Posted by: rcottrill | October 20, 2017

I Hear the Words of Love

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: Newland (or Gauntlett), by Henry John Gauntlett (b. July 9, 1805; d. Feb. 21, 1876)

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

Note: Scottish pastor Horatius Bonar was a strong evangelical preacher whose gospel tract Believe and Live had more than a million copies published. Often called “the prince of Scottish hymn writers” Pastor Bonar wrote more than six hundred hymns.

But there’s an oddity about his output of hymns. Until the very end of his life, none of his songs was sung in his own church! The reason is he served a congregation that believed only the Bible’s Psalms should be sung by the congregation. (They missed a blessing!)

Change. It’s a common word meaning to make or be different, to alter or be altered, to transform or be transformed. And in a slightly different application it can mean to substitute one thing for another, or exchange one for another.

In this world, in this mortal life, more things change than stay the same. Life is full of changes, and many of them are spoken of in the Bible. There we see a change of wages (Gen. 31:7); a change of clothes (Gen. 41:14); a change of night to day (Job 17:12), and of seasons (Song 2:11-12); money being changed (Matt. 21:12); a person’s mind changed (Hab. 1:11); and a tone of voice changed–from friendly to stern (Gal. 4:20).

Some changes are good. Over the years, we develop and learn. These are good things. When that doesn’t happen, for example, when an individual is mentally disabled, and as an adult can only think and learn at the level of a young child, we are sad.

And in other circumstances, when ill health or sinful habits cause a deterioration of abilities, those changes are not pleasant or welcomed. What’s likely needed in the first of these is medical treatment of some kind. What’s called for to deal with the spiritual problem of the second is repentance–a word that means literally a change of mind.

Repentance is not simply sorrow over the consequences of sin, or that we got caught, but an utter rejection and abhorrence of what has offended a holy God. “I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance [i.e. real change]” (II Cor. 7:9). Repentance is more than a feeling. It must lead to action. Paul preached that people “should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance” (Acts 26:20).

In total contrast to these many changes in our lives is the utter changelessness of God. He declares:

“God is not a man, that He should lie, nor the son of man, that He should repent” (Num. 23:19). And “I am the Lord, I do not change” (Mal. 3:6).

This speaks of His basic nature and character. It’s not saying the Lord doesn’t do different things at different times. The incarnation of Christ, for example, was a historical event, and so was His death and resurrection. Now He “ dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him” (Rom. 6:9).

In 1861 Horatius Bonar produced a hymn that speaks of the contrast between what is changing and what is changeless. Bonar describes changes in himself, while celebrating God’s changelessness. The original hymn had ten stanzas, but only four or five are usually used now.

1) I hear the words of love,
I gaze upon the blood,
I see the mighty Sacrifice,
And I have peace with God.

2) ‘Tis everlasting peace!
Sure as Jehovah’s name,
‘Tis stable as His steadfast throne,
For evermore the same.

3) The clouds may go and come,
And storms may sweep the sky,
This blood-sealed friendship changes not,
The cross is ever nigh.

4) My love is oft times low,
My joy still ebbs and flows,
But peace with Him remains the same,
No change Jehovah knows.

7) I change, He changes not,
The Christ can never die;
His love, not mine, the resting place,
His truth, not mine, the tie.

8) The cross still stands unchanged,
Though heav’n is now His home,
The mighty stone is rolled away,
But yonder is His tomb!

Questions:
1) What changes in yourself in recent years do you regret?

2) What changes in yourself in recent years do you consider a blessing?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | October 18, 2017

Father in Heaven Who Lovest All

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

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

Words: Joseph Rudyard Kipling (b. Dec. 30, 1865; d. Jan. 18, 1936)
Music: Pentecost, by William Boyd (b. _____, 1847; d. Feb. 16, 1928)

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

Note: Rudyard Kipling was an acclaimed English author of novels, short stories, and poems. His children’s books are considered literary classics. In 1907 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Though today he is sometimes faulted for being an advocate of British Imperialism, he is still widely read and appreciated. A few of his poems have been turned into hymns.

Father in Heaven, Who Lovest All was originally a poem in a children’s book called Puck of Pook’s Hill. In the book, a fairy named Puck periodically visits two children and tells them stories about ancient history and other things. As for the tune used here, Pentecost is commonly coupled to the hymns Fight the Good Fight, and Go, Labour On.

As I write this, the city of Houston, Texas, is continuing to clean up after the destructive pounding of Hurricane Harvey. The devastation is appalling. Homes simply blown to flinders, or so flooded with filthy water as to become uninhabitable.

Likely no structure in Harvey’s path was completely unaffected, but some certainly fared better than others. Solid structures on a firm foundation can withstand hurricane winds better. Construction today in areas that are prone to high winds is often done with that in mind. Buildings have a design and use materials that can withstand the storms.

High winds can actually lift the roof off a house. When that happens, the structure is seriously weakened and it becomes even more likely to face total collapse. The solution is first to lay down a stable foundation, then to pay greater attention to anchoring the upper structure, through the walls to that foundation. Windows and doors are especially vulnerable, but these can be reinforced in various ways. No building is absolutely indestructible, but careful attention to design can help greatly.

This has an application to the moral and spiritual realm. Society is facing many storms. Storms of moral perversion and degradation, storms of materialistic values, storms of violence, cruelty and international conflict, storms of political posturing, dishonesty and mismanagement, just to name a few. But though such things make the news today, they can often be traced to their hidden beginnings in individual upbringing and what happened in early family life.

Families are intended by God to provide the basic building blocks of society. As parents ground children in spiritual values they prepare them to make a positive contribution to community life later on. But to lift a question asked by David out of its context, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Ps. 11:3). How can we expect to build a righteous society when God is not honoured in so many homes?

“Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build it….Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Ps. 127:1, 3).

God exhorts parents to “train up a child in the way he should go” (Prov. 22:6). “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition [instruction] of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).

Children need to be taught God’s Word in the home, from their earliest years, as well as seeing, in their parents, living examples of biblical principles. That will lay a good foundation for life, and it will ultimately have its affect on the broader community.

Rudyard Kipling’s poem was intended as moral instruction for English boys, but it presents principles that have a much wider application, ones that would help to build a good foundation for life. (The line about bearing the yoke in youth comes from Lamentations 3:27.)

CH-1) Father in heav’n, who lovest all,
O help Thy children when they call,
That they may build from age to age
An undefilèd heritage.

CH-2) Teach us to bear the yoke in youth,
With steadfastness and careful truth,
That, in our time, Thy grace may give
The truth whereby the nations live.

CH-4) Teach us to look in all our ends,
On Thee for Judge, and not our friends,
That we, with Thee, may walk uncowed
By fear or favour of the crowd.

CH-5) Teach us the strength that cannot seek,
By deed or thought, to hurt the weak,
That, under Thee, we may possess
Man’s strength to comfort man’s distress.

Questions:
1) Beyond teaching them to trust in the Saviour, what do you believe are the most important biblical principles or character qualities children in the home need to learn and adopt?

2) How can local churches help parents with their roll in this?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | October 16, 2017

Take Time to Be Holy

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

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

Words: William Dunn Longstaff (b. Nov. 26, 1822; d. Apr. 2, 1894)
Music: Holiness, by George Coles Stebbins (b. Feb. 26, 1846; d. Oct. 6, 1945)

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

Note: William Longstaff was a friend and helper of both evangelist Dwight Moody, and of Salvation Army founder William Booth. He was financially well off, and supported Christian ministries with his money, as well as devoting time and effort to them.

One day, Longstaff heard a sermon by Griffith John, a missionary home to England from China. Dr. John spoke about the need for practical holiness, and the fact that it required a disciplined and committed life, over time. He called upon listeners to “take time to be holy.” It was that phrase that struck William Longstaff and he wrote this hymn about it.

You’ve likely seen it on a jar of coffee–the word “instant.” It tells us that, instead of having to wait some minutes for our coffee to percolate, we can simply add a spoonful of the granules to a cup of hot water and have a our drink immediately.

An instant is defined by the dictionary as a very short space of time, or a point in time that separates two states of being (e.g. the instant between life and death). There are things in our experience like that–such as the instant the first plane struck the World Trade Center in 2001. For many, that changed life forever.

Other things take longer. Trees don’t grow in an instant, neither does a baby. And many of us have come to the unfortunate realization that, just as we don’t get overweight and out of shape instantly, neither does dieting or exercise solve the problem in a flash. Following the decision to do something to improve our condition comes the need for discipline, and consistency in our behaviour, for many months to follow.

This kind of process is analogous in the spiritual realm to maintaining practical holiness. First, a bit of background. The word holy–along with other Bible words such as sanctified, hallowed, and consecrated–literally means separated or set apart. Usually separated from what is bad, and separated unto what is good, or set apart for God. A sanctuary is a holy place, and a saint is a holy person. (Same root word.)

God the Father is said to be holy (Jn. 17:11), as is God the Son, and the Spirit of God (Lk. 1:35). And angels called seraphim hover around the throne of God proclaiming:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts” (Isa. 6:3; cf. Rev. 4:8).

As applied to God the word holy means He is completely separated from what is impure, unjust, and untrue. And the Lord calls on Christians to live holy lives.

“As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (I Pet. 1:15). “He chose us…that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Eph. 1:4).

None of us has arrived at a perfection of holiness in thought, word, or action, nor will we, until we go to be with Christ. But we are to aspire to be all that God desires, and there are two agents provided to assist us.

¤ One is the Bible. As the Lord Jesus prayed to the Father about His followers, “Sanctify them [purify, consecrate, separate them for Yourself, make them holy] by the Truth; Your Word is Truth (Jn. 17:17, Amplified Bible). As we read and study God’s Word, we learn what it means to live a holy life.

¤ The other Agent is the Holy Spirit, who both guides and empowers us to live a more holy, Christlike life, characterized as “the fruit of the Spirit” in us (Gal. 5:22-23).

Longstaff’s hymn talks about this in simple and practical terms.

CH-1) Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
Make friends of God’s children, help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.

CH-2) Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret, with Jesus alone.
By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.

CH-3) Take time to be holy, let Him be thy Guide;
And run not before Him, whatever betide.
In joy or in sorrow, still follow the Lord,
And, looking to Jesus, still trust in His Word.

Questions:
1) What did you learn from your personal time of devotions today?

2) Do you have a written prayer list of people and ministries you pray for regularly? (If not, why not make one today?)

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

Posted by: rcottrill | October 13, 2017

There Are Lonely Hearts

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: George Cooper (b. May 14, 1840; d. ____, 1927)
Music: Ira David Sankey (b. Aug. 28, 1840; d. Aug. 13, 1908)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (George Cooper–see Item 4 about Warren Cornell)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Cooper was an American poet, remembered chiefly for his song lyrics. He also translated the lyrics of German, Russian, Italian, Spanish, and French musical works into English. Some of his lyrics were set to tunes by famed songwriter Stephen Foster. Cooper wrote the lyrics for the popular song Sweet Genevieve. The present song, written in 1881, is sometimes titled While the Days Are Going By.

Some sports, such as boxing, hockey and football, have a set time limit. Though the latter two often allow for overtime, they too are timed. Other sports, such as tennis, golf and baseball usually have no time limit at all.

Time, when it is a factor, has a definite affect on strategy. More that one football team has lost a game because they felt they were well enough ahead to insure a win, and eased up in the last quarter. Coaches remind them, sometimes in vain, to play the entire sixty minutes with full intensity and all out effort.

In a small way, this parallels our present mortal life. There is a time limit. One day it will be over. The difference is that the Lord has not seen fit to inform us when the end will come, or exactly how much time we’ve got. All the more reason to make good use of what God allows us.

Whether He gives us the Bible’s “threescore years and ten” (Ps. 90:10), or more, or less, that’s up to Him. What will we do with what we’ve been allotted? As someone has said, “Yesterday is a cancelled cheque, tomorrow is a promissory note; today is the only currency God has put in our hands. We need to spend it wisely.”

The Scriptures use a number of symbols to convey the fleeting nature of our mortal lives. David says, “Our days on earth are as a shadow” (I Chron. 29:15), and “You have made my days as hand-breadths” (Ps. 39:5). And Job says, ““My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle” (Job 7:6). And James asks, “What is your life? It is even a vapour that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (Jas. 4:14).

With this in mind, God exhorts us to make the best use of our allotted days. “So teach us [Lord] to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:12). “See then that you walk circumspectly [step carefully], not as fools but as wise, redeeming [making the best use of] the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:15-17).

Notice the emphasis on living wisely. And if we are to do that, we must understand what God’s will is for us. Some aspects of that will be unique to each individual, but there are things that are true for all–three things beginning with the letter “s.”

¤ God’s will is our salvation, through faith in Christ (Jn. 3:16; II Pet. 3:9).

¤ God’s will is our sanctification–that believers would live holy lives, lives that please Him (I Thess. 4:3-8; I Pet. 1:15-16).

¤ God’s will is each Christian’s service for Him, using the gifts He has given us, to His honour and glory. Many Scriptures speak of our service. “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all” (Gal. 6:10; cf. Rom. 12:11; Gal. 5:13; Eph. 2:10; I Pet. 4:10, etc.).

My mother, many years ago, when she would hear of some sad occurrence, particularly the death of a loved one, would often say, “The world is full of sighs, full of sad and weeping eyes.” I didn’t know, when I young, that those lines came from a gospel song by George Cooper.

The song isn’t deeply theological, but it preaches practical Christianity, urging believers to serve the Lord by being a comfort and encouragement to those who are going through difficult times and trials.

CH-1) There are lonely hearts to cherish,
While the days are going by;
There are weary souls who perish,
While the days are going by;
If a smile we can renew,
As our journey we pursue,
Oh, the good we all may do,
While the days are going by.

Going by, going by,
Going by, going by,
Oh, the good we all may do,
While the days are going by.

CH-2) There’s no time for idle scorning,
While the days are going by;
Let your face be like the morning,
While the days are going by;
Oh, the world is full of sighs,
Full of sad and weeping eyes;
Help your fallen brother rise,
While the days are going by.

Questions:
1) Is there someone you’ve been able to encourage and help during the past week?

2) Is there someone you could encourage and help in some way this week?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (George Cooper–see Item 4 about Warren Cornell)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | October 11, 2017

What Shall the Harvest Be?

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

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

Words: Emily Sullivan Oakey (b. Oct. 8, 1829; d. May 11, 1883)
Music: Philip Paul Bliss (b. July 9, 1838; d. Dec. 29, 1876)

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

Note: American author Emily Oakey taught languages and English literature at the Albany Female Academy (in Albany, New York). Physically frail, Oakey only lived to the age of fifty-four, and it’s said she never enjoyed a single day of good health. She wrote a great deal for various newspapers and magazines, but she also authored this interesting gospel song.

T here are some big payoffs in gambling. Many millions of dollars. But there are big losses too–which is another kind of payoff. And, by its very nature, gambling always produces far more losers than winners. One Australian media tycoon lost twenty-eight million dollars during a three week span.

However, the word “payoff” can be used in a more general way, to speak of the consequences or the outcome of some decision or action. It can be applied to the return on an investment, whether it’s an investment of money, or of time and effort. An autumn harvest is a kind of payoff for all the work involved in farming, so is a college degree that follows several years of hard study.

In the Bible, sowing and reaping is used as a picture of sharing the Scriptures with others, especially as that relates to the gospel, the good news that Christ died on the cross to pay our debt of sin (Jn. 3:16; Rom. 1:16). The Parable of the Sower, told by the Lord Jesus, pictures the Word of God being sown in various kinds of soil. Each represents the condition of a human heart and its receptivity to the Word (Lk. 8:4-15). And though human beings pass on the message, it’s God Himself who causes the seed to take root and grow (cf. I Cor. 3:6).

Emily Oakey’s song, based in part on the Parable of the Sower, says:

CH-1) Sowing the seed by the daylight fair
Sowing the seed by the noonday glare,
Sowing the seed by the fading light,
Sowing the seed in the solemn night:
O what shall the harvest be?

Sown in the darkness or sown in the light,
Sown in our weakness or sown in our might,
Gathered in time or eternity,
Sure, ah, sure will the harvest be.

CH-2) Sowing the seed by the wayside high,
Sowing the seed on the rocks to die.
Sowing the seed where the thorns will spoil,
Sowing the seed in the fertile soil:
O what shall the harvest be?

Now, consider one life touched by this song. Walter O. Lattimore learned to drink in the army, and by 1876 he had become a confirmed drunkard, separated from his wife and child, and enslaved by alcohol. Some words of Shakespeare come to mind: “Oh, that men should put a thief into their mouths to steal away their brains!” But that was his state one evening when, somewhat intoxicated, he went through a wrong door, by mistake, and found himself in the Moody Tabernacle, in Chicago.

Dwight L. Moody was an evangelist greatly used of God on both sides of the Atlantic. Though not gifted in music himself, he made good use of it in his meetings. On the occasion described, Moody’s soloist Ira Sankey was singing when Mr. Lattimore accidentally entered the building–singing the words of Emily Oakey’s song.

When he turned to leave, Lattimore was arrested by Sankey’s words. They seemed to describe his miserable condition, and their message penetrated his darkened soul. (This is a stanza not currently found on the Cyber Hymnal.)

3) Sowing the seed of a lingering pain,
Sowing the seed of a maddened brain,
Sowing the seed of a tarnished name,
Sowing the seed of eternal shame:
O what shall the harvest be?

The man headed for the nearby saloon, as he’d intended, but those words echoed in his brain, and finally brought him back to the Tabernacle, where he put his faith in the Saviour. The Lord broke the shackles that bound him, and his life was transformed.

Lattimore was later reunited with his family, and began helping Moody in his meetings. Then, encouraged to study for the ministry, he eventually served twenty years as the pastor of a church in Evanston, Illinois. Lattimore also wrote a number of gospel songs himself. One of them is a kind of testimony to his own experience.

CH 1) Long in darkness we have waited,
For the shining of the light;
Long have felt the things we hated,
Sink us still in deeper night.

Blessèd Jesus, loving Saviour!
Tender, faithful, strong and true,
Break the fetters that have bound us,
Make us in Thyself anew.

God’s Word had borne abundant fruit in his life. What a payoff! (For more of this hymn and a lengthy–and sometimes quite amazing–biography of Walter Lattimore, see here.)

Questions:
1) What have you done in past years that has borne significant fruit (good or bad) in your life now?

2) What are you investing your time and energy in, now, that you hope will bear good fruit in the future?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | October 9, 2017

Count Your Blessings

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: Johnson Oatman, Jr. (b. Apr. 21, 1856; d. Sept 25, 1922)
Music: Edwin Othello Excell (b. Dec. 13, 1851; d. June 10, 1921)

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

Note: Oatman was ordained by the Methodist Episcopal denomination at the age of nineteen, but his preaching was confined to pulpit supply in local churches as needed. He worked full time in the retail and insurance businesses. It’s asserted that he wrote the lyrics for 5,000 hymns, though few are still in use.

Simple arithmetic has been with us since ancient times, likely since Eden. In the Bible, forms of words such as number, count, and add, are found over four hundred times. Such things have always been a part of our lives.

When Israel was delivered from Egypt the Lord instructed Moses to take a census (a numbering) of the people (Num. 1:2-3). But some things are countable; others are beyond calculation. God told Abraham that his descendants would be as impossible to count up as it would be to count stars in the sky or sand on the seashore (Gen. 13:16; 15:5). In his conservation program in Egypt, preparing for a coming famine, Joseph stored up so much grain he finally stopped counting the amount (Gen. 41:49).

God not only keeps track of every star in the sky, He calls them all by name (Ps. 147:4). But all the wonderful works of God are innumerable (Ps. 40:5).  When the Apostle John was given a vision of the future, he saw a multitude of holy angels and human beings around God’s throne that’s virtually uncountable: “The number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” (Rev. 5:11).

Two interesting examples of counting are found in the Gospels. Peter wanted to know how many times he was obligated to forgive someone who wronged him, and he suggested to Christ what he thought was a reasonable number: seven times. Some of the rabbis were saying three times was the limit, so Peter supposed he was being extra generous! But the Lord told him he should be forgiving “seventy times seven”–which was a way of saying our willingness to forgive others should have no limit (Matt. 18:21-22).

In the parable of The Lost Sheep, Jesus tells of a shepherd who had the care of a hundred sheep. But when even one was lost, he went out seeking it. When it was found he was so happy he called his friends and neighbours to celebrate the rescue with him. The comparison the Lord draws from this is that there’s joy in heaven when one sinner repents (Lk. 15:3-7).

One of the things that believers need to keep counting–though they too are virtually innumerable–is the blessings of God. “How precious also are Your thoughts to me [you purposes for me], O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand” (Ps. 139:17-18). “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits….who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies” (Ps. 103:2, 4).

If you’ve ever had a chance to see Thornton Wilder’s wonderful play, Our Town, or have watched the 1940 movie version, you have an example of someone learning to treasure and count up the blessings of each day. Wilder said of the work that it was “an attempt to find a value above all price for the smallest events in our daily life.”

The drama is not explicitly Christian, but the children of God should be able to see beyond its gentle wisdom an even greater reason to praise the Lord concerning things all around us. The hidden hand of God is at work in our lives every moment of the day. Even the difficulties and trials we face can be turned to a good and loving purpose by the Lord (Rom. 8:28).

Celebrating the multiplied gifts of God is the theme of an 1897 gospel song by Johnson Oatman, Jr. It has justly remained popular for over a century, because it challenges us to review our daily blessings, saying the attempt to do so will bring some surprises.

CH-1) When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

CH-2) Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

Add them up, and you’ll have many–and sometimes surprising!–reasons to praise God!

Questions:
1) Can you name three blessings of God you received yesterday?

2) How could you be a blessing in someone’s life today?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | October 6, 2017

The Shadows of the Evening Hours

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: Adelaide Anne Procter (b. Oct. 30, 1825; d. Feb. 2, 1864)
Music: St. Leonard (or Hiles), by Henry Hiles (b. Dec. 31, 1826; d. Oct. 20, 1904)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (The Lost Chord)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: English author Adelaide Procter was a friend of Charles Dickens, and he printed many of her creations in his monthly publications. Proctor also wrote The Lost Chord (inspiring, though not strictly a hymn) and My God I Thank Thee Who Hast Made.

We have various words for the time between sunset and nightfall: evening, dusk, twilight, and gloaming are a few. The word “evening” comes from the ancient word aefen meaning late (i.e. late in the day.). It’s come to refer broadly to the period between sunset and when we go to bed.

That in-between time is spent in a variety of ways. Usually, it’s been thought of as the end of the workday. “Man goes out to his work and to his labour until the evening,” says the psalmist (Ps. 104:23). But that was before electric lighting and other developments. Now there is shift work ’round the clock, or sometimes a second job to go to, for economic reasons.

Apparently more than a third of the population has some kind of paid employment in the evenings. Still, for many, this is family time, or television time, or an opportunity to take care of household chores or, for those in school, a time to do homework.

But let’s take a few moments to consider some of the activities of the Lord Jesus in the evening hours. After one busy Sabbath day, Jesus and His disciples went to Peter’s home for supper. But then we read, “At evening, when the sun had set [and the Sabbath was officially over], they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed….Then He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons” (Mk. 1:32, 34).

The evening was also used as a time for personal reflection and prayer (cf. Ps. 141:2). On one occasion a multitude of the Jews tried to “take [Jesus] by force and make Him king” (Jn. 6:15), it was clear they understood neither the plan of God or His timing. And “when He [Christ] had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray” (Matt. 14:23).

The evening before His arrest the Lord celebrated the Passover meal with His disciples and engaged in an extensive time of instruction described by John (Jn. 13–17). This was followed by His time of prayer in Gethsemane. For Jesus, then, the evening hours were a time for ministry, for personal prayer, and for the teaching and encouragement of those who believed on Him.

There were also meetings of Christ with His followers on the evening of His resurrection. He met two of them on the road to the town of Emmaus, walking and talking with them. And when the couple reached home, “They constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And He went in to stay with them [briefly]” (Lk. 24:29).

“Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you’” (Jn. 20:19).

The beautiful hymn by poet Adelaide Procter speaks of the evening as a time for meditation and prayer.

CH-1) The shadows of the evening hours
Fall from the darkening sky;
Upon the fragrance of the flowers
The dews of evening lie;
Before Thy throne, O Lord of heav’n,
We kneel at close of day;
Look on Thy children from on high,
And hear us while we pray.

One stanza (CH-3) not included in every hymn book may speak of a personal sorrow of the author. We know that although Miss Procter was engaged at one point, she never married. And the following words seem to speak of turning away from earthly disappointments to consider the eternal blessings up ahead.

CH-3) Slowly the rays of daylight fade,
So fade within our heart
The hopes in earthly love and joy,
That one by one depart.
Slowly the bright stars, one by one,
Within the heavens shine:
Give us, O Lord, fresh hopes in heaven
And trust in things divine.

CH-4) Let peace, O Lord, Thy peace,
O God, upon our souls descend;
From midnight fears and perils, now
Our trembling hearts defend.
Give us a respite from our toil;
Calm and subdue our woes.
Through the long day we labour, Lord,
O give us now repose.

Questions:
1) What is your usual occupation most evenings?

2) Do you prefer to have your daily devotions in the morning or the evening? (Why?)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (The Lost Chord)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | October 4, 2017

Saviour, Teach Me Day by Day

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: Jane Elizabeth Leeson (b. Dec. ___, 1808; d. Nov. 18, 1881)
Music: Posen, by Georg Christoph Strattner (b. _____, 1644; d. Apr. 11, 1704)

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

Note: We know little about Jane Leeson except that she wrote many hymns, mostly for children. Apparently she belonged to an eccentric sect of the time called the Holy Apostolic Catholic Church. Its leaders, twelve in number, called themselves apostles. (The sect died out shortly after the death of the last of its self-designated apostles.) They taught the revival of the apostolic gift of prophecy, and Miss Leeson herself believed some of her hymns were prophetic utterances. One observer described the coming of a hymn by claimed prophetic revelation, in process, as follows:

“[The hymn] was delivered slowly, and with short pauses between the verses, a pause three times as long as anyone would ordinarily make in reading.”

There have been many great love stories in history, and many inspiring ones described in fiction as well. Times when earnest and devoted love is answered by the equally passionate devotion of another, love echoing love.

Napoleon and Josephine, the poets Robert and Elizabeth Browning, Queen Victoria and her Albert, scientists Pierre and Marie Curie, those are just a few examples. And we could include the biblical account of Jacob’s love for Rachel. He worked for his Uncle Laban to gain the right to take her as his bride, and the Bible says, “Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her” (Gen. 29:20).

But by infinite measure the greatest love story enfolding both time and eternity is God’s love for us fallen sinners, creatures of His own making. The best known gospel text in all the Bible says it. “God so loved the world” of lost mankind that He sent His own Son to pay our debt of sin on the cross (Jn. 3:16).

We all are described in God’s Word as sinners (Rom. 3:23; 5:8), and enemies of God (Rom. 5:10), but the Lord loved us in spite of this. And before the world began, He planned that salvation would be provided for, even knowing the terrible sacrifice that would be necessary. By faith, we are redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ…foreordained before the foundation of the world” (I Pet. 1:18-20; cf. Rev. 13:8).

Concerning the believer’s response to all this, we have a notable text in the first epistle of John: “We love Him because He first loved us” (I Jn. 4:19). There are profound depths in that simple statement.

First, we are transformed through what God does for us, so that we are empowered to love God back, and love others too, with a divinely energized love. Through faith in Christ, we are able to love in a new way and to a new degree “because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5).

Further, we are given a new motivation to love. This is particularly so with respect to our response to our loving God Himself. Through Calvary, we are “rooted and grounded in love” (Eph. 3:17), and love answers love. Not surprisingly, our hymn writers have taken up this theme.

At the time of his conversion, sixteen-year-old William Ralph Featherstone (1846-1873), of Montreal, gave us the hymn My Jesus, I Love Thee. One stanza says:

I love Thee because Thou has first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree.
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

Another hymn makes the message of First John 4:19 a kind of refrain at the end of every stanza. It was written by English author Jane Leeson. And even though we might disagree with some of her group’s teachings, Miss Leeson’s simple hymn has merit.

CH-1) Saviour, teach me day by day
Love’s sweet lesson to obey,
Sweeter lesson cannot be,
Loving Him who first loved me.

CH-3) Teach me thus Thy steps to trace,
Strong to follow in Thy grace,
Learning how to love from Thee,
Loving Him who first loved me.

CH-4) Love in loving finds employ,
In obedience all her joy;
Ever new that joy will be,
Loving Him who first loved me.

Questions:
1) What are some things we learn about love from the Lord Jesus?

2) What can we give to the Saviour to show how much we love Him?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | October 2, 2017

Join All the Glorious Names

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: Darwall (or, Darwall’s 148th) by John Darwall (b. Jan 13, 1731; d. Dec. 18, 1789)

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

Note: Isaac Watts is justly called the Father of English Hymnody. In his day, many churches were singing only the Psalms of the Bible. But he argued that missed a lot of important New Testament truth. To meet what he saw as a significant need, Watts wrote about six hundred hymns, many of which are still in use. It’s common for hymnals to include fifteen to eighteen of his songs.

Darwall was a clergyman and amateur musician. Though he wrote many tunes, only this tune for Psalm 148 is in common use today.

A name is how we identify something or someone. The name represents the thing or the person, in print, or in speech–and in our thoughts, as well. Whether it’s a brick or a book, a rock or a river, those words bring something specific to mind.

Personal names can have significance either because of their actual meaning, or due to their association. For example, the name David means beloved, the name Robert means bright or shining, and parents could choose names such as these for what they mean. They might also choose to name their baby William or something else because that was Grandpa’s name, or the name of a close friend.

As to the shortest personal name, there are a few one-letter names. President Harry S Truman was given “S” as a middle name to honour a couple of grandfathers. The letter doesn’t otherwise stand for anything longer. The longest name officially recognized is that of a twentieth century resident of Philadelphia, Hubert Blaine Wolfe+590, Senior, with the 590 standing for the remaining letters in his last name.

In the Bible, some form of the word “name” is used over a thousand times, with the phrase “the name of the Lord” found 107 times. Most often the King James Version capitalizes “LORD” to represent the name Jehovah (sometimes written as Yaweh), speaking of the self-existing One. When “Lord,” the lower case form is used, it translates the Hebrew Adonai or the Greek Kurios, both indicating one who rules, a master.

The Bible Encyclopedia lists 947 names for God that are found in the Bible. The Almighty’s names and titles are His revelation of Himself, of His nature and character. Each name is like one facet in a precious jewel, reflecting something of His person. The late theologian Charles Ryrie said, “In a sense, then, God’s ‘name’ is equal to all that the Bible and creation tell us about God.”

Compound names, such as “the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20) gather several qualities or characteristics together. In the Old Testament, there are many compound names of God. In Exodus 15:26, He calls Himself (in Hebrew) Jehovah Rapha, “the LORD who heals.” Jehovah Tsidkenu means “the LORD our Righteousness” (Jer. 23:6); Jehovah Jireh means “the LORD will provide” (Gen. 22:14); and Jehovah Sabaoth, found over two hundred times, is most often translated “the Lord of Hosts,” referring to the hosts of holy angels at God’s command, His angelic army (e.g. I Sam. 1:3).

Each name of the Lord helps to deepen our understanding of who He is, and each gives us a new motivation to worship and praise Him, as well as to trust and obey Him. “Praise and exalt the name of the Lord, for His name alone is exalted and supreme! His glory and majesty are above earth and heaven!” (Ps. 148:13, Amplified Version).

It was to celebrate many of the names of God in 1709, that hymn writer Isaac Watts gave the church Join All the Glorious Names. It focuses on the Lord Jesus, reminding us that even His many names and titles aren’t sufficient to express all that He is, and all He has done for us.

Note: A couple of changes have been made in the original hymn. In Stanza 1, the double use of “too mean” has been changed to “too poor.” (“Mean” to Watts likely meant humble, common, impoverished.) And in Stanza 10, the opening line was originally “My dear almighty Lord.” This is often changed to “My Saviour and my Lord.”

CH-1) Join all the glorious names
Of wisdom, love, and power,
That ever mortals knew,
That angels ever bore:
All are too poor to speak His worth,
Too poor to set my Saviour forth.

CH-8) Jesus, my great High Priest,
Offered His blood, and died;
My guilty conscience seeks
No sacrifice beside:
His powerful blood did once atone,
And now it pleads before the throne.

CH-10) My Saviour and my Lord,
My Conqueror and my King,
Thy scepter and Thy sword,
Thy reigning grace I sing:
Thine is the power; behold I sit
In willing bonds beneath Thy feet.

Questions:
1) What is the name or title for the Lord that most often blesses you?

2) Is there a hymn that includes (or especially focuses on) the name you gave in the answer above?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | September 29, 2017

O Still in Accents Sweet

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 Longfellow (b. June 18, 1819; d. Oct. 3, 1892)
Music: St. Mark, by Henry John Gauntlett (b. July 9, 1805; Feb. 21, 1876)

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

Note: Samuel Longfellow, the brother of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, seems to have shared something of the poetic gift of his older brother. He wrote many hymns and also published collections of hymns. The original title of the present song was “Behold the Fields Are White.” Another tune sometimes used with this hymn is Mount Calvary, by Robert Prescott Stewart (1825-1894)

The rhythmic sweep of a scythe has given way to the rumble of much more efficient (and expensive) farming equipment across the land, but the basic goal is the same: to put food on the table.

Many steps and hours of labour come before the harvest is brought in. The land must be worked, and the seed sown, each in its time. And in many homes there are ardent prayers for just the right amount of sun and rain to maximize the yield. We’d think it strange, if not actually irresponsible, for a farmer to labour long hours at the earlier work and then ignore the harvesting of what is produced.

The book of Proverbs heaps scorn on the lazy person who stops before the work is done, asking him to consider the industry of the ants. “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which…provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest” (Prov. 6:6-8). “He who sleeps in harvest is a son who causes shame” (Prov. 10:5). We need to finish well.

“Sow fields and plant vineyards, that they may yield a fruitful harvest” (Ps. 107:37). That is God’s plan. And what’s true in the physical realm can be applied in the spiritual as well. In the service of God and the proclamation of the gospel there’s a sowing and reaping, with dependence on the Lord. “I planted,” says Paul, “Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (I Cor. 3:6).

Christ told His disciples, “I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain” (Jn. 15:16). The lasting fruit of their service would involve leading others to faith in Christ, and teaching them so that they would be built up in the faith, becoming servants of Christ themselves.

“Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!’” (Jn. 4:34-35).

“Then He [the Lord] said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest’” (Matt. 9:37-38).

There are those, such as pastors and missionaries, who engage in this work full-time, or vocationally. But there is work for all to do. Notice two things in the Scriptures quoted above. The Lord calls us to “lift up [our] eyes and look at [raise our eyes and observe] the fields” (Jn. 4:35). Perhaps we’ve been so concerned with our own things, and our own plans, that we’ve been looking down at them, when we need to look around and see the deep spiritual needs of others.

We can all do that. Then, we can also pray. “Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest” (Matt. 9:38). And pray for the workers who are already serving the Lord around the world. The Apostle Paul sensed the need for Christians to pray for him, and he mentions it many times (e.g. Eph. 6:18-20; Col. 4:2-4; I Thess. 5:25).

In 1864, Samuel Longfellow published a pretty missionary hymn that draws on some of the texts quoted. The song says:

CH-1) O still in accents sweet and strong
Sounds forth the ancient word,
“More reapers for white harvest fields,
More labourers for the Lord.”

CH-3) Where prophets’ word, and martyrs’ blood,
And prayers of saints were sown,
We, to their labours entering in,
Would reap where they have strown.

CH-4) O Thou whose call our hearts has stirred,
To do Thy will we come;
Thrust in our sickles at Thy Word,
And bear our harvest home.

Questions:
1) What are you doing for the cause of world missions?

2) What are some other things you might do to help reach the world with the gospel?

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

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