I have a hymn book, too.
By Roger Carswell - I have a little desk, and an old ‘Captain’s chair’, a wooden kneeler, a Bible, prayer notebook, a pen and blank notebook. They are all components of my daily quiet time. And I have a hymn book too. I don’t understand music, but I enjoy it. I can’t get my head round classical poetry, but I love hymns. If you want to know my favourites, then do come to my funeral, though I haven’t arranged a date yet!
The word ‘hymn’ is derived from the Greek and means ‘a song of praise’, but to me hymns are much more than that. I really enjoy singing with other believers in church, but also in my private devotions hymns turn my heart and mind to the Lord; they quieten my spirit and soul; they express my love to the Lord, and my aspirations to be like Him in character and service. When my heart is full of Christ, I want to sing, and when I feel empty and spiritually dry, I know I need to sing. Mahalia Jackson said, “Blues are the songs of despair, gospel songs are the songs of hope.”
Of course, in Scripture we are exhorted to sing. We have the Book of Psalms to help us, but we have the exhortations of verses such as Psalm 96:1-2, Colossians 3:16, and James 5:13. The Psalmist testified to being taken out of the mire, and into the choir (Psalm 40:2-3). I wish I knew the tunes the ‘Wee Frees’ use to sing the psalms as they are so edifying.
Like Mr. Spurgeon, my favourite is ‘There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel’s veins’ but ‘How sweet the name of Jesus sounds’ fills me with deep love for my Saviour. I envy people who have the amazing capacity to sing a hymn once and remember the words years later. I am not like that. I read as prayers, hymns from the old Methodist Hymn Book and Gadsby’s Hymns. I love the quaintness of the poetry of John Berridge’s hymns, but as soon as I have read them they evaporate, so I regularly go back to familiar hymns with precious truths, which for me simply need underlining in my mind.
Not only because we are told to ‘sing a new song to the Lord’, but also I simply enjoy new songs. Matt Redman’s ‘10,000 Reasons’, the Gettys’ ‘There is a higher throne’ and Stuart Townend’s ‘There is a hope’ are favourites for me. I also value some of the almost forgotten older hymns. Google the hymn written by Ellen Lakshmi Goreh ‘In the secret of His presence how my soul delights to hide / Oh, how precious are the lessons which I learn at Jesus’ side ….’ and your heart will be blessed - I promise you! Some will remember another favourite of mine, Mary A. Baker’s hymn ‘Master the tempest is raging …’ which was sung at several funeral services of President James Garfield after his assassination in 1881. I am moved by Annie Flint’s ‘He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater’ and dear Horatius Bonar’s ‘I heard the voice of Jesus say …’ I look forward to meeting him in Heaven. I sometimes indulge myself with ‘I shall see you soon again’ by Bill and Gloria Gaither, or ‘I’ll wish I had given Him more’ by Grace Reese Adkins.
I have collected several of my favourite soul-winning hymns in my book, ‘Facing a Task Unfinished’. I am sorry that there is no modern equivalent of the hymn which has that as its first line. But it remains a very special hymn to me. The spirit of ‘Rescue the perishing’ or the Wycliffe Bible Translators’ song, ‘Every person in every nation, in each succeeding generation, has the right to hear the news that Christ can save’ is rare these days. I have quietly sung literally hundreds of times Young Life’s wonderful hymn of compassion: ‘With a soul blood bought and a heart aglow ….’ (Google the words) Its chorus is a constant prayer of mine:
Let me look at the crowd as my Saviour did
‘Til my eyes with tears grow dim;
Let me look ‘til I pity the wandering sheep
And love them for love of Him.
A lesson from a robin
Warren Wiersbe recalled that one evening while sitting in his garden he heard a robin singing. As he listened to it singing he preached a sermon to himself: “Since early dawn, that bird has done nothing but try to survive. He’s been wearing himself out hiding from enemies and looking for food for himself and his little ones. And yet, when he gets to the end of the day, he sings about it! Here I am, created in the image of God and saved by the grace of God, and I complain about even the little annoyances of life. One day, I will be like the Lord Jesus Christ; for that reason alone, I should be singing God’s praises just like that robin.”
We know, from the glimpses of heaven that we read of in the Book of Revelation, we are going to sing there. Heaven will be a sweeter place to me because I will be able to tunefully sing praises to Jesus. Angels sing there now, and one day I will be with them in the choir. So singing on earth is a foretaste of heaven. May I recommend getting your own hymn book, and sing to the Lord when you read His word, pray and meet with Him each morning? Maybe you could even compile a notebook of your favourite hymns. And let us learn the lesson from one old hymn, ‘As through this world to a happier shore, I go singing…’
‘‘O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise’.
 I have written more about this on https://omf.org/blog/2016/03/04/focused-on-the-eternal-needs-by-roger-carswell/