Posted by: rcottrill | October 9, 2017

Count Your Blessings

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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: 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


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