Posted by: rcottrill | August 8, 2014

Jesus Is a Friend of Mine

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 Henry Sammis (b. July 6, 1846; d. June 12, 1919)
Music: Daniel Brink Towner (b. Apr. 5, 1850; d. Oct. 3, 1919)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: John Sammis wrote over a hundred hymns, the best known, by far, being Trust and Obey. In addition, appearing in some hymn books is Jesus Is a Friend of Mine, also known as He’s a Friend of Mine (both lines coming from the refrain). The song was written in 1910.

The friendship of the Lord Jesus is mentioned a couple of times in the Gospels. He Himself said to His disciples, “ I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (Jn. 15:15).

That suggests the level of fellowship and intimacy that is experienced between friends. We share our secrets with our friends, because we know they have our best interests at heart, and we’re confident we can trust their loyalty. We value their opinions and seek their counsel. We meet with our friends, and communicate with our friends, and share our lives with them, willing not only to share the good times, but go through the hard times together. Think of how these qualities apply to our greatest Friend of all.

American clergyman Henry Ward Beecher added another significant thought: “It is one of the severest tests of friendship to tell your friend his faults.” Proverbs puts it this way: “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance [the person] of his friend” (Prov. 27:17). Sharing with one another, even when it may occasionally involve constructive criticism, brings new knowledge, understanding and growth. Of course, in this case, there is nothing in Christ to be corrected, but the thought works well the other way, as we are taught by the Word of God.

The other reference to the friendship of Christ grew out of a criticism of something He apparently did commonly. The rigid, rule-keeping Jewish leaders observed, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them” (Lk. 15:2)–meaning that Jesus welcomed the opportunity to meet with sinners and have fellowship with them.

A couple of things should be noted about these “sinners,” however. First, they were so labelled by the self-righteous Pharisees. We mustn’t conclude that they were all corrupt and wicked–though some may have been. Most got that designation (as did Jesus Himself, Jn. 9:24) because they did not live up to the warped view of righteousness held by their critics.

The second thing we should note is that these were not blatant Christ-rejecters (as were so many of the scribes and Pharisees) but sincere seekers. These sinners sought Him out (Matt. 9:10), and “drew near to Him to hear Him” (Lk. 15:1), and they “sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him [became His followers]” (Mk. 2:15).

Out of arrogant jealousy the same critics had rejected John the Baptist because he was more austere and distant, and didn’t make a practice of sitting down to meals with the people to whom he ministered. Now the Lord is in the wrong because He does so. Here is Christ’s cutting comment:

“John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ (Matt. 11:18-19).

As Christians, we own Christ as both Lord and Saviour. But He is also one who has promised to be with us (Matt. 28:20). He cares about us, sympathizing with us in our struggles, and promises to help us (Heb. 4:14-16). Is that not a Friend? It is a thrilling thing to know that “Jesus is a Friend of mine!”

CH-1) Why should I charge my soul with care?
The wealth of every mine
Belongs to Christ, God’s Son and Heir,
And He’s a Friend of mine.

Yes, He’s a Friend of mine,
And He with me doth all things share;
Since all is Christ’s, and Christ is mine,
Why should I have a care?
For Jesus is a Friend of mine.

CH-3) He daily spreads a glorious feast,
And at His table dine
The whole creation, man and beast,
And He’s a Friend of mine.

CH-4) And when He comes in bright array,
And leads the conqu’ring line,
It will be glory then to say,
That He’s a Friend of mine.

Questions:
1) What aspects of the friendship of the Lord have been a special blessing to you?

2) The Cyber Hymnal lists 58 hymns under the topical heading Christ the Friend. How many of these do you know and use?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | August 6, 2014

It Is Glory Just to Walk with Him

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: Avis Marguerite Burgeson Christiansen (b. Oct. 11, 1895; d. Jan. 14, 1985).
Music: Haldor Lillenas (b. Nov. 19, 1885; d. Aug. 18, 1959)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Encouraged by her godly grandmother, Avis wrote her first poem at the age of ten. Then, beginning in 1916, and for 60 years afterward, she wrote dozens of fine gospel songs. She lived her entire life in the city of Chicago, and was married to Ernest Christiansen, a vice president of Moody Bible Institute. The couple had two daughters. In 1918 Avis Christiansen wrote a hymn about walking with the Lord that reflects something of the delight she found in that.

Early on in the Bible “walking” with the Lord is used to describe one who lives according to the will of God, and lives in fellowship with Him, day by day. It is a life of consistent faith and obedience toward God. Both Enoch (Gen. 5:22) and Noah (Gen. 6:9) are said to have walked with God.

In the era covered by the four Gospels, Christ was on earth, and it was possible for His followers to walk with the Lord in a physical sense. There we read of the experience of a couple on the road to Emmaus, after Christ’s death and resurrection. “So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them” (Lk. 24:15). Their later response, looking back, is revealing: “They said to one another, ‘Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?’” (vs. 32).

Today, it’s different. We walk by faith, not by sight” (II Cor. 5:7). But through faith we are able to fellowship with the Lord, in His Word, and by prayer. “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).

CH-1) It is glory just to walk with Him whose blood has ransomed me;
It is rapture for my soul each day.
It is joy divine to feel Him near where’er my path may be.
Bless the Lord, it’s glory all the way!

It is glory just to walk with Him,
It is glory just to walk with Him,
He will guide my steps aright
Through the vale and o’er the height,
It is glory just to walk with Him.

Most of us enjoy a pleasant walk, over relatively easy terrain, on a sunny, warm day, with the beauty of nature all around us, and perhaps a friend to enjoy the experience with us. But it wouldn’t be so enjoyable in a violent wind storm, a crashing thunderstorm with torrents of rain, or when feeling our way in the dark along a narrow ledge over a towering precipice. What if you’re walking into possible danger?

What I’m trying to illustrate is the difference in daily experience between good times and bad, between pleasurable days and painful days, delightful days and difficult days. It’s easier to imagine the Lord is with us when “skies above are clear,” as Mrs. Christiansen puts it. But what about “when the shadows fall.” We have His faithful word of promise that He will not abandon us, even then.

“He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Heb. 13:5).

The Greek for the word “never” in that verse is ou me. It is a very strong expression, meaning: not under any circumstances, not under any conditions. Here is what the Amplified Bible does with it.

“He [God] Himself has said, ‘I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!].’”

CH-2) It is glory when the shadows fall to know that He is near.
O what joy to simply trust and pray!
It is glory to abide in Him when skies above are clear.
Yes, with Him, it’s glory all the way!

Finally, in heaven, we look forward to the joy of walking with the Lord forever. It’s then “the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them [the saints] and lead them to living fountains of waters” (Rev. 7:17). And as David declares, “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11).

CH-3) ’Twill be glory when I walk with Him on heaven’s golden shore,
Never from His side again to stray.
’Twill be glory, wondrous glory with the Saviour evermore,
Everlasting glory all the way!

Questions:
1) What circumstance have you faced in the last week for which it’s encouraging to know the Lord has been with you?

2) What do you do when it doesn’t feel as though He’s near?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | August 4, 2014

In the Hour of Trial

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: James Montgomery (b. Nov. 4, 1771; d. Apr. 30, 1854)
Music: Penitence, by Spencer Lane (b. Apr. 7, 1843; d. Aug. 10, 1903)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Montgomery first published this hymn in 1834. It has undergone many alterations since, in some cases by Montgomery himself.

As noted in the Wordwise Hymns link, the original first line, “Jesus, pray for me,” has been considered problematic, since many have indicated there is no Bible text suggesting that Jesus prays for us in heaven. The text that inspired the hymn refers to Christ’s prayer ministry while he was on earth.

“The Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren’” (Lk. 22:31-32).

But that is during the time of Christ’s earthly ministry, not after He ascended to the right hand of the Father. Nor is the Cyber Hymnal’s “Jesus, plead for me” necessarily better. His advocacy (I Jn. 2:1-2) may simply consist of His presence in heaven, as the glorified Conqueror of sin and death. It is inconceivable that He has to argue the Father into forgiving us! A later manuscript in Montgomery’s handwriting has “Jesus stand by me.” Other emendations have been tried: “Jesus help Thou me,” or “Saviour strengthen me.”

The fourth stanza has also received varied treatment. Some hymnals simply omit it. Others have changed it considerably. Montgomery’s original read:

When, in dust and ashes, to the grave I sink,
When heaven’s glory flashes o’er the shelving brink,
On Thy truth relying, through that mortal strife,
Lord, receive me, dying, to eternal life.

Another has tried the opening line of the last stanza as:

When my lamp low burning sinks to death’s last pain;
Earth to earth returning, dust to dust again;
On Thy truth relying, in that hour of strife,
Jesus, take me, dying, to eternal life.

Frances A. Hutton (1811-1877) changed this to what is found in the Cyber Hymnal:

CH-4) When my last hour cometh, fraught with strife and pain;
When my dust returneth to the dust again;
On that truth relying through that mortal strife,
Jesus take me, dying, to eternal life.

Likely it is because this reference to dying and turning to dust is considered rather morbid that some elect simply to drop the last stanza.

Dying is the fourth great challenge covered by this hymn. The other three stanzas deal with three basic problems every Christian faces: persecution, sinful pleasures, and pain.

CH-1 prays for aid in times of testing, when we are tempted to turn from following the Lord. That seems to relate particularly to Peter’s experience, and what the Lord mentions in the Luke passage. Peter had boasted, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble” (Matt. 26:33). Then fear caused him to deny the Lord (vs. 69-75).

CH-1) In the hour of trial, Jesus, plead for me,
Lest by base denial I depart from Thee.
When Thou seest me waver, with a look recall,
Nor for fear or favour suffer me to fall.

In CH-2 the author asks for God to remind him of all Christ endured in Gethsemane and at Calvary, when a desire for comfort and ease might cause him to abandon the will of God or spiritual values, adopting instead this world’s passing pleasures of sin (cf. Moses, Heb. 11:24-26).

CH-2) With forbidden pleasures would this vain world charm,
Or its sordid treasures spread to work me harm,
Bring to my remembrance sad Gethsemane,
Or, in darker semblance, cross-crowned Calvary.

CH-3 deals with the “sorrow, toil and woe,” and the “pain” that attends every life lived out on earth. Whether it’s cancer or the common cold, we are all subject to such things. What a blessing to know that God has His good purpose in it all (Rom. 8:28), and we can cast our cares upon Him (Ps. 55:22; I Pet. 5:7).

CH-3) Should Thy mercy send me sorrow, toil and woe,
Or should pain attend me on my path below,
Grant that I may never fail Thy hand to see;
Grant that I may ever cast my care on Thee.

Questions:
1) What is it that you personally struggle the most with? Will you seek the Lord’s help today for this?

2) Is this a hymn used with understanding by your church? If not, could you suggest that?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | August 1, 2014

In Tenderness He Sought 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: William Spencer Walton (b. Jan. 15, 1850; d. Aug. 26, 1906)
Music: Clarendon, by Adoniram Judson Gordon (b. Apr. 13, 1836; d. Feb, 2, 1895)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Mr. Walton was a career missionary in South Africa. He wrote a number of books, particularly about his experiences, and the Cyber Hymnal lists three hymns of his. Published in 1894, the present one is by far the best known. It is an excellent gospel song, revelling, as it does, in the joy of salvation from sin, through the grace of God and the finished work of Christ.

T he word tender (or tenderness) is perhaps not one we commonly use today to describe human feelings and motivations. (We’re more likely to use the term of a good steak!) But the psalmists speak frequently of the “tender mercies” of God.

“The LORD is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works: (Ps. 145:9).

“Let Your tender mercies come to me, that I may live; for Your law is my delight” (Ps. 119:77)

Frequently such prayers involve a plea for God’s compassion and mercy in the light of former sinfulness.

“Remember, O LORD, Your tender mercies and Your lovingkindnesses, for they are from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions” (Ps. 25:6-7).

“Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O LORD; let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve me. For innumerable evils have surrounded me; my iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up” (Ps. 40:11-12).

“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions” (Ps. 51:1).

“Oh, do not remember former iniquities against us! Let Your tender mercies come speedily to meet us, for we have been brought very low” (Ps. 79:8).

In light of this emphasis, the words of Zacharias in the New Testament become powerfully significant. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Lk. 1:67), he spoke of the coming birth of the Saviour and said:

“Through the tender mercy of our God…the Dayspring [dawning] from on high has visited us (vs. 78).

This is reminiscent of the messianic promise of Malachi that “the Sun of Righteousness shall arise” (Mal. 4:2), and of the glorified Christ speaking of Himself as “the Bright and Morning Star” (Rev. 22:16). The Dayspring is the Lord Jesus Christ.

When Christ, who is “the light of the world” (Jn. 8:12) comes into our lives, a new day dawns, and the darkness is dispelled. Through faith in Christ, God has cleansed us of our sins (Eph. 1:7; I Jn. 1:7), and “delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col. 1:13; cf. Acts 26:17-18). That is tender mercy indeed!

CH-1) In tenderness He sought me,
Weary and sick with sin;
And on His shoulders brought me
Back to His fold again.
While angels in His presence sang
Until the courts of heaven rang.

Oh, the love that sought me!
Oh, the blood that bought me!
Oh, the grace that brought me to the fold,
Wondrous grace that brought me to the fold.

CH-2) He washed the bleeding sin wounds,
And poured in oil and wine;
He whispered to assure me,
“I’ve found thee, thou art Mine;”
I never heard a sweeter voice;
It made my aching heart rejoice!

Not only do we have light now, through Christ, we look forward to the dawning of eternity, when all that is sinful and corrupt will be wiped away forever.

CH-5) So while the hours are passing,
All now is perfect rest,
I’m waiting for the morning,
The brightest and the best,
When He will call us to His side,
To be with Him, His spotless bride.

Questions:
1) In what way have you experienced the tender mercies of God today?

2) In what way is darkness a good symbol for sin?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

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

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