The Banality of Bad Hymns

The other day, somebody posted the above hymn on the Facebook group “I’m Fed Up With Bad Church Music”.  The posting prompted considerable debate about whether it was, in fact, a bad hymn.  My own initial reaction was, “Wow; that’s bad!”  My second reaction was, “Why am I so sure that this is bad?”

After all, it isn’t bad in the ways that hymns are usually bad.  It has a point.  It doesn’t wander from that point.  It uses consistent rhythm, rhyme, and meter.  Usually, that’s a recipe for a hymn that is at least mediocre.  However, I don’t feel like this one even makes it over the bar of mediocrity.  In fact, the word it brought to mind was “banal”, which the dictionary tells us means, “commonplace, trite”.  It’s simply too inelegant to work well as a hymn.  In particular, I think the problems are: Continue reading

“Before the Throne of God Above” and Calvinism

A day or two ago, my brother Kent Berman asked on the Hymnody group on Facebook whether the second verse of the hymn “Before the Throne of God Above” was Calvinistic.  For those who aren’t familiar with said verse, it goes like this:

When Satan tempts me to despair
and tells me of the guilt within,
upward I look, and see Him there
who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died,
my sinful soul is counted free,
for God the just is satisfied
to look on Him and pardon me.
Continue reading

Those Who Dwell with God Most High (Psalm 91)

Those who dwell with God Most High
In His shadow will abide;
To their Fortress they will cry
And, within His shelter, hide.
He will save you from the snare
Of the death His judgment brings,
Faithful, He will shield you there
In the refuge of His wings.

Through the plagues of night and day,
Do not fear what they will do;
Though ten thousand waste away,
Death will not come near to you.
Sinners then will know disgrace;
You will see their recompense,
Safe in God, your dwelling place,
For the Lord is your defense.

Angels sent by His commands
Come to make your guard complete.
They will bear you in their hands
With your foes beneath your feet.
As with all who know His name,
He will answer you in strife:
Rescuing your soul from shame,
Satisfying you with life.

For Help and Mercy (Psalm 142)

For help and mercy I will cry,
Appealing to the Lord alone;
Before His face I will complain
And pour distress before His throne.

When I am weak, You know my way,
Though others hide a trap for me;
The friends who cared for me have gone,
And no one stands where they should be.

I cry to you for help, O Lord,
My portion in this land of woe;
O give attention to my plea,
For they have brought me very low.

Deliver me from every foe,
And bring me from captivity
That I may magnify Your name
Because of how You dealt with me.

2018 Jackson Heights Theme Hymn

I don’t suppose it’s any secret that the 2018 theme for the Jackson Heights church is going to be “Heaven Bound”.  We’re going to spend the next year focusing on what it means to have our eyes firmly fixed on the reward (and to live that way too).  As a result, last weekend the elders asked me to write a hymn on the theme.  This is what I’ve got so far.  I intend to spend the next couple of months polishing the text and finding and working with a composer.  Then, we’ll learn the hymn during the new-hymn class that Tim Garrison is teaching Q1 2018.

Heaven Bound

We are bound for heaven,
One in heart and soul,
With our lives together
Fixed upon that goal.
Through our trials we travel,
Seeking one reward:
Our eternal dwelling
Fashioned by the Lord.

We are bound for heaven,
And we will rejoice,
With the hope before us
Lifting up each voice.
Sin and passing pleasure–
None of them compare
To the weight of glory
Waiting for us there.

We are bound for heaven,
Sure through changing years,
Confident through doubting,
Undeterred by fears.
Even by the river
Where we soon will stand,
Faith will see the crossing
To the promised land.

Lord, We Come in Celebration

A couple of days ago, I got a call from David Banning.  He asked me if I would be willing to write a hymn for the Dowlen Rd. church in Beaumont expressing their thanksgiving for the help they received from brethren elsewhere during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.  This is what I came up with:

Lord, we come in celebration
Of Your people everywhere,
Of their love and dedication
Sent in answer to our prayer.
Dark the storm and dark our sorrow,
Great, the outcry of our need,
Yet their love defined tomorrow
By each gracious word and deed.

Though in You we all were brothers,
Still we served You far apart,
Never knowing one another,
Never joining heart to heart.
Then our plea for help resounded
Where our feet had never trod,
And their zeal for us abounded,
Forming fellowship in God.

Now in thanks we sing Your glory;
Now in hope we bow to pray,
Finding comfort in the story
Of Your help from far away.
May we imitate their caring
When another is distressed:
Free and generous in sharing,
Blessing as we have been blessed.

Sing a New Song to the Lord

Sing a new song to the Lord;
Let the sons of Zion sing!
Let their gladness be outpoured
To their Maker and their King!
Let their spirits leap with praise;
Let their hearts make melody,
For the Lord approves their ways,
Blessing their humility.

In the grace that crowns their heads,
Let His godly ones rejoice;
Though they lie upon their beds,
Let His praises rouse each voice!
Let them carry in their hands
Judgments sharper than a sword,
Binding princes, kings, and lands
To the glory of the Lord!

— M. W. Bassford, from Psalm 149