Posted by: rcottrill | April 18, 2019

He Giveth More Grace

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: Annie Johnson Flint (b. Dec. 24, 1866; d. Sept. 8, 1932)
Music: Blacklands, by Ray Steadman-Allen (b. Sept. 18, 1922; d. Dec. 15, 2014)

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

Note: The arrangement of this song I’m more familiar with uses the third stanza in the Cyber Hymnal as the refrain for the other two stanzas. The composer is Hubert Mitchell (1907-?), a missionary to India who was much comforted by Miss Flint’s poem, and wrote his own tune for it. Hymnary.org lists many books that include the hymn in this latter format, including The Hymnal for Worship and Celebration, and The Celebration Hymnal.

The saying, “You get what you pay for,” has been around for about five centuries. Most often it’s related to the quality of purchased goods or of workmanship. Yes, there are sometimes true bargains to be had. But often what is less expensive will not be of the quality of what costs more.

The adage also can be turned around. We should pay for what we get. Most of us understand that. But shoplifters try to escape without doing so. It can happen in a restaurant too. However, what’s called colloquially “dine and dash,” is a form of theft. Something similar happens with those who fill up at a gas pump, then drive away without paying. They’re committing a crime, and defrauding the owner of the station. This has led many companies to insist on customers pre-paying for gas.

And there’s another application of the principle. We speak of a lawbreaker paying for his crime. To quote a saying from the 1960’s, “Don’t do the crime of you can’t pay the time.” And the payment exacted is usually more severe for a more serious offense. That legal balancing act is expressed in Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1885 operetta, The Mikado, when the title character sings:

“My object all sublime I shall achieve in time–
To let the punishment fit the crime,
The punishment fit the crime.”

The same principle was laid down by the Lord in the Law of Israel (Exod. 21:22-25). It’s briefly summarized as, “An eye for an eye.” In other words, the punishment should fairly represent, but not exceed, the nature of the offense.

But far more serious is the way this relates to our eternal destiny. God warned our first parents that disobedience to Him would bring death (Gen. 2:17). “The wages if sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). In human experience, this involves not only the terminus of physical death, but a future eternal separation from God, what the Bible calls “the second death” (Rev. 21:8; cf. II Thess. 1:7-9).

That’s the bad news. But there’s some overwhelmingly good news. To quote Romans 6:23 in full:

“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

“God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16).

Notice particularly the word “gift” in Romans 6:23. That’s what God’s grace is all about. Grace is God giving us what we don’t deserve and could never earn. “By grace you have been saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8). “Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” (Rom. 5:20).

And grace, God’s free giving, doesn’t stop when we trust Christ as Saviour. The Bible speaks of “this grace in which we stand” (Rom. 5:2), and which the Lord will continue to pour into our lives for all eternity (Eph. 2:7). Indeed, He invites us to come boldly before His throne, and pray for more and more “grace [divine assistance] to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15-16).

For whatever we may face in life, “He gives more grace” (Jas. 4:6). That’s the basis for a lovely hymn by accomplished devotional poet, Annie Johnson Flint. (And see note above for a tune that makes the third stanza a repeated refrain.)

CH-1) He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labours increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials His multiplied peace.

CH-2) When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

CH-3) His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

Questions:
1) What does it mean to you that God’s throne is described as “the throne of grace” (Heb. 4:16)?

2) What does it mean when it says Christians can approach the throne “boldly”?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | April 15, 2019

Hark, the Herald Angels Sing

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

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

Words: Charles Wesley (b. Dec. 18, 1707; d. Mar. 29, 1788)
Music: Mendelssohn, by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (b. Feb. 3, 1809; d. Nov. 4, 1847); arranged by William Hayman Cummings (b. Aug. 22, 1831; d. June 10, 1915)

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

Note: Both by the quantity of his hymns, and the high quality of many, Charles Wesley ranks as one of our greatest hymn writers. Also, in the first Wordwise Hymns link, there’s an interesting note regarding the tune by Mendelssohn, and Cummings later arrangement of it.

The Internet can be a useful tool for many kinds of research. But it can also be a purveyor of error and deceit. Strange conspiracy theories, quack cures for various diseases, unproven and scandalous biographical details about famous individuals, are all given a place. Great caution is needed in sifting out the false from the true.

This mixture of Internet fact and fiction applies to the subject of angels. Some people claim they’ve met one, but give no definite proof. There are even reputed photographs of angels, either far away, or blurred so they could be anything, like those supposed pictures of Bigfoot, or the Loch Ness monster. Some are given names, and specific roles, based upon nothing but tradition or somebody’s imagination. It’s wise to be skeptical.

But in the Bible, the Word of God, Christians have a reliable source from which to learn about angels. As the Lord Jesus said, in prayer to His heavenly Father, “Your word is truth” (Jn. 17:17). “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine [or teaching]” (II Tim. 3:16). And there, angels are spoken of hundreds of times.

They are supernatural spirit beings, created by God (Neh. 9:6; Col. 1:16). Angel (angelos in Greek) means messenger, or envoy, one sent on a particular mission. They are called “ministering spirits,” engaged in the service of the Lord (Heb. 1:14). There is an “innumerable company of angels” in heaven (Heb. 12:22).

Though angels, as spirits, are invisible to us, they have the power to take on a visible form, when they need to be seen (Matt. 28:2-6). Sometimes they have appeared as men (Heb. 13:2) but, contrary to what some think, people who die do not become angels. The latter are an entirely separate class of beings.

And though angels have great power, they are not God, and should not be worshiped (Rev. 19:10). Nor are we to pray to angels. The Lord Jesus is the one and only Mediator between us and God (I Tim. 2:5), and we’re to pray on His authority, to our heavenly Father, by the agency of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:18).

Only two angels are clearly given names in Scripture: Gabriel, who serves as a special messenger of God (Lk. 1:26, 30-31), and Michael, the Bible’s only archangel (or chief angel), who oversees and protects the nation of Israel (Dan. 12:1; Jude 1:9). Two classes of angels are identified: cherubim (Gen. 3:24), and seraphim (Isa. 6:1-3)–with the “im” at the end of each word signifying plurality in Hebrew. “Principalities and powers” (Eph. 3:10) may be other categories of them.

As to what angels do, they worship and praise the Lord (Rev. 7:11). And, as was noted, they can also serve as messengers on God’s behalf. Further, they are our helpers and protectors (Ps. 91:11-12; Heb. 1:14). Some believe each of us has a specific guardian angel. It’s possible, but the biblical evidence is limited (cf. Matt. 18:10).

Angelic activity was especially prominent is during events surrounding the birth of Christ. In Matthew chapters 1 and 2, and Luke chapters 1 and 2, they’re mentioned nineteen times. And many of our carols talk about the angelic choir announcing the Saviour’s birth.

“Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’” (Lk. 2:13-14).

As to whether those angels sang or not, it’s certainly possible. We know angels sang at the dawn of creation (Job 38:4, 7). In the Hebrew poetry of verse 7, the two clauses are parallel. Both “the morning stars,” and “the sons of God” refer to angelic beings. Hymn writer James Montgomery (1771-1854) uses this information in the first stanza of his great Christmas carol:

Angels from the realms of glory,
Wing your flight o’er all the earth;
Ye who sang creation’s story
Now proclaim Messiah’s birth.

As well, “praising God,” in Luke 2:13, also could be accurately paraphrased, “singing God’s praises, and saying, in their song, ‘Glory to God…’”

In Hark, the Herald Angels Sing, Charles Wesley gave us one of our finest carols–though, ironically, he is not the origin of the singing angels line. His first line was, “Hark, how all the welkin [sky] rings.” It was changed by a later editor.

CH-1) Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

CH-3) Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.

Questions:
1) What is your favourite thing about the Christmas season?

2) What is your favourite Christmas carol?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | April 13, 2019

A Singing Lesson

In 1962, the musical All American opened on Broadway. However it got mostly unfavourable reviews, and was soon gone–all except for one song, with lyrics by Lee Adams. The wistfully beautiful Once Upon a Time, about lost love, has since been recorded by dozens of artists, including Sinatra, but there’s one that particularly stands out above the rest.

Bobby Darin was a multi-talented pop star in the 1960’s. Of the many recordings of the ballad Once Upon a Time, his is often acclaimed as the very best. I agree. The YouTube version looks as though it may have been taped in a night club, or for a TV show. Worth a listen, here. Then I’ll make some observations.

1) The Preparation.
Mr. Darin had serious health problems, a weak heart due to bouts of rheumatic fever as a child. (He died at age 37.) When he got up on stage, he didn’t feel ready to sing. Needed to catch his breath. So he stayed calm, and had his accompanist play the introduction again–and again. This is a great example for those singing sacred songs in the Lord’s house. Take your time. Get the introduction played again, if you’re not quite ready. (It’s maybe a good time to warn about one of the weaknesses of prerecorded accompaniment. It may not be so easy to make adjustments on the spot.)

2) The Presentation.
I appreciate the clear diction. No attempt to swallow the mike, or mumbled words. Another thing with Darin’s version is the intensity of emotion you can sense. You can see, and feel, the aching sadness in the song. This was not just a mechanical performance; he was living the experience. Can we who love the Lord not do something similar? No, I’m not talking about being an actor or actress, putting on a show. Heaven forbid! But we need to choose sacred songs with a real message, and invest ourselves in the meaning of what we’re singing. Know the song well, and let it speak to your own heart first. Live the song. Tell a personal story when you sing.

3) The Production.
This is unadorned singing of a high calibre, with a non-intrusive production values. No flashing lights, no smoke, no thundering instruments, no attempt to show off the voice, or some tricky dance moves. And no rapid-fire camera shots, zipping to and fro every few seconds. Bobby Darin is delivering the message of the song, and that is the focus. As far as I know, he was not a Christian, but the production of this song shares a quality of many we heard from gospel singer George Beverley Shea. The sincere delivery of a message to the audience is the thing, without the distractions of so much of the noise and glitz in popular music today.

Whether this is your kind of music or not, it seems to me there are things we can learn here, as those who are committed to doing our best in singing for the Lord.

Posted by: rcottrill | April 11, 2019

Great God of Wonders

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: Samuel Davies (b. Nov. 3, 1723; d. Feb. 4, 1761)
Music: Wonders (or Sovereignty), by John Newton (not the same man as the hymn writer who wrote Amazing Grace) (b. ___, 1802; d. ___, 1886)

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

Note: Davies was an evangelist associated with the Presbyterian Church. He traveled on horseback around the American colonies, preaching the gospel. By the invitation of King George II, he also preached before the king. He became president of the College of New Jersey (which later became Princeton University), but died only a year and a half into his tenure.

The longest word in the English language is reputedly a forty-five letter monster labeling a lung disease contracted by inhaling volcanic dust:

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.

But words don’t have to be long to be significant. Take the words yes, and no. Lives have been dramatically changed, and wars have been started–or ended–by the utterance of one or the other. Then, there’s the word but, which signals a change in direction. It can be a small thing. Mom says, “We planned a picnic for today, but it’s raining.” Or, it might be something much bigger. Wealthy Jacob Astor was traveling to America on the Titanic, but he was drowned when it sank.

The little word if marks some kind of conditional action which, again, can involve something important, or less so. Dad says, “We’ll have the picnic next Saturday, if the weather’s good.” Or a nurse assures the family, “He’ll get better if he takes the medicine the doctor prescribed.” Or, take this sad and cruel corruption of true love: “I’ll love you if you please me, and do as I say.”

In court, the difference between the words guilty and innocent can bring years in prison, or glorious freedom. And what about the words life and death? Or darkness and light? Words. American poetess Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) wrote:

“I know of nothing in the world that has as much power as a word.”

How much more is this so if it refers to the words of Almighty God? The Bible itself is God’s written Word. Though human authors were involved, their work was superintended by the Spirit of God, so that what we have is God’s true and trustworthy message to us (II Tim. 3:16-17; II Pet. 1:20-21). Along with phrases such as “the word of God,” or “the word of the Lord,” He speaks directly to human beings hundreds of times in the Book.

Holy Scripture, the Bible, is true and trustworthy precisely because it comes to us from a God of truth (Deut. 32:4), who cannot lie (Tit. 1:2).

“O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven…. The entirety of Your word is truth” (Ps. 119:89, 160).

The Lord Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matt. 24:35).

And we need to pause a moment and note that Christ Himself is spoken of as “the Word” (Jn. 1:1, 14). In Him, deity and humanity have been combined. “In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9). By His incarnation He has, in effect, translated the infinite and invisible God into a humanity we can more fully know and understand.

There are many powerful words in Scripture–heaven, holy, forgive, love, mercy, eternal, sin, hell, cross, bless, save, to name a few. But one of the most significant and powerful words to lost sinners is the word grace. Found dozens of times from Genesis to Revelation, it refers to the unearned and undeserved favour and blessing of God.

A gracious God does not treat us as we deserve, but provides a way for condemned sinners to be saved eternally. What is called “the gospel [good news] of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24) is that, through faith in Christ, we can be forgiven and receive the gift of eternal life (Jn. 3:16). Writing to Christians, Paul says:

“By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).

Converted slave trader John Newton marveled in the “amazing grace” of God. So did eighteenth century evangelist to the American colonies, Samuel Davies. A hymn he wrote speaks glowingly of the grace of God.

CH-1) Great God of wonders! All Thy ways
Are matchless, Godlike and divine;
But the fair glories of Thy grace
More godlike and unrivaled shine,
More godlike and unrivaled shine.

Who is a pardoning God like Thee?
Or who has grace so rich and free?
Or who has grace so rich and free?

CH-4) In wonder lost, with trembling joy,
We take the pardon of our God:
Pardon for crimes of deepest dye,
A pardon bought with Jesus’ blood,
A pardon bought with Jesus’ blood.

CH-5) O may this strange, this matchless grace,
This godlike miracle of love,
Fill the whole earth with grateful praise,
And all th’angelic choirs above,
And all th’angelic choirs above.

Questions:
1) Why do you think Samuel Davies thought so highly of the grace of God?

2) Why should our churches regularly sing and preach about God’s grace?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | April 8, 2019

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

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

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

Words: Thomas Obediah Chisholm (b. July 29, 1866; d. Feb. 29, 1960)
Music: Faithfulness (or Runyan) William Marion Runyan (b. Jan. 21, 1870; d. July 29, 1957)

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

Note: Over the years, Mr. Chisholm was a newspaper editor, a preacher, and an insurance salesman. But it’s as a writer of hundreds of gospel songs that he’s had his widest impact. (He also gave us O to Be Like Thee, Trust in the Lord, and Living for Jesus (“a life that is true”).

It began with an orchestra playing the exciting overture from Rossini’s opera, William Tell. Then, over the music, we heard a galloping horse, and a shout of, “Hi-yo, Silver!” and an announcer informing us we’d “return to those thrilling days of yesteryear,” as “the Lone Ranger rides again.” The western was one of the most popular programs on early radio. From 1933 onward nearly 3,000 shows were broadcast. It moved on to television in 1949, and continued there, weekly, for eight years.

Early on, a Native American named Tonto was introduced in the radio series, for a practical reason. The Lone Ranger needed someone to talk to, in order to describe the action, or explain what he was going to do. His “faithful Indian companion,” was played later in every television episode by Mohawk actor Jay Silverheels. He, in turn, referred to the Lone Ranger as Kemosabe (Ke-mo SAH-bee), which has been explained to mean trusty scout, or faithful friend.

It’s great to have someone you can rely on, especially in difficult times. We truly appreciate those we can describe as faithful friends, those who are, loyal, trustworthy, and dependable. Countless amazing stories illustrate how the word has also been applied to dogs. Some even come to be thought of as family members. Many seem to have a genuine affection and empathy for their owners, a strong sense of loyalty, and the instinct to protect them.

In the Bible, some form of the word “faithful” is used over a hundred times. Often the Lord is described that way.

“Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven. Your faithfulness endures to all generations” (Ps. 119:89-90).

“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (I Cor. 1:9).

As we look to Him in faith, He is faithful to protect us from the attacks of the devil (II Thess. 3:3), faithful to give us the means to deal with temptation (I Cor. 10:13), and faithful to forgive us, when we confess our sins to Him (I Jn. 1:9).

Again and again we’re assured of God’s faithfulness to His Word. When God says it, we can count on it. “He who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:23). “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (I Tim. 1:15). And Christ Himself is “called Faithful and True” (Rev. 19:11), and described as, “Jesus Christ, the faithful witness” (Rev. 1:5).

That’s surely one aspect of the likeness of God (Gen. 1:26-27) we’re are intended to reflect. It’s a quality the Spirit of God wants to build into our character (Gal. 5:22-23). Paul speaks of Timothy as, “my beloved and faithful son in the Lord” (I Cor. 4:17). Peter refers to, “Silvanus, our faithful brother” (I Pet. 5:12). When believers stand before the Lord, we all hope to hear the words of commendation, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:23).

When the people of Israel turned away from God and began worshiping idols, He called them back to Himself through His prophets. But when they refused to repent, He disciplined them severely. Many were carried into captivity in Babylon, and their temple and the holy city of Jerusalem were looted and destroyed.

In the book of Lamentations, Jeremiah voices grief and sorrow over what had happened in Jerusalem, but he also sees restoration and brighter days ahead for Israel.

“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23).

In 1923, hymn writer Thomas Obediah Chisholm created a beautiful hymn, based on those words of Jeremiah.

CH-1) Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

CH-3) Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Questions:
1) Have you ever been blessed to have a faithful friend? (In what ways has he/she shown faithfulness?)

2) How has God shown His faithfulness to you?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | April 4, 2019

God Moves in a Mysterious Way

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

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

Words: William Cowper (pronounced Cooper) (b. Nov. 15, 1731; d. April 25, 1800)
Music: Belmont, by William Gardiner (b. Mar. 15, 1770; d. Nov. 16, 1853)

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

Note: William Cooper was one of England’s most celebrated poets. He was also a Christian, and a friend of John Newton, the author of Amazing Grace. Together, they produced a hymnal called Olney Hymns, which contains many songs by both of them.

It happens once in awhile, in a mystery story. Perhaps the master of the house is bending over the dead body of his wife, his hands stained with blood. And he doesn’t realize that someone is watching. Or an old miser has lifted a floor board and withdrawn his secret store of gold from its hiding place, but someone sees it through the keyhole, and has learned his secret.

Remember those old keyholes that required a hole right through the door that you could put your eye to, and peer into the room beyond? But what was briefly glimpsed by stealth does not necessarily give the whole story. Possibly for that very reason, the keyhole works so well as a fictional plot device that it’s been used over and again.

But, as such stories unfold, we learn that things may not be quite as they seemed. There are a couple of problems with that stolen peep through a keyhole. One is it gives only a momentary look at what’s happening, a kind of snapshot. Maybe things went on before and after that seriously affect the meaning of what was observed. The other problem is that the keyhole view is quite narrow. It doesn’t take in the rest of the room. And again, if there were a broader view, it could yield a different understanding of what was seen.

This can be a helpful illustration of our viewpoint when it comes to the workings of Almighty God. Human limitations obscure our perceptions of an infinite God. A snapshot in time can’t explain His eternal program fully. It’s one reason the word “why” is used over four hundred times in the Bible. The question is asked twenty-two times in Job, as that good man tries to understand the cause of his terrible suffering.

The Bible can certainly help us in this regard, but even there we’re merely peering through a kind of keyhole at what the Lord is doing, seeing what Job calls “the mere edges of His ways” (Job 26:14). As Elihu says later, “God is greater than man” (Job 33:12). Though that may seem obvious, it’s important. The bright side is that what we can see of God’s handiwork can lay a firm foundation for trusting Him with other things beyond our understanding.

“My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9).

“I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure’” (Isa. 46:9-10).

This involves the sovereign providence of God. A hint of the meaning of the word “providence” can be seen from its Latin roots pro and video, before-seeing. The omniscient God is able to see before what will be needed to fulfil His purposes, and act sovereignly toward that end. This includes not only His use of the pleasant things that happen to us, but the painful trials we face too. It’s why Paul can say with confidence,

“We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

William Cowper has given us our finest hymn about the need to trust in divine providence, even when we don’t fully understand what the Lord is doing.

CH-1) God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

CH-3) Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

CH-4) Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

CH-6) Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

Questions:
1) Can you look back on something you fretted about at the time, in which, now, you can see the hand of God at work for good?

2) Is there some challenge or difficulty you’re going through presently that you don’t understand? (Why do you feel confident in trusting God to lead the way through it?)

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

Posted by: rcottrill | April 1, 2019

God Understands

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

Note: In 1935, following a sudden family tragedy, Toronto pastor and hymn writer Oswald Smith produced a hymn about the Lord’s compassionate understanding. Smith’s sister Ruth and her husband had just finished their first term as missionaries in Peru. But before the boat sailed, Ruth’s husband Clifford was killed in a car accident, leaving her a widow, with two small boys, at the age of twenty-six. Her brother’s song brought comfort to her, and it has been used many times at memorial services, since then.

To “understand” something is not only to know facts, but to grasp their significance, and to realize how they fit together with other things. The word comes from an old English word, oferstandan, which seems to mean standing in the midst of. It speaks of an awareness, not from a distance, but from intimate experience,.

Sometimes a person will say, “I understand,” when they really don’t. This is particularly true when it comes to human suffering, which is a very subjective thing. What may be extremely painful and stressful to one isn’t, to the same degree, with another.

We may think, for example, that we’ve had headaches, so we can say to a person who has one, “I understand what you’re going through.” But that could be far from the truth. Not only so. To equate our experience with his or hers may seem as though we’re minimizing their pain, and suggesting it’s nothing to fret about.

Some form of the word “understand” is used in Scripture hundreds of times, from Genesis to Revelation. When it comes to God, we read, “His understanding is infinite” (Ps. 147:5), it’s far beyond any boundary or measure. This includes an understanding of our hidden thoughts and feelings. “For the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts” (I Chron. 28:9). David confesses, “You understand my thought [or motivation] afar off” (Ps. 139:2).

This is brought into sharp focus with the incarnation of the Son of God. We see His perception of what people are thinking (Matt. 12:25; Lk. 6:8), and more than a dozen times the Gospels speak of Christ’s compassion, a deep concern that comes from His divine awareness of human need. Understanding and compassion united in Him. We read, “When He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd” (Matt. 9:36).

Even today, seated in heavenly glory at the right hand of the Father, His intimate understanding is recognized, and it becomes a motivation for prayer.

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15-16).

There we see that old meaning of understanding lived out. He stood in the midst of us, and went through the various trials and testings of our humanity.

“The Word [Christ] became made flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14). And in doing so, He willingly entered into our human experience: our weariness (Jn. 4:6), hunger (Matt. 4:2) and thirst (Jn. 19:28), and a deep human sorrow (Matt. 26:38; Jn. 12:27). And in Gethsemane, facing the cross–an experience more dreadful for Him than we could ever imagine–the Lord Jesus was “troubled and deeply distressed” (Mk. 14:33, and “in agony” (Lk. 22:44).

1) God understands your sorrow,
He sees the falling tear,
And whispers, ‘I am with thee,’
Then falter not, nor fear.

He understands your longing,
Your deepest grief He shares;
Then let Him bear your burden,
He understands and cares.

3) God understands your weakness,
He knows the tempter’s pow’r;
And He will walk beside you,
However dark the hour.

Our understanding of others’ trials is significantly limited in many cases. But that does not mean we should do nothing. We’re to pass on “the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (II Cor. 1:4). And this should include pointing the sufferer to the greatest Burden-bearer of all, the Lord Himself.

Questions:
1) For what particular trial have you experienced the Lord’s understanding and comfort in recent times?

2) How have you shown understanding and compassion to another person recently?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | March 28, 2019

Give to the Winds Thy Fears

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)
Music: Diademata, by George Job Elvey (b. Mar. 27, 1816; d. Dec, 9, 1893)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Paul Gerhardt) (for another article that tells the amazing story behind this hymn see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Paul Gerhardt, a German pastor and hymn writer from long ago, went through some severe trials that touched his family too. To encourage his wife, he wrote the following hymn. Later, He saw the Lord work in their circumstances in amazing ways. (See the second Wordwise Hymns link for the story.)

As to the tune, you will see from the Cyber Hymnal that the hymn has nine four-line verses, with a tune to fit. But I’ve combined eight stanzas into four eight-line stanzas, for which I recommend the tune Diademata, which we commonly use for Crown Him with Many Crowns. (I see from Hymnary.org that exactly this formatting of the stanzas was used in a hymnal as early as 1806.)

Fear is a common emotion. In small and infrequent doses, it can serve as a safety alarm to keep us from some kind of danger. But when it becomes chronic and intrusive in our daily lives, it will begin to have a negative affect on our health.

Chronic fear and anxiety can weaken our immune system, making us more susceptible to colds and flu and other ailments. It can also cause problems with the digestive system, and the heart. It can disrupt sleep–which, in itself can lead to other health issues. A sustained anxious state can impair memory, and even bring the development of phobias that make us shy away from living life, and mixing socially with others.

Fear and other related words (such as afraid, terror, troubled, scare, anxious) are found over 800 times in the Bible (averaging a dozen per book). This shows the fear factor was common, long before our modern world brought so many new things to disturb our peace of mind. They could be fearful without bombs and terrorists, without computer hacking and more.

Fear and worry are frequent companions. The things we’re afraid of we worry are going to happen to us. On the other hand, what answer does the Word of God point us to? That faith in Him nurtures peace and rest to the mind and heart. When we call upon the Lord, we’re involving One who has the compassion and power to help us deal with the things that trouble us.

“Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Ps. 27:14).

David says, “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.” And, later in the same psalm, “In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid” (Ps. 56:3, 11). In another psalm he says, “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Ps. 34:4). It’s not that the believer will be (to borrow a phrase from Dr. Watts) “carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease.” But the Lord does help us, nonetheless.

Sometimes a dramatic deliverance is involved, but not always. God can also give us daily grace to cope with our trials and continue to honour Him (II Cor. 12:7-9). Out of our struggles we can learn patience and endurance (Jas. 1:2-4), and we experience a new level of God’s presence and comfort (Ps. 23:4). The latter equips us to minister comfort to others going through their own rough times (II Cor. 1:3-4). And beyond the present scene, we have the joyful expectation of our eternal home, with things that trouble us here gone forever.

“I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:3-4).

Paul Gerhardt’s beautiful hymn on the theme of dealing with our fears deserves to be much better known that it is.

1) Give to the winds thy fears,
Hope and be undismayed.
God hears thy sighs and counts thy tears,
God shall lift up thy head.
Through waves and clouds and storms,
He gently clears thy way;
Wait thou His time; so shall this night
Soon end in joyous day.

3) Leave to His sovereign sway
To choose and to command;
So shalt thou, wondering, own that way,
How wise, how strong this hand.
Far, far above thy thought,
His counsel shall appear,
When fully He the work hath wrought,
That caused thy needless fear.

And the hymn concludes with the following earnest prayer:

4) Thou seest our weakness, Lord;
Our hearts are known to Thee;
O lift Thou up the sinking hand,
Confirm the feeble knee!
Let us in life, in death,
Thy steadfast truth declare,
And publish with our latest breath
Thy love and guardian care.

Questions:
1) What is your greatest fear or anxiety?

2) Are there Scriptures noted in the article, or thoughts expressed in lines of the hymn, that encourage you? (How?)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Paul Gerhardt) (for another article that tells the amazing story behind this hymn see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | March 25, 2019

Fill Thou My Life

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: Horatius Bonar (b. Dec. 19, 1808; d. July 31, 1889)
Music: Ellacombe, from Gesangbuch der Herzogl. Wirtembergischen Katholischen Hofkapelle, 1784, adapted and harmonized by William Henry Monk (b. Mar. 16, 1823; d. Mar. 1, 1889)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Horatius Bonar born, died) (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Bonar, as well as being a fine preacher, is called by historians the most eminent of the Scottish hymn writers. Hymnals have continued to use many of his songs (e.g. I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say, and Go, Labour On, Spend and Be Spent).

Home life is filled with many asks and answers. He asked, “Have you got time to help me paint the den?” She asked, “Have you got time to take the kids to the hockey game?” These domestic tasks, and others like them, come up in every home. And the answers relate more to our priorities than to the actual time available. Because we each have exactly the same amount of time.

We each have 24 hours in a day, which is 1,440 minutes, and amounts to 86,400 seconds. And that translates into 31, 536,000 seconds per year–a few more in a leap year. No one gets fewer than that, and no one more, whatever your gender, or economic status, or education, or vocation. It’s the same for everyone.

It’s how we fill that allotted time that’s different from one person to another. A certain amount–likely a quarter to a third of a 24-hour period–is spent sleeping. Then there are meals, and matters of personal hygiene each day. For many, 50 or 60 hours are spent each week at employment of some kind. Then there’s church, recreation, shopping, doctors visits, and more.

Some talk about “killing time,” by which they mean doing nothing, or doing something of little or no importance for awhile. But in reality, you can’t kill time. Those seconds continue to click by, however they’re spent. There’s another expression we use as well: “making up for lost time.” We do that either by hurrying, or by taking time usually spent for other things to use for a particular activity or project.

But, again, we’re not really changing the inexorable passing of time. As Persian poet Omar Khayyam wrote nine centuries ago (translated into English): “The Moving Finger writes and, having writ, / Moves on; nor all your piety nor wit / Shall lure it back to cancel half a line, / Nor all your tears blot out a word of it.” He was speaking particularly of fate, or destiny, but it works as a description of the passage of time as well.

Yet, with all the demands and duties life brings upon us, there’s an activity the Bible says we’re to do all the time: that is to praise God. The psalmist says, “My praise shall be continually of You….And [I] will praise You yet more and more” (Ps. 71:6, 14). This seems impossible, but it’s not. Like the background music in a movie, it continues on through the action. In life, it has to do with our mind-set and attitude, our habitual thought patterns and emotional responses to life. “Praise the Lord,” whatever the circumstance, should be a natural response.

The Israelites were commanded by the Lord to offer a “continual burnt offering” on the bronze altar of sacrifice (Exod. 29:38-42). Morning by morning, and evening by evening the smoke of a sacrifice was to ascend to the Lord, without interruption. It symbolized the praise and worship of God that was to be the “background music” of their lives, even when it wasn’t being explicitly programed.

There’s no longer an altar of sacrifice for believers, but the ongoing praise of God is still called for. “Therefore by Him [Christ] let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Heb. 13:15). Scottish pastor and hymn writer Horatius Bonar expressed this theme in a beautiful song.

CH-1) Fill Thou my life, O Lord my God,
In every part with praise,
That my whole being may proclaim
Thy being and Thy ways.
Not for the lip of praise alone,
Nor e’en the praising heart
I ask, but for a life made up
Of praise in every part!

CH-2) Praise in the common words I speak,
Life’s common looks and tones,
In fellowship in hearth and board
With my belovèd ones;
Not in the temple crowd alone
Where holy voices chime,
But in the silent paths of earth,
The quiet rooms of time.

CH-3) So shall each fear, each fret, each care
Be turned into a song,
And every winding of the way
The echo shall prolong;
So shall no part of day or night
From sacredness be free;
But all my life, in every step
Be fellowship with Thee.

Questions:
1) What things have happened in the last day or so that caused you to praise the Lord?

2) What does a life filled with God’s praise look like from the outside?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Horatius Bonar born, died) (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | March 21, 2019

Farther Along

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 Buel Stevens (b. Mar. 11, 1862; d. Dec. 9:1943); Barney Elliott Warren (b. Feb. 20, 1867; d. Apr. 21, 1961)
Music: Grenada, by George Harrison Cook (b. _____; d. ___, 1948)

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

Note: There seems to be some confusion over who actually wrote this song. You can read more about that in the second Wordwise Hymns link above. Apparently William Stephens wrote the original, but it was adapted by Barney Warren, who had thousands of gospel songs to his credit. Books sometimes credit Warren for the song, other times it’s a man named J. R. Baxter, another major gospel song writer in the first half of the twentieth century. Of Harrison, the composer of the tune, we know little, he was a preacher and gospel singer, and apparently composed other music.

It’s the same with many things we learn. When we’re first exposed to a subject it can be confusing and even intimidating. We may doubt we’ll ever be able to understand it or put it to use.

That may be how we feel in childhood, when confronted with reading or arithmetic. Or with riding a two-wheeler. Later, driving a car is another skill that can be daunting at first. So can learning a new language. And though computer skills are now taught an at an early age, some of us had to master at least the basics well into adulthood. It wasn’t easy!

It helps if we have a good teacher in the beginning, and good role models (the two are sometimes found in the same person), and we’ll need a good measure of patience for the challenges mentioned, and many others. “It takes time” is more than a trite phrase. Diligent effort usually brings progress, even if it’s not as fast as we could wish.

Something like this happened to the disciples of the Lord Jesus. These were not theological scholars. The Lord plucked them from here and there during the early days of His earthly ministry. Peter and several others were fishermen, Matthew was a tax collector, Simon the Zealot belonged to a group that advocated political revolution.

These men were to be trained for missionary work and church planting after Christ’s ascension. They were educated by the greatest Teacher who ever lived, and One who lived before them a glowing example to follow (Jn. 13:14-15). Their schooling was extensive. There was about three years of being with Jesus, and listening to His teaching. Also, He sent them out, two by two, to minister on their own (Mk. 6:7-13), then report back how it had gone (vs. 30).

But, even so, they struggled to understand what was going on, and what their part in it all would be. This was especially true when Christ began speaking of His coming death on the cross (Matt. 16:21). How could He be their reigning Messiah-King if He died? Peter’s impetuous response was, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You” (vs. 22). For this, Peter was severely rebuked (vs. 23).

Then, hours before His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus seems to be referring to His ascension back into heaven when He says, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward” (Jn. 13:36). But the disciples seem to think He’s speaking of going into hiding (Jn. 13:37; 14:5).

The Lord didn’t rebuke them for their confusion, but simply recognized it (Jn. 13:7), promising they’d have a fuller understanding later on. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth” (Jn. 16:12-13).

Today, we still have many unanswered questions. With Paul we may say, “Now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known” (I Cor. 13:12). What is called for is ongoing faith in God’s promises, confidence that He does all things well, and patience to wait for what’s to come.

This is the attitude reflected in a 1911 gospel song taken from words by an American pastor named William Stevens.

CH-1) Tempted and tried, we’re oft made to wonder
Why it should be thus all the day long;
While there are others living about us,
Never molested, though in the wrong.

Farther along we’ll know more about it,
Farther along we’ll understand why;
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine,
We’ll understand it all by and by.

CH-5) “Faithful till death,” saith our loving Master;
Short is our time to labour and wait;
Then will our toiling seem to be nothing,
When we shall pass the heavenly gate.

CH-6) Soon we will see our dear, loving Saviour,
Hear the last trumpet sound through the sky;
Then we will meet those gone on before us,
Then we shall know and understand why.

Questions:
1) What are some events in your life that you’re hoping to understand better in heaven?

2) What are some reasons the Lord withholds an explanation for such things now?

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

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