Posted by: rcottrill | April 21, 2017

The Great Archangel’s Trump Shall Sound

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: Charles Wesley (b. Dec. 18, 1707; d. Mar. 29m 1788)
Music: Maryton, by Henry Percy Smith (b. Dec. ___, 1825; d. Jan. 28, 1898)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Charles Wesley)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Usually we think of John Wesley as the preacher, and his brother Charles as the hymn writer. That was certainly true in the main, but John occasionally wrote or translated hymns, and Charles also preached.

This hymn originally had a dozen stanzas. It was later edited down to six (stanzas 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12), as found on the Cyber Hymnal page. In several of the phrases you can catch a glimmer of what Wesley felt the day of the accident described below.

There are times when something happens to us that causes us to pause and ponder, to look at the deeper meaning and implications of it to ourselves and our future. Our response may be, “That really makes you think!” Such thoughts can be stirred by a book we read, or a sermon we hear, or by some event.

Or what about the terrorist attacks of 9-11? Many of us watched in shock and wrenching grief as those magnificent towers came down. Thousands of people in the offices they housed died that day. People who headed off to work in the morning, as they’d done perhaps for years. It seemed just like any other day, but it was to be the last day of their lives. It makes you think.

The birth of a child can do that too, especially if it’s the first. It fills us both with wonder, and a sobering sense of responsibility. Going outside on a clear night and gazing up at the stars can have a similar effect, when the sky is a carpet of tiny points of light–lights that are actually suns even bigger than our own. And here we are, on this tiny speck called planet earth. It can be a humbling experience.

Seeing certain motion pictures can bring sudden reflection too. Have you ever watched Judgment at Nuremberg? It presents the true story of the trials of some Nazi leaders after the Second World War. Their excuse often was, “We had to follow orders.” But is that a valid reason for the evil they did? And could something like Nazi tyranny happen again? Happen where we live? It makes you think.

The funerals we attend would have to be high on the list of thought-provoking experiences–especially if a sudden death is involved–perhaps the passing of someone younger than we are. Could that have been me? What about that stab of pain I felt in my chest last week? Am I ready to die? Food for thought.

In taking funeral services, pastors wrestle with striking a balance between two things. They want to bring comfort and encouragement to the sorrowing family and friends. But if they are to fulfil their calling, they’ll also want to seize the teachable moment, reminding listeners that there is an eternity ahead for which they need to prepare. As God says, “Oh, that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!” (Deut. 32:29).

Something like that came out of a shocking experience of Charles Wesley’s. On March 14th, 1744, he went to the English town of Leeds. There he held a meeting of the Christians in the upper room of an old building. The place was packed with people, and some were even turned away for lack of space. Then, suddenly, the rafters supporting the floor gave way, not able to support the great weight. More than a hundred people plummeted into the room below.

Mercifully, no one was killed, though some, including Wesley, were injured. As he gazed into the gaping hole at the untangling heaps of people below, he cried, “Fear not! The Lord is with us; our lives are all safe.” It was after this sobering experience that he was inspired to write a hymn about the believer’s safety in the coming day of judgment.

CH-1) The great archangel’s trump shall sound,
While twice ten thousand thunders roar
Tear up the graves, and cleave the ground,
And make the greedy sea restore.

CH-3) But we, who now our Lord confess,
And faithful to the end endure,
Shall stand in Jesus’ righteousness,
Stand, as the Rock of ages, sure.

CH-5) The earth, and all the works therein,
Dissolve, by raging flames destroyed,
While we survey the awful scene,
And mount above the fiery void.

CH-6) By faith we now transcend the skies,
And on that ruined world look down;
By love above all height we rise,
And share the everlasting throne.

Questions:
1) Have you recently had an “It makes you think” moment? What was it, and what thoughts came to mind?

2) Do you know of someone who was led to trust Christ as Saviour through attending a funeral, or having some other sobering experience?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Charles Wesley)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | April 19, 2017

Tell Mother I’ll Be There

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: Charles Millard Fillmore (b. July 15, 1860; d. Sept. 17, 1952)
Music: Charles Millard Fillmore

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Fillmore tried for several years to get this song published and was turned down. Finally it was published in a small magazine, from which someone clipped it out and sent it to Charles Alexander, the music director for evangelist R. A. Archer Torrey. Alexander began using it extensively in men’s meetings. Its effect is illustrated by the following incident reported by Alexander.

“When the meeting was over, one big burly engineer came up to me and said, ‘Mr. Alexander, I promised my mother on her deathbed that I would become a Christian, but instead of that I have been going to the devil faster than ever. Preaching never touched me, but that song did.’”

For over a century, Mother’s Day has been celebrated internationally on the second Sunday in May. It’s an occasion to honour our mothers, and motherhood in general. But there’s a sense in which they deserve honour and appreciation all the year round. We owe them so much.

There are famous mothers in history, who demonstrated unusual devotion and self sacrifice for their children. To borrow some words of the Apostle Paul’s, what comes upon them daily is their “deep concern [the burden of responsibility]” for all their children (cf. II Cor. 11:28).

Susanna Wesley (1669-1792) was herself one of a family of twenty-five children. She and her pastor husband Samuel had nineteen children. She was a strict disciplinarian, but also a loving mother who tried to give each child individual attention. Two of her sons, John and Charles were used of God to bring many to faith in Christ, and Charles wrote over six thousand hymns.

Sojourner Truth (circa 1797-1883), born into slavery in early America, gained her freedom and became an influential abolitionist and human rights activist. Her son Peter, five years old, was sold as a slave and sent to Alabama. This was illegal, as Sojourner lived in New York State and there was a law against sending slaves out of state. She took the matter to court and won. Her son was found and returned. He had been beaten and abused, but now he was safe.

The Bible says “a nursing mother cherishes [tenderly cares for] her own children” (I Thess. 2:7), and there are examples in the Scriptures of mother love (Exod. 2:3; I Sam. 2:10). However, it’s clear that the gentle love of a stepmother, or a woman’s love for an adopted child, can be powerful and enduring too.

Maria von Trapp (1905-1987) is mostly known because of the popular musical The Sound of Music. The musical has the basic story right, though it’s not accurate in every detail. Widowed George von Trapp married Maria because he felt his children needed a mother. She wrote of this, “I really and truly was not in love. I liked him but didn’t love him. However, I loved the children, so in a way I really married the children. I learned to love him more than I have ever loved before or after.”

On the other side of things, to sons and daughters, God’s instruction is, “honour [value as precious and show esteem for]” your…mother” (Eph. 6:2). One who did so was William McKinley. His mother was very proud of him, and had the hope that he would become a Methodist bishop. He became president of the United States instead.

In 1897, his mother was taken gravely ill, and was near death. As she lived some distance from the capital, he wired the family, “Tell mother I’ll be there,” and left to keep his word. The next morning, the report of her death was in the newspapers, and the words of his telegram were published too.

One who saw them was gospel song writer and pastor Charles Fillmore. He pictured the words as the prayer of a repentant prodigal who asked the Lord to tell his mother he’d trusted in the Saviour, and looked forward to seeing her again in heaven. His sentimental song may seem mawkish today. Yet it’s said it was used of God to bring more men to faith in Christ than any other song.

CH-1) When I was but a little child–
How well I recollect–
How I would grieve my mother
With my folly and neglect;
And now that she has gone to heav’n
I miss her tender care:
O Saviour, tell my mother, I’ll be there!

Tell mother I’ll be there,
In answer to her prayer;
This message, blessèd Saviour, to her bear!
Tell mother I’ll be there,
Heav’n’s joys with her to share;
Yes, tell my darling mother I’ll be there.

Questions:
1) What has your own mother meant to your life?

2) What have you done to show honour her, and show your appreciation?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | April 17, 2017

My Days Are Gliding Swiftly By

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: David D. Nelson (b. Sept. 24, 1793; d. Oct. 17, 1844)
Music: Shining City, by George Frederick Root (b. Aug. 30, 1820; d. Aug. 6, 1895)

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

Note: Nelson studied medicine first, and became a surgeon. Then he changed careers, studied for the ministry, and became a Presbyterian pastor.

Rivers can fascinate us. They can be an important source of food and water, and provide a means of livelihood. They can also be a watery road that carries people and products from one place to another. On the other hand, they form a barrier to those wanting to travel across their breadth, often leading to the use of ferries, or the construction of bridges leaping from bank to bank, or tunnels crawling darkly beneath.

Rivers also illustrate life’s process and change, sometimes flowing quietly by, other times thundering with roiling white water. And along their banks is an ever-changing scene. Anything from gray rocky crags, to lush green beauty, or from a lonely wilderness to a bustling metropolis. In temperate climates, rivers reflect the changing seasons, from the frozen immobility of winter to the rapid run-off a spring thaw.

Poets have seized upon the nature of these water courses as a metaphor, and frequently use rivers as an image of passing time. Poet Linda Ori wrote:

The river of time keeps on flowing
O’er wishes and dreams gone unknown.

Not surprisingly, our hymn writers (who are poets too) have made use of the river motif in many songs. In 1696, Nahum Tate published a paraphrase of Psalm 42 which uses “cooling streams” as a picture of refreshing fellowship with God (cf. Ps. 42:1):

As pants the hart for cooling streams,
When heated in the chase,
So longs my soul, O God, for Thee
And Thy refreshing grace.

Nearly two centuries later Frances Havergal gave us a picture of God’s gift of inner peace and tranquility: “Like a river glorious, is God’s perfect peace” (cf. Phil. 4:6-7). And Horatio Spafford provides his statement of faith with:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Then in his hymn O God, Our Help in Ages Past, Isaac Watts speaks of the inevitability of death (cf. Ps. 90:4-5).

Time, like an ever rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.

A lesser known hymn fits our theme too. It was written by an American pastor named David Nelson. In his early years he owned a plantation worked by slaves. But he heard a talk on the immorality of slavery and completely changed his views. He disposed of his plantation, declaring he “would live on potatoes and salt rather than own slaves.”

His abolitionist zeal brought down on him the wrath of his slave owning neighbours. He was driven from his home, and hunted for three days and nights through the surrounding woods and swamps. Finally, he emerged on the banks of the Mississippi River, where he managed to communicate with friends across the river about his desperate situation.

Plans were put underway to rescue him. But meanwhile the manhunt continued. He heard the angry voices of his pursuers all around him, some even thrusting their guns into the very clump of bushes where he was hidden. Lying there, gazing at the flowing waters of the river not far away, he thought of the words for a new hymn, and scrawled them on the back of a letter he had in his pocket.

CH-1) My days are gliding swiftly by;
And I, a pilgrim stranger,
Would not detain them as they fly,
Those hours of toil and labour.

For, oh! we stand on Jordan’s strand;
Our friends are passing over;
And, just before, the shining shore
We may almost discover.

CH-4) Let sorrow’s rudest tempest blow,
Each cord on earth to sever:
Our King says, ‘Come,’ and there’s our home,
Forever, oh! forever.

As evening came, friends crossed over in a canoe, on the pretense of fishing. When he saw them, Pastor Nelson raced down the to waters edge and they spirited him away to safety.

Questions:
1) Have you experienced the seemingly rapid flow of life recently? (If so, how?)

2) What does this fleeting and temporary quality of our days mean to our plans and behaviour?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | April 14, 2017

Knocking, Knocking, Who Is There?

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: Adapted from a poem by Harriet Beecher Stowe (b. June 14, 1811; d. July 1, 1896)
Music: George Frederick Root (b. Aug. 30, 1820; d. Aug. 6, 1895)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Harriet Beecher Stowe)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Harriet Beecher Stowe is justifiably famous, and George Root was well-known in Christian circles, having written words and music for a number of gospel songs, and composing the music for the texts of many others. We do not know the name of the eight-year-old girl who added a significant final stanza to the song, but she was certainly clever and perceptive.

When an individual knocks on a door it usually expresses a desire to enter, or to speak with some person within. Though, in the case of the police, it may be a demand to enter, in order to interview a person of interest with respect to a crime. Knocking can also be metaphorical, as when we say “opportunity knocks.”

I Hear You Knocking (“but you can’t come in”) was a hit rhythm and blues song in the 1950’s. And knock-knock jokes have been popular with children since the 1930’s. When did the latter start? One author points to a series of knock-knock quips in a soliloquy by the porter of Macbeth’s castle, in Shakespeare’s play. That would take them back four centuries!

Most recent knock-knock jokes are built around silly puns, ones that make us groan, as the knocker is asked to identify himself. (Knock knock. Who’s there? Canoe. Canoe who? Canoe help me with my homework?) In the 1960’s knock-knock jokes became a rapid-fire staple of a weekly comedy show on television called Laugh-in.

In the Bible, knocking at a door is connected with a number of interesting accounts. In the Song of Solomon, a romantic oriental poem, we see the Shulamite maiden sleeping, as she awaits the wedding which will unite her in marriage to her beloved Solomon. She dreams he’s knocking at the door, but is upset to find, when she opens the door in her dream, that he’s gone (Song 5:2-6).

In the Gospels, Jesus uses knocking as a picture of prayer. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you….If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matt. 7:7, 11).

In the book of Acts, when Peter is miraculously delivered from prison, he goes to where he knows other Christians are meeting, and knocks on the door. When a girl named Rhoda hears his voice through the door, she is so excited she runs to tell the others, leaving Peter in the street! Those gathered think she’s either crazy, or has seen a ghost. But Peter persists in knocking, and they finally let him in, astonished to see him (Acts 12:13-16).

Finally, in Revelation, there’s the Lord’s message to a “lukewarm” and self-satisfied church that had, in fact, left Christ out and had no personal relationship with Him. His assessment of them: “You say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’–and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17). Jesus is pictured outside the door, seeking admittance.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine [fellowship] with him, and he with Me” (vs. 20).

That Bible verse, addressed, in the context, to a church, has been used in several gospel songs as an appeal to individuals to trust in the Saviour for personal salvation. One of these, Knocking, Knocking, Who Is There? was published in 1867. The author was Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote the now-famous anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

After the song’s publication, and on the way home from a meeting where it was used, a young girl told her mother she was bothered by the last stanza of the song because it “leaves the Saviour still standing outside.” When they reached home, the girl went to her room and composed a new final stanza. Her mother thinking it was excellent work, sent it to a religious publication. It was not only published but was later added to the song in a hymn book.

CH-1) Knocking, knocking, who is there?
Waiting, waiting, oh, how fair!
’Tis a Pilgrim, strange and kingly,
Never such was seen before,
Ah, my soul, for such a wonder,
Wilt thou not undo the door?

CH-3) Knocking, knocking–what, still there?
Waiting, waiting, grand and fair!
Yes, the piercèd hand still knocketh,
And beneath the crownèd hair
Beam the patient eyes, so tender,
Of thy Saviour waiting there.

4) Enter, enter, heavenly Guest!
Welcome, welcome to my breast.
I have long withstood Thy knocking,
For my heart was full of sin;
But Thy love hath overcome me,
Blessèd Jesus, O come in!

Questions:
1) Is there something wrong in your life the Saviour wants you to deal with today?

2) Why is it so difficult for some to open the door to the Lord Jesus?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Harriet Beecher Stowe)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | April 12, 2017

I Cannot Tell

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: William Young Fullerton (b. Mar. 8, 1857; d. Aug. 17, 1932)
Music: Londonderry Air (an ancient folk tune from Northern Ireland)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: William Fullerton came to Christ through the ministry of Charles Spurgeon. He became a popular devotional speaker himself. And he wrote a hymn in 1929 that weighs things known and unknown about the Lord Jesus Christ. Before we look at the message of the words, a comment about the tune.

Fullerton, an Irishman, set his text to Londonderry Air, an old folk tune from Northern Ireland (Londonderry being a county there). The tune was first published in The Ancient Music of Ireland, in 1855. It has been described as the most perfectly crafted melody ever written. In 1910, it became the setting for Danny Boy, a popular ballad by Frederic Weatherly, but it also has become the tune for several hymns.

I Cannot Tell, by William Fullerton (1857-1932)
Above the Hills of Time, by Thomas Tiplady (1882-1967)
I Would Be True, by Howard Walter (1883-1918)–a fine alternate tune for this hymn
He Looked Beyond My Fault, by Dottie Rambo (1934-2008)

Questions are important. They are the gateways to learning and discovery. Journalists use them all the time. A poem by Rudyard Kipling lists six key words used to query and investigate.

I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.

There are some questions, however, that either have no answer, or the answer persistently evades the seeker.

What are called rhetorical questions (such as, “Why me?”) don’t necessarily expect an answer at all. They’re used for dramatic effect.

Riddles and brain-teasers are posed for the sake of entertainment.

Other inquiries take a humorous tack. For instance, how does “nonstick” Teflon stick to a frying pan? On the other hand, why doesn’t glue stick to its container?

But, more seriously, there are things seen in nature for which science may have theories, but few answers. We know more now that we did in years past, but some things continue to challenge researchers. Why is yawning contagious? Why are there left-handed people? Why are moths drawn to the light? Why do cats purr? Why do we have fingerprints?

As to the Bible, someone has counted 3,294 questions there. Clearly God wanted us to think about what we read in His Word, as many of the queries touch on significant spiritual concerns. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” asked Cain (Gen. 4:9), and yes, we are responsible for one another (Heb. 10:24). And when Moses, as God’s spokesman, asked for the release of the enslaved Israelites, arrogant Pharaoh replied, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice?” (Exod. 5:2). He was soon to find out!

When the Lord Jesus asked His followers, “‘Who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered and said, You are the Christ [the Messiah], the Son of the living God’” (Matt. 16:15-16). Later, there was dithering Pilate asking, “What then shall I do with Jesus?” He wanted the opinion of the crowd before him as to whether to execute Christ, or let Him go. But his words confront each one of us still. What has each of us done with the claims of Christ?

Questions focusing on Christ are the most important we’ll ever face, because our answers will affect our eternal destiny. When a Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas, ““Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30-31; cf. Jn. 3:16). That is specific and certain. But there are unanswered and unanswerable questions about God’s salvation. Even if we believe God’s promise and trust in the Saviour, that is so.

Christ spoke to a Pharisee named Nicodemus, and puzzled him greatly. Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” And Nicodemus asked, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (Jn. 3:3-4). The Lord’s response suggests the work of God’s Spirit is beyond our comprehension. We can see or experience the results, but still not understand it (vs. 8).

Here is some of Mr. Fullerton’s hymn about the Lord Jesus.

CH-1) I cannot tell why He whom angels worship,
Should set His love upon the sons of men,
Or why, as Shepherd, He should seek the wanderers,
To bring them back, they know not how or when.
But this I know, that He was born of Mary
When Bethlehem’s manger was His only home,
And that He lived at Nazareth and laboured,
And so the Saviour, Saviour of the world is come.

CH-2) I cannot tell how silently He suffered,
As with His peace He graced this place of tears,
Or how His heart upon the cross was broken,
The crown of pain to three and thirty years.
But this I know, He heals the brokenhearted,
And stays our sin, and calms our lurking fear,
And lifts the burden from the heavy laden,
For yet the Saviour, Saviour of the world is here.

Questions:
1) What are some questions about God’s salvation for which you have no answers?

2) What are some things about God’s salvation about which you have strong confidence?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | April 10, 2017

Eternal Power Whose High Abode

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: Isaac Watts (b. July 17, 1674; d. Nov. 25, 1748)
Music: Rockingham, by Karl Philipp Emanuel Bach, the son of Johann Sebastian Bach (Mar. 8, 1714; d. Dec. 14, 1788)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Isaac Watts)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Isaac Watts has been called the Father of English Hymnody for his many contributions to our sacred songs. In 1706 he published this hymn, stunning in its insight, and profound in its expression of the infinite transcendence of God. You will see the reason for Watts’s unusual title “God Exalted Above All Praise,” as you read the words.

Isaac Watts’s original is found in the Cyber Hymnal link. Charles Wesley published the hymn in 1743, making a few minor adjustments to the words, mainly to account for the omission of the following quaint stanza, the second stanza in the original. (One wonders how Watts knew Gabriel was “tall”–and how that matters to a spirit being!)

The lowest step above Thy seat
Rises too high for Gabriel’s feet;
In vain the tall archangel tries
To reach Thine height with wondering eyes.

Some things are too high for us to reach without help of some kind. Even a shelf in our homes can be beyond us, and require climbing on a stool if we are to gain access to what is found there. Buildings with more than one floor call for stairs, and if they are very tall, even that becomes impractical, and we must resort to an elevator.

In nature, trees can be climbed, if we have the right equipment, and so can mountains. Though it wasn’t until Sir Edmund Hillary did it in 1953 that the tallest of them, Mount Everest, was conquered. Flight in hot air balloons, and heavier than air machines, has been around for awhile. But, in 1961, Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gargarin became the first to reach beyond the bounds of earth’s atmosphere and orbit the earth. Then, in 1969, traveling on Apollo 11, American astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon.

Unmanned spacecraft have journeyed much farther than the moon. Voyager I, launched in 1977, has now gone beyond our own solar system and still continues on, billions of kilometers out into interstellar space. But that is just a proverbial drop in the bucket when it comes to the enormity of the universe. A tiny galaxy has been discovered recently that is more than thirteen billion light years from our planet. (That’s the distance light can travel in a year. Take 299,792,458 metres per second, and multiply it by thirteen billion.)

But how high is God? Much higher still. He “inhabits eternity” (Isa. 57:15). Clearly, His heavenly throne is beyond observable space, eternally existing outside of the material universe He created. It’s found in what the Bible calls “the third heaven” (II Cor. 11:2). And its location, in itself, says nothing of the greatness of God’s Person. He is not only far above us in distance, but in His all surpassing divine attributes and moral character.

“Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than heaven–what can you do? Deeper than Sheol [the abode of the dead]–what can you know?” (Job 11:7-8). As he passionately seeks after God, Job declares, “Indeed these are the mere edges of His ways, and how small a whisper we hear of Him!” (Job 26:14).

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Rom. 11:33). “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable” (Ps. 145:3). He is too high for us, and infinitely beyond us. But, in grace, He has revealed something of Himself in Christ (Jn. 1:1, 14; Heb. 1:1-3).

1) Eternal Pow’r, whose high abode
Becomes the grandeur of our God,
Infinite lengths beyond the bounds
Where stars resolve their little rounds.

2) Thee, while the first archangel sings,
He hides his face behind his wings,
And ranks of shining thrones around
Fall worshiping, and spread the ground.

3) Lord, what shall earth and ashes do?
We would adore our Maker, too;
From sin and dust to Thee we cry,
The Great, the Holy, and the High!

4) Earth from afar has heard Thy fame,
And worms have learned to lisp Thy name;
But, O! the glories of Thy mind
Leave all our soaring thoughts behind.

A couple more notes before we leave this great hymn. What a wonderful way to give us a sense of the greatness of God who “fills heaven and earth” (Jer. 23:24), to compare “Where stars resolve their little rounds”! And yes, we can seem to be weak and ignorant as “worms” before an omnipotent and omniscient God (cf. Ps. 22:6; Isa. 41:14).

If we truly gain some understanding of the infinitude of God in all things, and of His surpassing greatness in every way, there will be times when even the most excellent hymn seems inadequate, and almost presumptuous. Sometimes the greatness of God must silence our trivial songs in a holy hush.

5) God is in heaven, and men below;
Be short our tunes, our words be few;
A sacred reverence checks our songs,
And praise sits silent on our tongues.

Questions:
1) What quality of God is most amazing and incredible to you?

2) What hymn do you know that awakens holy awe in you, in its depiction of God?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Isaac Watts)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | April 7, 2017

Come, Sinner, Come

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: William Ellsworth Witter (b. Dec. 9, 1854; d. _____, 1931)
Music: Horatio Richmond Palmer (b. Apr. 26, 1834; d. Nov. 15, 1907)

Links:

Wordwise Hymns (Horatio Palmer)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Witter would go on in later years to serve as a pastor, a missionary to India, and a college professor. But at the age of twenty-three, home from college for the summer, he was helping out on the family farm. It was then he wrote this song.

In Syracuse, Sicily, around 287-212 BC lived a man named Archimedes. He’s considered a superb mathematician–perhaps the greatest of all time.

One day, he climbed into a bathtub but, before he began washing himself, he noticed something significant about the water. Up he jumped, shouting “Eureka! Eureka!” water flying in all directions. Then, it’s said, Archimedes ran out into the street, sopping wet, and still stark naked, excited to share his discovery.

Whether  the story is true, historians can’t be sure. But what Archimedes apparently saw is rather simple. It’s something we’ve likely all noticed. When you put anything in water–whether it’s your body, or something else, the water level goes up. Not that startling. But, being clever, the ancient Greek turned it into a useful principle: that the volume of the water displaced is equal to the volume of what is submerged.

Archimedes immediately realized this provided a way to measure the cubic volume of irregularly shaped objects–something that previously seemed impossible. There are mathematical formulas to measure the volume of something with six straight sides–like a box. But what about measuring a human body, or a football, or a jagged piece of rock? Simply by measuring the volume of the water displaced, it can be done.

Eureka (pronounced yoo-REE-kah) is a Greek word meaning “I have found [it]!” an exclamation celebrating a new insight, or a discovery that’s been made. A eureka moment (sometimes called an “Aha!” moment) can happen to any of us.

In the Bible, a sudden discovery changed the life of a young Pharisee named Saul. Saul (later known as Paul) was a brilliant student of the Old Testament and an ardent defender of Judaism. As such, he was convinced that Christians were members of a heretical sect that had to be stamped out. The Bible says, “He made havoc of the church [in Jerusalem], entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison” (Acts 8:3).

Then, he determined to expand his misguided witch hunt to other cities. “Breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1), he got letters from the Jewish high priest, authorizing him to go to Damascus, “so that if he found any who were of the [Christian] Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem” (vs. 2).

But, suddenly, on the road to Damascus, he was surrounded by a heavenly light, and confronted by the risen, glorified Christ who, astonishingly, accused Saul of persecuting Him (vs. 3-5). By oppressing and imprisoning the followers of Christ, Saul was opposing the Son of God Himself, because they were part of His spiritual body, the church.

In that eureka moment Saul’s whole theology was revolutionized. He saw, in the Lord Jesus, the fulfilment of all those Old Testament Scriptures he had studied, and he became His committed follower. There, on the road, he cried, “Lord [Master], what do You want me to do?” (Acts 9:6, NKJV; cf. Acts 22:10).

William Ellsworth Witter had his eureka moment too. He tells of a sudden inspiration to write a gospel song–likely the only one he ever wrote.

“One Saturday afternoon, while bunching hay, the words of this little hymn seemed to sing themselves into my soul….I hastened to the house and, running upstairs, knelt beside the bed….There, upon my knees, I transcribed the words to paper.”

It sounds very much like a miniature echo of Saul’s experience–finding a moment of insight when we need to respond to the leading of God’s Spirit. That is even more urgent when the Lord calls us to put our faith in the Saviour, because “now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (II Cor. 6:2). We have no guarantee of another.

CH-1) While Jesus whispers to you,
Come, sinner, come!
While we are praying for you,
Come, sinner, come!
Now is the time to own Him:
Come, sinner, come!
Now is the time to know Him:
Come, sinner, come!

CH-2) Are you too heavy laden?
Come, sinner, come!
Jesus will bear your burden:
Come, sinner, come!
Jesus will not deceive you:
Come, sinner, come!
Jesus can now redeem you:
Come, sinner, come!

In 1910, Helen Alexander (1877-1969) published a version of this song adding two more stanzas before the last (stanza 3, as found in the Cyber Hymnal). Helen Cadbury, heir to the Cadbury chocolate fortune, married Charlie Alexander, the song leader for evangelist R. A. Torrey’s meetings. Her added stanzas can be seen on the Hymnary.org link.

Questions:
1) Have you recently experienced the leading of the Lord to act in opportunity that would likely never come again?

2) In your view, what is the best or most effective song of invitation to trust in Christ?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Horatio Palmer)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | April 5, 2017

Cast Thy Burden Upon the Lord

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: Psalm 55:22 and 16:8, adapted by Julius Schubring (1806-1889), a pastor friend of Mendelssohn’s, for the composer’s oratorio, Elijah, for which it was translated into English by another friend of the composer’s, William Bartholemew
Music: Felix Mendelssohn (b. Feb. 3, 1809; d. Nov. 9, 1847)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Felix Mendelssohn)
The Cyber Hymnal (Felix Mendelssohn)
Hymnary.org

Note: Though Felix Mendelssohn died of a stroke before his thirty-ninth birthday, he has given us a wide range of beautiful music. The oratorio Elijah is a true masterpiece.I encourage you to listen to a recording of it–or better still attend a performance of it if you can.  It was first performed in Birmingham, England, August 26th, 1846. The composer had written to Julius Schubring who worked on the original text:

“The personages should act and speak like living beings–for heaven’s sake let them not be a musical picture, but a real world, such as you find in every chapter of the Old Testament.”

There is, in the Cyber Hymnal page on the composer, a wonderful story about him, which is given a striking and practical spiritual application. Worth reading.

Our traditional hymns and gospel songs were written over a period of twenty centuries, by hundreds of men and women, who represent a broad spectrum of religious beliefs.

During that long period it has not been unusual for the world’s greatest classical composers to contribute to the music used with our hymns. In some cases, one of their compositions has been adapted to make a hymn tune. Other times they wrote the melody specifically for the purpose. While it is going too far to suggest that these men were all evangelical, born again Christians, each had a strong sense of the presence and power of God in the world.

Among the masters of music whose names are found in many of our hymn books are: Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), George Frederick Handel (1685-1759), Franz Joseph Haydn (1737-1806), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), and Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847).

Several of these composers also created what are called oratorios. An oratorio is a long musical composition, usually based on Scripture or a religious theme, and involving solo voices, a choir, and an orchestra. An oratorio differs from an opera in that it’s performed without action, costumes, or scenery. Handel’s Messiah from 1741 is the most familiar and perhaps the most sublime example. Over more than two hours, it covers the life of Christ with moving and memorable music.

The greatest oratorio of the nineteenth century, Elijah, was created by Felix Mendelssohn. He was the son of wealthy Jewish parents who had put their faith in Christ, and Felix himself was a dedicated Christian. He married Cecile, a pastor’s daughter and a great woman of prayer, and the couple had five children. For Mendelssohn, the Bible was the cornerstone of daily life, and much of his music found its inspiration there.

His use of the Bible in Elijah was, however, slightly different from what we see in Handel’s Messiah. Handel’s oratorio uses passages precisely quoted from both Old Testament and New that directly relate to Christ, either prophetically or in the story of His life. But Mendelssohn’s Elijah, while setting the prophet’s life to music, as it’s recorded in First Kings chapter 17 through Second Kings chaper 2, inserts passages of commentary here and there, Bible verses from outside the story that help us understand it.

In Elijah’s day, Israel was ruled by the idolatrous King Ahab and his wife Jezebel. The latter, in particular, was responsible for leading the nation into Baal worship. Elijah’s confrontation on Mount Carmel with four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal is one of the most dramatic scenes in all of Scripture (I Kgs. 18:17-40), and Mendelssohn’s surpassing skill as a composer gives it an effective musical setting of exhilarating power.

Elijah’s appeal to the Lord on that occasion is taken right from the passage: “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word” (I Kgs. 18:36). According to inspired Scripture, Elijah spoke those words. But what comes next is not from the passage itself.

As though to encourage Elijah, who stood alone in the conflict, a quartet of voices, representing angels, sings the quietly beautiful song Cast Thy Burden Upon the Lord, based on Psalm 55:22 and Psalm 16:8. It is found in some hymnals.

Cast thy burden upon the Lord,
And He shall sustain thee.
He never will suffer the righteous to fall;
He is at thy right hand.
Thy mercy, Lord, is great and far above the heav’ns;
Let none be made ashamed that wait upon Thee.

Casting our burdens on the Lord is something every believer can do, and it’s a theme taken up by Peter in the New Testament as well, when he says we should habitually be “casting all [our] care [our worries and anxieties] upon Him, for He cares [is concerned] for [us]” (I Pet. 5:7). In that way we are strengthened for life and for service for Him–as the psalmist puts it:

“It is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all Your works” (Ps. 78:28).

Questions:
1) What burden have you recently given over to the Lord? With what result?

2) Why do we seem to hesitate so long at times with turning our cares and trials over to God?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Felix Mendelssohn)
The Cyber Hymnal (Felix Mendelssohn)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | April 3, 2017

Sitting at the Feet of 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: J. H. T. (details unknown)
Music: Constancy, by Asa Hull (b. Jan. 18, 1828; d. Apr. 4, 1917)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: This is a lovely hymn inspired by the experience of Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus. Published in the nineteenth century (Hymnary,org has the earliest version printed in 1868), we only know the initials of the author: J. H. T. (or J. H.).

Asa Hull wrote many hymns and hymn tunes. His tune Constancy is also used in some hymn books for the hymn All for Jesus. As noted in the Cyber Hymnal, the tune Wycliff, by John Stainer also fits both texts. It’s a superior tune, in my view, but in this case will require treating the hymn as having six four-line stanzas.

It’s an odd expression, one that doesn’t necessarily mean what it says. We speak of sitting at someone’s feet, or at someone’s knee, but it may have nothing to do with our posture or position.

To say a young man sat at the feet of Professor So-and-So, means he was a pupil of the professor’s, someone whose teachings he was eager to absorb. Often the phrase also implies that the student admires and respects the teacher. But he may be sitting at a classroom desk, or before a computer, or simply reading a book, or watching a DVD. Any or all of these might involve sitting at the feet of another.

However, for Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, the position became a literal reality. In fact, each time she’s seen in the Gospels, she is at the feet of the Lord Jesus. She sat at His feet to learn (Lk. 10:39); she came to His feet to express her grief at the death of her brother (Jn. 11:32); and she came to His feet to worship, after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (Jn. 12:3).

It is with the first of these we are concerned here (Lk. 10:38-42). When the Lord Jesus visited in their home, we see quite a contrast between the two sisters. Martha was bustling about, preparing a meal, and the Bible says she was “distracted,” preoccupied and fretful, about all she had to do. So much so she complained that Mary wasn’t helping her (vs. 40).

And what was Mary doing during all of this? She “sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word” (vs. 39). Her presence there was an expression of her love for the Lord, and of her delight in His teaching. It also showed something of her desire to believe and obey His message to her.

Martha, no doubt, had good intentions. She wanted to have the very best meal to set before her Guest. But the Lord gently rebuked her for all her hurrying and scurrying: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her [by you, or anything else]” (vs. 41-42).

“One thing is needful [i.e. necessary].” Jesus would not be with them much longer, as far as His physical presence was concerned. Eating a fine meal with Him had its place, but the spiritual food He could provide just then was much more important. To put a priority on listening and learning from Him was a good thing, and it still is.

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper” (Ps. 1:1-3).

What are some ways we can sit at Jesus’ feet today? We can go to church and listen to the Word of God taught. We can talk with spiritually minded friends, and pray with them. We can attend a Bible study and discuss the Scriptures. We can attend a Bible college. We can put a priority on having a time of daily devotions, when we study and pray on our own. Memorizing and meditating on verses of Scripture are valuable too. All such things are spiritually important, and we must not let other priorities lead to neglecting them.

CH-1) Sitting at the feet of Jesus,
Oh, what words I hear Him say!
Happy place! so near, so precious!
May it find me there each day.
Sitting at the feet of Jesus,
I would look upon the past;
For His love has been so gracious,
It has won my heart at last.

CH-2) Sitting at the feet of Jesus,
Where can mortal be more blest?
There I lay my sins and sorrows
And, when weary, find sweet rest.
Sitting at the feet of Jesus,
There I love to weep and pray,
While I from His fullness gather
Grace and comfort every day.

CH-3) Bless me, O my Saviour, bless me,
As I sit low at Thy feet.
Oh, look down in love upon me;
Let me see Thy face so sweet.
Give me, Lord, the mind of Jesus;
Make me holy as He is.
May I prove I’ve been with Jesus,
Who is all my righteousness.

Questions:
1) What is your favourite or most profitable way to sit at the feet of Jesus?

2) What have you learned there at His feet in the past week?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | March 31, 2017

Washed in the Blood of the Lamb

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: Tullius Clinton O’Kane (b. Mar. 10, 1830; d. Feb. 12, 1912)
Music: Tullius Clinton O’Kane

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

Note: I came across this song in a rather unusual way. I was reading one of Dorothy Sayers mystery stories called Strong Poison. In it, her detective hero, Lord Peter Wimsey quotes the refrain of the hymn:

Sweeping through the gates of the New Jerusalem,
Washed in the blood of the Lamb.

The “New Jerusalem” is a name for the heavenly city where God dwells (Rev. 21:2). The hymn is speaking of the death of believers, and how the sufferings of this life, either the kind that come through illness (stanza 3), or persecution (stanza 4), will all be behind us in heaven (stanza 5). But it is his reference to children who come to Christ that I focus on here (stanza 2). Their deaths were an even more familiar sorrow a century and more ago, before the development of new drugs and medical techniques to save them.

Tullius O’Kane was a genial teacher and school principal in Ohio. He also wrote quite a number of hymns, sometimes both words and music. As noted, one stanza of this one affirms the capability of young children to trust in the Saviour and have a meaningful relationship with Him. I can affirm that myself, having come to Christ at the age of seven.

One cold, blustery day O’Kane had occasion to go from his residence to the railroad depot, about a mile distant, and in his route had to cross the river on a suspension foot-bridge. As he came down to the bridge, he thought of “the river of death,” so cold, with no bridge except what the Lamb of God has done for us (Jn. 1:29).

Then, he says, the words of the dying Cookman came to his mind, and he exclaimed to himself: “Who, who are these beside the chilly wave?” Words, melody and refrain seemed to come all at once and all together, so that by the time he arrived back at his home, the composition was complete. The reference to “Cookman” speaks of a Methodist pastor named Alfred Cookman (1828-1871) who, when he lay dying, spoke of “sweeping through the gates of the New Jerusalem.”

Children are amazing. Take Alexandra Scott, for example. Alex was born in 1996. Then, just before her first birthday she was diagnosed with cancer. Four years later, in spite of failing health, she decided to open a lemonade stand, to raise money to help children with cancer. That year, with the help of her older brother, she raised two thousand dollars. And it became an annual event for the family.

Alex finally succumbed to cancer, and died in 2004. But, inspired by what she’d done, others set up their own lemonade stands. Participation in that project has continued to spread, and $120 million has been raised for the cause to date, all because one little girl got an idea, and followed through with it.

Yes, children are amazing. However Jesus’ disciples seemed to think that dealing with children was a waste of the Master’s time. They tried to keep them away from Him (Mk. 10:13). But “He was greatly displeased and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God’” (vs. 14). The Apostle Peter seems to have learned the lesson. In his first sermon after the birth of the church, he appealed “to you and your children” (Acts. 2:39).

The Lord admired the simple trust of the young, and their desire to please God, considering that to be an example to those who are older. To lift a verse out of its original context, sometimes it’s true that “a little child shall lead them” (Isa. 11:6). Christ also warned of severe judgment faced by any who would mistreat a child who trusted in Him (Matt. 18:1-6).

Children are capable of strong faith, and a life-changing commitment to the Lord. Two examples of this come from the country of Wales.

Mary Jones (1784-1864), in her early teens, learned to love the Word of God. She longed to study the Scriptures more thoroughly, but Bibles were scare where she lived. One copy was passed around from home to home, but that meant long gaps between each person’s reading and study. To get a Bible of her own, Mary walked 26 miles (42 km) barefoot, to where she could obtain one. The pastor who met her was inspired by her zeal. He became deeply concerned about the need for more copies of God’s Word, and worked to meet it. Four years later, the British and Foreign Bible Society was formed to send Bibles around the world.

Fast forward a hundred years. A pastor stood before a group and asked, “What does Jesus Christ mean to you?” “He’s the hope of the world,” one responded. “But that’s not what I’m asking,” said the pastor. “What does he mean to you?” Finally a little girl named Florie Evans spoke up. With deep fervour and sincerity she said, “I love the Lord Jesus with all of my heart.”

Those words stirred the hearts of those present, and God used little Florie’s testimony to begin a great spiritual awakening called the Welsh Revival (1904-1905). More than one hundred thousand put their faith in Christ, churches were packed for years to come, and whole towns were transformed. The special working of God’s Spirit eventually spread across Britain, into Europe, and over to America.

There are many other examples of such things. The sincere faith of a child has had an impact on many in different ways. O’Kane’s hymn speaks of them in his second stanza as among the redeemed in Glory. All who will be there are blood-washed saints of God.

“To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Rev. 1:5-6, NKJV).

CH-1) Who, who are these beside the chilly wave,
Just on the borders of the silent grave,
Shouting Jesus’ power to save,
Washed in the blood of the Lamb.

Sweeping through the gates of the new Jerusalem,
Washed in the blood of the Lamb,
Sweeping through the gates of the new Jerusalem,
Washed in the blood of the Lamb.

CH-2) These, these are they who, in their youthful days,
Found Jesus early, and in wisdom’s ways
Proved the fullness of His grace,
Washed in the blood of the Lamb.

CH-5) Safe, safe upon the ever shining shore,
Sin, pain, and death, and sorrow are all o’er;
Happy now and evermore,
Washed in the blood of the Lamb.

Questions:
1) Do you know a child whose faith is an inspiration to adults around?

2) What characteristics of that faith have you observed which are a lesson to all?

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

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