Posted by: rcottrill | October 17, 2018

Jesus Is Always There

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: Bertha Mae Lillenas (b. Mar. 1, 1889; d. Mar. 13, 1945)
Music: Bertha Mae Lillenas

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

Note: Bertha Mae Lillenas was the wife of prolific gospel song writer and music publisher Haldor Lillenas. The Lillenas’s had two children. And Mrs. Lillenas was a gifted musician in her own right. An ordained elder in the Church of the Nazarene, she served as an evangelist, singer, composer and pianist. In 1934 she published a song called Jesus Is Always There, reflecting the promises of God’s Word. Her tunes are usually quite singable, and because she herself had a lower voice, the songs are often pitched within reach of those of us who can appreciate that.

It’s wonderful to have someone you can count on. Someone you trust to stick with you, ready to offer counsel, encouragement, or help in some way. “We’re there for you.” That phrase is part of the advertising for a dentist, a police force, a bank, a labour union, a television news outlet, and more. One even says, “There for you, no matter what.”

Realistically, though, we realize that these are human beings, and human organizations. They may fail to do as they promised, for a multitude of reasons. A husband or wife who has vowed otherwise may prove unfaithful. Or it may be discovered that a company or organization is corrupt and their pledge means little. Trite phrases such as, “We’ve got your back,” may actually mean they’re ready to stab us in the back!

Only Almighty God can be relied upon to always tell us truthfully and accurately the way things are. He is “a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He” (Deut. 32:4). Because of His holy perfection, “God…cannot lie” (Tit. 1:2).

“God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Num. 23:19).

This assurance relates to the promise of His presence with each believer. We know that God is what theologians call omnipresent. “‘Do I not fill heaven and earth?’ says the Lord” (Jer. 23:24). But to the saints of God this has a more immediate and personal dimension. He is, in the words of the psalmist, “a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). The Lord is actively involved in our lives. “He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper” (Heb. 13:5-6).

Though He’s promised to return one day (Jn. 14:3; cf. Acts 1:10-11) the disciples of Christ faced the prospect of His departure. The Lord had fulfilled His mission to pay our debt of sin on the cross, and had risen from the tomb. After some days of instruction given to His followers, He prepared to ascend back to His Father (Lk. 24:50-53). But among His last words are these: “Lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). The Amplified Bible gives extra emphasis to that significant promise:

“I am with you all the days (perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion), to the [very] close and consummation of the age.”

And “where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20). “By this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us” (I Jn. 3:24).

Let it be noted that the divine presence is not only for times when things are going well, but when we are struggling too. We have the assurance of His compassionate understanding of our needs (Heb. 4:14-16), and of the resources of heaven to meet them. “God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).

Lillenas’s song is certainly reassuring. Of the first line of the refrain I would add, “Never a burden that He doth not carry, if we ask Him to, and allow Him to. Sometimes, we suffer things that we need to bring to Him, “casting all [our] care upon Him, for He cares for [us]” (I Pet. 5:7).

1) Sometimes our skies are cloudy and dreary,
Sometimes our hearts and burdened with care;
But we may know, whate’er may befall us,
Jesus is always there.

Never a burden that He doth not carry,
Never a sorrow that He doth not share;
Whether the days may be sunny or dreary,
Jesus is always there.

3) When we are walking through the green pastures,
Or over mountains rugged and bare;
Precious the thought and sweet the assurance,
Jesus is always there.

4) “Lo, I am with you alway,” is written,
God will not fail to answer our prayer;
Trusting His Word, we rest on His promise–
Jesus is always there.

Questions:
1) Has there been a situation recently when you particularly sensed the nearness of the Lord?

2) In what way was this a blessing and a help to you?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | October 15, 2018

Make Me a Blessing

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: Ira Bishop Wilson (b. Sept. 6, 1880; d. Apr. 3, 1950)
Music: Ira Bishop Wilson

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

Note: Ira Wilson was born and raised in Iowa. In his early years, he showed an interest in music, and his older sister taught him to play the violin and the organ. After attending Moody Bible Institute, in Chicago, he went to work for the Lorenz Publishing Company, publishers of sacred music. He spent the rest of his life there, using his musical gifts to produce choral arrangements of hymns, and other church music.

The saying has been attributed to an IBM computer programmer. We know it’s been around since the mid-1950’s. “Garbage in, garbage out” is a reminder that we can’t expect computers to come up with correct calculations if we feed in wrong data. In general terms, what we enter will affect what is produced. Stated positively: Feed in what is correct and helpful, and there will be a greater probability that what is produced will be correct and helpful.

The principle can be applied to child rearing too. Poet Alexander Pope gave us, “As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.” Early influences and training tend to show themselves in adult years. As the Bible puts it, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6).

But let’s bring it down to the personal level. There’s a sense in which our minds store data and put it to later use, just as a computer does. If we focus our attention on things that are corrupt and corrupting, that will have a strong influence on our thinking. What kind of books and magazines do we read? What kind of movies and television shows do we watch? What sites do we visit on the Net? If they emphasize or glorify what is vulgar and sinful, what then? This is why the Bible urges us:

“Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praise worthy–meditate on these things” (Phil. 4:8).

Some years ago, I used to visit a senior citizen who found it difficult to get out. As I was leaving, she frequently ended our conversation with this benediction: “May the Lord bless you and make you a blessing.” This is close to what the Lord told Abraham:

“I will bless you…and you shall be a blessing” (Gen. 12:2).

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others” (I Pet. 4:10, NIV).

“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them” (Rom. 12:6).

Blessings in, blessings out.

Certainly the blessings of God are given for us to enjoy. “God…gives us richly all things to enjoy” (I Tim. 6:17). But it mustn’t stop there. God’s blessings are a stewardship, and a stewardship brings responsibility. We are to seek out ways in which God’s blessings can be shared to the benefit of those around us. The Lord asked Moses, “What is that in your hand?” (Exod. 4:2). It was his shepherd’s rod. And when he wielded it in obedience to God, some mighty works were done.

In the 1940’s Ira Wilson was visited by his friend Phil Kerr, who told him what a blessing one of his songs had been. But when Phil played it, Ira Wilson didn’t recognize it. He had forgotten he’d written the song decades earlier. It’s one still found in many hymn books. Make Me a Blessing expresses the hope and prayer that God will bless us so that we can be a blessing to others.

1) Out in the highways and byways of life,
Many are weary and sad;
Carry the sunshine where darkness is rife,
Making the sorrowing glad.

Make me a blessing, make me a blessing,
Out of my life may Jesus shine;
Make me a blessing, O Saviour, I pray,
Make me a blessing to someone today.

3) Give as ‘twas given to you in your need,
Love as the Master loved you;
Be to the helpless a helper indeed,
Unto your mission be true.

Questions:
1) What individuals do you know that are facing difficulty, or have a special need?

2) What gifts, talents, opportunities do you have that you could use for the Lord this week, perhaps to help the one(s) noted above?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | October 10, 2018

I Sing of Thee

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

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

Words: Charles Frederick Weigle (b. Nov. 20, 1871; d. Dec. 3, 1966)
Music: Gladys Blanchard Muller (no information)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Charles Weigle)
The Cyber Hymnal (Charles Weigle)
Hymnary.org

Note: Gladys Blanchard Muller was a music editor who frequently worked with Charles Weigle. A book of his which takes its title from the present hymn, I Sing of Thee, lists her as the editor of the music, as does another song book of Weigle’s, Sing a New Song. She also wrote the music for Weigle’s song, I Have Found a Hiding Place. The present song was published in 1943.

We wouldn’t likely think much of a waitress who came to our table in a restaurant and tried to sell us a car, or a car salesman who presented us with a dinner menu and wanted to sell us on a steak dinner. That’s not what we’re there for, in either case, and not what we want.

Not that we’d object to the waitress briefly mentioning she liked her new car, or the car salesman talking about a recent feast at Steaks Are Us. It’s just that, as the saying goes, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

That applies to writing essays or preaching sermons, too. Once a theme has been decided upon, each paragraph should be related to that, expanding on the subject, explaining and illustrating its relevance, and so on. If your subject is bridge building, explaining the rules for tennis would not seem to be relevant. If your theme is the music of Beethoven, talking about a horse you just purchased would seem to be far off target.

When it comes to the Bible, the subject can be summarized as: God and man, and the relationship between the two.

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all [or, “this is everyone’s duty” NLT] (Ecc. 12:13).

“He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic. 6:8).

All well and good, but that’s not the inclination of the sinful heart. In ourselves, apart from God’s help, we’re simply not going to do that. “There is none who seeks after God….all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:11, 23). We need someone to rescue us from ourselves, to cleanse us from our sin, and infuse in us a new spiritual nature that delights in the will of God.

This is where Christ comes in, the one Mediator between God and men” (I Tim. 2:5). We know what a mediator is in labour disputes. It’s a person who can lay his or her hand on management’s shoulder and say, “I understand your requirements,” and on labour’s, saying, “I appreciate your problem”–and out of that bridging of the two, to bring them together. That’s what Christ has done in the spiritual realm, providing a way, through His cross, for God and man to come together. “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1).

It is possible to see Christ and His saving work as the “main thing” the Bible talks about. In the Old Testament there’s the anticipation of it, symbols relating to it, and prophecy pointing forward to it. The Lord was therefore able to teach His followers about Himself from the Old Testament (Lk. 24:27, 44).

Then, the Gospels describe His death and resurrection, Acts gives us the early evangelistic work of the apostles, and the rest of the New Testament explains the gospel (the good news) of salvation through faith in Christ. “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (I Cor. 15:3).

Further, it’s appropriate that our hymnody focuses on the Lord Jesus Christ. “The Lord is my…song; He also has become my salvation” (Isa. 12:2). This theme, which saturates all of Scripture is explicitly stated in a song called I Sing of Thee, by American evangelist and gospel song writer Charles Weigle.

1) I sing of Thee, O blessed Christ,
Since Thou hast saved me by Thy grace;
Redeemed by Thee, at dreadful price,
With angels I would sing Thy praise.

I sing of Thee, O blessed Saviour,
Thy praise shall now my tongue employ;
I’ll sing of Thee, O Lord forever,
For Thou hast filled my soul with joy.

3) Of Thee I’ll sing while life shall last,
At home, abroad, on land or sea;
And when through death to life I’ve passed,
Forevermore I’ll sing of Thee.

Questions:
1) According to Colossians 3:16, what are the reasons to sing about Christ?

2) What is your favourite song about the Lord Jesus Christ?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Charles Weigle)
The Cyber Hymnal (Charles Weigle)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | October 8, 2018

When Rising from the Bed of Death

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: Joseph Addison (b. May 1, 1672; d. June 17, 1719)
Music: Third Mode Melody, by Thomas Tallis (b. ___, circa 1505; d. Nov. 23, 1585)

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

Note: Joseph Addison was a newspaper editor in England three centuries ago. He is considered one of the premier authors in the English language. Sometimes, in writing an editorial for his newspaper, he would compose and include some lines of verse relative to his point. In this way, he has given us a couple of stellar hymns that are found in many hymnals. The Spacious Firmament is a powerful declaration of the truth of Psalm 19:1. When All Thy Mercies, O My God proclaims the Lord’s providential care of us all through life.

We’ve all likely heard the words in one setting or another. “Attention, please!” or “May I have your attention.” And there follows an announcement of some interest, such as, “Passengers for flight 647 are now boarding at Gate Three.” Or, “A new shipment of asparagus is now available at a great price in aisle five.”

And there are many other ways of getting attention. A shout, or a scream, does it, in a sudden emergency, or a drum roll or familiar music is associated with the arrival of some celebrity. Commercials on television have a similar purpose, to get our attention and promote a product or service–or, before an election, a certain candidate.

And what about the signs we see, almost everywhere. Years ago I worked in the photographic department of an advertising agency. One of the things we produced was signs–everything from small counter displays for stores, to large roadside signs intended to attract the business of passing motorists. In 1910, neon signs were introduced–bright, colourful, attention getting.

On a much more sombre note, an attempted suicide can be a sign. The late Judy Garland once said, “There have been times when I have deliberately tried to take my life. I think I must have been crying for some attention.” That statement should give us pause. Attention? A gifted singer and actress, she had multitudes of fans lauding her, through her television shows, movies, and so on. Ah, but that was most often attention to her talent, not a caring concern for her personal struggles.

It may be a surprise to some, but there are times when God wants to get our attention. He has that desire because He loves us, and wants us to make sure we’re on the right road in life. One of the ways He does this is through the exquisite beauty and thundering power of His creation. The Bible says, “Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead” (Rom. 1:20).

Another important means of seeking our consideration of important truths about our eternal welfare is His Word, the Bible. The psalmist says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path….The entrance of Your words gives light” (Ps. 119:105, 130). And the biblical message can be amplified by sermons we hear, or books we read.

Finally, danger and difficulty of various kinds is a startling and intrusive method of the Almighty calling us to investigate our spiritual need (cf. II Cor. 12:7-10). A profane slave ship captain named John Newton freely admitted it was a terrible storm that threatened to sink the ship he was on that got him to face his eternal destiny and change course spiritually. His conversion gave us the hymn Amazing Grace, and a number of others.

Joseph Addison is another example. He went through a time of serious illness in 1712 that awakened him to his spiritual need. During his illness, he wrote a hymn about the way God used this to change his outlook. Though it’s not a hymn congregations know and use today, it does remind us the Lord can use unusual means to get our attention.

CH-1) When rising from the bed of death,
O’erwhelmed with guilt and fear,
I see my Maker face to face,
O how shall I appear?

CH-2) If yet, while pardon may be found,
And mercy may be sought,
My heart with inward horror shrinks,
And trembles at the thought;

CH-3) When Thou, O Lord, shalt stand disclosed
In majesty severe,
And sit in judgment on my soul,
O how shall I appear?

CH-5) Then see the sorrow of my heart,
Ere yet it be too late;
And hear my Saviour’s dying groans,
To give those sorrows weight.

CH-6) For never shall my soul despair
Her pardon to procure,
Who knows Thine only Son has died
To make her pardon sure.

Questions:
1) What means has the Lord used lately to get your attention?

2) What has been your response to this?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | October 3, 2018

I Have a Saviour

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: Robert Harkness (b. Mar. 2, 1880; d. May 8, 1961)
Music: Robert Harkness

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Robert Harkness–and for another article on the song see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Robert Harkness was a gospel musician who wrote the words and music for hundreds of sacred songs, also providing music for the words of others. His contributions include At the Foot of the Cross, No Longer Lonely, and Traveling Home. Australian born, he became the accompanist for meetings held by American evangelist R. A. Torrey.

When we speak of owning something, we imply that we have certain rights over it. But it’s a slippery concept. There are few things we can call our own exclusively, and permanently.

In many cases, possession is shared in a relationship. A man may call his spouse “my wife,” but that’s only true if she’s willing to sustain the relationship. Ownership can also be affected by the power to assert it. For example, a nation may say, “This land is ours, and your land is ours too, if we choose to take it.”

Or consider opportunities that come our way. The chance for a couple to have children, or for an athlete to take part in the Olympics, those are both time-sensitive. The door won’t be held open forever. Time will ultimately ravage our health, dwindling our physical and mental gifts. Things change; we’re not what we once were.

In the Bible, words such as mine and ours are used over four thousand times. Many times we read of the Lord being mine, or ours. For example, we have phrases such as: “my God” (Ps. 25:2; Phil. 1:3; 4:19); and “our Lord Jesus Christ,” or “our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:26; Rom. 5:1; I Cor. 15:57; II Tim. 1:10; II Pet. 1:16, etc.). But we need to think carefully about what that means. In what sense is God mine, Christ ours?

There’s an extreme view that sees the Lord as a kind of ever-accessible cosmic vending machine, the blab-it-and-grab-it notion that all we have to do is ask, and He’s obligated to give something to us. That’s nonsense. It makes the sovereign and eternal Lord over all a slave to our foolish whims and sinful greeds, which He’s not. Looking back, we can see the wisdom of a parent who denied us something that could have been dangerous and hurtful. Should we think any less of God?

When Paul speaks of Christ as “my Lord” (Phil. 3:8), he uses the Greek word kurios, recognizing Him as his divine Master, or Sovereign. The Christian’s relationship to Jesus Christ is based on promises He sovereignly and graciously made. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31), says God’s Word. When we claim that promise by faith, our sins are forgiven and we enter into an eternal relationship with the Lord.

That certainly does bestow some rights on the believer, the right to enjoy certain God given blessings. But it also brings responsibilities. A comparison to national citizenship might be enlightening. Canada is my country, and that fact gives me some privileges, but it also brings with it certain responsibilities. And it’s similar with the Christian life.

For instance, there is receiving the gospel–the good news of salvation, through faith in Christ (Jn. 3:16). But accepting it brings the responsibility to share it, to “go into all the world and preach the gospel” (Mk. 16:15). And prayer is both a privilege (Phil. 4:6-7) and a responsibility (Lk. 18:1).

Mr. Harkness’s song, I Have a Saviour, reflects both the privileges and the responsibilities of saying, we “have” Christ, we “have” a Saviour.

1) I have a Saviour, He died for me
In cruel anguish on Calv’ry’s tree.
I do not merit such love divine,
Only God’s mercy makes Jesus mine.

Jesus, my Saviour, I come to Thee,
In full surrender, Thine own to be.

2) I have a Keeper, He now prevails,
I fear no evil whate’er assails.
His arms enfold me, safe and secure,
In His blest keeping vict’ry is sure.

3) I have a Master, He bids me go
Rescue lost sinners from sin and woe.
I love to serve Him, this Master true,
Now I am willing His will to do.

Questions:
1) What does it mean to you to say, “Jesus is mine”?

2) The song says, “I love to serve Him.” In what way(s) are you serving the Lord Jesus?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Robert Harkness–and here a link describing an unusual song by James Proctor for which Harkness wrote the music)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | October 1, 2018

Beneath the Cross of Jesus

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

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

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

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

Note: Elizabeth Clephane only lived to the age of 39, but she has given us two fine songs. The other is The Ninety and Nine, based on the parable of the lost sheep (Lk. 15:3-7). Published posthumously, in 1872, in The Family Treasury, a Presbyterian magazine, the lines of poetry which became the present hymn were headed “Breathings on the Border,” with this explanation by the editor.

“These lines express the experiences, the hopes and the longings of a young Christian lately released [i.e. gone to heaven]. Written on the very edge of life, with the better land fully in view of faith, they seem to us footsteps printed on the sands of time, where these sands touch the ocean of Eternity.”

Sometimes notable men or women, or significant events, cast a long shadow, influencing attitudes and actions for many years to follow. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in America are like that. “Nine-eleven,” though but a single day, has affected our lives ever since. There is the feeling that nothing will ever be the same again. (One writer actually calls it “the beginning of World War III.”) We live in the shadow of that day.

The same can be said, far more significantly, of the crucifixion of Christ. Though it took place nearly two millennia ago, it continues to cast its shadow over us. And it’s not surprising that so monumental an event should be preceded by history and a divine revelation that anticipated and pointed forward to it. The entire Old Testament (three quarters of the Bible) does that.

Early in Genesis we’re told of the terrible sin of our first parents in Eden, when they were seduced by Satan in the guise of a serpent. This is followed by God’s great promise that one day the Seed (or Descendant) of the woman would crush the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15).

Later, when the Israelites were in bondage in Egypt, the Lord punished the Egyptians with a series of plagues, the last being the death of the firstborn all through the land. But His people were protected by the blood of the Passover lamb, which pointed forward to “Christ our Passover…sacrificed for us” (Exod. 12:21-24; cf. I Cor. 5:7).

The entire Old Testament sacrificial system did the same. Though the death of an animal could not pay finally for human sin, it foreshadowed what was to come (Lev. 1:3-4; cf. Heb. 10:4). And Isaiah’s prophecy foretells the purpose of the death of Christ.

“He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:5-6).

Then the Gospels describe the event (Jn. 19:17-18), followed by the glorious resurrection of the Saviour (Matt. 28:5-7). The crucifixion itself is presented with few of the gruesome details. This is because they were well known in Jesus’ day, but also because that’s not the focus of the New Testament, which speaks most about the meaning of the cross (e.g. Jn. 3:16; I Cor. 15:3-4; Eph. 1:7).

And finally, we should note that the crucifixion casts an eternal shadow. It will be the subject of the worship of the saints in the heavenly kingdom (Rev. 5:8-10).

It’s no surprise then that today Calvary love saturates the songs of the church. And Scottish hymn writer Elizabeth Clephane has given us a lovely one, the hymn Beneath the Cross of Jesus. In a real sense, we live in the shadow of the cross. And this is a song that speaks of the cross as “the shadow of a mighty rock,” and has the lines (in stanza 5):

I take, O cross, thy shadow
For my abiding place.

(Note: the word “fain,” in stanza one, means gladly. And the original fourth stanza likely ended with the word “worthlessness.” I think the change editors made to “unworthiness” is much better. We are not worthless to God.)

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

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

Questions:
1) There seem to be crosses everywhere today. But not all are an expression of personal faith in Christ. Why else would people display or wear a cross?

2) What does the cross of Jesus Christ mean to you personally?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | September 26, 2018

I Do, Don’t You?

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

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

Words: Melville Winans Miller (b. June 23, 1856; d. Sept. 11, 1933)
Music: Edwin Othello Excell (b. Dec. 13, 1851; d. June 10, 1921)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Edwin Excell)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: This song was written in 1907. Melville Miller seems to have had a number of varied careers: a lawyer, county surveyor, newspaper editor, and high school English teacher, in Indiana. In addition to penning several gospel songs, he wrote poetry and short stories. Edwin Excell wrote many gospel songs, including Since I Have Been Redeemed, and composed music for the songs of others.

Born in Moline, Illinois, in 1918, Helen grew up in a home financially struggling, as many were during the Great Depression. But she had a marketable asset, a very fine singing voice. Her idol was Kate Smith, and she was encouraged to learn that Kate, too, had no formal training as a singer.

Helen became a blues singer with a dance band in the 1930’s, and performed in concerts and on radio. As her audience grew, she received many requests to sing the popular songs of the day. The one kind of music she refused to sing was hymns, she had no interest in that–ironic, given what lay in the future.

What did interest her, after singing for some YWCA shows, was social work, especially among poor children. But where could she get training? Helen didn’t have enough money for a university education. However, she heard about Moody Bible Institute, in Chicago, which offered a tuition-free education. When she enrolled there in 1939, she was not a Christian. But, as she listened to the testimonies of other students, she realized something was missing in her life.

“I thought I had met the requirements of an entrance into heaven,” Helen said. “The most important thing I lacked, but didn’t realize until then, was the message that Jesus Himself had said to Nicodemus: ‘You must be born again’ [Jn. 3:3]. For the first time, I truly believed that Jesus had died for me, and I asked Him to come into my heart and life. I knew as I got up off of my knees that I, too, could give a testimony that Jesus was now my personal Saviour.”

That decision set her life on a new course. She saw her clear alto voice and musical ability as a gift from God which she could use to serve Him. She began singing on Moody’s own radio station, WMBI, and went on to make many recordings of gospel music. Work with another gospel singer, Bev Shea, and her association with Billy Graham, and Youth for Christ, spread her fame still further. Along the way, she was married to evangelist Reinhold Barth, and the couple raised three children.

“The Lord gave me a new song,” she said, “a song of peace and praise, of grace and gladness.” Helen Lillian McAlerney Barth died in 2017 at the age of 98. But from those days at Moody, until the Lord took her home, her goal was to sing to His praise, inviting others to trust in the Lord as she did.

When the Lord Jesus healed a demon-possessed man, he wanted to go with Jesus and serve Him. But the Lord responded, “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you” (Mk. 5:18-19). That was the passion of Helen Barth, to tell others about Christ, with the hope that they too would trust in Him.

Believers are to be witnesses to the goodness and saving power of the Lord. David expressed his own desire to be a witness, “That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all Your wondrous works” (Ps. 26:7). And Jesus told His followers, “You shall be witnesses to Me” (Acts 1:8). Christians should “always be ready to give a defense [an answer] to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (I Pet. 3:15).

A song recorded by Helen that seems to capsulize her witness is one called I Do, Don’t You?

1) I know a great Saviour, I do; don’t you?
I live by His favour, I do; don’t you?
For grace I implore Him, I worship before Him,
I love and adore Him, I do; don’t you?

2 ) I need Him to lead me, I do; don’t you?
Heav’n’s manna to feed me, I do; don’t you?
Whatever betide me, I need Him beside me,
In mercy to hide me, I do; don’t you?

4) I want Him to use me, I do; don’t you?
For service to choose me, I do; don’t you?
I want Him to bless me, to own and confess me,
Completely possess me, I do; don’t you?

Questions:
1) Has anyone ever asked you if you are a Christian?

2) Have you ever asked anyone else if he or she is a Christian? (What response did you get?)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Edwin Excell)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | September 24, 2018

Rock of Ages

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: Augustus Montague Toplady (b. Nov. 4, 1740; d. Aug. 11, 1778)
Music: Toplady, by Thomas Hastings (b. Oct. 15, 1784; d. May 15, 1872)

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

Note: This hymn was authored by an English clergyman with the imposing name Augustus Montague Toplady. Though he only lived to the age of thirty-eight, he packed a great deal into those years, serving in several churches, and writing several books. He also gave us a number of hymns, including one now considered among the finest in the English language, Rock of Ages. It was published in his 1776 book Psalms and Hymns for Public and Private Worship, and, according to Hymnary.org, has been published in 2,521 hymnals.

Written in 1775, and called “A Prayer–Living and Dying,” the present hymn was inspired by a personal experience of Toplady’s. He was out walking and was caught in a sudden rain storm. Near him, there was a rocky cliff with a deep crevice, wide enough to admit him. As he was sheltering in the rock, he thought of how, by faith, we shelter in Christ, from the storms of judgment. (For a photograph of what is believed to be this rocky crevice, see the first Wordwise Hymns link above.)

These articles are about words–chiefly the words of our traditional hymns and gospel songs, and how they express (or don’t do so accurately) the words of the Bible. This time, the key word is “rock.”

It’s amazing how many ways we use that word, in addition to obvious references to a stone. We speak of rocking a baby to sleep, or a boat rocking on the waves. There’s rock music, of course, and Rocky a man’s name, popularized by the 1976 movie about a fictional boxer named Rocky Balboa. And if someone uses the expression, “That rocks!” it apparently means something is especially impressive. There’s also rock candy, and both Newfoundland, Canada, and the island of Gibralter are referred to as the Rock.

In the Bible, some form of the word is used over 130 times in various ways. For example, journeying through a barren area, travelers are glad of the shade provided by “the shadow of a great rock in a weary land” (Isa. 32:2). When facing an enemy, God’s people could hide in rocky caves (I Sam. 13:6), or climb up on a rocky prominence to get a safer vantage point (Ps. 61:2-3). And rocky ground is not a good place to sow seed (Matt. 13:5-6), but rock could sometimes yield unexpected nourishment (Deut. 32:13). Also, rock was considered a stable foundation on which to build (Matt. 7:24-25).

It will be seen that many of these instances have both a practical and a spiritual application. Many times, particularly in the Psalms, the Lord is described as a rock.

“For who is God, except the LORD [Jehovah]? And who is a rock, except our God?” (Ps. 18:31).

“He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved” (Ps. 62:2).

There is salvation and security in the Lord, spiritual sustenance and stability too. “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 3:11).

Usually, rock is expected to be relatively impregnable and indestructible. But there came a day when the Lord our Rock was shattered. When the incarnate Son of God was crucified, His body was broken, and His blood was shed for us (I Cor. 11:24). “Christ died for our sins” (I Cor. 15:3). Like the rock in the wilderness that Moses struck, at God’s command, to provide water for the Israelites (Exod. 17:6), from the smitten Rock at Calvary the water of eternal life flowed out for all who will receive it.

The hymn insists that Christ is the only answer to our sin problem (cf. Jn. 14:6; Acts 4:12; Tit. 3:5). It’s not what we have done for God, but what He has done for us–“Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling.”

“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).

CH-1) Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.

CH-2) Not the labour of my hands
Can fulfil Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

CH-3) Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die.

Questions:
1) What are some of the things people presume to bring in their hands to God, to earn His approval?

2) Why are these things inadequate to gain them eternal salvation?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | September 19, 2018

Heaven in My Heart

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: Ida Augusta Guirey (b. Mar, 20, 1874; d. July 16, 1957)
Music: Robert Parsons (no information)

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

Note: Published in 1943, the present song was written by Ida Guirey. Miss Guirey (who never married) was a pastor’s daughter. She wrote several hymns. The theme here reminds me of a song by Charles Butler, Where Jesus Is, ‘Tis Heaven There.

When we talk together, there are some subjects that are painful or unpleasant to discuss–though we may have to deal with them at times. But heaven is a much more positive theme, and the prospect is pleasant to anticipate and reflect upon.

The more troubling and difficult our struggles, the more we might identify with a character in Shakespeare’s play, Richard II, who says, “Comfort’s in heaven, and we are on earth, where nothing lives but crosses, cares, and grief.” That’s one reason the Lord wants believers to find encouragement and comfort in contemplating our future heavenly home. “Let not your heart be troubled…” (Jn. 14:1-3); “Comfort one another with these words.” (I Thess. 4:16-18).

The Bible uses words such as heaven and heavenly nearly seven hundred times. And, not surprisingly, hundreds of hymns have been written on the subject. Those Bible references, however, should be divided into three categories–identifying three different “heavens.”

¤ Earth’s atmosphere, where birds fly and clouds form, is called heaven (Gen. 1:20).

¤ A second “heaven” is outer space, where planets and stars are found (Gen. 15:5).

¤ What the Bible calls “the third heaven,” or Paradise (II Cor. 12:2-4) is where God’s throne is, and the holy angels dwell, with the saints who’ve departed this life (Rev. 4:1-2).

There is, however, a fourth way we could use the word heaven. Though the Bible doesn’t do so, the concept is certainly there. When we contemplate the blessings of God (of which a future in heaven is one), heavenly thoughts and feelings of joy and bliss fill our hearts. A century after Shakespeare wrote the play quoted above, Puritan clergyman Peter Drelincourt wrote:

“God comes to us before we go to Him; and heaven enters into our souls before we can enter into heaven.”

The Bible declares that Christians are, already, citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20). It’s appropriate then that we think about the affairs of our heavenly home, and rejoice in things related to it. There are three questions to consider:

¤ How does one get on the road to heaven?
¤ What are the heavenly blessings of the journey there?
¤ And what do we anticipate our heavenly home will be like?

That’s the subject of a gospel song called Heaven in My Heart, which deals with the three questions just mentioned in three successive stanzas.

How does an individual get started on the heavenly way? Through faith in Christ, believing that “Christ died for our sins” (I Cor. 15:3). A familiar verse of Scripture says: “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).

1) It was heaven in my heart when Jesus found me,
Heaven in my heart, heaven in my heart;
All my sins He took away, a new life gave me.
I can never tell the joy that filled my heart.

Stanza two of Guirey’s song talks about the Christian life, with the Lord’s presence and leading. The main way the Lord guides us is by His Word. “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105).

2) It is heaven ev’ry day with Him abiding,
Heaven ev’ry day, heaven ev’ry day;
There is light upon my way with Jesus guiding,
Shining more and more unto the perfect day.

The final stanza is about our eternal destiny. As Christ promised:

“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (Jn. 14:2-3).

3) ‘Twill be heaven by and by His face beholding,
Heaven by and by, heaven by and by;
O the glory through eternity unfolding,
When we dwell with Him at home beyond the sky.

Heaven in my heart, heaven in my heart,
This the life He gave me when He saved me.
Heaven in my heart, heaven in my heart,
O the joy of knowing Jesus saved me.

Questions:
1) If heaven is in our hearts, how will that be seen in our lives?

2) Why do you think fewer hymns about heaven are being written today, compared to a century or more ago?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | September 17, 2018

As with Gladness Men of Old

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 Chatterton Dix (b. June 14, 1837; d. Sept. 9, 1898)
Music: Dix, by Konrad Kocher (b. Dec. 16, 1786; d. Mar. 12, 1872)

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

Note: William Dix managed an insurance company in England. But he also made a contribution to our Christmas traditions in several ways. Mr. Dix wrote a number of hymns, including two popular Christmas carols, What Child Is This? and As with Gladness Men of Old. There is a lovely fifth stanza of the latter song which (sadly) most hymnals omit. Some only use the first three. Here are the last two, with their logically connected message.

CH-4) Holy Jesus, every day
Keep us in the narrow way;
And, when earthly things are past,
Bring our ransomed souls at last
Where they need no star to guide,
Where no clouds Thy glory hide.

CH-5) In the heavenly country bright,
Need they no created light;
Thou its light, its joy, its crown,
Thou its sun which goes not down;
There forever may we sing
Alleluias to our King!

We have many traditions when it comes to Christmas. The decorations, the turkey dinners, the cards, the gifts, the songs and stories, all have been enjoyed for many years. But sometimes the word tradition is used in a kind of mocking way. “Well, that’s the traditional way of doing it,” someone may say. And you can tell they mean, “That’s the old-fashioned, out-dated way, but we know better now. But traditional does not mean old-fashioned.

The word is found in the Bible (II Thess. 2:15; 3:6, 14). The Greek word for it (paradosis), simply means to hand over, to give into the hands of another. Tradition is just a handed-on teaching or practice. (Paul used the word of his own God-inspired teaching.) It refers to something that is passed on from one person to another, or one generation to another.

And that can be a good thing to do. Whether in a family, a church, or a nation, tradition gives continuity and stability, in place of confusion and uncertainty. People know what is expected of them. Tradition helps to create a smooth flow from one generation to the next. And, properly handled, it can help the younger generation avoid the mistakes of their elders (cf. Ps. 78:1-8).

Traditions can also give us a sense of belonging to something that is both special and enduring. The fact that we are doing something today that past generations have done gives us a bond with them. We feel a part of something bigger than ourselves. That’s part of what makes family reunions so exciting. There’s a shared history to enjoy and pass on to the next generation.

But there are dangers to avoid. Any time we talk about tradition in biblical terms, the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees comes to mind. But Jesus did not condemn all tradition, when He talked with the Pharisees. Instead, he accused them of using tradition to evade their responsibility to God (Matt. 15:3, 5-6). When that happens, tradition has become too “bossy.” Overruling what God has said can never be right.

Tradition is being abused when it’s used:

¤ To displace reality (Acts 19:13, 15)
¤ To deplore any change (Acts. 10:13-15)
¤ To devalue the past (Acts 17:21)
¤ To deny the truth (Acts 14:11-15)

If we avoid those four extremes or dangers, we can continue to make use of tradition.

Jeremiah told the people of his day, “Ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls” (Jer. 6:16). The wise person appreciates the heritage of the past and will continue to employ it and be enriched by it.

As with Gladness Men of Old is based on the visit or the wise men to the baby Jesus (Matt. 2:1-12). By memorializing that event in a song, the author retold the story, added to our sacred songs of the season, and highlighted gift-giving, a tradition he encouraged with these words:

CH-3) As they offered gifts most rare
At that manger rude and bare;
So may we with holy joy,
Pure and free from sin’s alloy,
All our costliest treasures bring,
Christ, to Thee, our heavenly King.

The word “gift” is used in the Bible over a hundred times. God Himself is the greatest Gift-giver (Jas. 1:17). He sent His Son to be our Saviour, and offers us eternal salvation through faith in Christ (II Cor. 9:15; Eph. 2:8). He has also given us various abilities to use for His glory (I Cor. 12:11; I Pet. 4:10).

We give back to the Lord when we honour and serve Him. The wise men have shown us a tradition worth emulating. And this Christmas, let us “Give to the Lord the glory due His name” (Ps. 96:8).

Questions:
1) Could you make a list of some of the gifts (perhaps ten) God has given you?

2) What spiritual blessing can you pass on to someone else this week?

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

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