Posted by: rcottrill | July 30, 2014

In Heavenly Love Abiding

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: Anna Laetitia Waring (b. Apr. 19, 1823; d. May 10, 1910)
Music: Seasons, by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (b. Feb. 3, 1809; d. Nov. 4, 1847)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Anna Waring called this 1850 hymn “Safety in God.” It now takes the first line as a title. You can see more about the author on the Wordwise Hymns link. The Cyber Hymnal offers no fewer than eight tunes for this fine hymn. I’m most familiar with Mendelssohn’s Seasons. An old 1865 hymnal concludes the hymn with a lovely and most fitting doxology (also using Mendelssohn’s tune).

To Thee be praise forever, Thou glorious King of kings!
Thy wondrous love and favour each ransomed spirit sings:
We’ll celebrate Thy glory with all the saints above,
And shout the joyful story of Thy redeeming love.

The original hymn was captioned by this verse:

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Ps. 23:4).

As noted on the other Wordwise Hymns page, there are many hymns based on Psalm 23. This one is more of a devotional meditation on the psalm,  than a translation. It has much to recommend it.

In CH-1, the author speaks of abiding in the love of the Lord. This theme is addressed in Christ’s Upper Room Discourse. There we learn that the secret of “abiding” in fellowship with the Lord is a walk of obedience to His Word. Such a faithful walk nourishes a sense of contentment and peace, even when life’s storms assail us.

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (Jn. 15:9-10).

CH-1) In heavenly love abiding, no change my heart shall fear;
And safe in such confiding, for nothing changes here.
The storm may roar without me, my heart may low be laid,
But God is round about me–and can I be dismayed?

CH-2 makes a more direct reference to the Shepherd-care of the Lord. He is beside us to guide us, and in His presence we are well provided for. We can have the confidence that He knows the way ahead, and we are safe if we stay close by the Shepherd.

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake” (Ps. 23:1-3).

CH-2) Wherever He may guide me, no want shall turn me back;
My Shepherd is beside me, and nothing can I lack.
His wisdom ever waking, His sight is never dim;
He knows the way He taketh, and I will walk with Him.

In the Shepherd’s presence, and under His watchful eye, we are assured of rich spiritual nourishment, wise guidance, and strong protection. His tender care of the weak and helpless is a frequent theme of the Word of God (cf. Ps. 25:9; 73:24; Isa. 42:16; Rom. 8:14; Gal. 5:18).

Even in a wilderness, God is able to “prepare a table before [us]” (Ps. 23:5). Compare this assured declaration with the question of the unbelieving Israelites in Ps. 78:19, “Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?” Unbelief says, “Can God?” Faith says, “God can!”

In times of trouble, consider the thoughts found in CH-3. There is grace to help us, “green pastures” to nourish us “which yet [we] have not seen.” Things may look barren and forbidding in the midst of trial, but the Lord’s mercy and grace are still available. “Darkest clouds” will be replace by “bright skies” in His own good time.

A transient valley of shade lies between two lofty hills, Mount Calvary (foreshadowed in Psalm 22), and the heavenly Mount Zion (foreshadowed in Psalm 24; cf. Heb. 12:22-23). But, in company with our all-sufficient risen Saviour, we need have no fear of the journey from the cross to the crown.

The line “My Saviour has my treasure” may refer to treasures in heaven being laid up for the believer (cf. Matt. 6:19-21; I Pet. 1:3-4), or it may simply be a poetic way of saying that the Lord Jesus has the heart’s devotion of the author.

CH-3) Green pastures are before me, which yet I have not seen;
Bright skies will soon be o’er me, where darkest clouds have been.
My hope I cannot measure, my path to life is free.
My Saviour has my treasure, and He will walk with me.

Questions:
1) What is the most comforting and encouraging thought for you in this hymn?

2) What other hymns based on Psalm 23 do you know and love?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | July 28, 2014

If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee

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: Georg Neumark (b. Mar. 16, 1621; d. July 18, 1681); English translation, Catherine Winkworth (b. Sept. 13, 1827; d. July 1, 1878)
Music: Neumark, (also called Bremen), by Georg Neumark

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: The hymn was written in seven stanzas, in 1641. Catherine Winkworth made two English translations, the first in 1855. Many hymnals use only three of the stanzas (CH-1, 3, and 4 of what the Cyber Hymnal calls “Winkworth’s original translation”). That reduction is unfortunate, as the other stanzas also contain some good teaching.

Georg Neumark himself wrote the tune which now bears his name. In the nearly four centuries since, it has been used for about four hundred hymns! In addition, Bach used it in four different cantatas, and for an organ selection. Mendelssohn also used the tune in his oratorio St. Paul.

The hymn is actually rooted in the personal experiences of the author, and is a great testament to his faith. Many spiritual insights grew out of his prevailing hardship when a series of calamities descended upon him.

At the age of twenty, Neumark was robbed by a highwayman, while traveling to take up studies at the University of Konigsberg. All he was left with was a prayer book, and a few coins that he’d sewn in his clothing for safe-keeping. With no money to live on, let alone further his education, he was forced to turn back and seek employment. He wandered from city to city, unable to find work for some time. But it was during those days of frustrated hopes and severe privation that many of his thirty-four hymns were born.

When he was unexpectedly hired as a tutor in the home of a wealthy judge in Kiel, he was filled with praise to God for His provision. He wrote this hymn, calling it “A Song of Comfort: God will care for and help everyone in his own time.” and basing the song on a verse from Psalms.

“Cast your burden on the LORD, And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved” (Ps. 55:22).

CH-1) If thou but suffer God to guide thee
And hope in Him through all thy ways,
He’ll give thee strength, whate’er betide thee,
And bear thee through the evil days.
Who trusts in God’s unchanging love
Builds on the rock that naught can move.

This is followed by a warning against the opposite, allowing anxious cares to overwhelm us (cf. Phil. 4:6):

CH-2) What can these anxious cares avail thee
The never ceasing moans and sighs?
What can it help, if thou bewail thee
O’er each dark moment as it flies?
Our cross and trials do but press
The heavier for our bitterness.

Patient waiting on God is the answer, when we have done all that can humanly be done. He knows our need (cf. Matt. 6:31-33).

CH-3) Be patient and await His leisure
In cheerful hope, with heart content
To take whate’er thy Father’s pleasure
And His discerning love hath sent,
Nor doubt our inmost wants are known
To Him who chose us for His own.

The loving discipline of the Lord, though painful at the time, is meant to purify our motives. God will restore joy, and bring new blessing, in His good time (Heb. 12:3-11).

CH-4) God knows full well when time of gladness
Shall be the needful thing for thee.
When He has tried thy soul with sadness
And from all guile has found thee free,
He comes to thee all unaware
And makes thee own His loving care.

Though we struggle with trials, we can trust the love and grace of God (Phil. 4:19).

CH-7) Sing, pray, and keep His ways unswerving,
Perform thy duties faithfully,
And trust His Word: though undeserving,
Thou yet shalt find it true for thee.
God never yet forsook in need
The soul that trusted Him indeed.

Questions:
1) What important lesson(s) do you see highlighted by this hymn?

2) What other hymns treat our trials in a practical and realistic way?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | July 25, 2014

If Jesus Goes with Me, I’ll Go

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 Austin Miles (b. Jan. 7, 1868; d. Mar. 10, 1946)
Music: Charles Austin Miles

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Austin Miles)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: This gospel song was first published in 1908.

The song has a worthwhile message. It seems strange to me that few hymn books include it, while many use another of Miles’s creations, In the Garden. The latter is rife with virtually meaningless sentiment–especially when those who use it have no idea what garden is being referred to. (For further comments see the page on In the Garden.)

The assurance expressed in the present hymn is based on the promise contained in God’s Word that the Lord Jesus Christ is unfailingly present with His followers, and will be forever. This promise is part of the Great Commission, found in various forms in the Gospels and Acts.

“Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen” (Matt. 28:18-20). “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk. 16:15; cf. Lk. 24:46-48; Jn. 17:18; 20:21; Acts 1:8).

This wonderful fact being so, wherever the Lord leads us, wherever we go to invest our lives in His service, He is with us, and will bless us by His grace.

CH-1) It may be in the valley, where countless dangers hide;
It may be in the sunshine that I, in peace, abide;
But this one thing I know—if it be dark or fair,
If Jesus is with me, I’ll go anywhere!

If Jesus goes with me, I’ll go anywhere!
’Tis heaven to me, where’er I may be, if He is there!
I count it a privilege here, His cross to bear,
If Jesus goes with me, I’ll go anywhere!

Anywhere! Anywhere in obedience to the Lord, confident that if He sends us, He will also provide for us. Abraham took that on faith, leaving Chaldea and “he went out [at God’s command] not knowing where he was going” (Heb. 11:8). Philip did too. He left a successful evangelistic ministry in the city of Samaria, to go out to a lonely desert road at God’s command (Acts 8:26-27).

Austin Miles contrasts the foreign missionary who leaves home and family to travel to some distant place, carrying the gospel, with those who don’t travel far from their home. Both have a ministry for Christ, both have a place to fill.

CH-2) It may be I must carry the blessèd Word of life
Across the burning deserts to those in sinful strife;
And though it be my lot to bear my colours there,
If Jesus goes with me, I’ll go anywhere!

CH-3) But if it be my portion to bear my cross at home,
While others bear their burdens beyond the billow’s foam,
I’ll prove my faith in Him–confess His judgments fair,
If Jesus stays with me, I’ll stay anywhere!

We must not think that a ministry in familiar surroundings is somehow inferior to one far away, facing another language and culture. Nor is one necessarily easier than the other. Each is best if that is where God wants us. He has gifted each differently, and placed us accordingly.

I have a friend who, in her early years, was convinced the Lord wanted her to go to Africa as a missionary. But it never happened. Instead, he gave her a vital ministry of prayer support for missions and missionaries, here at home. Those in service far away need many on the home front who will encourage them, pray for them, and support them materially. “As his part is who goes down to the battle, so shall his part be who stays by the supplies; they shall share alike” (I Sam. 30:24).

CH-4) It is not mine to question the judgment of my Lord,
It is but mine to follow the leadings of His Word;
But if to go or stay, or whether here or there,
I’ll be, with my Saviour, content anywhere!

Questions:
1) Where does the Lord want you to serve Him today? (And how will you serve Him today?)

2) What servant of Christ can you pray for today, and possibly contact to encourage him or her?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Austin Miles)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | July 23, 2014

Tell Me the Stories 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: William Henry Parker (b. Mar. 4, 1845; d. Dec. 2, 1929)
Music: Stories of Jesus, by Frederick Arthur Challinor (b. Nov. 12, 1866; d. June 10, 1952)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: The tune by Frederick Challinor was a prize-winner in a contest sponsored by the National Sunday School Union in London, in its centennial year, 1903.

There is biographical information about William Parker in both the Wordwise and Cyber Hymnal links. Parker wrote the hymn about Jesus’ life and ministry after the children in his Sunday School class asked, “Teacher, tell us another story.” The song was written in 1885, in six stanzas. Many hymnals now use only three (CH-1, 2 and 4).

As of this writing, the Cyber Hymnal does not have the actual fifth stanza, nor do most hymn books include. Here it is–though I think it would work better after CH-1 or 2.

Tell how the sparrow that twitters on yonder tree,
And the sweet meadow-side lily may speak to me–
Give me their message for I would hear
How Jesus taught us our Father’s care.

The author makes no attempt to tell the “stories” of Jesus in an organized or chronological way. He simply reflects the desire of the children to learn more of what the Lord said and did.

CH-1) Tell me the stories of Jesus I love to hear;
Things I would ask Him to tell me if He were here;
Scenes by the wayside, tales of the sea,
Stories of Jesus, tell them to me.

We see, in the Gospels, how the Lord Jesus loved children, and welcomed them, in spite of the attitude of the disciples–who seemed to believe they were a waste of time.

“Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’ And He laid His hands on them and departed from there” (Matt. 19:13-15).

CH-2) First let me hear how the children stood round His knee,
And I shall fancy His blessing resting on me;
Words full of kindness, deeds full of grace,
All in the love light of Jesus’ face.

CH-3 is omitted by most editors. In his Companion to the United Methodist Hymnal, Carlton Young claims it is “thought by Christian educators to be beyond children’s comprehension.” I don’t agree. Other than providing a definition of “chided” (scolded–which children understand well!), I see nothing that could not be meaningful to all but the youngest.

CH-3) Tell me, in accents of wonder, how rolled the sea,
Tossing the boat in a tempest on Galilee;
And how the Maker, ready and kind,
Chided the billows, and hushed the wind.

CH-4 reminds us of the children’s participation in the Triumphal Entry of Christ into Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday.

“A very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD! Hosanna in the highest!’…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”?’” (Matt. 21:8-9, 15-16)

CH-4) Into the city I’d follow the children’s band,
Waving a branch of the palm tree high in my hand.
One of His heralds, yes, I would sing
Loudest hosannas, “Jesus is King!”

CH-5 is also omitted most times. It takes us to Gethsemane, and on to the cross. The only concern I have is that it would have been well to include a stanza on the resurrection. (British hymnals have added one.)

CH-5) Show me that scene in the garden, of bitter pain.
Show me the cross where my Saviour for me was slain.
Sad ones or bright ones, so that they be
Stories of Jesus, tell them to me.

All things considered, I believe this is a fine children’s hymn, and should be taught and explained to them so they can get the full meaning of it.

Questions:
1) What information or incidents would you include in a children’s hymn about Jesus?

2) What hymns do you think are especially useful in working with children?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

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

Older Posts »

Categories

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 107 other followers