Posted by: rcottrill | April 2, 2014

Tell It to 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.

Words: in German, Edmund Simon Lorenz (b. July 13, 1854; d. July 10, 1942); English translation, Jeremiah Eames Rankin (b. Jan. 2, 1828; d. Nov. 28, 1904)
Music: Edmund Simon Lorenz

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The German version of the song was published in 1876, and the English translation in 1880. (That same year, Rankin also gave us the song, God Be With You Till We Meet Again.) Both Lorenz and Rankin served as pastors in the United States. In addition, Edmund Lorenz founded the Lorenz Publishing Company in 1890, which has been administered by succeeding generations of the Lorenz family, and continues to produce a variety of church music to this day. (It’s now known as the Lorenz Corporation.)

As I note in the Wordwise Hymns link, this is one of the most repetitious gospel songs we have. Some two dozen times we’re told to “tell it to Jesus”–and you can add another one if you include the title! But there are certainly things that bear repeating, and this is one! So there may be merit to this song, simple and repetitious though it is. The Wordwise Hymns link also gives you a Bluegrass version of the song.

CH-1) Are you weary, are you heavyhearted?
Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.
Are you grieving over joys departed?
Tell it to Jesus alone.

Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus,
He is a Friend that’s well known.
You’ve no other such a friend or brother,
Tell it to Jesus alone.

T he Bible is a book of prayer. The word itself is used over three hundred times, and that does not account for similar terms–beseeching God, calling on God, seeking God, and so on. Add to that all the times we read of individuals or groups actually praying. In his book All the Prayers of the Bible, author Herbert Lockyer lists over six hundred and fifty of them.

Prayer is both a privilege and a duty, both appropriate and helpful.

1) Prayer is a privilege. Almighty God, the Ruler of all the universe, gives us a gracious invitation to talk with Him, day or night, and bring our needs before Him, promising that He is a prayer-hearing, prayer-answering God (Ps. 50:15; Isa. 55:6; Jer. 33:3). Further, prayer is a privilege won for us at the cross. A new and living way into the presence of God was opened for us by our Saviour (Heb. 10:19-22).

2) Prayer is a duty. We have a responsibility to engage in prayer (Lk. 18:1). It is commanded in the Scriptures (I Thess. 5:17). And there are many who need our prayers (our intercession). Would we deny a cup of water to a thirsty soul, if it were in our power to give it? No, not if we have sensitivity to those around us. And many more needs can be met by the Lord, in answer to our prayers–even those of individuals on the other side of the globe can benefit (II Thess. 3:1).

3) Prayer is appropriate. There are many kinds of prayer. Because we are coming to the Lord God, prayers of worship, and of praise and thanksgiving are certainly appropriate (Ps. 34:1; 103:1-5). And since He is holy, and our lives are marred by sin, prayers of confession are also suitable and timely (I Jn. 1:9).

4) Prayer is helpful. For our own needs, and for our spiritual growth, we ought to pray. The resources of heaven are limitless, and we come to a God who is both loving and wise. He will answer according to what is best (Lk. 11:9-10; Heb. 4:15-16; Jas. 1:5; I Jn. 5:14). It is this area that is the main focus of the present song.

CH-1. Are you weary, or discouraged? Are you grieving some sense of loss? These are things you can talk to the Lord about.

CH-2. Do you sorrow over your own faults and failings? Do you have sins that perhaps only you know about? Then, talk to the Lord about these things, seeking His protection against them.

CH-2) Do the tears flow down your cheeks unbidden?
Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.
Have you sins that to men’s eyes are hidden?
Tell it to Jesus alone.

CH-3. Do you fret over sorrowful losses that may come up ahead? Are you anxious over the trials and troubles that tomorrow may bring? Then pray, tell the Lord all about it.

CH-3) Do you fear the gathering clouds of sorrow?
Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.
Are you anxious what shall be tomorrow?
Tell it to Jesus alone.

CH-4. Unless the Lord comes first, which He may, each of us will die. Does that bother you? Or are you longing for the Lord to come and usher in eternity’s cloudless day? Tell the Lord and seek His grace.

CH-4) Are you troubled at the thought of dying?
Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.
For Christ’s coming kingdom are you sighing?
Tell it to Jesus alone.

Questions:
1) Which of the concerns mentioned above is particularly on your own heart today? Will you take it to the Lord in prayer?

2) Which of the concerned mentioned is a burden for someone you know? Can you bear them up in prayer today? And are you ready to become a partial answer to your own prayer, by offering a helping hand?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | March 31, 2014

Softly, Now, the Light of Day

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.

Words: George Washington Doane (b. May 27, 1799; d. April ___, 1859)
Music: Seymour, by Carl Maria Friedrich Ernst von Weber (b. Nov. 18, 1786; d. June 5, 1826)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (George Doane)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Von Weber was a classical composer. The hymn tune was taken from his opera Oberon. As noted in the Cyber Hymnal, the tune Mercy is also used with this hymn (and with Holy Ghost, with Light Divine).

George Doane (1799-1859) was christened George Washington Doane, as he was born in the year America’s beloved first president died. A scholar and college professor, in addition he became a bishop in the Episcopal (or Anglican) denomination. A bishop who succeeded him wrote of Doane:

“He was a pioneer in the work of education, ahead of his time in a good many things, and his name is remembered not by the troubles he was compelled to face, but by his greatness as a man and a bishop.

D r. Doane published a book of poetry in 1824 called Songs by the Way. In the volume was an 1824 hymn poem called “Evening,” written for St. Mary’s Hall, a girls’ seminary founded by Bishop Doane. The hymn was headed by the text:

“Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice” (Ps. 141:2).

Sometimes, in the bustle of our busy lives, there’s an almost constant din falling on our physical ears, all but drowning out the voice of God to our souls. Filling every waking moment of our days with sound seems to be the modern trend. And unfortunately, that is often the adopted norm in the services of the church. Moments of personal meditation and silent waiting on God must seem to some a boring waste of time. But in contrast, God says in His Word, “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10).

One of the common events in nature through which God has much to say to us is sunsets. A sunset marks the end of another day. That is an appropriate time for reflection. Did we invest its hours and minutes for God? Or did sinful weakness cause us to stumble, bringing Him dishonour? As the Lord sought to walk with our first parents in the cool evening of Eden (Gen. 3:8-9), so He desires to meet with us. But if we, like Adam and Eve, have failed Him, perhaps we are more reluctant to draw near.

There’s another significance of the sunset as well. It is a picture and a reminder of death. Just as we speak of the sunset of day, we sometimes refer to the sunset of life. And there is sometimes about death a dread of approaching darkness. It is “the valley of the shadow.” But believers are assured of the presence of the Lord, even then (Ps. 23:4), and of the coming of an even brighter sunrise. He is “the Bright and Morning Star” (Rev. 22:16). In the dawning of eternal day “the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings” (Mal. 4:2).

Notice how the hymn gives an atmosphere of intimacy with God, by using the first person in the opening stanza. Doane’s meditation on the silent approach of nightfall begins:

CH-1) Softly now the light of day
Fades upon my sight away;
Free from care, from labour free,
Lord, I would commune with Thee.

CH-2) Thou, whose all pervading eye
Naught escapes, without, within,
Pardon each infirmity,
Open fault, and secret sin.

Finally, the hymn makes the connection to life’s final sunset (again using the first person):

CH-3) Soon for me the light of day
Shall forever pass away;
Then, from sin and sorrow free,
Take me, Lord, to dwell with Thee.

Some hymn books omit CH-4. It does seem to me somewhat anticlimactic, as CH-3 makes a good ending to the hymn. It may also be poetically inferior to the first three, but I’ll include it here.

CH-4) Thou who, sinless, yet hast known
All of man’s infirmity;
Then, from Thine eternal throne,
Jesus, look with pitying eye.

Questions:
1) What other times or events, other than sunsets, often prompt us to introspection–looking back, and looking ahead?

2) What is your favourite evening hymn (or hymn for the closing of a church service)?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (George Doane)
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | March 28, 2014

Revive Thy Work, O Lord

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.

Words: Albert Midlane (b. Jan. 23, 1825; d. Feb. 27, 1909)
Music: James McGranahan (b. July 4, 1840; d. July 9, 1907)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The tune I’m most familiar with for this hymn is an unnamed one by James McGranahan. It is used in a number of hymn books, including the Worship and Service Hymnal, and Living Hymns. McGranahan’s tune includes a refrain, adapted from CH-5, which then is not used.

Revive! Revive!
And give refreshing showers;
The glory shall be all Thine own;
The blessing shall be ours.

The Cyber Hymnal suggests two other tunes for the hymn, and there is a fourth that is used by still others. The latter is called Swabia, after the birthplace of the composer, Johann Martin Spiess (1715-1772). (Swabia was a territory in the south of Germany.)

The author of the 1858 text, Albert Midlane, lived on the Isle of Wight, an island in the English Channel, off the coast of England. Mr. Midlane credits a Sunday School teacher, with encouraging him to write hymns–and he went on to write hundreds of them.

T his particular hymn was based on the prayer of the prophet Habakkuk for the people of Judah. His prayer was for the Lord to show His delivering power, as they faced the threat of an attack by the Chaldeans.

“O LORD, revive Your work in the midst of the years! In the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy” (Hab. 3:2).

It’s not difficult to see a secondary application of this prayer to the spiritual condition of the church–whether, like the church at Ephesus, we have “left our first love” (Rev. 2:4), and there isn’t the warmth of loving fellowship there once was (cf. Eph. 1:15). Or, we have compromised with those who teach error, like the church at Pergamos (Rev. 2:14-15). Or perhaps we have grown cold and self-satisfied, like the church at Laodicea (Rev. 3:15-17).

In all such cases, and others too, there is a need for spiritual renewal and revival. With the Apostle Paul we cry, “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light” Eph. 5:14). Revival, narrowly defined, involves the repentance and restoration of born again believers who have strayed, grown cold, and allowed worldliness and carnality to get a grip on their lives (cf. I Cor. 3:1-3). Though conversions often accompany a widespread revival, it’s the church–made up of those already saved–that first experiences the revitalization of the Spirit of God.

CH-1) Revive Thy work, O Lord!
Thy mighty arm make bare;
Speak with the voice that wakes the dead,
And make Thy people hear.

CH-2) Revive Thy work, O Lord,
Disturb this sleep of death;
Quicken the smold’ring embers now
By Thine almighty breath.

As the psalmist cries, “Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?” (Ps. 85:6). When that happens to an individual, or to a community of believers, several things will be in evidence. Among them will be:

¤ A repentance of sin, and a new desire to live holy lives
¤ A renewed love for the Lord, and a longing to know Him and serve Him
¤ An increase and deepening of the study and application of God’s Word
¤ A love for the people of God and a desire to fellowship regularly with them
¤ A new earnestness and power in prevailing prayer
¤ A love for the great hymns and gospel songs of the church, and for singing them with others
¤ A greater passion to witness for Christ, and see others come to know Him

CH-3) Revive Thy work, O Lord!
Create soul-thirst for Thee;
And hungering for the bread of life
O may our spirits be.

CH-4) Revive Thy work, O Lord!
Exalt Thy precious name;
And, by the Holy Ghost, our love
For Thee and Thine inflame.

Questions:
1) If the above are evidences of a spiritual renewal, what are the opposites–that is, the evidence that one is needed?

2) Is there, in your life, evidence that you need spiritual renewal? What will you do about it?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | March 26, 2014

Precious Promise

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.

Words: Nathanael Niles (b. Sept. 15, 1835; d. ______ )
Music: Philip Paul Bliss (b. July 9, 1838; d. Dec. 29, 1876)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Nathanael Niles was a New York City lawyer in the mid-nineteenth century. The date of his death is as yet unknown to me. (Perhaps around the turn of the twentieth century.) He wrote this gospel song in 1873, at the age of thirty-eight, when he was commuting to work on the train.

T he text upon which the theme of the hymn is based is this one from Psalms:

The Lord promises David (and us), “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye” (Ps. 32:8).

Literally, “upon you My eye,” says the Hebrew. Various modern translations recognize the need to clarify and complete the thought in the final clause: “I will counsel you with My eye upon you” (NASB); “I will counsel you and watch over you” (NIV).

The Lord instructs and teaches us through His Word. But He is also “a very present help” (Ps. 46:1), with us, watching over us, and continuing to provide guidance for us in each circumstance and situation. “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5) is the believer’s reassurance “on the way from earth to heaven” (CH-1).

CH-1) Precious promise God hath given
To the weary passerby,
On the way from earth to heaven,
“I will guide thee with Mine eye.”

I will guide thee, I will guide thee,
I will guide thee with Mine eye
On the way from earth to heaven,
I will guide thee with Mine eye.

What of times of temptation (CH-2), times when our “trusted watchers fly”? (I’m assuming he means human helpers who turn away from us in times of trouble, the way Job’s acquaintances did from him.) What then? The Bible says, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (I Cor. 10:13). And He will guide us to that “way of escape,” giving us the grace to take it.

CH-2) When temptations almost win thee
And thy trusted watchers fly,
Let this promise ring within thee,
“I will guide thee with Mine eye.”

Mr. Nils also reminds us of the discouragement of having “secret hopes” perish, lifelong dreams that seem to crumble to dust. What then? Then the Lord is still with us, and His plan for us will prove to be far better than any we could devise for ourselves. When the Lord seems to close one door, prayerfully watch for another to open.

King David had a desire to build a temple for the Lord, but God said no. Though David would help to assemble materials for the project, it would be his son Solomon who would build the house of God. For David, it was a dream that was to go unfulfilled. However, the Lord told him that, instead of the king building Him a house, He was going to build a house for David, in the sense of a household, a royal family, a dynasty (II Sam. 7:1-29).

We call this promise the Davidic Covenant. And while Israel’s beautiful temple was later destroyed, “[David’s] house and [his] kingdom shall be established forever….[His] throne shall be established forever” (vs. 16), through David’s greater son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The promise to Mary was, “The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David” (Lk. 1:32).

CH-3) When thy secret hopes have perished
In the grave of years gone by,
Let this promise still be cherished,
“I will guide thee with Mine eye.”

Finally, we can be assured that the Lord will guide His children safely “through the valley of the shadow of death” (Ps. 23:4). With Paul we are confident that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (II Cor. 5:8). The apostle had “a desire to depart and be with Christ, which [he says] is far better” (Phil. 1:23). If, for the Christian, “to live is Christ,” then we can say with confidence that “to die is gain” (vs. 21).

CH-4) When the shades of life are falling
And the hour has come to die,
Hear thy trusty Pilot calling,
“I will guide thee with Mine eye.”

Questions:
1) In what way is it a blessing and an encouragement that the Lord is watching over us, and knows us through and through?

2) In what way is this also a warning and a corrective in our life?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | March 24, 2014

O God of Bethel

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.

Words: Philip Doddridge (b. June 26, 1702; d. Oct. 26, 1751)
Music: Salzburg (or Haydn), by Johann Michael Haydn (b. Sept. 14, 1737; d. Aug. 10, 1806)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Philip Doddridge)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Salzburg is not the tune given by the Cyber Hymnal, but it’s the one I’m more familiar with being used for this hymn. Johann Michael Haydn was the brother of the more famous composer, Franz Josef Haydn.

P astor Doddridge wrote this hymn for use on January 16th, 1737, at the conclusion of a message he planned to preach on Jacob. After he cheated his brother Esau, the latter had threatened to kill him (Gen. 27:41), and Jacob fled from home. Alone in the wilds he was confronted by God, who reiterated that he (not his elder brother Esau) was the one through whom the Abrahamic Covenant would be fulfilled (Gen. 28:13-15). Given the kind of man Jacob had shown himself to be, this was a demonstration of sovereign grace on God’s part.

In recognition of the fact that he had met Jehovah God in that desolate wilderness, Jacob named the place Bethel, Beyth El in Hebrew, meaning House of God (Gen. 28:17-19). When the Lord met him again in later years, He identified Himself as “the God of Bethel” (Gen. 31:13), and clearly Jacob continued to have a special remembrance of the site (cf. Gen. 35:3), and the Lord had become to him El Beyth El, “God of the House of God” (vs. 7).

The original hymn follows the biblical account closely. However, it has been subjected to seemingly endless tinkering over the years, changes that obscure its connection with what happened to Jacob. For example, some editors have changed “God of Bethel” to “God of Ages,” or “God of our fathers,” or something else. But why? If the Lord calls Himself the God of Bethel, who are we to complain? Can a service leader or pastor not explain the meaning of the phrase. Don’t capitulate; educate!

But now I want to reverse myself in a sense, and point out what I see as a major flaw in this hymn. One that merely changing a few words does not correct. The revision posted on the Cyber Hymnal site has much to commend it. However, it does not entirely remove the problem.

Earlier incidents in the life of Jacob reveal him to have been a cheat and a deceiver. And when he meets God at Bethel, Jacob does not even seem to be a genuine believer. We can see that when, true to form, he tries to make a deal with the Lord (italics mine):

“Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God’” (Gen. 28:21).

It’s as though he’s saying, If God will do what I want–bring me back home safely–then He can have the privilege of being my God”–which strongly implies that he isn’t Jacob’s God as yet. And we need to notice another thing: the Lord had already promised Jacob that He would do precisely that, bring him safely back home (vs. 15). But Jacob must have the promise actually fulfilled before he’s ready to commit himself.

This is a conditional, I’ll-love-you-if kind of love, and it’s hardly a glowing example of faith! Nor is it, surely, an attitude worthy of being glorified in a hymn. But that’s exactly what Doddridge has done. The hymn changes Jacob’s “my” to the congregation’s “our,” but otherwise the gist of the text is here. Note how closely his original, with it’s repeated “if,” parallels the words of Scripture (Gen. 28:20-22).

3) If Thou, through each perplexing path,
Wilt be our constant Guide;
If Thou wilt daily bread supply,
And raiment wilt provide;

4) If Thou wilt spread Thy shield around,
Till these our wanderings cease,
And at our Father’s loved abode,
Our souls arrive in peace:

5) To Thee, as to our Covenant God,
We’ll our whole selves resign;
And count that not our tenth alone,
But all we have is Thine.

The version in the Cyber Hymnal (a 1781 revision by John Logan) does perhaps make the earlier part of the hymn more worthy of our use. But there is still, in the final stanza, the implication that we’re putting conditions on our allegiance to Almighty God.

CH-5) Such blessings from Thy gracious hand
Our humble prayers implore;
And Thou shalt be our chosen God,
And portion evermore.

“And [if Thou wilt come through for us] Thou shalt be our chosen God.” How dare we try to make deals with Almighty God, and have the audacity to call them “humble prayers”! Especially since, in infinite grace, He has already promised abundant blessings to us, undeserving as we are (cf. Rom. 8:32; Eph. 1:7; 2:7). The hymn has been greatly improved by some editors by simply omitting the final stanza.

Questions:
1) Do you agree or disagree with the point I’m making here?

2) What is a more worthy approach to God for Jacob (and for us)?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Philip Doddridge)
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | March 21, 2014

Never Give Up

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.

Words: Frances Jane (Fanny) Crosby (b. Mar. 24, 1820; d. Feb. 12, 1915)
Music: Ira Allan Sankey (b. Aug. 30, 1874; d. Dec. 30, 1915)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This gospel song was one of Fanny’s later creations, published in 1903. Ira Allan Sankey was the son of Ira David Sankey, who was for many years associated with the ministry of Dwight L. Moody. The son became president of the Biglow and Main Publishing Company, responsible for publishing many of Fanny Crosby’s songs.

Some fifteen times (with the refrains) we have the word “never” here. Fanny is urging us not to abandon the work of the Lord, not to be a deserter of the cause. The emphasis reminded me of a famous speech given in October of 1941, by Winston Churchill. With the war raging in Europe, and England under attack, and having come through the Blitz (1940-41), he said to the boys at Harrow School:

“For everyone, surely, what we have gone through in this period–I am addressing myself to the School–surely from this period of ten months this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

In the Bible, this kind of persistence is described with such expressions as persevering and being steadfast. Godly Job, in the Old Testament, is set before us a an example of perseverance in a time of severe trial and suffering (Jas. 5:11). And we are taught that, when we trust in the Lord as Job did, the eventual outcome of our trials can be a persevering (strong) faith (Rom. 5:3-4).

CH-1) Never be sad or desponding,
If thou hast faith to believe.
Grace, for the duties before thee,
Ask of thy God and receive.

Never give up, never give up,
Never give up to thy sorrows,
Jesus will bid them depart.
Trust in the Lord, trust in the Lord,
Sing when your trials are greatest,
Trust in the Lord and take heart.

One of the key areas needing this kind of steady persistence is in our prayer life. Sometimes there will be a temptation to give up, and stop praying, when the answer doesn’t come quickly, or it isn’t what we’d expect. But God’s Word counsels us to be “patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer” (Rom. 12:12).

“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18).

CH-2) What if thy burdens oppress thee;
What though thy life may be drear;
Look on the side that is brightest,
Pray, and thy path will be clear.

We would perhaps debate the unqualified optimism of this hymn at some points. CH-2 promises: “Pray, and thy path will be clear.” It isn’t always that cut and dried. As we pray, and persist in prayer, the way ahead may well become clearer. But because He wants us to continue trusting in Him, the future is sometimes left uncertain, and we simply need to cling to the Lord day by day.

Another area where perseverance is necessary is in resisting satanic temptation.

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world” (I Pet. 5:8-9).

Our service for Christ is another area that patience and “stick-to-it-iveness” is required, if we are to bear fruit for eternity.

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (I Cor. 15:58).

CH-3) Never be sad or desponding,
There is a morrow for thee;
Soon thou shalt dwell in its brightness,
There with the Lord thou shalt be.

CH-4) Never be sad or desponding,
Lean on the arm of thy Lord;
Dwell in the depths of His mercy,
Thou shalt receive thy reward.

Questions:
1) What is the remedy for those who are discouraged and tempted to give up?

2) Is there some discouraged servant of God whom you can help and encourage today?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | March 19, 2014

May the Grace of Christ

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.

Words: John Newton (b. July 24, 1725; d. Dec. 21:1807)
Music: Sardis, arranged from Romance for Violin, Opus 40, Number 1, by Ludwig van Beethoven (b. Dec. 17, 1770; d. Mar. 26, 1827)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (John Newton)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This hymn, published in Olney Hymns, in 1779, surely ranks as one of the shortest in common use. It was originally composed as one eight-line stanza. But to suit tunes such as Sardis, it has been broken into two four-line stanzas.

Graphic May the Grace- NewtonHere is a copy of the hymn exactly as it appears in Olney Hymns. You’ll notice what seems to us an oddity, though it was common in the printing of that time. The lower case letter “s” looks quite a bit like our letter “f,” unless it appears at the end of a word. Thus, the word boundless looks like boundlefs, and possess like poffefs.

I also noticed that while Saviour is spelled with a “u” (as we Canadians are used to doing), the word favor is not.

These technicalities aside, this is a beautiful little hymn. Given that it is also doctrinally rich and practically useful, it’s unfortunate more hymnals don’t include it. As the title above the hymn indicates, it paraphrases the benediction found in Second Corinthians 13 verse 14:

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God [the Father], and the communion of [or created by] the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.”

The hymn was written to be sung at the end of a Sunday service, or to conclude one of the cottage prayer meetings Newton established in the village of Olney. It is a Trinitarian hymn, referring to the three Persons of the Trinity and includes a quality to be identified with each–though certainly not to be thought of as exclusive to each.

1) The grace of Christ. Though grace was displayed in Old Testament times, a super-abundant flow of grace began with the coming of Christ. “Of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace [grace heaped upon grace]. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (Jn. 1:16-17).

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (II Cor. 8:9).

2) The love of God the Father. It was the love of God that prompted Him to send His Son to be the Saviour desperately needed by a lost and dying world. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16).

“When the kindness and the love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Tit. 3:4-7).

3) The favour of the Holy Spirit. Observe that the text speaks of “communion” (or fellowship). That is the “favour” of which Newton speaks, and he brings it in at line seven. As the Amplified Bible has it, it’s “the presence and fellowship (the communion and sharing together, and participation) in the Holy Spirit” that believers enjoy. “The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5).

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). And these are qualities upon with true Christian fellowship is based.

“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfil my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (Phil. 2:1-2).

May the grace of Christ our Saviour
And the Father’s boundless love
With the Holy Spirit’s favour,
Rest upon us from above.
Thus may we abide in union
With each other and the Lord,
And possess, in sweet communion,
Joys which earth cannot afford.

By simply changing the pronouns, an interesting application of this hymn was provided for, many years after it was written. If third-person pronounces are used, it becomes a beautiful benediction hymn for the conclusion of a wedding ceremony. It becomes the congregation’s prayer for the newly married couple.

May the grace of Christ our Saviour
And the Father’s boundless love
With the Holy Spirit’s favour,
Rest upon them from above.
Thus may they abide in union
With each other and the Lord,
And possess, in sweet communion,
Joys which earth cannot afford.

Questions:
1) How sad that there are divisions and conflicts in many local churches, in spite of God’s provision for loving fellowship. What can we do to restore and maintain the latter?

2) Is this a hymn you would use in the services of the church or (in its revised form), at a wedding?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (John Newton)
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | March 17, 2014

Lonesome Valley

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.

Words: author unknown (Traditional Spiritual)
Music: composer unknown

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This simple Spiritual comes from the American slave music of the eighteenth or nineteen century. The Wordwise Hymns link will give you a recording of Jerome Hines’ version. Hines (1921-2003) was an operatic bass who sang for many years with the Metropolitan Opera Company.

Loneliness is a common experience in our day, even though our planet has more people on it than ever before. You can be lonely in a populous city, lonely even in a crowd.

The dictionary, in defining this malady, says it means being without friendship, companionship, or the sympathy of others, without the exchange of words, thoughts and feelings with another human being. That kind of aloneness can be painful indeed.

Right from the beginning, God designed us to have mutual friendships and company with other human beings. After forming Adam from the dust of the earth and giving him life, the Lord declared, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18). This led to the forming of Eve.

But, having said these things, we recognize that there are times in every life when we must face something ourselves that cannot be shared with another person. That too is a kind of practical aloneness. When a life partner dies, or when we face a serious disease, there are elements of such trials and burdens that are unique to us.

The Lord Jesus is the perfect example of that. As the God-Man, He was (and is) unlike any other person. And His work of redemption was His alone. Many others were crucified, during Jesus’ time on earth, but He was the only One who could die for our sins. The only One who could face the Father’s wrath for us, and sense the excruciating pain of that break in fellowship. There on the cross He cried, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me” (Matt. 27:46). He alone was the Sin-bearer.

The Spiritual Lonesome Valley reflects on that, describing it with words that are reminiscent of Psalm 23:4, which speaks of “the valley of the shadow of death.” The experience of pain and suffering is indeed a dark valley.

CH-1) Jesus walked this lonesome valley.
He had to walk it by Himself;
O, nobody else could walk it for Him,
He had to walk it by Himself.

It is easy to see how the experience of the suffering Saviour had its impact on the slaves. They too were suffering. And though there were many of them, each had to go through their own particular trials, experiencing the loneliness of fear and pain and sorrow in a personal way.

CH-2) We must walk this lonesome valley,
We have to walk it by ourselves;
O, nobody else can walk it for us,
We have to walk it by ourselves.

Sometimes, CH-3 is directed toward others: “You must go and stand your trial.” Other times, you will see it personalized as: “I must go and stand my trial,” with the other pronouns put in the first person as well.

CH-3) You must go and stand your trial,
You have to stand it by yourself,
O, nobody else can stand it for you,
You have to stand it by yourself.

Gospel song writer and musical arranger Frank Anderson felt there was an element that was missing from this traditional song. For the Christian, there is an important fact that needs to be considered. No matter how alone we may be, we know that the Lord is with us (Matt. 28:20; Heb. 13:5). He has our best interests at heart, and He can either deliver us from our trial, or give us grace to sustain us through it (Heb. 4:15-16).

To indicate this significant truth, Frank Anderson added a final stanza that appears in the hymnal Praise: Our Songs and Hymns (published by Singspiration, 1979).

Now in ev’ry lonesome valley,
The trials and sorrows we must face,
O, Jesus Himself will be there with us–
To fill the shadows with His grace.

Questions:
1) What are some burdens of life that can be shared with others? What are some of the kind that must be borne by us personally?

2) Is there some lonely person you can reach today, either in person or by phone, e-mail, letter, etc. who would be blessed by that?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | March 14, 2014

Jesus Has Lifted Me

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

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 (Avis Christiansen born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The tune was composed for an obscure song by Alfred Barrett called “Let It Be You and I.” Arthur McKee, an editor at the Tabernacle Publishing Company, liked the tune, but not the words. He asked Avis Christiansen to write some new ones, and Jesus Has Lifted Me is the result, published in 1916. Composer Haldor Lillenas was not thrilled about the change in lyrics, but later accepted it.

With a dozen repetitions of the word “lifted” (counting the refrains) the theme of the hymn is clear. We have expressions in English that are similar in some ways. Maybe we’ll say, “Listening to that music sure gave me a lift.” Or we may speak metaphorically of giving someone a hand up, meaning some assistance in bettering themselves. Apparently, there is even an organization called LIFT, that says it can help you “unlock your potential, change your life.”

But what human agencies may promise, and often fail to deliver, God not only promises but fulfils.

“The LORD will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever; do not forsake the works of Your hands” (Ps. 138:8). “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). “Being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform” (Rom. 4:21).

The imagery in Mrs. Christiansen’s song represents the saving work of the Lord, lifting the sinner out of darkness into light, out of bondage into new freedom, out of death into life. That is a work of God and a work of grace, dependent on Calvary and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. But there are physical acts that are somewhat analogous in the Bible.

While He was on earth, the Lord Jesus a number of times reached out His hand and lifted someone up to restore them physically. There was Peter’s mother-in-law, who was sick with a fever (Mk. 1:29-31), and the demon possessed boy (Mk. 9:20-27). Perhaps the most dramatic, however, is the experience of Peter (Matt. 14:22-33).

The disciples were in a boat, one stormy night, when Jesus came to them, walking on the sea. The men were terrified, thinking it was a ghost, but the Lord told them it was He. With that, impulsive Peter wanted to walk out onto the sea and join Him. (A remarkable thing, even though he struggled later!)

“Peter answered Him and said, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’ So He said, ‘Come.’ And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’ And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” (Matt. 14:28-31).

CH-1) Out of the depths to the glory above,
I have been lifted in wonderful love;
From every fetter my spirit is free–
For Jesus has lifted me!

Jesus has lifted me!
Jesus has lifted me!
Out of the night into glorious light,
Yes, Jesus has lifted me!

“The depths” provide a frequent picture in the Word of God, indicating not only the depths of the sea (Ps. 106:9), but the depths of fear and desperation (Ps. 130:1) and, indeed, death itself (Ps. 86:13). The metaphor pictures a circumstance that is hopeless, apart from the intervention of God. That is certainly true of the sinner’s plight. To be lifted from that to heavenly glory and new freedom (CH-1), and to have the promise of life eternal in the presence of Christ, and with the saints, “the ransomed and blessed (CH-2), is a joyous thing.

CH-2) Out of the world into heavenly rest,
Into the land of the ransomed and blessed;
There in the glory with Him I shall be–
For Jesus has lifted me!

The opening line of CH-3, “Out of myself into Him I adore,” seems to represent a transformation of perspective and purpose. It is no longer the old, self-serving, self-centred Me that rules my life, but the Lord. And life becomes a daily walk in fellowship with my Saviour (cf. Jn. 15:5; Gal. 2:20). It is a “lift” that will finally take us into the presence of Christ, and on to heavenly glory (I Thess. 4:16-17).

CH-3) Out of myself into Him I adore,
There to abide in His love evermore;
Through endless ages His glory to see–
My Jesus has lifted me!

Questions:
1) In what way(s) have your daily devotions given you a spiritual lift this week?

2) By God’s grace, whom can you give a spiritual lift to at this time?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Avis Christiansen born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | March 12, 2014

If I Gained the World

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.

Words: Anna Helena Olander (b. Dec. 15, 1861; d. Oct. 23, 1939)
Music: Om Jag Agde Allt, a Swedish melody of unknown origin, appearing as early as 1887.

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Anna Olander was a Swedish author who produced stories, poetry and hymns. Her writings often shared the revival and consecration themes of Frances Havergal, whose hymns Anna Olander translated into Swedish. This particular gospel song began in 1900 as a poem in her book Pilgrim Songs (Vallfardssdnger). It first appeared as an English hymn in Mission Hymns, in 1904, with the translating likely done by the editorial committee. The melody was renamed True Riches.

T he song says in Swedish, “Om jag ägde allt, men icke Je-sus,” which translates: “If I owned all but not Jesus.” The words draw their inspiration from the words of Christ:

“When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, ‘Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mk. 8:34-37).

This is a passage about investment. An investment of ourselves, our time, talents and treasures, in things of spiritual and eternal worth. The Apostle Paul capsulized it when he said, “To me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). To be a disciple of Christ, a follower of Christ, is to live our lives in consistent faith in, and obedience to, the Word and will of God. It’s to live for Christ. And to do so can only be gain in the end, in terms of heavenly rewards (cf. Rev. 22:12), and more.

What is the alternative? To live for temporal and material things. And what if you or I were to become, through diligent effort, the richest man or woman in the world, in these terms? What then? If we could accomplish such a thing, would it benefit us in eternity? In itself, not one iota.

We’ll simply leave it all behind for others to fight over. In His parable about a rich fool (Lk. 12:16-21), the Lord Jesus describes a wealthy man who planned for the future in a temporal and material sense, but gave no thought to God and eternity. In the end, “God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’” (vs. 20).

Wise King Solomon speaks of this frustration:

“Then I hated all my labour in which I had toiled under the sun, because I must leave it to the man who will come after me….For there is a man whose labour is with wisdom, knowledge, and skill; yet he must leave his heritage to a man who has not laboured for it. This also is vanity and a great evil” (Ecc. 2:18, 21).

CH-1) If I gained the world, but not the Saviour,
Were my life worth living for a day?
Could my yearning heart find rest and comfort
In the things that soon must pass away?
If I gained the world, but not the Saviour,
Would my gain be worth the lifelong strife?
Are all earthly pleasures worth comparing
For a moment with a Christ-filled life?

CH-3) O what emptiness!–without the Saviour
’Mid the sins and sorrows here below!
And eternity, how dark without Him!–
Only night and tears and endless woe!
What, though I might live without the Saviour,
When I come to die, how would it be?
O to face the valley’s gloom without Him!
And without Him all eternity!

Unless we factor in to our value system both God and eternity (cf. Ecc. 12:13-14), we will one day discover that we’ve lived our lives on a dead-end street. But on the other hand, to quote the now famous words of martyred missionary Jim Elliot, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

CH-4) O the joy of having all in Jesus!
What a balm the broken heart to heal!
Ne’er a sin so great, but He’ll forgive it,
Nor a sorrow that He does not feel!
If I have but Jesus, only Jesus–
Nothing else in all the world beside–
O then everything is mine in Jesus;
For my needs and more He will provide.

Questions:
1) What are your own personal priorities and the things you value most?

2) Why?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

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