Psalms, Hymns, and Spritual Songs

“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father in everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Eph. 5:19

I could name a list of hymns, and for many of us, each one would spark a memory or trigger a chorus. For fun, can you match these first lines to a song? (The answers are at the end.)

1.  Oh, Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works thy hands hath made…

2.  When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows rolls

3.  On a hill far away stood an old _____  ______,
The emblem of suffering and shame

4.  I am weak, but Thou art strong
Jesus, keep me from all wrong

5.  ______  ______, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me

If you got them all correct, you may have been raised, like me on a church pew with a hymnal in hand. My father was the song leader and we “practiced” the songs he was going to lead all the way to church every Sunday. Between that and a good memory for songs, I know nearly every verse of most of the songs in our songbook.

Today, the trend in many congregations is to sing more “spiritual songs” or devotional type songs. Our congregation sings spiritual songs, hymns, and scripture songs on a regular basis.

I think there’s a good reason why Paul emphasized all three types of those songs in Ephesians. We need all three types of music in our lives.  When we sing psalms or scripture songs, we are memorizing God’s word. Take it from a long term Bible class teacher, this is a very effective method of memorizing and we all need His word written on our hearts.

Hymns walk us through a story and engage our imagination, intellect, and will. The language is rich and filled with powerful images. They are mini-meditations and challenge us to look at ourselves. Can you sing “All to Jesus I surrender” without asking yourself if you have indeed surrendered everything? Hymns teach solid truths we can hold onto and turn to in times of need.

Spiritual songs touch us on an emotional, passionate level. They feed the spirit, connect us to one another, and provide a fresh awakening.

In the next two weeks, we are focusing on our favorite hymns. After having been raised attending church, singing in college choruses, and listening to countless songs on the radio and cd’s, I decided there was no way I could pick just one favorite hymn. I have too many favorites to count.  So, I’m giving you the answers to the ones above and telling you why I chose them.

How Great Thou Art—This song always gives me chills. My friend Deb and I have sung it together at several funerals. She and I are both sopranos and she sits on the right of the auditorium and I sit on left. The song leader then gets soprano in stereo. But when Deb and I sing that song, we both look at each other in the same spot every time. I love how the music connects us.

It is Well with My Soul—In college, I sang with a girls octet. This is one of the songs we performed. I can still hear Dr. Rhodes, our director, telling us to crescendo just a little on each line of the chorus in order to not go flat. That isn’t as important as remembering Dr. Rhodes and the wonderful Christian example he and my other chorus director, Brother Cox, were. Both talented men were also two of the most humble, Godly men I have ever known.

The Old Rugged Cross—I was blessed to have a Bible teacher named Connie (Mahan) Roundy when I was a pre-teen and young teen. She taught our all girls class and helped me develop lifelong attitudes, goals, and patterns. It was during her years of teaching us that her first husband, Floyd, had a heart attack and died. We sang this song at his funeral.  A few years later, God sent Connie a second wonderful husband, Lloyd. It was a delight to see her fall in love and share the old, old story with him. By the way, Lloyd’s first wife had been named Bonnie. Almost too ironic to believe, isn’t it?

Just a Closer Walk with Thee—As I said earlier, my dad was the song leader for our congregation for many years. Even after he’d given up that particular duty to the younger men, he’d occasionally lead this song. When he sings the words, I can see how much he means them and it makes me tear up every time.

Amazing Grace—According to many, this is the most beloved hymn of all time. If you grew up in the 80’s, your youth group may even have sung it to the Pepsi jingle tune. This song speaks to all of us in its own way. Its profound truths remind us that it is His grace, not our own goodness, that saves.

Still, I have to admit that one of the reasons I love this song is having heard performed by Rodney Britt with the group Acapella in the 90’s. I listened to a lot of Acapella’s albums in the 90’s, and and I added their special children’s cassettes when my kids came along. (No CD;s yet.) The video below is of a slightly older Rodney Britt in a reunion performance with Keith Lancaster at Acafest in 2010. When I used to play the tape in my car of him singing this song, I didn’t just listen to the song, I felt it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Amazing Grace by Rodney Britt (click for video)