Posted by: rcottrill | May 13, 2016

Farther Along

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.

Words: Jesse Randall Baxter, Jr. (b. Dec. 8, 1887; d. Jan. 21, 1960), and W. B Stevens (data unknown)
Music: Jesse Randall Baxter, Jr., and W. B Stevens (data unknown)

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

Note: In 1937 a gospel song was published by J. R. Baxter, Jr. Known to his friends as “Pap,” Baxter was a song writer and music publisher, who founded the Stamps-Baxter Company in 1926. The Cyber Hymnal lists more than 560 songs Baxter produced. With the help of a pastor named W. B. Stevens, he wrote the song called Farther Along.

Hymnary.org has a song which is obviously the same one, but some stanzas are added, and changes have been made to other stanzas. This version is said to be the work of Stevens, with an assist from Barney Warren (1867-1951), who was the author of the song Joy Unspeakable and Full of Glory, and many others. This article deals with the Baxter-Stevens version.

Around 1950, Canadian evangelist Barry Moore planned to hold meetings in a number of European cities, in association with the work of Youth for Christ. He wanted a gospel quartet to go with him, and my father was asked to train one. I can remember, as a boy, being in a recording studio as the quartet put a number of songs on disk. One of them was Farther Along.

It happens occasionally when we plan a trip for the coming day. We wake up to find that a thick fog has settled in. We can’t even see clearly to the end of the driveway. Finding our way to a distant destination would be dangerous and virtually impossible. Sometimes the morning sun burns the fog away and we’re able to set out on our journey later. But other times it remains, and all we can do is wait for a clearer view to emerge.

It can happen in the Christian life as well. Things take place that pain and puzzle us. What is God doing? Why has He allowed this to happen to us? “Now we see in a mirror dimly,” says Paul (I Cor. 13:12).

Job is an example of that. A great and godly family man, with enormous wealth (Job 1:1-3). But suddenly he lost everything. It almost seemed that God had turned against him. We see from first two chapters of the book that it was actually Satan that afflicted Job, but there’s no evidence that Job ever learned that. The Lord may have revealed the devil’s work to Job’s biographer, years after Job was gone.

As Job sits alone in the town garbage dump, scraping his putrefying sores with a piece of broken pottery, three of his friends come, seeking to “comfort” him (2:8, 11). There follows chapter after chapter of soaring debate. Job’s friends have a simplistic theology that says if you’re good, God will bless you right away. And if you’re wicked, God will push you, right away. Instant justice!

In their minds, because Job has suffered great disasters, he clearly has committed some great wickedness. But he has not. Job reaffirms his faith (13:15). And through the mists of his time of suffering he tries to understand God, and understand what is happening to him. When answers do not come, he submits himself humbly to the will of God.

Job says, in the end, “I…repent in dust and ashes” (42:6). But that word “repent” (nacham, in Hebrew) has been greatly misunderstood. Job is not suddenly agreeing with his friends that he is a wicked sinner. No. The Hebrew word can mean either repent or comfort, depending on the context. In Psalm 23, it’s used in the latter sense. “Your rod and Your staff, they comfort [nacham] me” (vs. 4). It’s used seven times in the book of Job (Job 2:11; 7:13; 16:2; 21:34; 29:25; 42:6; 42:11), and every other time nacham is translated comfort. In my view, it also needs to be translated that way in Job 42:6.

Given what we know of godly Job, and of all that happened to him, this is a fitting paraphrase of Job 42:6:

“Lord, I humbly withdraw my insistence that You explain the reason for my trials. I am satisfied that You know what You are doing. Even here, in the dust and ashes, I find comfort in You alone. I need nothing and no one but You.”

That is the point of the book. God is enough. An important lesson for us all. We do not need to know all the answers. Even if some mists remain, we know that one day God’s children will stand in His presence, and see more clearly the reason for it all. “Now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known” (I Cor. 13:12). Job seems to have grasped that, recognizing that what seemed so mystifying would be revealed at the resurrection.

“I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God” ((Job 19:25-26).

The song Farther Along beautifully expresses the thoughts shared here.

1) Tempted and tried we’re oft made to wonder
Why it should be thus all the day long,
While there are others living about us,
Never molested though in the wrong.

Farther along, we’ll know all about it,
Farther along we’ll understand why;
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine,
We’ll understand it all by and by.

Questions:
1) Is there something happening in your life whose purpose seems to be hidden at the moment?

2) How have you dealt with this present uncertainty?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | May 11, 2016

Do You Wonder Why?

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.

Words: Ida A. Koritz
Music: Ida A. Koritz

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

Note: In this blog I deal mainly with our traditional hymns and gospel songs. Do You Wonder Why? is more of a chorus than a hymn. It’s only claim to the latter might be the suggestion that it can be sung several times substituting for the words “love Him,” phrases such as: “praise Him,” “trust Him,” and “serve Him.”

By it’s very simplicity the song is suitable for all ages, and easy to learn. And it says something important. Hymnary.org mistakenly dates the song from 1946, but I’ve seen several books that put the publication date at 1925. Of Ida Koritz we have no information but her name.

Human beings are inquisitive. It starts when we are small children and continues all through our lives. It seems to be a God-given trait that is virtually universal. We want to know why something is, or is not. Searching, sifting, peering, probing, we look for answers to big mysteries and small.

Why?–it’s such a short word. But it opens the door to learning. “Why?” is a question asked by scientists, by medical doctors, by poets, and by theologians. For what reason is this so, or not so? The word can examine both causes and effects. In it’s negative form, “Why not?” it’s a question asked by dreamers, and the likes of explorers, pioneers, inventors, and entrepreneurs. As a personal complaint, more often of pain than pleasure, it’s “Why me?”

There are some “why’s?” by famous men.

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how” (philosopher Friedrich Nietzche).

“After I’m dead I’d rather have people ask why I have no monument than why I have one” (Roman senator and historian Cato the Elder (234 BC-149 BC).

Then there’s the famous poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson, commemorating the folly of the British Light Brigade charging on horseback into a line of Russian cannons, during the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War (1854).

“Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.”

The word is found over four hundred times in our Bibles. The very first instance comes from God Himself. When the Lord accepted Abel’s sacrifice, but rejected one from his brother Cain, the latter was insulted. But God sought him out and asked, “Why are you angry?” (Gen. 4:6). Not that God didn’t know the answer. He was asking the question so Cain would face what was in his heart.

The Bible says, “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain” (Heb. 11:4). But Cain rejected the overtures of God, and killed his brother in a jealous rage (Gen. 4:8). In one of the Bible’s last use of why, First John returns to Cain and the lessons of his life. “We should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one [Satan] and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous” (I Jn. 3:11-12).

There are many other uses of the word. The Lord Jesus challenged the self-righteous and hypocritical Jewish leaders with, “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” (Matt. 7:3). We are often too quick to find faults in others, when we should be more diligent in dealing with our own. To Christians who differ on issues in which God gives us freedom to choose, the Bible says, “Why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” (Rom. 14:10; cf. vs. 1-13).

Then there’s the why that’s found in a declaration of the sovereignty of God in how He made us. “Indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Does not the potter have power over the clay?” (Rom. 9:20-21; cf. Ps. 139:13-16).

The why question also came from the lips of dithering Pilate, when he asked the raucous crowd what he should do with Jesus, who had been arrested. The holy Son of God could be charged with no sin (I Pet. 2:22), but, “They shouted, saying, ‘Crucify Him, crucify Him!’ Then he said to them the third time, ‘Why, what evil has He done? I have found no reason for death in Him’” (Lk. 23:21-22).

The answer to Pilate’s “Why?” is: because a sovereign God was working through the evil done toward Christ to provide for our salvation. Far beyond the weakness of the governor and the unbelief of those who rejected Christ and wanted Him dead, God had a glorious purpose. “Christ died for our sins” (I Cor. 15:3). Our eternal salvation is a gift of God, through faith in Christ (Rom. 6:23). “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (I Pet. 3:18).

If we have new life in Christ, it should be seen in our words and actions, and our attitude. These may lead someone observing us might ask, “Why does Jesus mean so much to you?” And the Word of God urges us, “Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you” (I Pet. 3:15).

Do you wonder why it is I love Him,
I love Him, I love Him?
Do you wonder why it is I love Him?
I will gladly tell you why.
It’s because He left His home in glory
To die for me.
This is why I cannot help but love Him,
Jesus Christ, who died for me.

Questions:
1) Have you had an opportunity recently to tell someone else why you love and serve the Lord Jesus?

2) What response have you received from your witness?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | May 9, 2016

Can Others See Jesus in You?

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.

Words: Leonard Carl Voke (b. _____, 1899; d. _____)
Music: Leonard Carl Voke

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

Note: We know little about Leonard Voke. He was born in England in 1899, and emigrated to America in 1914 (possibly with his parents and siblings). In later life he apparently worked with Charles Alexander, the song leader for evangelist R. A. Torrey.

I t seems to be a common game we play: trying to decide which parent a new baby looks most like. It can happen when they’re adults too. A few years ago my wife and I visited family in Ontario that we hadn’t seen for quite awhile. “Oh my!” said a cousin, gazing at me, “doesn’t he look like his dad!” I can’t particularly see it, but apparently the likeness is there.

It’s a common device in literature as well. There’s a plot revolving around one individual looking so like another–whether an actual twin or not–that impersonation can be used to accomplish some scheme. Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper (1881), and Anthony Hope’s The Prisoner of Zenda (1894) do it. Both stories were eventually turned into movies.

In the spiritual realm, sinners have done a strange thing. Instead of worshiping the God who created them, they’ve invented gods themselves. Idol gods in their own likeness–or the likeness of some animal. “Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man–and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things” (Rom. 1:22-23).

In truth, the Lord did something quite the reverse of this idolatrous notion. The eternal Son of God, “whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Mic. 5:2), stepped into time one day. Born of a virgin, He took on our humanity. “Coming in the likeness of men…He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:7).

His goal in this was to provide a way that we might be rescued from the corrosive effects of sin, and be blessed with eternal life (Jn. 3:16). When we put our faith in the Lord Jesus as our Saviour, a legal transaction takes place, recorded in the books of heaven. Our sins are counted against Christ’s account–a debt He paid in full at Calvary. And His perfect righteousness is credited to our account (II Cor. 5:21).

In the future, when we’re ushered into the presence of Christ, our likeness to Him in character and conduct will be perfected. “If we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection” (Rom. 6:5). “We know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him” (I Jn. 3:2). “As we have borne the image of the man of dust [Adam], we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man [Christ]” (I Cor. 15:49). And as David declared, “I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness” (Ps. 17:15).

Meanwhile, the Bible teaches that believers, here and now, should seek to become more and more like the Saviour, in both character and conduct. Like Him who is the divine Model of selfless love. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (Jn. 13:34). It was a “new” love in the sense that it’s now to be based on the standard the Lord Jesus revealed while He was on earth. Of this commandment Paul writes, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).

Recently, an American presidential candidate described himself in a speech as, “a very good Christian.” But, arrogant, boastful, self-serving, rude and vulgar, he often showed himself to be the complete opposite of Christlikeness.

Instead we are to:

“Walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us” (Eph. 5:2)….bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Col. 3:13).

If we profess ourselves to be Christians (“Christ-ones”), how much are we just like Him in what we say and do, and in our values and priorities? That is the theme of a gospel song published in 1921 called Can Others See Jesus in You?

I see what Mr. Voke is saying in the third stanza: “’Tis far better not to profess Jesus’ name, / If the world cannot see Him in you.” Well, maybe. But the right and God-pleasing thing to do is correct the problem. Repent and confess your sin (I Jn. 1:9), and get back on the right path. “Become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15).

CH-1) Christ Jesus hath triumphed o’er Satan and death,
And now, praise His name, I am free.
Although He has gone to the Father’s right hand,
May others see Jesus in me.
May others see Jesus in me;
May others see Jesus in me;
For how will the lost know of Jesus
If they cannot see Jesus in me?

CH-2) O will you give heed to the message tonight,
And to your commission be true?
Are you representing the Savior aright,
Can others see Jesus in you?
Can others see Jesus in you?
Can others see Jesus in you?
For how will the lost know of Jesus
If they cannot see Jesus in you?

CH-3) The harvest is plenteous, the fields they are white,
Alas! for the lab’rers are few.
’Tis far better not to profess Jesus’ name,
If the world cannot see Him in you.
Can others see Jesus in you?
Can others see Jesus in you?
For how will the lost know of Jesus
If they fail to see Jesus in you?

Questions:
1) In what ways have others been able to see the likeness of Christ in you, during the past week?

2) In what ways has His image been marred or distorted by what you said or did?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | May 8, 2016

Integrating Hymns in a Service

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.

We ought to plan carefully, when choosing the hymns to be used in a church service. It’s important, But some congregations may not be used to it. Perhaps their service leader chooses hymns at random, or selects ones he knows well, rather than taking the time to think and study, selecting what will work best. I know of one who flips through the hymn book five minutes before the service, and writes the numbers on his hand! This is unworthy of a sacred duty.

Also, I fear that those of us in non-liturgical churches sometimes become more ritualistic than we realize–or would like to admit! A hymn is sung because “that’s what we do now,” not because of what it will add to the service. “We always sing a hymn before the Offering is taken. Let me see, what would be a nice one? We haven’t sung that one for a long time. Let’s do that one”–with little or no regard for what the hymn is saying.

Aim at nothing, and you’re sure to hit it! Shame on us, if we’re that careless and sloppy! To lift a verse out of context, for the sake of the principle it expresses, “If the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle” (I Cor. 14:8). And if a hymn is not chosen to direct our thoughts and teach us, it is not fulfilling its purpose (cf. Col. 3:16). We are planning to gather in the presence of Almighty God. We need to give that awesome privilege some careful thought and preparation. What will we do? And why?

Planning a service takes time, and prayer. My father was a church organist. He planned his organ prelude with this same great care, so that it would lead into the theme of the service. Should we do any less with the hymns to be sung? Hymn books usually have a Topical Index to help with this. Other books provide this information, as does the Cyber Hymnal here. (It also has a section called Scripture Allusions, tying hymns to particular Bible texts.)

Who designs the service in your church? The pastor? The worship team? A service leader? What arrangements are made will vary with that. Ideally, early in the week, the pastor should share with the service leader what the Bible passage for his message will be, and what in particular he plans to emphasize. Then, the service leader should take as long as necessary to find the best hymns, decide on their order, and how best to integrate them into the theme. He can share the plan with the pastor, and they can fine-tune the result together.

If people are used to a more random approach, they may not notice the theme unless it is called to their attention. Either the pastor or the service leader can do that near the beginning of the service, and perhaps show how a hymn fits it. For example:

“Today, our theme is the friendship of Jesus. Notice the how this hymn begins, ‘I’ve found a friend, O such a friend! He loved me ere I knew Him.’ Think of that! Before we even knew the Lord Jesus, He knew us, and loved us. Isn’t that wonderful!”

There are alternatives–sharing a verse of Scripture on the theme, before the hymn is sung, or saying a relevant word about how the hymn came to be written. This need not be done with every hymn. But doing it once in awhile will get people giving more attention to why a particular hymn is being sung, and what it has to say to them.

One further thought. Planning does not, and should not, prevent flexibility. It is possible that the Lord will lead, during the service, for a particular song to be changed or added (or sung a second time), or for a time of testimonies to be inserted, or a time of prayer, and so on. We need to be open to the Lord’s direction. But this is no excuse for having no plan at all!

Posted by: rcottrill | May 6, 2016

Saviour, More Than Life to Me

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.

Words: Frances Jane (“Fanny”) Crosby (b. Mar. 24, 1820; d. Feb. 12, 1915)
Music: William Howard Doane (b. Feb. 3, 1832; d. Dec. 23, 1915)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (William Doane)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: William Doane was a friend and frequent collaborator with Fanny Crosby, supplying tunes for many of her songs. For example: I Am Thine, O Lord; Near the Cross; Pass Me Not, O Gentle Saviour; ‘Tis the Blessed Hour of Prayer; To God Be the Glory; and Will Jesus Find Us Watching? One day in 1875 Doane sent a tune to his friend, asking that she write a song for it about “every day and hour.” The result is this hymn, which came to be a great comfort to Fanny herself.

In the popular film, It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey approaches the evil banker Henry Potter to ask for financial assistance. When George mentions a five hundred dollar insurance policy he could use for collateral, Potter chuckles maliciously, calling him, “A miserable little clerk crawling in here on your hands and knees and begging for help,” adding, “You’re worth more dead than alive.”

Think about that assessment for a moment. What are we actually worth? Of course there are insurance policies. But they benefit our loved ones more than us. There is the money we have in the bank. (For some of us, that’s not much to speak of!) Then, someone has added up the actual worth of our physical bodies to be considered.

Many years ago, the elements that make up the average human body (iron, calcium, and so on) were calculated to be worth about a dollar and sixty cents. With inflation, a more recent approximation comes to ten times that. There is, however, another way to estimate it. Consider the use that can be made of our bone marrow, DNA, organs for transplant, and so on. Looked at that way we could be worth millions of dollars. But, again, Mr. Potter’s sarcastic comment is right; we’re “worth more dead than alive.”

If we were animals, rather than human beings, stating our worth in financial terms might have a point. But we humans are a special creation of God. We are not only physical but spiritual beings. Man has not only a mortal and perishing body, but an eternal soul. The worth of the latter is incalculable. The Lord Jesus asked, rhetorically, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mk. 8:36-37).

Think of it. Even all the fabulous wealth of all the world cannot be compared to the value of one human soul. To assess what something is worth–including ourselves–we need to adopt a spiritual and eternal value system. Life is more than simply a rocky trip from the womb to the tomb. The “Take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry,” of the rich fool (Lk. 12:16-21) is too short-sighted. Eternity lies ahead.

The Lord Jesus Christ took the condemnation for our sin upon the cross. God the Father laid the debt of all our sin upon His beloved Son. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us” (II Cor. 5:21), so that we, through faith in Christ, could be forgiven. But God’s gift has more long range benefits than that. In the words of Paul, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (I Cor. 15:19).

The saving work of Christ qualifies us for eternal blessing. “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16).

And life eternal is not simply quantitative but qualitative. That is, it’s not simply endless days, but endless days in our glorious eternal home, endless days in fellowship with God. “This is eternal life,” said the Lord Jesus, “that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (Jn. 17:3). It’s a life that begins now, and lasts forever. And knowing and loving Christ is the essence of it, for time and eternity.

That’s what Paul believed. He wrote, “What things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ” (Phil. 3:7). The believer’s personal relationship with Christ is an eternal treasure beyond imagining. In 1875, Fanny Crosby published a lovely little gospel song about the surpassing value of that fellowship with the Lord.

CH-1) Saviour, more than life to me,
I am clinging, clinging, close to Thee;
Let Thy precious blood applied,
Keep me ever, ever near Thy side.

Every day, every hour,
Let me feel Thy cleansing power;
May Thy tender love to me
Bind me closer, closer, Lord to Thee.

CH-2) Through this changing world below,
Lead me gently, gently as I go;
Trusting Thee, I cannot stray,
I can never, never lose my way.

CH-3) Let me love Thee more and more,
Till this fleeting, fleeting life is o’er;
Till my soul is lost in love,
In a brighter, brighter world above.

Questions:
1) What value to you place on your relationship with Christ?

2) In what ways will others, hearing you speak, seeing how you live, observe the reality of that?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (William Doane)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | May 4, 2016

A Welcome for Me

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.

Words: Frances Jane (“Fanny”) Crosby (b. Mar. 24, 1820; d. Feb. 12, 1915)
Music: William James Kirkpatrick (b. Feb. 27, 1838; d. Sept. 20, 1921)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Fanny Crosby)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: The Cyber Hymnal gives a date of 1886 for the publication of this hymn, but Hymnary.org includes a hymnal that has a date of 1885 for it. As to the tune by Kirkpatrick, Living Hymns alters the chorus slightly, and it seems more singable.

The word is found in large block letters on the mat at our front door:

WELCOME!

The expression has been around for hundreds of years, as a friendly greeting that said, “It is our will and pleasure to have you come to us.” Will…come! That’s not at all like the gag version of a welcome mat I saw which said, “Oh no! Not You Again!”

Most often visitors are welcomed to our homes, but I recall a time when that wasn’t so for me. With some effort, my son and I tracked down the house where I lived with my parents more than seventy years ago. No one seemed to be home, so I knocked at the neighbour’s door to share our exciting discovery.

A man and a woman opened the door a crack, but they may have thought either that we were cult members coming to convert them, or salesmen wanting to sell them something. In spite of my explanation, they remained surly, and quickly closed the door.

Aren’t you glad the Lord isn’t like that? “Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden,” says Jesus, “and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). And “the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out [never turn away]” (Jn. 6:37).

Christians are also given a warm invitation to come to God in prayer. “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. 4:16). “Boldly.” That doesn’t mean rudely or without due reverence. It means that we can come with cheerful confidence before God’s throne. Through faith in Christ we are part of God’s family, and the Lord invites His children to tell Him what’s on their hearts.

Hymn writer Fanny Crosby wrote a song about the Lord’s welcome in 1885. She used some unusual imagery to picture what it was like, taking us all the way back to the flood of Noah’s day.

Because of the unparalleled wickedness that was spreading across the earth, God told faithful Noah that He was going to destroy all that breathed, humans and animals (Gen. 6:12-13, 17). But Noah was to build a huge ark, 450 feet, or 137 metres long (Gen. 6:14-16). In it he and his family, eight people in all, plus representatives of all the animal species, would be preserved during the flood (vs. 19-21).

Genesis chapter 7 describes the stormy progress of the flood until the entire earth was covered. In all, Noah and his family were kept safe there from the deluge, for about a year. Then, finally, the flood waters began to recede, and the ark came to rest in the mountains of Ararat (Gen. 8:4).

Noah needed to know when it was safe to leave the ark, when they’d be able to survive in the new post-flood world. To test this, he released a dove through the window in the ark. But the Bible says, “The dove found no resting place for the sole of her foot, and she returned into the ark to him, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took her, and drew her into the ark to himself” (Gen. 8:9).

It was that little incident of the dove returning to what had been her home for many months that Fanny Crosby used to picture the repentant sinner seeking the love and forgiveness of the Lord.

CH-1) Like a bird on the deep, far away from its nest,
I had wandered, my Saviour, from Thee,
But Thy dear loving voice called me home to Thy breast,
And I knew there was welcome for me.

A welcome for me,
Loving Saviour from Thee;
Just a smile and a welcome for me;
Now I’m safe like a dove,
As I rest in Thy love,
And I find a sweet refuge in Thee.

CH-2) I am safe in the ark; I have folded my wings
On the bosom of mercy divine;
I am filled with the light, of Thy presence so bright,
And the joy that will ever be mine.

CH-3) I am safe in the ark, and I dread not the storm,
Though around me the surges may roll;
I will look to the skies, where the day never dies,
I will sing of the joy in my soul.

Questions:
1) What do you do for visitors to make them feel welcome when they come to call at your home?

2) What do you do for Christ to show He is welcome in your heart and life?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Fanny Crosby)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | May 2, 2016

Along the River of Time

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.

Words: George Frederick Root (b. Aug. 30, 1820; d. Aug. 6, 1895)
Music: George Frederick Root

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

Note: Mr. Root;’s musical talent showed early on. As a young teens he was able to play thirteen different instruments. He went on to become a composer of note, not only of hymns, but of secular songs. He wrote Civil War songs such as The Battle Cry of Freedom, and Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, the Boys Are Marching.

Root wrote hymns expressing his faith in Christ, as well. For example, he gave us words and music for the present hymn, and for She Only Touched the Hem of His Garment, and two invitation hymns, Come to the Saviour, and Why Do You Wait?

D rifting can be fun. When you’re out on a stream, in a boat, with a companion, sometimes it’s nice to stop rowing for awhile, and simply let the current carry you along. Relaxing, chatting, watching the banks slide slowly by, enjoying the warm summer sun–what could be more pleasant?

But it doesn’t pay to completely ignore what’s ahead. Rivers and streams that move with a smooth, oily calm may also have rocks, rapids, and even waterfalls along the way. Unless we know the area, or are prepared to steer and paddle when required, the current can carry us into difficulty and danger.

Niagara Falls is one of the scenic wonders of the world. To stand near and hear the thunder of the cataract, feeling the ground shaking beneath your feet, it’s awe inspiring. Above the falls, the broad Niagara River flows gently along. But, up river there are buoys, with warning signs, telling boaters to go no closer to the falls.

Even so, some do. Perhaps, to see how close to disaster they can get and escape. Or, occasionally, it’s because the boat’s motor failed, and the current carried it relentlessly onward. Over many years, daredevils have built reinforced “barrels” and attempted to survive the falls, but many have perished. Of those who have gone over the falls without any protection–either by accident, or in a suicide attempt, only three in all of its history have lived to tell about it.

Yes, drifting with the current can be fun–at times. But watch out! And it’s the same with life. Some seem to have hardships from beginning to end. But there are others who grow up well cared for, and life seems to hold relatively little unpleasantness. They simply drift along, until a crisis strikes that changes everything.

And for each of us there is the prospect of one final crisis. Death. It may come long after the traditional three-score years and ten. Or it may come suddenly, and much sooner. Apart from the prophesied return of Christ (I Thess. 4:16-17), we will all face it. There’s no drifting past it on the stream of life. The question is, are we prepared to deal with it?

The Bible says, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die” (Ecc. 3:1-2). And “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). Are we ready? The preparation for what is to come requires that we put our faith in the Saviour. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 3:23).

There is an unusual hymn by George Root about what’s ahead on the river of life. The hymn, Along the River of Time, is unusual musically because the melody alternates between men’s and women’s voices–though it’s possible for all to sing it together. The dramatic and sobering song says:

1) Along the River of Time we glide,
Along the River, along the River;
The swiftly flowing resistless tide,
The swiftly flowing, the swiftly flowing,
And soon, ah, soon the end we’ll see;
Yes, soon ‘twill come, and we will be
Floating, floating, out on the sea of Eternity!

2) Along the River of Time we glide,
Along the River, along the River;
A thousand dangers its currents hide,
A thousand dangers, a thousand dangers;
And near our course the rocks we see:
Oh, dreadful thought! A wreck to be,
Floating, floating, Out on the sea of Eternity!

3) Along the River of Time we glide,
Along the River, along the River;
Our Saviour only our bark can guide,
Our Saviour only, our Saviour only;
But with Him we secure may be:
No fear, no doubt–but joy to be
Floating, floating, out on the sea of Eternity!

Questions:
1) Do you know anyone who is drifting into danger in their spiritual lives?

2) Is there anything you can do to warn and help them to find safety in Christ?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | April 29, 2016

So Send I You (2nd Version)

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.

Words: Edith Margaret Clarkson (b. June 8, 1915; d. Mar. 17, 2008)
Music: John Willard Peterson (b. Nov. 1, 1921; d. Sept. 20, 2006)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Margaret Clarkson)
The Cyber Hymnal (Margaret Clarkson)
Hymnary.org (Margaret Clarkson)

Note: Margaret Clarkson wrote the words of the earlier song quoted below in 1937. John Peterson composed the tune in 1954. That tune was also used with the second version of the song written in 1963.

There is a lengthy and excellent biography of Miss Clarkson on Hymnary.org. It reveals to us a woman who suffered greatly, and whom God used mightily. Note particularly the paragraph about her growing interest in hymns, and her study of them, as a child, during the Sunday sermons in her church.

People do make mistakes. That’s why carpenters warn, “Measure twice, before you cut once.” And, as the saying goes, it’s what erasers on pencils are for. It’s the reason those typing on an old fashioned typewriter kept a bottle of white-out on hand. Now, with computers, we simply block and delete to make the correction. No muss, no fuss–unless you delete too much!

The Bible has a lot to say about making corrections in our spiritual lives. On the personal level, a father admonishes his son, “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights” (Prov. 3:11-12; cf. Heb. 12:5-11). The correction of the Lord, when we get off course, is one of four main functions of the Bible:

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Tim. 3:16).

Making corrections. It may sound strange to say that a hymn writer produced a new song to correct the impression made by an earlier song, but that’s exactly what happened to Margaret Clarkson, whom I had the privilege of meeting some years ago. Margaret was born in Melfort, Saskatchewan. She became a school teacher in her early years, working in a couple of  isolated communities in Northern Ontario.

That was a lonely time for her. She had little contact with others dedicated to Christ. But in the isolation, she found in God’s Word the challenge she needed–in particular the words of the Lord Jesus, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (Jn. 20:21). She thought of the suffering of the Saviour, what it cost the Son of God to come to this earth, and give His life to take the punishment for our sins. The thought came to her that this isolated community was her mission field, right where she was. “This was where He had sent me,” she said later.

With that, she sat down and wrote what some have called the finest missionary hymn of the twentieth century. It pictures in a powerful and uncompromising way the sacrifices made by servants of Christ, in earlier times and still today.

1) So send I you to labour unrewarded,
To serve unpaid, unloved, unsought, unknown,
To bear rebuke, to suffer scorn and scoffing–
So send I you to toil for Me alone.

3) So send I you to loneliness and longing,
With heart a-hung’ring for the loved and known,
Forsaking home and kindred, friend and dear one–
So send I you to know My love alone.

5) So send I you to hearts made hard by hatred,
To eyes made blind because they will not see ,
To spend–though it be blood–to spend and spare not–
So send I you to taste of Calvary.

Powerful words, and reflective of the experience of many believers–some of whom have even experienced martyrdom (“to spend, though it be blood”). But years later, Miss Clarkson wrote, “I began to realize that this poem was really very one-sided; it told of only the sorrows and privations of the missionary call and none of its triumphs. She regretted the sombre tone of the song, and wrote another, a corrective, fitted to the same tune.

1) So send I you–by grace made strong to triumph,
O’er hosts of hell, o’er darkness, death, and sin,
My name to bear, and in that name to conquer–
So send I you, my victory to win.

3) So send I you–my strength to know in weakness,
My joy in grief, my perfect peace in pain,
To prove My pow’r, My grace, My promised presence–
So send I you, eternal fruit to gain.

4) So send I you–to bear My cross with patience,
And then one day with joy to lay it down,
To hear My voice, ‘Well done, My faithful servant–
Come, share My throne, My kingdom, and My crown!

Questions:
1) In what ways have you experienced the painful sacrifices in your service for Christ, described in Miss Clarkson’s first hymn?

2) How have you experienced the sustaining grace and blessings described in the second song?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Margaret Clarkson)
The Cyber Hymnal (Margaret Clarkson)
Hymnary.org (Margaret Clarkson)

Posted by: rcottrill | April 27, 2016

Macedonia

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.

Words: Elizabeth Anne Sweet Ortlund (b. Dec. 3, 1923; d. Nov. 4, 2013)
Music: All Saints, by Henry Stephen Cutler (b. Oct. 13, 1825; d. Dec. 5, 1902)

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

Notes: Anne Sweet was the daughter of army Brigadier General Joseph B. Sweet. Her husband, Ray Ortlund was the pastor of a large church in Pasadena, California. Mrs. Ortlund wrote some two dozen hymns and tunes. This particular song is entitled Macedonia, after the vision Paul had, summoning him to preach the gospel there.

“A vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them (Acts 16:9-10)

The tune All Saints (or All Saints, New) is also used with Bishop Heber’s great hymn, The Son of God Goes Forth to War, the hymn for which it was originally written.

One definition of a “visionary” is that it is a person with unusually keen foresight, the ability to see future possibilities and how to make them a reality. Men such as Henry Ford and Thomas Edison were visionaries in that sense.

When the Bible speaks of “visions” it usually means something different. The Scriptures describe those who received messages from God in the form of supernatural, dream-like revelations, such as that of Paul’s above, or those John had of future things in the last book of the Bible (cf. Rev. 9:17). But that is not our subject here.

Rather, it is the foresight spoken of above, but with a spiritual dimension. The person with spiritual vision views things from God’s perspective. Where others may see only obstacles and potential defeat, he or she has the God-given ability to see past the horizon of human limitations, and to visualize the exciting possibilities of what the Lord can do.

Two hundred years ago, a poor English shoemaker named William Carey began to consider the church’s responsibility to reach the world for Christ. When he presented his ideas to a group of pastors, one said irritably, “Young man, sit down. When God pleases to convert the heathen, He will do it without your aid or mine!”

But that is not what the Bible says. The Lord Jesus challenged His followers to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk. 16:15). And Christ said that through the enabling of the Spirit of God, “You shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). In this work, “the love of God compels us [urges us on]” (II Cor. 5:14).

William Carey persisted. Through his preaching, and writings, and largely by his influence, a new Mission Board was formed. Later, Carey himself went to India as a missionary, and accomplished great things for God. He is rightly called the Father of Modern Missions. He is also an example of what the Lord can do through a willing servant who has spiritual vision. Pastor and author Charles Swindoll says of this God-given faculty that it is:

“Spawned by faith, sustained by hope, sparked by imagination, and strengthened by enthusiasm. It is greater than sight, deeper than a dream, broader than an idea.”

One day, Saul’s son Jonathan challenged his armour bearer to join him in attacking a Philistine garrison–just the two of them! He said: “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us. For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few” (I Sam. 14:6). Jonathan, like William Carey, had the spiritual vision to realize what God could accomplish, even through small numbers or weak instruments.

It’s estimated that 153,000 people die each day, across the world. Many, many of these do not know the Saviour. What can we do to reach them with the gospel which God’s Word calls, “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16)? How can the church advance the cause of world missions?

That was the passion of author and musician Anne Ortlund. Mrs. Orlund wrote a hymn that became the theme song for Billy Graham’s World Congress on Evangelism, held in Berlin, Germany, in 1966. The song says,

1) The vision of a dying world
Is vast before our eyes;
We feel the heartbeat of its need,
We hear its feeble cries:
Lord Jesus Christ, revive Thy church
In this, her crucial hour!
Lord Jesus Christ, awake Thy church
With Spirit-given pow’r.

4) The warning bell of judgment tolls,
Above us looms the cross;
Around are ever-dying souls–
How great, how great the loss!
O Lord, constrain and move Thy church
The glad news to impart!
And Lord, as Thou dost stir Thy church,
Begin within my heart.

Questions:
1) Do you have spiritual vision regarding how the Lord might be able to use you in His service in the coming months?

2) What will you do to bring your vision into reality?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | April 25, 2016

Life at Best Is Very Brief

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.

Words: author unknown
Music: William James Kirkpatrick (b. Feb. 27, 1838; d. Sept. 20, 1921)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Seven years before the publication of this song in 1892, Mr. Kirkpatrick used the same tune for Fanny Crosby’s gospel song, Meet Me There. The two songs together make an interesting pair. One warns of the limited time for the sinner to avail himself of God’s grace. The other speaks of the delights of heaven for all who have trusted in the Saviour.

Time’s up! The phrase has been around for at least seven centuries. It indicates that some deadline has been reached, that the allotted time for something has run out. One place the phrase used is at the writing of examinations. I’ve heard it many times in school, and spoken the words in college exams I have set. Stop writing, that’s all the time you get.

Limited time is a factor in many scientific experiments as well. As instruments get more sophisticated, they can measure shorter and shorter periods, calling for new names to identify what is meant. An attosecond is one quintillionth of a second. In British measurement a quintillion is a one followed by thirty zeros. And the shortest time recently measured is twelve attoseconds, the time it takes for light to travel the length of two hydrogen atoms.

It may be surprising to discover how much the Bible has to say about time. From Genesis to Revelation, in the majority of Bible books, something is said about it. In a much quoted passage in Ecclesiastes (Ecc. 3:1-8), King Solomon reminds us, “To everything there is a season…a time to be born, a time to die.”

Psalm 90 seems to set a limit on this mortal life: “The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labour and sorrow” (vs. 10). That may be intended as a limit we can apply generally. However, the psalm was written by Moses, during the forty years the Israelites spent in the wilderness. For him and the people of that day, it may have had a more specific application.

Because of unbelief, the men of that generation were condemned to die in the wilderness (Num. 26:64-65), and life spans were shortened because of the judgment of God. Men became soldiers at the age of twenty (Num. 1:3). The youngest among them would be dead at or before the age of sixty. For older ones, the age of seventy or eighty was the limit.

Whatever time God gives us, we’re to seek to “gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:12), to redeem the time, recognizing that the days are evil (Eph. 5:16). And we need to realize that God has given us this time to prepare for eternity. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (II Cor. 6:2). Though our time on earth may be short, there is an eternity beyond for which to prepare (Jn. 3:16).

One man who utterly ignored that is a character in a story Jesus told (Lk. 12:16-21). When he had an abundant crop, he decided to tear down his old barns and build bigger ones, saying to himself, “You have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry” (vs. 19). But God labeled him a fool, saying, “This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?” (vs. 20).

The urgent need to be ready for our eternal destiny is behind an anonymous gospel song. It reminds us to get right with God, while He graciously gives us time. Our eternal destiny is at stake. Many times, over the years, I can recall my own mother quoting the first two lines. They sound an ominous and sobering word of warning.

CH-1) Life at best is very brief,
Like the falling of a leaf,
Like the binding of a sheaf,
Be in time.
Fleeting days are telling fast
That the die will soon be cast,
And the fatal line be passed,
Be in time.

Be in time, be in time,
While the voice of Jesus calls you, be in time.
If in sin you longer wait,
You may find no open gate,
And your cry be just too late, be in time.

CH-4) Sinner, heed the warning voice,
Make the Lord your final choice,
Then all heaven will rejoice,
Be in time.
Come from darkness into light,
Come, let Jesus make you right,
Come, and start for heav’n tonight,
Be in time.

Questions:
1) What do you do when you know there is a limited time to take advantage of a great opportunity?

2) What are the reasons time is limited to respond to the gospel?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

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