No fan of hymns…BUT

When I first became a Christian, about fourteen years ago, I thought that I could do it on my own, by retiring to my rooms and reading theology, and wouldn’t go to the churches and Gospel Halls; . . . I disliked very much their hymns which I considered to be fifth-rate poems set to sixth-rate music. But as I went on I saw the merit of it. I came up against different people of quite different outlooks and different education, and then gradually my conceit just began peeling off. I realized that the hymns (which were just sixth-rate music) were, nevertheless, being sung with devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic-side boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize that you aren’t fit to clean those boots. It gets you out of your solitary conceit.

—C.S. Lewis, “Answers to Questions on Christianity” in God in the Dock:
Essays on Theology and Ethics, 61-62

Love bade me welcome

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lacked anything.

“A guest,” I answered, “worthy to be here”:
Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on Thee.”
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
“Who made the eyes but I?”

“Truth, Lord; but I have marred them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
“My dear, then I will serve.” “You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.

—George Herbert (1593-1633), “Love (III)”

Grace for the New Year

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Newton’s most famous hymn “Amazing Grace” . . . was first unveiled in his church on New Year’s Day (1773), and it’s a reflection on the new year: a look back on his past deliverances, a look around on his present deliverances, and a look forward to his future deliverances in Christ.

The hymn opens with a reminder of God’s past grace:

Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev’d;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believ’d!

Now note the transition to God’s present grace:

Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

Finally, Newton concludes with confidence in God’s future grace:

The Lord has promis’d good to me,
His word my hope secures:
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call’d me here below,
Will be forever mine.

—Tony Reinke, “God Has Brought Me Safe Thus Far: Amazing Grace for a New Year” http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/grace-has-brought-me-safe-thus-far

Defining Worship 40

For the reformed, worship is a lifestyle of humble service that culminates corporately at least once a week, where God’s chosen people join with the heavenly chorus to praise Him for His vast attributes, confess our inabilities, affirm His grace, yield to His instruction, celebrate His mercies and respond to His covenantal call.

—Bryan Chappell, “Worship as Gospel Representation”

Preoccupation with God

Worship is not a self-centered obsession with our sins, our experiences of God’s grace or even with our holy desires.  Worship is ‘preoccupation’ with God, whose attributes qualify Him to forgive and to cleanse, and enable Him to regenerate and to transform!

—Donald P. Hustad, Jubilate II: Church Music in the Evangelical Tradition, 104

Priority Number One

If your heart is not amazed by the grace of God,
and your mind is not gripped by the truth of God,
and your sense of right and wrong is not permeated by the justice of God,
and your faith is not resting in the power of God,
and your imagination is not guided by the beauty of God,
and your life is not steadied by the sovereignty of God,
and your hope is not filled with the glory of God,

then the service of God will be what Paul calls works of the law, and not the fruit of the Spirit. Work for God that is not sustained by wonder at God is a weariness of the flesh. Priority Number One is the cultivation of hearts that stand in awe of God.

—John Piper, “The Sacrifice of Praise (Hebrews 13:8-16” (sermon)