Posted by: rcottrill | July 22, 2019

My Faith Looks Up to Thee

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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: Ray Palmer (b. Nov. 12, 1808; d. Mar. 29, 1887)
Music: Olivet (or Mason), by Lowell Mason (b. Jan, 8, 1792; d. Aug. 11, 1872)

Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Palmer was an American college professor, and later a pastor. He also wrote many hymns. Though most of them are no longer in use, reports My Faith Looks Up to Thee has appeared in nearly two thousand hymnals.

Many students are familiar with Coles Notes. They began this way.

In 1948, Toronto bookstore owners Jack and Carl Cole started publishing the short study guides on school subjects. They provided helpful summaries of longer and more complicated topics. In 1958, the Cole brothers sold the series rights to Cliff Hillegass, and Coles Notes became Cliff Notes.

Sixteen of Shakespeare’s plays have been covered, and many English novels. Eventually there were 120 titles also dealing with science, foreign languages, biology, sociology, economics. accounting, algebra, history, and more. As I write, there is beside me the Coles Notes synopsis of Tolkien’s trilogy, The Lord of the Rings In a mere 85 pages, it provides highlights and helpful explanations of a work totaling over ten times that.

Some argue that the shortcuts promote laziness, and deprive students of a richer learning experience. They certainly have a point when it comes to English literature. You can grasp the plot of a novel or a play in a summary, but you miss experiencing the richness of language. Whether it’s Shakespeare, Dickens, or another of the true masters, it’s not only what they say but how they say it that’s worth studying.

However, that being said, especially with more technical subjects, getting an overview can assist us in keeping the details straight. It can give us mental hooks to hang specific facts on, so we can recall them, and make use of them in an orderly and effective way.

There’s a sense in which many of the hymns of the church can do likewise, serving as summaries of biblical truth. There are Trinitarian hymns, for example, that teach us things about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Or take a simple gospel song such as At Calvary, which gives a clear and compelling explanation of God’s plan of salvation, and how to receive it.

Ray Palmer gave us another simple song like that in 1830. It’s a prayer hymn, still appreciated for its clear message and a singable tune. Lowell Mason, who provided the tune, told Pastor Palmer:

“You may live many years and do many good things, but I think you will be best known to posterity as the author of My Faith Looks Up to Thee.”

He was right. The four stanzas teach us about four aspects of the Christian life, and they can be identified with four key words.

Eternal salvation is found in Christ alone, called the Lamb of God (Jn. 1:29). It is through faith in Him and His Calvary work that we are saved (Jn. 3:16).

CH-1) My faith looks up to Thee,
Thou Lamb of Calvary,
Saviour divine!
Now hear me while I pray,
Take all my guilt away,
O let me from this day
Be wholly Thine!

As Christians, we are called into the service of the Lord. It’s our love’s response to what His love did for us (I Jn. 4:10, 19).

CH-2) May Thy rich grace impart
Strength to my fainting heart,
My zeal inspire!
As Thou hast died for me,
O may my love to Thee,
Pure warm, and changeless be,
A living fire!

While we are in this world, there will be trials to face (Jas. 1:2-4; Rom. 8:18).

CH-3) While life’s dark maze I tread,
And griefs around me spread,
Be Thou my guide;
Bid darkness turn to day,
Wipe sorrow’s tears away,
Nor let me ever stray
From Thee aside.

Heaven awaits the children of God, where the Lord Jesus has gone to prepare an eternal home for us (Jn. 14:2-3).

CH-4) When ends life’s transient dream,
When death’s cold sullen stream
Shall o’er me roll;
Blest Saviour, then in love,
Fear and distrust remove;
O bear me safe above,
A ransomed soul!

1) How would you describe what it means, spiritually to “look up” to the Lord Jesus?

2) Why do you think Lowell Mason was convinced Ray Palmer would be remembered for this hymn?

Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal


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