Posted by: rcottrill | October 21, 2016

Reach Out to Jesus

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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: Ralph Richard Carmichael (b. May 27, 1927)
Music: Ralph Richard Carmichael

Wordwise Hymns (Ralph Carmichael)
The Cyber Hymnal (Ralph Carmichael) (Ralph Carmichael)

Note: Carmichael is an interesting man. He wrote both secular and sacred music, and his talents were well recognized by popular musicians of the day. Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald and others availed themselves of his skills at orchestration. He also did music for the old I Love Lucy show.

Ralph Carmichael’s approach to Christian music clearly was influenced by his work in the secular field. He created a kind of religious pop genre that has led to him being called the Father of Contemporary Christian Music. A number of his songs are in current use,  including: He’s Everything to Me, and The Saviour Is Waiting.

Reach. It’s not a particularly euphonious word when we say it–maybe because it sounds too much like wretch, or retch! But it’s an important and frequently used term. It describes the scope of something, or a distance covered. It indicates the farthest something stretches, or can be stretched.

In everyday life, if we can’t reach what is on a high shelf, we have to get a step-stool or a ladder. With respect to cell phone coverage, there are places not reached as yet, though that is improving. The phrase boarding house reach has to do with grabbing food on the dinner table rather than waiting politely for it to be passed. (The idea being that if you wait, you’ll go hungry!) In boxing, an athlete’s reach is an important statistic because having longer arms often gives a fighter an advantage over his opponent.

We may reach out to help someone who has fallen down or, in a figurative sense, reach out in an effort to communicate, or to enlarge our circle of friends. Those are good things. On the other hand, to overreach is to strain in a vain attempt to achieve a goal that’s beyond us. For example, a college student may try to take on too many courses in a semester, and eventually find he can’t handle the load. He discovers his goal is beyond reach.

The Bible makes it clear that God is infinitely beyond our reach. He tells us, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts: (Isa. 55:9). “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?…For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever” (Rom. 11:34-36).

God is eternal, we are mortal; He is infinite, we are finite; He is holy, we are sinful–and our sin comes between us and God. “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isa. 59:2). There is not even, in sinful human beings, a natural desire to seek after God at all (Rom. 3:11).

Because a sin-darkened heart is not warm toward God, He Himself had to take the initiative (Jn. 6:44). The good news is that Christ dealt with our sin on the cross. There, He paid sin’s debt for all (Jn. 1:29; I Jn. 2:2).“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” the Bible says (Rom. 5:8). And “we love Him because He first loved us” (I Jn. 4:19). We have the power to love God because He first reached out in grace to demonstrate His love for us, unworthy as we are.

The Spirit of God brings conviction of sin and points us to the Saviour (Jn. 16:8-11). When we trust in Him, our debt of sin is cancelled, we are welcomed into God’s forever family, and receive the gift of eternal life (Jn. 1:12-13; 3:16, 18). That is the Christian gospel.

Ralph Carmichael wrote words and music for a song called Reach Out to Jesus, a number subsequently recorded by Elvis Presley. In the first stanza, it speaks of life’s heavy burdens, and dangers, and of weariness in the struggle. In the second there is sorrow and despair, worries about the future, being friendless, and having a sense of losing one’s way.

But the refrain points us to Christ.

He is always there, hearing ev’ry prayer, faithful and true;
Walking by our side, in His love we hide all the day through.
When you get discouraged just remember what to do–
Reach out to Jesus, He’s reaching out to you.

It would seem that always, when we reach out to the One who is to sinners beyond reach, we find that He has been reaching out to us all the time. To put it in terms of Revelation 3:20, He has been knocking at the door, urging us to open it and find loving fellowship with Him.

The only time the word “reach” is actually used of Christ is in His invitation to “doubting Thomas” to reach out and touch the print of the nails in His hands, and the spear wound in His side (Jn. 20:27). We can’t do that today, but we can reach Him by faith in the Word of God, and receive the blessings offered that way (Jn. 20:29).

1) When did you reach out in faith to the Lord Jesus and accept His salvation?

2) When have you recently reached out to Him regarding other needs, and received His help?

Wordwise Hymns (Ralph Carmichael)
The Cyber Hymnal (Ralph Carmichael) (Ralph Carmichael)


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