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

Posted by: rcottrill | March 18, 2019

Face to Face

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: Carrie Elizabeth Ellis Breck (b. Jan. 22, 1855; d. Mar. 27, 1934)
Music: Grant Colfax Tullar (b. Aug. 5, 1869; d. May 20, 1950)

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

Note: Interestingly, Mrs. Breck could not, herself, carry a tune. But she was skilled at writing words for others to set to music–she produced hundreds of songs, including one in 1898 called Face to Face. For the interesting story of how Tullar’s tune came about, see the first Wordwise Hymns link above.

Heaven is surely a wonderful place, and every child of God can justly look forward to going there. The Bible tells us something about it, so let’s think a little about the subject.

As the Lord readied Eden for our first parents, so He’s specially prepare heaven for the people of God. The Lord Jesus Himself tells us that (Jn. 14:2-3). And we’re told some of the things that will be missing from our home to come: tears, death, sorrow, crying, and pain (Rev. 21:4). Another thing there won’t be is any ending to it. Heaven will be forever (Rev. 22:5). In Shakespeare’s Henry VI the king calls heaven “the treasury of everlasting joy” (cf. Ps. 16:11).

The throne of God, and the Lamb (Christ) are in heaven (Rev. 4:1-2; 22:1). The saints of God and the holy angels are there too (Heb. 12:22-23; Rev. 5:9, 11-12). And believers have an inheritance reserved for us there (Heb. 9:15; I Pet. 1:3-4). Heaven is a place of indescribable beauty. It’s a city, according to Revelation chapters 21 and 22. But the word “Paradise” is also used of it, a Persian word meaning a beautifully laid out park or garden (II Cor. 12:4; Rev. 2:7).

Heaven will be filled with the resounding praise and worship of God (Rev. 7:11; 19:5). As a vehicle for this, there’ll be wonderful music (Rev. 15:2-3). We don’t know the details of things we’ll be doing in heaven, but it will involve meaningful and fulfilling service for the Lord (Rev. 7:15; 22:3). A surpassing blessing of heaven will be the presence of Christ our Saviour. It’s what made heaven a “far better” place for Paul (Phil. 1:23; II Cor. 5:8).

Hymn writer Carrie Elizabeth Breck gave us a lovely song about that.

CH-1) Face to face with Christ, my Saviour,
Face to face–what will it be,
When with rapture I behold Him,
Jesus Christ who died for me?

Face to face I shall behold Him,
Far beyond the starry sky;
Face to face in all His glory,
I shall see Him by and by!

CH-3) What rejoicing in His presence,
When are banished grief and pain;
When the crooked ways are straightened,
And the dark things shall be plain.

CH-4) Face to face–oh, blissful moment!
Face to face–to see and know;
Face to face with my Redeemer,
Jesus Christ who loves me so.

Yes, it will be wonderful for us–but that’s only half the story. Have you ever thought that it will be wonderful for the Lord too? That’s another point of view memorialized in some touching lines by hymn writer Frances Bevan. She writes:

He and I in that bright glory,
One deep joy shall share–
Mine, to be forever with Him;
His that I am there.

Amazing! The Lord intention is “that where I am, there you may be also” (Jn. 14:3). And He expressed the same to His heavenly Father in prayer, “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am” (Jn. 17:24). We are “the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” (Eph. 1:18). “The Lord’s portion is His people” (Deut. 32:9)–was true of Israel in an earthly sense, but of the church, especially in a heavenly sense. Our citizenship is there (Phil. 3:20).

That is heaven! And who would not look forward to such a place? But, as the old Spiritual says, “Everybody talkin’ ‘bout heaven ain’t goin’ there.” It will be the home of those who’s names are in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 21:27). Pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards said, “There are two unalterable prerequisites to man’s being happy in the world to come. His sins must be pardoned, and his nature must be changed.” And both of those are ours through faith in Christ.

“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26).

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7).

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (II Cor. 5:17).

Questions:

1) What does it tell you about the Lord Jesus that He is looking forward to you being there?

2) What Bible character(s) will you especially be interested in meeting and talking with in heaven?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | March 17, 2019

No Hymns About It

Hell is not a pleasant subject, and many even try to deny its existence. “After all,” they’ll say, “how could a God of love condemn anyone to eternal hell?” And He is a God of love (I Jn. 4:10). But He’s also a God of righteousness and justice who cannot ignore or condone sin. He has warned that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23), ultimately leading to the “second death,” eternal separation from God (Rev. 20:14-15; 21:8; cf. II Thess. 1:7-9).

That means there are two possible destinies for human beings, not just one. Daniel tells us that, at the resurrection, some will enjoy everlasting life, but others will face “shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2). The Lord Jesus calls these “the resurrection of life,” and “the resurrection of condemnation” (Jn. 5:28-29). But the good news is, through faith in Christ, we need not perish, but can have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16; 5:24).

We have many hymns about the blessings of heaven. But, interestingly, it’s almost impossible to find hymns about hell in the dozens of hymn books published in the last seventy years. Not that such hymns have never been written. Go back two or three centuries and more, and there are quite a few–some shockingly blunt about it.

One by Isaac Watts (1674-1748) begins, “My thoughts on awful subjects roll, damnation and the dead.” One from James Montgomery (1771-1854) warns, “Oh, what eternal horrors hang around the second death.” And here’s another example:

Far in the deep where darkness dwells,
The land of horror and despair,
Justice has built a dismal hell,
And laid her stores of vengeance there.
Eternal plagues and heavy chains,
Tormenting racks and fiery coals,
And darts to inflict immortal pains,
Dipped in the blood of damnèd souls.

Colourful! And poetic language geared to convince those who sang it that it was something to be avoided! But none of these–nor any such horrific sentiments, are found in modern hymnals. Why is that? There may be several reasons.

1) In the 17th century and before, there were fewer Bible study books available to the average believer. Hymns that could be memorized were a very useful teaching tool, and such an important subject needed to be covered.

2) Two or three centuries ago, with no wonder drugs or modern medical techniques, death was a very present reality. Many died quite young. Hymn writers may well have sensed an urgent need to warn about coming judgment.

3) Hymn book publishers today want to sell books, and they realize there are not only some professing Christians who don’t believe in hell, but others who, even if they do, don’t want to think about it, let alone sing about it.

4) Most of the music of our hymns and gospel songs is designed for praise, or expressing the joy of our salvation. Very few hymn tunes suit the darkly sober theme of eternal judgment. It would seem to require a slow dirge in a minor key. This would not be pleasing to the average ear, or uplifting to sing.

Let me know if you think of other reasons this subject isn’t covered in our hymnals. But even though we have no hymns explicitly about hell, it is a significant subject in God’s Word, and deserves our careful study, and a determination to warn others of the danger of going there!

Posted by: rcottrill | March 14, 2019

Does Jesus Care?

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: Frank Ellsworth Graeff (b. Dec. 19, 1860; d. July 29, 1919)
Music: Joseph Lincoln Hall (b. Nov. 4, 1866; d. Nov. 29, 1930)

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

Note: I encourage you to go to the Cyber Hymnal link are read all the stanzas of this wonderful song from 1901. Pastor Graeff deals with the subjects of temptation, and of the sorrow at the loss of a loved one, along with other trials.

The Roaring Twenties lived up to their name. The period following the First World War was marked by giddy excess on the part of many. The blind optimism that the recent devastating conflict was “the war to end all wars” spilled over into wasteful extravagance and moral laxity. If you were to believe some newspapers of the day, a good time was had by all.

Then came the crash. In October of 1929, the Stock Market experienced what came to be known as the Great Crash. Believing stock prices would continue to rise forever, some had speculated recklessly. But soon share prices plummeted and billions of dollars were lost. Investors panicked as the situation grew worse.

This was one factor that led to the Great Depression. The largest and most sustained economic downturn in the industrialized world, it continued for a decade. Consumer spending dropped, companies laid off workers. About a fifth of the work force in America was looking for employment, and could find none. Many were forced to rely on credit, and went deeply into debt. A drought and the infamous Dust Bowl out west affected food production too.

That was a downward spiral into disaster. So what led to a turn-around, and a fairly steady recovery? It’s too simplistic, of course, to credit one single event in a situation that was very complex. But certainly things began to change in America with the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932.

A clever politician, he immediately introduced reforms to address the crisis. Further, he initiated a series of thirty “fireside chats” over the radio, stretching through the Depression and into the 1940’s. It was an early and effective use of mass communication. A gifted communicator, the president spoke to citizens with calm assurance, as their friend, telling them what was being done in Washington, and why. People were convinced he really cared.

We can draw a spiritual parallel to what some believers experience in their personal lives. Reading the first couple of chapters of the book of Job, we see a good man hit by a series of disasters, one after another, events for which he was unable to find any rational explanation. Suddenly it seemed the Lord had forgotten him, or even turned against him. But he could think of nothing that could have precipitated the change.

Something similar happened to Frank Graeff. Mr. Graeff was an American clergyman, known for his sunny optimism and his effective ministry to children. But he went through a time of severe testing. Physical pain, depression, and spiritual doubt, all weighed him down. He felt as though he’d been abandoned by God. He says his attitude at the time was characterized by “despair and defeat.”

So, how does a burdened soul deal with such a shattering crash? How does a turn-around begin? Something like the circumstances described earlier, it begins with the help of a wise and compassionate Helper, the Lord Himself. When he hit bottom, Graeff fell to his knees and began to pour out his troubles to God. And it was a hymn and a Bible verse that buoyed his faith and brought refreshing joy and comfort to his heart.

The hymn was one by Joseph Scriven, which says:

What a Friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear.
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer.

What an encouragement to a struggling servant of God! And the verse of Scripture that meant much to him speaks of…

“Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (I Pet. 5:7).

Twice in the Gospels the Lord Jesus is asked, “Do you not care?” In a storm on the Sea of Galilee the disciples cry, “Do You not care that we are perishing?” (Mk. 4:38). And in a home in Bethany, when Christ was their Guest, Martha frantically worked to prepare a meal, while her sister Mary sits at His feet to listen to His teaching. With obvious irritation, Martha complains, “Do You not care that my sister has left me to serve along?” (Lk. 10:40).

And of course He does care, when things like danger (in the first instance) and duty (in the second) seem to overwhelm us. And the Lord hears and answers prayer, either providing a means of deliverance, or the grace to carry us through whatever we face. Out of that assurance, Frank Graeff wrote the gospel song Does Jesus Care? with it’s joyful affirmation in each refrain that indeed He does.

CH-1) Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
Too deeply for mirth or song,
As the burdens press, and the cares distress
And the way grows weary and long?

Oh yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary,
I know my Saviour cares.

CH-2) Does Jesus care when my way is dark
With a nameless dread and fear?
As the daylight fades into deep night shades,
Does He care enough to be near?

Questions:
1) What trial or testing are you facing presently?

2) Has the Lord helped you through this time? (What has He used to do this?)

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

Posted by: rcottrill | March 11, 2019

Depth of Mercy, Can There Be?

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: Seymour (or Weber), by Carl Maria Friedrich Ernst von Weber (b. Nov. 18, 1786; d. June 5, 1826)

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

Note: Charles Wesley wrote more than 6,500 hymns. Not all are of high quality, and many have been long forgotten. But his best are considered among the finest hymns in the English language, hymns such as: Jesus, Lover of My Soul; Christ the Lord Is Risen Today; and Hark, the Herald Angels Sing. Carl von Weber was a pianist and classical composer of note. This hymn tune is taken from the opening chorus of Oberon, his last opera.

Did you ever dive into water that wasn’t deep enough for a dive? I did once, but fortunately came away with only a few scratches and scrapes–and an important lesson learned. For others it’s meant crippling injuries or even death. But diving into water that is more than deep enough can be a thrilling and enjoyable experience.

This might be compared, in the spiritual realm, to experiencing the wonderful mercy of God. Mercy is God’s compassionate help for those who are afflicted and wretched. It is a quality that combines with His love and grace in rescuing lost sinners. The psalmist David exclaims, “Great is Your mercy toward me, and You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol” (Ps. 86:13). (Sheol is a Hebrew word referring to the grave, or the abode of the dead.)

Prolific hymn writer Charles Wesley published a hymn in 1740 that seeks to plumb something of the depths of the mercy of God. The hymn as Wesley wrote it had thirteen stanzas, but most congregations now would balk at singing anything of that length. Recent hymnals usually contain only four or five stanza from Wesley’s original.

The hymn may have another drawback, when it comes to modern thought. Wesley’s self condemnation is unrelenting and intense. In order to show the amazing depth of God’s work on our behalf, the hymn writer believed he needed to face the sinfulness of his sin, and therefore how undeserving he was. The song begins:

CH-1) Depth of mercy! Can there be
Mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God His wrath forbear,
Me, the chief of sinners, spare?

Consider some of the dire descriptions of “the chief of sinners” we’re given in the hymn: “[He had] long withstood His grace, provoked Him to His face, would not harken to His calls, grieved Him by a thousand falls….I my Master have denied, I afresh have crucified, and profaned His hallowed name, put Him to an open shame….I have spilt His precious blood, trampled on the Son of God.” This is strong medicine!

First Corinthians speaks of those who participate in the Lord’s Supper (Holy Communion) with sin on their conscience: “Whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord….For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body” (I Cor. 11:27, 29). It’s as though such a one is taking the bread and the cup with one hand, and shaking a rebel fist in God’s face with the other. And Hebrews speaks of those who “crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame” (Heb. 6:6).

We may wish to dismiss Wesley’s strong words as only applying to the worst among us, but before he trusted in Christ alone for salvation Wesley was a moral man, active in good works. However he’s speaking of how the Lord saw him–a holy God before whom, “all our [self-generated] righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6). Scripture declares, “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God [that is, apart from His intervening mercy and grace]….All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:10-11, 23).

That’s why we’re in desperate need of the help of a loving God. As the psalmist puts it, “Oh, do not remember former iniquities against us! Let Your tender mercies come speedily to meet us, for we have been brought very low” (Ps. 79:8). Which brings us to Charles Wesley’s description of the mercy of God in the latter part of the song.

CH-6) Jesus speaks, and pleads His blood!
He disarms the wrath of God;
Now my Father’s mercies move,
Justice lingers into love.

CH-8) Whence to me this waste of love?
Ask my Advocate above!
See the cause in Jesus’ face,
Now before the throne of grace.

CH-9) There for me the Saviour stands,
Shows His wounds and spreads His hands.
God is love! I know, I feel;
Jesus weeps and loves me still.

CH-13) Now incline me to repent,
Let me now my sins lament,
Now my foul revolt deplore,
Weep, believe, and sin no more.

That is mercy deep enough to save not only the best of us, but the very worst of us, all who will trust in the Saviour. “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).

Questions:
1) Why do you think we sometimes rate sins (big sins, little sins)? And is this an accurate way to look at it?

2) Based on your knowledge of Scripture, how does God look at our sins?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | March 7, 2019

Christ the Lord Is Risen Today

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

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

Words: Charles Wesley (b. Dec. 18, 1707; d. Mar. 29, 1788)
Music: Easter Hymn, by an unknown composer

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

Note: Wesley’s original of this hymn had eleven stanzas. In present hymnal, usually four are used, as quoted below. The word Alleluia reflects the Greek form of the Hebrew word Hallelujah, meaning Praise the Lord! In the ancient church, it was a common greeting on Easter morning.

The word “resurrection” comes to us from a Latin word signifying a resurgence. It can mean to bring to life again, or to bring back into use.

In the latter case, for example, a song that was popular decades ago can be brought back and be a hit once more. Or, a style of dress that was in vogue long ago can come into fashion again. Or, in debate, the notion that the world is flat, not round, can be resurrected once more.

In Greek, the word literally means a raising up. It was used in ancient times of someone rising from a chair, or getting out of bed. But in the New Testament it always speaks of a person who was dead coming to life again.

In this regard, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a major theme of the Bible, being discussed dozens of times, using words such as resurrected, raised, and risen–and also by a simple contrast of death, and life. The glorified Christ says to John, “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore” (Rev. 1:18).

It’s impossible to cover the many Bible verses that deal with this subject in a short treatment. But I’ll try to summarize some of the Scriptures’ teaching on the vital truth of Christ’s resurrection under four headings.

I. The Prediction of It

Even back in the Old Testament, this great event is anticipated. “You will not leave my soul in Sheol [the grave], nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption” (Ps. 16:10; cf. Acts 2:24, 27, 31). Speaking prophetically of the death of Christ Isaiah says, “It pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He [God the Father] has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand” (Isa. 53:10). And Jesus Himself predicted both His death and resurrection (Matt. 16:21; cf. Jn. 2:22).

II. The Proof of It

“The angel answered and said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay’” (Matt. 28:5-6). “He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days” (Acts 1:3).

III. The Proclamation of It

Because it was great good news, Christ’s resurrection was published from the very beginning. “Go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead” (Matt. 28:7). “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses” (Acts 2:32). “Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead)” (Gal. 1:1).

IV. The Purpose of It

What are some things accomplished by Jesus’ resurrection? Here are a few references you can check out.
¤ Only Christ declared He had the power over death (Jn. 10:17-18), so His resurrection confirms His identity (Rom. 1:4; 6:9).
¤ By His resurrection life He provides salvation from sin (Acts 5:30-31; 13:36-39).
¤ His resurrection is a divine guarantee of our own one day (Rom. 8:11; I Cor. 6:14; 15:20; I Pet. 1:3).
¤ In heaven, the risen, glorified Christ is our Advocate and Intercessor (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25; I Jn. 2:1-2).
¤ And by His power we are equipped for service (Acts 4:10; Rom. 7:4; cf. Eph. 4:11-12).

Because this is a brief article, we’ve only scratched the surface regarding what the Bible has to say. Christ’s resurrection has rightly been the subject of many of our hymns. Among them, the glorious truth of it is presented in what may be our greatest Easter hymn, Christ the Lord Is Risen Today. It was written in 1739 by Charles Wesley and has been published in over a thousand hymnals since.

CH-1) Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heav’ns, and earth, reply, Alleluia!

CH-2) Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Lo! the Sun’s eclipse is o’er, Alleluia!
Lo! He sets in blood no more, Alleluia!

CH-4) Lives again our glorious king, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

CH-5) Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

Questions:
1) Why is the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ so important?

2) What is the most memorable Easter Sunday morning you have experienced?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | March 4, 2019

Children of the Heavenly King

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

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

Words: John Cennick (b. Dec. 12, 1718; d. July 4, 1755)
Music: Pleyel’s Hymn, by Ignaz J. Pleyel (b. June 18, 1757; d. Nov. 14, 1831)

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

Note: This fine hymn is sung (twice) in Mrs. Miniver, the Academy-Award-winning movie about wartime in England. In the story, it’s sung by a congregation at the beginning and end of the Second World War. As I write, I can hear the rich voice of actor Walter Pigeon rising above the others. Whoever selected that hymn, it was an inspired choice. It’s found in the Anglican hymnal, in a section called Pilgrimage and Conflict. In Mrs. Miniver, it says, tacitly, that the pilgrim journey of the people of God goes on, through times of peace and war.

We are creatures of time and space. I’m now at Point A (whatever its actual name), and I plan to travel to Point B, if I’m able. And doing so will take a certain amount of time, depending on the distance and other factors. It sounds obvious perhaps, but it’s important. Because we’re all travelers, pilgrims in this world. This mortal life itself can be viewed as a journey, from the womb to the tomb.

On my father’s gravestone is the following information: 1902–1962. The first date tells when his journey of life began; the second tells when it ended–that is, as far as this present earthly life is concerned. And that dash between the dates represents a journey of sixty years. How small it looks. How uncomplicated. Yet the journey of life is anything but.

Many observations have been proffered on the subject. Some wise, some otherwise. Those that evidence a lack of understanding and accuracy often come from a view of life that sees nothing beyond the grave. But, as J. R. Baxter’s old gospel song says, “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through.” Our stay here is only temporary. The Lord wants His children with Him, in a place of eternal blessing.

“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).

The Bible tells us God’s plan is “that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7). And, through Christ, Christians have “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for [us]” (I Pet. 1:4).

What a future! And the things which make the present journey difficult, and sometimes painful, will not be a part of life in the heavenly city. There, “God will wipe away every tear from [our] 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. 21:4).

With these wonderful truths in mind, you can see the serious limitations of philosophies that say, “Our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.” That’s only half true. Whether we believe our ultimate end is a hole in the ground, or an eternal heavenly home, will inform and influence our choices and goals today. Another says, “It’s good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Again, only partly true. Where we end up is surely of surpassing importance.

Much better are these two observations.

“The journey you wish to take can only begin from where you are right now.” That’s exactly why it’s vital to put our faith in Christ today. “Behold, now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation” (II Cor. 6:2).

Then, one more wise observation: “If you are facing in the right direction, all you need to do is keep on walking.” And we’re to travel on, keeping our eyes on the Saviour, “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher [the Source and Goal] of our faith” (Heb. 12:2).

We move forward, having recognized and confessed that we’re “strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Heb. 11:13), guided by heavenly values, emboldened by a heavenly hope, and cheered by like-minded companions on the way. In 1742, evangelist John Cennick  published a hymn about our pilgrim journey in company with other believers. (And “Zion’s city,” of course, refers to the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb. 12:22), not the earthly.)

CH-1) Children of the heavenly King,
As you journey, sweetly sing;
Sing your Saviour’s worthy praise,
Glorious in His works and ways.

CH-2) We are traveling home to God,
In the way the fathers trod;
They are happy now, and we
Soon their happiness shall see.

CH-3) Glory be to Jesus’ name,
Glory be to Christ the Lamb;
Through Thy blood were we redeemed,
When we justly were condemned.

CH-6) Lift your eyes, you sons of light,
Zion’s city is in sight:
There our endless home shall be,
There our Lord we soon shall see.

Questions:
1) What are some special blessings of God on life’s journey that you have enjoyed?

2) What has the companionship of other believers meant to you on this journey?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | February 28, 2019

Blessed Assurance

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: Fanny Crosby (b. Mar. 24, 1820; d. Feb. 12, 1915)
Music: Phoebe Palmer Knapp (b. March 9, 1839; d. July 10, 1908)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Fanny Crosby); for the story of the writing of the song, see here.
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: This is a song of personal affirmation. So, how about it? Can you say and sing from the heart, “This is my story”? Or how can any of us sing such a song? Yes, there’s a sense in which congregational singing involves a united declaration of the church’s beliefs, or the expression of an ideal to which we aspire. And it can be that without the full agreement of all who sing each song. But that doesn’t let the individual off the hook.

The Bible says we should be “singing with grace [thanksgiving] in our hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16) And if we sing “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine,” as though we’re talking to the Lord about ourselves, we have a responsibility to follow through and live it out. If it’s not true of us, we must answer the question: If not, why not?

One day my wife and I went to a restaurant new to us. The young waitress smiled as she came to our table. And to each choice I made from the menu, she responded enthusiastically, “Perfect, sir!” It was as though, from all the many items listed, I, with amazing wisdom, had chosen the best of all.

Looking at a dictionary definition, we find “perfect” comes to us from an old word meaning finished or complete. In its precise usage, perfect is an absolute. You can’t have something that’s more perfect or the word doesn’t fit. The dictionary uses descriptions such as: exactly fitting the need, unblemished, faultless, and beyond improvement. The meal we had that day was fine, but not absolutely beyond improvement. Nor were my choices likely the absolute best, without question.

When it comes to spiritual things, God Himself is perfect, absolutely faultless and beyond improvement. His work is perfect (Deut. 32:4), His way is perfect (Ps. 18:30, and His will for us is perfect (Rom. 12:2). When the New Testament uses the word of human beings, it often describes spiritual maturity, but never sinless perfection. Only God is the latter (I Jn. 1:5).

The writer of Hebrews exhorts his readers, “Let us go on to perfection” (Heb. 6:1). It’s a matter of spiritual growth and development. We’re to be “perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (II Cor. 7:1). As the Apostle Paul puts it, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” (Phil. 3:12).

It was a hymn by Fanny Crosby that got me thinking about this. Judging by the more than nine hundred hymn books that contain it, Blesses Assurance, written in 1873, is possibly Fanny’s best known or most beloved song. In it, the word perfect is used several times.

She begins by describing her salvation (And “purchased of God” seems to have been an early word used, though it’s now usually printed “purchase of God.”)

CH-1) Blessèd assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

God’s great salvation through faith in Christ involves both cleansing through His shed blood, and a new spiritual birth. It brings the assurance of a personal relationship with Him (Gal. 3:26; 4:6), and this is a kind of down payment anticipating eternal blessings.

The second stanza and the third begin with the words “perfect submission.” But I’m not sure that was Fanny’s original intent. In a book published in 1874 (a year after the song was written), the second begins differently.

2) Fullness of mercy, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture burst on my sight;
Angels descending bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Psalm 86:15, describes the Lord as “abundant in mercy.” Psalm 119:64 declares, “The earth, O Lord is full of Your mercy.” That’s possibly what Fanny Crosby intended. (Another very early version has, “Perfect salvation, perfect delight,” which works too.) Certainly the fullness of God’s mercy in saving her brought, within human limitations, a perfection of joy and delight.

Then, we have another use of the word perfect in the third and last stanza.

CH-3) Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Saviour am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

The perfection of submission may refer to fully submitting to God’s will–again, within the limits of one’s understanding, and by God’s grace. But combined with the phrase “all is at rest,” it brings to mind the rest of faith, described in Hebrews 4:10, in which we cease depending on our own works to save us, completely resting in what Christ has done for us.

“For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His” (Heb. 4:10).

Finally, we have in the refrain, a reminder that we’re presenting, in this song, a personal witness to our own experience.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior, all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior, all the day long.

“This is my story,” says the refrain, this is what happened to me. When sung, it becomes a personal testimony, providing a joyous expression of praise for God’s saving work in us, through Christ. May the joy of God’s perfect salvation, described and enjoyed by Fanny Crosby, be yours too, as it is for this writer.

Questions:
1) Can you say with confidence that you’re saved, and have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus, by faith? (If the answer is no, I encourage you to read God’s Plan of Salvation.)

2) For what reasons (or in what ways) can God’s salvation be described as “perfect”?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Fanny Crosby); for the story of the writing of the song, see here.
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | February 25, 2019

Dearer Than All

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

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

Words: Alfred Henry Ackley (b. Jan. 21, 1887; d. July 3, 1960)
Music: Alfred Henry Ackley

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

Note: Ackley’s brother Bentley wrote the music for many gospel songs, but Alfred often provided texts and tunes for hundreds of songs. This one was published in 1917. I can remember singing it in a men’s choir, more than fifty years ago.

Today we likely use the word “dear,” and its varying degrees dearer, dearest, as it relates to the cost of something. (“That’s dearer than the one at the other store.”) But it’s used in literature, and in personal letters, to refer to our heart’s affection for another person. It identifies one, a family member or a friend, as especially loved and cherished.

In 1978, Christina Crawford, the adopted daughter of actress Joan Crawford, wrote a memoir about her mother entitled Mommie Dearest. But the title is bitterly ironic. Christina paints a stark and scathing picture of an abusive alcoholic parent, a portrayal that has been challenged since by others who knew Joan Crawford.

Turning from this sad account to our English hymnody we see something quite different. As Scottish preacher and author Oswald Chambers put it, “The dearest friend on earth is a mere shadow compared to Jesus Christ.” That conviction is echoed in many of our hymns.

In 1531, reformer Martin Luther gave us his Christmas hymn, From Heaven Above to Earth I Come. It says, in part:

Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child,
Make Thee a bed, soft, undefiled,
Within my heart, that it may be
A quiet chamber kept for Thee.

Three centuries later, Karl Spitta published his hymn about the Christian home which begins, “O happy home, where Thou art loved the dearest.”

In 1772, hymn writer William Cowper in his hymn, O for a Closer Walk with God, rejects the opposite of deep affection for the Lord, the folly of trying to replace Him with anything or anyone as the supreme object of our love:

The dearest idol I have known,
Whate’er that idol be,
Help me to tear it from Thy throne,
And worship only Thee.

A number of Hebrew and Greek words in the Bible are translated dear, loved, or beloved, meaning highly esteemed, and precious. God recognizes Abraham’s son Isaac as “your son…whom you love” (Gen. 22:2). And even when disciplining Israel for her many sins, the Lord calls her “the dearly beloved of My soul” (Jer. 12:7). And David, the psalmist, cries, “Oh, love the Lord, all you His saints” (Ps. 31:23).

In the New Testament, God the Father several times addresses Christ as “My beloved Son” (e.g. Matt. 3:17). And Paul calls the Christians in Rome “beloved of God” (Rom. 1:7).

But the greatest love of all toward lost sinners sent the eternal Son of God from heaven’s glory to die on a cross to pay our debt of sin (Jn. 3:16). In Christ, God “has loved us and given us everlasting consolation [eternal comfort] and good hope by grace” (II Thess. 2:16). John writes:

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [the full satisfaction of God’s justice] for our sins….We have known and believed the love that God has for us” (I Jn. 4:10, 16).

And such infinite love deserves our love in return. “We love Him because He first loved us” (I Jn. 4:19).

Alfred Henry Ackley gave us words and music for a song about that. In Dearer Than All, he touches briefly on a mother’s love, but declares the love of the Lord to be greater still.

1) Ye who the love of a mother have known,
There is a love sweeter far you may own,
Love all sufficient for sin to atone;
Jesus is dearer than all.

Dearer than all, yes, dearer than all,
He is my King, before Him I fall;
No friend like Jesus my soul can enthrall,
Jesus is dearer, far dearer than all.

2) Jesus entreats you in Him to confide,
Make Him your constant Companion and Guide
He can do more than the whole world beside;
Jesus is dearer than all.

3) Heaven, with all of its beauty so rare,
Without my Redeemer can never compare;
He is the glory transcendent up there;
Jesus is dearer than all.

Questions:
1) What are some remarkable things about the Lord’s love for us?

2) How do you show your love for the Lord Jesus, day by day?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | February 21, 2019

Awake, My Soul, and With the Sun

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 Ken (b. July ___, 1637; d. Mar. 19, 1711)
Music: Mainzer, by Joseph Mainzer (b. Oct. 21, 1801; d. Nov. 10, 1851)

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

Note: I decry, with a passion, churches that simply sing songs because that’s what we’re supposed to do in church. And the thought horrifies me, but I’ve seen it done, a song leader flipping through the hymn book a few minutes before service time, and, almost randomly, picking a few numbers–because “we like that one,” or “that has a catchy tune.” Shame on you, if you do that!

The Bible says we are to sing with understanding (Ps. 47:7; I Cor. 14:15). Hymns, gospel songs, and choruses should not just be sung, they should be used, having been selected with a sanctified and prayerful purpose. Usually, in a church service, that “purpose” should relate to the theme of the message preached from God’s Word.

“[Inwardly] let the word of Christ [including all of Scripture] dwell in you richly in all wisdom, [outwardly] teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, [upwardly] singing with grace [thanksgiving] in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16).

All three of those directions are involved in Thomas Ken’s fine hymn.

Did you ever meet someone in a really grumpy mood? They seem to be surrounded by a thick cloud of negativity. They feel bad, the weather’s crumby, the daily news is depressing, the coffee’s cold, the job is boring–or impossible, nobody understands them, on and on.

Sometimes we say of such a person that he must have got up on the wrong side of the bed. That expression comes down to us from ancient Rome. The Romans believed it was bad luck to get out of bed on the left side. That if you did that, you were going to have a very bad day. It was just a silly superstition. But there could be some things we do–or don’t do–in the morning that tend to set the tone for the day.

Here are some suggestions given by counselors to start things off right. To begin with, get enough sleep. Then, get up early. And before the negatives take hold, purposely think of something positive, and something you’re thankful for. Make your bed. Do a little stretching or light exercise. Brush your teeth, and take a shower. Eat a healthy breakfast. And plan your day, setting some basic goals.

No doubt such things would help to stave off a case of the grumps. But there’s something else that each child of God should make time for in the morning. Time in God’s Word and in prayer. It’s sometimes called morning Devotions, or a Quiet Time. God speaks to us through His Word, and we speak to Him in prayer. That is how Christians can start the day right.

There are various schedules, devotional books, and other helps for this, but the most important thing, when we open God’s Word, is to take the time to meet with Him there, in fellowship and praise. Christ is revealed in some way, on every page of Scripture. Search for Him. This is an approach taught by the Lord Jesus Himself.

“Beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Lk. 24:27).

“He said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me’” (Lk. 24:44).

“You [Jewish leaders] search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. “But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (Jn. 5:39-40).

The whole Bible is about Him, and with the hymn writer Mary Ann Lathbury, in Break Thou the Bread of Life, we say, “Beyond the sacred page I seek Thee, Lord.” This takes time and careful thought. Then, is He showing us 1) a command to obey; 2) an example to follow (or a negative one to avoid)? 3) Is there a promise to claim, or 4) a blessing to praise Him for?

That can become a part of our prayers to follow. From the birth of the church in Acts, the early Christians bathed their days in prayer (Acts 2:42), and some form of the word prayer is used thirty times in the book. Perhaps this is what led someone to list different kinds of prayer into an acrostic: A.C.T.S.

¤ A is for adoration, the worship and praise of God.
¤ C is for confession, seeking God’s forgiveness for our faults and failings (I Jn. 1:9).
¤ T is for thanksgiving, gratitude for all that God has given us, and done for us.
¤ S is for supplication, requests for our own needs, and intercession for the needs of others.

In 1674, Thomas Ken published a beautiful prayer for the coming day. It begins:

CH-1) Awake, my soul, and with the sun
Thy daily stage of duty run;
Shake off dull sloth, and joyful rise,
To pay thy morning sacrifice.

The “sacrifices” of the Christian are, first of all, ourselves (Rom. 12:1), then ongoing praise to God, and loving deeds toward others (Heb. 13:15-16). And over the course of eleven stanzas, Bishop Ken presents both practical instruction and holy aspirations. For example:

CH-2) Thy precious time misspent, redeem,
Each present day thy last esteem,
Improve thy talent with due care;
For the great day thyself prepare.

CH-4) In conversation be sincere;
Keep conscience as the noontide clear;
Think how all seeing God thy ways
And all thy secret thoughts surveys.

CH-9) [Lord] direct, control, suggest, this day,
All I design, or do, or say,
That all my powers, with all their might,
In Thy sole glory may unite.

Questions:
1) Take a few moments to read Thomas Ken’s entire hymn on the Cyber Hymnal link above. What are some areas mentioned that are especially relevant to your own life?

2) Do the songs used in your own church services reveal prayerful thought and meaningful purpose? (If not, why not?)

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

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