Posted by: rcottrill | September 20, 2017

Commit Thou All Thy Griefs

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: Paul Gerhardt (b. Mar. 12, 1607; d. May 27, 1676); English translation by John Wesley (b. June 28, 1703; d. Mar. 2, 1791)
Music: St. George (or Gauntlett), by Henry John Gauntlett (b. July 9, 1805; d. Feb. 21, 1876)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Paul Gerhardt)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Paul Gerhardt was a Lutheran pastor, about a century after the time of the Reformation. The motto on his portrait read “Theologus in cribro Satanae versatus” (a theologian sifted in Satan’s sieve–cf. Lk. 22:31-32).

It’s sometimes called a bedside manner. Doctor’s either have it, or they don’t. They may know all the relevant medical facts, but still lack the skill of communicating them to the patient, or of bringing reassurance and hope. Lacking this gift, they may even give the impression that the ailing person’s anxious questions are an imposition on their time.

Not all are like that, of course. Dr. Robert Kemp (our family doctor) practiced in Ontario about six decades ago–at a time when doctors still made house calls. And, when a couple we knew lost a son to illness, the good doctor went to their home, threw his arms around them both, and wept with them. That man knew how to treat the soul as well as the body. I believe a wing of a city hospital was eventually named after him.

The Bible has a great deal to say about comfort, and being a comforter. The Greek words translated into English often describe one who comes alongside a troubled individual for the purpose of bringing consolation, encouragement, and a renewed serenity of mind.

God is the ultimate Source of true comfort.

“[He is] the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (II Cor. 1:3-4).

The Spirit of God comforts the people of God (Acts 9:31), often through the healing message of God’s Word (Rom. 15:4). As indicated, He also works through other people to do that (II Cor. 7:6). Paul reminds the Thessalonian believers, “We exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children” (I Thess. 2:11), in turn urging them to “comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all” (I Thess. 5:14).

Not only can we do this directly, but through our earnest prayers for those in distress. The apostle did that. He prayed, “Our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation [comfort] and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work” (II Thess. 2:16-17).

Our hymn writers also play a roll in the comforting of the saints, as they frame the thoughts and words of Scripture into lines of memorable verse. Read the inspiring words of Katharina von Schlegel’s Be Still My Soul, or the stirring beauty of Thomas Moore’s Come, Ye Disconsolate, or Joseph Scriven’s What a Friend We Have in Jesus, or the present hymn, Commit Thou All Thy Griefs, by Paul Gerhardt.

In the eighteenth century, Gerhardt’s hymn figured in a remarkable incident. A godly peasant named Dobyr lived in a little village near Warsaw, Poland. Being a poor man, he’d fallen way behind in paying the rent for his house, and his landlord said he and his family would be evicted the next day, turned out into the snow.

In deep concern, he led the family in prayer, and they sang Paul Gerhardt’s hymn together.

CH-1) Commit thou all thy griefs
And ways into His hands,
To His sure truth and tender care,
Who heaven and earth commands.

CH-4) No profit canst thou gain
By self consuming care;
To Him commend thy cause, His ear
Attends the softest prayer.

At this point there was a sharp rapping at the window, near where Dobyr knelt. A bird was pecking at it. Opening the window he found the pet raven which his grandfather had tamed, and then set free. In its beak was a ring, set with precious stones.

After a search, with the help of Dobyr’s pastor, it was discovered that the ring belonged to King Stanislaus, who sent for the peasant and gave him a reward for returning the ring. Not only that, the king had a new house built for Dobyr and his family, filling its cattle sheds from his own estates.

As a witness to all these wonderful blessings, over the door of his new home, Dobyr put up an iron plaque. It pictured a raven, with a ring in its beak, and quoted the final words of Gerhardt’s hymn:

CH-7) When Thou arisest, Lord,
What shall Thy work withstand?
When all Thy children want*, Thou giv’st;
And who shall stay Thy hand?

*”Want,” not in the sense of what we wish for or crave, but referring to times when we are in want (in need). This is the sense of the word in the first verse of Psalm 23, “I shall not want.”

Questions:
1) In your own experience, how has the Lord answered prayer in a time of need?

2) In what situation has someone been a special comforter to you?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Paul Gerhardt)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | September 18, 2017

What If It Were Today?

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Lelia Naylor Morris (b. Apr. 15, 1862; d. July 23, 1929)
Music: Lelia Naylor Morris

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

Note: Lelia Naylor married Charles Morris in 1881. She began writing sacred songs in the 1890’s, and kept it up, even after her eyesight began to fail in 1913. Her daughter set up a blackboard twenty-eight feet long, with a huge music staff on it, which her mother used to write, until she went completely blind. Lelia Morris wrote more than a thousand songs–most of them after she began suffering from a loss of her sight.

To “suppose” can mean to consider a possibility, using our imagination to answer a “What if…?” question.

The movies do it all the time to create situations that grab our attention. Films such as Fail-Safe (1964), or WarGames (1983) ask us to ponder a chilling possibility: Suppose America started a nuclear war with Russia accidentally. What then?

Christ’s parables use that technique as well. For example, suppose a farmer sows some seed (Mk. 4:3-20). What kind of yield can he expect? Answer: It depends to a significant extent on whether the seed lands on good and well prepared soil or not. And the parable applies factor this to our need of hearts ready to receive God’s Word.

The use of imagination in this way can have a practical value nearer home. Just suppose a hurricane were to sweep through town. Are we prepared? Have we identified a safe place to go in the event it happens? Or suppose thieves attempt to break into our house. Do we have sufficient security protection?

Posing a supposition can help us to adjust our values. On a personal (and more mundane) note, our son and his family live in Mexico City, where he and his wife serve as missionaries. They’re able to visit us only occasionally, every few years. One time a visit was expected in a couple of months time, and my wife began to worry about all she had to get done to prepare. But I asked, “Suppose they were to surprise us and arrive today? Would you turn them away because the house isn’t tidy or dusted?” And the answer was, of course not. Other things were far less important than welcoming them.

The same principle applies to the return of Christ, but for that event readiness is vitally important. The Bible repeatedly tells us He’s coming back again. Suppose it were to happen today? Are we ready for it? “Be ready,” Jesus warns, “for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matt. 24:44). Are we sure of our soul’s salvation? And would the things we’ve planned to do please Him?

First, readiness involves trusting Christ for our eternal salvation (Jn. 3:16; 14:6; Acts 4:12). Beyond that it relates to inward character, and priorities, and outward conduct. Are we living in obedience to His Word? Are we honouring and serving Him with our lives?

“Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:11-13).

“Therefore, since all these things [the things of this material world] will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness” (II Pet. 3:11).

“We know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (I Jn. 3:2-3).

In 1912, hymn writer Lelia Morris published a song on this theme. What If It Were Today? poses a supposition for us all to think about.

CH-1) Jesus is coming to earth again;
What if it were today?
Coming in power and love to reign;
What if it were today?
Coming to claim His chosen bride,
All the redeemed and purified,
Over this whole earth scattered wide;
What if it were today?

Glory, glory! Joy to my heart ’twill bring.
Glory, glory! When we shall crown Him king.
Glory, glory! Haste to prepare the way;
Glory, glory! Jesus will come some day.

CH-3) Faithful and true would He find us here,
If He should come today?
Watching in gladness and not in fear,
If He should come today?
Signs of His coming multiply;
Morning light breaks in eastern sky.
Watch, for the time is drawing nigh;
What if it were today?

It’s a question worth considering.

Questions:
1) Are you ready for Christ’s return?

2) What are your plans in the meantime?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | September 15, 2017

O Master, at Thy Feet

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: Frances Ridley Havergal (b. Dec. 14, 1836; d. June 3, 1879)
Music: (seen Note, below)

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

Note: A child prodigy, Havergal was reading by age four, and began writing verse at age seven. She learned Latin, Greek and Hebrew–eventually was fluent in six or seven modern languages too, and memorized Psalms, the book of Isaiah, and most of the New Testament. She also wrote some of our finest hymns.

Miss Havergal said “Master” was her favourite title for Christ, because it implied rule and submission. “Men,” she said, “may feel differently, but a true woman’s submission is inseparable from deep love.” (That is definitely worthy of further thought!)

The present hymn is rarely found it print. It’s unique metre (6.6.8.6.10.12) is unusual and equally rare. One site suggests Rabboni (by Samuel Reay 1822-1905), or Inglewhite (by Ann Sheppard Mounsey Bartholomew, 1811-1891) as tunes that could be used, but neither seems to be currently available. If you have a gift for composing music, go to the Cyber Hymnal’s Tunes Needed page and submit a possibility for this one.

We have a number of expressions that describe times when, perhaps out of fear or surprise, or some other strong emotion, we’re so overwhelmed we’re can’t think of anything to say. We say we’re speechless, at a loss for words, we’re struck dumb, or words fail us. Often, when we regain our senses later, we think of all the things we could have said, or wish we’d said.

I recall a time, on a Toronto street, when heavyweight boxing champion George Chevalo walked by me. I wanted to say, “Hi champ!” but was so stunned I couldn’t get the words out. Celebrity can silence us. So can romance. Guy meets girl, or vice versa, and suddenly it’s, “Hi…uh…um…so….” Even retrieving one’s own name at the moment may seem impossible.

Being confronted by a wild animal can have a similar affect. Few could do what a friend of mine did. A senior citizen, she was sitting outside her cabin, shelling peas, when an adult bear lumbered around the corner. Getting up, and making a dismissive motion with her hands, she said sternly, “Shoo! You’re not wanted around here! Go ‘way!” And the bear did!

In Scripture, when the people of Israel noisily worshiped false gods, the prophet Habakkuk rebuked them, “Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Awake!’ To silent stone, ‘Arise! it shall teach!’ Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, yet in it there is no breath at all.” He called them instead to stand mute before the true God: “The Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him” (Hab. 2:19-20).

To stand before the Lord, realizing His glory and sovereign power, silences feeble comment. Even the Apostle John, as a believer, when he saw a vision of the glorified Christ, “fell at His feet as dead” (Rev. 1:17). Truly, there is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Ecc. 3:7). A time when words are inappropriate, inadequate, or simply unnecessary.

On New Year’s Eve in 1866, as darkness fell, a young woman sat alone in a little room. There was no fire in the grate, not even a carpet on the floor. If the evening chill was creeping into her bones, she seemed to take no notice of it. She was full of love for Christ, overwhelmed by the wonder of knowing him and serving him. She wanted to write some lines of praise, but found it difficult to say how she felt.

The would-be writer was Frances Havergal. To say that on the occasion described she was utterly without words would not be accurate. But she felt that any words she could muster would be wholly inadequate to express how she felt. What did come from her pen was a little known hymn, O Master, at Thy Feet. It says, in part:

3) I have no words to bring
Worthy of Thee, my King,
And yet one anthem in Thy praise
I long, I long to raise;
The heart is full, the eye entranced above,
But words all melt away to silent awe and love.

4) How can the lip be dumb,
The hand all still and numb,
When Thee the heart doth see and own
Her Lord and God above?
Tune for Thyself the music of my days,
And open Thou my lips that I may show Thy praise.

5) Yea, let my whole life be
One anthem unto Thee,
And let the praise of lip and life
Outring all sin and strife.
O Jesus, Master! Be Thy name supreme,
For heaven and earth the one, the grand, eternal theme.

Questions:
1) Have you ever found yourself so overwhelmed in prayer (for whatever reason) that it’s difficult to find the right words to express yourself?

2) Do you find yourself doing the opposite sometimes, rattling off trite phrases that seem to have lost much of their meaning? (What can be done about this?)

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

Posted by: rcottrill | September 13, 2017

Blessed Redeemer (Crosby)

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: Frances Jane (“Fanny”) Crosby (b. Mar. 24, 1820; d. Feb. 12, 1915)
Music: Ira David Sankey (b. Aug. 28, 1840; d. Aug. 13, 1908)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Fanny Crosby)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Hymn writer Fanny Crosby gave us thousands of songs. Quite a few are still in use, but there are, among those that are not, hidden gems worth rediscovering. One of these is Blessed Redeemer, which shows how the knowledge of God can inform and inspire our prayers.

They tell us the distance to the edge of the observable universe is about forty-six billion light years, and increasing, because the universe is expanding all of the time. That’s the theory anyway. But some things that pass for science are rooted in guesswork and speculation.

Though we’re discovering more and more about the world in which we live, and about the distant reaches of space, there is still a great deal that is unknown, and perhaps even unknowable in any provable sense. That’s one reason atheism is not logical. To say conclusively “there is no God” is to say we know everything about that huge expanse beyond our world, and we know definitely that there is no God out there anywhere. The Bible calls such a deluded person a fool (Ps. 14:1).

The expression “a known quantity” refers to someone or something whose characteristics or abilities are well known. To a finite and small degree, that applies to God. God’s existence and His great power are clearly seen in nature (Rom. 1:20). Study the intricacies of a flower, or consider that marvel of engineering the human eye, and you will be pushed toward the conclusion that there is a master Designer behind them. To deny it is to be willfully ignorant.

The second way God reveals Himself is through His Word, the Bible. From the very first verse to the last, we are told about Him and about what He has done. Study the Scriptures and you will learn still more about God. Finally, God revealed Himself in the incarnation, when God the Son became Man.

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son” (Heb. 1:1-2).

“The Word [Christ] became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14).

And Jesus said, “Search the Scriptures, for…these are they which testify of Me” (Jn. 5:39; cf. Lk. 24:27).

Of seeking to know God better, the great nineteenth century preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon said in a sermon:

“Other subjects we can encompass and grapple with. In them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, “Behold I am wise.” But when we come to this master science, finding that our plumb line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought, “I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.” No subject of contemplation will tend to humble the mind more than thoughts of God.”

It is a search worthy of a lifetime, though we say with Job, “Indeed these are the mere edges of His ways, and how small a whisper we hear of Him!” (Job 26:14). Even so, we continue our search. Paul prays that the Ephesian Christians might “know the love of Christ which passes [surpasses] knowledge” (Eph. 3:19). Though it’s impossible to know Him completely, there is great blessing in all we learn (cf. II Pet. 3:18).

One of the great blessings of these discoveries is growing confidence in prayer. The more we know of the One to whom we’re praying, the greater will be our assurance that He understands us, and will answer according to His wisdom and love. That is seen in this hymn by Fanny Crosby.

CH-1) Blessèd Redeemer, full of compassion,
Great is Thy mercy, boundless and free;
Now in my weakness, seeking Thy favour,
Lord, I am coming closer to Thee.

Blessèd Redeemer, wonderful Saviour,
Fountain of wisdom, Ancient of Days,
Hope of the faithful, Light of all ages,
Jesus my Saviour, Thee will I praise.

CH-2) Blessèd Redeemer, Thou art my Refuge,
Under Thy watch-care, safe I shall be;
Gladly adoring, joyfully trusting,
Still I am coming closer to Thee.

Questions:
1) What have you recently learned about the Lord–or felt more strongly about Him than before?

2) What qualities of the Lord do you find most encouraging in times of prayer?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Fanny Crosby)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | September 11, 2017

Stand Up, Stand Up for 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: George Duffield Jr. (b. Sept. 12, 1818; d. July 6, 1888)
Music: Webb, by George James Webb (b. June 24, 1803; d. Oct. 7, 1887)

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

Note: American George Duffield became a Presbyterian clergyman like his father. Pastor Duffield, at the bedside of a dying man, had asked if he had any message for others. His reply was, “Tell them to stand up for Jesus.” Duffield not only passed on those words, he wrote a hymn expressing them.

To stand for something, or stand up and be counted, is to publicly declare support for someone of something–even if doing so requires a personal sacrifice of some kind.

Many Christians have done that through the twenty centuries of the Christian era, and many are still doing so. To stand up and identify yourself as a follower of Christ may make you unpopular, and it could lead to various kinds of social strictures and ostracism. In the extreme, it has led to martyrdom.

In the Roman Empire, Christians were executed as common criminals by crucifixion or by being thrown to wild beasts in the Colosseum. Cruel emperors delighted in novel ways of killing Christians. Nero introduced twilight executions where Christians were nailed to crosses and burned alive as torches to light public spectacles.

Early Christians used the Latin word sacramentum to describe believer’s baptism. It was the word used by a Roman soldier of his oath of absolute devotion and obedience to his general. For those who had put their faith in Christ, baptism became a public stand for Christ, despite the cost.

Centuries later, a guide was giving some travelers a tour of the Colosseum. He told how many Christians had died there to entertain the ravening crowd. The visitors asked whether relics [personal possessions, etc.] of these saints could still be obtained. The guide replied, “Gather the dust of the Colosseum; it is all the martyrs.”

Stephen was apparently the first Christian martyr (Acts 7:59), but he has been followed by a noble host of others. Amazingly, a young man named Saul was complicit in the death of Stephen (vs. 18), and went on to persecute the church of Christ (Acts 8:1; 9:1-2). But he put his faith in Christ and was transformed. Later known as Paul, he wrote this:

“In nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:20-21; cf. Acts 26:22).

And most of the churches that received letters from him were told to stand firm, whatever the cost.

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong” (I Cor. 16:13, NIV). “Stand fast [firm]…in the liberty by which Christ has made us free” (Gal. 5:1). “Stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11, 13, 14). “Stand fast in the Lord” (Phil. 1:27; 4:1; also see I Thess. 3:8; II Thess. 2:15).

This has been the determination of many ardent servants of Christ ever since, and that same spirit has been echoed in a multitude of our hymns. A few days ago I wrote an article on the song Standing on the Promises, but there are many more that make use of the standing imagery.

¤ The Solid Rock, by Edward Mote, declares “On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand.”

¤ Charles Wesley’s Soldiers of Christ Arise urges, “Stand then in His great might.”

¤ In the great hymn How Firm a Foundation the Lord says, “I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand.”

¤ And Philip Bliss’s Dare to Be a Daniel hails those who are “Standing by a purpose true,” and “dare to stand alone.”

This is merely a small sampling, but we conclude with George Duffield’s Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus.

CH-1) Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
Ye soldiers of the cross;
Lift high His royal banner,
It must not suffer loss.
From victory unto victory
His army shall He lead,
Till every foe is vanquished,
And Christ is Lord indeed.

CH-6) Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
The strife will not be long;
This day the noise of battle,
The next the victor’s song.
To him who overcometh
A crown of life shall be;
He with the King of Glory
Shall reign eternally.

Questions:
1) Have you recently faced some kind of opposition or criticism for your Christian stand?

2) How did you handle it?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | September 8, 2017

How Sad Our State by Nature Is

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Isaac Watts (b. July 17, 1674; d. Nov. 25, 1748)
Music: Southwell (or Irons), by Herbert Stephen Irons (b. Jan, 19, 1834; d. June 29, 1905)

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

Note: Isaac Watts was both a pastor and a prominent hymn writer–in fact, he’s considered the Father of English Hymnody. And he was determined not to gloss over sin, but to call it what it is, a vile abomination to a holy God. Some churches today, bent on emphasizing the positive and making each church service a happy experience, shy away from some of his songs (or others like them). But their strong medicine is needed all the same.

Perhaps you’ve said it yourself in disciplining a child–said it with exasperated impatience, “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times not to do that.” Which being interpreted means: “If I’ve told you once, I [might as well] have told you a thousand times [for all the good it’s done].”

Christian psychologist Henry Brandt asked a group of parents, “How long does it take us to teach a boy to tidy his room?” His answer, after a pause, “Twenty years!” which brought the laughter of recognition from his audience. Yes, some things have to be repeated over and over, before we learn them and apply them consistently.

That relates to our hymn singing in church. “Let [literally, keep on letting] the word of Christ [or God’s Word] dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace [or thanksgiving] in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16).

We are to keep on filling our minds with Scripture, allowing it to bear fruit in our lives as we assimilate and apply it. And that practice should both inform and motivate our hymn singing. Our sacred songs are meant to reinforce the teachings of God’s Word. We don’t just sing them as an empty ritual, or because it’s a traditional part of what we do in church. Our singing is to be intentional. We’re singing our thanks and praise to God, and also singing to one another, to teach, exhort, and encourage those around us.

Years ago, a strongly worded hymn by Isaac Watts was to be sung in an evening service with an interesting result. Pastor Spencer announced the hymn, reading the words first, so the congregation could think about them. (A worthy practice.)

CH-1) How sad our state by nature is!
Our sin, how deep it stains!
And Satan binds our captive souls
Fast in his slavish chains.

CH-2) But hark! a voice of sovereign grace
Sounds from the sacred Word;
“Ho, ye despairing sinners, come,
And trust upon the Lord!”

CH-3) My soul obeys the Almighty’s call,
And runs to this relief;
I would believe Thy promise, Lord;
O help my unbelief!

CH-4) To the blest fountain of Thy blood,
Incarnate God, I fly;
Here let me wash my spotted soul
From sins of deepest dye.

Dr. Spencer almost hesitated to finish his reading, because he knew there was, in the congregation, a young woman who was deeply troubled about her spiritual condition. How would she handle the last stanza in which the hymn writer calls himself, “a guilty, weak, and helpless worm”? Well, she left at the end of the service without speaking to him–possibly a bad sign.

But the next day she came to see her pastor to say she’d made a great discovery. “I have never been so happy before,” she said. “All is light to me now. I see my way clear, and am not burdened and troubled as I was.” After Pastor Spencer had read the hymn, she’d apparently sat in the pew reading it over and over. “I did not hear your prayer. I did not hear a word of your sermon–I do not know your text.”

Here is Watts’s final stanza of the hymn through which her heart found peace.

CH-6) A guilty, weak, and helpless worm,
Into Thy hands I fall;
Be Thou my strength and righteousness,
My Saviour, and my all.

“Why sir,” she said simply, “don’t you think the reason we don’t get out of darkness sooner is that we don’t believe?” The pastor realized this simple truth was something that had been “told to her a thousand times,” but it needed to be said again–which is one job of our hymns. And at last she got it!

Sometimes the simplicity of the gospel can almost discourage us. We feel there must be something more to it. One time a young man wrestled for hours in prayer, not sensing that he had done enough to be saved. Finally, he said, “Well, it’s all of no use. I have done all I can do.” But that’s just the point! It’s not up to what we can do at all, but accepting what Christ has already done on our behalf (Acts 16:30-31).

Questions:
1) Do you have the confidence that you have received God’s forgiveness and eternal salvation? If not, check out the article God’s Plan of Salvation.

2) Why is it that we want to complicate things and add certain works to the offer of God’s grace?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | September 6, 2017

As the Deer

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: a meditation on Psalm 42:1 by Martin L. Nystrom (b. Oct. 17, 1956, some erroneously have 1957)
Music: Martin L. Nystrom

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

Note: Hymnary.org has more detail on Nystrom’s biography. His is a popular contemporary version of the opening of Psalm 42. A longer, metrical version of the psalm from 1562 is As Pants the Hart for Cooling Streams.

Thirst. It’s something we’re familiar with. On a hot day, or after physical exertion, our mouth is dry, and we may even feel a little light-headed, or find our muscles cramping. We want and need something to drink.

The body’s thirst monitor in the brain is the hypothalamus, an organ that also regulates such things as body temperature, sleep, and appetite. When sodium levels in the body are high–for example, after we eat a salty snack–the message is sent out that we need to drink something. The same thing happens when blood pressure drops to a low level (suggesting a lack of fluids in the body).

Surprisingly, this sensitivity decreases with advancing age, sometimes to the point where the individual loses the sense of thirst completely. Or, the opposite can happen. Certain diseases or conditions cause an extreme and uncontrollable thirst.

The word “thirst” itself has been around for centuries, and it’s been used since the early thirteenth century, not only of a physical craving, but of emotional desires as well. With reference to the emotions, thirst describes an ardent desire, a yearning, a craving or passion for someone or something. A person may thirst in this way for knowledge, or for truth. Or strongly desire the presence and affection of another individual. When the latter is not controlled by dependence on God and moral convictions it can become sinful lust.

The Bible uses the word thirst many times. Sometimes a physical thirst is in view. The Israelites thirsted for water in their journey through the wilderness (Exod. 17:3). The Lord Jesus thirsted during His agony on the cross (Jn. 19:28). And in describing the hardships of his missionary work, the Apostle Paul spoke of being “in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst” (II Cor. 11:27).

But the thirst God’s Word describes as more significant is emotional and spiritual. In warning of coming judgment on Israel, the Lord says, “I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11). And in the Beatitudes, Christ says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matt. 5:6).

In John’s Gospel, we learn that eternal life comes through a spiritual birth, which is an inner work of the Holy Spirit, a ministry symbolized by water. Jesus says, “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (Jn. 4:14). And later, “Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink’” (Jn. 7:37; cf. Isa. 44:3).

In Psalms, David uses thirst as poetic imagery to express his intense longing for fellowship with God.

“Early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water” (Ps. 63:1).

“As the deer pants for the water brooks [perhaps as it flees from a hunter], so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Ps. 42:1-2).

It is these last verses that Martin Nystrom turned into a hymn in 1984. A Seattle school teacher in his mid-twenties, Marty enrolled in a six-week summer course in Dallas, chiefly so he could get to know a girl who was also taking the course. However, things didn’t work out romantically with her, and he was heart-broken and discouraged. It was then, after a period of fasting and prayer, he said, “My spirit became more and more hungry for communion with God.”

Sitting at the piano with this heart desire, he wrote a musical setting for Psalm 42:1. Ten years later he was thrilled to hear a gathering of 100,000 believers in Seoul, Korea, sing his song, which begins:

As the deer panteth for the water,
So my soul longeth after You.
You alone are my heart’s desire,
And I long to worship You.

Significantly, given Nystrom’s prior romantic disappointment, the second stanza of his hymn says, “I love You more than any other,” and, in the final stanza, “only You can satisfy.”

Questions:
1) Do you have a deep thirst or hunger for God, and His Word?

2) If you do, how does it express itself? (If you don’t, what might be the reason?)

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

Posted by: rcottrill | September 4, 2017

Standing on the Promises

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: Russell Kelso Carter (b. Nov. 18, 1849; d. Aug. 23, 1928)
Music: Russell Kelso Carter

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

Note: Carter attended the Pennsylvania Military Academy, where he was a good student and an excellent athlete. Mr. Carter later became a teacher at the academy–of chemistry, natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics. Then, the year after he published the present song, he was ordained as a Methodist clergyman. And as if those career changes were not enough, he later trained and became a medical doctor! Along the way, he wrote many hymns, and co-edited a hymn book. And you can add to that his time as a sheep rancher, and the fact that he was a published novelist. That’s surely enough for more than one lifetime!

The lyrics of the song are good. But gospel musician Norman Johnson (1928-1983) felt Carter’s rather bouncy, and sometimes overly hurried melody did not suit the serious subject. He wrote a new tune called Turlock, named after the California city where he was married. It has since appeared in a couple of hymn books: Praise! Our Songs and Hymns, and Hymns for the Family of God.

Peter Marshall (1902-1949) was a Scottish-American pastor. He also served as the esteemed chaplain of the United States Senate. Marshall was know for his colourful and insightful prayers. Some of them may make us smile, but they often sharply strike the conscience. Once he prayed:

“Give us a clear vision that we may know where to stand and what to stand for–because, unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything.”

That says a great deal. First, it’s an appeal to God to give us the spiritual insight, to see the significant issues of life with clarity. Then to be equipped to choose what is right and wise, and take our stand there. Without a consistency of personal convictions, we’re open to any foolish notion or moral perversity that has become the fad and fashion of the moment.

The word “stand,” used the way Peter Marshall does, refers to our values and priorities, our attitude concerning what is true and good. It is used in a number of compounds. We can stand for something; or stand on it; we can stand by our decision; we can stand with others.

The word is used in the Bible hundreds of times, with a wide variety of applications. But let’s consider a few New Testament examples that relate to the present theme. When we put our faith in Christ as our Saviour, the One who paid our debt of sin, we receive not only forgiveness, but God’s gift of eternal life (Eph. 1:7; Jn. 3:16).

It’s then we could be described as standing knee-deep in the grace–the unmerited favour of God. “We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand” (Rom. 5:2; cf. I Pet. 5:12). Not only are we saved, through faith in Christ (Eph. 2:8), but we are exhorted to live by faith, with an ongoing trust in God (II Cor. 5:7). “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (I Cor. 16:13).

There is also encouragement to study and stand steadfastly on the teachings of the Word of God. “Stand fast [firm] and hold the traditions [Christian teaching handed on] which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle” (II Thess. 2:15). “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:23). This further relates to our stand against Satan, the enemy of our souls.

We’re exhorted to “put on the whole armour of God, that [we] may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). And a key piece of equipment for spiritual warfare is “the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God” (vs. 17). We are to take our stand, by faith, on the promises of God, “for we [believers] shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” to give account (Rom. 14:10).

In 1886, Kelso Carter wrote words and music for a gospel song expressing this theme. His song says:

CH-1) Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
Through eternal ages let His praises ring,
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing, standing,
Standing on the promises of God my Saviour;
Standing, standing,
I’m standing on the promises of God.

CH-4) Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord,
Bound to Him eternally by love’s strong cord,
Overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword,
Standing on the promises of God.

Questions:
1) What are the most important things you personally stand for?

2) Why do you stand for these things above all?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | September 1, 2017

He Rose Triumphantly

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)
The Cyber Hymnal (Oswald Smith)
Hymnary.org

Note: Oswald Smith was the pastor of a large church in Toronto for many years, a church well known for its support of world missions. Dr. Smith also wrote about twelve hundred hymns.

It happens every four years. What we call leap year adds another day to the month of February. The reason that’s needed is that earth’s journey around the sun, defining our calendar year and its seasons, takes about 365¼ days. If no allowance were made for the fraction, eventually our summer would be in the winter! February 29th puts us back on track.

Those who are born on that date can only celebrate their actual birth date every four years. Most compromise by partying on February 28th or March 1st the other three years. Hymn writers are not immune to this complication. John Byrom (1691-1763), the author of the Christmas carol Christians Awake, was born on February 29th.

A more unusual phenomenon is having February 29th fall on a Sunday. (The last one was in 2004, and the next comes up in 2032.) Back in 2004, at the church where I served as pastor, we planned to make the worship service on that Sunday as unusual as the date. Noticing that February 29th fell about halfway between Christmas and Easter, we decided to have a program combining the two themes.

At the front of the church was a rugged wooden cross. On one arm of the cross we hung a Christmas wreath, on the other a scarlet cloth representing the shed blood of Christ. The music that day involved both Christmas carols and Easter hymns. My sermon was entitled “The Cradle and the Cross.”

Jesus was born in Bethlehem around 5 BC, and He was crucified on Calvary, outside the city of Jerusalem, in AD 30. But those two events are inseparably bound together in the purposes of God. In a real sense, Christ came to earth to die. Though that was not the only purpose of His coming, it was a dominant one.

As an angel told Joseph, “She [Mary] will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). And Jesus said He came “to give His life a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45). Yes, He died. But as the eternal Son of God, Christ had power over death:

“I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. (Jn. 10:17-18).

In prophecy, He said, “You will not leave my soul in Sheol [the place of the dead], nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption” (Ps. 16:10). And Peter, preaching on the Day of Pentecost announced, “God [the Father] raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him” (Acts 2:24, NIV).

We generally sing Christmas carols only around Christmas, but seem to do better with hymns about Christ’s death and resurrection. Easter hymns should not be confined only to one Sunday a year. American hymn writer Bentley Ackley thought so. In 1944 he wrote to his friend, Canadian pastor Oswald Smith, asking if he’d write something on the resurrection, with no mention of Easter, a song that could be used all year round.

Oswald Smith read the words of Mr. Ackley in his letter:

“We are all making a mistake in using certain songs only at Easter time, when the centre of our salvation is wrapped up in the resurrection.”

The comment brought to mind some lines of verse Smith had written a few years before, during a time of illness. (He suffered from bouts of malaria, contracted in his travels abroad.) As he lay in bed, he listened to his son Paul improvising on the piano. The words he wrote seemed to follow the metre of the music. He forwarded these to Ackley when set them to music of his own, and they became the hymn He Rose Triumphantly.

1) Our blessed Lord was slain,
The Christ who came to reign,
And in the grave He lay,
To wait the coming day.

He rose triumphantly,
In pow’r and majesty,
The Saviour rose no more to die;
O let us now proclaim
The glory of His name,
And tell to all He lives today.

3) The stone was rolled away,
For Christ was raised that day;
And now He lives above
To manifest His love.

Questions:
1) Why was the resurrection of Christ necessary?

2) What does the resurrection mean to you in your life today?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | August 30, 2017

Who Trusts in God

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 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: first stanza by Joachim Magdeburg (circa 1525-1587); last two stanzas by an unknown author
Music: Bishopgarth (also called Victoria), by Arthur Seymour Sullivan (b. May 13, 1842; d. Nov. 22, 1900)

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

Note: Martin Luther is identified as a leading light in the Reformation. After his time, there was an active Catholic Counter-Reformation. Facing it boldly was a strong-minded Lutheran preacher named Joachim Magdeburg. Refusing to adopt ceremonies ordered by the Augsburg Interim Act, he was driven from one town to another.

But when he lacked an earthly dwelling, he looked to the Lord as his spiritual refuge and safe retreat. He could say with David, “ In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Ps. 56:11).

Our home, by definition, is where we live, our place of residence. Most of us have an expectation that it will provide shelter, and a measure of security. Those who live within its walls also hope it’ll be a place of mutual love and concern, and a safe haven from whatever threatens in the world outside.

That’s certainly the ideal. But the daily news, and our own experience, paint a different picture. In dry summer days, wild fires can consume almost everything in their path, including whole communities. Or spiraling tornado winds can level homes and cause streets to looked like bombed-out targets of war. Or flood waters can render buildings unlivable, and perhaps even beyond repair and restoration.

Then there are the trio of threats mentioned by Christ: moths, rust, and thieves (Matt. 6:19), both natural forces and human malice that can invade the home. Plus economic troubles that might lead a family to sell and downsize. Family conflict and abuse can also scatter  family members who seek a safer and more congenial place.

It’s a bleak picture, yet there are many homes that have survived for generations and have seen families grow, with individuals moving on to form new families, all becoming part of the kind of moral and benevolent network that strengthens communities.

In our English hymns, the word home is applied in three different ways. There are songs of aspiration regarding the home and family: Happy the Home When God Is There, by Henry Ware, and A Christian Home, by Barbara Hart. And songs about the heavenly home of the saints: Home, Sweet Home, by N. B. Vandall, and Frank Smith’s The Home Beyond the River.

But it is a third application we’ll look at here. There is a real sense in which God Himself is a secure home for the believer. “The eternal God is your refuge [or dwelling place]” (Deut. 33:27). “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (Prov. 18:10). It’s a picture of complete trust in God found many times in Psalms.

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

“Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations” (Ps. 90:1).

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust’” (Ps. 91:1-2).

“You are my hiding place” (Ps. 119:114).

During the Reformation, Martin Luther (1483-1546) gave us a hymn in that vein, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God (based on Psalm 46). For his part, Magdeburg also wrote a beautiful hymn about that. His first stanza has been preserved. The author of the rest of the hymn is unknown.

CH-1) Who trusts in God, a strong abode
In heav’n and earth possesses;
Who looks in love to Christ above,
No fear his heart oppresses.
In Thee alone, dear Lord, we own
Sweet hope and consolation;
Our shield from foes, our balm for woes,
Our great and sure salvation.

CH-2) Though Satan’s wrath beset our path,
And worldly scorn assail us;
While Thou art near we will not fear,
Thy strength shall never fail us.
Thy rod and staff, shall keep us safe,
And guide our steps forever;
Nor shades of death, nor hell beneath,
Our souls from Thee shall sever.

Questions:
1) What kinds of things are provided in our homes that have a spiritual parallel in God?

2) What are some of the spiritual dangers in the world that the Lord protects us from?

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

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