Posted by: rcottrill | December 28, 2015

The Family of God

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW 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: Gloria Gaither (b. Mar. 4, 1942)
Music: Bill Gaither (b. Mar. 28, 1936)

Links:

Wordwise Hymns (Gloria Gaither)
They Cyber Hymnal (Bill Gaither, Gloria Gaither)
Hymnary.org

Note: The Gaithers are gospel song writers, a husband and wife team. Bill and Gloria have produced many fine songs, enjoyed by the Christian community since the 60’s.

The refrain of the present song has frequently been used as a stand-alone chorus. For your interest, years ago the senior pastor, in a church where I served, often used it. Then one day he asked if I could write something on the same theme. I’m not claiming it’s anywhere near as good as what the Gaithers do, but you can see and hear the result on the Cyber Hymnal, here.

Each of us belongs to a family, a word coming from the Latin word familia, meaning a household. In older usage, that could include servants living on the estate. But as the dictionary defines it, a family is a social unit consisting of parents and children, whether they live under the same roof or not. There is also what is called a person’s extended family, including such relatives as grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and in-laws.

Sometimes, sadly, there can be family estrangement, in which members refuse to recognize the connection they have with the others. There can also be false claims to a familial relationship. For many years, a woman named Anna Anderson claimed to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia, youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. But DNA testing has decisively proven that Anna’s claim was false.

Family relationships can be abused in another way. The police warn us against scam artists who contact an individual claiming they represent a relative who has died and left them an enormous sum of money. But, they claim, the supposed fortune is tied up with legal problems, and an appeal is made to the victim to send funds to gain its release. It’s all a fraud, used to bilk the unwary of their savings.

Extended families can be quite large, perhaps including hundreds of people, which means that planning a family reunion is a major undertaking, and may require renting facilities. In the Bible, the nation of Israel as a whole is described as a family, through their relationship with the patriarch Abraham. In a synagogue on the Sabbath, Paul addressed, “Men and brethren, sons of the family of Abraham” (Acts 13:26: cf. Amos 3:1). That’s a pretty big family. But there is one that’s much larger than that.

The family of God includes many millions of people. As the Apostle Paul writes to the Ephesian church, “I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Eph. 3:14-15). Some of God’s children are presently on earth; many others are in heaven. We won’t be able to have a family reunion with “the whole family” until we’re united in our heavenly home.

The Greek word translated “family” in that Ephesians verse is patria, meaning kindred related to one father, in that case referring to those who have a spiritual kinship with our heavenly Father. Becoming a part of that family does not come through physical birth or human parentage, but through a spiritual rebirth. “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, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (Jn. 1:12-13).

The Lord Jesus told Nicodemus, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3). Through personal faith in Christ for salvation, one is born of the Spirit of God, born again into the family of God, and “no one comes to the Father except through [Christ]” (Jn. 14:6).

Later, writing to Christians in Galatia, Paul says, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26). “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, Abba, Father [roughly meaning dearest Father]!’” (Gal. 4:6). And John exults, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (I Jn. 3:1, NIV).

The song Gaither’s says:

1) You will notice we say brother and sister ‘round here.
It’s because we’re a fam’ly and these folks are so near.
One one has a heartache, we all shed the tears,
And rejoice in each vict’ry in this family so dear.

I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God;
I’ve been washed in the fountain,
Cleansed by His blood!
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,
For I’m part of the family, the family of God.

Questions:
1) What are the great blessings that come from belonging to a family?

2) What are the special challenges we face as members of a family?


Links:

Wordwise Hymns (Gloria Gaither)
They Cyber Hymnal (Bill Gaither, Gloria Gaither)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | December 25, 2015

Love Was When; Love Has Come

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW 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: Love What When: John Flipse Walvoord (b. May 1, 1910; d. December 20, 2002); Love
Has Come
: Ken Bible (b. _____, 1950)
Music: Love Was When: Donald John Wyrtzen (b. Aug. 16, 1942); Love Has Come: French carol melody from the 16th century (Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal (John Walvoord)
Hymnary.org Love Was When; Love Has Come

Note: Something a little different for today. I’ve selected two lesser known Christmas songs that I think say important things about what we celebrate at Christmas.

On Valentine’s Day we think about our love for one another. But at Christmas we need to consider a love far greater and grander, the love of God for each one of us. “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, “thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (II Cor. 9:15).

Many of our Christmas hymns and carols tell the Christmas story, which is fine. We need to be reminded of it. And many call us to worship the One who came to earth that day–which is certainly appropriate. But relatively few of these songs call our attention specifically to the divine love that led to Christ’s coming in the first place. That is the theme I want to address briefly. To deal with the subject I’ll refer to two newer, and lesser known Christmas songs. But before we hear what they have to say, consider the subject as it’s addressed in the Word of God.

In the beginning, God created human beings, fashioning us “in His own image” (Gen. 1:26-27). Whatever the full significance of that is, it certainly means that we’re rational beings capable of loving God and accepting His love in return. But because He is omniscient, knowing all things, the Lord realized from the start that the sinful fall of man was coming. He knew that if that loving relationship was to be restored and preserved, we were going to need saving–that God Himself would have to rescue us. This is what the Word of God has to say about it.

“In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [the full satisfaction of His holy justice] for our sins” (I Jn. 4:9-10).

There were two amazing journeys involved in that, one relatively short, one infinitely long. The shorter of the two is the five mile distance from Bethlehem to Calvary. The One laid in Bethlehem’s manger, long ago, later gave His life for our sins on the cross, not far from the place of His birth.

But far greater is the depth of condescension of the Son of God that brought Him from the heights of heaven’s glory to this sin-cursed earth to die.

“He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 4:8).

In 1970 a Christian musical was created called What’s It All About, Anyhow? In it is a solo number, written by one of the twentieth century’s great theologians, John F. Walvoord. The song, called Love Was When, says:

Love was when God became a Man.
Locked in time and space
Without rank or place.

There is the incarnation, that great humbling of the Infinite. Then Walvoord goes on to say:

Love was God nailed to bleed and die
To reach and love one such as I.

“Love was God dying for my sin,” says the author. Deity dying, but later rising in triumph over the grave (Matt. 28:6; Heb. 7:25). It is a wonder and a mystery beyond our comprehension. But we believe it because God says it’s so.

The second song was published in 1996. It was written Ken Bible, an author (of 15 books) and a Christian song writer, who has over 400 songs to his credit. The present song, called Love Has Come! gives a whole other dimension to the love of Christmas. Not only was the infinite love of God for us expressed then by what He did for us. It gets more personal than that.

Scripture tells us that love is such a significant characteristic of His nature that it is possible to say “God is love” (I Jn. 4:8, 16). In a sense, in the person of Christ, Love itself, Love personified, actually came down at Christmas, more than two thousand years ago. In the words of Ken Bible’s song:

Love is born! Come share in the wonder;
Love is God now asleep in the hay.

He Himself is the Love of Christmas. In the words of Mr. Bible, “Love is the gift of Christmas.”

Questions:
1) What, to you, is the most wonderful thing about Christmas?

2) What is your favourite Christmas hymn or carol?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal (John Walvoord)
Hymnary.org Love Was When; Love Has Come

Posted by: rcottrill | December 23, 2015

Teach Me Thy Way, O Lord

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW 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: Benjamin Mansell Ramsey (b. Aug. 10, 1849; d. Aug. 31, 1923)
Music: Benjamin Mansell Ramsey

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Mr. Ramsey was an English music teacher, composer, and choral conductor. A prolific composer of parts-songs, piano pieces, and carols, he also produced works on music theory and a number of hymns. The present one was published in 1919.

Maps are wonderfully useful things to have. Whenever we’re traveling someplace new, with a map we can find a route from where we are to where we hope to go. Often when my wife and I have made a trip like that, she’s acted as our co-pilot, and had one handy.

We need that kind of guidance in life as well. For many years I’ve had a weekly newspaper column about hymns called Words for the Pilgrim Way, about the path that Christians follow in life. We not only follow a path, we follow a Person, the Lord Jesus, who said of Himself, “I am the way” (Jn. 14:6). John Bunyan’s 1678 classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress, presents the Christian life that way, as a journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City (heaven).

It is interesting also that, in the days of the early church, the Christian faith was described as “the Way,” and believers were known as people of the Way (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4, 14; 24:23). The followers of Christ are on a journey. And just as with a vacation trip, there are exciting things to enjoy along the way; there are also wrong turns and bad roads to avoid.

Whether intended or not, by those who used the term, “the Way” suggests that while there are individual aspects to life that make our life’s journey unique, in the more basic sense there is only one way. Any other way but God’s way is ultimately a path to destruction. As Proverbs puts it, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov. 16:25). In the verse referenced earlier, Christ states emphatically, “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn. 14:6).

If the Lord knows the way we should take, it stands to reason we should seek His guidance in following it. Through a study of God’s Word, and through daily prayer, and also through such things as providential circumstances and the counsel of other believers, He will direct our path. It was with that understanding that Benjamin Mansell Ramsey wrote a hymn entitled Teach Me Thy Way, O Lord.

CH-1) Teach me Thy way, O Lord,
Teach me Thy way!
Thy guiding grace afford,
Teach me Thy way!
Help me to walk aright,
More by faith, less by sight;
Lead me with heav’nly light,
Teach me Thy way!

Immediately we see implied, in the hymn–truths mirrored in Scripture–that God knows the way, and has the ability, and willingness, to provide the guidance we need. First in the author’s list of concerns is that he might “walk aright,” live righteously, in obedience to God. And that he would grow in faith, and have greater trust in the Lord (cf. II Cor. 5:7).

In the second stanza, he asks for help, “when I am sad at heart,” and “in hours of loneliness.” But there are also these interesting lines: “In failure or success, / Teach me Thy way!” Most of us know those difficult times when we seem in danger of losing the battle. It’s then we cry out to God. But Mr. Ramsey recognizes that times of success we are also in need. These have their pitfalls too.

CH-2) When I am sad at heart,
Teach me Thy way!
When earthly joys depart,
Teach me Thy way!
In hours of loneliness,
In times of dire distress,
In failure or success,
Teach me Thy way!

In the third stanza the hymn writer prays “Make Thou my pathway plain,” especially “when doubts and fears arise.” We all have them. Times when there is either no clear way ahead, or when there is an array of possibilities and we don’t know which is best for us. The bottom line is, always, on this side of heaven: we’ll be in need of divine guidance. That is how the author ends his song.

CH-4) Long as my life shall last,
Teach me Thy way!
Where’er my lot be cast,
Teach me Thy way!
Until the race is run,
Until the journey’s done,
Until the crown is won,
Teach me Thy way!

Questions:
1) In what situation recently did the Lord provide some direction for you?

2) What other hymns do you know about the Lord leading and guiding?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | December 21, 2015

Sooner or Later

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW 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: Lulu W. Koch (b. _____, 1892; d. ______ )
Music: Wilbur E. Nelson (b. Sept. 25, 1910; d. Aug. 22, 2003)

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

Note: The present gospel song was written by Lulu W. Koch. We know little about her, except that she was born in 1892. As you can see, there is more information about the composer of the tune. Wilbur E. Nelson was a pastor and Christian broadcaster, who started a program called The Morning Chapel Hour. He was also a singer and gospel song writer. If he did not know Lulu Koch personally, perhaps she simply sent him the words, asking if he could provide a melody.

Scientists speak of the space-time continuum as a connected whole. Human beings move through three dimensions of space–length, width and height, but in doing so are moving also in a fourth dimension–time. For example, I can be at home at ten o’clock, and shopping at the store at eleven. I have not only traveled through space, but also through time.

Because of the constraints and limits of time, we are often made aware of it. We speak of now and then. Where we are at present, and where we expect to be in the future. Am I on time for the appointment? Or late? Or early? We own clocks, and wear watches, so we can handle our time in a responsible way. If we are late, we may hear, upon arriving, a cranky and impatient, “It’s about time!”

Another expression about time that we use is: sooner or later. Surprisingly, that phrase has been around for several centuries. Found in writings as early as 1577, it’s meant to indicate that something particular may happen in the short term, sooner than we expected. Or, it may happen in the longer term, later than we thought. However, there is an air of certainty about it. It may be soon, or it could come later on but, depend upon it, it will happen.

To some extent, that could be said about the coming of spring. We may know the date when spring officially begins. But, in the temperate climate where I live, it’s not unusual for spring-like weather to begin sooner than that–or later. If we are still struggling with winter boots and icy sidewalks when spring is supposed to have sprung, and if farm fields are still mantled in drifted snow, it can be disheartening.

Something similar could be said about the second coming of Christ. A little over two thousand years ago, the eternal Son of God broke into the space-time continuum, born of a virgin, in Bethlehem. After spending about thirty-five years on earth, He returned to His heavenly Father, with the promise that He would one day return (Jn. 14:2-3).

Unbelieving skeptics deny it’s possible for this to happen. Often adhering to the theory of evolution–a word that means an unrolling, they claim the universe and everything in it has unrolled by chance and accident, and will continue to do so. That there is no God who created all things, let alone is involved with His creation. “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were,” they say (II Pet. 3:4).

But Christ’s return definitely will happen, sooner or later, and Christians struggle with conflicting feelings about that. On the one hand, we desire that as many as possible hear the message of the gospel, and receive Christ as Saviour. The Lord Himself has told us to “”Go into all the world and preach the gospel” (Mk. 15:16). We have ministry goals we want to fulfil. On the other hand, we look forward to the glorious future God has for us.

Three times in the last chapter of the Bible we are told the Lord Jesus is “coming quickly [speedily, without delay]” (Rev. 22:7, 12, 20). But that is accounted by God’s timing, and we are not privy to the exact date (Matt. 24:36; Acts 1:7). Meanwhile, we have work to do.

The second coming is closely tied to the consummation of all things, the eternal condemnation of sinners, and the eternal blessing of the saints. We Christians look with longing at the description of a future time when “God will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

Sooner or later, it will happen, and there is a gospel song about that. Lulu Koch’s song says:

1) Sooner or later the skies will be bright,
Tears will be all wiped away;
Sooner or later, then cometh the light,
Night will be turned into day.

Sooner or later cares will have flown.
Sunshine and gladness we’ll see;
Sooner or later God calleth His own,
With Him forever to be.

2) Sooner or later, our Lord knows the hour,
He’ll send His beloved Son;
Sooner or later, in His might and pow’r,
Our battles all will be won.

Questions:
1) If the Lord Jesus could come back for us this very day, how will you plan and act?

2) If the Lord’s coming is delayed for a year or more, how will you plan and act today?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | December 18, 2015

Still Sweeter Every Day

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW 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:
William Clark Martin (b. Dec. 25, 1864; d. Aug. 30, 1914)
Music: Charles Austin Miles (b. Jan. 7, 1868; d. Mar. 10, 1946)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Notes: William Clark Martin was a pastor and hymn writer. The Cyber Hymnal lists several dozen of his songs. A couple of them deal with the “sweetness” of the Lord Jesus. There’s the one we’ll discuss here, and also:

The name of Jesus is so sweet,
I love its music to repeat;
It makes my joys full and complete,
The precious name of Jesus!

Sweet. It’s a word we’ve dealt with before in this blog. We most often associate it with the food we eat. Our mouths have receptors that can identify four basic taste sensations: bitter, sour, salty and sweet.

Sugar is sweet to the taste. But it’s not the sweetest substance used with food. Those trying to restrict their sugar intake will often use a natural substance such as stevia, which is roughly two hundred and fifty times sweeter than sugar. There is also a West African plant that produces a protein called Brazein which is two thousand times sweeter than sugar!

However, words such as sweet and sweetness are used in other ways too. We may talk about sweet music, music that is pleasing to the ear. Or we may refer to a sweet deal, a financial transaction in which we made money. And before February 14th we get commercials about what would be a suitable Valentine’s present for our sweetheart, the one we especially love and cherish.

It’s in this latter sense that the Bible often speaks of sweetness–as that which we cherish, that which delights us. Several times the Word of God itself is spoken of that way. The psalmist says to the Lord, “How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Ps. 119:103; cf. Ps. 19:10).

In writing the book of Revelation, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle John delivers God’s message about coming future events. At one point, he is called upon, by an angel, to eat a small book, or scroll. We are not told what’s in the book. It would seem that is was some kind of message from God. But when John obeys and eats it, and interesting thing happens.

“I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. But when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter [sour, upset]” (Rev. 10:10).

The context, in Revelation, describes a time of terrible judgment on earth. And this object lesson for John is a reminder to us that while it’s a “sweet” thing to receive God’s message–as we do in the Bible, not all of it is pleasant. It talks about judgment as well as blessing. In Ephesians, we find an example of the opposite thing happening. Something that has elements of bitterness becomes sweet. The death of Christ on the cross is spoken of this way:

“Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us [a bitter thing, but it was also], an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling [fragrant] aroma” (Eph. 5:2).

The crucifixion of the sinless Son of God was a terrible thing. That human beings would treat Him in such a way was dreadful. But to God the Father it’s described as a fragrant aroma rising up to heaven. The imagery takes is back to the Old Testament, where the smoke of the burning of the animal sacrifices on the altar is described as a sweet aroma (e.g. Exod. 29:18). Those offerings pointed forward to the cross.

God was so pleased with Christ’s obedience in going to Calvary to die for our sins, and so pleased that it provided a means of deliverance for lost sinners, that what was grievous and wicked became a sweet fragrance to Him. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (I Pet. 3:18). That we might have an eternal home in heaven, through faith in the Christ Jesus rejoices the heart of God.

From 1899, one of William Martin’s songs, in praise of the Lord Jesus Christ, is called Still Sweeter Every Day. It says:

CH-1) To Jesus every day I find my heart is closer drawn,
He’s fairer than the glory of the gold and purple dawn;
He’s all my fancy pictures in its fairest dreams, and more,
Each day He grows still sweeter than He was the day before.

The half cannot be fancied this side the golden shore;
O there He’ll be still sweeter than He ever was before.

CH-2) His glory broke upon me when I saw Him from afar,
He’s fairer than the lily, brighter than the morning star;
He fills and satisfies my longing spirit o’er and o’er,
Each day He grows still sweeter than He was the day before.

Questions:
1) What is it about the Lord Jesus that can be described as “sweet” in the sense of that which is loved and cherished?

2) What other hymns can you think of that employ the word “sweet”?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | December 16, 2015

Once It Was the Blessing

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW 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: Albert Benjamin Simpson (b. Dec. 15, 1843; d. Oct. 29, 1919)
Music: Albert Benjamin Simpson

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Simpson was a Canadian pastor and sometime hymn writer. For a time, he served a church in my home town of Hamilton, Ontario. Later, he founded the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination, which now consists of a family of evangelical churches worldwide.

Pastor Simpson’s original title for this hymn was simply Himself–referring to the Lord Jesus Christ. It now sometimes uses the first line as a title. One old book I’ve seen entitled it “The Past, the Present,” which is certainly descriptive of the theme. The Cyber Hymnal currently dates the hymn at 1904, but it was actually published in 1899. On a personal note, when my father was dying of cancer, this hymn was a special encouragement to him–particularly the first stanza.

Back when Murray and Mark were teens, they had two particular interests. Whenever you talked with them, there were two things that almost always came up. One was the Beverly Hillbillies–a popular television show at the time. And the other was cars and trucks. They seemed to know about every make and model you could think of.

But that was over forty years ago. And since then their interests and priorities have changed quite a bit. Murray is married, and has a family. He and his wife Linda have served the Lord as missionaries for many years. He may still be interested in cars for practical reasons, and he probably remembers that TV show. But those aren’t the most important things in his life anymore. His focus has changed. He has different priorities now.

In photography, there is a concept known as depth of field. Suppose you want to take a picture of your friend, but there are all kinds of things around that aren’t of interest–distracting things that would just clutter up the picture, taking attention away from your main subject. If you have a good camera, it’s likely possible to reduce the depth of field, so that, while your friend’s face stays in sharp focus, things in the background are blurred.

That can happen in our spiritual lives too. There is a dramatic difference between an unsaved person and a born again Christian. The Bible puts it this way: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (II Cor. 5:17). That refers to the believer’s new standing before God, and his new spiritual condition. However, it is not the same thing as spiritual maturity. Salvation is a point-in-time crisis experience; maturing is a process.

Our son Jim is our son. He was our son when he was a babe in arms, and when he was a child, and a teen. He still is our son, now that he is married and has a family of his own. Similarly, for the one who becomes a child of God through faith in Christ (Gal. 3:26), his standing as a son in the family of God remains the same. But it is hoped that he will grow in his Christian life, both in character and in outward behaviour.

As we study the Word of God, and as the Spirit of God directs and enables us to apply it, we grow spiritually. Peter writes to some newer Christians and exhorts them, “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (I Pet. 2:2). On the other hand, Paul writes to some squabbling Christians in the church at Corinth and says, “I…could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal [those governed by fleshly values], as to babes in Christ” (I Cor. 3:1). There were divisions and contentions in the church, and as a result they were still on spiritual baby food (vs. 2-3).

As we mature, some things should change. That was the realization that came to Albert Simpson. In 1899, he published a hymn he called simply Himself–speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ. With a series of twenty statements, arranged in five stanzas, the song contrasts how Simpson used to see things “once,” and how his focus had changed, “now,” through the maturing process. In immaturity, there is a tendency for us to focus most on what God can give us, His blessings and answers to prayer, and not on “Himself.” That is the author’s main point.

CH-1) Once it was the blessing, now it is the Lord;
Once it was the feeling, now it is His Word;
Once His gift I wanted, now, the Giver own;
Once I sought for healing, now Himself alone.

All in all forever, Jesus will I sing;
Everything in Jesus, and Jesus everything.

I do see a problem with one statement in the second stanza. Simpson says, “Once a half salvation, now the uttermost.” Of course the consummation of our salvation awaits the resurrection and the ushering in of eternity (Phil. 3:20-21). There is more up ahead. But that is not what the author seems to mean. He’s talking about “now.”

In that sense, there is no such thing as a half salvation. Salvation is a great umbrella word that includes many things. Depending on how they are divided, there are approximately three dozen transformative blessings that are ours the very moment we are saved. No one is halfway born again, or half a child of God, or half forgiven.

We are “complete in Him [Christ]” (Col. 2:10). For by one offering He [Christ] has perfected forever those who are being sanctified [set apart for God]” (Heb. 10:14). That is the believer’s eternal standing before God. Where the difference comes is in our appropriation of the blessings that are ours in Christ. Just as it’s possible to have ten million dollars in the bank, and live like a pauper, we can fail to put to use what God has given us. In that sense, I can agree with Simpson.

CH-5) Once I hoped in Jesus, now I know He’s mine;
Once my lamps were dying, now they brightly shine;
Once for death I waited, now His coming hail;
And my hopes are anchored safe within the veil.

Questions:
1) What are some of the blessings that are ours through God’s salvation?

2) How much of your daily prayer times is taken up with asking for things, and how much is the praise and worship of God?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | December 14, 2015

Sunlight

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW 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: Judson Wheeler Van DeVenter (b. Dec. 5, 1855; d. July 17, 1939)
Music: Winfield Scott Weeden (b. Mar. 29, 1847; d. July 31, 1908)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Judson Van DeVenter)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: There have been a number of gospel songs that make prominent use of the sun’s light, In addition to Judson Van DeVenter’s Sunlight, there is Eliza Hewitt’s Sunshine in my Soul; Henry Zelley’s Heavenly Sunlight; and Nellie Talbot’s Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam.

Judson Van DeVenter attended college in Michigan, then taught in the public schools in Pennsylvania for fifteen years. He served in the art department, becoming an overseer in that area called a Supervisor of Drawing. During that time he was an active layman, sang in the church choir, and eventually obtained a license to preach. Around 1896, he switched to a career in evangelism, working with evangelist Wilbur Chapman and others, in both America and Britain. Toward the end of his life, Mr. Van DeVenter lived in Florida. He became Professor of Hymnology at the Florida Bible Institute for several years. There he had a significant influence on a young evangelist named Billy Graham.

The composer of the tune for the present song (and also for Van DeVenter’s I Surrender All) seems likely to have been named after General Winfield Scott (1786-1866) a United States Army general that many historians rate the best American commander of his time.

Sunlight can be dazzling! Go outside on a cloudless summer day and it’s almost blinding. Winter can be even worse, with all that snow. Snow blindness is a serious danger.

Did you even wonder how penguins manage, living out their lives in the intense glare of a polar sun? They can’t exactly put on a pair of sunglasses as we do. The answer is our Creator has provided them with a built-in sun screen. The penguin’s eyes produce a special fluid that creates a film filtering out blue and ultraviolet wavelengths, protecting their eyes from harm, and giving them excellent vision. Birds of prey, such as eagles, and hawks have the same fluid, so they can see to hunt in the bright sunshine.

The sun’s light is important for light, and heat, and for promoting growth in the plant world. And God has provided various ways, both natural and man-made, for us to make sure we get enough, but not too much.

For most of His earthly stay, the heavenly glory of the Son of God was veiled. But there was an occasion when He revealed it to three of His disciples. The Bible says He took Peter, James, and John up into a mountain, where “He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light” (Matt. 17:2).

That same comparison to sunlight is made at other times. When Paul met with the risen, glorified Christ at midday, on the road to Damascus, he says, “I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun” (Acts 26:13). And when John saw Christ later, and received the prophetic visions recorded in  the book of Revelation, he says, “His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength” (Rev. 1:16).

But there’s another dimension of this to consider. In addition to the visible glory of the Lord, there is the glory light of His presence experienced spiritually, when we trust in Christ for salvation. The Bible speaks of “the light of the gospel” (II Cor. 4:4). The good news of salvation is “as a light that shines in a dark place” (I Pet. 1:19).

To be a lost sinner, is to be in spiritual darkness. But when a sinner trust in the Saviour, the transformation is described as going from darkness to light. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (Eph. 5:8; cf. II Cor. 4:6). “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col. 1:13). Christians are “sons of light” (I Thess. 5:5).

Mr. Van DeVenter wrote many hymns. One published in 1897 is called simply Sunlight. It says:

CH-1) I wandered in the shades of night,
Till Jesus came to me,
And with the sunlight of His love
Bid all my darkness flee.

Sunlight, sunlight in my soul today,
Sunlight, sunlight all along the way;
Since the Saviour found me, took away my sin,
I have had the sunlight of His love within.

CH-2) Tho’ clouds may gather in the sky,
And billows round me roll,
However dark the world may be
I’ve sunlight in my soul.

CH-5) Soon I shall see Him as He is,
The Light that came to me;
Behold the brightness of His face,
Throughout eternity.

Questions:
1) How does the quality of darkness illustrate the sinner’s condition?

2) What qualities of sunlight illustrate the spiritual effects of the gospel?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Judson Van DeVenter)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | December 11, 2015

Still, Still with Thee

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW 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: Harriet Elizabeth Beecher Stowe (b. June 14, 1811; d. July 1, 1896)
Music: Consolation (or Mendelssohn), by Felix Mendelssohn (b. Feb. 3, 1809; d. Nov. 4, 1847)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Notes: American abolitionist and author Harriet Beecher Stowe is well known for her best-selling novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Published in 1852, It’s depiction of the harsh realities of slavery awakened many to that monstrous evil. The daughter of a pastor, and the sister of another pastor, she also wrote a number of hymns.

While I hesitate to go against the work of Mendelssohn, a great composer (see more about him here), I believe there is a better tune for this hymn than Consolation. If you use Mendelssohn’s tune, I encourage you to smooth out the rhythm and not make it as jerky as it’s played on the Cyber Hymnal. But try Alverstoke, by Joseph Barnby (1838-1896). Far superior, in my view. You can listen to it on the Cyber Hymnal, and also download the sheet music from there.

Beside me as I write this is a silver-coloured object, small enough to be held in the palm of my hand, or be put in my pocket. But it has powers far beyond my own. With the flip of a tiny switch on it, and the turn of a dial, I can listen to music or hear the news, not only from elsewhere in Canada, but from other countries too.

Radios are amazing. But they do not create the sounds coming from their speakers. Those sounds are all around us, all the time, everywhere we go. Our human ears are simply not able to hear them. Even if they were able, we’d still have a problem. The broadcasts of dozens of stations, maybe hundreds, are creating a veritable blizzard of sounds around us. If we could detect that, it would only be to us a confusing racket, a senseless noise.

But radios do another thing for us. They not only give us access to those unheard and unhearable sounds. They’re also able to tune in to one broadcast or another specifically. To prioritize the one, sorting out what belongs to it, while rejecting what does not. As I say, radios are amazing.

In a way, the Bible does that for us in the spiritual realm. It brings to our awareness important things to which we’d otherwise be totally insensitive. God does not want us to simply feel our way through life, relying on our own senses.

There’s a philosophy that says, if it feels good, do it! Or, in the words of a popular song of another generation, “How can it be wrong when it feels so right?” But that is a dangerous road to travel. Our emotions can be manipulated, or upset by irrelevant things. Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther wrote (in German):

Feelings come and feelings go,
And feelings are deceiving;
My warrant is the Word of God–
Not else is worth believing.

Long before Luther, God made this promise to Jacob: “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go….I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you” (Gen. 28:15). Before He returned to heaven for a time, the Lord Jesus made a similar promise of His continuing presence to His followers, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). And the writer to Hebrews tells us, “He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Heb. 13:5; cf. Deut. 31:8).

But how do we know that? After all, the disciples could see the Lord Jesus. They walked with Him, talked with Him, and ate with Him. Now He is gone–yet He is still here. That does not seem to make sense. Or does it? If our sensitivity to spiritual things is as limited as our physical ears are to those radio waves, how can believers tell that the Lord is present with us now, and “always”?

The answer is as simple as it is profound. We’re to take God at His word. Similar to what the radio does in one realm, the Bible does in another. It provides a way we can hear the voice of God, separating it out from other voices. And it’s message is as relevant today as it was when it was written.

One of Stowe’s hymns, appearing three years after her famous novel, celebrates, with beautiful imagery, the wonderful truth that God is with us. A very early riser, the author used to go for walks at 4:30 in the morning, communing with God, knowing He was present with her on the basis of His promises. Her song says:

CH-1) Still, still with Thee, when purple morning breaketh,
When the bird waketh, and the shadows flee;
Fairer than morning, lovelier than daylight,
Dawns the sweet consciousness, I am with Thee.

CH-5) When sinks the soul, subdued by toil, to slumber,
Its closing eye looks up to Thee in prayer;
Sweet the repose beneath the wings o’ershading,
But sweeter still to wake and find Thee there.

CH-6) So shall it be at last, in that bright morning,
When the soul waketh and life’s shadows flee;
O in that hour, fairer than daylight dawning,
Shall rise the glorious thought, I am with Thee.

Questions:
1) What are some of the blessings coming from the Lord’s constant presence with us?

2) What other hymns do you know that speak of the Lord’s nearness to us?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | December 9, 2015

Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW 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: Johann Jakob Schütz (b. Sept. 7, 1640; d. May 22, 1690); English translation by Frances Elizabeth Cox (b. May 10, 1812; d. Sept. 23, 1897)
Music: Mit Freuden Zart (With Tender Joy), from the Bohemian Brethren’s Kirchengesänge (Berlin, 1556), and their Gesangbuch (Berlin, 1556)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Mr. Shütz was a godly lawyer in Germany, and a Lutheran who joined the Pietists, a group known for its warmhearted spirituality.

This is a very fine hymn. I wonder how many churches make use of it. The hymn is based on, or inspired by, Deuteronomy 32:3, “I proclaim the name of the LORD: ascribe greatness to our God.” And notice that each stanza ends with a kind of one-line refrain, “To God all praise and glory.” That reminds me of Johann Sebastian Bach, who, at the bottom of his music manuscripts would write “S.D.G.” representing Soli Deo Gloria, “To God alone the glory.”

Praising God. The Bible talks about it hundreds of times. Words such as praise, worship, and glorify are found over four hundred times in the Scriptures. But for a few moments, consider just the word “praise.”

From Genesis to Revelation, two hundred and sixty-four times, some form of the word is used. When Leah bore Jacob a son, she said, “‘Now I will praise the Lord.’ Therefore she called his name Judah [a form of the word praise]” (Gen. 29:35). And near the end of the Bible the command is heard in heaven, “Praise our God, all you His servants and those who fear Him, both small and great!” (Rev. 19:5).

The book of Psalms contains more than half of the times the word praise is found. First, in Psalm 7:17 we have, “I will praise the Lord according to His righteousness, and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.” Then, the last thing in the book of Psalms is a call to praise. “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!” (Ps. 150:6).

The psalms are Hebrew poetry, written to be sung. The root meaning of the word “psalm” itself is to strike with the fingers, referring to the accompaniment of the songs on stringed instruments. (Remember David’s skill with the harp? First Samuel 16:23.) Psalms is the hymn book of the Bible. It was the hymn book of Israel, and also the hymn book of the early church. The songs’ emphasis on praise is understandable.

Compare our own church hymn books for a moment. Some churches now project the words to be sung on a screen, or on a wall. But there is still value in using hymn books, with musical notes, and information about the authors and composers. Our hymns, like those in Psalms, are poetry written to be sung. And one of the dominant themes in the songs we sing is the praise and worship of God.

¤ We can praise the Lord as our King, with O Worship the King, and Psalms does that too (Ps. 10:16).
¤ We can praise the greatness of God with How Great Thou Art, and Psalms does that as well (Ps. 47:2).
¤ We can praise our God for His Amazing Grace toward us, and so does Psalms (Ps. 84:11).

But, for all the similarities, there is one big difference between today’s hymn books and the book of Psalms. It relates to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Today we have many wonderful hymns about the Lord Jesus, His coming and earthly life, His death and resurrection, His ascension and promise to return. The psalmists, along with other Old Testament writers, saw these things off in the distance, only dimly, as God’s Spirit gave them glimpses of future things.

We need songs that reflect God’s New Testament revelation. That being said, there’s still a place for the praise of God in the pattern of the Old Testament. The New Testament doesn’t replace it. It fulfils and completes it. Which brings us to a wonderful hymn of praise to God by Johann Schütz. He writes:

CH-1) Sing praise to God who reigns above, the God of all creation,
The God of power, the God of love, the God of our salvation.
With healing balm my soul is filled and every faithless murmur stilled:
To God all praise and glory.

CH-3) The Lord is never far away, but through all grief distressing,
An ever present help and stay, our peace and joy and blessing.
As with a mother’s tender hand, God gently leads the chosen band:
To God all praise and glory.

CH-4) Thus, all my toilsome way along, I sing aloud Thy praises,
That earth may hear the grateful song my voice unwearied raises.
Be joyful in the Lord, my heart, both soul and body bear your part:
To God all praise and glory.

A psalmist could have written that. But notice how Schütz’s hymn, in its last stanza, ties in New Testament truth, through the person of Christ. Like Isaac Watts (1674-1748) he understood that the Psalms, wonderful and useful though they are, are not God’s complete revelation. We also need to be singing about New Testament truths.

CH-5) Let all who name Christ’s holy name give God all praise and glory;
Let all who own His power proclaim aloud the wondrous story!
Cast each false idol from its throne, for Christ is Lord, and Christ alone:
To God all praise and glory.

Questions:
1) What are three things you have to praise the Lord for today?

2) How is it we can legitimately praise God for our trials and difficulties?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | December 7, 2015

O Valiant Hearts

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW 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: John Stanhope Arkwright (b. July 10, 1872; d. Sept. 19, 1954)
Music: The Supreme Sacrifice, by Charles Harris (b. July 20, 1865; d. July 30, 1936)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: This is such a gorgeous song, both as to its text and the tune, that I hesitate to criticize it. And I know it’s dear to many servicemen and veterans, and others who sing it at times of memorial for the dead. I risk awakening their ire. But I must. This is not a true hymn, though it does address the Lord in its final stanza. It is closer to a gospel song, in its promise of eternal life to those who died serving their country in wartime. However, it is a false gospel that is preached, and that cannot be allowed to pass unnoticed–in fact, merits a curse (Gal. 1:6-9).

Valiant. It’s a word used, in various forms, many times in the Bible. The writer of Hebrews speaks of heroes of the faith who “became valiant in battle” (Heb. 11:34). And Gideon is called a “mighty man of valour!” (Jud. 6:12).

The Hebrew and Greek words translated valiant and valour express especially the quality of strength. In English, the definition adds the concept of courage, boldness in facing great danger–especially in battle. Valour describes a heroic stand that renders one worthy of special respect. With reference Israel, this quality was often related to the nation’s conquest and defense of the land God had given them.

In the spiritual realm, the Bible speaks of courage and boldness in our stand for the truths of God’s Word. When persecution arose against the early church, the believers prayed, “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word” (Acts 4:29), and God answered their prayer (vs. 31). This recalls a character who appears in John Bunyan’s book The Pilgrim’s Progress. He writes:

“There stood a man with his sword drawn, and his face all bloody. Then said Mr Great-heart, ‘What art thou?’ The man made answer, saying, ‘I am one whose name is Valiant-for-Truth. I am a pilgrim, and am going to the Celestial City.’”

Valiant for Truth–in a sense, that title should fit every Christian. The Bible exhorts us to “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). And one of the essential pieces of our equipment is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (vs. 17). The Apostle Peter writes to persecuted Christians and says, “Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (I Pet. 3:14-15). That is much needed in our day.

But we are looking here at a song about temporal warfare. And there have also been times when we’ve been called, as citizens of Canada (or the country where you live), to display valour on the field of battle, and many have done so bravely. They deserve our gratitude. To honour those who died in the First World War, John Arkwright wrote the song O Valiant Hearts, a song often used at Remembrance Day services.

CH-1) O valiant hearts who to your glory came
Through dust of conflict and through battle flame;
Tranquil you lie, your knightly virtue proved,
Your memory hallowed in the land you loved.

It’s stirring poetry, wedded to a superb tune, praising noble and sacrificial acts. However, I do have a problem with it, as stated above. We must not suggest or imply, as the song seems to do, that any good works of ours, however great, are rewarded with a place in heaven.

Yes, it is true that “greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13). As Arkwright puts it, “To save mankind yourselves you scorned to save” (CH-2). But no Scripture says that such a sacrifice is rewarded with eternal life in heaven. On the contrary, the Bible says it is “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His [God’s] mercy He saved us” (Tit. 3:5), “not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:9).

Eternal salvation is God’s gift to those who trust in Christ as Saviour. “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12; cf. Jn. 1:12-13; 3:16, 18, 36; 5:24;  Rom. 6:23; Gal. 3:26; I Jn. 5:11-12). And more passages than these could be referenced. Dying for one’s country does not earn eternal salvation.

Yet Arkwright boldly declares:

CH-3) Splendid you passed, the great surrender made;
Into the light that nevermore shall fade;
Deep your contentment in that blest abode,
Who wait the last clear trumpet call of God.

Then there is the author’s strange comparison of the death of Christ with the soldiers’ deaths in combat (“our lesser Calvaries”).

CH-5) Still stands His cross from that dread hour to this,
Like some bright star above the dark abyss;
Still, through the veil, the Victor’s pitying eyes
Look down to bless our lesser Calvaries.

CH-6) These were His servants, in His steps they trod,
Following through death the martyred Son of God:
Victor, He rose; victorious too shall rise
They who have drunk His cup of sacrifice.

Though there may well be a common thread of self-sacrifice between the two, this tends to rob the saving work of Christ of its uniqueness. Or, alternately, to exalt the heroic labours of soldiers to the status of the saving work of the glorified Lamb of God. Soldiers fight to preserve our temporal freedoms, or rescue the temporally oppressed, but they cannot die for our sins, and provide for our eternal salvation–or even their own. Only Christ could do that, and did so (I Cor. 15:3). Moving as this song is, it sends a message that is not true.

Questions:
1) Do you agree or disagree with my comments on this song?

2) What are some appropriate hymns that would fit a time of memorial for the military?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

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