Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Dust off those hymnbooks!

Music is an important part of the Christian life. It is one of the ways we worship God. A good song or hymn can teach doctrine, provide comfort, and verbalize praise in words we cannot find ourselves. Music is a wonderful aid to memory, so the pairing of music and Scripture is a winning combination.

We sing songs of praise on Sunday mornings, but hymns aren't just for Sunday morning. And while many churches make use of a screen for the words, I still love a good hymn book. I read music, and I sing alto, so having the notes is nice for me. I think reading music is a good skill to have, and it's not hard to learn.

A few years ago, a friend told me she keeps a hymnal beside her when she has her devotions. Every day, she reads a hymn along with her Bible reading. It sounded like a great idea to me. What better way to add to our private times of worship than with well written songs to God. If one is not a singer, the words alone are edifying, but if one does sing, it's an excellent way to learn new songs. Yes, there is an abundance of Christian Contemporary music available, but let's not forget about our hymn books.

I want to suggest a few hymnals for use if you're interested in having one to look at as part of your daily devotions.

First, the Trinity Hymnal. I have used this one one and off for a few years. It has many of my favourites and also some songs I didn't know. The hymns are arranged topically, and there are readings from the Psalter in the back, written so that they could be read responsively. It also has the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Shorter Catechism.

Recently I was given a copy of Hymns of Grace, which was put together by The Master's Seminary. It's a wonderful collection of traditional and newer hymns, including some written by John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, The Gettys, and Bob Kauflin. I particularly liked the Benediction and Doxology settings. I love to sing the Doxolgy, and I liked these settings. Scripture passages are well placed among the selections of the hymnal, and are in the ESV. They are also presented in a way suitable for responsive reading.

A recent purchase for me, and something that looks promising, is The Book of Psalms for Worship. This book contains musical arrangements of all of the Psalms. Each Psalm has at least one tune, and some have as many as seven different variations. One of my favourites in this volume so far is a setting for Psalm 14, which is to the tune of "O Sacred Head Now Wounded." It's just beautiful, and because I know the tune well, I can focus on learning the words.

I'm looking for ways this year to keep my mind focused on God, and one way is through music. Singing praises with the Body of Christ on Sunday morning is great, but so is singing them in our homes on our own or with our family. The simplicity of tunes found in many hymnbooks make remembering the words easier. And the words are important.

If you want to hear good hymns, do check out our Rebecca's blog every Sunday. She shares a hymn there every week.

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