about a dozen times since being a pastor and every time I hear it I’m baffled.  It goes something like this: “Johnny’s been bad today, so I’m not letting him come to church/church event.”  I try to hide my confusion, but I’m not sure how well I do, because it usually starts the person on further explanation.  No explanation can assuage the heartache that I feel when I hear those words.  I’m not sure parents have thought through why this is such a detriment to their children.

I want to give 3 quick reasons I believe that it is a big mistake to keep little Johnny from church as a punishment.

  1. If Johnny has been bad—if he has sinned—then he needs to hear the gospel. If he is not yet a believer, he needs to hear that sin has more consequences than being grounded or spanked. Sin has the consequence of hell. He needs to hear that Jesus paid the penalty for all who believe, and that if he will trust in Jesus, he will be saved from sin and hell, and will have a relationship with God through Jesus, indwelled by the Holy Spirit.  If a parent deprives little Johnny of that message, it is to all of their detriment, but especially little Johnny’s.
  2. Little Johnny needs to know that even when he is bad—even when he has sinned—he can still go to God. If a parent keeps their “bad” child from church, it very well could lead to the idea that when they are bad they cannot go to God at all. Even if these words are never spoken (“God doesn’t want bad children in ‘his house.’”) the meaning very well may be conveyed.  Little Johnny needs to know that God is always willing to receive the humble and repentant.  He never leaves nor forsakes.
  3. Little Johnny needs the church members to be examples to/for him. The writer of Hebrews wrote that we are to remember our leaders and the outcome of their lives and imitate them (cf. 13:7). If Johnny is kept away from the church, he is kept away from godly mentors and examples.  There are men and women who will help teach him why his actions were wrong (if you let them know).  His teachers/pastors care about him; let them show you and him.

Perhaps you are thinking that your church doesn’t share the gospel; all they do is have fun.  If that is true, then you not only need to keep him out that one day, but withdraw him.  However, before doing that, speak with the teacher. Ask if the gospel is presented and how often.  Perhaps you request that it be done more often.  If it isn’t done at all and the leader/teacher refuses to do so, then go to an elder/pastor.  If there is still nothing done, investigate the church as to its faithfulness to the gospel.  Is this the only place that the gospel is abandoned or are there other places?  If no/little gospel seems to be the norm, then it may be time to leave altogether and find a gospel-centered church.  But whatever you do, don’t keep Johnny out of church due to punishment.

Am I wrong?  Let me know.  Perhaps there is a side of this of which I have not thought.  I’d love to have your comments.