Posted by: rcottrill | December 10, 2018

You Must Open the Door

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 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Ina Duley Ogdon (b. Apr. 3, 1872; d. May 18, 1964)
Music: Homer Alvan Rodeheaver (b. Oct. 4, 1880; d. Dec. 18, 1955)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Ina Ogdon)
The Cyber Hymnal (Ina Ogdon)
Hymnary.org

Note: In 1934, Ina Ogdon published You Must Open the Door. Mrs. Ogdon and her husband James were both school teachers in Ohio. She wrote many gospel songs as well, including the popular Brighten the Corner Where You Are, which has a touching story behind it. The present song captures the theme of a text in Revelation.

Security devices of all kinds are popular these days–cameras and alarms that can be set up in a home to thwart burglers. When an intruder tries to enter, perhaps lights go on, sirens sound, and the would-be thief’s image is recorded. There may also be an automatic phone call to the security firm. It seems to work. Owning a dog often does too. It’s estimated that houses without some kind of security system are three times more likely to be broken into.

On the other hand, most of us enjoy welcoming family and friends into our home. There’s a humorous welcome mat that, instead of being imprinted with the usual WELCOME, says, “Oh no! Not You Again!” But that’s meant as a joke. We likely look forward to having visitors. We just want to be allowed the right to decide who, and when.

Burglary is an unwanted and unwelcome violation of our space, it involves a forced entry into the place where we want to feel comfortable and safe. It’s the intrusion of someone determined to do us harm in one way or another. Millions of home burglaries occur in North America each year. About a third of them include a physical assault. But even if nothing valuable is taken, and no one’s physically harmed, a break-in can instill fear and anxiety that lingers for a long time.

The word welcome is used several times in the New Testament, translating several different Greek words. One of these (hupodechomai) means to take by the hand, to receive as a guest. For example, we read that when the Lord Jesus came to the town of Bethany, “a certain woman named Martha [the sister of Mary and Lazarus] welcomed Him into her house” (Lk. 10:38). A tax collector named Zacchaeus did the same, and “received Him joyfully” (Lk. 19:6).

The Apostle Paul commends the Thessalonian believers for welcoming God’s truth.

“You received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God” (I Thess. 2:13).

Today, Christ is not physically present in the world. But we welcome Him into our hearts and lives when we believe what the Bible says about Him. The Lord Jesus says,

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine [feast and fellowship] with him, and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20).

That invitation was extended to a lukewarm, self-satisfied church that seems to have shut the Lord out (vs. 16-17). But it can also represent the individual who is called upon to receive (believe on and trust in) the Saviour.

“As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (cf. Jn. 1:12).

Revelation 3:20 is depicted in a famous painting by William Holman Hunt (1827-1910). Hunt called it The Light of the World. It pictures Christ, holding a lantern, standing before a door, preparing to knock. A notable thing about the painting is that there is no handle or latch on the outside of the door. The wordless message is that the one inside must open the door to Christ. He graciously waits a welcome into the individual’s life.

1) There’s a Saviour who stands at the door of your heart;
He is longing to enter–why let Him depart?
He has patiently called you so often before,
But you must open the door.

You must open the door,
You must open the door;
When Jesus comes in, He will save you from sin,
But you must open the door.

2) He has come from the Father salvation to bring,
And His name is called Jesus, Redeemer and King;
To save you and keep you He pleads evermore,
But you must open the door.

Questions:
1) Have you welcomed the Lord Jesus into your heart and life? (If not, I invite you to read God’s Plan of Salvation.)

2) How are you sharing, or helping others to share, the wonderful message of salvation?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Ina Ogdon)
The Cyber Hymnal (Ina Ogdon)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | December 3, 2018

Stand by Me

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 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Charles Albert Tindley (b. July 7, 1851; d. July 26, 1933)
Music: Charles Albert Tindley

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

Note: Charles Tindley married Daisy Henry when he was seventeen. Together they had eight children, some of whom would later assist him with the publication of his hymns. One of the sons, Albert, sang at our church in Ontario, many years ago.

The young man busied himself tidying and sweeping the floor of a small church in Philadelphia. He was the janitor, and this was part of his regular routine. Little in his life at that time suggested the wonderful ways God would use him in the future.

He was Charles Albert Tindley. His story is one of striving to overcome hardship, and succeeding, by the grace of God. The African American son of Charles and Esther Tindley, Charles’s father was a slave, but his mother was a free woman. Thus, he was born free, but brought up among enslaved people. His mother died when he was four years old, and he was separated from his father a year later. Charles was raised by his Aunt Caroline.

In that day, slave owners considered it dangerous for blacks to receive an education. But after the Emancipation Proclamation young Charles taught himself to read and write. He moved to Philadelphia, where he started work as a janitor, attending school in the evenings, and taking a correspondence course. He mastered Hebrew and Greek, largely on his own, and prepared himself for Christian ministry.

In 1902 he became the pastor of the church where he’d once worked as janitor. It grew steadily under his leadership until, at the time of his death, it had 12,500 members. Most unusual for the time, it was an integrated congregation, with both blacks and whites serving in leadership positions. In spite of Pastor Tindley’s objections, the church was renamed the Tindley Temple Methodist Church.

As well as being a busy pastor, Charles Tindley wrote a number of fine gospel songs. In fact, he is considered one of the founding fathers of American gospel music. He wrote: We’ll Understand It Better By and By; Nothing Between My Soul and the Saviour; and Take Your Burden to the Lord and Leave It There. His song I’ll Overcome Some Day was adapted by the Civil Rights Movement, and became We Shall Overcome.

What we’ll look at here is Tindley’s 1905 song Stand by Me. There’s a popular song from 1960 that uses that title–and even claims to be inspired by the original. But there’s a serious difference. The later number is a love song (“Darlin’ Stand by Me”), whereas Tindley’s is a prayer hymn, that makes clear again and again he’s calling on God for help.

To “stand by” someone is to be loyal and supportive, and the Bible tells us, especially in the book of Psalms, that the Lord draws near, and stands by those who trust in Him. “You are near, O Lord,” says the psalmist (Ps. 119:151).

¤ “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1).

¤ “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth” (Ps. 145:18).

But the Lord Jesus identified a problem with some of His hearers. “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honour Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” (Matt. 15:8). Yet when we truly seek Him, in sincerity, He is there.“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (Jas. 4:8).

There are five solid stanzas to Charles Tindley’s song. One seems to make reference to his struggle against racial prejudice: “In the midst of persecution, stand by me” (Stanza 4).

CH-1) When the storms of life are raging,
Stand by me;
When the storms of life are raging,
Stand by me;
When the world is tossing me
Like a ship upon the sea
Thou who rulest wind and water,
Stand by me.

CH-2) In the midst of tribulation,
Stand by me;
In the midst of tribulation,
Stand by me;
When the hosts of hell assail,
And my strength begins to fail,
Thou who never lost a battle,
Stand by me.

CH-5) When I’m growing old and feeble,
Stand by me;
When I’m growing old and feeble,
Stand by me;
When my life becomes a burden,
And I’m nearing chilly Jordan,
O Thou “Lily of the Valley,”
Stand by me.

Questions:
1) In what experience in the past were you especially conscious of the Lord standing by you?

2) For what trouble or trial ahead do you need the Lord to stand by you?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | November 26, 2018

Nothing But Leaves

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 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Mrs. H. S. Lehman (no further data)
Music: Mrs. H. S. Lehman

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

Note: In 1924 an author, known only as Mrs. H. S. Lehman, published this song called Nothing But Leaves, and she also wrote a number of other songs. She published a couple of books in 1928, so, at a guess, she was born in the latter part of the nineteenth century.

In a search for more information, including her given names, I discovered a book she had authored and personally autographed. But, she signed it only “Mrs H. S. Lehman,” adding the text John 5:24 (as shown to the left). If you know more about this author, please let me know.

Disappointments–mild or otherwise–are a part of life. We may be counting on fine weather to attend a ball game on the week-end, only to find the darkening skies bring torrents of rain, and the game is cancelled. Or we may expect a new dishwasher to give us years of service, only to have it break down in a month.

Five centuries ago, the word actually had a political application. To “dis-appoint” an official meant to undo his appointment, to remove him from office. It could happen when one was put in place, with the expectation he would do well, but he had to be removed when he was found to be corrupt. The Bible warns, “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes” (Ps. 118:9).

But what of the Lord’s expectations of us? Is He ever disappointed? In one way, no. Not in the sense of being surprised by our moral failures and disobedience. He is omniscient and “knows all things” (I Jn. 3:20). He knows well what’s in our hearts (Lk. 16:15; Jn. 2:25). However, God is still grieved, when He sees us on a destructive path, and saddened when we fail to fulfil His wise purposes (Eph. 4:30).

This relates to one of Christ’s most unusual miracles. The details are recorded by both Matthew (Matt. 21:18-21) and Mark (Mk. 11:12-14). What makes it unusual is it’s the only one of about three dozen miracles found in the Gospels whose intent was to destroy, rather than to heal and help.

The Lord was approaching the city of Jerusalem, with His disciples, and the Bible says, “He was hungry” (Matt. 21:18). So when they spotted a fig tree, He approached, hoping to find something to eat, but found “nothing on it but leaves” (vs. 19). With that, Christ cursed the fig tree, and it withered and died.

It was spring, and not yet the season for ripe figs. But there might have been some fruit left from the previous growing season. More likely, there should have been fresh buds of sprouting figs. These were often picked by the poor for food. Their absence was a sign the tree would not bear fruit later on. It was failing to fulfil its expected purpose.

Some have accused Christ of being petty and vindictive in what He did. But this cannot be. First of all, as the Creator (Jn. 1:3), He has a right to do as He chooses with His creation. But also, He may have been aware that not only was the tree no producing fruit, but that it would never improve. In such a case, a farmer would likely chop the tree down to save it using up precious moisture and nutrients from the ground.

Further, many commentators see this little incident as having prophetic significance. The fig tree is used in Scripture as a symbol for the nation of Israel (Hos. 9:10). And God had specially blessed Israel, expecting her to be, as His servant, a witness to the Gentile peoples (Isa. 41:8; 43:10). However, the nation had repeatedly strayed from God. Spiritually barren, they had nothing to offer to others around. And what happened to  them?

Within a few days the Jews would call for the crucifixion of Christ, and in AD 70, Jerusalem would be destroyed, and the people scattered. It could be the Lord’s action is to be taken as a foreshadowing of this. It should be added that, in Israel’s case, this did not mean the utter and final destruction of the nation. A believing remnant of Israel will be returned to its former glory (and greater) at Christ’s return (Rom. 11:1, 26). But it presents a sober warning for them, nonetheless.

In her song, Mrs. Lehman applied this condition to individual believers, on this side of the cross. Christians are to be producing both the inward fruit of Christian character (Gal. 5:22-23), and the outward fruit of an effective service for Christ (Jn. 15:16; Rom. 1:13). But what if we are lacking spiritual fruit? The author deals with this and the two kinds of fruit in the three stanzas of her song.

What she does not do is explain that if someone professes to be a Christian, but is not bearing fruit, there is reason to doubt the reality of his or her profession. And for a fruitless believer there should be an expectation of discipline by the Lord (Jn. 15:1-8; Heb. 12:5-11).

1) The Master is seeking a harvest
In lives He’s redeemed by His blood;
He seeks for the fruit of the Spirit,
And works that will glorify God.

Nothing but leaves for the Master,
Oh how His loving heart grieves,
When instead of the fruit He is seeking,
We offer Him nothing but leaves.

2) He looks for His likeness reflected
In lives that are yielded and true;
He’s looking for zeal in the winning
Of souls He’s entrusted to you.

Questions:
1) What aspect of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 6:22-23) do you have most trouble producing?

2) What are you doing to bear fruit in the lives of others for the Lord, by His grace?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | November 19, 2018

Living for Jesus, O What Peace

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 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Charles Frederick Weigle (b. Nov. 20, 1871; d. Dec. 3, 1966
Music: Charles Frederick Weigle

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

Note: Mr. Weigle was a trained musician and he wrote over a thousand songs, He was also a gospel singer, and later became an evangelist, a preacher of the gospel. Living for Jesus, O What Peace (not to be confused with Living for Jesus, by Thomas Chisholm) is a lovely song, with a message that becomes all the richer when you learn about the man who wrote it. You can hear a beautiful rendition of it here on YouTube.

Over the years, television quiz shows have asked all kinds of questions. Jeopardy has invented a twist on this: they give the answer, and ask what the question should be. In either case, knowledge is tested, and contestants can often win a considerable amount of money from their depth of knowledge of various subjects.

But there’s a question I’ve never heard asked. In decades of following game shows, the question has never come up. Answering it can be challenging, and perhaps make us a little uncomfortable. The question is: What are you living for? The answer has to do with things such as our goals, our values and purpose in life.

Perhaps some will respond, “I haven’t really thought much about that.” If so, it may imply a life that is carelessly drifting, or basically directionless. But if we don’t have an understanding of what something is for–a plumb bob, a stethoscope, a life–how can we use it effectively? And if we don’t know where we’re going, it begs the question where will we end up? Our life’s purpose should become a kind of test of everything we do, and everything that happens to us. Will this forward my purpose? Or hinder it?

An honest and perceptive answer to the question can be sobering. Many responses will indicate largely self-centred goals. Career advancement, money and possessions, prestige and the approval of others, pleasure–which may be focused on things like alcohol and drugs, or sex, or some kind of all-consuming hobby. Even living for one’s family can be rather selfish, if looked at in terms of how they can benefit and satisfy us.

There can be another problem with the options mentioned, a more serious one. That they are not only focused on pleasing ourselves, but are time bound. Like the rich farmer in Jesus’ parable (Lk. 12:16-21), the person may plan to “pull down [his] barns and build greater…[then] eat, drink, and be merry,” with no thought of eternity. Instead, the Lord counsels us, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matt. 6:20).

Earthly treasures will all be left behind (Ps. 49:17; I Tim. 6:7). How then can we lay up treasures in heaven? The answer is found in a Christ-centred life. First, to put our faith in Christ as our only Saviour from sin. Then, to live a life in fellowship with Him, praise of Him, obedience to Him, and service for Him. The latter involves using our gifts and opportunities to bless others for Jesus’ sake, rather than seeking personal gain.

Phrased in the well known couplet by missionary C. T. Studd:

Only one life, ‘twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Paul put it even more succinctly: “To me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). And if to live is Christ, to die can only be gain. That’s true for each one of us.

It’s the conclusion reached by evangelist and gospel song writer Charles Weigle, and it’s beautifully expressed in his song, Living for Jesus, O What Peace! But we need to ask what he meant by that.

Was he suggesting the Christian life is a peaceful life, with no pain, no trials? No. In fact, Mr. Weigle struggled financially. And his wife, dissatisfied with her inability to have the things of this life, packed up and left him, taking their young daughter with her. Five years later, she died in a far off city, ruined by the pleasures of sin.

There are hints in the song that the author’s life had its troubles. “Trials may come” (stanza 1); “all of my burden…friends may forsake me” (stanza 3). No, the “peace” Weigle’s song speaks of doesn’t depend on the comforts of this world, but in the knowledge that we are investing our lives for Christ. It is a joy to serve Him, and know our service counts for something–and that everlasting joy and blessing await us up ahead.

CH-1) Living for Jesus–O what peace!
Rivers of pleasure never cease.
Trials may come, yet I’ll not fear.
Living for Jesus, He is near.

Help me to serve Thee more and more.
Help me to praise Thee o’er and o’er;
Live in Thy presence day by day,
Never to turn from Thee away.

CH-2) Living for Jesus–O what rest!
Pleasing my Saviour, I am blest.
Only to live for Him alone,
Doing His will till life is done!

CH-3) Living for Jesus everywhere,
All of my burden He doth bear.
Friends may forsake me; He’ll be true.
Trusting in Him, He’ll guide me through.

CH-4) Living for Jesus till at last
Into His glory I have passed;
There to behold Him on His throne,
Hear from His lips, “My child, well done!”

Questions:
1) What does “living for Jesus” mean to you personally?

2) How has this life purpose been a blessing to you?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | November 18, 2018

Why We Love Them

Posted by: rcottrill | November 12, 2018

Hallelujah to the Lamb

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 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Isaac Watts (b. July 17, 1674; d. Nov. 25, 1748)
Music: Gräfenberg, by Johann Crüger (b. Apr. 9, 1598; d. Feb. 23, 1662)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Isaac Watts)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: In 1707, pastor and hymn writer Isaac Watts published the present hymn calling on believers to unite with the songs of worship around the throne of God. This hymn sometimes takes its title from the first line: Come, Let Us Join Our Cheerful Songs.

The word tomorrow, in Old English, was tō morgenne (to morning), a reference to the beginning of a new day. And once tomorrow becomes today, the following day is a new tomorrow. Shakespeare’s Macbeth found a bleak monotony in this:

“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time.”

But that raises the question: What then? If we come to a point where there are no more tomorrows in this mortal life, what then? The atheist and the agnostic have no satisfying answers. For them, the only certainty is this physical world and our brief time in it. There is no God who created it and rules over it, says the atheist, and death is the end of our existence. The agnostic simply shrugs, and says these things are unknown and unknowable.

The Bible rejects this depressing dead-end-street. It begins with God creating the world and everything in it (Gen. 1:1-31), and ends with the triumph of the saints in the eternal kingdom of God. In between, the rule of God is made evident. He dominates the scene. All history is His story. The words “God,” and “Lord,” are used in the Bible over ten thousand times. “Even from everlasting to everlasting, [He is] God” (Ps. 90:2).

And the Lord is not remote and unknowable. Hundreds of times we read of Him communicating with human beings. And the Scriptures themselves are presented as the utterly trustworthy revelation of God. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Tim. 3:16). And we may confidently say, “The entirety of Your word is truth” (Ps. 119:160).

Further, it becomes clear that the focus of the entire Bible is especially on the second person of the Trinity, the Lord Jesus Christ, and in particular on His saving work on the cross. He told the Jewish leaders of His day, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me” (Jn. 5:39). And He taught His disciples from the pages of the Old Testament all about Himself (Lk. 24:27, 44).

Christ’s coming is prophesied and foreshadowed in the Old Testament, and described and explained in the New. Then, when the curtain descends on this old world’s history, heaven will still resound with His praise, when “the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ [Messiah], and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Rev. 11:15).

We’re told a few things about heaven, but much would likely be beyond our understanding now. We do know the throne of God is there (Rev. 4:2), and that the pain and suffering of this life will be gone (Rev. 21:4). We are told that in heaven, the saints will serve Him (Rev. 22:3), but we’ll have to wait and see what that service will entail.

In the book of Revelation Christ is repeatedly called the Lamb, reminding us of how He died to pay our debt of sin (cf. I Pet. 1:18-19). John the Baptist introduced the Saviour by announcing, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). And eternity will echo with glorious adoration from saints and angels. “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain” (Rev. 5:12).

Dr. Watts’s joyful song says:

CH-1) Come, let us join our cheerful songs
With angels round the throne.
Ten thousand, thousand are their tongues,
But all their joys are one.

CH-2) “Worthy the Lamb that died,” they cry,
To be exalted thus!
“Worthy the Lamb,” our hearts reply,
“For He was slain for us!”

CH-3) Jesus is worthy to receive
Honour and power divine;
And blessings more than we can give,
Be, Lord, forever Thine.

CH-4) Let all that dwell above the sky,
And air and earth and seas,
Conspire to lift Thy glories high,
And speak Thine endless praise!

Questions:
1) How will our praise of Christ in eternity differ from that of the angels?

2) What will we have to praise Christ for in eternity, besides His dying for our sins?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Isaac Watts)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | November 5, 2018

If We Could See Beyond Today

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 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: (unknown author)
Music: Norman John Clayton (b. Jan. 22, 1903; d. Jan. 1, 1992)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Norman Clayton)
The Cyber Hymnal (Norman Clayton)
Hymnary.org (Norman Clayton)

Note: Norman Clayton was a church organist for five decades, and served as the accompanist for Jack Wyrtzen’s Word of Life rallies, in New York. He was also a writer and editor for a music publisher, and wrote both words and music for many fine songs, including Now I Belong to Jesus, My Hope Is in the Lord, and We Shall See His Lovely Face.

Fortune telling is big business. Many people crave the knowledge of what will happen in the future, to them, or to family members or friends. And, for a price, there are a host of people who claim they can find out for us–by holding seances, analyzing dreams, reading palms, using the stars, fortune cookies, tea leaves, magic boards, and more. They’re in the business of marketing hope–but it’s a counterfeit.

Skeptics of these supposed prognosticators abound. English professor and award-winning television host Bergen Evans (1904-1978) said fortune telling is the “naive selection of something that has happened from a mass of things that haven’t, the clever interpretation of ambiguities, or a brazen announcement of the inevitable.” Put more simply, fortune tellers are good guessers–but their guesses are more often wrong than right.

Yet people continue to hand over large amounts of cash, in the vain hope that maybe someone will know…something. It’s estimated that this is a two billion dollar-a-year business across North America. Most who claim psychic ability tell fortunes as a sideline. But there are some who do it full-time, and make their living at it.

There are some things that can be predicted as possible because they are statistical probabilities. This often applies to the vague pronouncements of fortune cookies. “You will receive some good news this week,” for example. And yes, that may well happen. But it’s far from a personal, detailed, and explicit prophecy. No one has a knowledge of the future to that degree.

As a Bible-believing Christian, let me suggest an exception to that. I do believe Satan and his host of demons have great power. And when fortune tellers invoke occult powers, they sometimes gain information beyond what is humanly available. However, God condemns this practice (Lev. 20:6), and we need to keep in mind that Satan’s ultimate goal is to deceive and destroy (Jn. 8:44; I Pet. 5:8). A recent television exposé on CTV’s W5 told of Jack who, ensnared by occult fortune tellers, lost his marriage, his job, his house and almost his sanity.

In terms of prophecy, the Word of God, the Almighty’s only written revelation to man, is in a class by itself. A God of truth (Deut. 32:4), who knows the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:9-10), has revealed about a thousand specific prophecies in the pages of Scripture. Half of them have already been fulfilled (many associated with Christ’s first coming), giving us confidence that the rest will be, in His good time.

God’s main purpose in Scripture is the revelation of His person, and of His saving work, through Christ. “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). “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).

But, though God knows all that will happen to each of us, the Bible does not contain such details. When the Lord Jesus revealed to Peter that he would one day die as a martyr, Peter asked, “But Lord, what about this man [John]?” Christ’s response was sharp, “What is that to you? You follow Me” (Jn. 21:21-22). God is not in the business of satisfying idle curiosity.

Further, He wants us to trust in Him, step by step, and knows that with explicit information about our future we’d have greater trouble doing that. We’d be more inclined to careless complacency, or sinful independence. There’s a hymn about that. Gospel song writer Norman Clayton took some thought provoking words by an unknown author, and wrote music for If We Could See Beyond Today. It begins:

1) If we could see beyond today
As God can see,
If all the clouds should roll away,
The shadows flee,
O’er present griefs we would not fret,
Each sorrow we would soon forget,
For many joys are waiting yet,
For you and me.

The second stanza assures us that “Someday life’s wrongs will be made right, faith tells us so.” Then, the last stanza says:

3) If we could see, if we could know,
We often say,
But God in love a veil doth throw
Across our way;
We cannot see what lies before,
And so we cling to Him the more:
He leads us till this life is o’er,
Trust and obey.

Questions:
1) Since we, as Christians, don’t know the details of our future, what should the result of this be today?

2) What things, as Christians, do we know, with certainty, about our future?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Norman Clayton)
The Cyber Hymnal (Norman Clayton)
Hymnary.org (Norman Clayton)

Posted by: rcottrill | October 31, 2018

My Mother’s Bible

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 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Milan Bertrand Williams (b. Oct. 30, 1860; d. ____, 1941)
Music: Charles Davis Tillman (b. Mar. 20, 1861; d. Sept. 2, 1943)

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

Note: Milan Bertrand Williams was an American evangelist. His song was first published in 1893. You can see dozens of songs about mothers on the Cyber Hymnal. I’ve dealt with several of them on this blog: Tell Mother I’ll Be There; Faith of Our Mothers; Mother’s Prayers Have Followed Me (see my Index).

It’s a small leather-bound book; I have a picture of it on my phone. My mother’s Bible. She got it at the age of fifteen, after she trusted in Christ as her Saviour. It was a treasured possession while she lived, and now it’s become that for me.

What stands out about my mother is her godly character. She was a woman committed to Christian values. A woman of prayer. And a woman who really knew her Bible. Early on, she began committing the Scriptures to memory. She memorized the entire book of Psalms, and several other Bible books. On into her eighties, if you gave her the first few words of a psalm, she could quote it for you.

At her Memorial Service, a friend talked about how she first met my mother. Lorraine had been a New Yorker. She’d just moved to Canada, and married a man more than twenty years older than herself, taking on the care of his children. She said:

“I was a mother of five children when I first met Isbell. I was looking for something in my own Christian walk with the Lord, and had been invited to come to this church. I’d just settled my four younger children into their Sunday School classes, and was directed to a young women’s Bible class. Isbell was the teacher of that class.

One Sunday evening, a few weeks later, I was invited to her home. What I didn’t know, at that point in time, was that this would be the day our friendship truly began. I had a physical mother who lived in the United States. Now I had been given a spiritual mother here in Canada.

We laughed together, shared together, and most of all prayed together. And Isbell and I shared many times with the Word of God, about being a better wife and mother. I learned a lot of valuable lessons from this special lady. Down through these many years I have come through some hard times, but Mom was there for me. And she never asked anything in return for that kind of friendship.”

The “hard times” Lorraine mentions included what was happening at home. Her husband was an alcoholic, and unsaved. But she and my mother prayed earnestly that God would save Fred, and deliver him from bondage to alcohol.

One Sunday, Fred came to church. A gospel invitation was given, and while Mom and Lorraine gripped each other’s hands, Fred made his way to the front of the church, indicating his desire to commit his life to Christ. The Lord not only set him free from drink, he became a godly, loving husband and father. Fred joined my mother in heaven recently.

The gospel song called My Mother’s Bible is sentimental, and old fashioned. I suspect it’s rarely sung today. Many would label it “corny.” But it contains an important truth: that how parents live will influence their children. The Bible tells us that (Prov. 22:6). My mother’s love for God’s Word has deeply affected me. And she, in fact, was the one who led me to faith in Christ, many years ago. “Her worth is far above rubies” (Prov. 31:10).

Mr. Williams’ song says:

1) There’s a dear and precious Book,
Though it’s worn and faded now,
Which recalls those happy days of long ago;
When I stood at mother’s knee,
With her hand upon my brow,
And I heard her voice in gentle tones and low.

Blessed Book, precious Book,
On thy dear old tear-stained leaves
I love to look;
Thou art sweeter day by day,
As I walk the narrow way
That leads at last
To that bright home above.

3) There she read of Jesus’ love,
As He blessed the children dear,
How He suffered, bled and died upon the tree;
Of His heavy load of care;
Then she dried my flowing tears
With her kisses as she said it was for me.”

4) Well those days are past and gone,
But their mem’ry lingers still,
And the dear old Book each day has been my guide;
And I seek to do His will,
As my mother taught me then,
And ever in my heart His words abide.

Questions:
1) What kind of spiritual influence did your mother have on you?

2) What legacy of faith will you leave to your children or grandchildren?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | October 29, 2018

Messiah

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 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Charles Jennens (b. _____, 1700; d. Nov. 20, 1773)
Music: George Frederick Handel (b. Feb. 23, 1685; d. Apr. 14, 1759)

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

Note: On one occasion, Handel’s Messiah was to be presented in a city near us. I organized a bus-load of people from our church to attend. All, I believe, received a blessing. I’ve also had the idea, for some years, that the oratorio (specifically the Scriptures used) could be used for a discussion Bible study, but haven’t done anything on it…yet. Meanwhile, while I’m driving any distance, I’ve listened, over and over, to Messiah, as I go. What a blessing!

He sat at his painstaking work, hour after hour, already an old man at fifty-six, two decades past the average life expectancy of his day. He was all but bankrupt. Even worse, he was suffering from depression, and was in great physical pain from arthritis. Playing the organ, or writing music, as he was, caused him intense agony. He was at one of the lowest points in his life. But the Lord was going to use him mightily.

A musical genius, his name is George Frederick Handel. What he produced is a musical masterpiece called simply Messiah (without the initial word “The”). It’s not a retelling of the whole life of Christ, but a gospel message about the drama of redemption. In effect, it presents, in music, one of the greatest sermons ever preached. John Wesley, after attending a performance, wrote in his journal, “I doubt if that congregation was ever so serious at a sermon.”

Handel’s friend Charles Jennens put together the text. He had a deep knowledge of the Scriptures, and used verses (from the King James Version) from both Old and New Testaments. It may well be the grandest expression of the gospel in music ever created. Beethoven, on his deathbed, pointed to Handel’s work and said, “There is truth.” When someone commented after a performance that it was “excellent entertainment,” Handel replied, “I should be sorry if I only entertained them; I wish to make them better.”

The Bible presents Christ’s redeeming sacrifice over and over. “[He] gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us” (Tit. 2:14). We are redeemed from the slave market of sin “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (I Pet. 1:18-19). In heaven, the saints exclaim, “You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9). And we respond, with Job, “I know that my Redeemer lives!” (Job 19:25).

The over four dozen separate pieces in the work are presented in three parts, originally named: The Promise of Redemption; The Price of Redemption; The Power of Redemption. After writing the famous Hallelujah Chorus (for Part 2) Handel exclaimed, “I did think I did see all heaven before me, and the great God Himself.”

Handel’s masterpiece is all Scripture, and only Scripture. For your interest, and further study, the references of all the texts used in Messiah are given in the Wordwise Hymns link above. (In some cases, only part of a particular verse is used.) The entire work is rich and wonderfully enriching. But here are four examples. (I’m quoting from the New King James Version, below, so the wording may be slightly different from the older text Handel used.)

¤ “The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isa. 40:5). What has impressed me especially here is the clause that ends the verse. What is promised will happen without fail, because God has spoken, and His Word is certain.

¤ “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6). A joyful celebration of the coming of Messiah.

¤ Psalm 2:1-4, 9 is powerfully presented in a series of four selections. The futile wrath and rebellion of man against Christ that will come in the last days, before the Lord’s return is dramatically portrayed.

¤ The above is followed by a combination of Scriptures constituting the famed Hallelujah Chorus. “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!” (Rev. 19:6); “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Rev. 11:15); “King of kings and Lord of lords” (I Tim. 6:15).

On August 22, 1741, Handel began his labours, completing Part One in six days, Part Two in nine days, and Part Three in six, fleshing out the orchestral parts in a further three days. In a mere twenty-four days he had written 260 pages of complex music. Apart from its powerful message, it’s been called the greatest feat of musical composition in history.

The premiere of the massive oratorio–which takes about two and a half hours to perform–came on April 13, 1742. The demand for tickets was so great men were asked not to wear their swords, and women asked not to wear hoops in their skirts. This provided room for a hundred extra people. Hundreds more had to be turned away. When the first performance was given in London, King George II attended, and he stood for the singing of the Hallelujah Chorus, all the others rising with him. This has become a tradition that remains to this day.

There was strong criticism from some of the clergy because the work was sometimes presented in a theatre, using professional musicians who weren’t necessarily born again Christians. To the Puritan mind of the time, this was an outrage, and it caused some to label Handel a heretic. But in spite of the critics, it’s become the most beloved choral work in the English language. And heaven will likely reveal that it was used of God to bring many to faith in Christ.

In 1752, a man wrote to a pastor friend, urging him to take his wife to hear Messiah. He said, “You will hear glad tidings and truly divine rejoicings at the birth of Christ, and feel real sorrows for His sufferings–but oh! when those sufferings are over, what a transporting full chorus!”

Questions:
1) Have you ever listened to the whole Messiah, or attended a performance of it?

2) What blessings did you receive from the experience?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | October 24, 2018

Looking in the Face of Jesus

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 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Harry Dixon Clarke (b. Jan. 28, 1888; d. Oct. 14, 1957)
Music: Harry Dixon Clarke

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

Note: Harry Dudley Clarke was born in Wales. As a boy, he ran away from the orphanage where he was living, and worked at sea for almost a decade. Coming to live in America, he was involved in composing, music publishing, evangelism (as song leader for evangelist Billy Sunday) and later in pastoral ministry. Mr. Clarke also wrote the music for Avis Christiansen’s song, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

A person’s face has an important social function. Even apart from the words we speak, we communicate a great deal with our faces, especially our emotions. Love, happiness, sadness, anger, guilt, sincerity, fear, and more, are mirrored in the face.

It’s why there has been a debate about whether a Muslim woman who wears a veil (a niqab) in public should be required to remove it in court. One side argues covering her face with a veil is related to her religious beliefs–which she has the freedom to express. The opposing argument is that it’s difficult for the judge and lawyers to assess her credibility if they can’t see her facial expression when she speaks. The issue has yet to be fully resolved in Canada.

When we speak of a face-to-face meeting, we have something particular in mind. Those involved are in each other’s physical presence, and in each other’s sight. They’re directly connecting with each other, without mediation (i.e. not communicating through a go-between), and in close enough proximity to discern facial expressions.

A little more than two thousand years ago, multitudes of people saw the Lord Jesus Christ, and spoke with Him face to face. Though He has been pictured many times by artists, we actually have no certain idea what He looked like. There’s a long sheet of cloth kept in Turin, in northern Italy. Beginning in 1390, some have asserted “The Shroud of Turin” is the burial cloth of Jesus, and that the faint facial image imprinted on it is His. However, there have been many skeptics of this claim.

There are two remarkable instances in the biblical record when Christ’s face was of particular significance.

One is at His transfiguration, when the Lord briefly revealed Himself in His heavenly glory. The Bible says, “Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun” (Matt. 17:1-2). Years later, Peter refers to this when he says, “We…were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (II Pet. 1:16-18).

But a later scene contrasts starkly. After Jesus was arrested, and before He was crucified, He was cruelly tortured. God’s Word tells us, “Having blindfolded Him, they struck Him on the face and asked Him, saying, ‘Prophesy! Who is the one who struck You?’” (Lk. 22:64). “Then they spat in His face and beat Him; and others struck Him with the palms of their hands, saying, ‘Prophesy to us, Christ! Who is the one who struck You?” (Matt. 26:67-68).

In the first instance, the Lord revealed His glory, and God the Father spoke from heaven, saying, “‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!’ And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid” (Matt. 17:5-6).

In the second scene, He was so abused that Isaiah says, prophesying centuries before, “His visage was marred [disfigured] more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men” (Isa. 52:14). And through this, and His crucifixion that followed, He gave Himself as a sacrifice for sin, for you and me. (I Cor. 15:3).

The thought of looking in the face of Jesus has been the theme of a number of our hymns. There’s Carrie Breck’s “Face to face with Christ my Saviour,” and Hortius Bonar’s lovely Communion hymn, “Here, O my Lord, I see Thee face to face.” And there’s Fanny Crosby’s song, Saved by Grace, with it’s refrain beginning, “And I shall see Him face to face.”

Mr. Clarkes’ song takes up this theme:

1) Looking in the face of Jesus,
Wondrous beauty there I see;
Tenderness divine abounding,
Purer love there could not be.

O, I want to be more like Him
So that others plainly see
Christ in all His wondrous beauty
Living on, His life in me.

3) Looking in the face of Jesus,
Hope and comfort there I see,
Giving me that blest assurance
That He will return for me.

On that day I shall be like Him
Clothed in immortality,
When I rise in His own likeness
Living on, His life in me.

Questions:
1) In what way(s) have you reflected the character of Christ in the past week?

2) In what way(s) have you displayed just the opposite?

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

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