The Best Song We Sang Today

So, here’s the idea.  In order to encourage myself to look for the good, I should do some reflective writing about the best song we sing in church and chapel services.   I tend to poke fun at songs that seem poorly written, shallow, or theologically sketchy, but it can result in a crummy attitude.

Song #11 “How He Loves” October 14, 2011 by John Mark McMillan

This song really annoyed me the first times I heard it.   I thought simply about its metaphors and didn’t care for God’s love being compared to a hurricane or his grace an ocean in which we’re all sinking.   The “sloppy wet kiss” line repulsed me.   It bugged me so much that I scoffed at the song with some students on at least two different occasions.

A couple of things have happened to change my mind.  First, someone on our team changed the line to “unforeseen kiss” which helps me not think of God as a St. Bernard or Golden Retriever or some other such sloppy wet smoocher.

More importantly, as we sang it this morning, I was sitting behind my friend Ted, who just learned on Friday that his cancer has no treatment, and that he can’t expect to live more than months.  Ted is a young dad with a couple of darling little girls and a loving wife.    I’m begging God to heal him.

We prayed with Ted, and I looked into his chemo-sunken eyes, full of tears and questions.   He isn’t afraid for himself, but he can’t help but think his kids need a dad.   There are no simple answers to Ted’s questions.   He’s planning to enjoy the next days and weeks as much as possible. They want to go to Hawaii.   They want to live and love and be together.

Maybe God’s love is like a hurricane.     Maybe I should just stop saying negative things about songs that are a blessing to people who are hurting.   Maybe I need to close my mouth and drown a bit in His grace.    It hit me this morning to think about this song from Ted or Julie’s perspective.  It knocked me off the comfort of the sidelines where it was easy to criticize.   I pray that Ted and Julie can see God’s beauty at this time and be completely and repeatedly assured of God’s awesome and, sometimes, terrible love.

The guy who wrote this was writing in response to the death of a close friend.   The song touches on the difficult idea of fellowship in suffering and our desperate need for a very deep and overwhelming sense of God’s love and grace even while being blown away by pain that cannot be explained.    This recording has a bit about his friend that I haven’t heard in church:

Song #10 “You Never Let Go”  March 27, 2011  by Matt Redman

This song is based in a lot of scriptures,  (see scripture references with lyrics below) and it is focused on a couple of great ideas that keep it coherent.   Some songs are like eating a weird assortment of food from a potluck rather than a planned meal.  The writer just piles up sort of related lyrics in order to fit something to the tune.   Matt Redman is a good chef on this one.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death     Psalm 23
Your perfect love is casting out fear                               I John 4:18
And even when I’m caught in the middle of the storms of this life    Mark 4:35-40
I won’t turn back
I know you are near   Acts 17:27And I will fear no evil
For my God is with me    Psalm 23
And if my God is with me
Whom then shall I fear?  Psalm 27
Whom then shall I fear?   (Chorus:)
Oh no, You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
Oh no, You never let go
In every high and every low 
Oh no, You never let go
Lord, You never let go of me   Romans 8And I can see a light that is coming for the heart that holds on   Hebrews 12:3
A glorious light beyond all compare
And there will be an end to these troubles      Psalm 27
But until that day comes
We’ll live to know You here on the earth    II Timothy 1:12

Song #9 March 20, 2011 “Amazing Love”   Chris Tomlin

The sense of wonder in our salvation is nicely conveyed by the words and music of this song.   Our leader adapted the lyrics just a bit to say In all I do I want to honor You.   This sits well with me, because it seems more honest than claiming to honor the King in all I do.  Pastor Dave mentioned the problem of “presumptuous promises” this morning.   That seemed like a good way to label the problem with some of the comprehensive commitments that we tend to make in song, perhaps with little thought or true resolve.

It’s my joy to honor You is a thought that is clear and honest.  We chase after good feelings in all sorts of ways, but bringing honor to our King really does bring deep joy.  Proclaiming the truth that Jesus is King is clearly the right thing.   Nothing subjective about it, God reigns.   To the extent that we live within the love of His rule, we are blessed.    He isn’t King because we make Him King.  He is King, and we are living in unreality when we give our allegiance to ourselves or anyone else besides Him.

I’m forgiven because You were forsaken,
I’m accepted, You were condemned.
I am alive and well, Your spirit is within me,
Because You died and rose again.
Amazing love,
How can it be
That You, my King, should die for me?
Amazing love,
I know it’s true.
It’s my joy to honor You,
In all I do, I honor You.

You are my King
Jesus You are my King

Song #8 March 13, 2011 “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” 

by Stuart Townsend

The ideas, and poetry, and tune of this song are good.

How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He would give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross
My guilt upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no powr’s, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

©1995 Kingsway’s Thankyou Music
Words and Music by Stuart Townend

Song #7 March 6, 2011   “All Creatures of Our God and King”  St. Francis of Asisi ca. 1225, translated by William Draper about 1919.    Tune by Peter Von Brachel, 1623, with some harmony work by Ralph Vaughan Williams in the early 20th century.

This is a nice Fernando Ortega version.   It’s a blended interpretation that seems to blend  the traditional, ancient roots of the song with some nice, contemporary orchestration and vocal interpretation:

A close translation of the original song is rather surprising.  The verse about Mother Earth will raise some eyebrows, and the verse about death is a perspective we don’t typically share.   The verse about death was written at the time of St. Francis’ death.

All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam!


O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thou rushing wind that art so strong
Ye clouds that sail in Heaven along,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou rising moon, in praise rejoice,
Ye lights of evening, find a voice!


Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
Make music for thy Lord to hear,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright,
That givest man both warmth and light.


Dear mother earth, who day by day
Unfoldest blessings on our way,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
The flowers and fruits that in thee grow,
Let them His glory also show.


And all ye men of tender heart,
Forgiving others, take your part,
O sing ye! Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on Him cast your care!


And thou most kind and gentle Death,
Waiting to hush our latest breath,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou leadest home the child of God,
And Christ our Lord the way hath trod.


Let all things their Creator bless,
And worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One!

A close translation of the original Italian (this is either the first or one of the first ever literary works in Italian):

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord!
All praise is yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.

To you, alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your name.

Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and you give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens you have made them bright, precious and beautiful.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
and clouds and storms, and all the weather,
through which you give your creatures sustenance.

Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water;
she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of you;
through those who endure sickness and trial.

Happy those who endure in peace,
for by you, Most High, they will be crowned.

Be praised, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.

Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks,
and serve him with great humility.

Song #6 February 27, 2010.  “Lead Me to the Cross” by Brooke Fraser

I appreciated this song during our church service this morning.  The first thing that pulled me in was Becky playing the flute (When that girl plays, I listen!)  but then the lyrics hit me and seem aligned with scripture, and contain a coherent group of thoughts.  I’m inserting scripture references next to related lyrics in the song below.

One line, “Rid me of myself, I belong to You” bugs me a bit.   Salvation redeems and fulfils and completes us, it doesn’t “rid” us of us.   I’m going to take it as meaning “Rid me of my sin”  or “I am not my own.”

Definition  of “Death to Self” from A Dallas Willard Dictionary

Death to self is the result of self-denial. It is the state of tender indifference to the outcries of one’s desires, with the attendant elimination of their power over one’s will, in which one is freed to worship and enjoy God now and eternally. (45)

“So the self-denial of Matthew 16:24 and elsewhere in the Gospels is always the surrender of a lesser, dying self for a greater eternal one—the person God intended in creating you.” (Willard, 2002, 68)

“[T]hose who are dead to self are not controlled in thought, feeling, or action by self-exaltation or by the will to have their own way, but are easily controlled by love of God and neighbor. They still have some sensitivity to self-will, no doubt, and are never totally beyond the possibility of falling under subjugation to it. Only a proper discipline and grace will prevent this from actually happening. But they no longer are locked in a struggle with it.” (Willard, 2002, 73)

Savior I come       Rev. 22:17; Is. 55:1.
Quiet my soul remember    Ps. 23; Ps. 131:2; Is. 30:15 
Redemptions hill
Where Your blood was spilled
For my ransom    Heb. 9:15
Everything I once held dear
I count it all as lost   Phil. 3:7

Lead me to the cross
Where Your love poured out   Rom. 5:5; I Tim. 1:14
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself
I belong to You   Rom. 7:4; 14:8
Lead me, lead me to the cross    Heb. 12:1-3

You were as I
Tempted and tried
Human   Heb. 4:15
The Word became flesh    John 1:1-3
Bore my sin and death   I Pet. 2:24
Now you’re risen

To your heart
To your heart
Lead me to your heart
Lead me to your heart   Ps. 43:3, Ps. 33:11

Song #5 February 20, 2010.  “Blessed Be Your Name”

Job 1:20-22 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. (ESV)

Gratitude and praise, whatever our circumstances, is powerful.  I appreciate the way this song focuses on the choice to grateful.  So many songs promise absolute, whole, complete surrender of our entire being.  I worry that these promises have become cheap, easily sung, but not really considered.

A good indicator of genuine faith and commitment is gratitude to God during difficult times.   I think of our friend, Linda Ashley, who has been grateful and faithful as her husband Sam suffered strokes and then died a few weeks later.   Paul exhorts us in his epistles to give thanks in all things and for all things.

Matt Redman and his wife experienced severe personal loss, and then in the days after September 11, 2011 they wrote this song to help people deal with the fear and loss that had hit so many.

Song #4.  February 13, 2011.   “Take My Life and Let it Be Consecrated”

By Francis HavergalFrances Havergal, an English poet and songwriter from middle of the 19th century.   She was a pastor’s kid and started writing poems when she was 7.   She later studied in Germany, read Hebrew and Greek, and knew several modern languages.     She was often sick and died in her early 40’s, but had a big impact through her writings.    She had a crisis experience of deeper consecration a few years before her death.   She was very aware of the words of “Take My Life” and sought to live them out.  She claimed near the end of her life to have come close to consecration in all of the areas except for that of love (v. 6) where she still realized a great need for growth.

Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
*Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in endless praise.

Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice and let me sing,
Always, only for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.

Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne.

Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.

We sang other songs of consecration today, but I think this is the best.  We sang a contemporary tune that’s simpler musically (the Chris Tomlin version), but I don’t think  it’s better, and we skipped half the verses.   Sigh.  I looked for a video version online that does all the verses as written by Francis, but everyone seems to know better than to use it as written by the extremely devoted, intelligent, and skillful author.

Not a new insight, but I have to say that it’s unfortunate that the title of the song is usually written as “Take My Life and Let it Be.”    The idea is pretty well shot without “Consecrated” at the end of the line.   Maybe Miss Havergal needs to take the blame for putting the meaning at risk for the sake of the meter and rhyme.    No.   I don’t think so.  We just need to sing it through as written and let the thoughts flow all the way from beginning to end.   It’s very coherent.

This prayer humbly asks God to take the action of taking my life.    This seems better to me than the probably overstated, “Lord, I give you my life, I give you my soul, I live for you alone . . .” type of commitments in a lot of the more recent songs.   I barely understand myself and my motivations, and I barely understand God.   Some things I know are that my ability to be truly consecrated is slight, but that God is all powerful and can reform me.   “His strength is made perfect in weakness.”   I need him to take me.

Havergal wrote some other great poems and songs.   This is a poem that goes well with “Take My Life:”

Whose I Am    
Jesus, Master, whose I am,
   Purchased Thine alone to be,
By Thy blood, O spotless Lamb,
   Shed so willingly for me;
Let my heart be all Thine own,
Let me live to Thee alone.Other lords have long held sway;
   Now, Thy name alone to bear,
Thy dear voice alone obey,
   Is my daily, hourly prayer.
Whom have I in heaven but Thee?
Nothing else my joy can be.Jesus, Master! I am Thine;
   Keep me faithful, keep me near;
Let Thy presence in me shine
   All my homeward way to cheer.
Jesus! at Thy feet I fall,
Oh, be Thou my All-in-all.

Song #3.  February 6, 2011.   Micah 7:7 and 4:5   Luis Garcia, 1994

But as for me I watch and hope for the Lord

I wait for God my Savior, my God will hear me. (2 X)

We will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever. (2 X)

This has a catchy and simple tune, and it puts together Micah 7:7 with Micah 4:5 in a memorable way that links a sense of a present confidence in God with a commitment to continue in His way for all of time.

It doesn’t seem to be a song this is commonly in use.   I couldn’t find a good video link to post here.

Song #2.  February 2, 2011.  “I Will Exalt You”

This is a simple, calm chorus that is easy to sing with straightforward, meaningful words that teach us a lot about God’s character and some of His names.

I will exalt You
I will exalt You
I will exalt You
You are my God

My hiding place My safe refuge
My treasure Lord You are
My friend and King Anointed One
Most Holy.

Song #1.  January 30, 2011.  “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”

This song is beautifully written and full of deep insights throughout.   “Tune my heart to sing Thy praise” reminds me of C.S. Lewis teaching in The Four Loves that we need God’s grace even to receive agape love.   Our hearts need tuning and greater capacity!   And what a prayer, that I would learn a song from heaven in order to praise the King of Heaven!

An A/B rhyme scheme throughout the song works well and does not compromise the coherent message.

The last verse, rarely published or sung:

O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

I can understand a reluctance to use this verse, since it seems to be requesting immediate bodily death in order to expedite life in the realms of endless day.   It also requires “clothed” to be sung in two syllables.   I like it as a sort of hyperbole, balancing a constant tendency of mine toward limited, temporal perspectives.

A quick search brings you the opportunity to hear this song done by many people in many different styles.   Its truth and beauty are transcendant.


MTC Version. Very classy, and it doesn\’t leave out the wonderful part about raising my Ebenezer. Ebenezers need some raising.

About Ebenezer:

To read all the verses without any recent amendments and for a bit of information about the author and composer, see

Along the same lines, check out the following blog.  Very thought-provoking and convicting.


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