Posted by: rcottrill | May 23, 2018

Beneath the Cross 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: Elizabeth Cecelia Douglas Clephane (b. June 18, 1830; d. Feb. 19, 1869)
Music: St Christopher, by Frederick Charles Maker (b. Aug. 6, 1844; d. Jan. 1, 1927)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Scottish author Elizabeth Clephane wrote this lovely hymn about taking her own stand at the cross–an expression of her faith in the Saviour. Her father was the local sheriff of a town near Edinburgh. And her song, Beneath the Cross of Jesus, was written in 1868 and published posthumously four years later. She also gave us the song The Ninety and Nine.

Taking a stand is an expression we see in the news sometimes. He took a stand on voter rights; she takes a stand on equal pay for equal work. It means to have convictions, to take a firm position on what you believe, and hold your ground.

President Abraham Lincoln said, “Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.” And he said in a speech, “I ask you to stand by me so long as I stand by it [referring to the American flag].” Auto maker Lee Iacocca said, “To succeed today you have to set priorities, decide what you stand for.” And there’s this challenging exhortation from author H. G. Wells: “If you fell down yesterday, stand up today.”

The Bible uses the expression to indicate how we should respond to the challenges of life.

¤ We are to “watch [be on guard], stand fast [or firm] in the faith [the teachings of God’s Word], be brave, be strong” (I Cor. 16:13).

¤ And we should “put on the whole armour of God, that [we] may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11).

¤ And “stand fast [firm] in the Lord [i.e. with His help]” (Phil. 4:1).

One of the most difficult times to do that was surely when Christ was seized, falsely accused and crucified. His followers had seen His wonderful power. Why couldn’t He do something to stop His enemies? We read that “all the disciples forsook Him and fled” (Matt. 26:56). They went into hiding–though, to his credit, John later came back and appeared at the cross with Jesus’ mother (Jn. 19:26-27).

But there were at least four followers who apparently remained near the cross (Jn. 19:25). Remarkably, they were all women, and three of them were named Mary. There was Jesus’ mother Mary, with her unnamed sister, Mary the wife of Clopas (also called Cleopas), and Mary Magdalene.

Afterward, Mary from Magdala had a remarkable meeting with the resurrected Christ (Jn. 20:11-18). Cleopas was journeying back to his home in the town of Emmaus with an unnamed companion when they both met and conversed with the risen Saviour (Lk. 24:13-32). It’s not impossible that the other person with Cleopas was his wife Mary. As for the mother of Jesus, the Lord commended her to the care of John, and we see them both, later, in the upper room, waiting for the new ministry of the Holy Spirit to begin (Acts 1:8, 13-14).

All three of these women showed great courage, even in their time of grief. They took a stand near the cross and testified to their loyalty to Christ, and their deep love for Him. They were later rewarded with a fuller understanding of what had happened.

As to the hymn, the author’s description of the cross as a “place where heaven’s love and heaven’s justice meet” is wonderful. That is the gospel: that God sent His Son, in love, to pay sin’s penalty for us, in order to satisfy His holy justice. Now through faith in Christ, we can be forgiven and saved eternally. And Clephane adds to this, in another stanza, “two wonders”: God’s redeeming love and our unworthiness of it.

Note: the word “fain” means gladly, willingly. A “trysting place” is an appointed meeting place. And the “holy patriarch” is Jacob. Clephane is referring to his dream out in the wilderness (Gen. 28:10-12). Here are three of the five stanzas found on the Cyber Hymnal. Early publications of the hymn ended stanza four with “my own worthlessness.” The word “unworthiness” is infinitely better.

CH-1) Beneath the cross of Jesus
I fain would take my stand,
The shadow of a mighty rock
Within a weary land;
A home within the wilderness,
A rest upon the way,
From the burning of the noontide heat,
And the burden of the day.

CH-2) O safe and happy shelter,
O refuge tried and sweet,
O trysting place where heaven’s love
And heaven’s justice meet!
As to the holy patriarch
That wondrous dream was giv’n
So seems my Saviour’s cross to me,
A ladder up to heav’n.

CH-4) Upon that cross of Jesus
Mine eye at times can see
The very dying form of One
Who suffered there for me;
And from my stricken heart with tears
Two wonders I confess;
The wonders of redeeming love
And my unworthiness.

Questions:
1) Why is it wrong to describe ourselves as “worthless” (the original word used)? (What shows us we are not worthless to God?)

2) What does it mean to say we should live the Christian life in the shadow of the cross?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | May 21, 2018

Happy in the Love 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: Mary Jane (“Jennie”) Bain Wilson (b. Nov. 13, 1856; d. Sept. 3, 1913)
Music: Joseph Lincoln Hall (b. Nov. 4, 1866; d. Nov. 29, 1930)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Joseph Lincoln Hall)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: As noted below, Jennie Wilson was disabled, and confined to a wheelchair from the age of four. She educated herself at home, through extensive reading, and went on to write 2,200 poems, many of which became gospel songs. (As of this date, the Cyber Hymnal lists 697 of them.)

Salesmen do it all the time; they exaggerate the benefits of their products. If it’s an obvious fantasy, we perhaps can accept it for what it is, and be entertained. But the closer the overstatement is to reality, the more deceptive it can be, and the more dishonest it seems.

A television commercial shows a car ploughing through a foot of snow with ease, or climbing the rocky side of a mountain. And we know it can’t. Yet advertising experts recommend this kind of puffery, asserting such commercials will be more memorable, and bring more sales.

What advertisers rarely do is face the negatives. That casino or lottery ad will never admit that almost all who gamble their hard-earned money will be losers. That shiny new car will get dirty, and eventually begin to rust. It will break down, and need expensive repairs. And that face cream will, in the end, not be able to reverse the unsettling ravages of age.

In the spiritual realm there can be a false overselling of the gospel. It may be well meaning, but it claims more than it can deliver. The notion that if you come to Jesus all your troubles will be over, that you can be happy, healthy, and wealthy all the time? No, that’s not true. The Word of God assures the Christian of new resources from the Lord to deal with the trials of life, but it doesn’t suggest an end to all pain and suffering this side of eternity.

Paul “learned” to handle both life’s abundance and its privation, by God’s grace (Phil. 4:11-13), and he says the Lord can do the same for us (vs. 6-7, 19). God promises, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect [fulfilled, shown to fullest effect] in [your] weakness” (II Cor. 12:9).

In 1897 Happy in the Love of Jesus was published, a simple gospel song with a catchy tune. The words were written by Jennie Wilson. And first we must deal with that word “happy,” as it’s used thirty-two times in the song (counting the refrains).

Some of the modern Bible versions substitute happy in place of the word blessed–found hundreds of times in the Scriptures. But are the two synonymous? Happiness tends to be more situational, an emotional reaction to happenings. But to be supremely blessed of God has both more depth in the soul and more breadth in the life. It engenders inner joy and contentment.

In any event, happiness is what Wilson is telling us about. The stanzas are fine, as they speak of the believer’s pilgrimage to Zion (the heavenly city, Heb. 12:22).

CH-1) Home to Zion we are bound,
Happy in the love of Jesus,
Peace abiding we have found,
Happy in the love of Jesus.

CH-2) Trusting we will forward go,
Happy in the love of Jesus,
Treading changeful paths below,
Happy in the love of Jesus.

CH-4) Soon we’ll reach the homeland fair,
Happy in the love of Jesus,
And shall dwell forever there,
Happy in the love of Jesus.

There’s certainly tremendous blessing, great joy, and contentment, found in contemplating that the Lord Jesus loved us enough to die for our sins (Gal. 2:20), and to realize that nothing is able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through faith in Christ (Rom. 8:31-39).

But the refrain’s absolute statements are concerning to me.

Happy, happy,
Singing all the way,
Happy all the day;
Happy, happy,
Happy in the love of Jesus.

All the way? All the day? No. And ironically, Wilson herself didn’t have that experience. She was confined to a wheelchair from the age of four, and a couple of photographs we have of her around the age of fifty show an unsmiling woman who seems well aware of the heavy burdens of life. Did she smile sometimes? Reportedly she certainly did. But it’s that “all” that does not fit life’s experiences, for Christians as well as non-Christians. It’s an oversell. Slightly better might be:

Singing on the way,
Happy day by day.

Even Christ Himself wasn’t happy all the time (Isa. 53:3; Mk. 3:5; 14:33; Lk. 19:41; Jn. 11:35). But through life’s journey the believer has access to the throne of God, through Christ, where we can “obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:14-16).

Questions:
1) What is your own view of happiness, and whether any unhappiness in a Christian’s life is somehow a sin, or shows we are out of step with the Lord?

2) Can you think of other hymns or choruses that seem to misrepresent the Christian life in this way?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Joseph Lincoln Hall)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | May 16, 2018

How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds

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 Newton (b. July 24, 1725; d. Dec. 21, 1807)
Music: St. Peter ( or Reinagle) by Alexander Robert Reinagle (b. Aug. 21, 1799; d. Apr. 6, 1877)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: John Newton, the converted slave trader, became a pastor, and wrote perhaps our best known hymn, Amazing Grace, but he authored dozens more as well. This one he originally called simply “The Name of Jesus.”

It’s a subject we’ve looked at before in these articles, but there is more that can be said about it. When Shakespeare’s Juliet asks the question, “What’s in a name?” she is actually implying what we name a person or thing is inconsequential. That it’s the nature of the thing or person that really matters, whatever name we use.

Perhaps there’s an element of truth in that. In some cases, a generic or knock-off brand of toothpaste or jeans may be just as good as the name brand, and cheaper. Names can be arbitrary labels, almost randomly chosen, and therefore meaningless when it comes to describing the nature or quality of the thing they represent.

But that’s certainly not always the case. Names can be chosen for a specific reason. Sometimes a baby is named after a parent or other relative. And sometimes a name is chosen for its meaning, to be an inspiration to the individual later in life. In Bible times, parents in Israel often chose the names for their children that had spiritual significance.

¤ Adam named his wife Eve (meaning Lifegiver) “because she was the mother of all living” (Gen. 3:20).

¤ Abigail, whose name means My Father’s Delight, is described as “a woman of good understanding and beautiful appearance” (I Sam. 25:3).

¤ Ruth, whose name means Companion or Friend, was an ancestor of King David, and of Christ (Matt. 1:1, 5-6).

¤ The name of the prophet Isaiah (II Kgs. 19:2) means Jehovah (or Yahweh) Has Saved.

There are also times when God stepped in and changed someone’s name to carry a new meaning or reflect altered circumstances. Abram is introduced to us in Genesis 11:26. His name means Exalted Father. However, the Lord chose him to be the beginning of the great nation of Israel, and changed his name to Abraham, meaning Father of a Multitude.

Now, what about the name Jesus? It is divinely conveyed to both Joseph and Mary, before His birth, as the name to be given to the virgin’s Child (Matt. 1:21; Lk. 1:31). The name means Jehovah (or Yahweh) Is Salvation, and it’s used of Christ more than nine hundred times.

Jesus is the New Testament form of the name Joshua. There are actually several men with some form of the name Joshua or Jesus in the Scriptures. It seems to have been a common name of that time. It still is, especially among Spanish speaking people. For example, Jesus (pronounced Hay-soos) Colome, of the Dominican Republic is a former relief pitcher for the Tampa Bay baseball team.

But we cannot argue from that that the name Jesus is inconsequential, not when God Himself has chosen it as the earthly name of His incarnate Son. There may be many given that name, but the Lord Jesus Christ stands uniquely and infinitely above them. He is very God made flesh (Jn. 1:1, 14). Further the Bible makes it clear that the name was given to Him because it said something of what was to be His mission on earth–that He would “save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).

It was to celebrate the wonderful name of Jesus that John Newton wrote a hymn called How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds. The idea for the hymn came from the comment of a Shulamite maiden who says of King Solomon, her betrothed, “Your name is like perfume poured out” (S.S. 1:3, NIV). Pastor Newton applied that to the name of Jesus, and wrote of what that wonderful name meant to him.

CH-1) How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
In a believer’s ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.

CH-3) Dear name! the rock on which I build,
My shield and hiding place,
My never failing treasury filled
With boundless stores of grace!

CH-5) Jesus! my Shepherd, Brother*, Friend,
My Prophet Priest and King,
My Lord, my Life, my Way, my End,
Accept the praise I bring.

CH-6) Weak is the effort of my heart,
And cold my warmest thought;
But when I see Thee as Thou art,
I’ll praise Thee as I ought.

Note: That is four of seven lovely stanzas found in the Cyber Hymnal link. The name “Brother” (stanza five, cf. Rom. 8:29) is often used in modern hymnals in place of Newton’s original word “Husband.” What he likely meant by that is not that Christ is the Husband (or heavenly Bridegroom) of the church. Newton was a sailor, and the “husband” on board ship was the one in charge of supplies and provisions.

Questions:
1) Of the many descriptions of the Lord Jesus in the fifth stanza, which one means the most to you just now? (And why?)

2) Can you identify with Newton’s description in the first two lines of the sixth stanza? What do you do to deal with this problem?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | May 14, 2018

Gracious Spirit, Dwell with 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: Thomas Toke Lynch (b. July 5, 1818; d. May 9, 1871)
Music: Redhead, by Richard Redhead (b. Mar. 1, 1820; d. Apr. 27, 1901)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Thomas Lynch)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Pastor Lynch also gave us the hymn A Thousand Years Have Come and Gone. (See the Wordwise Hymns link above for comments on this hymn.)

If a soldier doesn’t follow orders, he can find himself in big trouble. Insubordination is not only an offense against a commanding officer, it may put other soldiers in danger. Conviction for disobeying a command can result in a court-martial, a dishonorable discharge, and even imprisonment.

However, it’s not absolute. A soldier is not obligated to follow an illegal order. This was the crux of the argument made against the Nazis in the Nuremberg Trials (1945-1946). Accused of complicity in the slaughter of millions of Jews, those before the bar of justice were not excused by saying, “We were simply following orders.”

And a more recent example: When Donald Trump said he thought America’s armed forces should use torture on enemies to get information, he seemed not to realize that torture has been declared illegal. The military would rightly refuse to follow an order from their Commander-in-Chief to engage in it.

But overall, laws place helpful boundaries on members of society, with the purpose of protecting them, and others around them. The same can be said for the laws of God. In the Old Testament, the Law given to Israel was made up of 613 commands covering every aspect of life. Christians are not bound by the Jewish Law, but God’s moral standard has not changed today.

“Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!” (Rom. 6:15). It’s still wrong to lie, and to steal (Eph. 4:25, 28), and much more. In fact, the standard is even higher on this side of the cross. Though I can’t vouch for the number, someone has counted 1,050 commands in the New Testament. And we now have, with the New Testament, God’s completed written revelation, and have the perfect example of the Lord Jesus to follow.

This raises a question: Who on earth could ever follow all those commands? The answer is no one. Not perfectly. We even fall short of keeping a summary of the Law. The Lord Jesus said the most important commandments of the Old Testament Law were to love God and love others (Matt. 23:36-40; cf. Rom. 13:9), and we’re told “love is the fulfilment of the law” (Rom. 13:10). But who can say they love God perfectly, or love others perfectly? We all fall short.

This in itself is a function of God’s holy standard. Not only to tell us how to live, but to remind us of how weak and fallible we are (Rom. 3:23). If we’re to begin to walk God’s way, we need help. And God has provided it through His Holy Spirit. This brings us to a hymn written by English pastor Thomas Lynch. It uses the first line as a title: Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me.

There’s much to commend this hymn, but I must take issue with the phrase, “dwell with me,” repeated in each of the song’s five stanzas. He’s asking the Holy Spirit to dwell with him. But perhaps a better wording would be “strengthen me.”

Here’s why. The Lord promised the Spirit (after Pentecost) would not only be with us but in us (Jn. 7:37-39; 14:17). The Christian does not need to ask for Him. The moment an individual trusts Christ as Saviour, he or she is indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5; I Cor. 2:12; 6:19-20). Not to have the Spirit within means the person is not yet saved (Rom. 8:9).

It’s the work of the indwelling Spirit to give us the power we need to live a life pleasing to God. He helps us to understand and apply God’s truth, and produces in us the character of Christ, including love, joy, peace, and more (Gal. 5:22-23). And “if we live in the Spirit [through the new birth], let us also walk in the Spirit [empowered and guided by Him, step by step]” (Gal. 5:25).

I believe Pastor Lynch’s hymn works better with the change suggested above, “strengthen me.” Here it is, with that amendment.

CH-1) Gracious Spirit, strengthen me!
I myself would gracious be;
And with words that help and heal
Would Thy life in mine reveal;
And with actions bold and meek
Would for Christ my Saviour speak.

CH-2) Truthful Spirit, strengthen me!
I myself would truthful be;
And with wisdom kind and clear
Let Thy life in mine appear;
And with actions brotherly
Speak my Lord’s sincerity.

CH-3) Tender Spirit, strengthen me!
I myself would tender be;
Shut my heart up like a flower
In temptation’s darksome hour,
Open it when shines the sun,
And his love by fragrance own.

CH-4) Mighty Spirit, strengthen me!
I myself would mighty be;
Mighty so as to prevail,
Where unaided man must fail;
Ever, by a mighty hope,
Pressing on and bearing up.

CH-5) Holy Spirit, strengthen me!
I myself would holy be;
Separate from sin, I would
Choose and cherish all things good,
And whatever I can be
Give to Him who gave me Thee!

Questions:
1) What is it about “walking” that beautifully illustrates how we are to live the Christian life?

2) How is this process explained in John Sammis’s hymn Trust and Obey?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Thomas Lynch)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | May 9, 2018

Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness

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: Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf (b. May 26, 1700; d. May 9, 1760); English translation by John Wesley (b. June 28, 1703; d. Mar. 2, 1791)
Music: Germany, by William Gardiner (b. Mar. 15, 1770; d. Nov. 16, 1853)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: German Count Nikolaus von Zinzendorf wrote about two thousand hymns during his life, but only this one remains in common use. Christi Blut und Gerechtigkeit was translated into English by the count’s friend, John Wesley. Incredibly, the original song had thirty-three stanzas. Wesley eliminated some in his translation, and they’re customarily pared down further by hymn book editors, usually to four or five.

Clothes make the man–that saying goes back to ancient times. Shakespeare later took it up in Hamlet, with “The apparel oft proclaims the man.” And humorist Mark Twain gave it a witty twist with, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”

As to what the saying means, it’s certainly true that how we dress may say important things about us. To a degree we could say dressing properly promotes success, at least in some settings. People tend to judge us initially according to our appearance. Part of this involves dressing appropriately. Standards are more lax than in former times but, in most cases, a shoeless, shirtless man will still be barred from fancy restaurant.

Most of us don’t have the financial means to follow the latest fashions, or dress in expensive clothing. But we can work at dressing appropriately, within our means. And we can make an effort to see that our clothes are neat and clean, and modest. Clothing that is too revealing is immodest of course. But so is clothing that becomes a matter or personal pride, or that which displays vulgar or unwholesome printed messages.

Two centuries ago in England there lived a man named George (“Beau”) Brummell. Mr. Brummell (1778-1840) was obsessed with his physical appearance. Looking the absolute best was virtually his religion. Always perfectly groomed, his fancy clothes set the fashion in society. And he was insistently vocal in his criticism of others who didn’t dress according to his high standard. Sadly, being a gambler, and an immoral man, Brummell died sick and penniless.

In the Bible, clothing is used in a couple of symbolic ways. One is to represent our behaviour toward others. We’re to “put off” sinful conduct, and “put on” righteous conduct (cf. Col. 3:5-15). But for this article we’ll look at another application of the symbol, as representing our standing before God.

When a sinner puts his faith in Christ for salvation, he is recognizing that when Christ died on the cross, the death paid his or her debt of sin, and when He rose from the dead, the sinner was given likewise new and eternal life in Him. To put it another way, when the Father looks at Christians in terms of judgment, He sees His holy Son. It’s as though we are clothed in Christ, and His righteousness.

“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ [by a work of the Holy Spirit] have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27). And “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (II Cor. 5:17). The prophet Isaiah anticipates this when he says:

“He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness” (Isa. 61:10).

That is the gist of the present fine hymn which sees Christ as the right spiritual clothing for each of us, a robe that can be ours through faith in Him.

CH-1) Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress:
’Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.

CH-8) Lord, I believer were sinners more
Than sands upon the ocean shore,
Thou hast for all a ransom paid,
For all a full atonement made.

CH-2) Bold shall I stand in that great day,
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
Fully absolved through these I am,
From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.

CH-24) O, let the dead now hear Thy voice;
Now bid Thy banished ones rejoice;
Their beauty this, their glorious dress,
Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness!

Questions:
1) The hymn asks the question, “Who aught [anything] to my charge shall lay?” (Stanza 2) referencing Romans 8:33. What is the answer to the question?

2) Why is this so, according to the Romans verse? (Explain.)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | May 7, 2018

God Our Father, We Adore Thee

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: George West Frazer (b. ____, 1830; d. Jan. 24, 1896)
Music: Beecher, by John Zundel (b. Dec. 10, 1815; d. July ___, 1882)

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

Note: The Cyber Hymnal says of the author: “Son of a police inspector, Frazer came to Christ at a revival meeting in Dublin led by evangelist Grattan Guiness. Employed at a Dublin bank, Frazer worked at evangelism on the side. He eventually left banking to devote full time to evangelistic work.”

Through history there’ve been expressions of prejudice, and struggles for equality in society. Whether by gender, or by the colour of one’s skin, or something else, there’s sometimes been an attempt to treat one segment of society as inferior, and for one group to deny rights to another, or curtail the freedoms of another.

One example is the enslavement of blacks in America. And, sadly, prejudice against them didn’t end with the Civil War and President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. There followed another century of segregation, Jim Crow restrictions, and abuse. From all accounts, things are greatly improved, but are not yet where they should be.

Another example of this is the treatment of women. Even well into the twentieth century in North America, women did not have a vote. And the struggle for equal pay for equal work still goes on, as well as the need to combat the tendency of too many men (and the media as well), to treat women as sex objects to be exploited, failing to see them as individuals worthy of respect as persons, with important contributions to make to society in many ways.

It’s a subject, deserving of more space that we can give it here. Suffice to say that all Christians stand before God on an equal footing. “There is neither Jew nor Greek [Gentile], there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). Let that be our standard too.

And equality of standing extends to God Himself, in a unique way. Though we cannot explain it, orthodox Christianity has always accepted the Bible’s teaching that there is one God (Deut. 6:4), but that He eternally exists in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Father is God (Eph. 2:20); the Son is God (Tit. 2:13); the Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4)–yet there is only one God. This is the triune nature of the Almighty.

It shouldn’t bother us that we cannot completely understand and explain the Trinity. God is transcendent and, though He has revealed Himself to us to some extent, much about Him remains beyond the comprehension of finite human beings. All three persons of the Godhead minister uniquely but in perfect harmony (Matt. 3:13-17; 28:19; II Cor. 13:14; Eph. 2:18).

The Holy Spirit is called “the Spirit of God” many times in the Bible. He was active in creation (Gen. 1:2; Job 33:4); He was the divine cause of the virgin birth (Lk. 1:35); and He was the One who gave us the inspired Scriptures (II Tim. 3:16; II Pet. 1:21). The Spirit of God dwells in the hearts of believers (I Cor. 3:16; 6:19). If this is not so, we are not saved (Rom. 8:9).

God the Son was also involved in creation (Jn. 1:3). Later, He came to earth to reveal the Father to us (Jn. 1:14), and to die for our sins (I Cor. 15:1, 3-4). Great as God’s holy angels are, they are commanded to worship the Son (Heb. 1:6, 8). The Lord Jesus Himself says, “All should honour the Son just as they honour the Father” (Jn. 5:23).

There are many Trinitarian hymns, including the familiar Holy, Holy, Holy, which speaks of “God in three persons, blessed Trinity.” Irish hymn writer George Frazer gave us another. In his song he tells us Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each worthy of our adoration. To “adore” God, a synonym for worship, means to view Him with the utmost esteem, respect, and love. All three persons of the Trinity are worthy of the equal honour of our adoration.

Note: “Abba” is an affectionate term for a father, used several times of God the Father (Mk. 14:36; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). An Aramaic word, it’s difficult to translate precisely. God is being addressed as “dearest Father.”

Paraclete (stanza 3) is the English form of the Greek word parakletos, meaning one called alongside to help. The Lord Jesus was just such a Helper and Encourager. But with His ascension He was sending “another Helper,” the Holy Spirit (Jn. 14:16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:7, 14).

CH-1) God, our Father, we adore Thee!
We, Thy children, bless Thy name!
Chosen in the Christ before Thee,
We are “holy without blame;”
We adore Thee! We adore Thee!
Abba’s praises we proclaim!
We adore Thee! We adore Thee!
Abba’s praises we proclaim!

CH-2) Son Eternal, we adore Thee!
Lamb upon the throne on high!
Lamb of God, we bow before Thee,
Thou hast brought Thy people nigh!
We adore Thee! We adore Thee!
Son of God, who came to die!
We adore Thee! We adore Thee!
Son of God, who came to die!

CH-3) Holy Spirit, we adore Thee!
Paraclete and heavenly Guest!
Sent from God and from the Saviour,
Thou hast led us into rest.
We adore Thee! We adore Thee!
By Thy grace forever blessed:
We adore Thee! We adore Thee!
By Thy grace forever blessed!

A fourth stanza (see the Cyber Hymnal) draws the three persons of the Trinity together in a final note of praise.

Questions:
1) What are some of the ministries of the Holy Spirit now, in the Church Age?

2) Do you know some other hymns that speak of the triune nature of God? (Over sixty of these are listed in the Cyber Hymnal.)

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

Posted by: rcottrill | May 2, 2018

Take the Name of Jesus with You

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: Lydia Odell Baxter (b. Sept. 2, 1809; d. June 22, 1874)
Music: William Howard Doane (b. Feb. 3, 1832; d. Dec. 23, 1915)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: For much of her adult life, Mrs. Baxter was a bedridden invalid, yet she was active in the Lord’s work in a number of ways. She published a book of her poems called Gems by the Wayside, with this interesting comment:

“If the mind of the reader is not elevated with flights of the imagination, the heart may be cheered and encouraged, as it participates with the writer in the joys that flow from that pure stream which meanders through the valley of humiliation.”

Shakespeare’s Juliet asked, “What’s in a name?” She claimed that giving something a different name doesn’t change the nature of the thing itself. “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” she said.

But names do matter. Parents can give their children names that signify something positive. Names that may continue to inspire them through life. On the other hand, out on the school playground, cruelly labeling a boy Fatty, or Dummy may lay a heavy burden on him, significantly affecting him for years to come.

Further, there are the things with which a name is associated, later in life. Such things as a person’s character and accomplishments will bring the individual recognition, either for good or ill. Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump, or Kim Jong-un are well known and influential people–noted in the current news for much different reasons.

In the Bible, various forms of the word “name” are used over a thousand times, and thousands of personal names are given, many quite revealing. (David means beloved, Daniel means God is my judge.) As for the names and titles of God, there are hundreds of them, revealing aspects of His person and character.

In the New Testament, with the incarnation of the Son of God, we are given quite a number of names that focus on Him in particular. John records many of the titles Jesus gave Himself. He said He was: the Bread of Life (Jn. 6:35), the Light of the World (Jn. 8:12), the Good Shepherd (Jn. 10:11), the Resurrection and the Life (Jn. 11:25), and “the Way…to the Father” (Jn. 14:6).

Many times He is given the compound title the Lord Jesus Christ (e.g. Acts 16:31; Rev. 22:21).

¤ “Lord” speaks particularly of His deity, that He is God in human flesh (e.g. Lk. 1:43).

¤ “Jesus” means Jehovah [or the Lord] is salvation.

¤ “Christ” meaning Anointed One, identifies Him as Israel’s Messiah.

In speaking of His second coming, Titus 2:13 refers to Him as “our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

Either by itself, or as part of many compounds, the name Jesus is used over nine hundred times. It’s found in the first verse of the New Testament (Matt. 1:1), and in the very last verse (Rev. 22:21). But it’s rarely found by itself after the Day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2). The few times when this happens, however, are significant.

An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, telling him to name the One who’d be born of Mary “JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). The very meaning of the name speaks of His redemptive work. Indeed, He is described as “Jesus, the author and finisher [the Source and Goal] of our faith” (Heb. 12:2) Later, we’re told there is coming a day when, “at the name of Jesus, every knee [will] bow,” and confess Him as Lord (Phil. 2:10-11).

He is our glorious Lord and Saviour. His name is wonderful to us because it represents His person, and He is wonderful. To pray in Jesus’ name is to pray on His authority. The name stands for the person. That truth enriches our understanding of a hymn by Lydia Baxter. The song sometimes has the title Precious Name, other times the first line is used. A lovely descriptive phrase in the refrain reminds us that Jesus is the believer’s hope here, and will be our joy forever.

CH-1) Take the name of Jesus with you,
Child of sorrow and of woe,
It will joy and comfort give you;
Take it then, where’er you go.

Precious name, O how sweet!
Hope of earth and joy of heav’n.
Precious name, O how sweet!
Hope of earth and joy of heav’n.

CH-3) O the precious name of Jesus!
How it thrills our souls with joy,
When His loving arms receive us,
And His songs our tongues employ!

CH-4) At the name of Jesus bowing,
Falling prostrate at His feet,
King of kings in heav’n we’ll crown Him,
When our journey is complete.

Questions:
1) What does the author mean by describing Christ as the “hope of earth”?

2) What are some reasons why He is (and will be forever) the “joy of heaven”?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | April 30, 2018

Sometimes a Light Surprises

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 Cowper (b. Nov. 15, 1731; d. Apr. 25, 1800)
Music: Bentley, by John Pyke Hullah (b. June 27, 1812; d. Feb. 21, 1884)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (William Cooper)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Mr. Cowper (pronounced Cooper) is considered one of England’s greatest poets, but for years he struggled with emotional depression. Later he was kindly helped by his pastor, none other than John Newton, author of the hymn Amazing Grace. In 1779, the two of them together published a famous hymn book, Olney Hymns, for which they wrote all the hymns.

The Cyber Hymnal has a note on composer John Hullah, which says in part: “[He studied] at the Royal Academy of Music (1833-35). One of his fellow students was Fanny Dickens, eldest sister of Charles Dickens. Hullah met Charles through her, and in 1836, he wrote the music for Dickens’ comic opera The Village Coquettes. Hullah taught vocal music at Kings College in the Strand, Queen’s College, and Bedford College. Starting in 1841, he conducted vocal music classes for day and Sunday school teachers.” (That latter point interests me greatly. Do we think enough of music in our church programs to train workers to teach it well? Something to think about!)

A surprise is something that happens suddenly and unexpectedly. Centuries ago the word was used mainly in a military sense, of an unexpected attack or capture. But currently, though we can occasionally have unpleasant surprises, the word more often is used in a positive way.

There are surprise packages, gifts that arrive unexpectedly, and surprise parties–perhaps for the birthday of a family member, and surprise recipes too. Scanning the Net you’ll learn how to make Chicken Surprise, Chocolate Surprise, and more. One wonders what the “surprise” is. That it’s easier to prepare than you thought? Or contains ingredients that are unusual? Or maybe it tastes better than it looks?

The word surprise is not one found frequently in the Bible, but its use does represent both kinds of unexpected happenings. There is a frightening surprise by Joseph’s brothers of something that may incriminate them (Gen. 42:35), and the wonderful surprise of some men who find Israel’s enemies fled, with all their supplies abandoned (II Kgs. 7:1-11).

In his 1955 book Surprised by Joy, C. S. Lewis describes his journey, a quarter century earlier, from barren atheism to a living faith in Christ. From his perspective, finding the Saviour was a kind of accidental or unexpected discovery, a surprise. And Lewis says joy is like a signpost, pointing the way for those lost in the woods. It’s a marker, one of a series, showing we’re on the right path at last.

There are surprises in our spiritual lives too, unexpected blessings from the Lord. The gospel itself is one of these. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way.” That’s not surprising. We know how wayward we can be. But the next words are astonishing: “And the Lord has laid on Him [Christ] the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). Those deserving of punishment became the objects of God’s grace. “When we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Rom. 5:10). Amazing!

As Christians, we’re sometimes surprised by what we discover in Scripture day by day. The aptness of the passage in our morning devotions to our current needs. The practical answers to life’s problems that strike us at just the right time. In a sudden crisis, or a time of deep distress, even the simple assurances of Psalm 23 can strengthen our hearts in a surprising way.

There can be similar encouragements in our great hymns. I can remember my return to church after two surgeries and nearly a month in the hospital. How I enjoyed the congregation singing Katharina von Schlegel’s beautiful hymn, Be Still, My Soul. The words, “Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know / His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below” greatly blessed me. They meant something special to me that day.

That brings to mind the hymn by William Cowper–one of many he wrote. It begins:

Sometimes a light surprises
The Christian while he sings.

Think about that for a moment. It implies the singer is in some kind of darkness, but he or she is “surprised by joy,” to use Lewis’s phrase. When we are down and discouraged, we can be unexpectedly uplifted by the words of a hymn. So, the lesson is this:

Even when you don’t necessarily feel like singing, sing anyway!

Sing anyway! Sing because the Lord commands it. “Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!” (Ps. 47:6). Or sing as a tonic–because maybe it will help. Or sing because you want to believe, even when you’re not feeling it’s so. And when you do, God will bless your soul with new light.

CH-1) Sometimes a light surprises
The Christian while he sings;
It is the Lord, who rises
With healing in His wings:
When comforts are declining,
He grants the soul again
A season of clear shining,
To cheer it after rain.

I encourage you to check out the two middle stanzas on the Cyber Hymnal. They’re wonderful too. The final stanza alludes to the great statement of faith by the prophet Habakkuk which concludes his book (Hab. 3:17-18). (Note: the word “confiding” is used in the sense of trusting.)

CH-4) Though vine nor fig tree neither
Their wonted fruit should bear,
Though all the field should wither,
Nor flocks nor herds be there;
Yet God the same abiding,
His praise shall tune my voice,
For while in Him confiding,
I cannot but rejoice.

Questions:
1) Why do you think it is that singing hymns can restore peace and joy to a troubled heart?

2) What particular hymns have been most encouraging to you?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (William Cooper)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | April 25, 2018

Nothing Between

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 (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: For the story of how this song came to be written, and more information about this truly remarkable man, see the first of the Wordwise Hymns links above.

This article has to do with the space between things or people. There are times when it’s helpful to check the distance between two places. Perhaps as we plan a trip, we wonder how much time it will take to get there.

The distance between Vancouver and Toronto is 3,364 km by plane, and about a thousand kilometres more if you go by car. The distance between Halifax, Nova Scotia and London, England is 4,621 km. The choice there is between a sea voyage and a plane flight. The distance from earth to the moon is 384,400 km, and traveling there requires specialized equipment propelled by rockets.

These are longer distances. But American anthropologist Edward T. Hall developed the concept of what he called Proxemics, to describe how we define our personal distance from other people.

Have you ever felt uncomfortable when someone you didn’t know seemed to want to crowd too close? Likely we all have. There are many factors involved, but Hall believed it was possible to give approximations of comfortable distances.

¤ Hall claimed an intimate distance (as for a spouse) is about 60 cm (2 feet) down to physical contact.
¤ Personal distance (for family and friends) is roughly 1.5 m down to 60 cm.
¤ According to Hall, a comfortable social distance from strangers is 3 m down to 1.5 m.

But there’s another kind of distance that can’t be calculated with a tape measure. It’s the distance between the souls of two people. In the classic 1941 film Citizen Kane, Orson Welles brilliantly illustrates this with a montage of scenes in which Charles Foster Kane sits at breakfast with his wife, over many years. They’re both at the same table, but we witness the growing distance between them emotionally in how they look at one another–or don’t, the way they talk to one another–or don’t, and other more subtle things.

What divides people in this sense are things like anger, hatred, prejudice, pride, deceit, and selfishness. What can bridge the space between are qualities such as humility, mercy, love, grace, kindness, and forgiveness.

The Bible teaches important keys to personal relationships. We’re not to lie, but speak the truth to others (Eph. 4:25). Not steal from others, but be ready to give generously to them (vs. 28). Not tear down others with “corrupt [unwholesome] communication,” but try to encourage and build them up by what we say (vs. 29). We’re to avoid such things as “bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour [angry shouting], and evil speaking [slander],” instead seeking to be “kind to one another, tenderhearted, [and] forgiving” (vs. 31-32).

And what of our relationship with God? What is it that can divide us? Here are several things.

¤ Pride: the foolish notion that we don’t need God.
¤ Unbelief: a failure to trust in the promises of God.
¤ Disobedience: a failure to do the will of God.
¤ Worldliness: living by the values of a godless world (cf. I Jn. 2:15-17)

The Bible’s summary word for the things that separate us from the Lord is sin. “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isa. 59:2).

Pastor Tindley wrote a song in 1905 that is a warning to Christians not to allow anything to create a space between them and God that would hinder fellowship with Him, and rob the believer of spiritual joy and blessing.

CH-1) Nothing between my soul and my Saviour,
Naught of this world’s delusive dream;
I have renounced all sinful pleasure;
Jesus is mine, there’s nothing between.

Nothing between my soul and the Saviour,
So that His blessed face may be seen;
Nothing preventing the least of His favour–
Keep the way clear! Let nothing between.

CH-2) Nothing between, like worldly pleasure;
Habits of life, though harmless they seem;
Must not my heart from Him ever sever;
He is my all, there’s nothing between.

CH-4) Nothing between, e’en many hard trials,
Though the whole world against me convene;
Watching with prayer and much self denial,
I’ll triumph at last, there’s nothing between.

Questions:
1) Is there something in your own life that tends to come between you and the Lord?

2) What are you doing, or what will you do, to deal with this problem?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | April 23, 2018

In the Service of the King

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 Henry Ackley (b. Jan. 21, 1887; d. July 3, 1960)
Music: Bentley DeForest Ackley (b. Sept. 27, 1872; d. Sept. 3, 1958)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Alfred Ackley)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: In 1912 two brothers created a simple gospel song about the joy of serving God. Alfred Ackley wrote hundreds of song lyrics, but only a few tunes. (Over 300 of his lyrics are listed in the Cyber Hymnal, including the popular He Lives.) Bentley Ackley focused on writing melodies. He also served as pianist in the meetings of evangelist Billy Sunday.

Words such as serve, serving and service have a surprising variety of uses. It could be said the words serve us in many ways. The word in its various forms has been a part of the English language for centuries. To serve another person could mean rendering obedience, or seeking, by your own choice, to be useful and be a benefit to another. It could involve doing one’s duty, or perhaps involve showing willing devotion.

To be “in service” is what might be said when a computer system or a telephone is programed or hooked up, ready to use. But being in service also refers to anyone who is employed as a servant. On the other hand, if someone says he is “in the service,” he could mean he’s a member of the armed forces. For a store clerk to say he or she is “at your service” means they’re ready to serve you. But if an individual is “serving time,” he’s in prison.

A service is work someone does for you. Or, it could be a church service. Or the act of putting the ball in play in a game of tennis. If the garage down the street services your car, it likely means a tune-up, and making necessary repairs. On the other hand, a table service is cups and plates and utensils set up for a meal.

In the Bible, words such as “serve” and “service” are used over four hundred times. And if we include the word servant, it mounts to some twelve hundred times. Averaged out, that means the concept of serving could be found in every chapter of the Bible. It is, in truth a book about serving. The question is, whom do we serve?

There are different chains of command on the human level. A person is called to serve the one ranked above him, whether its an army general or a boss in a factory. But in the ultimate and spiritual sense the choices are limited. We are either a part of Satan’s kingdom or of God’s kingdom. We’re either a slave to the devil (perhaps unknowingly) or we choose to be a servant of God.

As for Satan, for the present time he’s the master of the unbelieving world. Jesus calls him, “the ruler of this world” (Jn. 12:31). The Bible says, “The whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (I Jn. 5:19). Whether people realize it or not, he is “the god of this age” (II Cor. 4:4) who “deceives the whole world” (Rev. 12:9).

But when an individual trusts Christ as Saviour, he or she is delivered from the devil’s hateful bondage into the glorious liberty of the kingdom of God. As the Lord said to Paul:

“I now send you to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me” (Acts 26:17-18).

Christians can say:

“He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed [transferred] us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col. 1:13).

As believers, we’re called to “serve the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:24), “ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake” (II Cor. 4:5). Our calling is “through love [to] serve one another” (Gal. 5:13). And what a joy it is to serve the Lord! (cf. Ps. 100:2), using the gifts and opportunities He gives us.

“If anyone ministers [serves], let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (I Pet. 4:10).

The Ackleys’ song doesn’t say a lot. No deep biblical theology here. But it’s joyful melody is certainly expressive of the happy duty that is ours of serving God.

CH-1) I am happy in the service of the King.
I am happy, O so happy!
I have peace and joy that nothing else can bring,
In the service of the King.

In the service of the King
Every talent I will bring.
I have peace and joy and blessing
In the service of the King.

CH-3) I am happy in the service of the King.
I am happy, O so happy!
To His guiding hand forever I will cling,
In the service of the King.

CH-4) I am happy in the service of the King.
I am happy, O so happy!
All that I possess to Him I gladly bring,
In the service of the King.

Questions:
1) What is it about serving the Lord that brings us joy?

2) How will our service bring glory and honour to God?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Alfred Ackley)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Older Posts »

Categories