Jack Wyrtzen was born in New York City. Before his conversion he conducted a dance band called The Silver Moon Serenaders. He came to Christ through the witness of a buddy in a training camp for the U.S. Cavalry. Wyrtzen began holding Saturday night youth rallies, often in Madison Square Garden. (The wonderful tenor in my father’s quartet was invited to sing at one of these, but he declined.) The rally concept was later copied and used far and wide by Youth for Christ.
Mr. Wyrtzen called his program “Word of Life,” and he went on to build other aspects of it, including a Bible institute, a ranch and resort, as well as camps and schools abroad, and a weekly youth program for local churches. He also carried on a regular radio program since the early 1940’s. He died on April 14, 1996.
In the 1960’s, Jack Wyrtzen preached a message called “Three Days in the Life of a Christian.” (Yesterday He [Christ] died for me; today He lives for me; tomorrow He’s coming for me.) His musician son, Don, set the truths in the message to music, and the result was the song, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (actually more of an extended chorus than a hymn).
Yesterday He died for me, yesterday, yesterday,
Yesterday He died for me, yesterday,
Yesterday He died for me, died for me–
This is history.
(2) Today in 1987 – James Orr Died
James Edwin Orr was born in Belfast, Ireland. In 1939, he became an associate pastor at the People’s Church in Toronto, briefly assisting the senior pastor Oswald J. Smith (also a hymn writer). After serving as a chaplain with the U.S. Army Air Corps, during the war, he earned a PhD at Oxford in 1948. He also received honorary degrees from other institutions, and in 1967 became a professor in the School of World Missions at Fuller Theological Seminary. He wrote a number of books, and at least 6 hymns. The best known of the latter is Search Me, O God.
Irish evangelist James Orr was only 24 years of age in 1936, when he spoke at a series of meetings in New Zealand. Concerted prayer had preceded his visit, and the Lord blessed in an unusual way. Many of the saints of God were revived and renewed, and many sinners trusted Christ as Saviour. Midnight services had to be added to accommodate the huge crowds. One of the things that characterized the time of spiritual refreshing was that Christians were brought under conviction. They confessed their sins, asked forgiveness of those they had previously wronged, and recommitted their lives to the Lord. With David the psalmist they prayed,
Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties [worries that indicate a lack of faith]; and see if there is any wicked way [an offense against You] in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Ps. 139:23-24).
Two particular results came in the life of Dr. Orr as a result of those days of blessing. For one thing, it started him on decades of study concerning the subject of revival. And for another, he created a hymn based on the above text. As he was leaving New Zealand, four Maori girls sang the Polynesian song, “Now is the hour when we must say goodbye.” James Orr used the melody for his hymn.
Search me, O God,
And know my heart today;
Try me, O Saviour,
Know my thoughts, I pray.
See if there be
Some wicked way in me;
Cleanse me from every sin
And set me free.