Posted by: rcottrill | November 2, 2016

Abba, Father! We Approach Thee

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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: James George Deck (b. Nov. 1, 1802; d. Aug. 14, 1884)
Music: Beecher, by John Zundel (b. Dec. 10, 1815; d. July ___, 1882)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: The Cyber Hymnal describes this little known hymnist as follows: He was “educated for the army, and became an officer in the Indian service. Retiring from the army, and having joined the Plymouth Brethren, he undertook, in 1843, the charge of a congregation of that body at Wellington, Somerset. In 1852, he went abroad and settled in New Zealand.

The tune Beecher is also used with Love Divine, All Loves Excelling. It suits this magnificent hymn extremely well. Though not quite as effective, in my view, the tune Erie, by Charles Converse, can also fit, a melody commonly used for What a Friend We Have in Jesus.

The word “father,” designating a male parent, has been around for a long time, though many centuries ago the form was fader or faeder.

There are also diminutive words, nicknames usually used by children to express warm affection for their father. He may be called papa (from the French and Latin words for father), or even pop, a shortened form used in America since the nineteenth century, or pater in Britain. Daddy is another such word, also found in the shorter form dad.

Happy is the home where mom can summon the children’s delighted greeting of him with the cheerful call, “Daddy’s home!” Though, sad to say, there are homes in which the family cannot enter into the spirit of this. Homes where dad has abdicated his responsibility, and even cruelly abused his children. May that not be true of ours.

For nearly a century–since June of 1910 in America–an annual Father’s Day has been celebrated in many countries of the world. It has become a way to honour our fathers and show appreciation for all they have done for us. But fathers are not simply to be lauded annually on one traditional day. The Lord says they are to be respected all through our lives. The command to honour father and mother is one of the Ten Commandments introducing the Law of Israel (Exod. 20:12), and the injunction is restated in the New Testament (Eph. 6:2).

God Himself is frequently given the title of Father, and the term is used in a number of different ways. It is applied to Him as one of the persons in the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). He is the Father of all in the sense that He is the Creator (Mal. 2:10). Also, God is referred to as “the Father of spirits [angelic beings]” (Heb. 12:9). He calls Himself a Father to the nation of Israel (Jer. 31:9). And we today have the right to address Him as our Father, when, through faith in Christ, we are born into His family (Gal. 3:26; cf. Jn. 1:12-13).

Our heavenly Father has for us the deepest affection and is committed to caring for us. “As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear [reverence] Him” (Ps. 103:13). There, the Hebrew word for pities (racham) means much more than feeling sorry for someone. It signifies tender affection and merciful love and compassion. And that describes God’s concern for us. But as a father He also has to discipline us sometimes, for our good and future blessing (Prov. 3:12).

In the New Testament there is a special word sometimes combined “Father” in addressing God. It is Abba, an Aramaic word, that is almost untranslatable. At the human level it was used by children in the sense daddy, or papa is today. But when applied to God it was considered a most sacred proper name. The Lord Jesus called His Father by that holy name in Gethsemane (Mk. 14:36). For us, it expresses the believer’s childlike feeling toward God.

“Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’” (Gal. 4:6).

“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’” (Rom. 8:15).

Very few translators would dare call God the Father “Daddy.” It lacks a sense of awe and reverence. And the awkward “Daddy Father” doesn’t work either. It can be left untranslated as Abba, which some English translations do. But I believe it was Martin Luther who suggest “dearest Father” as a good way to express the meaning.

In 1841, hymn writer James Deck produced a glorious hymn about this relationship. All of the hymn is beautiful. I wish there were room here for more, but do check out the complete hymn in the Cyber Hymnal. Notice how effectively Deck makes use of the parable of the Prodigal Son.

CH-1) “Abba, Father!” We approach Thee
In our Saviour’s precious name;
We, Thy children, here assembled,
Now Thy promised blessing claim;
From our sins His blood hath washed us,
’Tis through Him our souls draw nigh,
And Thy Spirit, too, hath taught us,
“Abba, Father,” thus to cry.

CH-2) Once as prodigals we wandered
In our folly far from Thee,
But Thy grace, o’er sin abounding,
Rescued us from misery;
Thou Thy prodigals hast pardoned,
Kissed us with a Father’s love,
Spread the festive board, and called us,
E’er to dwell with Thee above.

Questions:
1) What does it mean to have childlike feelings toward God, even as adults?

2) What does it mean to you that we can use the same term of endearment for God the Father that the Lord Jesus used?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | October 31, 2016

We Shall See the King Some Day

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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: Lewis Edgar Jones (b. Feb. 8, 1865; d. Sept. 1, 1936)
Music: Lewis Edgar Jones

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Lewis Jones)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: In the late nineteenth century, Lewis Jones was a student at Moody Bible Institute, in Chicago. Billy Sunday, the converted baseball player who became an evangelist, was a classmate of his. Though Sunday went on to a wider ministry, both men started out working for the Young Men’s Christian Association (the Y.M.C.A.). Lewis Jones continued that work for years, and was also the author of many gospel songs, including Power in the Blood, and the present selection.

Queen Elizabeth has been on the throne since 1952. Her Majesty has surpassed her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, becoming the longest reigning British monarch in history. She has been a counselor to thirteen prime ministers of Great Britain, from Sir Winston Churchill on, and advisor to one hundred and sixty prime ministers serving in other parts of her realm.

Have you ever met her? Imagine being face to face with royalty. Likely some of us would be intimidated by such an encounter, and we’d tend to be tongue-tied, and afraid of doing something dumb and violating proper protocol.

Some years ago I became friends with a man who got very close to the queen on one memorable occasion. He had been a paratrooper and a radio man in the European conflict, during the Second World War. His stories of those days were fascinating. But he had another distinction. He was a member of the honour guard selected to meet Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip at the airport, on one of their visits to Canada. Pretty exciting!

But the honour of serving the queen in that way, and of seeing her face to face, pales in comparison to the prospect of meeting Christ, the King of kings one day. He visited this earth once, long ago, presenting Himself as Israel’s King, but He was rejected. It was during the closing days when the Lord was on earth, when that presentation took place. It had been prophesied centuries before. Zechariah had said:

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zech. 9:9).

Those words were fulfilled by what is called Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. At that time:

“They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David [a title of the Messiah]! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Matt. 21:7-9). Even the children took up the chant, much to the anger of the Jewish leaders (vs. 15-16).

Sadly, this exaltation, though infinitely worthy of Him, was superficial for many in the crowd. A week later they were crying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” (Lk. 23:20-21). Hours after that, He died, nailed to a Roman gibbet. His body was buried in a borrowed tomb, but on the third day He rose again, and forty days later He ascended back into heaven once more, where He is seated at the right hand of God the Father.

But that is not the end of the story. Isaiah and others prophesy of His return and coming reign, a reign that will last forever (Isa. 9:6-7). Now, we wait, “until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing, which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords” (I Tim. 6:14-15). And in that day, all His blood-bought children will see the King in all His glory (Rev. 19:11-16).

That’s the theme taken up by Lewis Jones’s song. (The second line of the refrain in the 1906 original was: “We will shout and sing some day.” It wasn’t until a decade later that the version found in the Cyber Hymnal appeared.)

CH-1) Though the way we journey may be often drear,
We shall see the King some day;
On that blessèd morning clouds will disappear;
We shall see the King some day.

We shall see the King some day,
When the clouds have rolled away;
Gathered ’round the throne,
When He shall call His own,
We shall see the King some day.

CH-2) After pain and anguish, after toil and care,
We shall see the King some day;
Through the endless ages joy and blessing share,
We shall see the King some day.

Questions:
1) What are some appropriate things to do in the presence of an earthly monarch?

2) What will our attitudes and actions be in the presence of Christ, the King of kings?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Lewis Jones)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | October 28, 2016

The Last Mile of the Way

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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. 12, 1856; d. Sept. 25, 1922)
Music: William Edie Marks (b. July ___, 1872; d. Nov. 20, 1954)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Mr. Oatman worked for awhile in his father’s mercantile business, and later became an insurance salesman. He was also a preacher, filling the pulpits of churches around where he lived, but it’s as a hymn writer he is best known. Still found in evangelical hymn books today are songs such as his: Count Your Blessings; Higher Ground; No, Not One; and Under His Wings.

The last mile. It’s an expression that means we’re on the last leg of a journey, or in the last stage of a process. It signifies the end is in sight.

It has been used in prisons where capital punishment is still legal, to describe the condemned individual’s walk from a cell to the place of execution. However, San Quentin Prison, in California, has adopted the words to mean something quite different. The Last Mile program there is the final stage of rehabilitation preparing for the prisoner’s release into society. Instead of marking the journey to a tragic and dreadful end, it instills new hope for the future.

We all want to finish well. And any athlete will tell you that it’s the individual or team that presses on with all-out effort to the finish that has the best chance of winning. Whether it involves a long journey geographically, or a complicated project, seeing it through to the finish, and being able to enjoy the end result, is what we want.

And what about life? In that case, it gets a bit more complicated. How long is this mortal life? We used to speak of three-score years and ten. But the average length of life in North America has been increasing. Now, it’s about eighty-two, and it’s not as unusual as it once was for seniors to live past the century mark.

But there’s a key word in that last paragraph that needs to be taken into account. The word “average.” You and I are not averages, we are individuals. That means our lives may not fall in line with the overall average, and we do not know when the end may come. Think of what that means with regard to the concept of the last mile.

Today may be the last mile of the journey for you or me. God knows; we don’t. It’s necessary, and wise, to make plans for the future. But we also need to make today count, as though it could be our last–because it could be. If it is, let’s determine to finish well.

Praying to His heavenly Father, the Lord Jesus said, “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do” (Jn. 17:4), and His final cry from the cross was, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30). Near the end of his life, Paul’s assured testimony was, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (II Tim. 4:7).

Someone asked Methodist founder John Wesley how he would spend today, if he knew he would die tomorrow. His response (to paraphrase) was that he’d spend the day serving the Lord, exactly as planned. Such a question does invite an assessment of both our values and our morals. If this is the last mile of the way for us, and we are to stand before our Maker tomorrow to give account, will we do so with joy?

That question was pondered by hymn writer Johnson Oatman. His 1908 song, The Last Mile of the Way, speaks of his determination to finish well.

CH-1) If I walk in the pathway of duty,
If I work till the close of the day;
I shall see the great King in His beauty,
When I’ve gone the last mile of the way.

When I’ve gone the last mile of the way,
I will rest at the close of the day,
And I know there are joys that await me,
When I’ve gone the last mile of the way.

Having said all of this, I feel I must point out a major flaw in this song that would likely prevent me from using it. It’s Oatman’s repeated use of the word “if.” Whether or not it was his intention, he seems to make our entry into heaven dependent on our own good works. Four times we see the word in the first two stanzas.

CH-1) “If I walk in the pathway of duty…
If I work till the close of the day…
(CH-2) “If for Christ I proclaim the glad story…
If I seek for His sheep gone astray…

(CH-1) Then, “I shall see the great King in His beauty…
(CH-2) Then, “I am sure He will show me His glory.”

But once we make our acceptance by God dependent on what we do, and not on what Christ has already done, we are on theological quicksand. How much “duty” is enough? How much “work” is enough? Could I possibly miss heaven by failing to do one more good deed? Who knows!

Such a conditional salvation is heresy. Eternal life is a gift of God’s grace, already earned for us by Christ on the cross. It is never, not even a little bit, based on our own works (Eph. 2:8-9; Tit. 3:5). Through faith in Christ, we have a righteous standing before God because His perfect righteousness is credited to our heavenly account (II Cor. 5:21).

As believers, we ought to faithfully serve the Lord. No question about that. Serve Him because we love Him. And we will certainly receive rewards for our service, but that does not seem to be what Mr. Oatman is talking about. In the final stanza he does seem to come around to the idea that our service will bring us rewards in eternity, but again there’s an “if” to contend with. Is he suggesting that those who haven’t striven enough, or tried hard enough, will not be as happy as some others?

CH-4) And if here I have earnestly striven,
And have tried all His will to obey,
’Twill enhance all the rapture of heaven,
When I’ve gone the last mile of the way.

Questions:
1) Do you see the difficulty with the song the way Oatman wrote it?

2) If he doesn’t mean what he seems to mean, what does he mean?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | October 26, 2016

Sunset and Evening Star

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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: Alfred, Lord Tennyson (b. Aug. 6, 1809; d. Oct. 6, 1892)
Music: Joseph Barnby (b. Aug. 12, 1838; d. Jan. 28, 1896)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Alfred Tennyson was Poet Laureate of Great Britain through much of Queen Victoria’s reign, and the queen was a great admirer of his work. He was made a peer of the realm in 1833, becoming Alfred, Lord Tennyson. His father was a clergyman, though he admitted that he himself, though religious, and a believer in God, was not an orthodox Christian.

The words Sunset and Evening Star form the first line of the present hymn, and are sometimes used as a title. But the more common title of the poem is Crossing the Bar. Hymnary.org lists “C. Passmore” as the author, along with Tennyson. I’m not sure why. The work is entirely Tennyson’s.

Death is a subject that’s difficult to discuss. There can be several reasons for that.

Perhaps it’s something we fear, and wish to avoid as long as possible. As comedian Woody Allen famously said, “I’m not afraid of dying. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” This is likely the reason so many euphemisms for it have a sly or humorous tone. We speak of kicking the bucket, or pushing up daisies, or of someone who bought the big one.

Another difficulty we have with the topic is that death is so mysterious. Even the point of death in physical terms can be elusive. Is it when the individual stops breathing and his heart stops beating? We’ve all heard of those who’ve been brought back from such a state on the operating table. And best-selling books to the contrary, we are wise to question the reliability of testimonies about after-death experiences. It remains the final mystery.

When he was eighty years of age, and after a time of serious illness, Tennyson authored one of his best known poems called Crossing the Bar. In elegant lines of verse he describes what it means to die, comparing it to a ship crossing a sand bar at high tide, as it moves, in poetic imagery, from the river of life into the boundless ocean of eternity beyond. The mood is serene and quiet. The long and short lines seem to represent the gentle ebb and flow of the waves. (Note: a “bourne” is a brook.)

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.

Alfred Tennyson later explained, “The Pilot has been on board all the while, but in the dark I have not seen him. [He is] that Divine and Unseen who is always guiding us.” He himself called what he wrote a hymn, and it was first published in a hymnal in 1893. Even so, it is difficult for a congregation to sing, and is usually treated as a choral work.

For atheist Sigmund Freud, God was an illusion, invented by those with infantile emotional needs. Seeing nothing at all beyond, he claimed, “The goal of all life is death.” This sad and cruelly fatalistic view was not Tennyson’s. He said, “Life after death is the cardinal point of Christianity.” Though there is not much in Crossing the Bar that gives a clear and biblical message, it does strongly suggest there is something beyond this mortal existence.

The Word of God presents death as the doorway to our eternal destiny. For the one who has trusted Christ as Saviour, that means the future holds an eternity of blessings in His presence. “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord,” says Revelation 14:13. The testimony of the Apostle Paul was, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

Beyond “the valley of the shadow of death” there is the Lord Jesus in His glorious presence. The Lord promised:

“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (Jn. 14:2-3).

His word of promise is enough. We can rest in that.

Questions:
1) What is your personal view of death?

2) What is your confidence as to what lies beyond death? (Why are you sure about this?)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | October 24, 2016

Standing Somewhere in the Shadows

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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: Edward John (“Jack”) Rollings (b. _____, 1926; d. _____, 2001)
Music: Edward John Rollings

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal (Jack Rollings)
Hymnary.org

Note: Jack Rollings, a former police officer, became an evangelical pastor, serving the Lord in Detroit. One resource says he helped Billy Graham organize his “Motor City Campaign,” in 1953. He was also musical, and played the trumpet but, as far as I know, this is the only published song that comes from him. Hymnary.org appears to credit the song to E. J. Bollinger, and at the present time I have no explanation for that.

E ach of us has been on the receiving end of advice at one time or another. Perhaps when we had to make an important decision, or when we were involved in some difficult experience. Occasionally, it helped. But sometimes the advice is just plain wrong.

For example, the following advice might be dangerous: “You don’t need a doctor for that, you’ll be fine.” Or, “No, my dog won’t bite. Go ahead and pet him.” Or, “You don’t need an electrician. You can do it yourself.” Or, “Gun it! You can beat the train to the crossing.”

The problem with such advice is those giving it may not have the knowledge required to do so–they only think they do. Or they may not have an awareness of our particular and unique circumstances. And too often those most free with their advice are not ones who’ll have to deal directly with the consequences afterward. Sophocles, a dramatist in ancient Greece, said, “No enemy is worse than bad advice,”

The Lord had promised to give the nation of Israel a homeland, by enabling them to conquer the land of Canaan and make it their own. They camped at Kadesh Barnea, to the south, and twelve spies were sent in the check out the land. When the spies returned, they spoke of what they’d seen. But ten of the twelve gave a very negative report.

They said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we….There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight” (Num. 13:31, 33). Two of the spies, Caleb and Joshua, counseled moving ahead, and called the people to put their faith in God (Num. 13:30; 14:8). But it was in vain. The people took the bad advice of the ten, and refused to obey God.

That raises a question: Where are we to look for good advice, spiritual counsel and assistance we can count on? The answer, first and foremost is: It’s in the Word of God. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path…. The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (Ps. 119:105, 130).

Then there’s prayer. We can find help and direction at the throne of God. There, seated at the right hand of God the Father is the risen, glorified Christ. In His incarnation He dealt with similar challenges and obstacles to those we face. With a prophet’s eyes, Isaiah saw Him as, “despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3). And Matthew speaks of the Lord’s compassion for the multitudes (Matt. 9:36).

Of today we read of Him:

“We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15-16).

Pastor Jack Rollings often preached about how the Lord could sustain and help us in times of trial. But when difficulties hit him personally, his faith was shaken for a time. Doubts arose, and he questioned whether God really cared about what was happening to him.

It was a letter from a fellow pastor named A. P. Gouthrey that helped to restore his confidence in the Lord. His friend said he’d heard about Jack’s troubles, and was praying for him. He assured the struggling servant of God that even in the darkest times, the Lord is there. He wrote, “Sstanding somewhere in the shadows you’ll find Jesus.” That statement struck Pastor Rollings forcefully. Even in the dark time he’d been going through, the Lord was present, and could minister graciously to him.

He not only regained his spiritual balance, but determined to turn the encouraging words into a song. Though I don’t know exactly what it was that Rollings went through, perhaps there are hints of it in his song, which speaks in the second stanza of “deep disappointment, and trusts that have proven untrue.” The reference to the nail prints in the hands of Christ, in the last line of the refrain, reminds us that the Lord too has suffered and He understands.

1) Are there crosses too heavy to carry,
And burdens too heavy to bear?
Are there heartaches and tears and anguish
And no one who seems to care?

Standing somewhere in the shadows you’ll find Jesus;
He’s the Friend who always cares and understands.
Standing somewhere in the shadows you will find Him,
And you’ll know Him by the nail-prints in His hands.

Questions:
1) Is there something you are going through just now that has shaken your faith?

2) What can you do to restore your confidence in God?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal (Jack Rollings)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | October 21, 2016

Reach Out to Jesus

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Ralph Carmichael)
The Cyber Hymnal (Ralph Carmichael)
Hymnary.org (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).

Questions:
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?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Ralph Carmichael)
The Cyber Hymnal (Ralph Carmichael)
Hymnary.org (Ralph Carmichael)

Posted by: rcottrill | October 19, 2016

Overshadowed

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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: George Stark Schuler (b. Apr. 18, 1882; d. Oct. 30, 1973), and Henry Allen (“Harry”) Ironside (b. Oct. 14, 1876; d. Jan. 15, 1951)
Music: George Stark Schuler

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (George Schuler)
Hymnary.org

Note: George Schuler was a music teacher at Moody Bible Institute, in Chicago. He gave us the music for the gospel song Make Me a Blessing. Harry Ironside, born in Toronto, Canada, was wonderful Bible teacher, who ministered all over the world. My parents spoke of him. His expositions of the Scriptures are still available in book form today, more than half a century after his death. If you aren’t familiar with his writings, try his commentaries on the Gospel of John, or Romans.

There are words in the English language that have changed their meaning over the years. The dictionary has a word for older definitions: archaic. It means: belonging to an earlier period, roughly some time before the year 1900.

Here are a few examples of archaic meanings. A clue (or clew) was a ball of yarn; awful once meant worthy of awe and reverence; nice meant silly or foolish; gay meant happy; pretty meant crafty or cunning; and bully meant good. In 1904 Teddy Roosevelt called the White House “a bully pulpit,” meaning a good place from which to preach American values.

Another word that’s changed its common meaning is overshadow. Today the word carries the sense of something being more important or significant. For instance, the many records set by Wayne Gretzky overshadow those of any hockey player before him. But the word originally meant to cover, shelter or hide, sometimes suggesting the idea of protecting or providing for in a special way.

In the Bible, the word is used to describe two golden images of angels (called cherubim) that spread their wings above the ark of the covenant in the temple (II Chron. 5:8). It was there that the glorious presence of God was revealed in Old Testament times (Ps. 99:1).

The ark became, for that time, an earthly representation of God’s throne in heaven. When the Apostle John is caught up into heaven, centuries later, he sees a vision of what he calls “living creatures” hovering around the throne, saying “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty” (Rev. 4:8). These angels (likely cherubim) are appointed to be guardians of the throne of God, shielding it from all that is unrighteous or unholy.

Our word is also used when an angel comes to a young virgin named Mary and explains how it is that she will give birth to Jesus by a special empowering of God. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (Lk. 1:35).

One day in the early 1930’s George Schuler was seated at the piano, “doodling,” as he called it, and he had deep sense of God’s loving care through the years of his life. The Bible speaks of “His great love with which He loved us” (Eph. 2:4), and many have experienced it. Second Thessalonians says, “Our God and Father…has loved us and given us everlasting consolation [comfort and encouragement] and good hope by grace” (II Thess. 2:16).

As he thought about this, Schuler began improvising a melody, and suddenly words to fit it came into his mind: “I’m overshadowed by His mighty love, love eternal, changeless, pure.” He completed the melody, but was unable to fill in all the words for the song.

The pastor of Moody Church in the city at that time was well-known Bible teacher Harry Ironside. Schuler contacted him and asked if he could provide some lyrics for a melody he’d written. Though Ironside protested that he was not a poet, he agreed to try. But weeks went by, then months, and nothing happened. Copies of the tune got buried under other work by both busy servants of God, and they forgot about the project.

It was a full year later that George Schuler was looking through a pile of unpublished music and came across what he’d written. He phoned Dr. Ironside, who apologized for the oversight, and quickly sat down at his desk and produced the song Overshadowed. It is not really a congregation hymn, but has made a beautiful solo number for many.

1) How desolate my life would be,
How dark and drear my nights and days,
If Jesus’ face I did not see
To brighten all earth’s weary ways.

I’m overshadowed by His mighty love,
Love eternal, changeless, pure,
Overshadowed by His mighty love,
Rest is mine, serene, secure;
He died to ransom me from sin,
He lives to keep me day by day.
I’m overshadowed by His mighty love,
Love that brightens all my way.

Questions:
1) What does it mean to you, and to your own life, that you are overshadowed by the love of God?

2) What are your favourite hymns about the love of God?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (George Schuler)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | October 17, 2016

Jesus Never Fails

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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: Arthur Abner Luther (b. July 26, 1891; d. Jan. 30, 1960)
Music: Arthur Abner Luther

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Arthur Luther was a pastor in the northeastern United States, as well as being a musician. He wrote a number of gospel songs.

Advertisers are paid a great deal of money to come up with catchy slogans that are short and sharp, and become so identified with a product that, when we hear one, we almost immediately think of the other.

Here are a few slogans. See if you can identify the products they advertise. (Perhaps, if you don’t live in North America, this will be more difficult. 1) Snap! Crackle! Pop! 2) Let your fingers do the walking. 3) The quicker picker upper. 4) Finger-lickin’ good. 5) It keeps going, and going, and going… 6) It takes a licking and keeps on ticking.

Each advertising slogan must not only be memorable, but it has to say something important about the product, or at least tease our imagination with some fantasy that can be linked to it. Driving a Toyota car may not make us exclaim, “Oh, what a feeling!” but the company wants us to imagine it will.

Now, here are the products represented by the slogans given earlier: 1) Kellog’s Rice Krispies; 2) the Yellow Pages phone directory; 3) Bounty Paper Towels; 4) Kentucky Fried Chicken; 5) Energizer Batteries; 6) Timex Watches.

Some advertising goes to impossible extremes in assuring potential customers that it can absolutely be relied upon not to let them down. At the turn of the twentieth century, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company’s slogan was, “The light that never fails.” In 2011 it became, “Guarantees for the IF in life.”

But both of these seem close to a kind of God-like pronouncement that implies omniscience and omnipotence. Can any company, being run by fallible mortals, in days of economic uncertainty, and in a world where change often seems to be the only consistency, say there is no possibility they will ever fail a customer? No. “Almost never” might be closer to it, but that would hardly make an attractive motto!

Only Almighty God can speak in absolutes. “I am the Lord, I do not change,” He says (Mal. 3:6). And Christians can be “confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:35-39).

Does that mean we’ll never suffer pain or disappointment? Or that we’ll always get what we pray for? No. Because God’s ways are infinitely above our own, and He may be doing things we don’t understand at the moment. Here’s an illustration.

In the 1920’s, Arthur Luther was serving as the pianist for an evangelist holding meetings in a remote mountain community in Kentucky. There were no telephones , only a telegraph, and it was only accessible by a train that came up the mountain once a week. But after a couple of days a telegram arrived for Mr. Luther saying his boy taken seriously ill and had been rushed to the hospital. Home was six hundred miles away, and it would be four or five days before another train came. The musician felt so helpless.

Back at the place where he was billeted, he began to pray. Then, almost without thinking, he sat down at a piano and found himself improvising a new melody, as the words flashed into his mind, “Jesus never fails.” Then more words came–words that would eventually become part of a song:

2) Though the sky be dark and drear,
Fierce and strong the gale,
Just remember He is near
And He will not fail.

Jesus never fails, Jesus never fails;
Heav’n and earth may pass away,
But Jesus never fails.

His trust in God was strengthened. And shortly after, another telegraph message arrived to say that the crisis had passed, and his son was expected to make a full recovery. But that was only the beginning of the blessings that would come from the song written at that time crisis.

Twenty years later Art Luther wrote an article telling story after story that had been sent to him from around the world of times when believers in desperate need were encouraged by the words to keep trusting in the Lord, especially during the days of the Second World War.

It was instrumental in bringing a man to Christ who had determined to commit suicide. He later became a preacher of the gospel. Soldiers on the battlefront during the war sang it, missionaries floating in shark-infested waters did too, after their ship was torpedoed and sunk. Others sang it in Nazi concentration camps.

A church in London painted the motto on the front of their church: JESUS NEVER FAILS. Then, during the Blitz, a bomb destroyed all of the building–all but the wall on which the words were found.

Jesus never fails!

Question:
1) What difficult time has the Lord brought you through that has helped you to minister to others in a similar situation?

2) What hymns have been a particular comfort to you in difficult times?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | October 14, 2016

I’ve Found the Way

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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: Daniel Paul Rader (b. _____, 1878; d. July 19, 1938)
Music: Daniel Paul Rader

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Paul Rader born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal (Paul Rader)
Hymnary.org

Note: Paul Rader served as pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, and followed founder Albert Simpson as president of the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination. He founded the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle in 1922 and was senior pastor there for eleven years. He wrote many gospel song lyrics and a few tunes, and was instrumental in the founding of the Tabernacle Publishing Company. He was also a pioneer of Christian radio broadcasting.

For about forty years it was a New Year’s tradition, listening to the Guy Lombardo Orchestra play Auld Lang Syne. The custom cemented the connection between the old song and the dawning of the new year, and it helped make the orchestra famous. Before the group took on Guy Lombardo’s name, they were known as the Royal Canadians, and they promoted themselves as playing “the sweetest music this side of heaven.”

Gaetano (“Guy”) Lombardo (1902-1977) was a second generation Italian-Canadian, whose orchestra became known around the world. With a heavy emphasis on crooning saxophones, they had a unique sound. Some critics panned it as corny, but millions loved it. Even jazz great Louis Armstrong enjoyed their music. By any mark, they were a big success. It’s estimated that the orchestra sold as many as three hundred million recordings.

In 1928, American preacher Paul Rader held evangelistic meetings in Toronto. Guy Lombardo’s orchestra was playing at the hotel where the Rader team was staying. Each night when they returned from a meeting they’d walk past an advertising poster with a picture of the group’s leader, Lombardo, and the slogan, “The Sweetest Music This Side of Heaven.”

Paul Rader was curious about what that might sound like, but he didn’t get a chance to hear the orchestra until one day that was so busy he didn’t have time for supper. Arriving back at the hotel late that evening, he asked the team’s music director, gospel song writer Merrill Dunlop, if he’d like to join him for a meal in the hotel’s main dining room, the only place open at that hour.

Since that was where the Lombardo orchestra was playing, the two men got their chance to hear what “heavenly” music sounded like. Dunlop said afterward that he thoroughly enjoyed it. Paul Rader replied, “That’s a good orchestra, and I’m sure it will go places. [However] they may say they are playing the sweetest music this side of heaven, but I disagree. There is nothing sweeter this side of heaven than a song that tells people about Jesus and His love.”

The person of God, and what He has done for us, has inspired the songs of believers for many centuries. Even a millennium before the Christian era, David wrote, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him” (Ps. 28:7). On this side of the cross, we have many more reasons to sing. The death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is at the heart of the Christian gospel, the good news of salvation (I Cor. 15:1, 3-4).

The shed blood Christ of has opened the way to God. In Old Testament times, the barrier between sinful man and God was symbolized by the curtain or veil in the temple that closed off the Holy of Holies where the Lord revealed His presence. Today, “having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus…through the veil…let us draw [to God] near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:19-22; cf. Matt. 27:50-51).

During the night after he listened to the Lombardo Orchestra, Paul Rader wrote the words and music for a song now little-remembered, a gospel song to express his thoughts. In the morning, he met with Merrill Dunlop at the piano in the main dining room where the orchestra had played the night before. There the musician added the harmony and the two created the song I’ve Found the Way, sweeter music, in its own simple way, than the “heavenly” music of the orchestra.

1) Often my heart longed to pray;
Sinner, so what could I say?
Then I was told of the blood-cleansing way
Opened by Jesus, my Lord.

I’ve found the way through the blood past the veil
To the Holy of Holies with God.
There in the presence of Jesus I stand,
Glorified Son at the Father’s right hand;
There I can plead, I can claim, I can have
All that He purchased for me.
There, by His pow’r over sin I prevail,
I can walk in the path that He trod.

Questions:
1) What is it about the Lord and His blessings that you particularly like to sing about?

2) What, in your view, is the greatest hymn in the English language?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Paul Rader born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal (Paul Rader)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | October 12, 2016

Into the Woods My Master Went

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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: Sidney Clopton Lanier (b. Feb. 3, 1842; d. Sept. 7, 1881)
Music: Lanier, by Peter Christian Lutkin (b. Mar. 27, 1858; d. Dec. 27, 1931)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Sidney Lanier was an American poet who lectured on English literature at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He was also an accomplished player of both the flute and the violin. Lanier fought for the Confederates in the Civil War, during which he was taken as a prisoner of war. While in prison, his health failed. He continued to struggle with poor health for the remainder of his thirty-nine years.

In November of 1880 the author published a short poem which he called “A Ballad of Trees and the Master.” It was first included in a hymnal in 1905 as Into the Woods, set to music by composer Peter Lutkin (1858-1931).

This will be a different kind of article. I debated with myself for some time whether or not to include Sidney Lanier’s song on the blog. But there are a few hymn books that include it, and it’s apparently a favourite of some, so here it is. I beg the indulgence of those who like it while I offer a personal opinion to the contrary. Here is the song in its entirety. (The word forspent–sometimes spelled forespent–means exhausted.)

CH-1) Into the woods my Master went,
Clean forspent, forspent,
Into the woods my Master came,
Forspent with love and shame.
But the olives they were not blind to Him.
The little grey leaves were kind to Him,
The thorn tree had a mind to Him,
When into the woods He came.

CH-2) Out of the woods my Master came
And he was well content;
Out of the woods my Master came,
Content with death and shame.
When death and shame would woo Him last,
From under the trees they drew Him last,
’Twas on a tree they slew Him–last
When out of the woods He came.

The first thing that should be said of this offering is that it is not a true hymn. It is not a song directed to God in praise and prayer. Is it, then, a gospel song, a song of teaching and testimony to others? Only if we define that very broadly. There is a lesson here, but it is so clouded in mythic fantasy that it is difficult to discern. It might better be entitled “Lost in the Woods”!

Scholars praise Lanier’s work as poetry of high quality. Indeed, it may be fine verse to say “the little gray leaves were kind to Him,” but what does that mean? No they weren’t. They were just leaves! And thorn trees don’t have “minds.” That virtually turns a profoundly serious crisis moment in world history into a fairy tale. If this is symbolic of something, let us know what that is. A hymn or gospel song should be both biblical and clear. This is neither.

Compare how James Montgomery (1771-1854) uses Christ’s Gethsemane experience to teach a lesson in a far superior hymn on the same subject.

Go to dark Gethsemane,
Ye that feel the tempter’s power;
Your Redeemer’s conflict see,
Watch with Him one bitter hour,
Turn not from His griefs away;
Learn of Jesus Christ to pray.

It seems that Lanier is trying to say the same thing–maybe. But we hear nothing from the poet about Christ’s anguished prayer to His Father in heaven. As to His “shame,” yes, we can accept that if it’s explained. He wasn’t ashamed of His own actions because, as He said, “I always do those things that please Him [My Father]” (Jn. 8:29). But the holy Son of God cringed that the disgrace and dishonour of being charged with the sins of all the world (Jn. 1:29; I Cor. 15:3). As hymn writer William Tappan (1794-1849) puts it in his hymn ‘Tis Midnight; and on Olive’s Brow (cf. Lk. 22:44):

’Tis midnight, and for others’ guilt
The Man of Sorrows weeps in blood.

When the Lord emerged from the garden “content,” to use Lanier’s word, it was because, though He was repulsed by what lay ahead, He willingly submitted Himself to do the Father’s will to the end (Matt. 26:39, 42). But “death and shame” didn’t “woo” Him, they were repellent to Him. It was both His submission to the Father and His love for us (Gal. 2:20) that took Him to Calvary.

And that wasn’t “last.” Praise the Lord, it wasn’t the end of the story. Christ “endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him” (Heb. 13:2). Now, “He is risen” (Matt. 28:5-6; I Cor. 15:4), a resurrection that we who belong to Him shall share (I Cor. 15:20).

Questions:
1) Am I missing the point here? Is there something of spiritual merit in this song that I’m not seeing?

2) Would you ever use this song in your church? (Why? Or why not?)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

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