Category Archives: Songwriting

Before the World I Now Confess

Remembering Christ died for me

For many in this world, it is costly to follow Christ. Being identified as a Christian can mean the loss of friends, loss of fortune, loss of employment, even loss of life. But Christ exhorts us:

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24–25).

“And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:38–39).

We are called to live for Christ and declare the good news of salvation in Him. We are called to follow Him and unashamedly acknowledge our sinfulness and need for His abundant grace.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).

The following hymn is a confession of faith in Christ. It includes publically professing Christ through baptism (verse 3) and corporately remembering Christ in the Lord’s Supper (verse 4).

The idea for the hymn came from a message on Matthew 10:26–33 entitled “Declaring Our Allegiance to Christ” preached on Sunday, February 25, 2018 at Grace Baptist Church, Cape Coral, by our associate pastor, Jared Longshore.

The message began with a quote from Rosaria Butterfield’s book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey into the Christian Faith. In the book she describes the cost of becoming a follower of Christ and turning away from her old lifestyle. She said, “I was driving away from the place, the life, the career, and the people that I knew and loved. But Jesus Christ was more real to me at that moment than any of these material things.” As I thought about her words, I wrote what became the final lines of the hymn:

More real to me is Jesus Christ
Than all this world can give,
More than this world, I need His grace,
For by His grace I live.

The hymn is set to a familiar tune: CLEANSING FOUNTAIN, the tune often used for “There Is a Fountain.”

Before the World I Now Confess

“So everyone who acknowledges Me before men, I also will acknowledge before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32).

Before the world I now confess
Christ Jesus as my Lord.
The scorn of men, I will not fear,
Nor danger, nor the sword.
Though friends and loved ones turn away,
Possessions all be lost,
To lose this world, if I gain Christ
Is not too great a cost.

Before the world I humbly bow
To Jesus as my King,
Acknowledging so all will know
He’s Lord of everything!
No flood so great or tear too small,
He knows my thoughts and ways,
My life I fully trust to Him
And give Him all my praise.

Baptism

Before the world I here confess
That Christ has made me new.
He gave me life, now I believe
His Word is sure and true.
Through baptism I now submit
Unto my Lord’s command,
My old life buried, new raised up,
Upon His Word I stand.

Lord’s Supper

Before the world I take my stand
With Jesus and His bride
To cleanse His church and bring us near
He suffered, bled and died.
His body broken on the cross,
His blood He freely shed,
Remembering Christ died for me,
I take this cup and bread.

Before the world I sing His praise
That all the world may hear.
I give allegiance to my King,
Whose Kingdom now is near.
More real to me is Jesus Christ
Than all this world can give,
More than this world, I need His grace,
For by His grace I live.

Words ©2018 Ken Puls
Music ©Public Domain

Download the lyrics and free sheet music for this hymn, including an arrangement of the tune CLEANSING FOUNTAIN for classical guitar.

More Hymns and Songs from Ken Puls Music

More Hymn tunes arranged for classical guitar

Behold, My Soul

Sunlight on Mountains

Behold, my soul, what God has wrought
When by His grace my heart He sought,
When in His love and sovereign plan
He chose to save a wretched man.
When God made heav’n and earth below
He simply spoke and it was so,
But when He sought my soul to save
E’en Christ, His only Son, He gave.

Before God spoke and it was light,
Before men fell in sin’s dark night,
The Lord set forth redemption’s plan
That grace might find this wretched man.
That God would choose for Christ a wife,
And Christ would die to save her life;
The Spirit then would call the bride
And draw her to her Master’s side.

Christ left the glories of heav’n above
And took the form of those He loved.
He shared our suff’ring and our strife
And lived a holy, perfect life.
He found us dead and vile within,
Rebels to God, condemned for sin,
Destined for wrath and hell’s torment,
Yet blinded and in sin content.

Yet in our sin, Christ loved us still
And bore the cross on Cal’vry’s hill.
He took the judgment we had earned
And died as God’s fierce wrath did burn.
Our debt was great, none would suffice
Except a perfect sacrifice,
And as the cross drew forth His blood,
An off’ring rose before our God.

His death has full atonement made!
The debt we owed in full is paid!
He purchased us with His own blood;
Such love! Behold the Lamb of God!
When death and sin defeated fell,
He trampled down the gates of hell
And rose victorious o’er the grave
To live for those He came to save.

He then ascended to the throne,
Now interceding for His own,
And for our comfort, help, and cheer;
He sent His Holy Spirit near,
To open hearts, convict of sin,
To lead to Christ and dwell within,
To daily bring supplies of grace
And hold us fast to Christ’s embrace.

When by His grace my heart He sought,
Behold, my soul, what God has wrought!
The measures to fulfill His plan!
The cost to save a wretched man!
He now prepares for me a place
And soon I’ll see Him face to face,
And wonder through eternity,
How great His mercy shown to me!

Words ©1992 Ken Puls

I wrote this hymn after traveling on May 15, 1991 to attend a Wednesday evening service at Grace Church in Denton, Texas. John Marshall, who was the guest preacher that evening, spoke from John 1 on the theme: Behold, the Lamb of God. He contrasted the simplicity of becoming a Christian (our responding in faith and repentance) with the difficulty (God’s vast work accomplished through Jesus Christ to bring us salvation). I wrote in my notes:

When God created the world, He spoke,
But when He redeemed men:
He came down—He was born of a virgin—He lived a perfect life—He died upon a cross—He rose from the dead—He ascended to glory—He sent His Spirit—He promised to come again!
“It is a simple though difficult thing for one to become a Christian.”

I began writing the hymn the following day with these lines (that became the end of verse 1):

When God made heav’n and earth below
He simply spoke and it was so,
But when He sought my soul to save
E’en Christ, His only Son, He gave.

The hymn is a celebration of the gospel, patterned after the psalms where the psalmist would address his soul and sing to encourage and remind himself of truth (Psalm 16:2, 42:5, …). The verses are my reflections on the message and effort to preach it to my own soul.

Download the lyrics and free sheet music for this hymn, including an arrangement of the tune DUANE STREET for classical guitar.

More Hymns and Songs from Ken Puls Music

More Hymn tunes arranged for classical guitar

O Father Make Us Like the Son

Church Reflection

As Christians, how are we to relate to God’s Law? We know that our obedience to God’s commands could never make us right with God. The Law reveals our sin and shows us our great need of salvation. But the Law cannot save us. Yet, we are called to follow Christ, who is both the great Law-giver and Law-keeper. We are called to be imitators of Christ. Paul encouraged the church:

Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma (Ephesians 5:1–2).

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me (Matthew 16:24).

“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17–20).

How then, especially in light of Jesus’ teaching and fulfillment of the Law, are we to relate to the Law as Christians?

This was the question I had in mind when I wrote the hymn “O Father Make Us Like the Son.”

The hymn had its beginning on Thursday morning, April 16, 1992 at the Grandy’s on Seminary Drive in Fort Worth, Texas. Several men from Heritage Baptist Church had gathered for Field Education and breakfast with our pastor, Dr. Fred Malone. That morning we studied chapter 8 from John Murray’s book, Principles of Conduct on the Law and Grace. I was especially intrigued with the truth that God is at work conforming us to the image of His Son.

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8:29).

We are called to be like our Savior. One day when Jesus returns and we see Him face to face, we shall be like Him.

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (1 John 3:2–3).

being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).

It is our hope and aim to be like Jesus. How then can we be made like our Savior, without loving God’s Law? To be like Jesus is to obey God’s commands and delight in doing His will. Certainly, we are not bound by all the ceremonial and civil laws that foreshadowed and prepared the way for Christ’s coming. But God’s Moral Law, especially manifest in the Ten Commandments, is to be a rule of life for all Christians. Jesus died to free us from the Law’s curse and condemnation, but not from its blessing and benefits. We are not to see the Law as a rigorous covenant of works to gain God’s favor and acceptance, but as a rule of life revealing God’s character, holiness, and goodness. Our efforts to obey the Law are done in gratitude and love to Christ, who has perfectly fulfilled and exemplified it for us.

I finished writing the hymn early in the morning on the Lord’s Day, April 19, 1992 and sang it in the morning worship service at Heritage. The hymn is prayer that God would work in us and conform us to the image of Christ.

O Father Make Us Like the Son!

O Father, make us like the Son
That we may walk as He,
Delighting in the Law of God
And bringing praise to Thee.

Our Lord’s great joy was loving God,
Obeying His commands.
He lived a holy, perfect life,
Fulfill’d the Law’s demands.

O Father, clothe us in the Son
His righteousness we need
That we might be declared as “just”
From condemnation freed.

O Father, we adore the Son;
He is our righteousness!
For we can now obey with hearts
Of love and thankfulness.

O Father, may we love Thy Law
And walk within its light,
And love the Gospel that can turn
Its rigor to delight.

We long to be made like our Lord,
Arrayed in truth and grace,
And we long for the day when we
Shall see Him face to face.

O Father, finish in each heart
The work that was begun.
Prepare us for the Lord’s return,
O make us like the Son!

Words ©1992, 2017 Kenneth A Puls

Download the lyrics and free sheet music for this hymn, including an arrangement of the tune ST. MAGNUS for classical guitar.

More Hymns and Songs from Ken Puls Music

More Hymn tunes arranged for classical guitar

How Shall We Stand in That Great Day?

Perhaps the most fertile ground for hymn writing is meditation on the preached Word of God. There is always great value, especially as we weather the storms and trials of life, of staying under the faithful preaching of the Bible. And there is even greater value in taking time to ponder, pray through, and preach that biblical truth to our own souls.

That has proven to be true with the recent sermon series through the book of Ecclesiastes entitled “Real Life in a Fallen World” preached by Dr. Tom Ascol at Grace Baptist Church, Cape Coral, Florida. This is the third hymn I have written while meditating on messages from the series. The other two are: “What Can Be Gained by All Our Toil?” and “Eternal God Exalted.” When you consider the vanity of life, the wages of sin, and the certainty of coming judgment, how great is our need of a Savior!

Storm Clouds

How Shall We Stand in That Great Day?

For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil.
(Ecclesiastes 12:14)

1. How shall we stand in that great day
When secrets are revealed,
When thoughts and motives are laid bare
And nothing is concealed?

2. On that great day when God will judge
Our every word and deed,
Without excuse, our mouths will close,
For guilty we must plead.

3. The deeds we do, the thoughts we think
Will matter on that day;
Each sinful act, each secret thought,
Each careless word we say.

4. O sinner, if you face that day
Alone, you will not stand.
The Law will charge and you will fall,
Condemned by just command.

5. Our only hope when that day comes:
That Christ died in our place;
He bore Himself the wrath of God
That we might know His grace.

6. O sinner, come before that day,
Come look to Christ and live!
Take refuge in His righteousness;
Your sins He will forgive.

7. With certainty that day draws near,
O why would you delay?
Tomorrow is not guaranteed,
Come trust in Christ today!

Words ©2017 Ken Puls

Download the lyrics and free sheet music for this hymn, including an arrangement of the tune ARLINGTON for classical guitar.

What to Say in the Last Lines of a Worship Song

The Last Measure

What’s the best way to end a worship song? What should we say or sing in those last lines? We know endings are important. That final statement that punctuates our prayer or praise in singing should be thoughtful and purposeful. So what is the expected end—joy, glory, heaven, hope?

And what about sad and solemn songs? How should they end? As Christians we can certainly sing in a minor key. We live in a fallen word. Our songs not only express the joy and delight of knowing Christ, they also sound the more somber tones of sin and suffering. We sing in minor, but we don’t like to end in minor. We like our songs to end on high notes with positive lyrics and major chords. You can even find in music history a technique used by songwriters to strengthen the harmonic resolution of the final chord and create a happier ending. The Picardy Third is the use or substitution of a major chord, especially at the end of a piece of music, where a minor chord would be expected.

On the one hand it make sense to end with the brighter sounds of major. As followers of Christ, we see past the crumbling and broken promises of this fallen world to the sure and certain promises of God in His Word. We look beyond the strife and struggles of this life and rest in the joy and hope of knowing Christ. We have been rescued from sin and despair. Because we have a Savior we are bound for glory and destined for praise.

Many of the psalms highlight this upward trajectory. They orient us to look away from our own distress and sorrows and up to the glory and joys of belonging to God. Though they begin with pleading and lamentation, they end with hope and praise. For example, David opens Psalm 16 with a prayer: “Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.” But he ends rejoicing in verse 11: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” The book of Psalms as a whole crescendos and culminates in praise. We reach the pinnacle with the command in the final verse of the Psalms:

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!
(Psalm 150:6)

Yet not all of the psalms follow this anticipated climb. Some make unpredicted turns and go down unforeseen paths. When you survey the 150 psalms, though blessing and praise predominate, you find a variety of endings:

  • 43 psalms end with praise and thanksgiving to God
  • 31 psalms end with God’s blessings for His people (salvation, peace, unity, goodness, mercy, joy…)
  • 11 psalms end by telling or declaring who God is
  • 9 psalms end with an exhortation (be strong, wait for the Lord, hope in the Lord) or a commitment (to seek the good of God’s people)
  • 24 psalms end with prayer or pleading (for justice, deliverance, salvation, strength, peace, blessing…)
  • 12 psalms end with words of warning about judgment on the wicked
  • 9 psalms end by contrasting judgment on the wicked with blessings for the righteous
  • 7 psalms end with triumph over evil and enemies
  • 4 psalms end with lament or complaint

Songwriters can learn much from a study of the psalms. The psalms are Scripture’s songbook for worship. They instruct us how to pray and praise God through music. They teach us how to craft and use lyrics in creative and intentional ways to communicate truth.

Sometimes the psalmist may take a surprising turn in order to make a profound point. A good example of this is Psalm 12. David begins with a prayer: “Save, O LORD, for the godly one is gone; for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man” (Psalms 12:1). He cries out in the midst of crisis for the Lord to save. In verse 5 the Lord answers saying, “I will now arise” and “I will place him in the safety for which he longs.” In verses 6–7 we see that place of safety:

The words of the LORD are pure words,
like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
purified seven times.
You, O LORD, will keep them;
You will guard us from this generation forever.
(Psalm 12:6–7)

The place of safety is the Word of God. David can rest in knowing that all God has promised is certain and true. Though the day seems dark, God will fulfill His Word.

The psalm then ends in 12:8 with a final verse. So how would you expect this psalm to end? What would you sing in those last lines? You might choose words that exhort God’s people to believe and trust in God’s Word. Or perhaps you would conclude with praise and thanksgiving to God for His Word or for salvation. These types of endings are certainly found in the psalms. But David does something different, something not expected. He ends the psalm with sober, even distressing words:

On every side the wicked prowl,
as vileness is exalted among the children of men.
(Psalm 12:8)

C. H. Spurgeon refers to this verse as a “return to the fount of bitterness, which first made the Psalmist run to the wells of salvation.” The ending is unexpected, but David crafts his words intentionally to underscore an important truth. The overwhelming circumstances that grieved him at the beginning of the psalm have not changed. The trouble still exists. But what has changed is David’s outlook. He has been brought back to the Word of God. God does not always deliver us from our suffering. Our circumstances may not change. Troubles may still arise and threaten us. Yet God Word always remains true. It is our place of safety.

Read a full exposition here of Psalm 12: A Place of Safety

So what is the best way for a worship song to end? The psalms demonstrate that we need not always end with upbeat praise and soaring sounds. There are many possibilities and there are times when the unexpected ending may be the better choice. So learn from the psalms. Aim for praise; it is after all the ultimate finale of our songs and our lives. But give thought to your options. Don’t forget final words of pleading, warning and rebuke. Don’t neglect last lines that express godly fear, repentance and awe. And don’t avoid the inevitable cadences of lament and grief. For our music to ring true to God’s Word and to our experience as we walk in the light of His Word, we need the joys and the sorrows. We are pressing on to glory and praise, but there are most certainly times along the way when it is fitting to sing and even end with somber tones and sober thoughts.