Posted by: rcottrill | June 20, 2018

I Sing the Mighty Power of God

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

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

Words: Isaac Watts (b. July 17, 1674; d. Nov. 25, 1748)
Music: Ellacombe, by William Henry Monk (b. Mar. 16, 1823; d. Mar. 1, 1889)

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

Note: In 1718, Watts published a book called Divine Songs Attempted in Easy Language for the Use of Children. One of those songs is still in use, and it’s startling to realize the level of understanding Dr. Watts expected in the young. In the book’s Preface he writes:

“[These songs] will be a constant furniture of the minds of children, that they may have something to think upon when alone, and sing over to themselves. This may sometimes give their thoughts a divine turn, and raise a young meditation. Thus they will not be forced to seek relief for an emptiness of mind, out of the loose and dangerous sonnets [could we substitute “contemporary secular entertainment?”] of the age.”

Justly or not, modern education has its share of critics. We are equipping schools with amazing technology unavailable to earlier generations, yet parents and grandparents sometimes wonder if there’s a matching advance in the quality of education. Some schools are rising to the challenge and doing well. Others not. Several observations believe are pertinent.

1) Getting an education involves more that simply absorbing facts. The nurture of curiosity and creativity may suffer in strongly fact-centred education systems. But it’s not wise to swing the pendulum violently in the opposite direction and minimize factual knowledge and basic skills (English and Mathematics). Teaching at the college level two decades ago I was sometimes frustrated by the inability of students to express themselves in clear organized English in assigned papers.

2) Likewise it’s a problem if the focus is simply to equip students to pass standard tests. (I’ve seen that happen at the college level too.) To attract new students, get funding, and so on, a school may feel the need to contrive that a certain percentage of learners show a laudable level of competency. But at what cost to scholastic integrity? And when that becomes the goal, pupils can become mere statistics.

3) Finally, schools do not operate in isolation from other spheres of influence. What’s happening in the home? What values are being inculcated there? And what role does the church play in establishing the student’s values? Public education sometimes tries to proclaim all views to be equally valid. But Christians cannot accept that, because God’s Word does not. Many are opting to send their children to private Christian schools as a result.

Concerning childhood education, the Word of God says it’s a parental responsibility to teach children the Scriptures. The church can certainly have a part in that, but it begins at home.

“These words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deut. 6:6-7; cf. Ps. 78:1-8).

To the extent they accurately reflect what the Bible has to say, the great hymns of the church are a useful tool in this. Whether in the family circle, or the house of God, we are admonished:

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16).

Pastor and hymn writer Isaac Watts certainly thought so. A song that remains in use from Watts’s book begins:

CH-1) I sing the mighty power of God,
That made the mountains rise,
That spread the flowing seas abroad,
And built the lofty skies.
I sing the wisdom that ordained
The sun to rule the day;
The moon shines full at God’s command,
And all the stars obey.

The original hymn consisted of eight four-line stanzas. By combining the stanzas two-by-two, they become eight lines each, and fit the above tune. However, there are a couple of things to note here. In the earliest copy I could find, from 1802, the second half of the third eight-line stanza is quite different from what is in most books today. And the final eight-line stanza is rarely if ever used. (See below.)

5) There’s not a plant or flow’r below,
But makes Thy glories known;
And clouds arise and tempests blow,
By order from Thy throne.
6) Creatures (as numerous as they be)
Are subject to Thy care;
There’s not a place where we can flee,
But God is present there.

7) In heav’n He shines with beams of love!
With wrath in hell beneath!
‘Tis on His earth I stand or move
And ‘tis His air I breathe.
8) His hand is my perpetual guard,
He keeps me with His eye;
Why should I then forget the Lord,
Who is forever nigh?

Scanning the entire hymn we see nearly a dozen major truths presented about God, especially in nature (cf. Rom. 1:18-22). (Numbers indicate the stanzas.) His: Creative power (1); Wisdom (2); Sovereign authority (2, 5, 7); Goodness (3); Wonders (4); Glory (5); Omnipresence (6, 8); Love (7); Wrath (8); Protection (8).

These are important truths that we can begin to teach the young, a foundation for faith and moral training to build on.

Questions:
1) If you were asked to make a list of Bible truths young children (around ages six to eight) should learn, what would you include?

2) How is your church doing in teaching the young these things?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | June 18, 2018

He’s the One

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: James Bruce Mackay (b. _____, 1861; d. _____, 1940)
Music: James Bruce Mackay

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

Note: Though he wrote quite a number of songs, almost nothing is known of Mr. Mackay other than that he served the Lord as a pastor. His name sounds Scottish, but he still could have been born in America.

In 1927, actress Clara Bow appeared in a silent movie, a romantic comedy called It. The film made her a star, and ever after she was known as the “It Girl.” The phrase was used as a compliment. You’re really it! And there are other expressions that mean something similar. You’re just the greatest! The one and only! and so on.

Such superlatives are often used in sports. Whether it’s Michael Jordan in basketball, or Waye Gretzky (“the Great One”) in hockey, they became tops in their field. And there have been athletes so remarkable that they not only dominated their sport, but are recognized way beyond it. Baseball’s Jackie Robinson, and boxing’s Muhammad Ali are like that.

Of course, phrases like those mentioned can also point to a negative, or the kind of notoriety to be avoided. Six decades after the Clara Bow movie, It became the title for a creepy horror film based on a novel by Stephen King, and “one and only” could well describe the evil ring central to the plot of Lord of the Rings

“One Ring to rule them all,
One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all
And in the darkness bind them.”

Human assessments may, in some cases, be merely promotional inventions, an advertiser’s hyperbole. Or, they may possibly be mistaken, and miss significant things. One actor who gained fame on a long-running situation comedy, and became known as “America’s Dad,” was recently convicted of being a serial rapist. Worldly fame can at times be a veneer, hiding a lot of ugliness beneath the surface.

While such false build-ups can be true of weak and sinful human beings, they are never remotely true of God. Words such as unique, supreme, and peerless can’t begin to describe Him. Fifty-seven times the Bible calls Him the Almighty God (e.g. Job 11:7-8). He’s utterly, transcendently above everything, the one and only Lord of all.

“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome” (Deut. 10:17). “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty; for all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head over all” (I Chron. 29:11). “Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite” (Ps. 147:5). “Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God” (Ps. 90:2). With Job we must say:

“Indeed these are the mere edges of His ways, and how small a whisper we hear of Him!” (Job 26:14).

How amazing, then, that God the Son deigned to come to this earth as Man (Jn. 1:14), willing to die to save us from our sins (Jn. 3:16; I Cor. 15:3). Through faith in Him, we not only have eternal salvation, but the resources to deal with life day by day (Heb. 4:14-16). “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (II Pet. 1:3).

In 1899, James Mackay penned the words of a simple gospel song called He’s the One, meaning Christ is the only One who can meet our deepest need.

Note: I’ve chosen to switch the order of the stanzas as they’re found in the Cyber Hymnal. It made sense to me to deal with the sin issue first, and then consider the Lord’s provision to deal with life’s trials. The answer to the questions raised is, of course, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the author tells us in the refrain. Mackay’s song says, in part:

CH-3) Is there anyone can help us
Who can give a sinner peace,
When his heart is burdened down with pain and woe?
Who can speak the word of pardon
That affords a sweet release,
And whose blood can wash and make as white as snow?

Yes, there’s One, only One,
The blessèd, blessèd Jesus,
He’s the One;
When afflictions press the soul,
When waves of trouble roll,
And you need a friend to help you,
He’s the One.

CH-2) Is there anyone can help us
When the load is hard to bear,
And we faint and fall beneath it in alarm?
Who in tenderness will lift us,
And the heavy burden share,
And support us with an everlasting arm?

Questions:
1) Can you list some of the blessings and spiritual resources that we have, through Christ, that can help us in the Christian life?

2) Why is no one else able to supply these things as the Lord Jesus does?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | June 13, 2018

Holy God, We Praise Thy Name

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: Clarence Alphonsus Walworth (b. May 30, 1820; d. Sept. 19, 1900); translated from a hymn attributed to Ignaz Franz (b. Oct. 12, 1719; d. Aug. 19, 1790); who, in turn, seems to have got the text from the Latin Te Deum, published in AD 387.
Music: Grosser Gott (also Te Deum), first appearing in Katholisches Gesang-Buch of Maria Theresa of Austria, around 1774.

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

Note: Both Walworth and Franz were Roman Catholics, but the hymn has found acceptance in Protestant churches too (see comments below). For a discussion of the third line of stanza one (“All on earth Thy sceptre claim”) see my comments in the second Wordwise Hymns link, as well as those of reader Robert Woodman.

The common designation of an object as an “antique” means that it’s at least a hundred years old–though the term is often used more loosely, simply to describe something old.

Anyone who has watched television’s popular Antiques Road Show realizes the great value of some antiques. It depends on things such as age, and rarity, and sometimes the connection of the piece to a famous person or event. Clear proof of these factors (called provenance) can increase the value significantly. And sometimes an item–such as a painting or a carving–is also valued for its beauty and the skilled craftsmanship that produced it.

That may come to mind when we hear an individual talk about a “good old hymn.” It’s a relative term. Perhaps the one speaking is young, and all the hymns seem old. Or perhaps his or her church has gone contemporary, and has not sung the traditional hymns and gospel songs for many years.

Looked at strictly as to the date of writing or publication, anything written in the twentieth century is comparatively young. In the Garden was published in 1912, The Old Rugged Cross in 1913. Victory in Jesus came along in 1939, the Christmas song Mary’s Boy Child in 1956, and Because He Lives in 1971.

But the church of Christ is nearly two thousand years old, and we have some songs in our hymnals from the early days. Christian Dost Thou See Them was written by Andrew of Crete in the seventh century. Shepherd of Eager Youth is attributed to Clement of Alexandria and dated about AD 200.

Much older still are some other hymns we sing. Several texts found in the New Testament were apparently turned into songs early on. For example: the words of Zacharias beginning, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel” (Lk. 1:68-79); and those of Mary beginning, “My soul magnifies the Lord” (Lk. 1:46-55). And First Timothy 3:16 is believed to be arranged to be sung:

God was manifested in the flesh,
Justified in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Preached among the Gentiles,
Believed on in the world,
Received up in glory.

Then what about the Old Testament? The book of Psalms was the hymn book not only of the nation of Israel, but of the early church. If you have ever sung an English translation of Psalm 23, beginning, “The Lord is my shepherd,” you have sung a hymn written by David around 1000 BC.

And there are psalms even older. Psalm 90 was written by Moses, about five hundred years before David’s time. When you sing the hymn O God, Our Help in Ages Past, you are singing an English paraphrase of Psalm 90, written by Isaac Watts. But the original comes from thirty-five centuries ago. An old hymn indeed!

The hymn Holy God, We Praise Thy Name–where we’ll pause now a moment–is an English translation by Clarence Walworth of words attributed to Polish hymnist and compiler Ignaz Franz, carrying us back another century before Walworth. However, if Franz did write it, the hymn actually seems to be taken from the Latin hymn Te Deum, coming to us from AD 387. What we have is thus a translation of a translation, going back six centuries.

Walworth’s version has eight stanzas, but many hymnals use only the first four. Interestingly, it’s a hymn that has found acceptance in both Protestant and Roman Catholic congregations. The reason is this hymn of glorious praise deals with an area of doctrine held by both, the Trinity of the Godhead.

CH-1) Holy God, we praise Thy name;
Lord of all, we bow before Thee!
All on earth Thy sceptre claim,
All in heav’n above adore Thee;
Infinite Thy vast domain,
Everlasting is Thy reign.

CH-2) Hark! the loud celestial hymn
Angel choirs above are raising,
Cherubim and seraphim,
In unceasing chorus praising;
Fill the heavens with sweet accord:
Holy, holy, holy, Lord.

CH-4) Holy Father, Holy Son,
Holy Spirit, Three we name Thee;
While in essence only One,
Undivided God we claim Thee;
And adoring bend the knee,
While we own the mystery.

Questions:
1) Why is the Trinity an important part of Christian teaching?

2) Can you think of other hymns that deal with the triune nature of God (i.e. the Trinity)? The Cyber Hymnal lists over sixty here.

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

Posted by: rcottrill | June 11, 2018

Held in His Mighty Arms

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: Winfield Macomber (b. Sept. 15, 1865; d. Oct. 19, 1896)
Music: Winfield Macomber

Links:

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Macomber was converted at the age of sixteen. And after Bible training, he went to the Congo as a missionary in 1892. But because of ill health, he returned to America after only a year’s service. Back home he made an important contribution to the work, writing a dictionary and grammar in the Congolese language, to help other missionaries who would go there. Years later he tried once more to serve in the Congo, but took sick, and set out for home. He died on the way in Lisbon, Portugal, at the age of thirty-one.

T he son of a circus strongman, Morris Shapiro also possessed incredible physical strength. Wrestling professionally in the 1950’s, as the Mighty Atlas, he perfected what he called the Atlas Lock (technically, a full nelson) a submission hold that won him many matches. Once caught in his powerful arms, few were able to break free.

Professional wrestling has always been scripted like a soap opera, but there was nothing fake about Sharpiro’s power. And there are many who are even stronger. The World’s Strongest Man is an annual event attracting strongmen from all over, to compete in a series of events. Eddie Hall, from England, the 2017 winner, was the only man able to dead-lift over half a ton (450 kg).

But all of this pales in comparison to the almighty arms of God. We know, of course, that “God is Spirit [a spirit Being]” (Jn. 4:24), and doesn’t have arms as we do. However, the imagery is used in Scripture to convey the idea of His limitless power.

“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut. 33:27). “The arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous” (Ps. 37:17).

When the Assyrians attacked Jerusalem, King Hezekiah encouraged the people: “With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles” (II Chron. 32:8).

And on another occasion the prophet Isaiah prayed, “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord! Awake as in the ancient days” (Isa. 51:9). And when God promised the people His help we read, “The Lord has sworn by His right hand and by the arm of His strength” (Isa. 62:8).

As a prelude to his great prophecy in Isaiah 53, about the coming of the Messiah (Christ), Isaiah spoke of what was to happen this way: “The Lord has made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation [the Yeshuah, the Hebrew form of the name Jesus] of our God” (Isa. 52:10).

But when the promised One came, Christ showed that those mighty arms could also be gentle, loving arms. “‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them’….And He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them” (Mk. 10:14, 16).

Though Jesus is not now physically present on earth, He still holds believers securely: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (Jn. 10:28).

There is a Latin motto adopted by hymn writer Dora Greenwood, and later by Charles Spurgeon’s college for pastors. It speaks of the fact that as we cling to the Lord by faith, we can be reassured that He is also holding us with His infinite strength: Et teneo, et teneor–I both hold and am held.

One who believed that was Winfield Macomber. His was a short life, but one of lasting influence. And he was safe in God’s keeping until his work here was done, then was lifted to his heavenly rest in the Lord’s loving arms. A hymn he wrote says:

CH-1) Safe is my refuge, sweet is my rest,
Ill cannot harm me, nor foes e’er molest;
Jesus my spirit so tenderly calms,
Holding me close in His mighty arms.

Oh! what wonderful, wonderful rest!
Trusting completely in Jesus I’m blest;
Sweetly He comforts and shields from alarms,
Holding me safe in His mighty arms.

CH-2) Pressing my tear stained cheek to His own,
Hushing my grief with His sweet gentle tone;
Touching my heart with His healing balms,
Holding me still in His mighty arms.

CH-3) Tempests may rage, sin’s surges may beat,
Ne’er can they reach my sheltered retreat;
Free from all danger, from dread alarms,
Resting so safe in His mighty arms.

Questions:
1) Have you ever had an experience in which you especially felt the supporting arms of God sustaining you?

2) Was there a time when you became God’s arms, serving Him by holding up and helping another person?


Links:

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | June 6, 2018

Tell Me the Old, Old Story

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: Arabella Katherine Hankey (b. Jan. 12, 1834; d. May 9, 1911)
Music: Evangel, by William Howard Doane (b. Feb. 3, 1832; d. Dec. 23, 1915)

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

Note: Katherine Hankey was a dedicated Christian, a Sunday School teacher, and a supporter of missionary work. When she went through a time of severe illness and convalescence, she decided to try writing an account of the life of Christ in verse. From her long poem, “The Old, Old Story,” have come two of our hymns, Tell Me the Old, Old Story, and I Love to Tell the Story.

We likely all enjoy a good story. But let’s think about that word a bit. A “story” is a narrative or record of events or experiences. It can be made-up, or true.

Some stories, such as Lord of the Rings, or Treasure Island, are fictional. But others are true accounts about things that actually happened, for example, there’s The Story of Canada (by Janet Lunn and Christopher Moore), a 2017 book published to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the nation’s founding.

The only way the word story is used in the Bible (in the New King James Version) is to refer to the stories of a building. But other related words are found there–words such as: history (Gen. 2:4); narrative (Lk. 1:1); and record (Ezra 6:2). The word report is quite common (Gen. 29:13; I Cor. 14:25), and many times, dealing with events in the lives of Israel’s kings, the word chronicles is used (I Kgs. 14:19).

The term parable is found dozens of times, especially in the teachings of Jesus (Lk. 15:3). But that’s something different. The parables are made-up stories to illustrate a spiritual truth. Evangelical Christians don’t put the historical records concerning the nation of Israel, the life of Jesus, or the apostolic church, in that category. The Bible isn’t a book of fictional parables, myths, and legends, but of reliable facts.

Time and again skeptics have ridiculed biblical history, claiming there was no such person, people, place or event. You’d think they’d learn. Eventually, archeology catches up, and reveals the accuracy of the Scriptures, and the naysayers are forced to retreat. For instance, the Bible mentions a people called the Hittites dozens of times. Did they exist? It wasn’t until the early twentieth century that concrete evidence was unearthed confirming not only their existence but their empire’s great power.

The Bible insists upon its divine authorship.

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God [literally, it is God-breathed], and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Tim. 3:16).

Those who gave it to us wrote under the supervision of the Spirit of God, insuring its accuracy.

“Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (II Pet. 1:21), so what they wrote is completely reliable and trustworthy.

We can be assured this is so regarding what we’re told of the life of Christ. Luke, one of the four Gospel writers, was both a medical doctor and a careful historian. When he investigated, and reported the story of the earthly life of the Lord Jesus to a man named Theophilus (likely a Roman official), he began the record with these words:

“Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect [complete] understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed” (Lk. 1:1-4).

Katherine Hankey (1834-1911) believed the record of the Gospels. And as she begins Tell Me the Old, Old Story, she reported she was speaking of herself as “weak and weary,” alluding to her own illness and physical struggles.

CH-1) Tell me the old, old story of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.
Tell me the story simply, as to a little child,
For I am weak and weary, and helpless and defiled.

Tell me the old, old story,
Tell me the old, old story,
Tell me the old, old story,
Of Jesus and His love.

CH-2) Tell me the story slowly, that I may take it in,
That wonderful redemption, God’s remedy for sin.
Tell me the story often, for I forget so soon;
The early dew of morning has passed away at noon.

CH-4) Tell me the same old story when you have cause to fear
That this world’s empty glory is costing me too dear.
Yes, and when that world’s glory is dawning on my soul,
Tell me the old, old story: “Christ Jesus makes thee whole.”

Questions:
1) Why does the gospel story need to be told “simply,” “slowly,” and “often”?

2) What are the basics of the gospel that you would be ready to share with others?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | June 4, 2018

Father, I Stretch My Hands to 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 Wesley (b. Dec. 18, 1707; d. Mar. 29, 1788)
Music: Naomi, by Hans G. Nägeli (b. May 26, 1773; d. Dec. 26, 1836)

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

Note: Wesley called the present hymn “A Prayer for Faith”–referring to saving faith. And since reaching out to God indicates a certain level of faith and hope, it’s perhaps like the man in Scripture who cries, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mk. 9:24).

The numbers vary greatly, depending on how the count is made, but beggars are a fact of life, particularly in the larger cities of the world. One writer describes Calcutta as “a city of gods and beggars. And it’s not just a problem “over there.” While Jakarta has approximately twenty-eight thousand of them, it’s claimed New York City has sixty thousand.

Around the globe there are millions living on the streets, daily looking for a handout of one kind or another. The term panhandler is sometimes used, suggesting that the arm reaching out for something resembles the handle of a pot. (Rather a demeaning term.) Many countries have established laws against begging. In Canada, the Safe Streets Act is designed at least to protect pedestrians from aggressive and abusive begging.

It’s common for some to be critical, blaming the beggars they see for sheer laziness, an unwillingness to get a job and work for their livelihood. But the issues involved are more complex than that, and not easily resolved. Some Christian ministries seek to help those living on the streets, providing food and shelter. But whether we give something to those begging or not, they deserve to be treated with respect, as individuals. God loves them, and the Lord Jesus died to save the down-and-outers as well as the up-and-outers.

And consider that believers too are often hoping for a handout–or a hand up–from the Lord (something He invites, Phil. 4:6, 19). The words of the late author and British Bible teacher Guy King are open to misinterpretation, but they are striking. He once wrote of Christians, “What lucky beggars we are!”

Especially in the Old Testament, we read of the custom for those who are praying to raise their hands to God. It was a symbolic way of showing the attitude of the heart, usually regarding one of two things: either a desire to give praise to God, or to receive a blessing or help from God.

There is no one posture for prayer mandated by Scripture. Whether we sit, stand or kneel, whether we fold our hands or raise them, is not a magic formula guaranteeing God will hear us. But as long as it’s not merely an empty ritual, there’s meaning in raising the hands as though offering up to God our gift of praise and thanksgiving. Or lifting empty hands to Him, asking Him to fill them with His loving provision.

Prayers to give praise:
“Solomon stood…and spread out his hands toward heaven; and he said: ‘Lord God of Israel, there is no God in heaven above or on earth below like You’” (I Kgs. 8:22-23). “Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You. Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name” (Ps. 63:3-4). “Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless [or praise] the Lord” (Ps. 134:2).

Prayers to receive God’s blessing or help:
“Hear the voice of my supplications when I cry to You, when I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary. Do not take me away with the wicked and with the workers of iniquity” (Ps. 28:2-3). “Lord, I cry out to You; make haste to me! Give ear to my voice when I cry out to You. Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice” (Ps. 141:1-2).

It’s in the latter sense that hymn writer Charles Wesley published a song in 1741 called Father, I Stretch My Hands to Thee. He pictures the sinner seeking God’s grace and forgiveness, and lifting his hands symbolically to receive it.

CH-1) Father, I stretch my hands to Thee,
No other help I know;
If Thou withdraw Thyself from me,
Ah! whither shall I go?

CH-2) What did Thine only Son endure,
Before I drew my breath?
What pain, what labour, to secure
My soul from endless death!

CH-5) Author of faith, to Thee I lift
My weary, longing eyes:
O let me now receive that gift!
My soul without it dies!

CH-6) The worst of sinners would rejoice,
Could they but see Thy face:
O let me hear Thy quickening voice,
And taste Thy pardoning grace.

Questions:
1) What do you do when you come upon a beggar in the street?

2) Is there anything your church could do to minister to those living in the streets?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | May 30, 2018

Trust and Obey

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 Henry Sammis (b. July 6, 1846; d. June 12, 1919)
Music: Daniel Brink Towner (b. Apr. 5, 1850; d. Oct. 3, 1919)

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

Note: John Sammis was a successful American business man who later became the secretary of the YMCA. Then, after training, he became a Presbyterian pastor, and a Bible college instructor.

Did you ever try to lift too heavy a load, and end up spraining your back? Or pile a little too much on a shelf, only to have it collapse and cause damage to whatever was below? With a wisdom, born of experience we recognize there must be certain limitations in such things. And the decisions involved are common to everyday life.

This is also a factor faced many times by editors of our hymn books. How much is too much? First there is the decision of which songs to include to make the volume widely useful. But there’s another complication especially with our older hymns. It’s not uncommon for the original versions of many to contain a dozen stanzas (or verses), in some cases twice that. Editing is needed at that level too.

Few congregations today would be interested in singing all thirty-three original stanzas of the hymn Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness, or the nineteen stanzas of The Sands of Time Are Sinking. And to include many songs of that length would soon fill the book and leave no room for others it seems worthwhile to include.

Editorial choices and decisions must be made. Today, most hymns and gospel songs are limited to three or four stanzas–or, if they’re very short, perhaps a couple more. But in the process, what has been left behind? Perhaps we would not agree with the selections made.

Here’s a beautiful stanza of Fairest Lord Jesus that many hymnals leave out:

All fairest beauty, heavenly and earthly,
Wondrously, Jesus, is found in Thee;
None can be nearer, fairer or dearer,
Than Thou, my Saviour, art to me.

Or what about the ninth stanza of My God, How wonderful Thou Art, by Frederick Faber? There is holy passion  in these wonderful words that fit the scene in Revelation 5:11-14:

Father of Jesus, love’s Reward!
What rapture it will be,
Prostrate before Thy throne to lie,
And gaze and gaze on Thee!

And here’s one from Showers of Blessing, seldom included in hymnals, though it seems critical to the message of the song. The blessing of God rests on those who trust and obey Him.

There shall be showers of blessing,
If we but trust and obey;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
If we let God have His way.

Occasionally hymns have additions made by another author. Sarah Adams gave us Nearer, My God, to Thee in 1841. Some years after it was published, Edward Bickersteth added a stanza that beautifully completes the description of our earthly pilgrimage.

There in my Father’s home, safe and at rest,
There in my Saviour’s love, perfectly blest;
Age after age to be, nearer my God to Thee.
Nearer, my God, to Thee, / Nearer to Thee.

Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah is similarly deprived, in some books, of the original’s ending of our pilgrim journey:

Musing on my habitation,
Musing on my heav’nly home,
Fills my soul with holy longings:
Come, my Jesus, quickly come;
Vanity is all I see;
Lord, I long to be with Thee!

These and other examples came to mind when I was writing an article on the gospel song Trust and Obey. American pastor John Sammis wrote it in 1887. The song has five stanzas, but recent hymnals often reduce it to three or four, leaving out the following third stanza:

CH-1) When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

CH-3) Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief nor a loss, not a frown nor a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey.

Faith and obedience are inseparably linked in the believer’s life. The book of Hebrews tells us, “By faith Abraham obeyed” (Heb. 11:8), and his obedience took him to a “Promised Land” he’d never seen before. Did he face burdens and sorrows, griefs and losses along the way? Yes. But the Lord richly blessed his obedient faith.

In contrast, the nation of Israel later failed in those two key qualities, faith and obedience. Zephaniah says, “She has not obeyed His voice…she has not trusted in the Lord” (Zeph. 3:2).

God calls for those two things from each of us. Scripture elsewhere speaks of “obedience to the faith [or “obedience inspired by faith,” Williams New Testament]” (Rom. 16:26). If we believe God’s Word, we’ll surely want to obey it and follow Him. A lack of trust will surely engender a lack of obedience. And the reverse is true. A lack of obedience will foster a lack of trust.

Questions:
1) Which of the two do you have the most trouble with: trusting God consistently, or obeying Him consistently?

2) What resources have you found that can help you trust and obey the Lord?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | May 28, 2018

He Is Near

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

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

Words: Horatius Bonar (b. Dec. 19, 1808; d. July 31, 1889)
Music: Menlo Park, by George Coles Stebbins (b. Feb. 26, 1846; d. Oct. 6, 1945)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Horatius Bonar)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Bonar was a Scottish pastor in the nineteenth century, and he was called “the prince of Scottish hymn writers.” He authored more than six hundred of them.

A public library, as the term suggests, is a library of volumes that’s open to the general public. Chetham’s Library, in Manchester, England, which opened in 1653, claims to be the first such facility in the English speaking world.

Now every city and most medium-sized towns have a public library. And what a treasure trove of enlightening information and recreational reading they are. Wander among the stacks and you’ll see volumes of history, science, fiction, culture, the arts, and religion, as well as instructional books on cooking, building, crafts and much more.

But what if knowledge could be even nearer at hand? What if a distillation of the library’s information could be brought into the home?

By the middle of the eighteenth century, multi-volume encyclopedias were being produced. The Encyclopædia Britannica has been around since 1768. Other similar sets of books have been published. And since the information sometimes becomes dated, many companies produce updated editions, or occasional supplements, to keep the information current. It was common in the twentieth century for families to have a set of encyclopedias in the home.

These were great assets in their time. But today technological advances have carried us far beyond that. I have beside me, as I type this, something far smaller than the computer I’m using. A device that is smaller than the palm of my hand. A smart phone. It gives me access to far more information than the set of encyclopedias our family used to own, or the public library a couple of blocks away.

I’m reminded of the old Spiritual that begins, “He’s got the whole world in His hands.” In an amazing way, we do that when we hold our phones. Information on movies and television, music, history, and calendars, notebooks of personal records, dictionaries–it’s all there. Want hear and see the news, read a book, watch a movie, or listen to an old radio program from the 1940’s, you can do that too. The whole world is now near at hand–in fact even things beyond this world and out into the surrounding universe.

But the song just mentioned isn’t about phones, It’s about God. He’s the One who holds the whole of creation in His hands. And His nearness to us is spoken of in the Bible many times. “Where can I go from Your Spirit?” asks the psalmist, “Or where can I flee from Your presence?” (Ps. 139:7). “He is not far from each one of us,” says Paul to the philosophers of Athens. And to believers, “He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Heb. 13:5). God is near to all who will reach out to Him in faith.

There are many other mentions of His closeness to human beings. Here are some: Gen. 18:15; Exod. 33:14; Deut. 20:1; Isa. 43:2; Matt. 18:20; 28:20.

But there’s another aspect of the Lord’s nearness that we need to consider. Christ’s return is near. Christians have His spiritual presence with us now. But one day the Lord Jesus is going to return from heaven, in His glory, to reign over the earth (Acts 1:11; Rev. 11:16cf. Isa. 9:6-7).

James tells us: “The coming of the Lord is at hand….Behold, the Judge is standing at the door” (Jas. 5:8-9). “For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry” (Heb. 10:37).

That’s the theme of a song called He Is Near, by Horatius Bonar. He speaks of the prophesied return of the Lord Jesus Christ, an event which he was convinced could well be very near, in his own day.

CH-1) I know not when the Lord will come,
Or at what hour He may appear,
Whether at midnight or at morn,
Or at what season of the year.

I only know that He is near,
And that His voice I soon shall hear.
I only know that He is near,
And that His voice I soon shall hear.

CH-4) I do not think it can be long,
Till in His glory He appear;
And yet I dare not name the day,
Nor fix the solemn advent year.

I only know that He is near,
And that His voice I soon shall hear.
I only know that He is near,
And that His voice I soon shall hear.

Questions:
1) How will the fact that the Lord may return very soon affect your life and conduct today?

2) What is your favourite hymn about the second coming or about heaven?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Horatius Bonar)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | May 23, 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: Scottish author Elizabeth Clephane wrote this lovely hymn about taking her own stand at the cross–an expression of her faith in the Saviour. Her father was the local sheriff of a town near Edinburgh. And her song, Beneath the Cross of Jesus, was written in 1868 and published posthumously four years later. She also gave us the song The Ninety and Nine.

Taking a stand is an expression we see in the news sometimes. He took a stand on voter rights; she takes a stand on equal pay for equal work. It means to have convictions, to take a firm position on what you believe, and hold your ground.

President Abraham Lincoln said, “Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.” And he said in a speech, “I ask you to stand by me so long as I stand by it [referring to the American flag].” Auto maker Lee Iacocca said, “To succeed today you have to set priorities, decide what you stand for.” And there’s this challenging exhortation from author H. G. Wells: “If you fell down yesterday, stand up today.”

The Bible uses the expression to indicate how we should respond to the challenges of life.

¤ We are to “watch [be on guard], stand fast [or firm] in the faith [the teachings of God’s Word], be brave, be strong” (I Cor. 16:13).

¤ And we should “put on the whole armour of God, that [we] may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11).

¤ And “stand fast [firm] in the Lord [i.e. with His help]” (Phil. 4:1).

One of the most difficult times to do that was surely when Christ was seized, falsely accused and crucified. His followers had seen His wonderful power. Why couldn’t He do something to stop His enemies? We read that “all the disciples forsook Him and fled” (Matt. 26:56). They went into hiding–though, to his credit, John later came back and appeared at the cross with Jesus’ mother (Jn. 19:26-27).

But there were at least four followers who apparently remained near the cross (Jn. 19:25). Remarkably, they were all women, and three of them were named Mary. There was Jesus’ mother Mary, with her unnamed sister, Mary the wife of Clopas (also called Cleopas), and Mary Magdalene.

Afterward, Mary from Magdala had a remarkable meeting with the resurrected Christ (Jn. 20:11-18). Cleopas was journeying back to his home in the town of Emmaus with an unnamed companion when they both met and conversed with the risen Saviour (Lk. 24:13-32). It’s not impossible that the other person with Cleopas was his wife Mary. As for the mother of Jesus, the Lord commended her to the care of John, and we see them both, later, in the upper room, waiting for the new ministry of the Holy Spirit to begin (Acts 1:8, 13-14).

All three of these women showed great courage, even in their time of grief. They took a stand near the cross and testified to their loyalty to Christ, and their deep love for Him. They were later rewarded with a fuller understanding of what had happened.

As to the hymn, the author’s description of the cross as a “place where heaven’s love and heaven’s justice meet” is wonderful. That is the gospel: that God sent His Son, in love, to pay sin’s penalty for us, in order to satisfy His holy justice. Now through faith in Christ, we can be forgiven and saved eternally. And Clephane adds to this, in another stanza, “two wonders”: God’s redeeming love and our unworthiness of it.

Note: the word “fain” means gladly, willingly. A “trysting place” is an appointed meeting place. And the “holy patriarch” is Jacob. Clephane is referring to his dream out in the wilderness (Gen. 28:10-12). Here are three of the five stanzas found on the Cyber Hymnal. Early publications of the hymn ended stanza four with “my own worthlessness.” The word “unworthiness” is infinitely better.

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-2) O safe and happy shelter,
O refuge tried and sweet,
O trysting place where heaven’s love
And heaven’s justice meet!
As to the holy patriarch
That wondrous dream was giv’n
So seems my Saviour’s cross to me,
A ladder up to heav’n.

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) Why is it wrong to describe ourselves as “worthless” (the original word used)? (What shows us we are not worthless to God?)

2) What does it mean to say we should live the Christian life in the shadow of the cross?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | May 21, 2018

Happy in the Love 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: Mary Jane (“Jennie”) Bain Wilson (b. Nov. 13, 1856; d. Sept. 3, 1913)
Music: Joseph Lincoln Hall (b. Nov. 4, 1866; d. Nov. 29, 1930)

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

Note: As noted below, Jennie Wilson was disabled, and confined to a wheelchair from the age of four. She educated herself at home, through extensive reading, and went on to write 2,200 poems, many of which became gospel songs. (As of this date, the Cyber Hymnal lists 697 of them.)

Salesmen do it all the time; they exaggerate the benefits of their products. If it’s an obvious fantasy, we perhaps can accept it for what it is, and be entertained. But the closer the overstatement is to reality, the more deceptive it can be, and the more dishonest it seems.

A television commercial shows a car ploughing through a foot of snow with ease, or climbing the rocky side of a mountain. And we know it can’t. Yet advertising experts recommend this kind of puffery, asserting such commercials will be more memorable, and bring more sales.

What advertisers rarely do is face the negatives. That casino or lottery ad will never admit that almost all who gamble their hard-earned money will be losers. That shiny new car will get dirty, and eventually begin to rust. It will break down, and need expensive repairs. And that face cream will, in the end, not be able to reverse the unsettling ravages of age.

In the spiritual realm there can be a false overselling of the gospel. It may be well meaning, but it claims more than it can deliver. The notion that if you come to Jesus all your troubles will be over, that you can be happy, healthy, and wealthy all the time? No, that’s not true. The Word of God assures the Christian of new resources from the Lord to deal with the trials of life, but it doesn’t suggest an end to all pain and suffering this side of eternity.

Paul “learned” to handle both life’s abundance and its privation, by God’s grace (Phil. 4:11-13), and he says the Lord can do the same for us (vs. 6-7, 19). God promises, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect [fulfilled, shown to fullest effect] in [your] weakness” (II Cor. 12:9).

In 1897 Happy in the Love of Jesus was published, a simple gospel song with a catchy tune. The words were written by Jennie Wilson. And first we must deal with that word “happy,” as it’s used thirty-two times in the song (counting the refrains).

Some of the modern Bible versions substitute happy in place of the word blessed–found hundreds of times in the Scriptures. But are the two synonymous? Happiness tends to be more situational, an emotional reaction to happenings. But to be supremely blessed of God has both more depth in the soul and more breadth in the life. It engenders inner joy and contentment.

In any event, happiness is what Wilson is telling us about. The stanzas are fine, as they speak of the believer’s pilgrimage to Zion (the heavenly city, Heb. 12:22).

CH-1) Home to Zion we are bound,
Happy in the love of Jesus,
Peace abiding we have found,
Happy in the love of Jesus.

CH-2) Trusting we will forward go,
Happy in the love of Jesus,
Treading changeful paths below,
Happy in the love of Jesus.

CH-4) Soon we’ll reach the homeland fair,
Happy in the love of Jesus,
And shall dwell forever there,
Happy in the love of Jesus.

There’s certainly tremendous blessing, great joy, and contentment, found in contemplating that the Lord Jesus loved us enough to die for our sins (Gal. 2:20), and to realize that nothing is able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through faith in Christ (Rom. 8:31-39).

But the refrain’s absolute statements are concerning to me.

Happy, happy,
Singing all the way,
Happy all the day;
Happy, happy,
Happy in the love of Jesus.

All the way? All the day? No. And ironically, Wilson herself didn’t have that experience. She was confined to a wheelchair from the age of four, and a couple of photographs we have of her around the age of fifty show an unsmiling woman who seems well aware of the heavy burdens of life. Did she smile sometimes? Reportedly she certainly did. But it’s that “all” that does not fit life’s experiences, for Christians as well as non-Christians. It’s an oversell. Slightly better might be:

Singing on the way,
Happy day by day.

Even Christ Himself wasn’t happy all the time (Isa. 53:3; Mk. 3:5; 14:33; Lk. 19:41; Jn. 11:35). But through life’s journey the believer has access to the throne of God, through Christ, where we can “obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:14-16).

Questions:
1) What is your own view of happiness, and whether any unhappiness in a Christian’s life is somehow a sin, or shows we are out of step with the Lord?

2) Can you think of other hymns or choruses that seem to misrepresent the Christian life in this way?

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

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