Posted by: rcottrill | August 29, 2016

My Wonderful Lord

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW 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.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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

Words: Haldor Lillenas (b. Nov. 19, 1885; d. Aug. 18, 1959)
Music: Haldor Lillenas

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Haldor Lillenas)
The Cyber Hymnal (Haldor Lillenas)
Hymnary.org

Note: Mr. Lillenas came from Norway to America as a child, and the family settled in South Dakota, later moving to Oregon. He studied music and wrote hundreds of hymns, including the rousing song Wonderful Grace of Jesus. In 1924 he founded the Lillenas Music Company to publish Christian music, serving as an editor there until his retirement in 1950.

There is a clause in the third line of the refrain of this song that has always concerned me: “I bow at Thy shrine, my Saviour divine.” Oh? His “shrine”? And where is that? The verb form of the word is enshrine. To enshrine means to enclose in a shrine (usually a building). It is done with relics, the bones and belongings of dead saints which are put in shrines, so people who believe in venerating them, and praying to them (though I do not), can go there and do so.

It makes no sense to talk of putting the Lord Jesus in a shrine, or bowing at some shrine of His. First, He is not dead. His tomb is empty. He is now seated on a royal throne, at the right hand of the Father in heaven (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 1:1-3), there to be our Intercessor (Heb. 7:25) and Advocate (I Jn. 2:1).

Second, He has promised that His spiritual presence will be with us always (Matt. 28:20). Whatever we make of Lillenas’s experience described below, whether it had a supernatural element, or was simply faith’s awareness of the reality of Christ’s presence, the author clearly believes in this. If you use the song, I recommend that you change the line to: “I know Thou art mine,” as I have done below.

Successful people usually get that way because of their dedication and sustained effort. Inventor Thomas Edison famously said, “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” Many others have expressed similar sentiments. Opera star Beverly Sills said, “There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” And football coach Vince Lombardi said, “A dictionary is the only place that success comes before work.”

To be dedicated is to be wholly committed to something or someone. Inventors, athletes, musicians, and more, dedicate themselves to do what it takes to achieve excellence in their chosen profession. Doctors and teachers dedicate themselves to their work in serving others. And we’ve often admired the commitment and dedication of the police and fire fighters who lay their lives on the line every day.

But it’s not only people that can be dedicated. We dedicate national parks to be places where wildlife is protected. We build cenotaphs and raise monuments to honour the military, and lives that are lost in the cause of freedom. Churches are dedicated too, to be places where people can come to worship and serve the Lord. And, when we present our offerings there, we are dedicating the money to be used in ways that honour God and help others.

When it comes to the Christian faith, the highest calling anyone can commit to is a dedication of his or her life to the Lord. The Bible expresses it this way: “I beseech you [urge you] therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God [because of all the Lord has done for you], that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1).

On Jewish altars of old, animal sacrifices were slain. But this is a call to the living, to do their living in obedience to God, and in the fulfilment of His purposes. It involves a lifelong commitment of our bodies (and all we do in them and through them) to His service. It’s a dedication of our time, talents and treasures to Him forever.

We are not forced to do this. Rather, believers are compelled (motivated) by the Saviour’s love for us to be “ambassadors for Christ” (II Cor. 5:14, 20). “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10), and we have a desire to “walk [or live] worthy of the calling with which [we] were called” (Eph. 4:1).

One man who did that was pastor and hymn writer Haldor Lillenas. He was a dedicated man, committed to serving the Lord. But like all of God’s people, he experienced difficult times, as he did in 1919. He says:

“My wife was very ill, and it was with a heavy heart that I left home that morning [to head to the office]….I was busy writing songs, compiling and editing books, doing what I felt God had called me to do. But I sometimes wondered how many of them [the songs] would be sung. Suddenly as I drove along the avenue, it seemed that Someone quietly opened the car door and sat down beside me. I could feel the warmth of His sacred presence.”

It was with that unusual sense of the Lord’s comforting nearness that Lillenas began, as he drove along, to create and sing the present song of dedication.

1) I have found a deep peace that I never had known
And a joy this world could not afford,
Since I yielded control of my body and soul
To my wonderful, wonderful Lord.

My wonderful Lord, my wonderful Lord,
By angels and seraphs in heaven adored;
I know Thou art mine, my Saviour divine,
My wonderful, wonderful Lord.

3) All the talents I have I have laid at Thy feet,
Thy approval shall be my reward;
Be my store great or small, I surrender it all
To my wonderful, wonderful Lord.

Questions:
1) What does dedication to the Lord mean to you, practically?

2) Is there something in your life that you have trouble releasing to His control?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Haldor Lillenas)
The Cyber Hymnal (Haldor Lillenas)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | August 26, 2016

My God and I

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW 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.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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

Words: Austris A. Wihtol (b. Jan. 24, 1889; d. Apr. 3, 1974)
Music: Austris A. Wihtol

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

Note: Russian concert pianist and composer Austris Wihtol was born in Latvia, but he emigrated to the United States around 1909, and lived later in California. He used the pen name I. B. Sergei for some of his compositions. In 1935, Mr. Wihtol wrote the words and music for this simple gospel song about the believer’s friendship with God. In addition to the hymn book mentioned by Hymnary.org, Living Hymns contains the song (#322), as does the Country Western Gospel Hymnal (#104).

The saying has been around for at least two hundred and fifty years, likely longer. “The dog…is the best friend man can have,” wrote French philosopher Voltaire, in 1764.

While dogs are trained to do many amazing things on farms, in law enforcement, and in dealing with disease and disability, by far most of the millions of dogs in North America are family pets–often elevated to the status of being members of the family. No disrespect is intended to cat lovers, or those who dote on goldfish, but the family dog is on a pinnacle all its own.

Dogs can be very intelligent; some have an understanding of several hundred words, and they can learn to do astonishing things. More than that. Scientists have found that dogs have the unique power to empathize with human emotions. If you’re sad, your dog will be sad with you. If you’re happy, your dog will be too.

These furry companions exhibit an unconditional affection that is remarkable. Man or woman, old or young, rich or poor, educated or not, sick or well, your dog will take you as you are. Dogs are faithful friends of their owners, and have been known to come to their defense, or rescue them, when they are threatened–even at a risk to the dog’s own safety.

When it comes to the friendship of one human being with another, our dogs can perhaps teach us a thing or two! However, there are dimensions of human friendship beyond canine abilities. Being “BF” (best friends), or “BFF” (best friends forever) with another human being is a special bond that we ought to nurture and cherish.

In fiction, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson seem to have a friendship like that. Though polar opposites in many ways, their companionship and mutual support is evident. In biblical history, David and Jonathan had an unbreakable bond of friendship and loyalty to one another (I Sam. 18:1, 3)–remarkable because, at the time, Jonathan’s father, King Saul, was trying over and over to kill David.

The Lord Jesus was ridiculed for being a friend of tax collectors and sinners (Lk. 7:34; 15:1-2), but He remained so, because they were the ones who recognized their need of Him–which most of the Jewish leaders definitely did not.

“It happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, ‘Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard that, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick’” (Matt. 9:10-12).

And as He neared the time of His death, the Lord spoke of those who had walked and talked with Him for three years as His “friends” (Jn. 15:12-15). He promised that He would be with His followers “to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20), and expressed a desire that we all would be with Him eternally in heaven (Jn. 14:3; 17:24). And there too He will keep company with His own (Rev. 7:14-17).

That will be one of the greatest joys of heaven, but it’s an area we need to be cautious about speculating on. Deity has infinities that no created being can approach or comprehend. We must be careful not to try recreating God in our own image.

The author of this song, for example, talks of “jesting” with the Lord. But though a jest can be a witty remark, it also has the connotation of taunting and ridicule, however mild. The Bible says we should engage in, “Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting” (Eph. 5:4). Jesting may well be inappropriate when it comes to the believer’s relationship with Almighty God.

The only time we read of God laughing it is in mockery of His enemies (Ps. 2:1-4). However, while we might fault the song for humanizing the Lord too much, it does give us a sense of the delight we can have in the companionship with the Lord the Bible speaks of.

1) My God and I go in the fields together,
We walk and talk as good friends should and do;
We clasp our hands, our voices ring with laughter–
My God and I walk through the meadow’s hue.

3) My God and I will go for aye together,
We’ll walk and talk, and jest as good friends do;
This earth will pass, and with it common trifles–
But God and I will go unendingly.

Questions:
1) Can you picture yourself “jesting” with God? (Why? Or why not?)

2) What elements of human friendship can rightly be applied to our friendship with the Lord?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | August 24, 2016

Master, Speak, Thy Servant Heareth

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW 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.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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

Words: Frances Ridley Havergal (b. Dec. 14, 1836; d. June 3, 1879)
Music: Dana, by Andreas Peter Berggreen (b. Mar. 2, 1801; d. Nov. 9, 1880)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Frances Havergal was an English hymn writer of note. She had a brilliant mind and, though her life was relatively brief, she contributed many fine hymns to our sacred repertoire. The present song can be precisely dated to Sunday evening, May 19th, 1867. When it was published, the original title was, “Master, Say On!” Hymn historian Robert McCutchan observes that, “The first line of the hymn epitomizes the life of its author.”

There are a number of tunes that will fit the metre of this hymn. It goes well with Irby, the tune used with the Christmas carol Once in Royal David’s City.

Critical mass is a scientific term describing the point where an amount of radioactive material, such as plutonium, is large enough to make a nuclear reaction possible.

The term is also used in medicine, to identify the point at which factors combine to cause a widespread epidemic. In sociology it marks the time when the influence of an idea or product brings a significant and sustained change in society.

It may be a somewhat weak analogy, but I think a kind of critical mass can be reached in our personal lives too. A build-up of factors that lead to a radical change in character, or the direction of a life. And let’s make an application of this particularly to childhood.

It can come about through a repeated experience, such as violence and abuse the child receives in the home, that critical mass is reached and deep and lasting changes take place in the child. But it can also involve a single event that produces a number of life-changing conditions and ultimately a change of direction.

Suppose the company dad works for tells him he must take a new position in a distant city. Moving is a big event for the whole family. For the child it brings a number of bewildering and stressful changes from the way things used to be. Friends and familiar activities are left behind. Some things will never be the same again. Perhaps critical mass is reached and profound changes take place within him or her.

That happened to a Bible character named Samuel. His mother Hannah had prayed for a male child, promising to dedicate him to a life of service for the Lord (I Sam. 1:11). In the Lord’s time, he was born. Later Hannah took little Samuel to the tabernacle, Israel’s centre of worship, leaving him in the care of Eli, the high priest (vs. 24-25). There the boy began a life of service in the tabernacle and, year by year, as he grew, his mother would visit, bringing a new robe for her growing boy (I Sam. 2:19).

Though unforeseen at the time, these events and more were being woven together by the Lord to produce one of the most dynamic spiritual leaders in Israel’s history. The point of critical mass occurred one night when young Samuel heard a voice calling his name. Thinking it was Eli, he went to the aging priest. But it was not Eli who called. This happened twice more. “Then Eli perceived that the Lord had called the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, ‘Go, lie down; and it shall be, if He calls you, that you must say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears’” (I Sam. 3:8-9).

Critical mass. When Samuel did so (vs. 10), the Lord commissioned him as a prophet, and he began a long service that extended through the end of the period of Israel’s judges, and on into the monarchy with Saul and David. “The Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel had been established as a prophet of the Lord” (vs. 19-20).

Though we’ll not likely hear the Lord speak to us in an audible voice as Samuel did, He continues to speak by His Spirit, through the Scriptures. His words can be directed to us through our own reading and meditation, or perhaps through sermons we hear, or a devotional book we read that’s based on God’s Word. In this way we learn His will, and follow a path that pleases Him. As we prepare to receive what God has for us, we need the willing heart of Samuel. This spirit is reflected in the hymn by Frances Havergal.

CH-1) Master, speak! Thy servant heareth,
Waiting for Thy gracious word,
Longing for Thy voice that cheereth;
Master! let it now be heard.
I am listening, Lord, for Thee:
What hast Thou to say to me?

CH-4) Master, speak! and make me ready,
When Thy voice is truly heard,
With obedience glad and steady
Still to follow every word.
I am listening, Lord, for Thee:
Master, speak! O, speak to me!

Questions:
1) What Bible character(s) can you think of that God called to a particular service, who then refused it or disobeyed?

2) What service has the Lord called you to do for Him? (And have you obeyed His call?)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | August 22, 2016

Jesus, Thy Name I Love

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW 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.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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

Words: James George Deck (b. Nov. 1, 1802; d. Aug. 14, 1884)
Music: Braun, by Johann Georg Braun (b. _____, 1656; d. _____ 1687)

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

Note: James Deck was a British army officer and lay preacher with the Plymouth Brethren. He also wrote a number of hymns.

Of the two tunes suggested on the Cyber Hymnal, I’ve chosen Braun. If you’re looking for a more familiar tune to use with this hymn, you could add the phrase “Jesus my Lord” once more, after the first line. Then, the tune Bethany (which we use for Nearer, My God, to Thee) works well.

Jesus, Thy name I love, Jesus my Lord,
All other names above, Jesus, my Lord:
O Thou art all to me; nothing to please I see,
Nothing apart from Thee, Jesus, my Lord.

It’s an English word that’s been around for seven or eight centuries, though early on not in its modern form. Centuries ago they used the term weoröscipe (or worthship), an expression of the worth of something or someone.

If we’re talking about material wealth, and we ask, “What’s he worth?” we likely want to know the amount of the person’s total fortune. If we’re speaking of an athlete, we may be seeking an evaluation of what he can contribute to the play of his team.

But there is a more common word that comes from this. We likely see it, or use it, every time we attend church. It’s the word worship. To recognize and declare God’s “worthship,” or worthiness, is an act of worship. Related words help us to mine the meaning further. When we worship the Lord, we revere, honour and adore Him; we express our allegiance to Him, and our devotion to Him.

The word is found more than two hundred times in the Bible. The Hebrew word often translated worship is shachah, meaning to bow in reverent submission. The Greek word is proskuneo, which seems to mean to kiss the hand, as a faithful dog would lick its master’s hand. You can see in both of these the sense of humbly paying homage to a superior.

In the fullest sense of the word, only Almighty God deserves our worship. We may admire and praise human beings, but true worship should be reserved for God alone. When the Ten Commandments were given, this truth stood first. God told the people they should “not bow down [shachah] to [idols] or serve them” (Exod. 20:1-3-5a). God is righteously jealous of His supremacy (Exod. 34:14)

Both Peter and Paul had occasions when others tried to worship them but they both rejected it.

When the Roman centurion Cornelius bowed before Peter he said, “Stand up; I myself am also a man” (Acts 10:25-26).

When Paul and Barnabas were thought to be gods, and sacrifices were going to be offered to them, they tore their clothes as a sign of grief and cried, “Why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you” (Acts 14:11-15a).

Even angels, for all their superior glory and power, refuse the worship of man. John tried it, but was quickly rebuked. “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God” (Rev. 22:8-9).

This makes the fact that Christ received worship numerous times–and never forbade it–all the more significant. It’s an evidence of His deity, that He is God the Son, revealed in human flesh.

The visiting wise men worshiped Him following His birth (Matt. 2:11), as the angels were commanded to do (Heb. 1:6). Later, His disciples worshiped Him (Matt. 14:33), and a blind man whom Jesus healed did too (Jn. 9:35-38), as did a Gentile woman (Matt. 15:25). The women who met the resurrected Christ at the tomb did as well (Matt. 28:9), and so did the believers who witnessed His ascension back to heaven (Lk. 24:51-52).

The “worthship” of the Lord Jesus Christ is infinitely great. “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9), and “ all should honour the Son just as they honour the Father” (Jn. 5:23). Many great hymns of worship have been written over the years. But a simple example of heartfelt adoration is given to us by James Deck.

CH-1) Jesus, Thy name I love
All other names above,
Jesus, my Lord:
O Thou art all to me;
Nothing to please I see,
Nothing apart from Thee,
Jesus, my Lord.

CH-2) Thou, blessèd Son of God,
Hast bought me with Thy blood,
Jesus, my Lord:
O how great is Thy love,
All other loves above,
Love that I daily prove,
Jesus, my Lord.

Questions:
1) What qualities of Christ come to your mind when you consider His “worthship”?

2) What has the Lord done for you, for which you praise Him?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | August 19, 2016

I Need Thee, Precious Saviour

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW 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.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 65 items now.

Words: Frederick Whitfield (b. Jan. 7, 1829; d. Sept. 13, 1904)
Music: Aurelia, by Samuel Sebastian Wesley (b. Aug. 14, 1810; d. Apr. 19, 1876)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Frederick Whitfield (1829-1904) was an English clergyman who occasionally wrote hymns. He gave us O How I Love Jesus, and the present song about our spiritual needs, a hymn inspired by the words, “To you who believe, He is precious” (I Pet. 2:7).

This hymn runs into a problem common to some others, when the author tries to cover the whole range of spiritual experience in one hymn. No Christian can make his original first stanza a personal and present tense testimony, and sing:

“I need Thee, precious Jesus,
For I am full of sin;
My soul is dark and guilty,
My heart is dead within.”

No! This describes an unsaved person. But Christians possess everlasting life (Jn. 3:16). We aren’t “dead within.” “In Him [Christ] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7). And in daily experience, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I Jn. 1:9).

Hymn editors have dealt with this problem variously. Some simply leave the first stanza of this hymn out. Another solution: about 30-40% of the old hymn books have the opening lines as: “I need Thee, precious Jesus, / For I am very poor.” Another hymn book has the following. (And notice the change of “Jesus” to “Saviour,” an alteration that is reflected in this case in the hymn’s title: I Need Thee, Precious Saviour–the title I have used.)

I need Thee, precious Saviour!
Oh, Thou art all to me;
Before the throne forever,
I stand complete in Thee.

This is far more biblical. And it’s the version I have used below. As to the tune, Aurelia, to which we also sing The Church’s One Foundation, works well, as does Munich, a tune also used with O Word of God Incarnate.

When we speak of our needs, we mean that which we believe is necessary for us to live and be happy. Sometimes, however, needs can be confused with greeds! To be greedy or covetous is to have an excessive craving for a thing–often something that is not good for us, or maybe not even our right to have.

But if we are speaking of true needs, we can identify many of them–such as the air we breathe. Psychologist Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) made a study of the subject. In 1943 he wrote a significant paper about it, defining five levels of needs, forming a kind of pyramid.

At the base of Maslow’s pyramid were physical needs–for food, sleep, and so on. The next level described needs such as safety and security, the third, needs relating to love and friendship. The fourth level listed the need for the esteem and respect of others. Finally there was, he said, the need for “self-actualization,” by which he meant our need to fulfil our potential and live meaningful, fulfilling lives. Others have adapted Maslow’s theory, but it remains and interesting way to describe our needs as human beings. And, though the author was not a Christian, what he said is compatible with the Bible’s teaching.

God’s Word draws a line between needs and greeds. “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have” (Heb. 13:5). The Lord also recognizes that we have certain basic needs. “Having food and clothing, with these we shall be content” (I Tim. 6:8).

The problem of focusing on physical needs (or greeds) and failing to deal with much more important things is illustrated by the Lord’s message to a church in the city of Laodicea. “You say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17). Though the people were materially wealthy and self-satisfied, they were spiritual paupers!

So what is it we need in spiritual terms? Whatever it is, the Lord can supply it. “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (II Pet. 1:3). Here are three areas to consider.

First, there’s the need for personal salvation. We need a new birth by God’s Spirit, received through faith in Christ. “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3). “As many as received Him [Christ], to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born…of God” (Jn. 1:12-13; cf. 3:16).

Second, as believers, we have the need of God’s continuing care. We need His love and friendship, His sustaining grace (II Cor. 12:9), daily guidance (Ps. 23:2), and protection (II Tim. 4:18).

And finally, we have the need for satisfying and fulfilling service for the Lord (Gal. 5:13). “If anyone serves Me [Christ]…where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honour” (Jn. 12:26) .

1) I need Thee, precious Saviour!
Oh, Thou art all to me;
Before the throne, forever,
I stand complete in Thee.
Though Satan loud accuses,
Yet I can ever see
The blood of Christ most precious,
The sinner’s perfect plea.

CH-4) I need Thee, precious Jesus,
I need Thee, day by day,
To fill me with Thy fullness,
To lead me on my way;
I need Thy Holy Spirit,
To teach me what I am,
To show me more of Jesus,
To point me to the Lamb.”

Questions:
1) What particular needs in your life is the Lord meeting today?

2) What do the service leaders at your church do when there is part of a hymn that unbiblical or unsuitable (not use the hymn, omit the problem stanza, print alternative words in the church bulletin, or…?)?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | August 17, 2016

“Forward” Be Our Watchword

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW 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.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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

Words: Henry Alford (b. Oct. 7, 1810; d. Jan. 12, 1871)
Music: Forward (or Smart), by Henry Thomas Smart (b. Oct. 26, 1813; d. July 6, 1879)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Henry Alford)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Henry Alford was Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, a great Greek scholar, and a hymn writer. He gave us Come, Ye Thankful People, Come, and Ten Thousand Times Ten Thousand, the latter being a wonderful description of the victorious saints in heaven.

The dean was asked to write a processional hymn for the Tenth Choral Festival of the massed choirs of the Canterbury Diocese, and he did so–but not without difficulty. He sent in a hymn, and it was returned, with a note saying the poetry was fine, but the rhythm wasn’t suitable for marching. The suggestion was made that the dean go into the cathedral, walk slowly down the aisle the procession was to take, and compose a hymn as he did so! Apparently, that worked.

Picture the spectacle of about a thousand choristers coming in procession into the great Cathedral, singing Dean Alford’s hymn. It took a full half hour for them all to process in, and it must have been a stirring sight and sound! (Henry Alford died before the event, so he never got to witness it.)

For army troops, commands such as the old “Charge!” or “Forward march!” mean they are to go onward immediately, to move ahead, to advance or progress from where they are.

There may be difficulties and dangers to be confronted, battles to be fought, obstacles to overcome, but on they go. Of course, sometimes there is a retreat. But that’s not always a sign of failure. It may be strategic and temporary, for the sake of defense. regrouping, or drawing the enemy into an ambush (cf. Josh. 8:3-7).

A well-trained army will instantly follow the order given to advance. They’re not asked to take a vote on whether they think what the commander asks of them is a good idea. But there have been times when foolish orders or faulty reconnaissance have led to a tragic loss of life.

During the Crimean War, in the Battle of Balaclava (1854), British light cavalry, armed with swords, were ordered to charge a Russian emplacement of heavy artillery, a fatal mistake. In 1876, at the Battle of the Little Bighorn (popularly called Custer’s Last Stand), Lieutenant Colonel George Custer led his troops into an engagement based on wrong information about the strength of the enemy he faced. Both incidents led to overwhelming defeat and death.

Soldiers are trained to obey the orders of their commanding officer. But it’s a helpful thing, before enlisting, to learn something of the principles and goals that form the basis of what the troops will be called upon to do. And to know something about the quality of those in command.

Apply that to the Christian life. The Bible is quite clear that we’re in a spiritual war against Satan, and against this evil world system that he controls. Our Commander is the Lord (Col. 3:24). The Apostle Paul says, of Him, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able” (II Tim. 1:12).

Against error and corruption, we are to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). We’re to be “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might….and “take up the whole armour of God, that [we] may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Eph. 6:10, 13).

Paul himself set an example for others, saying, “One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14). And his testimony, near the end of his life was, “I have fought the good fight…I have kept the faith” (II Tim. 4:7).

There are Old Testament examples too, of God’s “Forward march!” When Moses led the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt, they were pursued by Pharaoh’s chariots, and seemed to be trapped on the shores of the Red Sea. But God commanded, “Tell the children of Israel to go forward” (Exod. 14:15). Then, in a mighty miracle, the Lord opened up the sea before them, and they escaped. Then the returning waters drowned the Egyptians (Exod. 14:13-29).

CH-1) Forward! be our watchword, steps and voices joined;
Seek the things before us, not a look behind;
Burns the fiery pillar at our army’s head;
Who shall dream of shrinking, by our Captain led?
Forward through the desert, through the toil and fight;
Jordan flows before us; Zion beams with light.

CH-2) Forward! When in childhood buds the infant mind;
All through youth and manhood not a thought behind;
Speed through realms of nature, climb the steps of grace;
Faint not, till in glory, gleams our Father’s face.
Forward, all the lifetime, climb from height to height,
Till the head be hoary, till the eve be light.

CH-5) Far o’er yon horizon rise the city towers
Where our God abideth; that fair home is ours:
Flash the streets with jasper, shine the gates with gold;
Flows the gladdening river shedding joys untold.
Thither, onward, thither, in the Spirit’s might;
Pilgrims to your country, forward into light!

Questions:
1) What did the Lord mean when He said, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Lk. 9:62)?

2) What does it mean in practical terms to focus our attention forward, and not keep looking back on the past?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Henry Alford)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | August 15, 2016

Fierce Raged the Tempest

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW 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.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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

Words: Godfrey Thring (b. Mar. 25, 1823; d. Sept. 13, 1903)
Music: St. Aelred, by John Bacchus Dykes (b. Mar. 10, 1823; d. Jan. 22, 1876)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Godfrey Thring)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Godfrey Thring is perhaps best known for his fine editing and additions to the hymn Crown Him with Many Crowns, by Matthew Bridges (1800-1894). Thring was an Anglican clergyman in England who wrote quite a number of hymns. In the present instance, he was sitting quietly alone, when he seemed to see in his mind’s eye the raging sea, the terrified disciples, and the Saviour asleep in the storm. Immediately, he took up his pen and wrote this little descriptive hymn.

Hurricanes have done fearsome damage through the years. They’re rated on a scale from one to five, with five being the worst. The rating takes into account sustained wind speed and storm surges, as well as the potential flooding and damage that could be caused.

Names of hurricanes such as Hazel (1954), Camille (1969), Andrew (1992), Katrina (2005), and Sandy (2012), live in the memories of many of us. These are the “mega storms” with devastating power that leaves injury and loss of life in their wakes, along with great harm to property.

In comparison to these monsters, the storm faced by the Lord Jesus and His disciples one day on the Sea of Galilee may seem a small thing. However, the disciples, several of whom were seasoned fishermen, saw themselves in grave danger. They knew the power of the storms on that body of water. A description of the incident is found in Mark 5:35-41.

A great multitude had gathered on the seashore, coming from the surrounding towns to listen to Christ’s teaching. Mark says the Lord got into a boat and pushed out a little from the land, speaking to them from there (Mk. 4:1-2). The session must have continued for some time. Then late in the day Jesus said to the disciples, “Let us cross over to the other side” (vs. 35), a distance of several miles. With that, Jesus’ disciples joined Him in the small open boat and cast off.

Josephus tells us more than three hundred of these boats, small single-sailed fishing vessels with oars, plied the waters of the Sea of Galilee in his day. The “sea,” actually a fresh water lake, is situated in the Jordan Valley, which forms a kind of trough, with hills to the east and west. When winds come down the valley they are funneled out onto the sea with great and sudden force. Almost without warning the surface of the water can become a stormy cauldron, with waves reportedly as high as twenty feet.

Quite quickly, on this occasion, “a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling” (vs. 37). Mega is the Greek word for “great.” It was a mega storm. Matthew, who was there in the boat, uses similar language. “Suddenly a great [mega] tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves” (Matt. 8:24). The boat was being swamped and they all seemed in imminent danger of drowning.

And where was the Lord? He was in the stern of the boat asleep, apparently exhausted from the day’s ministry. Asleep with His head resting on a pillow, likely a borrowed leather seat cushion. Shouting over the din made by the crashing waves, the disciples woke Him with a question: “Do You not care that we are perishing?” (vs. 38). There is a sad irony in that, since saving the perishing is why He’d come to earth (Lk. 19:10).

As a brief aside, there is another time when that phrase, “Do You not care…?” is used in the Gospel of Luke with reference to Christ. When the Lord visited the home of Mary and Martha, “Mary…sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word” (Lk. 10:39). But Martha…said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?” (vs. 40). The first question relates to salvation, the second to service. And of course the Lord cares deeply about both.

But, in the situation we are considering, the Lord “arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace, be still!’ And the wind ceased and there was a great [mega] calm” (vs. 39). This astonishing result led to Mark’s third use of the Greek word mega. The disciples “feared exceedingly [mega, greatly], and said to one another, ‘Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!’” (vs. 41).

It’s the answer to that question that becomes the anchor of our faith. He is the Lord Jesus Christ, Creator of all things (Jn. 1:3; Col. 1:16-17), and Saviour of all who trust in Him (Jn. 3:16; Heb. 1:1-3). Clergyman and hymn writer Godfrey Thring told the story of this incident simply in a hymn, concluding with a practical application to our own struggles with the storms of life.

CH-1) Fierce raged the tempest o’er the deep,
Watch did Thine anxious servants keep
But Thou wast wrapped in guileless sleep,
Calm and still.

CH-2) “Save, Lord, we perish,” was their cry,
“O save us in our agony!”
Thy word above the storm rose high,
“Peace, be still.”

CH-3) The wild winds hushed; the angry deep
Sank, like a little child, to sleep;
The sullen billows ceased to leap,
At Thy will.

CH-4) So, when our life is clouded o’er,
And storm winds drift us from the shore,
Say, lest we sink to rise no more,
“Peace, be still.”

Questions:
1) What storms are you, or your family, or your church, facing just now?

2) What are you trusting the Lord to do in that situation?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Godfrey Thring)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | August 12, 2016

Father, Again in Jesus’ Name

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW 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.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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

Words: Lucy Elizabeth Georgiana Whitmore (b. Jan. 22, 1792; d. May 17, 1840)
Music: Longwood (Barnby), by Joseph Barnby (b. Aug. 12, 1838; d. Jan. 28, 1896)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Lucy Whitmore was a member of the British aristocracy, the only daughter of Orlando, 2nd Baron and 1st Earl of Bradford. She wrote a number of hymns.

The story’s been repeated in countless families. A painful, heartbreaking one. It could be about a son or daughter, but since we’re going to look at a story about a son, let’s make it that.

In spite of parents doing their best to love and care for him, a rift somehow develops between parent and child. The young person rejects the values of dad and mom, there are heated arguments, and finally an angry blow-up, resulting in the unhappy son leaving home. Where he goes and what he does will depend in part on the funds available to him. Likely there’s a desire to get as far away from home as possible.

Perhaps there are instances where this has worked out, but the ones we hear about are fraught with tragedy. Parents grieve, and endlessly wonder if they could have done better. If they are familiar with Jean Vajean’s moving solo in the musical version of Les Miserables, they may be brought to tears each time they hear it: “God on high, hear my prayer…bring him home.”

Meanwhile, the son finds someplace to live, often hooking up with companions that will sympathize with his revolt, and convince him that good times are ahead. But if he doesn’t have wise counsel, and find a job that gives a living wage, a downward spiral can begin. This often includes drugs, alcohol, crime, immoral liaisons, and more.

It’s an old story, and too many times it doesn’t end well. There is a family estrangement that never fully heals. But that’s not always so. Two thousand years ago, the Lord Jesus told a parable about a prodigal son (Lk. 15:11-24).

The young man asked for, and got from dad, the money that would have come to him when the old man died. Then he was off to “a far country.” It’s not difficult to imagine that he gathered around him the kind of social leeches that were quite ready to help him spend his money.

The Bible says he “wasted his possessions with prodigal [reckless, extravagant] living” (vs. 13). Then there came a time of famine where he was, and he ended up in a field feeding some pigs–a repulsive job for a Jew! He got to the place where he’d have been willing to eat pig feed, but “no one gave him anything” (vs. 16).

At that point, the Lord says, “he came to himself”–he came to his senses and started thinking more clearly than he had in a long while. He reasoned that even his dad’s employees were faring better than he was. Why couldn’t he go back home and become one of the hired help. With sincere remorse for what he’d done, he determined to say to his father, “I have sinned….I’m no longer worthy to be called your son” (vs. 18-19).

But, when he got there, dad would have none of it. He’d been looking down the road, hoping to see his boy coming back. And “when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him” (vs. 20). There was forgiveness and a full restoration of his place in the family, followed by a celebration of his return.

Hymn writer Lucy Whitmore saw this old story as a powerful picture of the sinning Christian repenting, returning to the Lord, and finding full forgiveness (cf. I Jn. 1:9). In 1824 she published a hymn about it.

CH-1) Father, again in Jesus’ name we meet,
And bow in penitence beneath Your feet;
Again to You our feeble voices raise,
To sue for mercy, and to sing Your praise.

CH-3) Alas, unworthy of Your boundless love,
Too oft with careless feet from You we rove;
But now, encouraged by Your voice, we come,
Returning sinners to a Father’s home.

CH-4) O by that name in whom all fulness dwells,
O by that love which ev’ry love excels,
O by that blood so freely shed for sin,
Open blest mercy’s gate and take us in.

Questions:
1) Are you a prodigal, wandering away from God? Or do you have one in your family?

2) What can be done to heal the rift with our heavenly Father (or to help the one who has strayed)?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | August 10, 2016

Come, Let Us to the Lord Our God

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW 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.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 60 items now. Why not check it out?

Words: John Morrison (b. Sept. 18, 1746; d. June 12, 1798)
Music: Kilmarnock, by Neil Dougall (b. Dec. 9, 1776; d. Oct. 1, 1862)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: In 1781, Scottish pastor John Morrison produced this beautiful hymn, along with a number of other paraphrases of Scripture.

Mr. Dougall, the tune’s composer, also a Scotsman, was a sailor when a mishap severely injured him. He was loading a gun when there was an explosion. He was blinded, and lost an arm. He then needed to change careers, but he didn’t give up on life. He studied music and became a singing teacher and conductor.

Years ago I had a speaking engagement in a place I’d never been to before. The directions given seemed complicated, and somewhere I made a wrong turn, ending on an overgrown path in a field–with no sign of civilization. New-Englanders have a phrase for it: “You can’t get there from here.” Nothing would do but to turn back and seek the right road.

That works as a metaphor for the U-turns we sometimes have to make in life, times when a minor adjustment is not enough. For example, if a man comes to the realization that he has become an alcoholic, and is addicted to alcohol, it’s unlikely that simply reducing his consumption will solve the problem. He needs to turn back, and commit to a life of abstinence.

A Bible word for this reversal of direction is repentance. Repentance is more than mere regret. Often the latter involves grieving over the painful consequences of a choice or action, without the actual abandoning of it. Pastor and Greek scholar Marvin Vincent wrote:

“Mere sorrow that weeps and sits still is not repentance. Repentance is sorrow converted into action, into a movement toward a new and better life.”

The Apostle Paul delivered a stern message from the Lord in his first letter to the church at Corinth. And apparently they dealt with the issues he directed to their attention. In his second letter he wrote, “Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance” (II Cor. 7:9). In other words, it gave him no pleasure to upset them, but he was delighted to see that his message led to a definite change, a turning back to the right way.

In the Old Testament, the people of Israel turned their backs on God. They broke His commandments, and began worshiping the idols of the heathen (Hos. 4:1-2, 12). Because they had done this, the Lord said He would withdraw His presence from among His people, “Till they acknowledge their offense. Then they will seek My face; in their affliction they will earnestly seek Me” (Hos. 5:15).

It’s then the prophet makes an appeal, calling on his people to turn back to God:

“Come, and let us return to the Lord; for He has torn [disciplined], but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight. Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord. His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth” (Hos. 6:1-3).

That appeal was extended in around 700 BC but, sadly, there was only a shallow and temporary improvement. A century later the Babylonians attacked and carried off many of the people of Judah into captivity. As noted earlier, more than feelings of regret and a minor adjustment were called for, but it didn’t happen.

Pastor Morrison’s fine hymn paraphrases the summons of Hosea to repentance. It calls individuals on this side of the cross, those who have strayed, to turn back to God, being assured that “Though His arm be strong to smite, / ’Tis also strong to save” (CH-2).

CH-1) Come, let us to the Lord our God
With contrite hearts return;
Our God is gracious, nor will leave
The desolate to mourn.

CH-4) Our hearts, if God we seek to know,
Shall know Him, and rejoice;
His coming like the morn shall be,
Like morning songs His voice.

CH-5) As dew upon the tender herb
Diffusing fragrance round,
As show’rs that usher in the spring,
And cheer the thirsty ground.

CH-6) So shall His presence bless our souls,
And shed a joyful light;
That hallowed morn shall chase away
The sorrows of the night.

Questions:
1) What are some common hindrances to true repentance?

2) What are the blessings of true repentance?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | August 8, 2016

Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW 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.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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

Words: Charles Wesley (b. Dec. 18,1707; d. Mar. 29, 1788)
Music: Ratisbon, by Johann Gottlob Werner (b. Oct. 4, 1777; d. July 19, 1822)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Charles Wesley)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Prolific hymn writer Charles Wesley wrote this prayer hymn seeking, at the start of each new day, the illuminating presence of Christ. It was greatly admired by hymnist James Montgomery (who gave us Angels from the Realms of Glory). He called it “one of Charles Wesley’s loveliest progeny.”

As to the tune, Ratisbon is used frequently with the hymn, though the Cyber Hymnal lists five other possibilities. The metre of the hymn also fits several more common tunes: Dix, used with the carol As with Gladness Men of Old, and Toplady, used with Rock of Ages. And if the last two notes in lines 2 and 4 are tied (sung to one syllable), Grosser Gott, used with Holy God, We Praise Thy Name, also works.

A minor point. I puzzled for awhile as to how the second line of stanza two fit the metre. It seemed too short. After checking early versions of the hymn, and finding no difference, I finally realized the problem was my own usual pronunciation of the word “unaccompanied” as unaccomp’nied. (Maybe it’s a Canadian thing!)

For many years, ABC Television’s sports anthology, Wide World of Sports, began with an announcer intoning dramatically “the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat.” Those who watched the program witnessed memorable athletic contests illustrating both.

Though it’s common to all fields of endeavour, athletes in particular must learn to put the past behind them quickly and make a new start. A triumphant moment must not lead to complacency and a lack of attention to next time. Nor can painful failure be allowed to enshrine bitter discouragement and an attitude of chronic defeatism. The hockey goal tender who lets in a bad goal can’t dwell on that for the rest of the game. He must put it behind him and focus on what is happening in the present. The batter who strikes out in baseball must be ready to focus on his next at bat.

“Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can,” said tennis great Arthur Ashe. That’s wise counsel in all kinds of things. “Every day is a new opportunity,” said baseball pitcher Bob Feller. Author and motivational speaker Dale Carnegie wrote about living life in “day-tight compartments.” Don’t let the past have undue influence on the present. That can be applied to living the Christian life too (cf. Phil. 3:13).

If we dwell on our past successes it can foster spiritual pride, blindness to our weaknesses, and a critical spirit toward others. Gratitude to God for His blessings may be missing too. On the other hand, we can wring our hands at past failures, and soon find ourselves knee-deep in discouragement. When that happens, we may look around for others to blame, instead of taking responsibility for our actions. Or we may simply quit trying and give up.

Each day is a fresh treasure to be invested, and God provides the means to make a new start. There is cleansing for past sins, when we confess them to Him (I Jn. 1:9). There is the study of the Scriptures to strengthen and equip us (II Tim. 3:16-17), and the promised presence of the Lord to guide and protect us (Matt. 28:20). The Bible repeatedly assures of Christ as the One whose presence lights our way.

Isaiah speaks of Christ’s future coming as “a light to the Gentiles” (Isa. 49:6), and Malachi describes Him as “the Sun of Righteousness” (Mal. 4:2; cf. Rev. 22:16). As the birth of the Saviour neared, Zechariah said prophetically:

“Through the tender mercy of our God…the Dayspring from on high has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Lk. 1:78-79).

The Lord Jesus said of Himself, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (Jn. 8:12; cf. II Tim. 1:10).

Wesley’s song, from 1740, is an earnest morning prayer. Drawing on the Scriptures quoted above, he asks, as he begins the day, for Christ to warm his heart with joy, and scatter shadows of doubt.

CH-1) Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
Christ, the true, the only Light,
Sun of Righteousness, arise,
Triumph o’er the shades of night;
Dayspring from on high, be near;
Day-star, in my heart appear.

CH-2) Dark and cheerless is the morn
Unaccompanied by Thee;
Joyless is the day’s return
Till Thy mercy’s beams I see;
Till they inward light impart,
Glad my eyes, and warm my heart.

CH-3) Visit then this soul of mine,
Pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
Fill me, Radiancy divine,
Scatter all my unbelief;
More and more Thyself display,
Shining to the perfect day.

Questions:
1) What are the common subjects of your morning prayers?

2) What practical effect would a sincere prayer like Wesley’s have on your day?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Charles Wesley)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

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