Posted by: rcottrill | July 24, 2017

Somebody Did a Golden Deed

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 Ralston Clements (b. Nov. 28, 1868; d. Jan. 1, 1946)
Music: Winfield Scott Weeden (b. Mar. 29, 1847; d. July 31, 1908)

Links:
Words for the Pilgrim Way (John Clements)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: The Clements family came to America from Ireland in 1870, and young John was saved at eighteen, through the ministry of evangelist Dwight L. Moody. Though working in the wholesale grocery business for awhile, he later went on to serve as a Bible college president. Mr. Clements, a friend of Fanny Crosby’s, also wrote thousands of gospel songs. Though most are forgotten today, Jesus Leads, and No Night There are still sung.

In the early days of human history, Cain rose up and killed his brother in jealous anger. Later he was confronted by the Lord who asked, “Where is Abel your brother?” Cain lied and said he didn’t know, retorting, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4:8-9). That’s a good question. Are we responsible to care for others around us?

The answer is, “Yes.” Brothers, and sisters, and other family members, certainly. Also friends and neighbours. But we see from Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:29-37) that the term “neighbour” should be defined broadly. It is anyone in the whole human family that I have a means and occasion for helping. We cannot help everyone, of course, but we can seize opportunities to do what we can.

The saying, “A friend in need is a friend indeed,” has been interpreted several ways. It seems most likely to mean that a friend [when you are] in need is a friend indeed [a true friend]. The axiom is very old. In the third century BC, poet Quintus Ennius framed it with a Latin proverb that translates: “A sure friend is known when [you are] in difficulty.” We need friends like that–and so does everyone.

For the Christian, love is to be a reflection and extension of Christ’s love for us.

“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 His justice] for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (I Jn. 4:10-11).

And that love and kindness should freely cross lines of prejudice and political correctness.

During the First World War British nurse Edith Cavell saved hundreds of lives of both Allied and German soldiers, without discrimination, saying “Patriotism is not enough, I must have no hate in my heart….I can’t stop while there are lives to be saved.” Sadly, she was captured and shot by a German firing squad, awakening worldwide outrage. But she is remembered still as a shining embodiment of Christian love.

Another example is Golden Deed International, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children. “We provide children with the tools they need to help them grow and develop.” And there are many charitable organizations that provide us with opportunities to help others in a practical way, doing “golden deeds” for people we likely will never meet in person.

A golden deed is a noble and unselfish act of love and kindness. There are at least a couple of gospel songs that make use of the term. One is A Beautiful Life (“Each day I’ll do a golden deed…”), written by William Matthew Golding (1874-1934) who, amazingly, wrote most of his songs while serving an eight-year sentence in a state penitentiary.

Another is today’s song, created by John Clements, a lesser known selection of his, published in 1901. Though not used much now, it was extremely popular at the turn of the twentieth century. The second line seems to mean, “Proving himself a friend [to me] in [my] need.”

CH-1) Somebody did a golden deed,
Proving himself a friend in need;
Somebody sang a cheerful song,
Bright’ning the sky the whole day long.

Was that somebody you?
Was that somebody you?

CH-2) Somebody thought ’tis sweet to live,
Willingly said, “I’m glad to give;”
Somebody fought a valiant fight,
Bravely he lived to shield the right.

CH-3) Somebody made a loving gift,
Cheerfully tried a load to lift;
Somebody told the love of Christ,
Told how His will was sacrificed.

Questions:
1) What is the higher purpose of doing good deeds (Matt. 5:16)?

2) What “golden deeds” have you been able to do this past week? (And with what result?)

Links:
Words for the Pilgrim Way (John Clements)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | July 21, 2017

People Need the Lord

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: Greg Nelson (b. Sept. 10, 1948); and Phill McHugh (b. _____, 1951)
Music: Greg Nelson and Phill McHugh

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

Note: Nelson and McHugh are contemporary hymn writers who’ve produced songs both separately and as a team. Greg Nelson is also a music producer who has produced recordings for both Christian and theatrical artists.

Truth is a word we use to describe things that conform to reality, things that are factual, accurate and honest. Its opposite is error, falsehood or deceit.

Truth can often be verified, or error revealed, by a study of the evidence. But there is a kind of truth that is assumed to be self-evident. A statement that seems so obviously true we hardly need to bother checking it is called a truism. Here are a few examples of truisms.

Life is difficult.
Everything happens for a reason.
All bachelors are unmarried.
Patience is a virtue.
“All that glisters [i.e. glitters] is not gold” (from Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice).

But there is an assumed truism in America’s Declaration of Independence that can be challenged. “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” it begins, “that all men are created equal.” This is obviously true, said the founding fathers: all men are created equal. Yet they did not accept it as true in a practical sense. What of the growing number of slaves back then? Thomas Jefferson himself was a slave owner, and the general view was that the Africans were an inferior race, beneath their white masters.

The Bible is in a truth category all its own, since it is, in its entirety, the inspired and trustworthy Word of God (II Tim. 3:16). “The testimony of the Lord is sure” (Ps. 19:7). “Every word of God is pure [tested and found true]” (Ps. 30:5). “The word of God…lives and abides forever” (I Pet. 1:23). “Your word is truth,” said Jesus to His heavenly Father (Jn. 17:17).

When He was examined by Pontius Pilate, the Lord said, “Everyone who is of the truth [a true believer] hears [and heeds] My voice” (Jn. 18:37). To which the governor replied, likely with a scornful, sarcastic tone, “What is truth?” (vs. 38). Yet the One who is the very embodiment of truth stood before Him. “I am…the truth,” He told His disciples (Jn. 14:6). “Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (Jn. 1:17).

To return to that statement from the Declaration of Independence, yes, all human beings are equal in the sight of God. We all descended from Adam, a unique creation of God, and all are loved by God. Sadly, we’re equal in a darker sense too. We all share the corruption caused by Adam’s sin (Rom. 3:23). We all face an eternal death sentence as a result, but God has provided a remedy for all who’ll receive it (Rom. 6:23).

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him [Christ] the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6; cf. Jn. 3:16).

Certainly for Bible-believing Christians, it has reached the level of a truism that people–all people everywhere–need the Lord. With the psalmist we can only cry, “I am poor and needy; make haste to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer” (Ps. 70:5; cf. Acts 4:12).

Which brings us to the present song. Greg Nelson and Phill McHugh were trying create a new song one day in 1983. But, short on ideas, they decided to take a break for lunch.

Later, seated in a restaurant, they were approached by a waitress. As she smiled at them, they realized she was making an effort to look cheerful, but really wasn’t. There was a kind of emptiness in her eyes and she seemed sad and lonely. “She needs the Lord,” the men said to each other.

And as they looked around the restaurant, they saw other anxious, careworn, faces devoid of hope. The thought came to them both, “People need the Lord,” and we need to write about that. That afternoon, they produced an eloquent gospel song on the theme that begins:

Ev’ry day they pass me by, I can see it in their eye;
Empty people filled with care, headed who knows where.
On they go through private pain, living fear to fear.
Laughter hides the silent cries only Jesus hears.
People need the Lord.

Questions:
1) What evidence do you see around you that “people need the Lord”?

2) What are you doing–or what could you do–to help them find Him?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | July 19, 2017

Lord, It Belongs Not to My 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: Richard Baxter (b. Nov. 12, 1615; d. Dec. 8, 1691)
Music: Evan, by William Henry Havergal (b. Jan. 18, 1793; d. Apr. 19, 1870)

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

Note: In Baxter’s Poetical Fragments, this hymn is entitled “The Covenant and Confidence of Faith.” He noted, “This covenant, my dear wife, in her former sickness, subscribed with a cheerful will.” The hymn was sung to her in her last illness.

Either…or… The two words frame a choice. It may be a choice of little consequence, such as which pair of socks to wear that day, or which flavour of ice cream to have. But there are decisions that are clearly more important. Which college to attend, which job to take, which person to marry.

And there are those on our planet who face, almost every day, the effects of a choice more critical still, laying their lives on the line for the work or cause they’ve committed to. In military conflicts, in law enforcement, in fire fighting, life threatening situations are faced many times. The dedication of the men and women involved is heroic, and it needs our appreciation and support.

Something that’s less in the daily news, but just as significant, in some countries today Christians face persecution for their faith in Christ. This can take the form of shunning by family and friends, the loss of a job or refusal of community services, and beyond that, imprisonment, torture, and even death. It has been so since the beginning. Many believers, in the early church, were persecuted and killed because they were followers of Christ.

Polycarp (circa AD 69-155), is an example. Said to be a disciple of the Apostle John, he became the bishop of the church at Smyrna. But he was burned at the stake for refusing to burn incense in worship of the emperor–who claimed to be a god. Before his death, Polycarp boldly bore witness to his faith in the following way.

“Eighty and six years I have served Him [the Lord], and He has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King and Saviour? You threaten me with a fire that burns for a season, and after a little while is quenched; but you are ignorant of the fire of everlasting punishment that is prepared for the wicked.”

The Apostle Paul understood the opposition Christians face. From a Roman prison cell he wrote:

“[I know] according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:20-21).

“Whether by life or by death”–either…or, I’m devoted to Christ. Centuries later, it was the same for English clergyman Richard Baxter. A deeply spiritual man, he was also a prolific author and a devoted pastor. He preached and wrote without compromise, speaking out with holy boldness against wrongs.

On one occasion he was brought to trial on the false charge of “libeling the church.” When the corrupt Chief Justice taunted him with, “Richard, I see the rogue in thy face,” Baxter retorted, “I had not known before that my face was a mirror!”

As a result of this trial Baxter spent eighteen months in prison. Afterward, though warned not to preach, he continued as before. But he “preached as never sure to preach again.” And he has given us a beautiful hymn, based on the words of Paul quoted above.

CH-1) Lord, it belongs not to my care
Whether I die or live;
To love and serve Thee is my share,
And this Thy grace must give.

CH-2) If life be long, I will be glad,
That I may long obey;
If short, yet why should I be sad
To welcome endless day?

CH-3) Christ leads me through no darker rooms
Than He went through before;
He that unto God’s kingdom comes
Must enter by this door.

Of the prospect of heaven Baxter’s hymn says:

CH-5) Then I shall end my sad complaints
And weary sinful days,
And join with the triumphant saints
That sing my Saviour’s praise.

CH-6) My knowledge of that life is small,
The eye of faith is dim;
But ’tis enough that Christ knows all,
And I shall be with Him.

Questions:
1) Why are Christians ready and willing to die when faced with the threat of death?

2) How should the possibility of opposition or persecution affect our daily lives?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | July 17, 2017

If You Cannot on the Ocean

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: Ellen Maria Huntington Gates (b. Aug. 12, 1835; d. Oct. 22, 1920)
Music: Beecher, by John Zundel (b. Dec. 10, 1815; d. July ___, 1882)

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

Note: Ellen Gates was the author of several popular pieces in the American Mission and Sunday School hymn books. Of these several have passed from those books into Sankey’s Sacred Songs and Solos.

The saying, “If you can dream it, you can do it” was coined by Tom Fitzgerald, an employee of Walt Disney, for a ride at the Epcot Center theme park. Similar maxims have been around for a long time, exhilarating expressions of vision and aspiration. But a moment’s thought will show it’s ridiculous. You can dream you’ll be able to fly like Superman, but don’t put on tights and a cape and try it! Not every dream can become a reality.

God is infinite, we’re not. Not even close. We are finite creatures, limited–confined and restricted–by certain boundaries. Time and space both limit us. We have only a little time allotted to us on this earth, and we are confined to one geographical spot at a time. We can’t be everywhere at once. Our mental and physical powers are finite too. And human laws and conventions tend to restrict us further.

However, having recognized the boundaries we live within, we must not abandon either dreaming or doing. Sometimes limitations become an excuse for abdicating responsibility. Because some cannot do all that’s required, they do nothing. Because the job looks extremely difficult, they resign themselves to sitting, soaking and souring. That will not do.

Great things have been accomplished by men and women who dared both to dream and to do. And small contributions count too, they contribute to the whole (cf. Lk. 21:1-4). Clergyman and author Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909) said it well.

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”

An incident in the Gospels is pertinent (Mk. 14:3-9). An unnamed woman anointed Jesus’ feet with costly oil. Some complained that was a waste, that the oil should have been sold and the money given to the poor. But the Lord called what she did “a good work,” adding, “She has done what she could” (Mk. 14:8). “I can do something,” said Hale, and she did that.

Christian leader John Wesley (1703-1791) put it even more forcefully:

“Do all the good you can.
By all the means you can.
In all the ways you can.
In all the places you can.
At all the times you can.
To all the people you can.
As long as ever you can.”

One afternoon in the winter of 1860, Ellen Huntington Gates (1835-1920) gazed through the window of her home, watching the falling snow. She had written a number of poems and hymns. And she thought of an idea for another, along the lines of what’s being discussed here. Taking a slate, she jotted down the words as they came to her, entitling the result Your Mission.

She said later, “The poem was only a simple little thing, but somehow I had a presentiment that it had wings, and would fly into sorrowful hearts, uplifting and strengthening them.” Though not a true hymn, it does present a biblical principle: that even those who cannot accomplish the big things can contribute something of value to a good cause. Each stanza describes some large task we perhaps cannot do as individuals, and what we might be able to do to contribute.

CH-1) If you cannot, on the ocean,
Sail among the swiftest fleet,
Rocking on the highest billows,
Laughing at the storms you meet,
You can stand among the sailors,
Anchored yet within the bay,
You can lend a hand to help them,
As they launch their boats away.

CH-2) If you are too weak to journey
Up the mountain steep and high,
You can stand within the valley,
While the multitudes go by;
You can chant in happy measure,
As they slowly pass along;
Though they may forget the singer,
They will not forget the song.

CH-3) If you have not gold and silver
Ever ready to command;
If you cannot toward the needy
Reach an ever open hand;
You can visit the afflicted,
O’er the erring you can weep;
You can be a true disciple,
Sitting at the Saviour’s feet.

As to those “wings” Mrs. Gates mentioned, in February of 1865 there was a meeting of the Christian Commission, organized to care for wounded and sick soldiers of the Civil War. During the proceedings, gospel musician Philip Phillips sang Ellen Gates’s song. President Lincoln who was  present was so touched by it he asked that it be sung again. For his part, Phillips was so blessed by the response he decided to leave other business endeavours and focus full time on a music ministry for the Lord. His example later inspired soloist Ira Sankey to do the same, and Sankey went on to aid Dwight Moody in his evangelistic work on both sides of the Atlantic.

Questions:
1) What small things have you done lately that could help a larger cause?

2) What could you do this week that the Lord might use for His glory?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | July 14, 2017

I Have Found a Hiding Place

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

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

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

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

Note: Charles Weigle was an American evangelist and hymn writer who wrote more than a thousand songs. He wrote Living for Jesus (“Living for Jesus, O what peace!”) and No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus (for which, years ago, there were more radio requests to hear this song than any other). Teaming with Gladys Muller, Weigle also wrote a fine gospel song entitled I Sing of Thee. Today’s song was also popular a generation or so ago.

Many know the story of Anne Frank (1929-1945), a Jewish girl who went into hiding with her family, in Amsterdam, during the Nazi occupation. They were eventually discovered, arrested by the Gestapo, and sent to a concentration camp. Anne’s father Otto was the only member of the family who survived the war. Anne died, likely of typhus, in Bergen-Belsen, at the age of fifteen.

The two years before that were spent in some rooms concealed behind a bookcase in the building where her father worked. There is a certain irony in that. A bookcase provided the entry to their hiding place, and it was a book, later translated into sixty languages, that made Anne Frank world famous. Aspiring to be a journalist in years to come, she began keeping a diary of their time in concealment.

It is those insightful pages that were published posthumously as The Secret Annex (now titled The Diary of Anne Frank). In it she wrote, “I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And that’s why I’m so grateful to God for having given me this gift [the diary, a birthday gift].”

There are many unlikely heroes of the war who protected the Jews or helped them escape. Oscar Schindler was a Nazi business man who, in spite of his political connections, risked his life to save twelve hundred of Jewish people.

The Christian family of Corrie ten Boom loved the Jewish people, hid many of them in a secret room, and helped them escape. Corrie and her sister Betsie were eventually sent to the Ravensbruck camp. Corrie survived the horrors of the war but Betsie did not. Before she died she said to her sister, “There is no pit so deep that He [God] is not deeper still.” There is great truth there. The ultimate hiding place for God’s children is God Himself.

“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut. 33:27). “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust’” (Ps. 91:2).

Sometimes, in answer to prayer, God delivers us from our troubles and trials. Other times, He gives us the grace to go through them and endure them (II Cor. 12:7-10).

Charles Weigle was sitting on his front porch in Sebring, Florida, one day in 1942. He started thinking about all the different names and titles for Christ found in the Bible. He’s called the Saviour, the Lamb of God, the Lord, our great High Priest, and dozens more meaningful things. Charles Weigle began with a refrain that says:

Jesus, Rock of Ages, let me hide in Thee;
Jesus, Rose of Sharon, sweet Thou art to me;
Lily of the Valley, Bright and Morning Star,
Fairest of ten thousand to my soul.

Later, a friend urged him to add some stanzas and make it a full song. He took the names mentioned in the refrain and expanded on them in the rest of the piece, beginning with the Rock, a Bible title used many times.

¤ He is “the Rock of my salvation” (II Sam. 22:47)

¤ “My rock of refuge….my rock and my fortress” (Ps. 31:2-3)

¤ “A refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat” (Isa. 25:4)

¤ “The Lord is everlasting strength”–which could be rendered, “the Lord is [my] Rock of Ages” (Isa. 26:4).

The song begins:

1) I have found a hiding place when sore distressed,
Jesus, Rock of Ages strong and true;
In a weary land I in His shadow rest,
He is my strength in all that I do.

Questions:
1) What are the characteristics of a large rock, or rocky cliff, that make it a helpful picture of Christ?

2) What name or title of Christ has special meaning for you?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | July 12, 2017

He Was Found Worthy

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: (source unknown)
Music: and old melody of unknown origin, arranged in 1946 by Charles Frederick Weigle (b. Nov. 20, 1871; d. Dec. 3:1966)

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

Note: In the nineteenth century, this song appeared. It’s origin is unknown. It sounds very much like it might have been a spiritual, an old slave song passed on orally over the years. The words are simple, yet profound and powerful. One version I saw has six stanzas, another uses only four. The information in Hymnary.org is confusing. They credit someone named J. J. Smith as the author of the words, yet the printed version they include says the text is anonymous.

I went to YouTube to see if I could find an audio version there. A recording labeled “1960’s Jamaica gospel,” utterly appalled me. The singers hurried through the song, using a bouncy rinky-tink rhythm. Please! This is a song that should be rendered slowly and quietly, with a deep sense of awe and reverence.

Yes, there is joy in recognition of Christ’s worth. But “Oh, the bleeding Lamb!” (three times repeated) is an exclamation anguished adoration. That He would give His life upon the cross to ransom and rescue sinners from eternal condemnation should humble and hush our hearts before Him. Weigle had the right idea. In his arrangement he uses a fermata (a sustained note) three times, and calls for a retardondo, a gradual slowing of the tempo further, near the end.

The bruised head and heel mentioned in the second stanza is an early prophecy of Christ’s defeat of Satan (Gen. 3:15). Where Adam failed, Christ succeeded, and was victorious over the devil.

It’s a word in use seven centuries ago, but in Old English it was weorþful, which includes a letter called a thorn (þ), later replaced with th. But what does worthful (or worthy) mean? It describes a person who has sufficient character, merit, or ability to be deserving of some position, or be assigned some task.

Worthiness can also be attributed to individuals after the fact. In the early fourteenth century, Nine Worthies were selected from history, men who were deemed to be of exceptional character, courage and chivalry: three pagans (the Trojan warrior Hector, Alexander the Great, and Julius Caesar), three Israelites (Joshua, David, and Judas Maccabeus–from the time between the Testaments) and three professing allegiance to Christ (King Arthur, Charlemagne, and Godfrey of Bouillon).

A determination of worthiness also becomes a factor in more contemporary situations. When we vote for one candidate over another in an election, we are assigning worthiness. Whether this assessment proves to be justified by the words and actions of the individual in office, time will tell.

The same process takes place when a corporation hires a new employee. Resumés are received, references are contacted, and interviews are conducted, to determine who is worthy of taking the position. Something similar happens when researchers examine various products and brands being sold. For example, how is the title “car of the year” awarded. Specifications are checked, and car warranties, mileage claims, consumer satisfaction, and so on.

Worthiness is spoken of many times in the Bible. It becomes particularly significant in the Apostle John’s visions of future things recorded in the book of Revelation. John sees, in his vision, that God, on His heavenly throne, is holding a scroll sealed with seven seals (5:1). Scrolls of this kind were used as title deeds in the purchase of land. The agreement was written out, the scroll rolled up, and sealed with official seals (cf. Jer. 32:6-12).

In this case, the scroll is likely the title deed to the whole earth. And an angel asks the question, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and loose its seals?” (vs. 2). Who is qualified to claim sovereignty over the earth? At first, no one seems to meet the requirements, at which John is greatly upset (vs. 3-4).

But then, one of those around the throne says, ““Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root [or shoot] of David, has prevailed [conquered] to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals” (vs. 5)–both titles identifying Christ, who was from the tribe of Judah, and came from David’s family line (Matt. 1:1; cf. Rev. 22:16).

When Christ appears in John’s vision it is as “a Lamb as though it had been slain” (5:6). This image recalls the day when Christ is introduced by John the Baptist as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). As Conqueror over sin, death and the grave, He receives the scroll and heaven rejoices (Rev. 5:7-10). Their song is:

“You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (vs. 9).

1) When none was found to ransom me,
He was found worthy;
To set a world of sinners free,
He was found worthy.

Oh, the bleeding Lamb!
Oh, the bleeding lamb!
Oh, the bleeding Lamb!
He was found worthy.

2) To take the book and loose the seal,
He was found worthy;
To bruise the head that bruised His heel,
He was found worthy.

Questions:
1) Do you agree that this song should be sung with quiet reverence?

2) Why did God provide for our salvation?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | July 10, 2017

God’s Tomorrow

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 was a fine musician, and wrote hundreds of selections, including the familiar gospel song He Lives! His brother, Bentley DeForest Ackley (1872-1958), was also a gospel musician, who wrote many tunes for the texts of others (e.g. for James Rowe’s I Would Be Like Jesus).

It’s a saying whose source is unknown: “Plan your work and work your plan.” In other words, establish your priorities, and organize a schedule to reach your goal. Then, tackle the work according to your plan. Politicians and coaches have been heard saying it. And the book of Proverbs from about three thousand years ago gives us something similar:

“Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty” (Prov. 21:5, NLT).

Planning a course of action has value. The Lord Jesus said: “Which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it–lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him” (Lk. 14:28-29).

Living life in a totally random, disorganized way isn’t usually a recipe for success. Further, not being organized can add to our stress. As positive thinking guru, Norman Vincent Peale, observed, “Lack of system produces that ‘I’m swamped’ feeling.” Even in office work, a cluttered desk and a cluttered, disorganized mind will often go together, making it harder to get things done.

It’s good to prepare and get things organized. But that is only half of the story. Having a rigid plan that’s followed obsessively can be counter-productive too. We need to, as another saying puts it, take time to smell the roses. And sometimes the unexpected interruptions of our plans give us unique opportunities to help others. That’s why it’s useful to have a flexible plan that can be adjusted as needed.

We see that illustrated in Christ’s parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:30-35). No doubt the traveler had a plan for the day. Possibly he was a merchant, on his way somewhere to sell his wares, or conduct business of some kind. But along the road he came upon a severely wounded man who’d been robbed and left “half dead.”

The Samaritan could have said, “I’m too busy for this. And it’s not my affair.” But he didn’t. He saw the stranger as his “neighbour”–the point of Jesus’ story (Lk. 10:29, 36-37). He not only cleansed and bandaged the beaten man’s wounds. He took him on his donkey to an inn, asking the innkeeper to let him stay there as long as necessary, promising to pay whatever was owed the next time he passed that way. That is neighbourliness–and flexibility.

An unusual example of flexibility in the moment was experienced by pastor and hymn writer Alfred Henry Ackley. On one occasion in the late 1920’s, he was seated on the platform during the Rally Day program of his Sunday School, the kind of event often held in the fall to recognize teachers and other workers before the whole congregation, and get the program off to a good start.

Alfred Ackley knew what he was going to speak about later in the service–or, at least, he thought he did. But a phrase unconnected with that kept flashing into his mind, “God’s tomorrow…God’s tomorrow.” In short order he thought of line upon line of a new song. Feeling a sense of urgency about it, he left his seat, and went next door to the manse, where he quickly wrote out the words and music.

Then back to the church he went, and back to his seat on the platform. But when he rose to speak, he had a new theme. He spoke to those assembled about heaven, likely describing some of the changes we look forward to (cf. Rev. 21:4). As the song puts it, God’s tomorrow in heaven will be a day of gladness, of greeting, and of glory. The pastor ended by teaching them all the chorus of his song. And the pastor says, “How they did sing it!”

1) God’s tomorrow is a day of gladness,
And its joys shall never fade;
No more weeping, no more sense of sadness,
No more foes to make afraid.

God’s tomorrow, God’s tomorrow!
Every cloud will pass away,
At the dawning of that day.
God’s tomorrow, no more sorrow!
For I know that God’s tomorrow
Will be better than today.

Questions:
1) Other than meeting the Lord Jesus, and reunions with family and friends who are there, what are you looking forward to most about heaven?

2) What is your favourite hymn about heaven?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | July 7, 2017

Father, in Thy Mysterious Presence

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

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

Words: Samuel Johnson (b. Oct. 10, 1822; d. Feb. 19, 1882)
Music: Consolation, by Felix Mendelssohn (b. Feb. 3, 1809; d. Nov. 4, 1847)

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

Note: Samuel Johnson was an American, not to be confused with Dr. Samuel Johnson, the famed English man of letters, who lived a century earlier.

The American man graduated from Harvard, and formed in Independent church in Lynn, Massachusetts, where he served for nearly two decades. Johnson was against slavery, a key issue of the time. But though he was theistic in doctrine, believing in the existence of a Creator God, his sympathies were more Unitarian, stopping short of an orthodox belief in the deity of Christ.

His writings certainly reveal the weakness of his theology at some points. Even so, some of things he wrote have broad appeal. In one hymn, he writes of the church of Christ:

One holy church, one army strong;
One steadfast, high intent;
One working band, one harvest song,
One King omnipotent.

That’s very good! And I can agree with that description of the spiritual body of Christ, as long as we are speaking of truly born again Christians. “There is one body and on Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling” (Eph. 4:4).

Last evening PBS presented an informative and disturbing documentary called Poisoned Water, about the tragic situation in Flint, Michigan. The water that’s been coming into homes for years is laced with threatening amounts of lead and other contaminants.

It was impossible to watch without a sickening sense of grief, especially for the many children affected. It was explained that lead masks itself as calcium when entering to body. It heads for the bones and, even more dangerously, enters the brain, where it hinders function in a significant way. Once present in the body, there is no known way to remove it. Those precious young lives will be adversely and permanently affected.

What is the cause of this disaster? What is the source of the problem? Leading from huge water mains running down the city streets are branching pipes to each home. These connecting pipes are made of lead. It is this lead that is coming into the water. But if lead pipes are the immediate problem, the actual source goes back to people in authority who failed to do their job. The documentary explained:

“Local officials changed the city’s water source to save money, but overlooked a critical treatment process. As the water pipes corroded, lead leached into the system.”

Then, when concerned citizens had their water tested, and found incredibly high levels of poison, the local government stonewalled, denying the accuracy of the test results, and withholding information that could have led to remedial action.

We can draw a spiritual parallel. What is the source of the moral pollution in our society–the fearful violence, moral perversity, corruption in governments, and the degraded and profane discourse, to name just a few things? In our case, though the devil does tempt us to sin (Eph. 6:11-12, 16), and does everything he can to bring us to ruin (I Pet. 5:8), the main problem is with us. We each are born with a sinful fallen nature, a nature passed on from our first parents in Eden. The Lord Jesus declares:

“From within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye [envy], blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mk. 7:21-23).

And the Apostle Paul adds his list, under the inspiration of the Spirit of God:

“The works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like.”

And James add this explanation: “Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (Jas. 1:14-15). The only remedy is found in the grace and power of God, claimed through faith for salvation through the work of Christ. And, after that, in ongoing faith-filled prayer, walking by faith (II Cor. 5:7), in the power of the Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 25).

Pastor and author Samuel Johnson wrote a short hymn about that, a prayer for spiritual strength. (The word “mysterious” is used to indicate there are things about God beyond our understanding.)

CH-1 Father, in Thy mysterious presence kneeling,
Fain would our souls feel all Thy kindling love;
For we are weak, and need some deep revealing
Of trust and strength and calmness from above.

CH-2) Lord, we have wandered forth through doubt and sorrow,
And Thou hast made each step an onward one;
And we will ever trust each unknown morrow;
Thou wilt sustain us till its work is done.

Questions:
1) What is the greatest stumbling block to consistent Christian living?

2) The Lord has promised His children grace and mercy for the asking (Heb. 4:15-16). What do you especially need these things for today?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | July 5, 2017

Creator Spirit, by Whose Aid

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: Ambrose of Milan (b. circa 340; d. 397); translator John Dryden (b. Aug. 9, 1631; d. May 1, 1700)
Music: St. Catherine, by James George Walton (b. Feb. 19, 1821; d. Sept. 1:1905)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Ambrose of Milan)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: This hymn is so ancient that the original authorship is not entirely certain. Some believe it was composed by Ambrose of Milan, which would make it sixteen centuries old. Yet it is still sung in churches today. Ambrose was a Roman governor of Northern Italy, and later served as the Christian bishop of Milan. The hymn has been translated or paraphrased many times.

The version quoted here is by John Dryden, the poet laureate of Britain. The Cyber Hymnal lists three possible tunes for the hymn. I have chosen to use St. Catherine (to which we sing Faith of Our Fathers).

How often have you had a plumbing problem at home, and wished you had an expert on the spot to guide you? Or something wrong with the car, and lacked a master mechanic to lend a hand? There are experts around, of course, though they are sometimes inaccessible, either because of distance, or the high cost of their services.

But let’s make it more personal. When it comes to our own character, and our ability to handle life in a meaningful and productive way, we could use a practiced hand to help there too. And imagine if great artists in other fields could be commandeered for the purpose, using their gifts to the repair and develop our souls. (It may seem an odd comparison, but bear with me.)

Antonio Stradivari was a violin maker, three centuries ago. But the amazing tone of the instruments he made is legendary, and they are still in demand today for astronomical prices. Imagine if he could work his magic on our inner selves and equip us to enrich others with the music of our lives. Or what if the painter Rembrandt could apply his skill to our characters so they would have a beauty that blessed those around us? Or what if Shakespeare could inspire our tongues with glorious words that would convey wisdom and grace to all who heard them?

In truth, there is Someone who is ready to do this work, and that is God, the ultimate expert Helper. Speaking of Him Ephesians says, “We are His workmanship” (Eph. 2:10). The Greek word translated “workmanship” is poiema, from which we get our word poem. In a real sense, through faith in Christ, each person becomes a work of art in the hands of God. “The Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us” (Ps. 100:3). And as we cooperate with what He is doing in our lives, “the Lord will perfect that which concerns [us]” (Ps. 138:8).

The maturing and perfecting work of God is, in a real sense, the completion of His original creative work. The triune Godhead was involved in creation, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God the Father had a part in that, as did God the Son (II Cor. 8:6; Eph. 3:9). But we sometimes forget that the Spirit of God was an active agent in creation too. He was there in the beginning (Gen. 1:2), and continued to be involved (Job 26:13; 33:4).

The work of the Holy Spirit, in bringing us to spiritual maturity, first involves the new birth, a spiritual rebirth that comes through faith in Christ (Jn. 1:12-13; 3:3, 6). And the Christian is said to be indwelt by the Spirit (Rom. 5:5). Part of His work in us is to bring us more and more to Christlikeness (Rom. 8:29). And “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23).

All of this leads us to the text of a very old hymn, called in Latin Veni Creator Spiritus (Come, Creator Spirit). Dryden’s text says:

CH-1) Creator Spirit, by whose aid
The world’s foundations first were laid,
Come, visit every waiting mind;
Come, pour Thy joys on human kind;
From sin, and sorrow set us free;
And make Thy temples worthy Thee.

CH-4) Refine and purge our earthly parts;
But, oh, inflame and fire our hearts!
Our frailties help, our vice control;
Submit the senses to the soul;
And when rebellious they are grown,
Then, lay Thy hand, and hold them down.

CH-5) Create all new; our wills control,
Subdue the rebel in our soul;
Make us eternal truths receive,
And practice all that we believe;
Give us Thyself, that we may see
The Father and the Son by Thee.

Questions:
1) How do our lives compare to a beautiful poem?

2) What is the area the Lord and you are working on especially, in your own life?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Ambrose of Milan)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | July 3, 2017

Behold, a Stranger at the Door

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

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

Words: Joseph Grigg (b. circa _____, 1720; d. Oct. 29, 1768)
Music: Federal Street, by Henry Keble Oliver (b. Nov. 24, 1800; d. Aug. 12, 1885)

Links:

Wordwise Hymns (Joseph Grigg)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Grigg was born into an impoverished home. In his early years, he trained to be what was called a mechanic. In the days before automobiles, that word was used of those involved in various kinds of manual labour, including bakers, brewers, blacksmiths, tailors, and more.

In 1743, Mr. Grigg became the assistant pastor to Thomas Bures, at a Presbyterian church on Silver Street in London. When Bures died, four years later, Grigg resigned his position, though he continued to preach in many churches. He also wrote more than forty hymns–apparently beginning to do so at the early age of ten. The present one, in its original form, had a dozen stanzas.

As well as friends and family, others we don’t know personally will sometimes come to our doors. Those representing charities, salesmen wanting us to purchase their products, politicians seeking our vote, cult members trying promoting their teachings, all knock, or ring the bell, at one time or another.

Some are welcome, some aren’t, but most of them want something from us. An exception we’ve experienced lately is a young girl with energy to burn who’s shown up at our door several times. Carrying either a shovel or a rake, she’s volunteered to shovel our snow, or rake our leaves. Though I’ve given her a bit of money when the work was done, she’s never asked for it. Her motive seems to be mainly joyful service.

The Avon Lady and the Fuller Brush Man have represented their companies so long they’ve become American institutions. Alfred Fuller founded the latter business in Boston, in 1906. He started with an investment of $375, and made brushes at night, in a workshop in his sister’s basement. During the day, he offered the brushes for sale door-to-door.

The size of the firm has expanded greatly since those days, and they now include in their catalogue home care and personal care products. Their fame was exploited in two movies, The Fuller Brush Man, starring Red Skelton (1948), and the Fuller Brush Girl, with Lucille Ball (1950). It might surprise you to know that evangelist Billy Graham, in his early days, was a salesman for the company.

In the Bible, the Lord Jesus is pictured as knocking at the door, in a spiritual sense. In a brief message to a church in Loadicea, Christ is scathing in His criticism of them (Rev. 3:14-19). He describes them as materially rich and self-satisfied, but spiritually bankrupt, and calls on them to repent. It seems as though, with all their rituals and religiosity, they had left Christ out. To them Jesus says:

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him [a symbol of fellowship], and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20).

And what was true for a church has meaning for us personally, too. The Saviour who loves us wants us to trust in Him, and open our lives to Him. We can picture Him at the door of the sinner’ heart, graciously knocking, and patiently waiting.

“As many as received Him [Christ], to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but [born] of God” (Jn. 1:12-13; cf. Jn. 3:3).

The waiting Lord Jesus was portrayed on canvas with a painting of William Holman Hunt’s. Completed in 1853, and called The Light of the World, it pictures Christ standing before a door, seeking entrance. Joseph Grigg wrote a hymn on the same Bible passage about a century before Hunt created his thoughtful painting.

CH-1) Behold, a Stranger at the door!
He gently knocks, has knocked before,
Has waited long, is waiting still:
You treat no other friend so ill.

CH-3) But will He prove a friend indeed?
He will; the very friend you need;
The Friend of sinners–yes, ’tis He,
With garments dyed on Calvary.

CH-6) If thou art poor–and poor thou art–
Lo! He has riches to impart;
Not wealth, in which mean avarice rolls;
O better far, the wealth of souls.

CH-9) Admit Him, for the human breast
Ne’er entertained so kind a Guest;
No mortal tongue their joys can tell
With whom He condescends to dwell.

Questions:
1) Is Christ knocking at the door of your own heart–or the heart of someone you know?

2) What is keeping you (or the person mentioned above) from opening the door?


Links:

Wordwise Hymns (Joseph Grigg)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

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