Tag Archives: Church Music

Conquering Prince and Lord of Glory

Sun beams shining across a field

This 18th century hymn by Gerhard Tersteegen is a timely reminder that God is the One who rules over heaven and earth. Even in days that seem tumultuous and uncertain, God is at work accomplishing His sovereign purposes. He is the One who holds the king’s heart and “turns it wherever He wishes” (Proverbs 21:1). When God humbled the proud king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar glorified God and confessed:

For His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
And His kingdom is from generation to generation.
All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing;
He does according to His will in the army of heaven
And among the inhabitants of the earth.
No one can restrain His hand
Or say to Him, “What have You done?”
(Daniel 4:34–35)

The hymn is a humble prayer addressed to God. It’s not a request that we would simply recognize God’s authority or rightly understand His sovereign right to rule. Rather, it is an entreaty that we would readily and willingly submit to God’s authority and rejoice in His conquest. Today is indeed a season of grace. May our heart’s desire resonant with the words of this hymn: 

“Come Thou King of glory, come, 
Deign to make my heart Thy home.”

The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”
The Lord shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion.
Rule in the midst of Your enemies!
(Psalm 110:1–2)

Conquering Prince and Lord of Glory

Conquering Prince and Lord of glory,
Majesty enthroned in light;
All the heavens are bowed before Thee,
Far beyond them spreads Thy might;
Shall not I fall at Thy feet,
And my heart with rapture beat,
Now Thy glory is displayed,
Thine ere yet the worlds were made?

As I watch Thee far ascending
To the right hand of the throne,
See the host before Thee bending,
Praising Thee in sweetest tone;
Shall not I too at Thy feet
Here the angels’ strain repeat,
And rejoice that heaven doth ring
With the triumph of my King?

Power and Spirit are o’erflowing,
On me also be they poured;
Every hindrance overthrowing,
Make Thy foes Thy footstool, Lord!
Yea, let earth’s remotest end
To Thy righteous scepter bend,
Make Thy way before Thee plain,
O’er all hearts and spirits reign.

Lo! Thy presence now is filling
All the church in every place;
Fill my heart too; make me willing
In this season of Thy grace;
Come Thou King of glory, come,
Deign to make my heart Thy home,
There abide and rule alone,
As upon Thy heavenly throne!

“Conquering Prince and Lord of Glory” 
Words by Gerhard Tersteegen (1735)
Translated by Catherine Winkworth (1858)
Tune: SALZBURG
Music by Jakob Hintze (1622–1702)
Words and Music ©Public Domain

Download free sheet music (PDF), including a guitar chord charts and an arrangement of the hymn tune SALZBURG for classical guitar. 

More Hymns from History

More hymns arranged for Classical Guitar

Who Is This So Weak and Helpless?

Manger and Cloth

There are many well-matched hymn tunes and texts in the treasure trove of hymnody. A well-matched tune not only fits the poetic meter of the text, it helps to undergird, emotionally interpret, and express the meaning of the text. Crafting or finding music that aptly conveys and strengthens the message of the lyrics is called text painting. Examples of hymn tunes that beautifully paint the text include:

“Holy, Holy, Holy” by Reginald Heber (1783–1826) 
Set to the tune NICAEA by John B. Dykes, 1861

This hymn echoes the threefold praise of God’s holiness found in Scripture (Isaiah 6:3, Revelation 4:8). It affirms the doctrine: “God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.” The motive of the tune accompanies the words “Holy, Holy, Holy.” It consists of a rising arpeggio of the tonic chord: a major triad made up of a root, 3rd, and 5th. It is a musical illustration of the doctrine of the Trinity: 3 notes, one chord.  

“How Firm a Foundation” from John Rippon’s Selection of Hymns, 1787 
Set to the tune FOUNDATION from John Funk’s Genuine Church Music, 1832

This hymn affirms the certainty of God’s Word. All that God has said and promised will surely come to pass. The tune conveys firmness by emphasizing the structural tones of the major scale. Most of the melody consists of the three notes of the tonic triad (the most stable chord of the key). 

“O Sacred Head Now Wounded,” a Medieval Latin poem ascribed to Bernard Clairvaux (1091–1153)
Set to the tune PASSION CHORALE by Hans Leo Hassler, 1601, harmonized by J.S. Bach, 1729

Hassler’s tune in minor with Bach’s harmonization captures well the “grief,” “anguish,” and “sorrow” in the text. Bach concludes with a cadence in the relative major, as the hymn expresses both the suffering of Christ on the cross and God’s grace and love that come to us through Christ’s sacrifice.

“Up from the Grave He Arose” (Low in the Grave He Lay) 
Set to the tune CHRIST AROSE
Words and music by Robert Lowry (1826–1866)

Lowry’s hymn celebrating Christ’s resurrection begins with an 8-measure subdued verse (“Low in the grave He lay”) leading into a 12-measure triumphant chorus with dotted rhythms and expanded range. The chorus opens with an ascending arpeggio on the tonic chord interpreting the words “Up from the grave He arose.”

“Joy to the World” by Isaac Watts, 1719 
Set to the tune ANTIOCH by Lowell Mason, 1836, based on music by G.F. Handel, 1742

This familiar Christmas hymn proclaims Christ’s incarnation. The tune begins with a descending major scale conveying the text: “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.” The melody then ascends, returning to the starting note, reaching up with the words: “Let earth receive her King!”

A lesser-known Christmas hymn, whose tune beautifully portrays the text, is “Who Is This So Weak and Helpless.” This hymn begins with the birth of Christ, then points us to His life, suffering, and death on the cross. The first half of each verse focuses on Christ’s humiliation and asks the perplexing question: “Who is this?” The question is tied to the hymn’s motive that begins with the opening notes of the minor scale, rising a minor third from “a” to “c” (from tonic to mediant). The second half of each verses answers the question posed in the first half. We see Christ’s exaltation in stark contrast to His humiliation: “Who is this?” Answer: “Tis the Lord!” “Tis our God!” The motive also begins the second half of each verse, but the notes are raised a third. Now the notes rise from “c” to “e” (a major third), brightening the motive with uplifting wonder.

It seems improbable that the child who “coldly in a manger laid” is “the Lord of all creation.” It seems astounding that “a Man of Sorrows” is indeed “our God, our glorious Savior.” Yet this is the profound mystery of the incarnation. 

Below is the full text of the hymn. As you celebrate this Christmas season look from the manger to the cross and marvel at the wondrous way that God has accomplished our salvation.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.”
(Isaiah 55:8-9)

Who Is This So Weak and Helpless?

“He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not” (John 1:10).

WHO is this so weak and helpless,
Child of lowly Hebrew maid,
Rudely in a stable sheltered,
Coldly in a manger laid?
‘TIS the Lord of all creation,
Who this wondrous path hath trod;
He is God from everlasting,
And to everlasting God.

WHO is this, a Man of Sorrows,
Walking sadly life’s hard way,
Homeless, weary, sighing, weeping,
Over sin and Satan’s sway?
‘TIS our God, our glorious Savior,
Who above the starry sky
Now for us a place prepareth,
Where no tear can dim the eye.

WHO is this? Behold Him shedding
Drops of blood upon the ground!
Who is this, despised, rejected,
Mocked, insulted, beaten, bound?
‘TIS our God, who gifts and graces
On His church now poureth down;
Who shall smite in holy vengeance
All His foes beneath His throne.

WHO is this that hangeth dying
While the rude world scoffs and scorns,
Numbered with the malefactors,
Torn with nails and crowned with thorns?
‘TIS the God who ever liveth 
‘Mid the shining ones on high,
In the glorious golden city,
Reigning everlastingly.

“Who Is This So Weak and Helpless” 
Words by William Walsham How (1823–1897)
Music by John Ambrose Lloyd, the elder (1815–1874)
Words and Music ©Public Domain

Download lyrics and free sheet music (PDF), including guitar chord charts and an arrangement of the hymn tune EIFIONYDD for classical guitar. 

More Hymns from History

More Christmas hymns arranged for Classical Guitar

Songs and Thanksgiving

Open Bible and Hymn Tune

O give thanks to the Lord for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
(Psalm 118:1)

Below is a list of psalm settings, hymns, and spiritual songs that focus on giving thanks to the Lord.  

If you have additional suggestions for songs related to thanksgiving that should be included in the index, please comment or send me a message.

Note: The songs are listed below by title and author. For more complete entries (including tunes and hymnal page numbers) see the page for Songs and Thanksgiving in the Theological Index of Music for Worship online. I will be updating the online Index with more songs and topics in the days ahead as I receive recommendations.

Songs and Thanksgiving 

1.  It is good to give thanks to the Lord

  • All People That on Earth Do Dwell—Psalm 100 (William Kethe / Thomas Ken)
  • How Good It Is to Thank the Lord—Psalm 92:1–9, 12–15 (The Psalter, 1912)  
  • It Is Good to Sing Your Praises (The New Metrical Version of the Psalms, 1909)

2.  All people should praise and thank the Lord

  • All People That on Earth Do Dwell—Psalm 100 (William Kethe / Thomas Ken)
  • Let All Things Now Living (Katherine Davis)
  • Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart (Edward Plumptre)

3. Give thanks for who God is

  • 10,000 Reasons – Bless the Lord (Jonas Myrin / Matt Redman)
  • All People That on Earth Do Dwell—Psalm 100 (William Kethe / Thomas Ken)
  • Be Exalted, O God—Psalm 57:9–11 (Brent Chambers)
  • Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing (Robert Robinson)
  • For the Beauty of the Earth (Folliott Pierpoint)
  • Forever (Chris Tomlin)
  • Great Is Thy Faithfulness (Thomas O. Chisholm)
  • How Good It Is to Thank the Lord—Psalm 92:1–9, 12–15 (The Psalter, 1912)  
  • Let All Things Now Living (Katherine Davis)
  • Let Us with a Gladsome Mind—Psalm 136 (John Milton)
  • My Heart Is Filled with Thankfulness (Stuart Townend / Keith Getty)
  • Now Thank We All Our God (Martin Rinkert / Catherine Winkworth)
  • Rejoice, the Lord Is King  (Charles Wesley)
  • With Grateful Heart My Thanks I Bring—Psalm 138 (The Psalter, 1912)

4.  Give thanks for life and daily provision

  • All People That on Earth Do Dwell—Psalm 100 (William Kethe / Thomas Ken)
  • Come, Ye Thankful People, Come (Henry Alford)
  • For the Beauty of the Earth (Folliott Pierpoint)
  • Great Is Thy Faithfulness (Thomas O. Chisholm)
  • It Is Good to Sing Your Praises (The New Metrical Version of the Psalms, 1909)
  • Let All Things Now Living (Katherine Davis)
  • Let Us with a Gladsome Mind—Psalm 136 (John Milton)
  • My Heart Is Filled with Thankfulness (Stuart Townend / Keith Getty)
  • Now Thank We All Our God (Martin Rinkert / Catherine Winkworth)

5.  Give thanks for salvation and eternal life

  • Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing (Robert Robinson)
  • Come, Ye Thankful People, Come (Henry Alford)
  • Father I Thank You (Jeremy & Adrienne Camp, David & Natalie Leonard)
  • Forever (Chris Tomlin)
  • Give Thanks (Henry Smith)
  • Great Is Thy Faithfulness (Thomas O. Chisholm)
  • Jesus Thank You (Pat Sczebel)
  • My Heart Is Filled with Thankfulness (Stuart Townend / Keith Getty)
  • Rejoice, the Lord Is King  (Charles Wesley)
  • Thank You, Lord (Seth and Bessie Skies)
  • There Is a Redeemer (Melody Green)
  • With Grateful Heart My Thanks I Bring—Psalm 138 (The Psalter, 1912)
  • Worthy Is the Lamb (Darlene Zschech)

6. Begin each day with thanksgiving

  • 10,000 Reasons – Bless the Lord (Jonas Myrin / Matt Redman)
  • How Good It Is to Thank the Lord—Psalm 92:1–9, 12–15 (The Psalter, 1912)  
  • It Is Good to Sing Your Praises (The New Metrical Version of the Psalms, 1909)

7. Conclude each day with thanksgiving

  • 10,000 Reasons – Bless the Lord (Jonas Myrin / Matt Redman)
  • A Prayer for God’s Presence (Ken Puls)
  • How Good It Is to Thank the Lord—Psalm 92:1–9, 12–15 (The Psalter, 1912)  
  • It Is Good to Sing Your Praises (The New Metrical Version of the Psalms, 1909)

8.  Give thanks to the Lord in gathered worship (with the church)

  • We Bring the Sacrifice of Praise (Kirk C. Dearman) 
  • We Gather Together (Adrianas Valerius, Theodore Baker)
  • We Give Thanks (Drew Hodge) 
  • With Grateful Heart My Thanks I Bring—Psalm 138 (The Psalter, 1912)

9.  Give thanks to the Lord before a watching world

  • Be Exalted, O God—Psalm 57:9–11 (Brent Chambers) 
  • With Grateful Heart My Thanks I Bring—Psalm 138 (The Psalter, 1912)

10.  Give thanks to the Lord with joy

  • All People That on Earth Do Dwell—Psalm 100 (William Kethe / Thomas Ken)
  • He Has Made Me Glad—Psalm 100:4 (Leona Von Brethorst) 
  • How Good It Is to Thank the Lord—Psalm 92:1–9, 12–15 (The Psalter, 1912)  
  • It Is Good to Sing Your Praises (The New Metrical Version of the Psalms, 1909)
  • Let All Things Now Living (Katherine Davis)
  • Now Thank We All Our God (Martin Rinkert / Catherine Winkworth)
  • Rejoice, the Lord Is King  (Charles Wesley)
  • Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart (Edward Plumptre)
  • We Bring the Sacrifice of Praise (Kirk C. Dearman) 

11.  Give thanks to the Lord even in times of trial and sorrow

  • Blessed Be Your Name (Matt & Beth Redman)
  • Count Your Blessings (Johnson Oatman, Jr.)
  • Father I Thank You (Jeremy & Adrienne Camp, David & Natalie Leonard)
  • Now Thank We All Our God (Martin Rinkert / Catherine Winkworth)
  • Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart (Edward Plumptre)
  • With Grateful Heart My Thanks I Bring—Psalm 138 (The Psalter, 1912)

12.  Give thanks to the Lord always

  • 10,000 Reasons – Bless the Lord (Jonas Myrin / Matt Redman)
  • All People That on Earth Do Dwell—Psalm 100 (William Kethe / Thomas Ken)
  • Father I Thank You (Jeremy & Adrienne Camp, David & Natalie Leonard)
  • He Has Made Me Glad—Psalm 100:4 (Leona Von Brethorst)

For more complete entries (including tunes and hymnal page numbers) see the online Index:

Entry for “Songs and Thanksgiving”

TOC for Theology and Song: A Theological Index of Music for Worship

Thanksgiving Music for Classical Guitar

Guitar and autumn trees

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High;
To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning,
And Your faithfulness every night,
On an instrument of ten strings,
On the lute,
And on the harp,
With harmonious sound.”
(Psalm 92:1–3)

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord.” And it is good to share and celebrate thanksgiving with music. If you play classical guitar, here are a few hymns for you to enjoy:

For the Beauty of the Earth
We Gather Together
Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing
Now Thank We All Our God
Come, Ye Thankful People, Come

You can download free sheet music for these hymns (and more) here:

Thanksgiving Music for Classical Guitar

You are welcome to copy and share these hymns with friends and fellow guitarists. You can use them for accompanying congregational singing, playing prelude or offertory music, or simply playing for your own enjoyment.  Please copy the full page with the website address and the “Used by Permission” notice at the bottom (see Permissions).

For additional music for Classical Guitar, visit:

Christmas Music for Classical Guitar

Hymns for Classical Guitar

Music of Bach for Classical Guitar

Wedding Music for Classical Guitar

Student Pieces and Music for Classical Guitar 

Music for Flute and Classical Guitar

The Purpose of Music in Worship

Hymn Ancient of Days

Excerpt from:  “Reforming Church Music”
A Paper presented at the 2001 Founders Conference

Ken Puls

God has purpose and intent in including music as an element of worship. The Bible has much to say about music and its role in worship. The following list summarizes seven roles that will help us define the purpose of music in worship.

1. Music is a primary means of praising God. The majority of references to music in the Bible, including verses that teach about music, as well as Psalms and other passages that are the texts to songs, are in the context of praising God. Through music we exalt, glorify, honor, bless, and adore God. We marvel at the perfection of His character, attributes, gifts, names, and works, ascribing to Him in song all that He is! The Psalter itself culminates in praise: 

Praise the LORD! 
Praise God in His sanctuary; 
Praise Him in His mighty firmament! 
Praise Him for His mighty acts; 
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness! 
(Psalm 150:1–2)

Music exists first and foremost to the glory and praise of God and Scripture convincingly bears this out.

2. Music is a primary means of giving thanks to God. Thanksgiving is a grateful acknowledgment or public confession of the goodness of God manifest in what He has done for His people. It is a grateful response to God for His deliverance, healing, forgiveness, salvation, and other blessings that He brings to us. Music accompanies thanksgiving in worship:

Hallelujah! I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart 
In the company of the upright and in the convocation. 
(Psalm 111:1)

Thanksgiving is also sung in the context of evangelism:

I will give thanks to You among the peoples, O Lord; 
I will sing praises to You among the nations. 
(Psalm 57:9)

As with praise, references in Scripture to giving thanks most often occur in song. 

3. Music serves as a means of prayer. Many of the songs and psalms of Scripture are addressed directly to God. David, for example, in Psalms 4 and 5 pours out his heart to God, brings petitions and asks for help and mercy. Throughout the Psalter, psalmists lament over sorrows, anguish over difficulties, confess their sinfulness, rejoice over God’s kindness, celebrate His goodness, and express numerous other emotions as they pour out their hearts before Him. Music can serve as invocation, petition, supplication, intercession, repentance, lamentation, and other forms of prayer, lifting our concerns before God.

4. Music serves as a means to proclaim truth. As we sing praise, thanksgiving, and prayer we voice our words to God, but music can also bring God’s Word to us. We can sing the words of Scripture, Psalms and other passages set to music. We can also teach and admonish one another in song with the truths of Scripture. Psalm 1, for example, is a didactic song that teaches us the difference between the blessed and the ungodly. Music helps us to remember and meditate on the truths of Scripture. It serves alongside preaching as a means of proclamation, edifying the church and evangelizing the lost, as it provides an emotional context in which we can interpret, understand, and express the truths of God’s Word. 

5. Music serves as a means of exhortation. Music lifts our words to God in prayer and brings God’s Word to us in proclamation, but it can also voice our words to one another. Psalm 95, for example, is a call to worship. We exhort one another with the words:

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD! 
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; 
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. 
(Psalm 95:1–2)

Through music God’s people speak to one another, stirring up one another to good works. Music can call us to worship, exhort us to love and serve one another, encourage us to live in obedience to God’s Word, admonish us to flee from sin and pursue holiness, and enjoin us to go out and witness and share the gospel.

6. Music serves as a means to confess our faith. With music God’s people can express common beliefs and doctrines as one voice. In the Old Testament Israel rehearsed their faith and history through music. Psalm 118, for example, is a public confession of the goodness and enduring mercy of God. The New Testament contains several confessional statements such as 2 Timothy 2:11 that many scholars believe are fragments of early hymns. Music provides an effective way to unite in declaring our confessions of faith. 

Perhaps the most notable example of this in church history is the “Doxology,” written by Thomas Ken in 1709, a musical affirmation of the doctrine of the Trinity:

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

7. Finally, music serves as a means of enriching worship with beauty. According to Scripture, singing praise to God is pleasant and beautiful. Psalm 147:1 reads: 

Praise the LORD! 
For it is good to sing praises to our God; 
For it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful.

It is good when we unite our voices together in singing to God. Music provides a beautiful garb in which we dress our words and actions in worship. It is a pleasant means of joining together to express our love and devotion to God in worship.These are seven roles or functions of music that God affirms in His Word. God has commanded us to make music and included it in His design for worship. It is not the purpose of music to amuse, manipulate, or entertain us in worship. God has given us music that we might beautifully lift our praise, thanksgiving, and prayers to Him; that we might proclaim the truth of His Word, confess our faith, and exhort one another to good works as we gather in corporate worship.


Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from 
The New King James Version® (NKJV™), copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. 
Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Download a PDF of this Excerpt

Excerpt Citation

Ken Puls, “Reforming Church Music,” in Reclaiming the Gospel and Reforming Churches: The Southern Baptist Founders Conference, 1982–2002, ed. Tom Ascol (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2003), 438–442.

The book Reclaiming the Gospel and Reforming Churches is a compilation of papers presented over the first 25 years of the Founders Conference and is available for purchase from Founders Press.

O Lord I Would Delight in Thee

Lake and Waterfall

To have Christ is to have all we need! To rest in Him is more valuable and more satisfying that anything this life can offer. But too often the trials and troubles of this world overwhelm us and keep us from fully laying hold of the riches we possess in Christ.

John Ryland, an English Baptist pastor and hymn writer, understood this struggle of faith. In 1777 (the same year he wrote “Sovereign Ruler of the Skies”), he composed the hymn “O Lord, I Would Delight in Thee.” The hymn is a prayer expressing his desire for a “stronger faith” anchored in God’s sure Word. In it he exposes his own (and our) folly. We focus too intently on the parched world around us, whose “streams are dried,” bemoaning our thirst, when all the while Christ is near— “a fountain which will ever run with waters sweet and clear.” Ryland reminds himself of God’s goodness. “While Christ is rich,” we “can’t be poor”! Even if all the joys and blessings of this world fade away, Christ’s “fulness is the same.”

The hymn was written December 3, 1777 and published in Rippon’s Selection (1798). The lyrics were heartfelt and especially meaningful to the hymn writer. According to John Julian in the Dictionary of Hymnology, Ryland attached a note to the manuscript that read: “I recollect deeper feelings of mind in composing this hymn, than perhaps I ever felt in making any other.”

May God stir in us such heavenly desires! In these uncertain times, may we cast all our cares upon the Lord, and may our “great concern” be to love and praise Him more!

O Lord, I Would Delight in Thee

“Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.”
(Psalm 37:4)

O Lord, I would delight in Thee,
And on Thy care depend;
To Thee in ev’ry trouble flee,
My best, my only Friend.

When all created streams are dried,
Thy fulness is the same;
May I with this be satisfied,
And glory in Thy Name.

Why should the soul a drop bemoan,
Who has a fountain near—
A fountain which will ever run
With waters sweet and clear?

No good in creatures can be found,
But may be found in Thee;
I must have all things and abound,
While God is God to me.

O that I had a stronger faith,
To look within the veil;
To credit what my Savior saith,
Whose words can never fail.

He that has made my heav’n secure
Will here all good provide;
While Christ is rich, I can’t be poor;
What can I want beside?

O Lord, I cast my care on Thee;
I triumph and adore;
Henceforth my great concern shall be
To love and praise Thee more.

“O Lord, I Would Delight in Thee” 
Words by John Ryland, (1753–1825)
Music by John Herbert (1852–1927)
Words and Music ©Public Domain

Download free sheet music (PDF), including chord charts and an arrangement of the hymn tune LAFAYETTE for classical guitar. 

More Hymns from History

More hymns arranged for Classical Guitar

The Sound of Worship

Drums and Cymbals

Praise the Lord!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty firmament!
Praise Him for His mighty acts;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness!
Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet;
Praise Him with the lute and harp!
Praise Him with the timbrel and dance;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes!
Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord!
(Psalm 150)

[This excerpt is from a sermon on Psalm 150 entitled “The Sound of Worship.” You can read the full sermon here]

Psalm 150 anticipates the coming of Christ and foresees the day when God’s praise will cover the earth. Jesus said that “all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me” (Luke 24:44). This psalm, like all the psalms, points us to Christ. The final words of Psalm 150 anticipate Christ’s words in the Great Commission.  The psalmist calls upon “everything that has breath” to “praise the Lord.” In Mark 16:15 Jesus commands His disciples to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” We are to “go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19). Psalm 150 finds its ultimate fulfillment in the conquering grace of Christ displayed in His church.

Church history is a testimony to the fulfillment of Psalm 150. God is at work sanctifying instruments and voices from every tribe and tongue, culture and nation for His glory. He is continually adding new voices, new instruments, new cultures, and new songs to the tapestry of His praise through the ages.

The fulfillment of Psalm 150, however, has not been without opposition. Satan has been enraged and at war with church since its beginning (Revelation 12). It has been his scheme to thwart the spread of God’s praise. He has attempted to shroud the world in darkness so that men remain blind to truth. He has sought to hinder the spread of the gospel so that men remain in bondage to their sin. He has sought to distort truth about God so that men believe and sing lies. And he has cast doubt on music (especially the use of musical instruments) miring them in sinful associations.

In the early days of the church, many musical instruments from Greek and Roman culture were associated with pagan worship and pagan cults. The aulos (a wind instrument like the flute) was used in the worship of the goddess Diana.  The lyre (a stringed instrument) was said to be played by the Greek god Apollo. Many Christian writers and commentators of the first three centuries condemned such instruments based on their associations with pagan rituals. Some presented farfetched explanations and allegories in an attempt to reinterpret passages like Psalm 150, that include clear commands to worship God with musical instruments. (An excellent resource is: Music in Early Christian Literature by James McKinnon, Cambridge University Press, 1987.)

Throughout the history of the church, well-intended arguments have been made that certain musical instruments are incompatible with worship. Some have tried to constrict the Regulative Principle so that it excludes the use of musical instruments in the church altogether.  Drums, guitars, banjos, kazoos, and even the piano have been scorned and disparaged. 

One musical instrument that was slow to be accepted by the church to accompany praise to God was the organ. This may be surprising, since today the organ is regarded as the grandest musical instrument of the church.

“The organ was invented around the 3rd century BC. Back then it was designed to use water rather than air in the pipes and was called the hydraulis. The water organ was quite loud and was used most prominently in the amphitheaters. 

“During the time of the Roman Empire it was used to accompany the processions and events at the gladiatorial games. Some ballparks today use the organ in a similar way to create a festive atmosphere—to signal and stir up the crowd. It was to the celebrative sounds of the organ that many Christians were paraded in before cheering crowds to be martyred. 

“So you can imagine the difficulties with association that early Christians must have had whenever someone finally had the idea to introduce the organ into church as a worship instrument. How could this instrument that accompanied so much death, ever be used in worship?

“But God had a purpose for the pipe organ. He designed to rescue that instrument and use it for His glory. Rome was sacked in 410 and the empire fell over the next 150 years. The organ was finally brought into the church around 7th century AD—well after the fall of Rome. It was not until the 1300s that the first organ was permanently installed in a church. But for hundreds of years after, the pipe organ was a prominent instrument in carrying the praise of God’s people.” (from Thoughts on Music and Worship)

The reality is that there are no musical instruments that cannot be used to worship God, only instruments that are incompatible with our comfort zone and expectations as to what worship music should sound like.

Certainly, we want to use music wisely.  We want to be like the sons of Issachar and have “an understanding of the times” (1 Chronicles 12:32). We want to employ music in ways that will adorn worship and serve our singing, not hinder worship and obscure the words we are singing. The inscriptions on the psalms in Scripture teach us to be intentional in our musical arrangements. In an earlier study on the Psalm Inscriptions, I concluded:

“The psalms set a musical precedent for worship that God will accomplish in fuller measure in the New Testament through the church. Throughout church history, God has added and continues to add many musical styles and sounds to His praise. As the gospel goes out in the power of God’s Spirit, conquering hearts and lives, people from each generation and from every tribe and tongue and nation add their voice to the music of the church. There is not one sound that is solely sacred, but a vast array of musical composition that God is weaving into a tapestry of praise for His glory.” (from Lessons from the Psalm Inscriptions: Titles of Interpretation).

The sanctification of music—musical expression, musical styles, musical instruments—to the praise and glory of God is an outcome of the spread of the gospel and fulfillment of the Great Commission. 

Some will still ask: Where are the musical instruments in the New Testament? Where in the New Testament do we find precedent for using them in the church? Musical instruments are there, of course. They are inherent in the New Testament fulfillment of God’s commands to fill the earth with His praise. They are implied in Paul’s admonitions to sing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:19). And they are explicit in John’s descriptions of music in heaven (Revelation 5:8; 8:2, 6; 9:14; 14:2, and 15:2). But it should come as no surprise that the New Testament doesn’t provide an orchestration for music in the church. The New Testament emphasizes the spiritual nature of worship and sees it spread to the ends of the earth. Unlike the worship music of the Old Testament that was specific to one place (the tabernacle / Temple), music in the New Testament is adaptable to every place—everywhere there is breath!

  • We don’t have descriptions as to how to build our buildings and worship spaces.
  • We don’t have orders of worship to plan and design our services.
  • And we don’t have specific instruments designated as necessary and sacred.

There may be times when the church is not able to use musical instruments. They may be scarce. There may not be skilled musicians available to play them. Most of the first three centuries of the church, believers faced severe persecution and had to worship in secret. Loud instruments and music would have needlessly attracted attention.

As the gospel goes out and conquers hearts and lives, where there are musical instruments, they should be sanctified and employed for God’s praise. Where there are no musical instruments, God can still be worshipped with voices alone. He is sovereignly orchestrating His praise throughout the ages and around the world. All glory is His!

[This excerpt is from a sermon on Psalm 150 entitled “The Sound of Worship.” You can read the full sermon here]

More Sermons and Articles by Ken Puls

My Righteousness Is in Heaven

Church reflection on water

It is a great comfort that we can say, if we are in Christ, “My righteousness is in heaven.” When we put our faith and trust in Christ, God declares us to be righteous in Him. Our standing before God is no longer on the basis of our own righteousness. If it were, we would stand before God condemned by our sin. In Christ, our righteousness is Jesus Himself! We are justified by faith in Christ alone.

When we are justified, God imputes our sin to Jesus (He treats Jesus as if He had sinned and was guilty). “The wages of sin of death” (Romans 6:23a) and so Jesus died on the cross to pay the wages due our sin. He paid the price, so we are no longer condemned. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). But that is not all! God also imputes Christ’s righteousness to us (He treats us as if we had perfectly obeyed His Law). “But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23b). In Christ we have life. We are clothed in His righteousness, accepted and beloved as sons and daughters, and brought near to God. 

Here is rest for our souls! The measure of our righteousness is not our own feeble and often failing efforts, but the finished and perfect work of Christ. We are protected from pride, knowing that on our best days, we are no more righteous than on our worst days. We must confess every day that we are sinners in need of mercy and grace. And we are protected from despair, knowing that on our worst days, we are no less righteous that on our best days. We are ever safe in the arms of our Savior, who is “able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him” (Hebrews 7:25).

John Bunyan describes this comforting truth in Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners:

But one day, as I was passing in the field, and that too with some dashes on my conscience, fearing lest yet all was notright, suddenly this sentence fell upon my soul, “Thy righteousness is in heaven.” Then it seemed to me that I saw, withthe eyes of my soul, Jesus Christ at God’s right hand. There, I say, is my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was doing, God could not say of me, He wants my righteousness, for that was just before him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse; for my righteousness was Jesus Christ Himself, the same yesterday, and today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, par. 229

Unchanging Righteousness

In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The LORD is our righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6 ESV).

There sits My Righteousness,
Enthroned at God’s right hand:
The perfect, spotless Lamb of God,
In Him alone I stand.
No better is my stand
On days when all feels right,
No worse when days are dark and gray,
For nothing dims His light.

Unchanging Righteousness,
My only hope and plea,
That Jesus came and lived and bled
And died and rose for me. 

The Law cannot condemn,
Since I in Christ abide.
It sees His perfect work and is
Completely satisfied.
When God looks down on me,
He sees no lack or need,
For there in heaven, My Righteousness
Does always intercede.

Unchanging Righteousness,
My only hope and plea,
That Jesus came and lived and bled
And died and rose for me. 

By imputation mine,
Through faith in Christ alone,
Enfolded in His righteousness
That God has made my own.
A never ending store,
A bountiful supply!
Each day the same, My Righteousness
Exalted reigns on high.

Unchanging Righteousness,
My only hope and plea,
That Jesus came and lived and bled
And died and rose for me.
That Jesus came and lived and bled
And died and rose for me.

Words and Music ©2005 Kenneth A Puls

Download free sheet music for this song.

More Hymns and Songs by Ken Puls

O Spirit Now We Thank You

Open Bible

O Spirit, now we thank You
For giving us Your Word.
Please bless its proclamation,
The truths that we have heard.
Indwell us and empow’r us,
And cause us to obey;
Shine now the light of Scripture
On all we do and say.

Great Artist of the Scriptures,
In beauty You have made
God’s Word to shine in glory
That cannot fail or fade.
In poetry and proverbs,
Through narrative and line;
In prophecy and hist’ry,
God’s truth in splendor shines.

You, down through many ages
Inspired men to write,
Progressively revealing,
You brought God’s truth to light.
O Spirit, come illumine
This truth for us today;
And guide us in sound doctrine,
The straight and narrow way.

Wield now Your Sword, O Spirit,
The quick and living Word,
And rend our hearts asunder
With truths that we have heard.
O search us now and know us,
Expose iniquity;
Conform us to our Savior,
And holy we shall be.

Words and Music ©1998 Kenneth Puls
In Hymns of Grace (1998) by Ken Puls
And Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs (2004) Founders Press, Cape Coral, FL

This hymn is a prayer addressed to the Holy Spirit, who inspired and crafted the Word of God. It is written to serve as a closing hymn following the preaching of the Word. In the hymn we respond to the preaching by asking the Spirit to “bless its proclamation” and apply it in an effective way to our lives. The final verse is based on Hebrew 4:12. Scripture is the sword of the Spirit, who skillfully and lovingly lays bare our hearts with truth.

“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

The idea for the hymn came in October 1995 during a Sunday School class taught by Steve Garrick at Heritage Baptist Church. Steve was teaching a series of lessons on the person and work of the Holy Spirit. During the lesson on October 22nd, he compared the Spirit’s work in bringing us God’s Word to that of an artist. When God revealed His Word to us, he did not package it as a “systematic theology.” He chose and inspired men to write from their own experiences in poetry, proverb, narrative, history, and prophesy. The Bible is a great work of art crafted by the Spirit “through many ages” as God-breathed revelation. I thought during the class that the comparison would work well for lyrics to a hymn. I finally wrote the hymn several months later. I finished the lyrics on July 8, 1996 while driving to Dallas Baptist University, where I was teaching Classical Guitar during the summer semester. The hymn tune is named for Pastor Steve Garrick.

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

More Hymns and Songs by Ken Puls

Anna’s Song—New Recording

A new recording of the song I wrote for my daughter Anna is now available on Bandcamp. I surprised her with the song and sang it at her wedding this past August (2019). My thanks to the students in the audio tech class at Florida Southwestern State College for recording and mixing the song for me during the 2019 Fall semester.

Listen and down the song here:

Anna’s Song

From little girl to radiant bride
From dolls and toys to dresses sewn
God’s hand has guided every step
With joy I’ve watched you as you’ve grown

In early days when you were small
To fountains, shops and malls we went
Your hand I held to keep you close
And treasured all the time we spent

For years you dreamed about this day
In patience waited, made your plans
You prayed and rested in God’s hands
You sought your prince, now here he stands

The day has come to say your vows
Now two are one for all of life
Your hand in marriage now I give 
To make a home as man and wife

Now in your home may Christ be known
In you His gospel on display
Your lives committed to His hands
His love your anchor day by day

For years you dreamed about this day
In patience waited, made your plans
You prayed and rested in God’s hands
You sought your prince, now here he stands

Words and Music ©2019 Kenneth Puls

Download Sheet Music and a Chord Chart for this song

Wedding music for Classical Guitar

More music for Classical Guitar