Posted by: rcottrill | May 1, 2017

Breathe on Me

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Words: Baylus Benjamin McKinney (b. July 22, 1886; d. Sept. 7, 1952)
Music: Baylus Benjamin McKinney

Wordwise Hymns (B. B. McKinney)
The Cyber Hymnal (B. B. McKinney)

Note: B. B. McKinney wrote this hymn called Breathe on Me (or Holy Spirit, Breathe on Me), about the work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian’s life. Strangely, this song is sometimes credited to Edwin Hatch (1835-1889), who wrote Breathe on Me, Breath of God, which explores a similar theme. ( goes so far as to credit the present hymn to Hatch, listing McKinney as an “adapter” of the song.) McKinney may have been inspired by the earlier hymn, and borrows some of Hatch’s phrases, but they are not identical.

McKinney served as an assistant pastor, a seminary music teacher, a hymn book editor, a soloist, and song leader. So influential was his ministry that his denomination dubbed him “the father of church music among the Southern Baptists.” Sadly, he was killed in an automobile accident at the age of sixty-six.

In the cold weather, we can see our breath–well, sort of. The white clouds billowing from mouth and nose are actually water vapour in the invisible air we’re breathing out, but the phenomena does give us an awareness of our breathing.

It’s something that happens 17,000 to 30,000 times a day, day after day, for as long as we live. In fact, we need to breathe to live. Our lungs take in needed oxygen which is passed into our bloodstream, while carbon dioxide is expelled when we exhale. There are emergency situations in which a person’s air flow has stopped, and he’s lost consciousness. As quickly as possible breathing needs to be restored, if tissue and brain damage are to be avoided, and life is to be sustained.

This often requires artificial respiration, a rescue technique to get breathing started again. Until the mid-twentieth century, this was done chiefly by repeated chest compressions, putting manual pressure on the lungs. In more recent years mouth-to-mouth resuscitation has been used, or a combination of the two methods. The latter technique is popularly called the kiss of life, as the rescuer breathes life-giving air into the lungs of the unconscious person.

The Bible has some things to tell us about breathing. When God formed the first man’s body from the dust (or elements) of the earth, He “breathed into His nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being [a living creature]” (Gen. 2:7). Human life, in physical terms, originated when the animating life of God was breathed into Adam. “The breath of the Almighty gives me life,” says Job, “in whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:10; 33:4). “He gives to all life, breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25).

It is of interest to us here that both the Old Testament Hebrew word (ruwach) and the New Testament Greek word (pneuma) can mean either spirit or breath. In a real sense, the Holy Spirit brings to us, in spiritual terms, the life-giving, empowering breath of God. And just as we cannot see the air, we cannot see the Spirit of God at work in our lives, but we can certainly perceive the transforming results.

The Lord Jesus made a similar observation. “The wind [pneuma] blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit [Pneuma]” (Jn. 3:8). As the power of the invisible wind can propel a sailboat, turn a windmill, or lift a kite, so the Holy Spirit’s work causes spiritual growth and animates our service for Christ.

As believers, “you were washed [from sins corruption]…you were sanctified [set apart as God’s possession, and]…you were justified [pronounced righteous by a holy God] in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (I Cor. 6:11). We are to be “filled [and fulfilled] with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18), a phrase indicating that as we are living consistently in faith and obedience toward God, His will and purpose are fulfilled in us. When the early Christians were filled with the Spirit, they “spoke the Word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).

2) Holy Spirit, breathe on me,
My stubborn will subdue;
Teach me in words of living flame
What Christ would have me do.

Breathe on me, breathe on me,
Holy Spirit, breathe on me;
Take Thou my heart, cleanse every part,
Holy Spirit, breathe on me.

3) Holy Spirit, breathe on me,
Fill me with pow’r divine;
Kindle a flame of love and zeal
Within this heart of mine.

1) Can you list a number of important ministries of the Spirit of God?

2) What other hymns about the Holy Spirit do you know?

Wordwise Hymns (B. B. McKinney)
The Cyber Hymnal (B. B. McKinney)


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