Posted by: rcottrill | February 27, 2017

The Glory of His Presence

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: Oswald Jeffrey Smith (b. Nov. 8, 1889; d. Jan. 25, 1986)
Music: Bentley DeForest Ackley (b. Sept. 27, 1872; d. Sept. 3, 1958)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Oswald Smith born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal (Oswald Smith)
Hymnary.org

Note: Over the course of eighty years Oswald Smith preached more than 12,000 sermons in eighty countries, wrote thirty-five books (with translations into 128 languages), as well as 1,200 poems, of which around a hundred have been set to music. While leading his growing Toronto congregation in a program supporting over five hundred missionaries worldwide, Smith was instrumental in challenging others to follow his example.

Concerning the present song, Alfred Ackley (Bentley’s brother, and also a hymn writer–of He Lives! And many more) wrote to Smith:

“I am still humming The Glory of His Presence. No lovelier gospel song has appeared in twenty years. It probes the depths of my being with emotion and holy desire, every time I sing it.”

Some time ago there lived, down the street from us, a reclusive old man. He wasn’t dangerous; he bothered no one. He simply was rarely seen. When he died, the family invited neighbours to visit the inside of his tiny cottage. There, he had printed line upon line of mathematical calculations relating to molecular theory–all in tiny print, on dozens of huge sheets of paper about three feet by four feet. It was a dazzling display of a brilliant mind at work.

What do you think of when someone is called eccentric. The term comes from the Greek ekkentros, meaning out of centre. It usually refers to one whose lifestyle departs from the usual practice, one who doesn’t follow the conventional pattern of the society around him.

We can set aside mental illness. Believing you’re Napoleon isn’t eccentricity, it’s insanity. And superstition is not necessarily involved–like the hockey player who wears the same socks and underwear, for luck, every time he plays. No, there is likely a rationality to what we’re considering here, a difference of lifestyle that is embraced with sincerity and purpose.

Missionary to India Silas Fox (1893-1982) was like that. Born in Medicine Hat, Alberta, he became known as the White Fox of Andhara, preaching the gospel of grace in India for over half a century, proclaiming Christ with holy boldness and great effectiveness. One tribute in his later years described him as “a man with the heart of a Viking and the simple faith of a child.” But he was indeed a genuine eccentric.

I can recall him preaching in our church, many years ago. During his message, he suddenly donned a turban and sang a song in Telugu–which none of us understood. No explanation was given. At another point, he stopped his message to pray. For this, he asked us all to kneel down. This was not a church where kneeling was a regular thing. There were no kneeling benches in the pews, and we barely had room to do it, but we did. And I believe it was good for us. As a pastor, I’ve done it since, on occasion.

Oswald Smith was a pastor, missionary statesman, and hymn writer. But Dr. Smith had an interesting eccentricity when it came to prayer. In his personal prayer times he customarily prayed out loud, while walking up and down. One time when the Smiths were staying in a hotel, a friend noticed his wife Daisy sitting in the lobby. “What are you doing down here?” he asked. “Oh, Oswald is praying” she replied.

At home, the family was used to accommodating this. One morning, at breakfast time, they could hear him pacing back and forth in the bedroom. But it went on much longer than usual, so they started breakfast. When Oswald finally appeared, with a piece of cardboard in his hand (from a packaged shirt that had been taken to the laundry), his face was wreathed in smiles.

The book of Job speaks of God giving songs in the night (Job 35:10). So does David, in Psalms: “The Lord will send his mercy in the daytime, and in the night his song will be with me” (Ps. 42:8). And missionaries Paul and Silas sang “hymns to God” in a prison cell (Acts 16:25). Oswald Smith had a similar experience that day.

At a time in his ministry which Smith describes with words such as: disappointment, heartache, and despair, he prevailed in prayer with the Lord. God not only lifted his spirits that morning, He gave the pastor such an awareness of His glorious presence he simply had to express it. He read to the family from the piece of cardboard a song he’d just written.

1) I have walked alone with Jesus
In a fellowship divine;
Nevermore can earth allure me,
I am His and He is mine.

I have seen Him, I have known Him,
For He deigns to walk with me;
And the glory of His presence
Will be mine eternally.
O the glory of His presence,
O the beauty of His face;
I am His and His forever,
He has won me by His grace.

3) In my failure, sin, and sorrow,
Broken-hearted, crushed and torn,
I have felt His presence near me,
He has all my burdens borne.

Questions:
1) Have you ever experienced deep disappointment, discouragement, or painful loss?

2) What did you do about it? (And did this help?)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Oswald Smith born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal (Oswald Smith)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | February 24, 2017

Sing with All the Saints in Glory

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: William Josiah Irons (b. Sept. 12, 1812; d. June 18, 1883)
Music: Hymn of Joy, by Ludwig van Beethoven (b. Dec. ___, 1770; d. Mar. 26, 1827)

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

Note: The original title was Sing with All the Sons of Glory. Editors have made it more clearly inclusive–even though I personally can abide the generic “sons” representing all human beings. English clergyman William Irons wrote quite a few hymns. This superb one, as the Cyber Hymnal notes, was sung at Ronald Reagan’s funeral.

As to the tune, Beethoven’s Hymn of Joy is fine, but I rather favour Roland Prichard’s wonderful Hyfrydol (to which we also sing Our Great Saviour, and several other hymns). There is no record of Beethoven’s date of birth, but he was baptized on December 17th, and the family later celebrated his birthday on the 16th.

We use words to describe what we think or feel, or what has happened to us. But what if something is beyond words? Perhaps there are no words in existence that can do the job. Or words seem far too weak to convey how we’re feeling? This can happen with both positive and negative things.

When our son was born, I vividly recall looking through the window of the hospital nursery at the incubator in which that tiny baby lay. There he was, at my first sight of him. “He’s an extension of me,” I thought, “a part of me that’s now independent of me.” I had feelings at the time that I cannot put on paper. Even if I tried, there are no words that can capture the moment.

Elie Wiesel (1828-2016), as a teen-aged Jewish boy, was taken with his family to a Nazi concentration camp. The horrors they experienced there are also beyond words. Wiesel tried. He wrote a book, in its English edition called simply Night. In it the author vents one long, anguished cry of hopeless despair so heart-wrenching it’s difficult to read. There’s no question the deep, soul-shredding inner pain of those years–pain he suffered to his dying day–is beyond any vocabulary on earth.

When our shock at some terrible experience overpowers us, or we make a discovery that’s overwhelming, or our gratitude for some gift is such that we can’t find words to express appreciation, or we have a transcendent spiritual experience, these things all can be beyond words.

The New Testament uses several terms to convey the idea that God and His ways are beyond our finite intellects to comprehend, and beyond our words to describe.

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments [or decrees] and His ways past finding out!” (Rom. 11:33).

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (II Cor. 9:15)–perhaps speaking both of our salvation and our Saviour. “Though now you do not see Him [Christ], yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (I Pet. 1:8). What we have in and through faith in the Lord is described as “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8). And we are to seek to know more of the love of Christ which “passes [or surpasses] knowledge” (Eph. 3:19).

Paul speaks of a man (perhaps himself) who either had a vision of Paradise, or was given the privilege of visiting briefly. There he heard “inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (II Cor. 12:4). J. B. Philips calls them “words that cannot, and indeed must not” be spoken.

The whole subject of heaven, the eternal home of the saints, falls in that category of being beyond words. We are told something about it, especially in the last two chapters of Revelation. But there’s undoubtedly much more that is beyond an earthly vocabulary to describe.

Pastor and hymn writer William Irons gave us a hymn about heaven in 1873. In one hundred and seventy-three words, he describes the scene, heaping phrase upon phrase, in joyous ecstasy. “O what glory, far exceeding all that eye has yet perceived!” he says. “Holiest hearts, for ages pleading, never that full joy conceived.”

In spite of this marvelous hymn, describing heaven remains beyond his skill. Even so, here is part of this wonderful hymn. (I encourage you to go to the Cyber Hymnal link and read it all.)

CH-1) Sing with all the saints in glory,
Sing the resurrection song!
Death and sorrow, earth’s dark story,
To the former days belong.
All around the clouds are breaking,
Soon the storms of time shall cease;
In God’s likeness we, awaking,
Know the everlasting peace.

CH-4) Life eternal! O what wonders
Crowd on faith; what joy unknown,
When, amidst earth’s closing thunders,
Saints shall stand before the throne!
O to enter that bright portal,
See that glowing firmament;
Know, with Thee, O God immortal,
Jesus Christ whom Thou has sent.

Questions:
1) What, from William Irons’s description of heaven impresses or blesses you most?

2) What is your favourite hymn about heaven?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | February 22, 2017

Saved, Saved!

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: John Prentice (“Jack”) Scholfield (b. July 17, 1882; d. June 2, 1972)
Music: John Prentice Scholfield

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Prentice was a school teacher, and later a real estate salesman. As a musician, he was also involved in evangelistic work for a time, and wrote a number of gospel songs. The present song was published the year after it was written in 1934.

Children seem to be fascinated with puddles. After a heavy rain, we see them detouring out of their way to slosh through the inviting waters. But if the wader has underestimated the depth of the pool–or doesn’t care about that–the water may wash over his boots and give him a soaker. (Much to Mom’s dismay, when he gets home!)

Water that’s too deep–that’s a relative thing, of course. The person who can’t swim will want to avoid water that is over his head. And divers, unaided by equipment, face serious dangers beyond 30 metres (98 feet). Wearing special apparatus, divers can descend to 700 metres (nearly half a mile) And apparently submarines can now submerge to a depth of 4500 metres (2.8 miles), but even that doesn’t plumb the ultimate depths.

The Mariana Trench, in the Pacific Ocean, is the deepest part of any of earth’s seas. At 10,911 metres (6.78 miles) the weight of water would crush any standard submarine. But a Swiss designed bathyscaphe named Trieste was built to withstand the incredible pressure. In 1960 it carried a crew of two men down to the deepest of the deeps and brought them safely up again.

This can be related to our spiritual lives, and in particular to the dangerous depths of sin into which some descend.

King Manasseh provides an example. He was the worst of the kings of Judah, and a case could be made for him being the wickedest man who ever lived. He not only led the people into the gross immorality of the Canaanite peoples who dwelt in the land before it was conquered by Israel, but led them on to even more abominations (II Kgs. 21:1-9, 16).

That is surely the depths of sin. But what happened to Manasseh. God visited judgment upon him, and he sincerely repented of his sins. In response, the Lord forgave him and restored him to the throne, where he engaged in a series of godly reforms (II Chron. 33:11-16).

Something similar happened to Paul (earlier called Saul). He persecuted the Christians of his day, hauling them into prison, and even supporting and consenting to their execution (Acts 7:59–8:1; 9:1-2). But the Lord confronted him, and he was converted, and became a Christian missionary. Greatly blessed by God, he proclaimed salvation through Jesus Christ, the One whom he’d earlier despised (Acts 9:3-6; Eph. 1:1-2; Phil. 1:21).

And what about pastor and hymn writer John Newton? He described himself this way: “Once an infidel [an unbeliever] and libertine [one who is morally or sexually unrestrained], a servant of slaves in Africa [serving on a slave ship bringing slaves to America], was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the gospel which he had long laboured to destroy.”

All of these could say, “Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord” (Ps. 130:1). And here is another example. In 1911, evangelist Mordecai Ham was holding meetings in Gonzoles, Texas. (Ham was the evangelist who was used, in 1934, to lead Billy Graham to faith in Christ.) One evening in Gonzoles he preached on “Christ Our Refuge,” explaining how the cities of refuge appointed in the Old Testament are a picture of Christ (cf. Num. 35:6, 11-14).

Among those who were in his audience that day was a wicked reprobate who had murdered four men, and despaired that there was any hope for him. But, praise the Lord, he listened, and believed God’s promise. Before Ham was even finished preaching, he leaped to his feet, crying, “Saved! Saved! Saved!”

Mr. Ham’s musical assistant, John Scholfield, was greatly impressed by what had happened, and it inspired him to write the following hymn the next afternoon. It was sung at the meeting that night.

CH-1) I’ve found a Friend, who is all to me,
His love is ever true;
I love to tell how He lifted me
And what His grace can do for you.

Saved by His power divine,
Saved to new life sublime!
Life now is sweet and my joy is complete,
For I’m saved, saved, saved!

CH-2) He saves me from every sin and harm,
Secures my soul each day;
I’m leaning strong on His mighty arm;
I know He’ll guide me all the way.

Questions:
1) Do you know someone who was wonderfully delivered from the depths of sin when he or she trusted Christ as Saviour?

2) What hymn do you know that you believe explains the gospel best of all?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | February 20, 2017

O Father, You Are Sovereign

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: Edith Margaret Clarkson (b. June 8, 1915; d. Mar. 17, 2008)
Music: Aurelia, by Samuel Sebastian Wesley (b. Aug. 14, 1810; d. Apr. 19, 1876)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Margaret Clarkson)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Canadian hymn writer Margaret Clarkson has given us a number of wonderful hymns. In 1980, she produced an excellent one on the sovereignty of God. Aurelia is the familiar tune commonly used with The Church’s One Foundation.

W eigh scales to determine how heavy something is probably have been used almost since the beginning of human history.

Balances, the simplest form of apparatus, consist of a horizontal bar supported on a central fulcrum, like a teeter-totter, with a basket or pan hanging from each end of the bar. The substance or object to be weighed is put in one pan, and known weights of ounces or grams are slowly added to the other. When the weight of each side is identical, the bar will be exactly horizontal and balanced, and the weight of the examined substance or object revealed.

Though more sophisticated scales are available now, balances are still used in some situations–and are sometimes abused by those intent on cheating others. That’s not a new thing. A warning against this form of thievery comes in the Bible, from almost three thousand years ago. “Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight” (Prov. 11:1).

Balances are also used in a symbolic sense in Scripture. Job, in a time of terrible suffering, was accused (unjustly) by his companions of committing some great sin for which the Lord must be punishing him. He replied, “Let me be weighed on honest scales, that God may know my integrity” (Job 31:6). On the other hand, judgment fell, in Babylon, on a proud and wicked ruler named Belshazzar. Through the prophet Daniel, the Lord declared, “You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting” (Dan. 5:27).

There is another sense in which this concept can be applied to the Bible. That’s in the matter of balancing truths. The Bible is an inspired and trustworthy message from God (II Tim. 3:16). Most of its message is understandable when we apply our minds prayerfully to study it. However, because God is infinite, there will be aspects of the truth that stretch beyond human comprehension.

An example of the need for balance lies in the twin truths of God’s sovereign will and man’s responsible choices. To our finite minds, these two seem impossible to reconcile. How can we be free to choose, when God controls everything? Yet somehow within the realm of God’s sovereignty we make choices every day.

Even when we can’t totally explain it, we must keep both realities in balance, because that’s what the Word of God does. He reigns over all. He makes the rules, and has a right to punish those who disobey them. But He also puts choices before human beings which imply both freedom and responsibility on our part.

Look at the words of Joseph. His jealous brothers made an evil choice; they sold him into slavery in Egypt. But in that choice God overruled, using Joseph to save many lives during a famine–even the lives of his sinful brothers. “You meant evil against me,” Joseph said to them, “but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20).

Or consider the cross of Christ. Falsely accused, Jesus was condemned and crucified. That was by a wicked human choice, but it also happened within “the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23).

And think of our salvation. The Bible says, “By grace [God’s sovereign grace] you have saved through faith [a personal decision to trust in the Saviour]” (Eph. 2:8; cf. Acts 16:31). Both must be accounted for.

Notice how both the choices to trust and worship God operate within the sphere of His sovereign will, as described in Miss Clarkson’s hymn.

CH-2) O Father, You are sovereign
In all affairs of man;
No powers of death or darkness
Can thwart Your perfect plan.
All chance and change transcending,
Supreme in time and space,
You hold your trusting children
Secure in Your embrace.

CH-4) O Father, You are sovereign!
We see You dimly now,
But soon before Your triumph
Earth’s every knee shall bow.
With this glad hope before us
Our faith springs forth anew:
Our Sovereign Lord and Saviour,
We trust and worship You!

Questions:
1) What other hymns do you know that declare the sovereignty of God?

2) What assurances and confidence does God being sovereign over all give to us?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Margaret Clarkson)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | February 17, 2017

I Have Never Lost the Wonder of It All

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: Alfred Barnerd (“Al”) Smith (b. Nov. 8, 1916; d. Aug. 9, 2001)
Music: Alfred Barnerd (“Al”) Smith

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

Note: Rodney Simon (“Gypsy”) Smith (1860-1947) was an English evangelist, born in a Gypsy camp near London. He preached the gospel all over the world. A comment he made inspired this song by Al Smith, an outstanding contributor to Christian music in the mid-twentieth century. The present song may be more of a solo number than one for the congregation, but the story behind it is inspiring.

Many critics rank 1941’s Citizen Kane as the greatest motion picture ever made. It was the creation of a young genius names Orson Welles. Only twenty-five at the time, he wrote much of the screen play, produced and directed the film, chose the cast, and acted in it as the main character, Charles Foster Kane.

The fictional Kane, as a young idealist, became the editor-in-chief of a newspaper. But gradually, as the story unfolds, we witness the deterioration of his character. His life becomes a classic ego trip, with a thirst for wealth and power that tramples any who get in his way.

In one brilliant series of vignettes, Welles shows us Kane at breakfast with his wife, again and again, over a span of time. Those short scenes graphically portray the breakdown of a relationship. From being loving and attentive to one another, the two come to look as though they’re strangers, sitting at the same table, but cold and distant, living in their own separate worlds.

Sadly, that can happen to couples in real life. The happiness and hope of the wedding day can cool over time. Romance withers before the reality of the pressures of life and self-centredness. In Canada, four out of ten marriages end in divorce. Other countries fare worse. In Belgium it is seven out of ten. And, of course, this doesn’t count the number who drift in and out of intimate relationships, without officially getting married.

And something similar can happen to many spiritually, especially as we near the end of this world’s history. The Bible says:

“In the last days…men will be lovers of themselves [selfish and self-centred], lovers of money…lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (II Tim. 3:1-4).

The Lord Jesus described the days before His return this way: “Lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold” (Matt. 24:12). Later, in a message sent from heaven, He warns the church at Ephesus, “I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Rev. 2:4; cf. Eph. 1:15).

American evangelist Dwight Moody, and his music director Ira Sankey, held many meetings in Britain. On one occasion, Mr. Moody expressed concern that Gypsies were not allowed to attend. (The reason they were barred was that some were notorious pickpockets, and the whole group was branded with that reputation and excluded.) In light of that, Moody decided to visit the large Gypsy encampment in Epping Forest, near London, and preach the gospel there.

This he did, with a wonderful response. Then, as he and Sankey were leaving, Mr. Sankey’s eyes fell on an eager young boy. He put his hand on the boy’s head, and prayed, “Oh Lord, if this dear boy has never accepted Thee as Saviour, may he do so. And, Lord, make a preacher out of him. Amen.”

Many years went by, and the Lord abundantly answered that prayer. The boy, now a man became an evangelist greatly used of God. Popularly known as Gypsy Smith, he preached to tens of thousands the world over. He visited America many times, and on one occasion, in the first decade of the twentieth century, he asked to see Ira Sankey. That gentleman was now elderly, and nearly blind, but he received his visitor graciously.

“Do you remember,” asked Gypsy, “the time when you and Moody visited the Gypsy camp in Epping forest, and you prayed for a young boy?” Sankey said that he did indeed. And Gypsy replied that he was that boy. “And you know, Mr. Sankey, I never get into the pulpit to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ but that I still feel the pressure of your hand on my head.”

The last time he visited America, then in his eighties, Gypsy Smith met a man around the same age, who said, “Gypsy, I was blessed by your preaching when you first came to America over fifty years ago.” And he asked the secret of the evangelist’s staying power. “Sir,” Gypsy responded, “I have never lost the wonder of it all.”

No cooling of his ardour over time, no sad estrangement from his Saviour. There was a sense of wonder at the glorious grace of God that not only reached out and saved him, but motivated decades of faithful service for his Master. And his comment inspired a gospel song by Alfred Smith (1916-2001), using Gypsy’s words as the title.

1) Once so aimlessly I wandered ‘round the tangled paths of sin.
All about me seemed so hopeless, doubt and fears without, within.
Then a voice so kind and gentle spoke sweet peace unto my soul.
Gone my days of sin and wand’ring, since the Saviour made me whole.

I have never lost the wonder of it all.
I have never lost the wonder of it all!
Since the day that Jesus saved me
And a whole new life He gave me,
I have never lost the wonder of it all!

Questions:
1) What are some wonders that thrill you about the Christian life?

2) What is the reason some Christians seem to lose “the wonder of it all”?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | February 15, 2017

Exalted High at God’s Right Hand

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: Roland Hill (b. Aug. 23, 1744; d. Apr. 11:1833)
Music: Missionary Chant, by Heinrich Christoph Zeuner (b. Sept. 20, 1795; d. Nov. 7, 1857)

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

Note: Roland Hill was an English pastor who had a great interest in world evangelism. He helped found the London Missionary Society, and served on the first committee of the Religious Tract Society. In 1783, in nine stanzas, Hill gave us a hymn about heaven, based on Revelation 7:9-17. And since one of the heavenly elders asks John a question about those gathered around God’s throne, Pastor Hill adopted that format in his hymn, alternating stanzas with questions and answers.

Heinrich Zeuner came from Germany to America, where he took the name Charles Zeuner. His Missionary Chant is also used with the hymn Ye Christian Heralds.

Time travel is, so far anyway, exclusively the province of science fiction. In 1895, British author H. G. Wells published a novel called The Time Machine (a term he made up). The time traveler–who was given no name in the original story–invented a machine that enabled him to journey through time.

If you had that power, when and where would you like to go? What would be, for you, the place to be? There are many choices, some pleasant and exciting, others terrible and distressing. Would you like to be there when Gutenberg invented the printing press, and began turning out the first printed Bibles? Or what about the birth of Christ? What if you could join with the shepherds and see the Baby Jesus in the manger?

Even with unpleasant or criminal events there would be things to learn that have puzzled historians for years. Who, for instance, was Jack the Ripper? Or was there actually a second gunman involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy? Or what about Jimmy Hoffa? The American leader of the Teamsters Union disappeared in 1975, and no one knows what happened to him.

On my desk, as I write, are three books. One is The Random House Timetables of History, published in 1991. It describes over five thousand events from ancient times to 1990, all the way from giving an approximate day for the invention of the wheel and the sail, to the release of Nelson Mandela from prison.

Another book is Dates with Destiny, in which the authors tell us about what they consider the one hundred most important dates in church history. They begin with the persecution of the early Christians, and end with the amazing growth of the church in China, in spite of oppression by a communist government.

Finally, there is a the Holy Bible on my desk, always within reach. That’s the book that covers history, with divinely inspired precision, from eternity past to eternity up ahead. Encompassed in that infinite span is the creation of the present earth and heavens (Gen. 1:1), the final destruction of these (II Pet. 3:10), and the creation of the new heavens and earth “in which righteousness dwells [abides, makes its home, forever]” (II Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1).

The heavenly kingdom must surely be something to see! The Apostle Paul speaks of a man who saw it (many commentators believe it was likely Paul himself). In Paradise he heard “inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter [i.e. that he was not permitted to repeat]” (II Cor. 12:1-4). But about forty years later, the Apostle John was given a revelation of heavenly things which he was told not to hold back from the telling others (Rev. 1:11; 22:10).

The heavenly city is given various names, several that indicate its relation to the earthly city of Jerusalem. It is “mount Zion and the city of the living God,” and “heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. 12:22-24), “the holy city New Jerusalem” (Rev. 21:2), and “the Paradise of God” (II Cor. 12:4).

We know a few things about it (especially from the last two chapters of Revelation). The Lord has pulled back the curtain slightly to give us a glimpse, but there is so much more to discover. It’s definitely the place to be, and we can be, through faith in the shed blood of Christ, who paid our debt of sin (Eph. 2:13; Rev. 5:9).

CH-1) Exalted high at God’s right hand,
Nearer the throne than cherubs stand,
With glory crowned, in white array,
My wondering soul says, “Who are they?”

CH-2) These are the saints beloved of God,
Washed are their robes in Jesus’ blood;
More spotless than the purest white,
They shine in uncreated light.

CH-3) Brighter than angels, lo! they shine
Their glories great, and all divine;
Tell me their origin, and say
Their order what, and whence came they?

CH-4) Through tribulation great they came;
They bore the cross, and scorned the shame;
Within the living temple blest,
In God they dwell, and on Him rest.

Questions:
1) Other than the Lord Jesus Christ, what Bible character are you looking forward to meeting in heaven?

2) What question(s) would you like to ask when you meet him or her?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | February 13, 2017

Down Life’s Dark Vale We Wander

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: Philip Paul Bliss (b. July 9, 1838; d. Dec. 29, 1876)
Music: Philip Paul Bliss

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Philip Bliss)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: In spite of his relatively short life, Bliss was one of the premier hymn writer’s of the nineteenth century. Many of his songs still appear in evangelical hymnals. The present song is sometimes called When Jesus Comes. It’s not one of his better creations, being notably repetitious. The phrases “till Jesus comes” and “when Jesus comes” are repeated thirty-six times, counting the refrains! Nonetheless this does highlight a great and eternal turning point.

When there’s a history-making event, one altering the lives of many people, it could be called a turning point–especially if things afterward are not what they were before.

Canadians could speak of the differences before and after Confederation in 1867, when a vast swath of the North American Continent was united to become the Dominion of Canada. Americans look to July 4th, 1776, as the birthday of the United States of America.

But few would deny–whether they’re Christians or not–that the day Christ was born is one of overwhelming significance across the world. Lives have been changed, and history altered, by that one event and what grew from it. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe effectively show us that in their book What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? And New York City pastor, Dr. Ralph Sockman, perceptively wrote, “The hinge of history is on the stable door of Bethlehem.” What a turning point!

It has even affected the calendar we use every day. Back in the year 525, Dionysius, of Scythia Minor, introduced a system counting the years starting with the birth of Christ. Based on his work, the years before are now labeled BC (Before Christ), and those after are called AD (short for Anno Domini, meaning the Year of Our Lord). There is no year Zero, of course. Before Jesus’ birth it was BC, and the instant after it became the first year AD.

Dionysius did have a problem, however, calculating exactly when this change took place. We now have more complete historical data about that era. We know that the ruler named Herod, the one who sought to kill the Baby Jesus (Matt. 2:13), died in 4 BC. That means the more likely date of Christ’s birth is some time in the year before that.

But that doesn’t invalidate the “hinge of history” nature of the birth. Nor does the attempt to do away entirely with any reference to Christ in dating. Secularists prefer to use the terms BCE (Before the Common Era), and CE (the Common Era), but that doesn’t change the overwhelming influence of Christ’s birth. And there’s nothing “common” about that!

The Bible says, “the Father has sent the Son as Saviour of the world” (I Jn. 4:14). Though He was only on the earth, physically, for a short time, He changed everything. He died on Calvary to pay our debt of sin, and countless millions since have trusted in Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Before the cross, the Old Testament tells of animal sacrifices being offered, over and over. But they weren’t the final answer (Heb. 10:4). They were symbols pointing forward to the one great sacrifice of Christ (Jn. 1:29; 3:16).

But there’s another day that will bring even more dramatic changes than the birth of the Saviour at His first coming. Two angels spoke of it at the time of His ascension back into heaven. They said:

“This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner [in just the same way] as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11; cf. Matt. 24:30).

As people saw Him then, physically, visibly ascend, they’ll see Him again at His return. What changes there will be at that time! Many Scriptures speak of it. For believers there will be no more crying or pain in heaven, no more sorrow or death (Rev. 21:4). Wonderful!

One day in 1872, hymn writer Philip Bliss (1838-1876) heard two women talking. One quoted an English author named Anna Shipton, who wrote, “This may be the day of His coming.” It may indeed. And Bliss wrote a song about the before and after.

CH-1) Down life’s dark vale we wander,
Till Jesus comes;
We watch and wait and wonder,
Till Jesus comes.

All joy His loved ones bringing,
When Jesus comes;
All praise through Heaven ringing,
When Jesus comes.
All beauty bright and vernal,
When Jesus comes;
All glory, grand, eternal,
When Jesus comes.

CH-3) No more heart pangs nor sadness,
When Jesus comes;
All peace and joy and gladness,
When Jesus comes.

CH-4) All doubts and fears will vanish,
When Jesus comes;
All gloom His face will banish,
When Jesus comes.

Questions:
1) What changes in particular are you looking forward to at the return of Christ?

2) What things in the world suggest that His coming may be very near?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Philip Bliss)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | February 10, 2017

“Come Unto Me,” It Is the Saviour’s Voice

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: Nathaniel Norton (b. Oct. 7, 1839; d. Nov. ___, 1925)
Music: George Coles Stebbins (b. Feb. 26, 1846; d. Oct. 6, 1945)

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

Note: Norton attended Yale University, and settled in the eastern United States, where he worked for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.

An open invitation–sometimes called a standing invitation–expresses the desire of the one issuing it to receive or admit anyone who desires to come. Perhaps it’s extended to those who they’d like to visit their home, or church, or a place of business.

The phrase can, though, be used in a negative sense. For example: Leaving your keys in the ignition is an open invitation for someone to steal your car! Or there’s the invitation of the carnival barker, “Come one, come all!”–when what he offers is so often a tawdry sham. There are also some invitations we pointedly reject. It’s why we tell children not to talk to strangers. Men with an evil purpose may try to lure them with, “Come and see my puppy,” when it’s a deceitful trap.

We’re more familiar with the positive application of the term. Stores offer a standing invitation to buyers, churches to worshipers, Emergency Rooms to patients. They are implicitly saying, “If you have a need we can meet, please come and see us.”

In a letter, the Apostle Paul urges the Christians at Colosse to welcome Mark (the author of the Gospel that bears his name). The word “welcome” (dechomai in Greek) means to take by the hand. The apostle was urging them to receive him as a friend, shake his hand and give him a hearty welcome.

All through the Bible, we learn of a gracious God who extends an invitation to needy sinners, often using food and drink as a symbol of spiritual fellowship.

“Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat” (Isa. 55:1).

“Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (Jn. 7:37-38).

Many have availed themselves of the spiritual life and help provided through faith in Christ. But Isaiah speaks prophetically of the rejection of the Lord by his own people. “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him” (Isa. 53:3). Yet the Lord Jesus has continued to welcome all who would accept Him, and respond to His call (cf. Jn. 1:11-12).

“Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).

“We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain” (II Cor. 6:1).

One man who responded in faith was Nathaniel Norton. A cultured and educated gentleman, he had, however, never put his faith in Christ. But one day Pastor George Pentecost was conducting an evening service in his church when Norton was present. When a gospel invitation was given, he stood and confessed Christ as his Saviour.

That same evening, on returning home, Nathaniel Norton expressed his newfound faith, and told what he had found in Jesus–rest, peace, and life–in simple lines of verse. They were given to the George Stebbins, the musician working with Dr. Pentecost, and soon a new gospel song was born. Dwight Moody’s music director, Ira Sankey, says it was used in evangelistic meetings many times afterward.

CH-1) “Come unto Me,” it is the Saviour’s voice,
The Lord of life, who bids thy heart rejoice;
O weary heart, with heavy cares oppressed,
“Come unto Me, and I will give you rest.”

CH-2) Weary with life’s long struggle full of pain,
O doubting soul, thy Saviour calls again;
Thy doubts shall vanish and thy sorrows cease,
“Come unto Me, and I will give you peace.”

CH-3) Oh, dying man, with guilt and sin dismayed,
With conscience wakened, of thy God afraid;
Twixt hopes and fears–Oh end the anxious strife,
“Come unto Me, and I will give you life.”

Questions:
1) Have you put your faith in Christ for salvation? If not, you can learn more in God’s Plan of Salvation.

2) If you are a Christian, what do you come to Christ in prayer for most often?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | February 8, 2017

Come, My Soul, Thou Must Be Waking

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: Baron Friedrich Rudolph Ludwig von Canitz (b. Nov. 27, 1654; d. Aug. 11, 1699); translation by Henry James Buckoll (b. Sept. 9, 1803; d. June 6, 1871)
Music: Haydn, by Franz Josef Haydn (b. Mar. 31, 1732; d. May 31, 1809)

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

Note: Buckoll was an English schoolmaster at Rugby. There have been several translations and versions of this hymn, including one by Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878). The metre of the text is so odd (8.4.7.8.4.7, rhyming a.a.b.c.c.b), that only the two tunes suggested by the Cyber hymnal will fit it. (If you’re unsure of what a hymn’s metre is, see About That Metrical Index.)

Baron Friedrich von Canitz was a nobleman in Berlin three centuries ago who, in spite of the temptations of his power and prestige, lived a devout Christian life. The hymn, one of several he wrote, is the only one translated into English. Author Albert Edward Bailey (1871-1951) speaks glowingly of Canitz’s hymn, and I tend to agree:

“One is tempted to say that this is the finest rule of life ever put into a hymn. It is joyful, courageous, stimulating, challenging, a call to action, to self-control, to obedience” (The Gospel in Hymns, p. 329).

The baron’s piety can be seen in the last morning of his life. When the dawn broke into his sick chamber, he asked that he might be supported to the window, and might look once again upon the rising sun. After looking steadily at it for some time, he cried out, “Oh! if the appearance of this earthly and created thing is so beautiful and quickening, how much more shall I be enraptured at the sight of the unspeakable glory of the Creator Himself.” In that moment, he fell back, exhausted, and died.

It’s a phrase that has been around for over two thousand years. Carpe diem [pronounced CAR-pay DEE-um] is Latin for: “seize the day.” The words come from a work by the Roman poet Horace.

The full line translates approximately as, “Seize the present; trust tomorrow e’en as little as you may.” It’s an exhortation to live life to the fullest, getting the most out of each individual day. That applies logically to each day’s hours and minutes too. Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) wrote: “Sometimes you will not know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”

We must “seize the day!” But that will mean different things to different people. To the pleasure-seeker, it means getting as much fun out of each day as possible. In the extreme, that’s represented by the morally unrestrained libertine who craves more and more selfish gratification, whatever the cost.

Then there are those who see each new day as an opportunity to do business, and climb the ladder of corporate success. Either to make money and acquire more of the things of this life, or to gain power over others, or simply to enjoy the notoriety and fame such things bring.

King Solomon tried all of this and more. He was a man with great God-given wisdom, but he drifted away from God, and too often failed to follow the wisdom he taught others. The book of Ecclesiastes, written near the end of his life, seems almost to be a confession, and it implies a return to where true meaning and fulfilment in life is to be found.

Without factoring in our responsibility to God and an eternal destiny up ahead (Ecc. 12:13-14), this mortal life is “vanity”–a word meaning empty and futile, that Solomon uses twenty-nine times. The king tried pleasure (Ecc. 2:1-2), but it brought no lasting joy and satisfaction. It was the same with his acquisition of incredible wealth (Ecc. 5:10). Prestige and popularity were fleeting and meaningless too (Ecc. 2:9; 4:16).

The Amplified Bible’s expanded version of Ecclesiastes 12:13 is almost a treatise on what Solomon finally realized gave life true value.

“All has been heard; the end of the matter is: Fear God [revere and worship Him, knowing that He is] and keep His commandments, for this is the whole of man [the full, original purpose of his creation, the object of God’s providence, the root of character, the foundation of all happiness, the adjustment to all inharmonious circumstances and conditions under the sun] and the whole [duty] for every man.”

For the Christian, the aim of each day should be to live each moment to the honour and glory of God, and in service for Him. “Serve the LORD with gladness” (Ps. 100:2; cf. Lk. 2:37; II Tim. 1:3). That will include praising Him, and rejoicing in the new day. “This is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24). And it’ll involve living according to the wisdom of His Word. “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time” (Eph. 5:15-16; cf. Ps. 119:105, 130).

CH-1) Come, my soul, thou must be waking!
Now is breaking
O’er the earth another day:
Come, to Him who made this splendour,
See thou render
All thy feeble powers can pay.

CH-3) Pray that He may prosper ever
Each endeavour
When thine aim is good and true;
But that He may ever thwart thee,
And convert thee,
When thou evil wouldst pursue.

CH-4) Think that He thy ways beholdeth;
He unfoldeth
Every fault that lurks within;
Every stain of shame glossed over,
Can discover,
And discern each deed of sin.

CH-5) Mayst thou, then, on life’s last morrow,
Free from sorrow,
Pass away in slumber sweet;
And, released from death’s dark sadness,
Rise in gladness,
That far brighter Sun to greet.

Questions:
1) Do you begin the day with this kind of prospect and hope?

2) What gives you the greatest difficulty in achieving it? (What can you do about that?)

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

Posted by: rcottrill | February 6, 2017

Bread of Heaven

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: Josiah Conder (b. Sept. 17, 1789; d. Dec. 27, 1855)
Music: Jesu, Jesu, Du Mein Hirt, by Paul Heinlein (b. Apr. 11, 1626; d. Aug. 6, 1686)

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

Note: English author, editor and publisher, Josiah Conder wrote this short hymn in 1824, for use at the Lord’s Supper. It consists of one stanza about the bread, and a second about the wine. Heinlein was a church organist over three centuries ago.

Bread is considered the most widely consumed food in the world. It’s close to being a staple, a basic and necessary item, in many cultures. Not only so, it’s versatile, and portable and can be eaten in many places where other foods would be less convenient.

Grinding grains or seeds, combining the resulting meal with other ingredients, and baking the mix, is a process that has been used since the beginning of human history. The Egyptians, centuries before the time of Christ, became expert bread makers, and added yeast to make the airier product we’re familiar with today. A document has been discovered listing fifty-seven kinds of bread, and thirty-eight kinds of cake, made in Pharaoh’s kitchens.

In England, John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792) was a hard-working civil servant, and an obsessive gambler. The story goes that, not wanting to leave the card table to eat, he would tell a servant to bring him some salt beef between two slices of bread. Other players, asked if they wanted anything, replied, “The same as Sandwich,” and the “sandwich” was born.

Around 1870, on Coney Island, German immigrant Charles Feltman began selling hot sausages in rolls. As to where that got its now familiar name, German immigrants brought not only their sausages to America, but also dachshund dogs. Since the sausages were long and narrow like the dogs, it probably began as a joke to call Feltman’s sandwiches “hot dachshunds,” or “hot dogs.”

The submarine, or sub, originated in Italy. Dominic Conti immigrated to America around 1895, opening a grocery store in New Jersey. There he offered traditional Italian sandwiches, long crusty rolls, filled with cold cuts, topped with lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, onions, oil, vinegar, and Italian spices. His granddaughter claimed he named them “submarines,” after seeing one of those long narrow naval vessels in the harbour.

But let’s go way back to the first of over three hundred times bread is mentioned in the Bible. In Eden, God told Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit of one forbidden tree, warning that disobedience would bring death (Gen. 2:17). Yet our first parents sinned (Gen. 3:6), and the Lord pronounced a sober judgment.

“In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19).

Possibly “bread” there means food in general, as it seems to do in the Lord’s Prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). But in Genesis it does translate the Hebrew word for actual bread.

Long afterward, God miraculously provided manna for the children of Israel to eat during their forty years in the wilderness. The people ground it and baked it into cakes (Num. 11:7-8). It was referred to as “the bread of heaven [i.e. provided by the God of heaven]” (Ps. 78:24).

Centuries later, in response to listeners speaking to the Lord Jesus about the manna (Jn. 6:30-31), He used it as a picture of Himself. “The bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world….I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (vs. 33, 35).

The imagery is applied directly to Christ’s broken body on the cross, in the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 26:26; I Cor. 11:24).

“As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” Or as the Bible in Basic English puts it: “Whenever you take the bread and the cup you give witness to the Lord’s death till he comes” (I Cor. 11:26).

CH-1) Bread of heav’n, on Thee we feed,
For Thy flesh is meat indeed:
Ever may our souls be fed
With this true and living Bread;
Day by day with strength supplied,
Through the life of Him who died.

CH-2) Vine of heav’n, Thy blood supplies
This blest cup of sacrifice,
Lord, Thy wounds our healing give,
To Thy cross we look and live:
Jesus, may we ever be
Grafted, rooted, built in Thee.

Questions:
1) In what way are we “giving witness” to the Lord’s death in this service? What does that mean?

2) What are your favourite hymns used at the Lord’s Supper (the Communion Service)?

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

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