Posted by: rcottrill | July 21, 2014

I Think When I Read That Sweet Story of Old

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: Jemima Thompson Luke (b. Aug. 19, 1813; d. Feb, 2, 1906)
Music: a Greek folk tune, arranged by William Batchelder Bradbury (b. Oct. 6, 1816; d. Jan. 7, 1868)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Called originally “The Child’s Desire,” the hymn was published in 1841. The original had six stanzas, but only CH-1, 2, 3 and 5 are commonly used today. The story of the writing of the hymn is given in the Wordwise Hymns link, and in a more complete form in the Cyber Hymnal link.

There are difficulties with trying to write a hymn for children. Perhaps the author will consider them “little adults,” and write things that are too far over their heads. Or he (or she) may talk down to them, in a kind of superior way, treating them as less than they are, and virtually using baby talk to communicate with them.

Jemima Luke avoids the extremes nicely. One way she does this is to begin where the Bible does, with the scene in the Gospels of Christ welcoming and blessing the children.

“Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.’ And He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them” (Mk. 10:13-16).

Mrs. Luke does an interesting thing, in the first stanza and on through the song. Of course she is putting words into the mouths of children when she writes, “I should like to have been with them then.” But one can also picture her leading the children in the hymn, and pointing to herself, with a smile, as she sings that last line. She identifies herself with the children, and makes their desire her own.

CH-1) I think, when I read that sweet story of old,
When Jesus was here among men,
How He called little children as lambs to His fold,
I should like to have been with them then.

The last line of CH-2 is taken right from Mark 10:14 (KJV)–“Suffer the little children to come unto me,” though replacing the archaic “suffer,” (permit, allow, let). Then there is that remarkable statement of Jesus, “Of such is the kingdom of God” (cf. CH-5). What is it about children that we older ones have perhaps lost? Whatever it is, we need it.

“Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive and accept and welcome the kingdom of God like a little child [does] positively shall not enter it at all” (vs. 15, Amplified Bible).

A little child, unspoiled by abuse and bitter disappointment, seems to be trusting by nature. The character of child-like faith which is to be emulated involves simplicity, and a lack of cynicism. And at the root of it is a recognition of dependance. As Spurgeon put it, “Whether we like it or not, asking is the rule of the kingdom.”

CH-2) I wish that His hands had been placed on my head,
That His arms had been thrown around me,
And that I might have seen His kind look when He said,
“Let the little ones come unto Me.”

Jemima Luke transitions from the scene in Bible times to the present. How can we come to the Lord Jesus now, when He is physically absent?

CH-3) Yet still to His footstool in prayer I may go;
And ask for a share in His love;
And if I thus earnestly seek Him below,
I shall see Him and hear Him above.

This brings the author to a missionary application–in a stanza that is unfortunately omitted by many hymn books today. This is a message to be shared.

CH-4) But thousands and thousands who wander and fall,
Never heard of that heavenly home;
I wish they could know there is room for them all,
And that Jesus has bid them to come.

Finally, there is a reunion anticipated, when all who trust in Him will be taken to the heavenly mansions, there to dwell with the Lord forever (Jn. 14:2-30.

CH-5) In that beautiful place He has gone to prepare
For all who are washed and forgiven;
And many dear children shall be with Him there,
For “of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

Questions:
1) What is it that makes this a fine children’s hymn?

2) What other children’s hymns do you know and use?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | July 18, 2014

All My Heart This Night Rejoices

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: Paul Gerhardt (b. Mar. 12, 1607; d. May 27, 1676); translation of the German, Catherine Winkworth (b. Sept. 13, 1827; d. July 1, 1878)
Music: Ebeling (or Bonn) by Johann Georg Ebeling (b. July 8, 1637; d. Dec. 4, 1676)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Catherine Winkworth)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: As you can see from all the above dates, this is a very old hymn. The German version was written in 1656, the English translation in 1858. The German original begins, “Fröhlich soll mein herze springen” (“Gladly shall my heart leap”).

Catherine Winkworth is considered a truly great translator, and particularly the foremost translator of German hymns. Her work did a great deal to bring these hymns to the awareness of English-speaking congregations. Other hymns she brought us include: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, and Now Thank We All Our God.

The complex structure of the present hymn is interesting. (It’s somewhat obscured by the Cyber Hymnal’s printing of the stanzas in four lines.) The first and third lines of each stanza rhyme, as do the fourth and sixth. Then, there are internal rhymes in lines two and five. This gives the song a joyful, sprightly movement, something like the ringing of bells. Here are stanzas one and five, for example.

1) All my heart this night rejoices,
As I hear, far and near,
Sweetest angel voices;
“Christ is born,” their choirs are singing,
Till the air everywhere
Now with joy is ringing.

5) Softly from His lowly manger
Jesus calls one and all,
“You are safe from danger.
Children, from the sins that grieve you
You are freed; all you need
I will surely give you.”

Of the fifteen original six-line stanzas, only three or four are generally used today. These have been modified considerably. What I have below is somewhat different from the version given on the Cyber Hymnal.

When Catherine Winkworth cut down the number of stanzas for her translation, she explained:

“In many instances even fine hymns are weakened by repetition, or disfigured by verses of decidedly inferior merit. This is essentially the case with Paul Gerhardt, notwithstanding the remarkable beauty of his works.”

Though this is a Christmas hymn, Pastor Gerhardt does not linger long on the details of Christmas night. He is more concerned to glorify the Son of God, and remind us of the reason why He came to this earth.

Stanza 2. In His incarnation, and through His saving work, Christ fulfils the early promise that the seed (descendant) of the woman would crush the serpents head (Gen. 3:15). “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14).

2) Hear! The Conqueror has spoken:
“Now the foe, sin and woe,
Death and hell are broken!”
God is man, man to deliver,
And the Son now is one
With our blood forever.

Stanza 3. In His love for sinful, fallen mankind, God the Father sent His Son to be our Saviour (Jn. 3:16; I Jn. 4:9). What a costly sacrifice this was! As Paul Gerhardt puts it, He “freely gave His most precious treasure.” In the Gospels, God the Father declares Jesus to be His “beloved Son”–at His baptism, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17), and at His glorious transfiguration before Peter, James and John (Matt. 17:5);

3) Should we fear our God’s displeasure,
Who to save, freely gave
His most precious treasure?
To redeem us He has given
His own Son from the throne
Of His might in heaven.

Stanza 6. There is reason for abounding and eternal joy in this. We praise our dear Saviour, “whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” I Pet. 1:8).

6) Come, then, banish all your sadness!
One and all, great and small,
Come with songs of gladness.
We shall live with Him forever
There on high in that joy
Which will vanish never.

Questions:
1) Which Christmas carols best carry us beyond the manger, the shepherds and such, and point us to the reason why Christ came?

2) If Pastor Gerhardt’s hymn is not in your hymn book, could it be printed on a bulletin insert and included in your Christmas worship?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Catherine Winkworth)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | July 16, 2014

I Need Jesus

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: George Orlia Webster (b. Apr. 25, 1866; d. Oct. 1, 1942)
Music: Charles Hutchinson Gabriel (b. Aug. 18, 1856; d. Sept. 15, 1932)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (George Webster)
Hymnary.org

Note: George Orlia was a long-time pastor and a gospel song writer. The Cyber Hymnal lists over 200 of his songs. This one was written in 1923. The Wordwise Hymns link will tell you how it came to be written.

The word “need” is used twenty-five times in this simple song. Repetitious? Yes. But it’s a truth that bears repeating. The work of Christ on our behalf, and His intervention to meet our need, are indispensable.

We need the provision of the Lord Jesus Christ for our eternal salvation. That truth is mentioned so many times in the Scriptures that it can not be avoided or leave any room for doubt.

“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life….He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (Jn. 3:16, 36).

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’” (Jn. 14:6).

“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all” (I Tim. 2:5-6).

“This is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (I Jn. 5:11-12).

If we are to escape eternal condemnation, it will only be through faith in the finished work of Christ, through trusting in His death and resurrection as being for us. That is the heart of the gospel (I Cor. 15:1, 3).

But it doesn’t end there. The past and present work of Christ are essential to our Christian life and service. In a passage that deals with future rewards (I Cor. 3:11-15), the Bible reminds us:

“No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (vs. 11).

We have the promise of His presence with us along our pilgrim way (Matt. 28:20), and of heavenly resources available to us, through Christ (Phil. 4:19). We also have the assurance of His advocacy on our behalf, when we sin (I Jn. 2:102). When we are in need, we can appeal at the throne of God for needed grace and mercy, with the confidence that Christ, our great High Priest in heaven, fully sympathizes with us (Heb. 4:14-16). In a time of danger and difficulty, the Apostle Paul testified:

“The Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!” (II Tim. 4:17-18).

1) I need Jesus, my need I now confess;
No friend like Him in times of deep distress;
I need Jesus, the need I gladly own;
Though some may bear their load alone,
Yet I need Jesus.

I need Jesus, I need Jesus,
I need Jesus every day;
Need Him in the sunshine hour,
Need Him when the storm clouds low’r;
Every day along my way,
Yes, I need Jesus.

2) I need Jesus, I need a friend like Him,
A friend to guide when paths of life are dim;
I need Jesus, when foes my soul assail;
Alone I know I can but fail,
So I need Jesus.

We know that Christians will give account of their service at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10; II Cor. 5:10). There is in this a strong motivation. We want to please the One who has enlisted us in His service (II Tim. 2:3-4). It should be for us as it was for Paul. His love for Christ, and his desire to please Him, was a strong motivator (Phil. 1:21; 3:7-14).

Questions:
1) What need has been met in your life this week, by the Lord Jesus Christ?

2) Do you think there are Christians who haven’t availed themselves of what they have in Christ? (And, if so, why is that?)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (George Webster)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | July 14, 2014

I Have Decided to Follow Jesus

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: (author unknown)
Music: Assam, a folk melody from India

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (none)
Hymnary.org

Note: The little I thought we knew about this gospel song’s origin can be found on the Wordwise Hymns link. However, there is a much more detailed and fascinating story on the Hymnary.org link. I have never seen it written elsewhere but, knowing something of the history of the region, it does seem possible.

Though the origin is obscure and the words are simple, this song of commitment and testimony has a powerful message.

Some form of the word “follow” is found dozens of times in the Gospels. It is particularly used by the Lord Jesus to call His disciples. Of course, in the historical context, physical accompaniment was involved. Those who were called to “follow” Christ left family and jobs and traveled with Him from place to place. However, it was more than that. They were committing themselves to a spiritual pilgrimage. In that sense, Christ still has followers today.

A disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ is: committed to trust in Him, obey Him, learn from Him, emulate Him, and serve Him.

Here are a few examples of “following” Jesus from Matthew’s Gospel.

“Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ They immediately left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him” (Matt. 4:18-22).

“As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ So he arose and followed Him” (Matt. 9:9).

“He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 10:38-39).

This latter description of discipleship is found a number of times in the Gospels. It has a much deeper meaning than simply, “Bear your aches and pains stoically.” Or to simply deny ourselves something (such as a new pair of shoes, or another piece of cake). That can be a form of asceticism. In the extreme, it would involve living in utter poverty. But that’s not what the Lord is calling His followers to in the above verses. Rather, in essence, it’s the dethronement of Self.

To deny Self is to repudiate self-centredness, and say a decisive “No” to selfishness and self will. To take up the cross is the other side of the same attitude and action. It’s saying “Yes” to the Lord. There is also implied a public identification with Christ, to follow a life of sacrificial service, whatever the cost.

With this background, we can see that the song deals with something more profound than its simple words may suggest. And if, as seems to be the case, the song originated in India, we know that, there, those who turn to Christ have often been shunned by family and friends, and driven from home, and from a place of employment. (This is true in some other countries too.) There is a serious cost to the stand the author takes.

1) I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus–
No turning back, no turning back.

Consider the elements in that opening stanza. There is a specific decision involved. It involves me and the person of Christ. And there’s an expected continuance and continuity to the new direction of life that has been chosen. Implied in the last line is the possibility of a temptation to default on the commitment made, and a determination not to.

2) The world behind me, the cross before me,
The world behind me, the cross before me,
The world behind me, the cross before me–
No turning back, no turning back.

Here are the two sides of the decision mentioned earlier. If there is a determination to say “Yes” to Christ, whatever the cost, there is also the other side of the coin: a determination to say “No” to the allure of this sinful world, and its appeal to the old Self life (cf. Moses, Heb. 11:24-25).

3) Though none go with me, I still will follow,
Though none go with me, I still will follow,
Though none go with me, I still will follow,
No turning back, no turning back.

4) Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
Will you decide now to follow Jesus?–
No turning back, no turning back.

The path of discipleship at times can be a lonely one. If we make being liked, or being popular, our priority, we will surely falter on the way. Finally, though we cannot turn back, we can encourage others to join us and be companions on the way.

Questions:
1) For you, what is the best thing about being a follower of Christ?

2) What do you find the most difficult thing about it?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (none)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | July 11, 2014

In the Bleak Midwinter

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: Christina Georgina Rossetti (b. Dec. 5, 1830; d. Dec. 29, 1894)
Music: Cranham, by Gustav Theodore Holst (b. Sept. 21, 1874; d. May 25, 1934)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: The text was written some time before 1872, in response to a magazine’s request for a Christmas poem. Gustav Holst’s tune was composed in 1906, specifically for the text. Stanza 3 is not generally used today in the Christmas hymn. It says:

CH-3) Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

From her awareness of the cold and snowy Decembers in her native England, Rossetti described the scene in the Holy Land in those terms. However, recent scholarship suggests that Christ was more likely born in late September, since the weather became too wet and cold after that for shepherds to pasture their sheep out in the open fields. Nevertheless, the frozen, stone-hard earth works as a poetic image of the unreceptive world Christ entered, where even “His own did not received Him” (Jn. 1:11).

CH-1) In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Christina Rossetti had two serious suitors whom she turned down on the basis of her religious convictions. She never married. As to her social convictions, she was against military aggression, the slavery in the American south, and cruelty to animals. Rossetti also opposed the exploitation of women as prostitutes, and was involved for many years with a charity that ministered to those who had broken free of this illicit trade.

Some have described the author as an early feminist, who lived long before that became a movement. In her day, women were often viewed as second class citizens. The doors to higher education and to many professions were closed to them. This gives her final stanza a personal poignancy. Yet there’s a real sense in which none of us, as believers, has anything to give that is worthy of the Lord Jesus. All we can do is offer ourselves to Him as “living sacrifices,” ready to do His will (Rom. 12:1)

CH 5) What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

Christina Rosetti speaks with firm confidence in CH-2, when she identifies the Babe in Bethlehem’s manger. This is no sentimental story sustained by tradition. It is the dramatic incarnation of Deity.

¤ He is the Lord Jesus Christ. That triple title is used of Him 82 times in the New Testament. He is Lord–Master, sovereign; He is Jesus–meaning the Lord (Jehovah) saves; and He is Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah of Israel. In Him we have our eternal salvation (Acts 16:31; Rom. 5:1; I Cor. 15:57; II Cor. 8:9).

¤ He is God Almighty (Matt. 28:18; Jn. 5:23; Heb. 1:8).

¤ My thought regarding the line, “Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain,” is that it signifies Christ is greater than both heaven and earth (because He is the Creator of all, Jn. 1:3; Col. 1:16).

¤ He is coming again to reign (Rev. 19:11-16).

¤ After His coming, the present earth and heavens will be destroyed, and replaced by a new heavens and new earth (Rev. 20:11; 21:1).

CH-2) Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

The lovely imagery of CH-4 shows the condescension and humbling of the Son of God. Worthy of angels’ worship, the infant Jesus is tenderly kissed by a loving mother.

CH-4) Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshiped the Beloved with a kiss.

Questions:
1) Is this a carol you commonly use at the Christmas season?

2) Can you state in one sentence what it is that Christina Rosetti particularly wants to tell us through this hymn?

Links:

Posted by: rcottrill | July 9, 2014

I Believe in Miracles

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: Carlton C. Buck (b. Aug. 31, 1907; d. Feb. 13, 1999)
Music: John Willard Peterson (b. Nov. 1, 1921; d. Sept. 20, 2006)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (John Peterson born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal (Carlton Buck)
Hymnary.org

Note: Carlton Buck was a pastor, author and gospel song writer. Some of his songs are listed in the Cyber Hymnal link.

1) Creation shows the power of God–
There’s glory all around,
And those who see must stand in awe,
For miracles abound.

I believe in miracles–I’ve seen a soul set free,
Miraculous the change in one redeemed through Calvary;
I’ve seen a lily push its way up through the stubborn sod–
I believe in miracles for I believe in God.

As with a number of Bible words, the term miracle has been greatly overused, abused, and misused. We may hear, “It’s a miracle he remembered my birthday.” Or, “It’s a miracle that our hockey team won.” Well, is it? Or not? The secular dictionaries do not necessarily help us in this case. A miracle may indeed be “a remarkable event,” as one dictionary has it. But that is woefully inadequate as a biblical definition.

In the New Testament, three particular words are used of miracles performed by Christ and the apostles. They are brought together in Acts 2:22, where Peter says to his hearers at Pentecost that Christ was “attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst.”

Yes, miracles are “wonders,” amazing events. But they are more. The word “miracles” translates the Greek word dunamis, meaning powers. Miracles are unique displays of the power of God. “Signs” indicates that they are also signposts, pointing to some larger reality–in the above instance they authenticated the Person and the message of Christ. Later, they would do the same for the apostles and their ministry (cf. II Cor. 12:12; Heb. 2:4).

There’s a misconception that miracles contradict the laws of nature, as though the Creator God had to work against Himself and His own laws to perform them. Miracles involve the intersection of the supernatural and the natural through the active intervention of God. However, a miracle does not break the laws of nature, but rather involves the exercise of sovereign and supernatural control over an established pattern to accomplish the unusual.

A miracle involves the occurrence of something in the physical world that would not occur in the natural order and pattern of things, nor could it be produced by human agency. The making of a pathway through the Red Sea for Israelites to cross over on dry ground was a miracle (Exod. 14:21-22), as was the instant turning of water into wine by the Lord Jesus (Jn. 2:6-11), and the raising of Lazarus from the dead (Jn. 11:43-44).

Strictly speaking, conversion and the new birth are not miraculous, because they involve an inner spiritual transformation, rather than an outward physical manifestation. We may see a change in behaviour when a sinner trusts in Christ, but we did not observe the new birth itself (much as we see the effects of the wind but not the wind itself).

We ought to distinguish something simply amazing (e.g. the way plants sprout and grow) from a true miracle of God. But this gospel song, published in 1956, confuses the issue exactly as described. For that reason, I’ve avoided using I Believe in Miracles, though it was popular a generation ago. Yes, the deliverance of a sinner is truly wonderful, and so is the growth of a flower. But to lump them together and label all such things as “miracles” simply muddies the waters!

To say, “I believe in miracles for I believe in God” may not even be logical. It does not necessarily follow that the existence of God guarantees the existence of miracles. Or that He will always prove Himself by miracles. Further, Buck’s claim fails to reckon with the fact that the devil also can work miracles, and will, in the end times, give miraculous powers to the Antichrist (II Thess. 2:9).

I have discussed this same problem in dealing with John Peterson’s song It Took a Miracle. There I seek to provide a workable definition of a biblical miracle. Some of the things Peterson describes, like those of Buck, don’t seem to qualify. The refrain of this latter song says:

It took a miracle to put the stars in place,
It took a miracle to hang the world in space.

But wonderful though the creative work of God certainly was, it lacks several of the key characteristics of a miracle. Without denying the literal fulfilment of Genesis chapters one and two, or the eternal blessing of God’s saving work, we need to give full value to the remarkable nature of true miracles described in the Word of God.

Questions:
1) Do you agree with limiting the word “miracle” as I have done? (If not, how broad would you make it?)

2) Are there hymns you know and use that praise the Lord for true miracles?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (John Peterson born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal (Carlton Buck)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | July 7, 2014

Hosanna, Loud Hosanna

[July 7]
Hosanna, Loud Hosanna

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: Jeanette Threlfall (b. Mar. 24, 1821; d. Nov. 30, 1880)
Music: Ellacombe, a German melody from 1784, adapted by William Henry Monk (b. Mar. 16, 1823; d. Mar. 1, 1889)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: The text of the hymn was published as a poem in 1873; the tune used for it was arranged by William Monk in 1868. Some information on Jeanette Threlfall’s care-filled life is found on the Worldwise Hymns link.

What is known as the Triumphal Entry of Christ into Jerusalem is recorded in all four Gospels (Matt. 21:1-11, 15-15; Mk. 11:1-10; Lk. 19:29-38; Jn. 12:12-19). The involvement of children took place as a kind of aftermath of the actual procession, as the Lord entered the temple precincts:

“When the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ they were indignant and said to Him, ‘Do You hear what these are saying?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Yes. Have you never read, “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise [quoting Ps. 8:2]”?’” (Matt. 21:15-16)

The children “cried out” their hosannas (meaning “Save, I pray!”), echoing those of the adults (vs. 9). Whether they also sang or not we aren’t told, but it’s certainly possible. The expression comes from a psalm, which we know was sung at this time of year (cf. Ps. 118:25).

CH-1) Hosanna, loud hosanna, the little children sang;
Through pillared court and temple the lovely anthem rang.
To Jesus, who had blessed them close folded to His breast,
The children sang their praises, the simplest and the best.

CH-2) From Olivet they followed mid an exultant crowd,
The victor palm branch waving, and chanting clear and loud.
The Lord of men and angels rode on in lowly state,
Nor scorned that little children should on His bidding wait.

The scene is striking both for its simple majesty and for its missed opportunity. Centuries before, Zechariah had prophesied concerning the coming of Israel’s Messiah-King, and how He could be recognized:

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zech. 9:9).

The Gospel writers realized Christ was fulfilling this prophecy (cf. Matt. 21:4-5). There was general excitement about what the Lord would do. Would He use His great powers at that time to rid the nation of Roman domination? If that’s what many believed, they were in for a bitter disappointment. A week later, Jesus was arrested, tried, and crucified.

For his enemies, this was seen as weakness, and proof positive that He wasn’t the Messiah as He’d claimed to be. They stood beneath the cross and mocked Him, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him” (Matt. 27:42). But they should have read their Bibles more carefully. Before His reign was to come His rejection; before the crown, the cross.

Blind unbelief hid the true reality from the eyes of many. When the Lord Jesus approached the city of Jerusalem, He grieved at what was to come.

“Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes’” (Lk. 19:41-42).

But a sovereign God was even in this. The cross of Christ had what theologians call a salvific purpose. In the rejection of Christ was the means of our salvation.

“He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:5-6).

One day the Lord Jesus Christ will return in power and glory, and take up His reign over the earth (Matt. 24:30; Rev. 19:11-16). Until then, He is seated at the Father’s right hand, and rules as Head of the church (Eph. 1:22), and we can own Him as King over our lives, personally. He is both Lord and Saviour of those who trust in Him (I Pet. 3:18).

CH-3) “Hosanna in the highest!” that ancient song we sing,
For Christ is our Redeemer, the Lord of heaven our King.
O may we ever praise Him with heart and life and voice,
And in His blissful presence eternally rejoice!

Questions:
1) What are some of the misconceptions about Jesus that are prevalent in our world today?

2) Does your church celebrate Palm Sunday? If so, what do you see as the value of this annual remembrance?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | July 4, 2014

He Who Would Valiant Be

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: John Bunyan (b. Nov. 30, 1628; d. Aug. 31, 1688); later revision, Percy Dearmer (b. Feb. 27, 1867; d. May 29, 1936)
Music: St. Dunstan’s, by Charles Winfred Douglas (b. Feb. 15, 1867; d. Jan. 18, 1944)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: John Bunyan was a tinker by trade–a mender of pots and kettles. He was converted in 1653, and became a Puritan preacher and author, made famous by his allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress. It was during his years in prison for preaching the Word of God that he wrote this immortal tale.

T he original words for the hymn are taken from the second part of the story which concerns Christian’s wife and children making their own pilgrimage. The poem (not meant by Bunyan to be a hymn) comes at the end of a conversation between Mr. Great-heart and Mr. Valiant-for-Truth.

Before speaking the lines of verse, Mr. Valiant-for-Truth says:

“I believed, and therefore I came out [of the City of Destruction], got into the Way, fought all that set themselves against me, and, by believing am come to this place.”

The revision of Bunyan’s words, published by Percy Dearmer in 1906, was extensive. In some places it departs completely from Bunyan’s original thought. You can see both versions on the Cyber Hymnal, and make a comparison for yourself, but I’ll mention the key ones here.

The words “pilgrim” and “pilgrimage” are used a number of times in the Scriptures. They picture those who are traveling through a foreign country to a new land up ahead. This describes each of us as Christians. “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20), so the old Spiritual has it right: “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passin’ through.” David describes the people of God as “aliens and pilgrims” (I Chron. 29:15).

When the elderly Jacob meets the Pharaoh of Egypt, he tells him, “The days of the years of my pilgrimage are one hundred and thirty years; few and evil have been the days of the years of my life” (Gen. 47:9). Similar phrases are used elsewhere (cf. Heb. 11:13; I Pet. 2:11). In his first letter, Peter addresses “the pilgrims of the dispersion” (I Pet. 1:1), Jewish Christians who were scattered and exiled from their homeland, a troubling experience.  The struggles of the Christian pilgrim are emphasized in the hymn, and were very real to Bunyan and those who stood with him.

Like all pilgrims, we face dangers and difficulties along the way. Yet, even so, it is a great and glorious thing to be journeying toward our heavenly home. As the psalmist says, “ Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage” (Ps. 84:5). In Psalm 119, the author says, “Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage” (vs. 54). Most commentators take the latter phrase to simply mean “wherever I roam.” But I wonder if the “house” is not a reference to the physical body, similar to Paul’s reference to his “earthly house” (II Cor. 5:1).

The first changes in CH-1 simply make the words more suitable for use as a hymn, and put a more spiritual turn on  the words. Bunyan wrote: “Who would true valour see, let him come hither; / One here will constant be, come wind, come weather.”

CH-1) He who would valiant be ’gainst all disaster,
Let him in constancy follow the Master.
There’s no discouragement shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent to be a pilgrim.

 In CH-2, Bunyan’s “No lion can him fright, / He’ll with a giant fight” becomes “No foes shall stay his might / Though he with giants fight.”

CH-2) Who so beset him round with dismal stories
Do but themselves confound—his strength the more is.
No foes shall stay his might; though he with giants fight,
He will make good his right to be a pilgrim.

Bunyan begins CH-3 with: “Hobgoblin nor foul fiend can daunt his spirit.” In folklore, hobgoblins were thought to be mischievous elves, but the term can also represent, generally, anything causing superstitious fear. This reference, however, is replaced by Dearmer with:

CH-3) Since, Lord, Thou dost defend us with Thy Spirit,
We know we at the end, shall life inherit.
Then fancies flee away! I’ll fear not what men say,
I’ll labour night and day to be a pilgrim.

Questions:
1) What are the chief dangers you have faced in the recent days of your Christian pilgrimage?

2) What spiritual resources have been a help to you?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | July 2, 2014

He Lifted Me

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: Charles Hutchinson Gabriel (b. Aug. 18, 1856; d. Sept. 15, 1932)
Music: Charles Hutchinson Gabriel

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Charles Gabriel)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The hymn was first published in 1905, and the text was credited to Charlotte G. Homer, a pen name of Charles Gabriel’s. This social convention was followed by gospel song books for the next forty years, but now books dispense with it and give Gabriel credit by name for both words and music.

Mr. Gabriel’s contribution to gospel music, near the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, was extensive. The popularity of his songs was increased by their frequent use in Billy Sunday’s evangelistic meetings. The present song was a particular favourite because it provided a testimony of the transforming power of the cross.

The Petersens’, in their book The Complete Book of Hymns (p. 615), tell of a gentleman sitting on the platform before a congregation of five hundred, overwhelmed as he heard them sing this hymn with great feeling. He said, “I saw the glow in their faces and heard the passion of their voices, and I felt, ‘Here is the true Christian apologetic.’”

CH-1) In lovingkindness Jesus came
My soul in mercy to reclaim,
And from the depths of sin and shame
Through grace He lifted me.

From sinking sand He lifted me,
With tender hand He lifted me,
From shades of night to plains of light,
O praise His name, He lifted me!

With the poetic imagery of being “lifted,” there seems to be a connection with David’s testimony:

“[The Lord] brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth–praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the LORD” (Ps. 40:2-3).

Not every saved sinner has this sense of being dramatically rescued from a slimy pit of wickedness and corruption, but converted ball player Billy Sunday certainly did. And we get another picture of a dramatic rescue, in a physical sense, with the experience of Peter when, at the Lord’s bidding, he tried to walk on the waters of the stormy Galilee to his Master:

Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.’ And Peter answered Him and said, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’ So He said, ‘Come.’ And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’ And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased” (Matt. 14:27-32).

CH-2) He called me long before I heard,
Before my sinful heart was stirred,
But when I took Him at His word,
Forgiv’n, He lifted me.

CH-2 reflects the hardness of the sinful heart, and the patient and persistent calling of the Saviour. The Lord’s pursuit of the sinner is dramatically described in The Hound of Heaven, a lengthy poem by Francis Thompson (1859-1907):

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears
I hid from Him.

CH-3 provides a picture of the substitutionary death of Christ, when He took the sinner’s place under the wrath of God (cf. I Cor. 15:3; Eph. 1:7; I Pet. 2:24).

CH-3) His brow was pierced with many a thorn,
His hands by cruel nails were torn,
When from my guilt and grief, forlorn,
In love He lifted me.

In CH-4 we have both the delight and confidence of the saved individual, and a confession that the workings of sovereign grace are beyond our capacity to fully understand.

CH-4) Now on a higher plane I dwell,
And with my soul I know ’tis well;
Yet how or why I cannot tell
He should have lifted me.

Questions:
1) What was your experience of the saving power of God?

2) What differences has Christ made in your life?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Charles Gabriel)
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | June 30, 2014

Footsteps of Jesus

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: Mary Bridges Canedy Slade (b. Jan. 18, 1826; d. April. 15, 1882)
Music: Asa Brooks Everett (b. Sept. ___, 1828; d. Sept. ___, 1885)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: This 1871 hymn is called Footsteps of Jesus in the Cyber Hymnal. This does seem to be the most used title over the years, though several books I’ve seen use “Footprints of Jesus,” a phrase taken from the refrain.

CH-1) Sweetly, Lord, have we heard Thee calling,
Come, follow Me!
And we see where Thy footprints falling
Lead us to Thee.

Footprints of Jesus,
That make the pathway glow;
We will follow the steps of Jesus
Where’er they go.

The original song had seven stanzas, but only four are commonly used today (CH-1, 2, 3 and 7). The others may be of interest. Two of them speak of Gethsemane and Calvary, indicating that the summons to follow Christ will lead at times to suffering.

CH-4) Though, dear Lord, in Thy pathway keeping,
We follow Thee;
Through the gloom of that place of weeping,
Gethsemane!

CH-5) If Thy way and its sorrows bearing,
We go again,
Up the slope of the hillside, bearing
Our cross of pain.

CH-6, the other stanza often missed, provides a concluding pair with CH-7. It pictures the joys of heaven in the fellowship of the saints, and in worship around the throne of God.

CH-6) By and by, through the shining portals,
Turning our feet,
We shall walk, with the glad immortals,
Heav’n’s golden street.

CH-7) Then at last when on high He sees us,
Our journey done,
We will rest where the steps of Jesus
End at His throne.

The call to “follow Me” is found many times on the lips of the Lord Jesus, in the Gospels. One of the things we discover is that following Christ is a personal and individual experience. Yes, there are common elements. But it’s evident that the Lord may lead one on a path whose particulars are different from another’s. It was Peter’s curiosity about John’s future that brought this rebuke from the Lord: “What is that to you? You follow Me” (Jn. 21:22).

But having said this, we can also see in the Gospel record many of the common components in following the Saviour.

1) “Follow Me” is a call to discipleship and learning from the master Teacher. That was a major purpose of the calling of the twelve, who heard His teaching for about three years. Among them was Matthew, or Levi. “He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, ‘Follow Me’” (Lk. 5:27).

2) “Follow Me” is a call to service for the Lord. “Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men’” (Mk. 1:17). “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me” (Jn. 12:26).

3) “Follow Me” is a call to experience the Lord’s protection and provision as we trust Him as our Shepherd. “”My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (Jn. 10:27).

4) “Follow Me” is a call to identify with Christ, and to follow the path of sacrifice. “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Lk. 9:23).

5) “Follow Me” is a call to adopt spiritual and eternal values and priorities. To the rich man who seems to have made a god of his wealth, Jesus said, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Lk. 18:22). Another tried to excuse himself from serving the Lord, because of other duties: “He said to [him], ‘Follow Me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God’” (Lk. 9:59-60).

6) “Follow Me” leads on past this life to our heavenly home. In words that speak either of death, or of life beyond the grave–perhaps both–Jesus had this exchange with Peter. “Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, where are You going?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward’” (Jn. 13:36).

Questions:
1) What are some of the things one who is a follower of Christ will be doing?

2) What are some things a follower of Christ will avoid doing?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

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