Posted by: rcottrill | August 29, 2016

My Wonderful Lord

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Words: Haldor Lillenas (b. Nov. 19, 1885; d. Aug. 18, 1959)
Music: Haldor Lillenas

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Haldor Lillenas)
The Cyber Hymnal (Haldor Lillenas)
Hymnary.org

Note: Mr. Lillenas came from Norway to America as a child, and the family settled in South Dakota, later moving to Oregon. He studied music and wrote hundreds of hymns, including the rousing song Wonderful Grace of Jesus. In 1924 he founded the Lillenas Music Company to publish Christian music, serving as an editor there until his retirement in 1950.

There is a clause in the third line of the refrain of this song that has always concerned me: “I bow at Thy shrine, my Saviour divine.” Oh? His “shrine”? And where is that? The verb form of the word is enshrine. To enshrine means to enclose in a shrine (usually a building). It is done with relics, the bones and belongings of dead saints which are put in shrines, so people who believe in venerating them, and praying to them (though I do not), can go there and do so.

It makes no sense to talk of putting the Lord Jesus in a shrine, or bowing at some shrine of His. First, He is not dead. His tomb is empty. He is now seated on a royal throne, at the right hand of the Father in heaven (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 1:1-3), there to be our Intercessor (Heb. 7:25) and Advocate (I Jn. 2:1).

Second, He has promised that His spiritual presence will be with us always (Matt. 28:20). Whatever we make of Lillenas’s experience described below, whether it had a supernatural element, or was simply faith’s awareness of the reality of Christ’s presence, the author clearly believes in this. If you use the song, I recommend that you change the line to: “I know Thou art mine,” as I have done below.

Successful people usually get that way because of their dedication and sustained effort. Inventor Thomas Edison famously said, “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” Many others have expressed similar sentiments. Opera star Beverly Sills said, “There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” And football coach Vince Lombardi said, “A dictionary is the only place that success comes before work.”

To be dedicated is to be wholly committed to something or someone. Inventors, athletes, musicians, and more, dedicate themselves to do what it takes to achieve excellence in their chosen profession. Doctors and teachers dedicate themselves to their work in serving others. And we’ve often admired the commitment and dedication of the police and fire fighters who lay their lives on the line every day.

But it’s not only people that can be dedicated. We dedicate national parks to be places where wildlife is protected. We build cenotaphs and raise monuments to honour the military, and lives that are lost in the cause of freedom. Churches are dedicated too, to be places where people can come to worship and serve the Lord. And, when we present our offerings there, we are dedicating the money to be used in ways that honour God and help others.

When it comes to the Christian faith, the highest calling anyone can commit to is a dedication of his or her life to the Lord. The Bible expresses it this way: “I beseech you [urge you] therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God [because of all the Lord has done for you], that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1).

On Jewish altars of old, animal sacrifices were slain. But this is a call to the living, to do their living in obedience to God, and in the fulfilment of His purposes. It involves a lifelong commitment of our bodies (and all we do in them and through them) to His service. It’s a dedication of our time, talents and treasures to Him forever.

We are not forced to do this. Rather, believers are compelled (motivated) by the Saviour’s love for us to be “ambassadors for Christ” (II Cor. 5:14, 20). “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10), and we have a desire to “walk [or live] worthy of the calling with which [we] were called” (Eph. 4:1).

One man who did that was pastor and hymn writer Haldor Lillenas. He was a dedicated man, committed to serving the Lord. But like all of God’s people, he experienced difficult times, as he did in 1919. He says:

“My wife was very ill, and it was with a heavy heart that I left home that morning [to head to the office]….I was busy writing songs, compiling and editing books, doing what I felt God had called me to do. But I sometimes wondered how many of them [the songs] would be sung. Suddenly as I drove along the avenue, it seemed that Someone quietly opened the car door and sat down beside me. I could feel the warmth of His sacred presence.”

It was with that unusual sense of the Lord’s comforting nearness that Lillenas began, as he drove along, to create and sing the present song of dedication.

1) I have found a deep peace that I never had known
And a joy this world could not afford,
Since I yielded control of my body and soul
To my wonderful, wonderful Lord.

My wonderful Lord, my wonderful Lord,
By angels and seraphs in heaven adored;
I know Thou art mine, my Saviour divine,
My wonderful, wonderful Lord.

3) All the talents I have I have laid at Thy feet,
Thy approval shall be my reward;
Be my store great or small, I surrender it all
To my wonderful, wonderful Lord.

Questions:
1) What does dedication to the Lord mean to you, practically?

2) Is there something in your life that you have trouble releasing to His control?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Haldor Lillenas)
The Cyber Hymnal (Haldor Lillenas)
Hymnary.org


Responses

  1. Thank you for this blog post. “My Wonderful Lord” is one of my favorite hymns.I first learned the long when our church got new hymnals. We use Songs and Hymns of Revival. The version in our hymnal has the line, “I know thou art mine” in the chorus.

    I wanted to see if anyone had recorded this song so I could put it in a playlist with my other top favorite hymns, but every version I found online had the line you quoted, “I bow at your shrine”. Which I thought was just weird. I looked in our church music library, and “My Wonderful Lord” is in the Nazarene Hymnal, Praise and Worship. It also has the line, “I know thou art mine”. Since Nazarene Puiblishing House owns LIllenas Music, I assume that the correct line is “I know thou art mine”.

    My guess is that those whose doctrinal stance doesn’t allow for knowing for sure that Jesus is theirs changed it. But I don’t know. It’s just a guess. I do know that I sing this song almost every day. Music will be played at work, or a line from a secular tune will get stuck in my head. When that happens, I begin singing, “My Wonderful Lord”. I don’t sing it too fast, but moderately fast, I suppose. It always cheers me up and drives away the depressing worldly music that can be so oppressive.

    Again, thanks for this blog post, and for your blog.

    • H-m-m… Well, I don’t know if I buy your idea of how the “shrine” line came to be, but it’s possible. I recall we had an old 78 rpm disk back home of the song, sung by converted blues singer Helen McAlerney Barth. I suspect the recording was made in the late ’40’s or early ’50’s, and she sang “I bow at Thy shrine.”

      I’m glad to hear you’ve found books containing the other version. Singspiration’s Favorites #3 has the “shrine” version, with a copyright date of 1938 by Nazarene Publishing. Not a major factor in world affairs, I guess, 🙂 but “I know Thou art mine” seems far more in tune with Scripture. Thanks for your input.


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