Posted by: rcottrill | September 5, 2016

Be Strong

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: Maltbie Davenport Babcock (b. Aug. 3, 1858; d. May 18, 1901)
Music: Harold, by Carl Fowler Price (b. May 16, 1881; d. Apr. 12, 1948)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Maltbie Babcock)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Tall and handsome, Babcock was not only a good student at university, but a fine athlete, competing in baseball and swimming. When he took up pastoral ministry at a church in Baltimore, where he also became a spiritual counselor at Johns Hopkins University in that city. He wrote our hymn This Is My Father’s World, but it’s a lesser known song we’ll consider now. In spite of his good physical condition, Pastor Babcock died of brucellosis (likely from eating infected milk or meat) during a trip to the Holy Land. He was only forty-three.

For three years in a row, American weight lifter Brian Shaw has won the World’s Strongest Man competition. He may be the strongest man in modern history–certainly since accurate records have been kept. He’s lifted well over half a ton (or 200 kgs), many times. Brian is a giant of a man. He’s six foot eight, weighs four hundred and forty pounds, and needs to consume ten thousand calories a day to maintain his strength and conditioning.

But there are other kinds of strength. There’s the strength of determination and courage, the strength of faithfulness and love–strength of character in other words.

I was standing with a friend one day when we saw Jack, a thin, gray-haired gentleman we both knew, walking down the street some distance away. “There,” said my friend, “goes one of the princes of the earth.” When I asked what he meant, he told me that Jack had cared for his disabled wife for many years, lovingly, gently, day after day, without impatience or complaint. That’s strength indeed! And, aware that Jack was a committed Christian, I knew that he looked to the Lord for the daily grace needed to continue his labour of love.

In the Bible, some form of words such as strong or powerful are used over seven hundred times. And there’s a double-sided truth that comes up. That it’s a fine thing to be healthy and strong physically, but moral strength and spiritual strength are far more important. “Bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (I Tim. 4:8). To deal with the challenges of life we need the inner strength that only God can give (Eph. 6:10).

The poster boy for the contrast between these two is Samson. He was a judge in Israel around 1050 BC. Before he was born, the Lord decreed that he was to be a lifelong Nazirite (Jud. 13:5; cf. Num. 6:1-8), living out a vow of strong moral character and uncompromising dedication to God. Then, when he reached adulthood, the Spirit of God endowed him with incredible strength.

Samson’s amazing feats of physical strength, including slaying a lion with his bare hands (Jud. 14:5-6), are described for us in Judges chapters 14 through 16. But we also learn there that the man’s character was seriously flawed. Sometimes he used his power in frivolous ways, with actions that fed his own ego. And he repeatedly consorted with immoral women. His moral folly eventually brought him down, robbing him of his God-given strength. The Bible says “the Lord…departed from him” and he didn’t even realize it (Jud. 16:20). Sadly, he ended his days as a blind slave of the Philistines (vs. 21).

A physically strong man–a well-conditioned athlete–of more recent times is Maltbie Babcock. But he had strength of character too. Called simply Be Strong, the present hymn reflects his own fierce love of God, and his unflagging determination to stand firm and do the will of God. The song is not a summons that will appeal to weak-willed, compromising, Sunday-only Christians. One commentator describes it as “a rugged hymn, knotted like the muscles of a torso of Hercules.”

CH-1) Be strong!
We are not here to play, to dream, to drift;
We have hard work to do and loads to lift;
Shun not the struggle, face it, ’tis God’s gift.
Be strong! Be strong! Be strong!

CH-2) Be strong!
Say not the days are evil–who’s to blame?
And fold the hands and acquiesce–O shame!
Stand up, speak out, and bravely, in God’s name.
Be strong! Be strong! Be strong!

CH-3) Be strong!
It matters not how deep entrenched the wrong,
How hard the battle goes, the day, how long;
Faint not, fight on! Tomorrow comes the song.
Be strong! Be strong! Be strong!

Questions:
1) Who is the physically strongest person you know?

2) Who is the strongest spiritually or in terms of character? (How is this seen?)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Maltbie Babcock)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | September 4, 2016

The Value of Hymn Books

I realize this is a rather lengthy article as compared to most I write. However, I do want to put before my readers a reasonably thorough defense of the church hymnal. If you can think of other advantages, please let me know.
R. Cottrill

There’s been a trend in recent years, in some churches, to set aside the hymn books, and simply project the words to be sung on a screen or the wall, employing hymn software and a video projector. This can work. But there are advantages to using hymn books over projected images that are worth considering. Thankfully, there’s still a market for hymnals. New ones continue to be produced–a telling fact, since they’re costly to put together and publish.

Since this article was updated on the blog I’ve received comments from a number. They’ve been mostly positive, but I did hear from a missionary working with another culture and in another language whose people could see no point in hymnals at all. I do think such books may be particularly relevant to English-speaking people. Many other language groups do not have the heritage available to us.

Hymns and gospel songs (other that those that use the actual words of Scripture) are a kind of Bible commentary. And (counting translations) we have a wonderfully rich selection of these mini-commentaries, dating back almost to the beginning of the Christian era. The hymn book preserves a significant collection of these expressions of doctrine and devotion.

Think of having, at church and at home, and bound in one relatively inexpensive volume, commentaries on a variety of Bible passages, doctrines and biblical principles, written by Martin Luther, Isaac Watts, Charles and John Wesley, and many more. I understand that some may disagree with my point of view on hymnals, but I believe the subject deserves a closer look.

It’s quite possible that, in churches that have abandoned the hymn book, they have already been under-utilized for years, so their value is underestimated. Much more can be done with them than simply singing a few hymns each week from them. For a growing list of now over sixty ideas about how to enhance the hymn singing of the congregation, see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing.

In France, about five hundred years ago, the government pronounced it a crime to sing songs of praise to God (specifically the Psalms). And when that didn’t stop it, they went even further. They said that anyone found with a hymn book in his possession would be executed. Killed, for owning a hymn book! I wonder what we would do facing such a threat.

Here is what those people did. They believed that preserving their heritage of sacred music was worth risking their lives for. So, in spite of the danger, they wrote out the words of each song in tiny, tiny print. Then they bound the little pages together, making books so small that six of them could be hidden in one hand. And they went right on singing!

Scanning the pages of a hymn book is like taking a trip through history. The hymns of the church currently in use (not counting Psalms set to music) go back to within two decades or so of the death of the Apostle John. Hymn books provide a means of preserving a significant part of our Christian heritage, and doing so in a way that words briefly projected on the wall in a church service cannot.

In the centuries since apostolic times, the church has come through both triumphs and tragedies. There was the early persecution of followers of Christ, the crippling superstition of the Middle Ages, the new light of the Reformation, times of spiritual revival, particularly in Britain and America, the expansion of world missions, answers to liberalism’s attacks on various doctrines we hold dear, all of this and more is reflected in our hymns.

Many hymns also relate to the personal testimonies of individual believers, lessons learned in their experiences both good and bad. (For example, there are particular things that happened to Fanny Crosby relating to her songs Rescue the Perishing, Saved by Grace, and All the Way My Saviour Leads Me.) What the authors learned is passed on in their hymns, and this can bless and instruct us too, through their words.

By collecting this precious historical record in one volume, and identifying by name those who contributed to it, the editors have given us a valuable tool for doctrinal instruction and devotional expression. Here are some ways hymn books can be used, both in the meetings of the church and elsewhere, that make them better than projected words.

I. In Church Services

1) Hymn books can be used before a service begins. It’s helpful to sit quietly and pray, preparing our hearts for what’s to come. During this time, a chosen hymn or two can be read with great blessing–perhaps looking up and reading one being played in the Instrumental Prelude.

2) Did you know that even reading the Index of the hymnal can yield a special blessing before a service? It can. I have an article on my blog about it called Blessings in the Titles. Basically, the practice involves reading a title and asking questions such as: Why is this so? What does it mean to me today? Just use the titles for meditation, not the text of the hymn, and see what strikes you.

3) A well designed evangelical hymnal offers a balanced diet of songs representing different doctrines, songs covering a variety of devotional needs, and songs suited to a variety of occasions. The hymnal thus becomes an effective one-stop service planning resource. If it has a good Topical Index, the pastor and/or worship leader can quickly find a list of songs that relate to the theme of a service. A discussion of this can even take place over the phone, when each has the church’s hymn book before him. John Wesley writes:

In what other publication have you so distinct and full account of scriptural Christianity; such a declaration of the heights and depths of religion, speculative and practical; so strong cautions against the most plausible errors, particularly those now most prevalent; and so clear directions for making your calling and election sure; for perfecting holiness in the fear of God? [The latter phrases being taken from II Pet. 10:1 and II Cor. 7:1.]

4) Hymnals are especially well suited to group singing of many kinds of songs. If the congregation is singing a rhythmic song of praise such as He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands, and folks are invited to clap in time, holding a hymn book is not practical. But hymnals are ideal for texts that present a logical argument or tell a story, over several stanzas. When we sing these from a screen, we can’t see the whole thing at once. We can’t look back and see the logic, or the flow of the story, in what is presented

5) During the service time, using hymn books gives the service leader the option of selecting or omitting stanzas (even on the spot), or responding with an unplanned hymn to other things happening in the service (like a prayer request, or something in a testimony time). The service leader should aim to know the hymn book so well that he can suit to what is happening in the service with a hymn, when appropriate.

6) Congregations enjoy times when “requests” are called for by the leader, so they can sing their favourites. This also provides an opportunity to sing hymns that haven’t been used for awhile. Choosing these is easier when members of the congregation can leaf through the books and find a song they’d like the group to sing.

7) Sometimes using hymn books places more of the hymn (more stanzas) before the congregation than would be projected in a given meeting. Many of these are rich in doctrine and devotion, and can be an added blessing.

8) If God speaks to an individual through a hymn, he or she may want to re-read the words after it’s been sung–either during the service, or afterwards. This is easy with a hymn book, but a projected song disappears as soon as it’s been used.

9) Some claim there is even a kind of emotional or psychological benefit to using books. When we take the hymn book, feel the weight of it in our hands, find the right page, and hold it up to sing, it becomes a visible and physical reminder that the church of Jesus Christ is not something new and temporary. Hymn books are a symbol of consistency and permanence that’s difficult to envision with fleeting projected images.

10) It’s worthwhile having books with music notation, because it facilitates singing in harmony, a wonderful fellowship experience. Not everyone has this skill but, with hymn books, it can be learned, over time. Once people begin to understand a little about music notation, it will be easier to learn new tunes. I’ve even felt that it would be helpful to have an occasional singing lesson with the whole congregation, with a view to teaching this.

11) Hymn books can promote congregational singing. The singing seems more assured and enthusiastic when books are used. (I can only describe my own experience here, having preached in many different churches.) Often when projected images are used, the singing seems listless and very quiet. Looking around, I’ve seen many not singing at all. This non-involvement is increased when what is sometimes called a worship team is up front, and loudly amplified. The people in the pews tend to become listeners and observers.

12) Hymn books are easily transported, and great for use elsewhere. They’re suitable for singing at home Bible study or prayer groups, or fellowship times in homes. On occasion, they might be used when services are scheduled at a retreat, or in a seniors facility. Hymn books can also be used in pastoral care. In such situations I’ve sometimes asked, “What would you like me to sing for you?” But even when the visitor is not a singer, hymns can be read in the hospital or nursing home and be a great blessing to patients or residents.

II. In Christian Education

13) Hymn books contain the names of the authors and composers of the songs. This provides a snapshot of our Christian heritage. We’ll see names cropping up a number of times–Watts, Wesley, Newton, Crosby. It can be an added blessing to use other songs by the same author, especially as some of the history of these gifted saints is shared from the pulpit, or in the church bulletin. I believe those who use a steady diet of projected images in worship are in danger of losing touch with our great heritage.

14) Occasionally, a hymn quiz can be printed in the church bulletin one week, with the answers printed there the following week. With hymn books available, participants can look for answers either at church, or at home if they have a copy of the hymnal there.

15) At church, a hymn poll can be taken, asking all who participate to list their favourites. (This is much easier with a hymn book in hand.) Later, the results of the poll could be tabulated, and an entire service could be built around the “Top 10” (singing a verse or two of each). With a bit of thought, these can often be arranged in a logical order so a related devotional message or theme will unfold throughout the service.

16) It is safe to say that most congregations who use hymn books don’t see them as also being text books. But they are–wonderful ones. It is possible to take a quarter (13 weeks) in an adult Sunday School class, to explore the biblical teaching expressed in some hymns. In the hymn books, learners can compare the songs of a particular author, or songs on a particular theme, or from a particular era. Doing this will teach a bit of church history, and help those involved to focus more on the message of each song that is used by the congregation.

17) Some years ago, I taught a course on Hymnology to the Grades 7 and 8 children at a Christian elementary school. I told them some of the interesting stories behind the writing of our hymns. Using books for this enabled me to point out the names of authors and composers, and show other songs in the book by the same authors. The books can also be used for elementary singing instruction with children, as the music notes are available.

After I taught the classes mentioned, parents reported that their children took part with enthusiasm in the hymn singing in the church, pointing out to their surprised parents the hymn authors they’d come to know. Something like this might be done in a simplified form in Children’s Church, Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, or at summer camp. (In the latter two programs, stories about a particular hymn writer and his/her songs could provide a daily series for the week.)

18) I heard of a church that uses copies of their hymn book as prizes in a children’s Bible memorization program. This gets God’s Word into young minds, and gets hymns book into homes that may profit from them. It also reminds everyone of the importance of our hymns and hymnals, definitely a prize to be treasured.

19) I heard of a project in another church where those in a children’s choir were given their own copy of the hymn book if they memorized the first stanza of 20 hymns, and could recite them in front of the others. This could be done with any group of children, not just a choir. (Suggestion: Use the same 20 hymns for all. Then have the children recite them in unison. Group recitation is very valuable–and thrilling.)

20) A church can plan a Community Hymn Sing, inviting other churches to join in. I’ve led many of these, and folks find them a blessing, and a great time of fellowship with other congregations. Because there will be more people who can sing a part (soprano, alto, tenor, or bass), using books with music notation could make this an unforgettable experience, and promote more parts singing in the churches involved.

III. In the Home

21) Every possible effort should be made to encourage members of the congregation to have their own copy of the church’s hymnal at home. In my view, if they cannot afford one, the church should supply it. The tremendous value of this cannot be overstated. It ties the home and the church together in a unique way. It brings the fruit of the devotional experiences of the home into the church, and carries the blessings of the worship and instruction of the gathered church into the home.

22) It’s possible to study hymns at home, just as we study God’s Word there, and use them for daily devotional reading.

A. W. Tozer wrote: “I say without qualification, after the Sacred Scriptures, the next best companion for the soul is a good hymnal….To read or sing a true hymn is to worship with a great and gifted soul [meaning the author] in his moments of intimate devotion…. Every Christian should have, laying beside his Bible, a copy of some standard hymn book.”

Using a home copy of the book, you could read through a hymn, looking up words you don’t understand, and writing a brief definition of each in the margin. Then, you might read the hymn through again, underlining significant things (a promise to believe; a command to obey; a blessing to enjoy and share; an example to learn from.) Reference to this blog will provide background on authors and more. Also, if you learn where your favourite hymn is found in your hymn book at home, you will be ready to call out the number when a time for favourites is given at church.

23) A little homework project could be assigned at church, regarding a hymn to be used on the following Sunday. Family members could discuss what the author means by a particular line, or what we can learn about prayer, faith, Christ’s return, etc. from the hymn. This is bound to greatly enhance the use of the song the following week.

24) One author states he knows members of a congregation who love to find out what the next Sunday’s hymns will be, so they can open up their hymnals at home and meditate on the words. God bless the worship leaders who prepare in advance so folks can do that! The hymn singing in that church will be strengthened accordingly.

25) You could find two or three families who love to sing hymns. Then, arrange to get together perhaps once a month, in a different family’s home each time, for a hymn sing. As long as one person can lead, no instrument is required. If all present attend your church, they could bring their own home copies of the hymn book. But if you include friends outside the church who love the hymns they would need books. With permission, borrow enough from the church so each person has one.

26) I heard of parents who had their children memorize a Bible verse, and a stanza of a hymn, each week. This is another way to enhance the congregational singing later on, and children’s appreciation for the hymns. Having children and adults learn and recite hymns together could become a wonderful family activity. It could be done once a week, at any meal that seems best. At English tea time (around 4:00-6:00 p.m.) each Sunday, pastor and hymn writer Edward Bickersteth asked each member of his family to quote a hymn. His son remembered this experience, years afterward.

27) Having a copy of the church’s hymn book at home enables those who play an instrument to play again songs used in the service on Sunday. They can play old favourites, or to try new hymns in the book that can be requested at church later. During a year or more when my own father was suffering with cancer and was unable to sleep at night, he would plug headphones into the organ (not wanting to disturb the family) and play from our hymnal by the hour.

28) It’s good for each family to have a Guest Book, where visitors can sign their names. It makes a great record to look back on in later years. But here’s an alternative idea. Instead of having visitors to your home sign a guest book, you could have them neatly sign next to their favourite hymn in your hymn book. A great memento! And each time you sing or read that hymn, it will remind you to pray for the person.

IV. Its Relative Ease of Use and Costs

29) Clearly, hymn books can be used when projectors can’t. Technology can let us down at any time–when the projector breaks down, or the bulb blows, or when the one trained to use the equipment is absent. Also, if there is enough light from windows, books can be used during a power outage, while a projector cannot.

30) Hymn books can be used by those on the platform, or when members of the congregation are sitting or standing behind taller people. Or when singers are sitting in a circle, as is done at Bible studies. People don’t all need to be facing a projected image.

31) Because a video projector and the necessary computer are expensive equipment, these are sometimes stored away in a safe place between uses. That means they must be set up each time. Hymn books can often be left in their place, week by week, and simply picked up from the hymn racks when needed.

32) There is a cost associated with the purchase of hymn books. (More of that in a moment.) But there’s also a cost associated with the purchase and maintenance of projection equipment. Replacing projector bulbs is expensive too.

33) To project hymns, there is the further cost of purchasing the appropriate computer program. For example currently: MediaShout 6 costs $400; Proclaim costs $200 per year; Easy Worship (though I don’t care for that term!) costs a base price of $400, plus $200 for upgrades. Paperless Hymnal costs $1,200 for several sets of its songs. The latter projects the music notes too, but that poses another problem. The creators sometimes use new or unfamiliar tunes for well-known hymns, tunes that would have to be learned or the projected music would be useless.

34) Operators of computer programs and projection equipment must be recruited, trained and scheduled. And he or she needs some skill in knowing exactly when to move on to the next image–not too soon, or too late, or singers will be confused. There will inevitably be occasional hitches with operator absences, equipment problems, and selecting the wrong song on the computer. None of these problems exist for those using hymnals.

35) There is also the need to have adequate computer equipment to run one of these programs, and the job of programming it, week by week, by selecting from the software the hymns and stanzas to be used at a given meeting.

36) To project hymns that are under copyright is restricted by copyright law. For a church with an attendance between 25 and 99, Church Copyright Licensing International (the CCLI) currently charges $132 per year for the needed permission. In addition, a weekly record of the songs used must be kept, and sent in to the CCLI. On the other hand, when a church uses hymn books instead of a projector, there’s no annual fee, and no record keeping is needed (though this is a valuable practice for pastors and service leaders).

37) It’s an older tool, and comparatively low-tech, but if we want to try a hymn medley (using selected stanzas of several hymns linked together), or teach a new song not in the hymn book, an overhead projector works well, at very little cost.

38) In assessing the cost of new hymnals, you can figure that, with a good binding and reasonable care, they will last for a decade or more. If the CCLI charge remains the same as it is now, over ten years it would cost the small congregation $1,320 for a copyright license. This is nearly the cost of brand new hymn books, which are easily usable for ten years.

The total cost for 75 books (including shipping) is presently around $1,500. Of course, the cost of 50 or 60 books would be less, and that number could well be adequate for the next few years for a particular church. But even at $1,500, spread over ten years, the cost would be only $150 per year, or $2.88 per Sunday.

In buying hymn books, churches often plan for a well advertised special offering to be taken for the project. If a decision is made to get new books, the church should also strongly encourage individuals and families to buy a home copy (with a different coloured binding, so it’s not confused with the church’s copies).

If new books are purchased, individuals or families can be invited to donate one or several books in memory of a loved one, with a memorial sticker placed in the book. This not only helps defray the cost of the books, but provides a lasting tribute to these individuals which is not possible with projected hymns. For more about this see Choosing a Hymn Book for Your Church.

Posted by: rcottrill | September 2, 2016

O Take the Gift of Mercy

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: James Martin Gray (b. May 11, 1851; d. Sept. 21, 1935)
Music: Alfred Barney Smith (b. Nov. 8, 1916; d. Aug. 9, 2001)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (James Gray)
The Cyber Hymnal (James Gray)
Hymnary.org (James Gray)

Note: James Martin Gray served as dean, and then as president of Moody Bible Institute, in Chicago. He also wrote a number of hymns. Among them is this one–maybe. It is found in only one hymn book that I know of, Living Hymns, where it is set to a tune by the editor, Alfred B. Smith. A full biography of Mr. Smith, an influential contributor to gospel music, can be seen here. My thought is that it may have been a poem written by Dr. Gray, and that Smith spotted it and thought it worthy of becoming a gospel song. The tune Barnsdall, used by the Cyber Hymnal with another hymn, works with the song too.

The ancient Romans were famous for their many well built roads. These became a network for travel and trade, many radiating from the capitol like a gigantic spider web. It’s said that Caesar Augustus had a monument erected in the city of Rome called the golden milestone (miliarium aurem), and that distances from anywhere in the Roman Empire were calculated from that point.

The modern adage, “all roads lead to Rome,” is a version of comments made by Mediaeval authors, such as Chaucer, and by ancient Latin writers too. It was based on the fact that, certainly within the Italian peninsula, it was planned for all lesser cities to be connected by road to the city of Rome. But there were no roads directly connecting those cities with each other, so that it would be more difficult for them to mount a united resistance against the empire.

In its practical application, the saying that “all roads lead to Rome” means simply that different paths can be taken to the same goal. Fishing provides an example. If your goal is to catch fish, there’s fly-casting, fishing with a baited hook, or with nets, or traps. There’s spear fishing, and even hand gathering in some cases. They all can work, given the right conditions, and the skill of those using them.

But in the spiritual realm it is not necessarily so that all roads lead to heaven.

If we mean by it that the Lord can use many different life experiences to bring individuals into a personal relationship with Himself, that’s true. Look at Paul on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:1-19), the jailor at Philippi (Acts 16:16-34), or young Timothy who was raised by a godly mother and grandmother (II Tim. 1:5; 3:14-15).

Or, if we mean the Lord can lead individuals through an amazing variety of experiences after they come to faith, that’s equally true. Moses and Ruth are Old Testament examples of that. Though they were both people of faith, their lives unfolded in very different ways. In the New Testament, John and Luke followed quite different paths of discipleship as well.

However, the object and basis of our faith is another matter. The Bible is either true or it’s not. If it is–since it is–then our choice is suddenly limited. The Lord Jesus spoke of a broad road to destruction followed by the majority, and a narrow road to life, “and there are [relatively] few who find it” (Matt. 7:13-14). You can put your faith in a dollar, or even an eggplant, if you want to, but it won’t get you to heaven.

Some put their faith in their own right living, or good works. “I do the best I can. I love my family; I help my neighbour. I don’t have any really bad habits.” Others espouse a kind of “churchianity,” confident that religious activity will do it. Read your Bible and pray, attend church regularly, put money on the offering plate, that’s the answer. And those are fine things to do, but the Word of God is clear. They’re not the way to heaven, they’re ultimately roads to nowhere.

God’s salvation and getting to heaven is “not by works of righteousness that we have done” (Tit. 3:5). It is “not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9), because, in God’s sight, “all our righteousnesses [all our attempts to act righteously] are like filthy rags” (Isa. 64:4). They are all flawed and imperfect. It’s Christ alone who saves, not good living or religiosity. “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (I Jn. 1:7; cf. Jn. 3:16; Acts 16:30-31; Eph. 1:7). There is no other way (Jn. 3:18:36; I Jn. 5:11-12).

1) It is not thy repentance, thy sorrow or thy tears,
That brings to thee salvation, or drives away thy fears.
It is the cross of Jesus, the death He there did die,
That wrought out full salvation, for such as you and I.

O take the gift of mercy,
Let grace restore thy soul;
Confess the name of Jesus,
Trust Him to make thee whole.

3) You say, ‘I read the Bible, in prayer I daily bow;’
You say, ‘Why I am doing the best that I know how!’
But even were thou perfect, the old sin still remains.
It needs the blood of Jesus to wash away thy stains.

Questions:
1) What are some of the false things people are relying on to get them to heaven?

2) Can you explain, simply, how a person gets saved?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (James Gray)
The Cyber Hymnal (James Gray)
Hymnary.org (James Gray)

Posted by: rcottrill | August 31, 2016

I Walk with the King

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: James Rowe (b. Jan. 1, 1865; d. Nov. 10, 1933)
Music: Bentley DeForest Ackley (b. Sept. 27, 1872; d. Sept. 3, 1958)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: James Rowe was the author of hundreds of gospel songs, including Love Lifted Me, and I Would Be Like Jesus. The Cyber Hymnal lists 2,658 he wrote! Mr. Rowe emigrated to America from England in 1889, and worked on the railroad, and then for the Humane Society.

Six centuries before the time of Christ, a tale credited to the Greek story-teller Aesop illustrated the moral: A man is known by the company he keeps. A more recent proverb suggests a similar thing: Birds of a feather flock together.

There’s truth there. The individuals we like, those we consider compatible with ourselves, the ones we are drawn to, will say a lot about us. People often tend to have values and interests like their close friends.

In John Bunyan’s classic book Pilgrim’s Progress, Pilgrim is on his way to the Celestial City (heaven). Along the way he meets with many people. Some have views and habits quite contrary to his own. He readily parts company with Worldly Wiseman, who urges him to give up his spiritual pursuits and live a more secular life. Formalist and Hypocrisy are rejected too, as is Talkative, who babbles a great deal but does not translate his words into deeds.

On the other hand, Pilgrim finds great blessing in the friendship of Faithful and Hopeful. Interpreter gives him a better understanding of the Scriptures, and Help, as his name suggests, is supportive and encouraging.

The Bible warns, “Do not be deceived: Evil company corrupts good habits [morals, or character]” (I Cor. 15:33). “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed” (Prov. 13:20). It is important to have close friends who will lift us up, spiritually, not drag us down.

The greatest possible companion we can have along life’s way is the Lord Jesus Christ. Though we do not have the privilege of His physical presence, as His disciples had long ago, we can still meet with Him through God’s Word and in prayer. The child of God has the privilege of walking with the King!–in fact, with One who is called a number of times the “King of kings,” the greatest King of all (I Tim. 6:14-15).

In 1910 James Rowe wrote the present song. It was introduced in the meetings of evangelist Billy Sunday, and soon those who gathered night by night were singing enthusiastically.

CH-1) In sorrow I wandered, my spirit oppressed,
But now I am happy–securely I rest;
From morning till evening glad carols I sing,
And this is the reason–I walk with the King.

I walk with the King, hallelujah!
I walk with the King, praise His name!
No longer I roam, my soul faces home,
I walk and I talk with the King.

Later, a strange and amazing story emerged about that hymn. A woman told how she lived near the Post Office, and a local jazz band had rented a room above it to practice their then-popular ragtime music. But she was stunned, one evening, to hear the melody of I Walk with the King emanating from the building.

Why was that? Had they been to Mr. Sunday’s meetings? She just had to find out. So she went next door and asked. “Oh, no, said the leader. One of the men heard someone whistling the tune this afternoon, and thought it was catchy, so we’re trying it.” (Imagine that! The Lord can even use whistling as a witness!)

The woman decided to enlighten the jazz band members, and she sang the words for them.

CH-3) O soul near despair in the lowlands of strife,
Look up and let Jesus come into your life;
The joy of salvation to you He would bring–
Come into the sunlight and walk with the King.

The men were greatly impressed with the message of the song, and agreed they’d all come to the meetings–which they did. As a result, several of them trusted Christ as Saviour, beginning their walk with the King. One testified he was determined to give all of his musical talents to God, from that time on.

Questions:
1) Have you had (or have you heard of) an unusual witnessing situation, such as is described above?

2) What are some of the benefits and blessings of “walking with the King”?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | August 29, 2016

My Wonderful 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.

Words: Haldor Lillenas (b. Nov. 19, 1885; d. Aug. 18, 1959)
Music: Haldor Lillenas

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Haldor Lillenas)
The Cyber Hymnal (Haldor Lillenas)
Hymnary.org

Note: Mr. Lillenas came from Norway to America as a child, and the family settled in South Dakota, later moving to Oregon. He studied music and wrote hundreds of hymns, including the rousing song Wonderful Grace of Jesus. In 1924 he founded the Lillenas Music Company to publish Christian music, serving as an editor there until his retirement in 1950.

There is a clause in the third line of the refrain of this song that has always concerned me: “I bow at Thy shrine, my Saviour divine.” Oh? His “shrine”? And where is that? The verb form of the word is enshrine. To enshrine means to enclose in a shrine (usually a building). It is done with relics, the bones and belongings of dead saints which are put in shrines, so people who believe in venerating them, and praying to them (though I do not), can go there and do so.

It makes no sense to talk of putting the Lord Jesus in a shrine, or bowing at some shrine of His. First, He is not dead. His tomb is empty. He is now seated on a royal throne, at the right hand of the Father in heaven (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 1:1-3), there to be our Intercessor (Heb. 7:25) and Advocate (I Jn. 2:1).

Second, He has promised that His spiritual presence will be with us always (Matt. 28:20). Whatever we make of Lillenas’s experience described below, whether it had a supernatural element, or was simply faith’s awareness of the reality of Christ’s presence, the author clearly believes in this. If you use the song, I recommend that you change the line to: “I know Thou art mine,” as I have done below.

Successful people usually get that way because of their dedication and sustained effort. Inventor Thomas Edison famously said, “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” Many others have expressed similar sentiments. Opera star Beverly Sills said, “There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” And football coach Vince Lombardi said, “A dictionary is the only place that success comes before work.”

To be dedicated is to be wholly committed to something or someone. Inventors, athletes, musicians, and more, dedicate themselves to do what it takes to achieve excellence in their chosen profession. Doctors and teachers dedicate themselves to their work in serving others. And we’ve often admired the commitment and dedication of the police and fire fighters who lay their lives on the line every day.

But it’s not only people that can be dedicated. We dedicate national parks to be places where wildlife is protected. We build cenotaphs and raise monuments to honour the military, and lives that are lost in the cause of freedom. Churches are dedicated too, to be places where people can come to worship and serve the Lord. And, when we present our offerings there, we are dedicating the money to be used in ways that honour God and help others.

When it comes to the Christian faith, the highest calling anyone can commit to is a dedication of his or her life to the Lord. The Bible expresses it this way: “I beseech you [urge you] therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God [because of all the Lord has done for you], that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1).

On Jewish altars of old, animal sacrifices were slain. But this is a call to the living, to do their living in obedience to God, and in the fulfilment of His purposes. It involves a lifelong commitment of our bodies (and all we do in them and through them) to His service. It’s a dedication of our time, talents and treasures to Him forever.

We are not forced to do this. Rather, believers are compelled (motivated) by the Saviour’s love for us to be “ambassadors for Christ” (II Cor. 5:14, 20). “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10), and we have a desire to “walk [or live] worthy of the calling with which [we] were called” (Eph. 4:1).

One man who did that was pastor and hymn writer Haldor Lillenas. He was a dedicated man, committed to serving the Lord. But like all of God’s people, he experienced difficult times, as he did in 1919. He says:

“My wife was very ill, and it was with a heavy heart that I left home that morning [to head to the office]….I was busy writing songs, compiling and editing books, doing what I felt God had called me to do. But I sometimes wondered how many of them [the songs] would be sung. Suddenly as I drove along the avenue, it seemed that Someone quietly opened the car door and sat down beside me. I could feel the warmth of His sacred presence.”

It was with that unusual sense of the Lord’s comforting nearness that Lillenas began, as he drove along, to create and sing the present song of dedication.

1) I have found a deep peace that I never had known
And a joy this world could not afford,
Since I yielded control of my body and soul
To my wonderful, wonderful Lord.

My wonderful Lord, my wonderful Lord,
By angels and seraphs in heaven adored;
I know Thou art mine, my Saviour divine,
My wonderful, wonderful Lord.

3) All the talents I have I have laid at Thy feet,
Thy approval shall be my reward;
Be my store great or small, I surrender it all
To my wonderful, wonderful Lord.

Questions:
1) What does dedication to the Lord mean to you, practically?

2) Is there something in your life that you have trouble releasing to His control?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Haldor Lillenas)
The Cyber Hymnal (Haldor Lillenas)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | August 26, 2016

My God and I

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: Austris A. Wihtol (b. Jan. 24, 1889; d. Apr. 3, 1974)
Music: Austris A. Wihtol

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

Note: Russian concert pianist and composer Austris Wihtol was born in Latvia, but he emigrated to the United States around 1909, and lived later in California. He used the pen name I. B. Sergei for some of his compositions. In 1935, Mr. Wihtol wrote the words and music for this simple gospel song about the believer’s friendship with God. In addition to the hymn book mentioned by Hymnary.org, Living Hymns contains the song (#322), as does the Country Western Gospel Hymnal (#104).

The saying has been around for at least two hundred and fifty years, likely longer. “The dog…is the best friend man can have,” wrote French philosopher Voltaire, in 1764.

While dogs are trained to do many amazing things on farms, in law enforcement, and in dealing with disease and disability, by far most of the millions of dogs in North America are family pets–often elevated to the status of being members of the family. No disrespect is intended to cat lovers, or those who dote on goldfish, but the family dog is on a pinnacle all its own.

Dogs can be very intelligent; some have an understanding of several hundred words, and they can learn to do astonishing things. More than that. Scientists have found that dogs have the unique power to empathize with human emotions. If you’re sad, your dog will be sad with you. If you’re happy, your dog will be too.

These furry companions exhibit an unconditional affection that is remarkable. Man or woman, old or young, rich or poor, educated or not, sick or well, your dog will take you as you are. Dogs are faithful friends of their owners, and have been known to come to their defense, or rescue them, when they are threatened–even at a risk to the dog’s own safety.

When it comes to the friendship of one human being with another, our dogs can perhaps teach us a thing or two! However, there are dimensions of human friendship beyond canine abilities. Being “BF” (best friends), or “BFF” (best friends forever) with another human being is a special bond that we ought to nurture and cherish.

In fiction, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson seem to have a friendship like that. Though polar opposites in many ways, their companionship and mutual support is evident. In biblical history, David and Jonathan had an unbreakable bond of friendship and loyalty to one another (I Sam. 18:1, 3)–remarkable because, at the time, Jonathan’s father, King Saul, was trying over and over to kill David.

The Lord Jesus was ridiculed for being a friend of tax collectors and sinners (Lk. 7:34; 15:1-2), but He remained so, because they were the ones who recognized their need of Him–which most of the Jewish leaders definitely did not.

“It happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, ‘Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard that, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick’” (Matt. 9:10-12).

And as He neared the time of His death, the Lord spoke of those who had walked and talked with Him for three years as His “friends” (Jn. 15:12-15). He promised that He would be with His followers “to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20), and expressed a desire that we all would be with Him eternally in heaven (Jn. 14:3; 17:24). And there too He will keep company with His own (Rev. 7:14-17).

That will be one of the greatest joys of heaven, but it’s an area we need to be cautious about speculating on. Deity has infinities that no created being can approach or comprehend. We must be careful not to try recreating God in our own image.

The author of this song, for example, talks of “jesting” with the Lord. But though a jest can be a witty remark, it also has the connotation of taunting and ridicule, however mild. The Bible says we should engage in, “Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting” (Eph. 5:4). Jesting may well be inappropriate when it comes to the believer’s relationship with Almighty God.

The only time we read of God laughing it is in mockery of His enemies (Ps. 2:1-4). However, while we might fault the song for humanizing the Lord too much, it does give us a sense of the delight we can have in the companionship with the Lord the Bible speaks of.

1) My God and I go in the fields together,
We walk and talk as good friends should and do;
We clasp our hands, our voices ring with laughter–
My God and I walk through the meadow’s hue.

3) My God and I will go for aye together,
We’ll walk and talk, and jest as good friends do;
This earth will pass, and with it common trifles–
But God and I will go unendingly.

Questions:
1) Can you picture yourself “jesting” with God? (Why? Or why not?)

2) What elements of human friendship can rightly be applied to our friendship with the Lord?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | August 24, 2016

Master, Speak, Thy Servant Heareth

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 Ridley Havergal (b. Dec. 14, 1836; d. June 3, 1879)
Music: Dana, by Andreas Peter Berggreen (b. Mar. 2, 1801; d. Nov. 9, 1880)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Frances Havergal was an English hymn writer of note. She had a brilliant mind and, though her life was relatively brief, she contributed many fine hymns to our sacred repertoire. The present song can be precisely dated to Sunday evening, May 19th, 1867. When it was published, the original title was, “Master, Say On!” Hymn historian Robert McCutchan observes that, “The first line of the hymn epitomizes the life of its author.”

There are a number of tunes that will fit the metre of this hymn. It goes well with Irby, the tune used with the Christmas carol Once in Royal David’s City.

Critical mass is a scientific term describing the point where an amount of radioactive material, such as plutonium, is large enough to make a nuclear reaction possible.

The term is also used in medicine, to identify the point at which factors combine to cause a widespread epidemic. In sociology it marks the time when the influence of an idea or product brings a significant and sustained change in society.

It may be a somewhat weak analogy, but I think a kind of critical mass can be reached in our personal lives too. A build-up of factors that lead to a radical change in character, or the direction of a life. And let’s make an application of this particularly to childhood.

It can come about through a repeated experience, such as violence and abuse the child receives in the home, that critical mass is reached and deep and lasting changes take place in the child. But it can also involve a single event that produces a number of life-changing conditions and ultimately a change of direction.

Suppose the company dad works for tells him he must take a new position in a distant city. Moving is a big event for the whole family. For the child it brings a number of bewildering and stressful changes from the way things used to be. Friends and familiar activities are left behind. Some things will never be the same again. Perhaps critical mass is reached and profound changes take place within him or her.

That happened to a Bible character named Samuel. His mother Hannah had prayed for a male child, promising to dedicate him to a life of service for the Lord (I Sam. 1:11). In the Lord’s time, he was born. Later Hannah took little Samuel to the tabernacle, Israel’s centre of worship, leaving him in the care of Eli, the high priest (vs. 24-25). There the boy began a life of service in the tabernacle and, year by year, as he grew, his mother would visit, bringing a new robe for her growing boy (I Sam. 2:19).

Though unforeseen at the time, these events and more were being woven together by the Lord to produce one of the most dynamic spiritual leaders in Israel’s history. The point of critical mass occurred one night when young Samuel heard a voice calling his name. Thinking it was Eli, he went to the aging priest. But it was not Eli who called. This happened twice more. “Then Eli perceived that the Lord had called the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, ‘Go, lie down; and it shall be, if He calls you, that you must say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears’” (I Sam. 3:8-9).

Critical mass. When Samuel did so (vs. 10), the Lord commissioned him as a prophet, and he began a long service that extended through the end of the period of Israel’s judges, and on into the monarchy with Saul and David. “The Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel had been established as a prophet of the Lord” (vs. 19-20).

Though we’ll not likely hear the Lord speak to us in an audible voice as Samuel did, He continues to speak by His Spirit, through the Scriptures. His words can be directed to us through our own reading and meditation, or perhaps through sermons we hear, or a devotional book we read that’s based on God’s Word. In this way we learn His will, and follow a path that pleases Him. As we prepare to receive what God has for us, we need the willing heart of Samuel. This spirit is reflected in the hymn by Frances Havergal.

CH-1) Master, speak! Thy servant heareth,
Waiting for Thy gracious word,
Longing for Thy voice that cheereth;
Master! let it now be heard.
I am listening, Lord, for Thee:
What hast Thou to say to me?

CH-4) Master, speak! and make me ready,
When Thy voice is truly heard,
With obedience glad and steady
Still to follow every word.
I am listening, Lord, for Thee:
Master, speak! O, speak to me!

Questions:
1) What Bible character(s) can you think of that God called to a particular service, who then refused it or disobeyed?

2) What service has the Lord called you to do for Him? (And have you obeyed His call?)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | August 22, 2016

Jesus, Thy Name I Love

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: James George Deck (b. Nov. 1, 1802; d. Aug. 14, 1884)
Music: Braun, by Johann Georg Braun (b. _____, 1656; d. _____ 1687)

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

Note: James Deck was a British army officer and lay preacher with the Plymouth Brethren. He also wrote a number of hymns.

Of the two tunes suggested on the Cyber Hymnal, I’ve chosen Braun. If you’re looking for a more familiar tune to use with this hymn, you could add the phrase “Jesus my Lord” once more, after the first line. Then, the tune Bethany (which we use for Nearer, My God, to Thee) works well.

Jesus, Thy name I love, Jesus my Lord,
All other names above, Jesus, my Lord:
O Thou art all to me; nothing to please I see,
Nothing apart from Thee, Jesus, my Lord.

It’s an English word that’s been around for seven or eight centuries, though early on not in its modern form. Centuries ago they used the term weoröscipe (or worthship), an expression of the worth of something or someone.

If we’re talking about material wealth, and we ask, “What’s he worth?” we likely want to know the amount of the person’s total fortune. If we’re speaking of an athlete, we may be seeking an evaluation of what he can contribute to the play of his team.

But there is a more common word that comes from this. We likely see it, or use it, every time we attend church. It’s the word worship. To recognize and declare God’s “worthship,” or worthiness, is an act of worship. Related words help us to mine the meaning further. When we worship the Lord, we revere, honour and adore Him; we express our allegiance to Him, and our devotion to Him.

The word is found more than two hundred times in the Bible. The Hebrew word often translated worship is shachah, meaning to bow in reverent submission. The Greek word is proskuneo, which seems to mean to kiss the hand, as a faithful dog would lick its master’s hand. You can see in both of these the sense of humbly paying homage to a superior.

In the fullest sense of the word, only Almighty God deserves our worship. We may admire and praise human beings, but true worship should be reserved for God alone. When the Ten Commandments were given, this truth stood first. God told the people they should “not bow down [shachah] to [idols] or serve them” (Exod. 20:1-3-5a). God is righteously jealous of His supremacy (Exod. 34:14)

Both Peter and Paul had occasions when others tried to worship them but they both rejected it.

When the Roman centurion Cornelius bowed before Peter he said, “Stand up; I myself am also a man” (Acts 10:25-26).

When Paul and Barnabas were thought to be gods, and sacrifices were going to be offered to them, they tore their clothes as a sign of grief and cried, “Why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you” (Acts 14:11-15a).

Even angels, for all their superior glory and power, refuse the worship of man. John tried it, but was quickly rebuked. “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God” (Rev. 22:8-9).

This makes the fact that Christ received worship numerous times–and never forbade it–all the more significant. It’s an evidence of His deity, that He is God the Son, revealed in human flesh.

The visiting wise men worshiped Him following His birth (Matt. 2:11), as the angels were commanded to do (Heb. 1:6). Later, His disciples worshiped Him (Matt. 14:33), and a blind man whom Jesus healed did too (Jn. 9:35-38), as did a Gentile woman (Matt. 15:25). The women who met the resurrected Christ at the tomb did as well (Matt. 28:9), and so did the believers who witnessed His ascension back to heaven (Lk. 24:51-52).

The “worthship” of the Lord Jesus Christ is infinitely great. “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9), and “ all should honour the Son just as they honour the Father” (Jn. 5:23). Many great hymns of worship have been written over the years. But a simple example of heartfelt adoration is given to us by James Deck.

CH-1) Jesus, Thy name I love
All other names above,
Jesus, my Lord:
O Thou art all to me;
Nothing to please I see,
Nothing apart from Thee,
Jesus, my Lord.

CH-2) Thou, blessèd Son of God,
Hast bought me with Thy blood,
Jesus, my Lord:
O how great is Thy love,
All other loves above,
Love that I daily prove,
Jesus, my Lord.

Questions:
1) What qualities of Christ come to your mind when you consider His “worthship”?

2) What has the Lord done for you, for which you praise Him?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | August 19, 2016

I Need Thee, Precious Saviour

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 65 items now.

Words: Frederick Whitfield (b. Jan. 7, 1829; d. Sept. 13, 1904)
Music: Aurelia, by Samuel Sebastian Wesley (b. Aug. 14, 1810; d. Apr. 19, 1876)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Frederick Whitfield (1829-1904) was an English clergyman who occasionally wrote hymns. He gave us O How I Love Jesus, and the present song about our spiritual needs, a hymn inspired by the words, “To you who believe, He is precious” (I Pet. 2:7).

This hymn runs into a problem common to some others, when the author tries to cover the whole range of spiritual experience in one hymn. No Christian can make his original first stanza a personal and present tense testimony, and sing:

“I need Thee, precious Jesus,
For I am full of sin;
My soul is dark and guilty,
My heart is dead within.”

No! This describes an unsaved person. But Christians possess everlasting life (Jn. 3:16). We aren’t “dead within.” “In Him [Christ] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7). And in daily experience, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I Jn. 1:9).

Hymn editors have dealt with this problem variously. Some simply leave the first stanza of this hymn out. Another solution: about 30-40% of the old hymn books have the opening lines as: “I need Thee, precious Jesus, / For I am very poor.” Another hymn book has the following. (And notice the change of “Jesus” to “Saviour,” an alteration that is reflected in this case in the hymn’s title: I Need Thee, Precious Saviour–the title I have used.)

I need Thee, precious Saviour!
Oh, Thou art all to me;
Before the throne forever,
I stand complete in Thee.

This is far more biblical. And it’s the version I have used below. As to the tune, Aurelia, to which we also sing The Church’s One Foundation, works well, as does Munich, a tune also used with O Word of God Incarnate.

When we speak of our needs, we mean that which we believe is necessary for us to live and be happy. Sometimes, however, needs can be confused with greeds! To be greedy or covetous is to have an excessive craving for a thing–often something that is not good for us, or maybe not even our right to have.

But if we are speaking of true needs, we can identify many of them–such as the air we breathe. Psychologist Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) made a study of the subject. In 1943 he wrote a significant paper about it, defining five levels of needs, forming a kind of pyramid.

At the base of Maslow’s pyramid were physical needs–for food, sleep, and so on. The next level described needs such as safety and security, the third, needs relating to love and friendship. The fourth level listed the need for the esteem and respect of others. Finally there was, he said, the need for “self-actualization,” by which he meant our need to fulfil our potential and live meaningful, fulfilling lives. Others have adapted Maslow’s theory, but it remains and interesting way to describe our needs as human beings. And, though the author was not a Christian, what he said is compatible with the Bible’s teaching.

God’s Word draws a line between needs and greeds. “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have” (Heb. 13:5). The Lord also recognizes that we have certain basic needs. “Having food and clothing, with these we shall be content” (I Tim. 6:8).

The problem of focusing on physical needs (or greeds) and failing to deal with much more important things is illustrated by the Lord’s message to a church in the city of Laodicea. “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). Though the people were materially wealthy and self-satisfied, they were spiritual paupers!

So what is it we need in spiritual terms? Whatever it is, the Lord can supply it. “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (II Pet. 1:3). Here are three areas to consider.

First, there’s the need for personal salvation. We need a new birth by God’s Spirit, received through faith in Christ. “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3). “As many as received Him [Christ], to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born…of God” (Jn. 1:12-13; cf. 3:16).

Second, as believers, we have the need of God’s continuing care. We need His love and friendship, His sustaining grace (II Cor. 12:9), daily guidance (Ps. 23:2), and protection (II Tim. 4:18).

And finally, we have the need for satisfying and fulfilling service for the Lord (Gal. 5:13). “If anyone serves Me [Christ]…where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honour” (Jn. 12:26) .

1) I need Thee, precious Saviour!
Oh, Thou art all to me;
Before the throne, forever,
I stand complete in Thee.
Though Satan loud accuses,
Yet I can ever see
The blood of Christ most precious,
The sinner’s perfect plea.

CH-4) I need Thee, precious Jesus,
I need Thee, day by day,
To fill me with Thy fullness,
To lead me on my way;
I need Thy Holy Spirit,
To teach me what I am,
To show me more of Jesus,
To point me to the Lamb.”

Questions:
1) What particular needs in your life is the Lord meeting today?

2) What do the service leaders at your church do when there is part of a hymn that unbiblical or unsuitable (not use the hymn, omit the problem stanza, print alternative words in the church bulletin, or…?)?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | August 17, 2016

“Forward” Be Our Watchword

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Words: Henry Alford (b. Oct. 7, 1810; d. Jan. 12, 1871)
Music: Forward (or Smart), by Henry Thomas Smart (b. Oct. 26, 1813; d. July 6, 1879)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Henry Alford)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Henry Alford was Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, a great Greek scholar, and a hymn writer. He gave us Come, Ye Thankful People, Come, and Ten Thousand Times Ten Thousand, the latter being a wonderful description of the victorious saints in heaven.

The dean was asked to write a processional hymn for the Tenth Choral Festival of the massed choirs of the Canterbury Diocese, and he did so–but not without difficulty. He sent in a hymn, and it was returned, with a note saying the poetry was fine, but the rhythm wasn’t suitable for marching. The suggestion was made that the dean go into the cathedral, walk slowly down the aisle the procession was to take, and compose a hymn as he did so! Apparently, that worked.

Picture the spectacle of about a thousand choristers coming in procession into the great Cathedral, singing Dean Alford’s hymn. It took a full half hour for them all to process in, and it must have been a stirring sight and sound! (Henry Alford died before the event, so he never got to witness it.)

For army troops, commands such as the old “Charge!” or “Forward march!” mean they are to go onward immediately, to move ahead, to advance or progress from where they are.

There may be difficulties and dangers to be confronted, battles to be fought, obstacles to overcome, but on they go. Of course, sometimes there is a retreat. But that’s not always a sign of failure. It may be strategic and temporary, for the sake of defense. regrouping, or drawing the enemy into an ambush (cf. Josh. 8:3-7).

A well-trained army will instantly follow the order given to advance. They’re not asked to take a vote on whether they think what the commander asks of them is a good idea. But there have been times when foolish orders or faulty reconnaissance have led to a tragic loss of life.

During the Crimean War, in the Battle of Balaclava (1854), British light cavalry, armed with swords, were ordered to charge a Russian emplacement of heavy artillery, a fatal mistake. In 1876, at the Battle of the Little Bighorn (popularly called Custer’s Last Stand), Lieutenant Colonel George Custer led his troops into an engagement based on wrong information about the strength of the enemy he faced. Both incidents led to overwhelming defeat and death.

Soldiers are trained to obey the orders of their commanding officer. But it’s a helpful thing, before enlisting, to learn something of the principles and goals that form the basis of what the troops will be called upon to do. And to know something about the quality of those in command.

Apply that to the Christian life. The Bible is quite clear that we’re in a spiritual war against Satan, and against this evil world system that he controls. Our Commander is the Lord (Col. 3:24). The Apostle Paul says, of Him, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able” (II Tim. 1:12).

Against error and corruption, we are to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). We’re to be “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might….and “take up the whole armour of God, that [we] may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Eph. 6:10, 13).

Paul himself set an example for others, saying, “One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14). And his testimony, near the end of his life was, “I have fought the good fight…I have kept the faith” (II Tim. 4:7).

There are Old Testament examples too, of God’s “Forward march!” When Moses led the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt, they were pursued by Pharaoh’s chariots, and seemed to be trapped on the shores of the Red Sea. But God commanded, “Tell the children of Israel to go forward” (Exod. 14:15). Then, in a mighty miracle, the Lord opened up the sea before them, and they escaped. Then the returning waters drowned the Egyptians (Exod. 14:13-29).

CH-1) Forward! be our watchword, steps and voices joined;
Seek the things before us, not a look behind;
Burns the fiery pillar at our army’s head;
Who shall dream of shrinking, by our Captain led?
Forward through the desert, through the toil and fight;
Jordan flows before us; Zion beams with light.

CH-2) Forward! When in childhood buds the infant mind;
All through youth and manhood not a thought behind;
Speed through realms of nature, climb the steps of grace;
Faint not, till in glory, gleams our Father’s face.
Forward, all the lifetime, climb from height to height,
Till the head be hoary, till the eve be light.

CH-5) Far o’er yon horizon rise the city towers
Where our God abideth; that fair home is ours:
Flash the streets with jasper, shine the gates with gold;
Flows the gladdening river shedding joys untold.
Thither, onward, thither, in the Spirit’s might;
Pilgrims to your country, forward into light!

Questions:
1) What did the Lord mean when He said, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Lk. 9:62)?

2) What does it mean in practical terms to focus our attention forward, and not keep looking back on the past?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Henry Alford)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

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