Behind the Music: How Great Thou Art

I’d be lying if I said that this song wasn’t one of my favorite to sing and lead. I like where the song takes me, both lyrically and musically. I like the song’s versatility in that it can be serious and somber, or loud and ruckus (which is how I prefer it). I’m not alone in my admiration for the hymn as it was voted America’s 2nd favorite hymn (after Amazing Grace) in a 2001 survey by Christianity Today magazine. BBC’s TV show “Songs of Praise” declared it “Britain’s favorite Hymn”.

The song has travelled on an unusual path with authors through at least 5 countries over 2 contents. The Original song O Store Gud (O Great God) was written in Sweden by a 25 year old pastor named Carl Boberg in 1885. It became popular in his native country and in churches in Swedish ex-patriot communities in Europe. It was translated into German in 1907 (where it again became popular) and from German to Russian in 1912. It was in Russia that a British missionary named Stuart Hine heard the song and eventually translated it into English, adding 2 verses of his own original composition in 1931 (published 1949). The song rose to popularity in American in the mid-50’s at the early Billy Graham crusades.

I love the song because it calls Christians to THINK (think, consider, see) about all the God has done and will do in our world and to respond in worship: THEN sings my soul. The singing, the worship comes in response to THINKING about all the great things God has done.

Behind the Music: He Giveth More Grace

He Giveth More Grace is one of the first “new” songs we’ve done at Calvary:Arlington. The version we do uses the original lyrics and new music written by Pastor Brett Williams from Calvary Chapel on Whidbey Island.

The song was written by Anne Johnson Flint, who by the age of 6 had lost both her parents. By her teens she had developed arthritis and soon after lost the use of her legs. Bedridden, she was covered with sores and lost control of her hands and many of her bodily functions.

The song itself was published in the 1940’s during a time of war, suffering, pain and loss.

If anyone could have been excused for writing dark and depressing lyrics it would have been a woman like Anne Flint. Instead, she focused on Jesus and the lyrics that she was inspired to write were of hope and faith.

In the Revelation of Jesus, where the writer John sees the throne room in heaven and the question is asked “who is worthy to redeem the Earth from it’s bondage of sin?” and the answer was given that no one on Earth or in Heaven was found worthy, John began to wail with tears in despair. This would have been a very understandable response for a lady like Anne Flint. People will far lesser trials easily succumb to despair and despondency. But like the Apostle John, Miss Flint saw “the Lamb who had been slain” and then saw hope for her life and her world.

This is not easy believe-ism. This is not “feel good” faith. This is a desperate clinging to the only hope humanity has. Like a shipwrecked sailor clings to a piece of wood, we who are believers cling to the cross of Calvary from where our hope comes from. We cling to the reality of an empty tomb for the strength to live a world that has caused men and women far greater than ourselves to surrender to hopelessness.

The message of the Christian faith is not the way for us to be strong. It is the realization that we have no strength. It is the moment when, like in a tag team wrestling match, we tap out and let God do the fighting for us.

I sing songs like these as a prayer: God give me the faith of people like Anne Flint, and give me the wisdom to seek Your strength and not mine.

“He Giveth More Grace”
by Annie Johnson Flint – (1866-1932)
He giveth more grace as the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as the labors increase,
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials His multiplied peace.

His Love has no limit; His grace has no measure. His pow’r has no boundary known unto men. For out of His infinite riches in Jesus, He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.