Posted by: rcottrill | February 17, 2017

I Have Never Lost the Wonder of It All

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by: rcottrill | February 15, 2017

Exalted High at God’s Right Hand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by: rcottrill | February 13, 2017

Down Life’s Dark Vale We Wander

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by: rcottrill | February 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by: rcottrill | February 8, 2017

Come, My Soul, Thou Must Be Waking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by: rcottrill | February 6, 2017

Bread of Heaven

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by: rcottrill | February 3, 2017

Ancient of Days

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 Croswell Doane (b. Mar. 2, 1832; d. May 17, 1913)
Music: Albany, by John Albert Jeffery (b. Oct. 26, 1855; d. June 4, 1929)

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

Note: William Doane was the son of hymn writer George Washington Doane, who gave us Softly Now the Light of Day, and Fling Out the Banner. William Doane became the Episcopal Bishop of Albany, New York. He wrote the present song to be sung at the city’s bi-centennial. William Croswell Doane should not be confused with William Howard Doane (1832-1915) who wrote the tunes for many of Fanny Crosby’s gospel songs.

There are many fine Trinitarian hymns, such as: Reginald Heber’s familiar Holy, Holy, Holy, and Elizabeth Charles’s Praise Ye the Triune God. Another is Doane’s. It has been praised by historians, though I don’t believe it belongs in quite the high rank of the other two mentioned. The title “Ancient of Days” (from Dan. 7:9, 13, 22) refers to the eternal Father.

There’s a word game called Taboo, which the inventors describe as “the game of unspeakable fun.” One player draws a card and tries to get teammates to say the key word that’s on it. But he is not allowed to say any form of the word, and there are other related words that are “taboo” as well, as well as related hand actions and sound effects.

Suppose the word is EGG. The card prohibits using words such as: scramble, yolk, chicken, bacon, and breakfast. No hand motions or sounds (clucking like a chicken) can be used, either. You might try saying: hatch, Easter, or nog.

While the game can be great fun, it’s also a reminder of the importance of words. We need them, and we have lots of them. The unabridged Oxford Dictionary (in twenty volumes) currently contains definitions for 171,476 English words. And if there isn’t a word for something, we invent one, and the dictionaries will add it later.

Long before television sets were found in our homes, they were the province of science fiction, and scientific theories. In the nineteenth century, they spoke of having telephote and televista. The word television was apparently used first in a scientific paper, around 1900. It combines two Greek words: tele (far), and visio (seeing). The short-form TV came along in the 1940’s.

The English Bible is made up of words–783,137 of them, in the King James Version. These are, in turn, translations of words in the original Hebrew (with some Aramaic) and Greek texts. And whenever we move from one language to another there can be complications. For example, the Bible speaks of Jesus as “the Lamb of God” (Jn. 1:29). But the first Christian missionaries to the Inuit in the far north had a problem. The people there had never seen a lamb, and didn’t know what it was. Calling Jesus “the Seal of God,” as they did, at least conveyed the idea of innocence to them.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, in terms of familiarity, is the word “God.” Virtually every religion speaks of a deity of some kind. But that does not mean all religions identify the same one. Jehovah God of the Bible, the one Supreme Being who created all things and rules over all, says,

“There is no other God besides Me, a just God and a Saviour; there is none besides Me” (Isa. 45:21). “The LORD [translating Jehovah, or Yahweh] is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King” (Jer. 10:10).

One of the things that distinguishes the one true God is His tri-unity. The Bible is adamant that there is only one God (Deut. 6:4). Even the demons accept that, and tremble in terror of Him (Jas. 2:19). Yet there are three distinct and co-equal persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each has His own distinct but fully harmonious ministry in the Godhead, and is worthy of equal honour (cf. Jn. 5:23).

Though the word Trinity is not found in the New King James Version of the Bible, the concept certainly can be defended from Scripture. We say, therefore, that God is a Trinity, a term borrowed from the Latin trinitatem. A denial of orthodox teaching in this regard is heresy. From its earliest times, the church has defended the full deity of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

All three Persons were active at Jesus’ baptism (Matt. 3:13-17), and the later baptismal formula invokes the authority of all three Persons: “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). God’s blessing is pronounced in the name of all three: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen” (II Cor. 13:14).

As with other hymns dealing with the Trinity, succeeding stanzas of Doane’s hymn worship and praise, in turn, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Here are two stanzas.

CH-1) Ancient of Days, who sittest throned in glory,
To Thee all knees are bent, all voices pray;
Thy love has blessed the wide world’s wondrous story
With light and life since Eden’s dawning day.

CH-5) O Triune God, with heart and voice adoring,
Praise we the goodness that doth crown our days;
Pray we that Thou wilt hear us, still imploring
Thy love and favour kept to us always.

Questions:
1) Why is the teaching of one God in three Persons difficult to understand?

2) What is the best explanation or illustration of the Trinity you have found?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | February 1, 2017

All Through the Night

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 Ceiriog Hughes (b. Sept. 25, 1832; d. Apr. 23, 1887)
Music: from a 1784 book called Musical and Poetical Relics of the Welsh Bards, complied by Edward Jones (b. Mar. ___, 1752; d. Apr. ___, 1824)

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

Note: All Through the Night (in Welsh, Ar Hyd y Nos), with the tune from Jones’s book, has been translated into English a number of times. I have combined the words of two versions below, capitalizing “Child,” and the related pronouns, because I’m looking at it as a Christmas carol. Hymnary.org has different lyrics, treating the song simply as a hymn.

A lullaby, or cradle song, is one used to quiet a baby and encourage sleep. The word itself, from about five centuries ago, says it: “lull,” meaning quiet or calm, and “by,” which is likely short for by by, or goodby.

A now famous one was first published in 1765, and the lyrics seem oddly scary and possibly dangerous, if intended to calm an infant.

Rock-a-bye baby, on the treetop,
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.

(Good thing the baby won’t understand the words!)

There are various theories about the origin of this strange song. Possibly it was a disguised reference to the overthrow of Catholic James II of England, and the ascension to the throne of Protestant William III. The 1765 version appeared with this footnote:

“This may serve as a warning to the Proud and Ambitious, who climb so high that they generally fall at last.”

When we turn to the Scriptures, to my knowledge there’s no mother found singing a cradle song over her baby. That, of course, doesn’t mean it never happened. Quite likely it often did. But, strangely enough, the closest thing to a lullaby will be sung by God Himself.

The prophet Zephaniah speaks of a future time when Israel, under her Messiah, will be restored and live in peace and prosperity. When “the Lord has taken away your judgments, He has cast out your enemy. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall see disaster no more” (Zeph. 3:15). Then…

“The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing” (vs. 17).

But let’s consider Mary, the mother of Jesus, for a moment. Clearly Catholics make somewhat more of her than Protestants do. And, likely as a reaction to the Catholic veneration of Mary, Protestants often swing the pendulum too far in the other direction and almost ignore her. This is most surely wrong.

What a wonderful young woman she was! Likely born around 20 BC, the last we see of her, in AD 30, Mary is gathered with other believers after Christ’s ascension, awaiting the coming ministry of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the New Testament church (Acts 1:12-14). But it is in the events surrounding the birth of Jesus that we learn most about her.

A young peasant girl, living in Nazareth, she was visited one day by the angel Gabriel, who announced that she was to give birth to the Messiah of Israel (Lk. 1:26-27, 31-33). When she protested that she was a virgin (vs. 34), Gabriel explained that the conception would be miraculous, a unique work of the Spirit of God (vs. 35).

With amazing faith, Mary accepted God’s plan for her (vs. 38). Later, she burst into an inspired expression of praise. Sometimes called The Magnificat, after the opening word in the Latin translation, Magnificat anima mea Dominum, it begins:

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name” (Lk. 1:46-49).

When the Baby was born, and laid in a manger in Bethlehem (Lk. 2:7), it is not impossible to think of Mary singing a quiet cradle song to Him. As noted above, John Hughes’s song is often treated as a Christmas carol. Though far too late to qualify as Mary’s lullaby, it does fit the mood.

1) Sleep my Child and peace attend Thee,
All through the night
Guardian angels God will send Thee,
All through the night
Soft the drowsy hours are creeping
Hill and vale in slumber steeping,
I my loving vigil keeping
All through the night.

2) Angels watching ever round Thee
All through the night
In Thy slumbers close surround Thee
All through the night
They will of all fears disarm Thee,
No forebodings should alarm Thee,
They will let no peril harm Thee
All through the night.

Questions:
1) Our mental images of the manger scene are strongly influenced by carols, and Christmas card artwork. It may have been somewhat different. Imagine you were one of the shepherds. What do you think it was like, when you came to see what had happened?

2) Why is it significant that Jesus was born in such poor circumstances, rather than in a palace in Jerusalem, as the wise men expected of one they called a king (Matt. 2:1-2)?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | January 30, 2017

We Speak of the Realms of the Blest

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 King Mills (b. _____, 1805; d. Apr. 21, 1829)
Music: Green Fields (or Edson) by Johann Sebastian Bach (b. Mar. 21, 1685; d. July 28, 1750)

Links:

Wordwise Hymns (Johann Sebastian Bach)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: As you can see, Mills only lived to the age of twenty-four. She wrote several hymns, including We’ll Work Till Jesus Comes. The Cyber Hymnal has four eight-line stanzas of the present hymn. These can be split, as some versions have done, into eight four-line stanzas.

Hymnary.org shows several different tunes used with the hymn. I don’t particularly like Green Fields–unless it’s adapted. The dotted quarter notes at the beginning of each phrase of the text sometimes put the em-PHA-sis where it doesn’t belong, on words such as “that,” “and,” and “but.” It can be smoothed out, and works better that way, in my view.

Change is a word with shades of meaning, and a variety of applications to life. It can mean: to make different, or transform, or it could refer to a substitution or exchange of one thing for another.

Some changes are more permanent. When we have our tonsils out, they’re out. Other changes may happen several times, such as attending a different school, or getting a different job. Still other changes, such as changing our clothes, take place more frequently.

There can be pleasant changes, like going on a picnic. There can be exciting ones, too–like winning a prize. But we all know there are changes that are disappointing, because the result isn’t what we expected.

Also there are the changes associated with the stages of life. Most describe five of these; others identify a dozen or more. You can see how it gets complicated by considering childhood as a stage in life. Early on, each year brings noticeable alterations.

From a Christian perspective, we can add a couple more stages to the commonly cited five. First, God treats babies as living individuals, even before they’re born. This is seen in many passages, and because of the secular notion that life doesn’t begin at conception, let me list a few examples of God’s attention to babes in the womb:

¤ Jacob and Esau (Gen. 25:21-23)
¤ David (Ps. 22:9; 139:13)
¤ Jeremiah (Jer. 1:5)
¤ Christ (Isa. 49:1, 5)
¤ John the Baptist (Lk. 1:41)
¤ Paul (Gal. 1:15-16)

Thus, based on Scripture, we begin with: 1) Life in the womb. Then, 2) Infancy; 3) childhood; 4) adolescence; 5) adulthood; 6) old age. And finally, there is, 7) our eternal destiny to be included. And for our purposes here, let’s think of the difference between this mortal life, and what comes afterward, particularly for the Christian. There are big differences between the two.

The Bible lists four changes contrasting believers mortal bodies and our bodies after the resurrection (I Cor. 15:42-44). 1) The first (our present body) is subject to “corruption” (disease and death), the second is not. 2) The first is prone to dishonour by sinfulness, the second is not. 3) The first is weak, the second will have new powers.

4) Finally, calling the resurrection body “spiritual” does not mean we’ll all be ghosts, but that our physical bodies will be so transformed as to be suited for heaven. Christ’s resurrection body wasn’t ghostly. He was able to eat with his disciples (Lk. 24:38-43), and our bodies will be like His (Phil. 3:20-21).

Of the changes to come in that heavenly kingdom God promises: “There shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4). What a wonderful prospect!

It thrilled English hymn writer Elizabeth Mills. The young bride of a member of Parliament, she was reading in a Bible commentary about Psalm 119. The author quoted verse 44, “So shall I keep Your law continually, forever and ever.” From that he envisioned his obedience to God’s Word going on into eternity, even though there would be many changes between this life and the next. “We speak of heaven,” he wrote, “but oh! to be there!”

That last phrase captivated Mills’s imagination and she wrote a hymn about it.

CH-1) We speak of the realms of the blest,
That country so bright and so fair,
And oft are its glories confessed–
But what must it be to be there!
We speak of its pathway of gold,
Its walls decked with jewels so rare,
Its wonders and pleasures untold–
But what must it be to be there!”

CH-2) We speak of its freedom from sin,
From sorrow, temptation and care,
From trials without and within–
But what must it be to be there!
We speak of its service of love,
Of the robes which the glorified wear,
Of the church of the firstborn above–
But what must it be to be there!”

In the final stanza Elizabeth Mills adds, “And shortly I also shall know / And feel what it is to be there.” A few weeks later she died and was taken to her heavenly home.

Shortly before his death in 1895, gospel musician Philip Phillips referred to her hymn and said:

“You see that I am still in the land of the dying. Why I linger so long is to me a problem. The precious Saviour is more to me than I ever expected when I was well. The lines that come so often to me are these: “We speak of the land of the blest….But what must it be to be there!” Blessed be God! I shall soon know. What a singing time we will have when we get there!”

Questions:
1) “What must it be to be there”–what do you think it will be like?

2) What will the biggest or most noticeable change be when we reach heaven, by God’s grace”


Links:

Wordwise Hymns (Johann Sebastian Bach)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | January 27, 2017

Tell It Out

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: Epenetus, by Frances Ridley Havergal; arranged by Ira David Sankey (b. Aug. 28, 1840; d. Aug. 13, 1908)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Frances Havergal)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: The daughter of clergyman William Henry Havergal, Frances was reading by the age of four, and writing poetry by the time she was seven. She learned Latin, Greek and Hebrew, and memorized the Psalms, the book of Isaiah, and most of the New Testament. Though she only lived into her early forties, she left us some wonderful hymns, including: Like a River Glorious, Take My Life and Let It Be, and Who Is on the Lord’s Side?

Secrets can be great fun. When we buy Christmas or birthday presents, we try to keep them a secret until the big day. The anticipation adds to the excitement of what’s to come.

Back in the early days of television there was a popular American game show called I’ve Got a Secret. Guests came on with some secret, perhaps about their occupation, or something that happened to them. Four panelists tried to guess the secret. One guest was Colonel Sanders, the famous fried chicken entrepreneur. His secret was that he was almost broke, ten years before, when he received his first government pension cheque. He used that cheque to start “KFC,” which made him millions.

That’s entertaining. But revealing some secrets can also be dangerous, or they can uncover harmful activities. In a family, a secret affair by one partner can awaken suspicion in the other, and growing resentment. As facts about clandestine meetings come to light, the relationship of the couple may be damaged beyond repair. In Canada, the Official Secrets Act provides for the protection of state secrets and official information, mainly related to national security.

In the Bible, Samson lost his great strength, after revealing things to Delilah he should not have done (Jud. 16:15-21). And King David was troubled for months by terrible sins he had committed and concealed–until he finally confessed them to God and found grace and forgiveness (Ps. 32:1-5). Judas plotted secretly to betray Christ, but his actions were used by a sovereign God to fulfil salvation’s plan (Acts 3:13-15, 18).

God’s Word uses the word “secret” nearly a hundred times, and forms of the word “hidden” many times more. There we read of: secret temptations to idol worship (Deut. 13:6; II Kgs. 17:9); secret attacks by wicked and violent individuals (Deut. 27:24; Ps. 10:4, 9); secret spying of the Promised Land by the Israelites (Josh. 2:1); secret places of protection (Ps. 27:5-6); and God’s final judgment of secret sins (Ecc. 14:14; Jer. 23:24).

But there are some things in Scripture that should not be kept secret. Things about God and His works in the world, about Christ and what He has done for us, about the gospel of grace. Such truths should be broadcast far and wide. It’s not surprising that Acts and the epistles use words such as preach, proclaim, teach, witness, and testify over two hundred times. We’re to “shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15). “No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light” (Lk. 11:33).

On Sunday, April 19th, 1872, with the ground covered by a late snowfall, the church bells rang out an invitation to the house of God. English hymn writer Frances Havergal heard their joyous summons from her bed that morning, as she was sick and unable to attend.

She asked for her Prayer Book, and read the Psalm scheduled for that day, and was struck by the words:

“Say [tell it] among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns [is King]; the world also is firmly established, it shall not be moved; He shall judge the peoples righteously’” (Ps. 96:10).

She thought, “What a splendid first line for a hymn–Tell it out among the nations that the Lord is King!” It may have been the bells that strengthened the thought of sounding the truth forth, but it wasn’t long before she’d written three stanzas and composed a lively tune for it. She called her tune Epenetus (also spelled Epenaetus) the name of a beloved convert of the Apostle Paul’s (Rom. 16:6).

CH-1) Tell it out among the nations that the Lord is King;
Tell it out! Tell it out!
Tell it out among the nations, bid them shout and sing;
Tell it out! Tell it out!
Tell it out with adoration that He shall increase,
That the mighty King of Glory is the King of Peace;
Tell it out with jubilation, let the song ne’er cease;
Tell it out! Tell it out!

CH-2) Tell it out among the heathen that the Saviour reigns;
Tell it out! Tell it out!
Tell it out among the nations, bid them break their chains;
Tell it out! Tell it out!
Tell it out among the weeping ones that Jesus lives,
Tell it out among the weary ones what rest He gives,
Tell it out among the sinners that He still receives;
Tell it out! Tell it out!

Questions:
1) What can you be doing to “tell out” the Bibles message, and support others who are doing so?

2) The New Testament uses the word “gospel” many times–a word meaning good news. What’s good about it?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Frances Havergal)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

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