Posted by: rcottrill | September 27, 2017

Day by Day the Manna Fell

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

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Josiah Conder (b. Sept. 17, 1789; d. Dec. 27, 1855)
Music: Munus, by John Baptiste Calkin (b. Mar. 16, 1827; d. May 15, 1905)

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

Note: Josiah Conder, as a child, was one of the early recipients of a smallpox inoculation. But something went wrong, and from the subsequent infection he lost the sight of one eye. Nevertheless, in adulthood he became a newspaper editor and wrote books on a variety of subjects, including six volumes of poetry and hymns. Few of his hymns are known today, but many were sung through the nineteenth century.

There are some things we can store up for future use. We do that with money deposited in the bank. We do it with food kept in a fridge or freezer. But there are other necessary things that cannot be stored long. The air we breathe is a prime example.

When diving into a pool or a lake, we take a deep breath and are able to stay under the water for thirty seconds or a little more. But we cannot take enough breaths today to provide all the air we need for tomorrow. If we breathe about sixteen times per minute, that will mean more than 23,000 breaths for today–and we’ll need another 23,000 tomorrow.

In the Bible there’s an example of daily supply that is quite instructive. When the Israelites were delivered from slavery in Egypt, they traveled into a wilderness area which lacked enough food to feed them all. To meet the need, the Lord provided manna. He said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day” (Exod. 16:4).

The next day, “when the layer of dew lifted, there, on the surface of the wilderness, was a small round substance, as fine as frost on the ground….And Moses said to them, ‘This is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat’” (Exod. 16:14-15). Attempts to identify this as some naturally occurring substance have failed. There were supernatural aspects of heaven’s food which preclude that.

The manna fell every day of the week but the Sabbath (Saturday), and fed Israel for about forty years–so it must have been nutritious. They gathered it, baked it, boiled it, and formed it into cakes (Num. 11:8), so it seems to have served as a kind of flour. Then, as soon as the people were in Canaan, the land God had promised them, and were able to eat the fruit of the land there, the provision of manna abruptly ceased (Josh. 5:12).

Why did Lord do it as He did, providing a day by day gift of food? Why not supply a week’s worth, or a month’s worth at a time? It was to remind the people to continue looking to Him in faith, and continue obeying His word (Deut. 8:2-3). And the thought of a daily provision for Israel in the wilderness carries over into the New Testament, becoming a request in the Lord’s Prayer. “Give us this day [or, day by day] our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). We’re to look to the Lord to meet our daily needs.

This is equally true in the spiritual realm. Daily grace for daily needs. Of times of persecution, Paul writes, “We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair….Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (II Cor. 4:8, 16).

Josiah Conder wrote a hymn about how the Lord is able to meet our needs day by day. Here is part of his hymn:

CH-1) Day by day the manna fell;
O to learn this lesson well!
Still by constant mercy fed,
Give me Lord, my daily bread.

CH-2) “Day by day,” the promise reads,
Daily strength for daily needs;
Cast foreboding fears away;
Take the manna of today.

CH-5) Fond ambition, whisper not;
Happy is my humble lot.
Anxious, busy cares away;
I’m provided for today.

CH-6) Oh, to live exempt from care
By the energy of prayer:
Strong in faith, with mind subdued,
Yet elate with gratitude!

Questions:
1) What personal need do you pray for on a regular basis?

2) How did the Lord provide what was needed yesterday (or over the past week)?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | September 25, 2017

Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending

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

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: John Cennick (b. Dec. 12, 1718; d. July 4, 1755; revised version by Charles Wesley (b. Dec. 18, 1707; d. Mar. 29, 1788)
Music: Regent Square, by Henry Thomas Smart (b. Oct. 26, 1813; d. July 6, 1879)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (John Cennick) (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: In 1885, James King produced a book (for the Anglican Church in Britain and America) listing the most popular hymns of his day, based on how many of 52 hymn books he reviewed contained each hymn. No hymn appeared in all 52, but there were four that could be found in 51. They are:

All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night (by Thomas Ken)
Hark, the Herald Angels Sing (by Charles Wesley)
Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending (by Charles Wesley)
Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me (by Augustus Toplady)

The present hymn thus ranked high at that time. Though it’s perhaps not used as much now, it is a fine hymn. I have used the tune Regent Square, which is also used with Angels from the Realms of Glory (Number 88 on King’s list).

We call them souvenirs or mementos (the latter coming from the Latin word for remember). They’re objects that remind us of a person or past event. Photographs fit that category. And now with smart phones, we not only have a camera handy, we can carry dozens of photos with us, to look at when we please.

Beside me as I write is a small painting (just over two inches across). It depicts a treed landscape, by the side of a river, and is quite detailed for its size. Each time I look at it I’m reminded of a boyhood friend.

Don and I were buddies since the second grade. But as he grew older it became evident that something wasn’t quite right with his mind. We went our separate ways, but I heard through friends that he had ended up as a homeless drug addict on the streets of one of our major cities. Some years later, word came that he’d passed away.

But Don was not without ability. A largely self-taught artist, he did some quite amazing things. One day he decided he was going to climb up a flagpole and stay there long enough to produce a world record number of paintings. He stayed up for many days, with his sister sending up food with a rope and pulley system. When he finally descended, he had created over seven hundred paintings the size of the one beside me. Whether he achieved a world record or not, I treasure the keepsake, and remember my friend.

An itinerant evangelist, and friend of the Wesleys, John Cennick (1718-1755) also wrote a few hymns. However, he wasn’t very good at it. His hymn about the second coming begins strangely,

Lo! He cometh, countless trumpets,
Blow before his bloody sign!

But his friend, hymn writer Charles Wesley, saw merit in the subject matter and undertook to polish Cennick’s creation.

The connection with my earlier comments lies in the concept of mementos and individuals and past events. Though we expect our resurrection bodies will be perfected, and not carry the disabilities or scars of the past, the Lord Jesus Christ seems to be the exception to that. When He appeared to His disciples after His resurrection, He pointed to the wounds in His hands and feet as evidence that it was indeed He (Lk. 24:40).

And later, when Thomas, who’d been absent at Christ’s first meeting with them, doubted their word, the Lord appeared and said to him, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing” (Jn. 20:27).

In his prophetic vision of the heavenly city, the Apostle John saw Jesus as “a Lamb as though it had been slain,” and he heard a huge assembly praising Him “saying with a loud voice: ‘“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!’” (Rev. 5:6, 12).

It appears from this that our Saviour will bear in His body for all eternity the marks of His passion. In a real sense they’re mementos of Calvary, reminders of what He did for us there. These tokens of His sacrifice will continue to fill us with gratitude and be reflected in our songs of praise, as we join in “the song of the Lamb” (Rev. 15:3). A stanza of Cennick’s revised hymn (not often used today) speaks of this. (See stanza six below.)

CH-1) Lo! He comes with clouds descending,
Once for favoured sinners slain;
Thousand thousand saints attending,
Swell the triumph of His train:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
God appears on earth to reign.

CH-6) The dear tokens of His passion
Still His dazzling body bears;
Cause of endless exultation
To His ransomed worshipers;
With what rapture, with what rapture,
Gaze we on those glorious scars!

CH-7) Yea, Amen! let all adore Thee,
High on Thine eternal throne;
Saviour, take the power and glory,
Claim the kingdom for Thine own;
O come quickly! O come quickly!
Everlasting God, come down!

Questions:
1) What, to you, is the most wonderful or blessed thing about the return of Christ?

2) What things in the world around us suggest to you His coming could be very near?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (John Cennick) (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | September 22, 2017

O Lord, How Full of Sweet Content

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

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Jeanne Marie Bouvières de la Mothe Guyon (b. Apr. 16, 1648; d. June 9, 1717); English translation, William Cowper (b. Nov. 15, 1731; d. Apr. 25, 1800)
Music: Hamburg, by Lowell Mason (b. Jan. 8, 1792; d. Aug. 11, 1872)

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

Note: Madame Guyon, was a Roman Catholic mystic who taught the philosophy of Quietism. Quietism proposes that the indwelling Holy Spirit is able to impart added truth beyond the Bible. But most orthodox Christians reject the possibility of divinely inspired truth beyond the Scriptures (Rev. 22:18). Rather, they believe the work of the Spirit of God is to illuminate the Word of God and give us an understanding of what He has already revealed (Jn. 14:26).

Guyon was often condemned and ostracized for her views, even by the church she espoused, and she spent time in prison. But hymn writer William Cowper thought enough of the present hymn to translate it into English. Hamburg is a tune often used with When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.

The air we breathe is pretty much available to us everywhere on the planet–though the quality of that air isn’t always the best. Especially in our major cities, and near various industrial facilities, the smog can be suffocating.

Earth’s atmosphere is about three hundred miles thick (480 kms), but most of it is concentrated in the ten miles immediately above the ground, and not even all of that is habitable by human beings. Altitude sickness, and serious health problems can develop beyond about one and a half miles (1 km) above sea level. This is why mountain climbers must supplement their oxygen at extreme heights.

However, it’s possible to adapt, over time, to living and working even higher. There is a gold mine and a settlement housing thousands of workers about three miles (4.8 kms) up in the Peruvian Andes. That’s the highest inhabited location on earth, a forbidding place of barren rock and bitter cold, but they have air enough to live.

If the air we breathe is virtually present everywhere, God is even more so. Theologians have a word for it, calling it God’s omnipresence. And whereas the atmosphere is simply diffused across the surface of the earth, so that part of it is here, and part of it is there, the Lord is unique in being fully present everywhere. All of God is where I am, and equally all of God is where you are.

“‘Do I not fill heaven and earth?’ says the Lord” (Jer. 23:24).

“Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool” (Isa. 66:1).

And when Jacob dreamed a strange dream about the presence of God and holy angels, he was filled with the wonder of it and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it” (Gen. 28:16).

There is a warning in this for those who would do evil. God sees and knows all that we do. “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” asks David. “If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol [the grave], behold, You are there” (Ps. 139:7-8, NASB).

But the nearness of God can bring assurance to those who love and serve Him. To them the Lord says, “‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper’” (Heb. 13:5-6).

Our differences with Madame Guyon’s beliefs being recognized, her hymn, My Lord, How Full of Sweet Content (or O Lord, How Full of Sweet Content), touches on a area of truth for which we find full biblical support–that the presence of God is a reality in the believer’s life, wherever we go. Though we may part from friends and family, we have the Lord’s promise, “Lo, I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20).

CH-1) My Lord, how full of sweet content;
I pass my years of banishment!
Where’er I dwell, I dwell with Thee,
In heaven, in earth, or on the sea.

CH-2) To me remains nor place nor time;
My country is in every clime;
I can be calm and free from care
On any shore, since God is there.

CH-4) Could I be cast where Thou are not,
That were indeed a dreadful lot:
But regions none remote I call,
Secure of finding God in all.

Questions:
1) When is the last time, in a trying situation, you were particularly aware of the presence of God?

2) How does an awareness of the presence of God change your attitudes and actions?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | September 20, 2017

Commit Thou All Thy Griefs

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

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Paul Gerhardt (b. Mar. 12, 1607; d. May 27, 1676); English translation by John Wesley (b. June 28, 1703; d. Mar. 2, 1791)
Music: St. George (or Gauntlett), by Henry John Gauntlett (b. July 9, 1805; d. Feb. 21, 1876)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Paul Gerhardt)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Paul Gerhardt was a Lutheran pastor, about a century after the time of the Reformation. The motto on his portrait read “Theologus in cribro Satanae versatus” (a theologian sifted in Satan’s sieve–cf. Lk. 22:31-32).

It’s sometimes called a bedside manner. Doctor’s either have it, or they don’t. They may know all the relevant medical facts, but still lack the skill of communicating them to the patient, or of bringing reassurance and hope. Lacking this gift, they may even give the impression that the ailing person’s anxious questions are an imposition on their time.

Not all are like that, of course. Dr. Robert Kemp (our family doctor) practiced in Ontario about six decades ago–at a time when doctors still made house calls. And, when a couple we knew lost a son to illness, the good doctor went to their home, threw his arms around them both, and wept with them. That man knew how to treat the soul as well as the body. I believe a wing of a city hospital was eventually named after him.

The Bible has a great deal to say about comfort, and being a comforter. The Greek words translated into English often describe one who comes alongside a troubled individual for the purpose of bringing consolation, encouragement, and a renewed serenity of mind.

God is the ultimate Source of true comfort.

“[He is] the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (II Cor. 1:3-4).

The Spirit of God comforts the people of God (Acts 9:31), often through the healing message of God’s Word (Rom. 15:4). As indicated, He also works through other people to do that (II Cor. 7:6). Paul reminds the Thessalonian believers, “We exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children” (I Thess. 2:11), in turn urging them to “comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all” (I Thess. 5:14).

Not only can we do this directly, but through our earnest prayers for those in distress. The apostle did that. He prayed, “Our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation [comfort] and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work” (II Thess. 2:16-17).

Our hymn writers also play a roll in the comforting of the saints, as they frame the thoughts and words of Scripture into lines of memorable verse. Read the inspiring words of Katharina von Schlegel’s Be Still My Soul, or the stirring beauty of Thomas Moore’s Come, Ye Disconsolate, or Joseph Scriven’s What a Friend We Have in Jesus, or the present hymn, Commit Thou All Thy Griefs, by Paul Gerhardt.

In the eighteenth century, Gerhardt’s hymn figured in a remarkable incident. A godly peasant named Dobyr lived in a little village near Warsaw, Poland. Being a poor man, he’d fallen way behind in paying the rent for his house, and his landlord said he and his family would be evicted the next day, turned out into the snow.

In deep concern, he led the family in prayer, and they sang Paul Gerhardt’s hymn together.

CH-1) Commit thou all thy griefs
And ways into His hands,
To His sure truth and tender care,
Who heaven and earth commands.

CH-4) No profit canst thou gain
By self consuming care;
To Him commend thy cause, His ear
Attends the softest prayer.

At this point there was a sharp rapping at the window, near where Dobyr knelt. A bird was pecking at it. Opening the window he found the pet raven which his grandfather had tamed, and then set free. In its beak was a ring, set with precious stones.

After a search, with the help of Dobyr’s pastor, it was discovered that the ring belonged to King Stanislaus, who sent for the peasant and gave him a reward for returning the ring. Not only that, the king had a new house built for Dobyr and his family, filling its cattle sheds from his own estates.

As a witness to all these wonderful blessings, over the door of his new home, Dobyr put up an iron plaque. It pictured a raven, with a ring in its beak, and quoted the final words of Gerhardt’s hymn:

CH-7) When Thou arisest, Lord,
What shall Thy work withstand?
When all Thy children want*, Thou giv’st;
And who shall stay Thy hand?

*”Want,” not in the sense of what we wish for or crave, but referring to times when we are in want (in need). This is the sense of the word in the first verse of Psalm 23, “I shall not want.”

Questions:
1) In your own experience, how has the Lord answered prayer in a time of need?

2) In what situation has someone been a special comforter to you?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Paul Gerhardt)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | September 18, 2017

What If It Were Today?

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

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Lelia Naylor Morris (b. Apr. 15, 1862; d. July 23, 1929)
Music: Lelia Naylor Morris

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Lelia Naylor married Charles Morris in 1881. She began writing sacred songs in the 1890’s, and kept it up, even after her eyesight began to fail in 1913. Her daughter set up a blackboard twenty-eight feet long, with a huge music staff on it, which her mother used to write, until she went completely blind. Lelia Morris wrote more than a thousand songs–most of them after she began suffering from a loss of her sight.

To “suppose” can mean to consider a possibility, using our imagination to answer a “What if…?” question.

The movies do it all the time to create situations that grab our attention. Films such as Fail-Safe (1964), or WarGames (1983) ask us to ponder a chilling possibility: Suppose America started a nuclear war with Russia accidentally. What then?

Christ’s parables use that technique as well. For example, suppose a farmer sows some seed (Mk. 4:3-20). What kind of yield can he expect? Answer: It depends to a significant extent on whether the seed lands on good and well prepared soil or not. And the parable applies factor this to our need of hearts ready to receive God’s Word.

The use of imagination in this way can have a practical value nearer home. Just suppose a hurricane were to sweep through town. Are we prepared? Have we identified a safe place to go in the event it happens? Or suppose thieves attempt to break into our house. Do we have sufficient security protection?

Posing a supposition can help us to adjust our values. On a personal (and more mundane) note, our son and his family live in Mexico City, where he and his wife serve as missionaries. They’re able to visit us only occasionally, every few years. One time a visit was expected in a couple of months time, and my wife began to worry about all she had to get done to prepare. But I asked, “Suppose they were to surprise us and arrive today? Would you turn them away because the house isn’t tidy or dusted?” And the answer was, of course not. Other things were far less important than welcoming them.

The same principle applies to the return of Christ, but for that event readiness is vitally important. The Bible repeatedly tells us He’s coming back again. Suppose it were to happen today? Are we ready for it? “Be ready,” Jesus warns, “for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matt. 24:44). Are we sure of our soul’s salvation? And would the things we’ve planned to do please Him?

First, readiness involves trusting Christ for our eternal salvation (Jn. 3:16; 14:6; Acts 4:12). Beyond that it relates to inward character, and priorities, and outward conduct. Are we living in obedience to His Word? Are we honouring and serving Him with our lives?

“Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:11-13).

“Therefore, since all these things [the things of this material world] will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness” (II Pet. 3:11).

“We know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (I Jn. 3:2-3).

In 1912, hymn writer Lelia Morris published a song on this theme. What If It Were Today? poses a supposition for us all to think about.

CH-1) Jesus is coming to earth again;
What if it were today?
Coming in power and love to reign;
What if it were today?
Coming to claim His chosen bride,
All the redeemed and purified,
Over this whole earth scattered wide;
What if it were today?

Glory, glory! Joy to my heart ’twill bring.
Glory, glory! When we shall crown Him king.
Glory, glory! Haste to prepare the way;
Glory, glory! Jesus will come some day.

CH-3) Faithful and true would He find us here,
If He should come today?
Watching in gladness and not in fear,
If He should come today?
Signs of His coming multiply;
Morning light breaks in eastern sky.
Watch, for the time is drawing nigh;
What if it were today?

It’s a question worth considering.

Questions:
1) Are you ready for Christ’s return?

2) What are your plans in the meantime?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | September 15, 2017

O Master, at Thy Feet

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

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Frances Ridley Havergal (b. Dec. 14, 1836; d. June 3, 1879)
Music: (seen Note, below)

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

Note: A child prodigy, Havergal was reading by age four, and began writing verse at age seven. She learned Latin, Greek and Hebrew–eventually was fluent in six or seven modern languages too, and memorized Psalms, the book of Isaiah, and most of the New Testament. She also wrote some of our finest hymns.

Miss Havergal said “Master” was her favourite title for Christ, because it implied rule and submission. “Men,” she said, “may feel differently, but a true woman’s submission is inseparable from deep love.” (That is definitely worthy of further thought!)

The present hymn is rarely found it print. It’s unique metre (6.6.8.6.10.12) is unusual and equally rare. One site suggests Rabboni (by Samuel Reay 1822-1905), or Inglewhite (by Ann Sheppard Mounsey Bartholomew, 1811-1891) as tunes that could be used, but neither seems to be currently available. If you have a gift for composing music, go to the Cyber Hymnal’s Tunes Needed page and submit a possibility for this one.

We have a number of expressions that describe times when, perhaps out of fear or surprise, or some other strong emotion, we’re so overwhelmed we’re can’t think of anything to say. We say we’re speechless, at a loss for words, we’re struck dumb, or words fail us. Often, when we regain our senses later, we think of all the things we could have said, or wish we’d said.

I recall a time, on a Toronto street, when heavyweight boxing champion George Chevalo walked by me. I wanted to say, “Hi champ!” but was so stunned I couldn’t get the words out. Celebrity can silence us. So can romance. Guy meets girl, or vice versa, and suddenly it’s, “Hi…uh…um…so….” Even retrieving one’s own name at the moment may seem impossible.

Being confronted by a wild animal can have a similar affect. Few could do what a friend of mine did. A senior citizen, she was sitting outside her cabin, shelling peas, when an adult bear lumbered around the corner. Getting up, and making a dismissive motion with her hands, she said sternly, “Shoo! You’re not wanted around here! Go ‘way!” And the bear did!

In Scripture, when the people of Israel noisily worshiped false gods, the prophet Habakkuk rebuked them, “Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Awake!’ To silent stone, ‘Arise! it shall teach!’ Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, yet in it there is no breath at all.” He called them instead to stand mute before the true God: “The Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him” (Hab. 2:19-20).

To stand before the Lord, realizing His glory and sovereign power, silences feeble comment. Even the Apostle John, as a believer, when he saw a vision of the glorified Christ, “fell at His feet as dead” (Rev. 1:17). Truly, there is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Ecc. 3:7). A time when words are inappropriate, inadequate, or simply unnecessary.

On New Year’s Eve in 1866, as darkness fell, a young woman sat alone in a little room. There was no fire in the grate, not even a carpet on the floor. If the evening chill was creeping into her bones, she seemed to take no notice of it. She was full of love for Christ, overwhelmed by the wonder of knowing him and serving him. She wanted to write some lines of praise, but found it difficult to say how she felt.

The would-be writer was Frances Havergal. To say that on the occasion described she was utterly without words would not be accurate. But she felt that any words she could muster would be wholly inadequate to express how she felt. What did come from her pen was a little known hymn, O Master, at Thy Feet. It says, in part:

3) I have no words to bring
Worthy of Thee, my King,
And yet one anthem in Thy praise
I long, I long to raise;
The heart is full, the eye entranced above,
But words all melt away to silent awe and love.

4) How can the lip be dumb,
The hand all still and numb,
When Thee the heart doth see and own
Her Lord and God above?
Tune for Thyself the music of my days,
And open Thou my lips that I may show Thy praise.

5) Yea, let my whole life be
One anthem unto Thee,
And let the praise of lip and life
Outring all sin and strife.
O Jesus, Master! Be Thy name supreme,
For heaven and earth the one, the grand, eternal theme.

Questions:
1) Have you ever found yourself so overwhelmed in prayer (for whatever reason) that it’s difficult to find the right words to express yourself?

2) Do you find yourself doing the opposite sometimes, rattling off trite phrases that seem to have lost much of their meaning? (What can be done about this?)

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

Posted by: rcottrill | September 13, 2017

Blessed Redeemer (Crosby)

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

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Frances Jane (“Fanny”) Crosby (b. Mar. 24, 1820; d. Feb. 12, 1915)
Music: Ira David Sankey (b. Aug. 28, 1840; d. Aug. 13, 1908)

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

Note: Hymn writer Fanny Crosby gave us thousands of songs. Quite a few are still in use, but there are, among those that are not, hidden gems worth rediscovering. One of these is Blessed Redeemer, which shows how the knowledge of God can inform and inspire our prayers.

They tell us the distance to the edge of the observable universe is about forty-six billion light years, and increasing, because the universe is expanding all of the time. That’s the theory anyway. But some things that pass for science are rooted in guesswork and speculation.

Though we’re discovering more and more about the world in which we live, and about the distant reaches of space, there is still a great deal that is unknown, and perhaps even unknowable in any provable sense. That’s one reason atheism is not logical. To say conclusively “there is no God” is to say we know everything about that huge expanse beyond our world, and we know definitely that there is no God out there anywhere. The Bible calls such a deluded person a fool (Ps. 14:1).

The expression “a known quantity” refers to someone or something whose characteristics or abilities are well known. To a finite and small degree, that applies to God. God’s existence and His great power are clearly seen in nature (Rom. 1:20). Study the intricacies of a flower, or consider that marvel of engineering the human eye, and you will be pushed toward the conclusion that there is a master Designer behind them. To deny it is to be willfully ignorant.

The second way God reveals Himself is through His Word, the Bible. From the very first verse to the last, we are told about Him and about what He has done. Study the Scriptures and you will learn still more about God. Finally, God revealed Himself in the incarnation, when God the Son became Man.

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son” (Heb. 1:1-2).

“The Word [Christ] became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14).

And Jesus said, “Search the Scriptures, for…these are they which testify of Me” (Jn. 5:39; cf. Lk. 24:27).

Of seeking to know God better, the great nineteenth century preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon said in a sermon:

“Other subjects we can encompass and grapple with. In them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, “Behold I am wise.” But when we come to this master science, finding that our plumb line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought, “I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.” No subject of contemplation will tend to humble the mind more than thoughts of God.”

It is a search worthy of a lifetime, though we say with Job, “Indeed these are the mere edges of His ways, and how small a whisper we hear of Him!” (Job 26:14). Even so, we continue our search. Paul prays that the Ephesian Christians might “know the love of Christ which passes [surpasses] knowledge” (Eph. 3:19). Though it’s impossible to know Him completely, there is great blessing in all we learn (cf. II Pet. 3:18).

One of the great blessings of these discoveries is growing confidence in prayer. The more we know of the One to whom we’re praying, the greater will be our assurance that He understands us, and will answer according to His wisdom and love. That is seen in this hymn by Fanny Crosby.

CH-1) Blessèd Redeemer, full of compassion,
Great is Thy mercy, boundless and free;
Now in my weakness, seeking Thy favour,
Lord, I am coming closer to Thee.

Blessèd Redeemer, wonderful Saviour,
Fountain of wisdom, Ancient of Days,
Hope of the faithful, Light of all ages,
Jesus my Saviour, Thee will I praise.

CH-2) Blessèd Redeemer, Thou art my Refuge,
Under Thy watch-care, safe I shall be;
Gladly adoring, joyfully trusting,
Still I am coming closer to Thee.

Questions:
1) What have you recently learned about the Lord–or felt more strongly about Him than before?

2) What qualities of the Lord do you find most encouraging in times of prayer?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | September 11, 2017

Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus

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

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: George Duffield Jr. (b. Sept. 12, 1818; d. July 6, 1888)
Music: Webb, by George James Webb (b. June 24, 1803; d. Oct. 7, 1887)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article on this hymn, see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: American George Duffield became a Presbyterian clergyman like his father. Pastor Duffield, at the bedside of a dying man, had asked if he had any message for others. His reply was, “Tell them to stand up for Jesus.” Duffield not only passed on those words, he wrote a hymn expressing them.

To stand for something, or stand up and be counted, is to publicly declare support for someone of something–even if doing so requires a personal sacrifice of some kind.

Many Christians have done that through the twenty centuries of the Christian era, and many are still doing so. To stand up and identify yourself as a follower of Christ may make you unpopular, and it could lead to various kinds of social strictures and ostracism. In the extreme, it has led to martyrdom.

In the Roman Empire, Christians were executed as common criminals by crucifixion or by being thrown to wild beasts in the Colosseum. Cruel emperors delighted in novel ways of killing Christians. Nero introduced twilight executions where Christians were nailed to crosses and burned alive as torches to light public spectacles.

Early Christians used the Latin word sacramentum to describe believer’s baptism. It was the word used by a Roman soldier of his oath of absolute devotion and obedience to his general. For those who had put their faith in Christ, baptism became a public stand for Christ, despite the cost.

Centuries later, a guide was giving some travelers a tour of the Colosseum. He told how many Christians had died there to entertain the ravening crowd. The visitors asked whether relics [personal possessions, etc.] of these saints could still be obtained. The guide replied, “Gather the dust of the Colosseum; it is all the martyrs.”

Stephen was apparently the first Christian martyr (Acts 7:59), but he has been followed by a noble host of others. Amazingly, a young man named Saul was complicit in the death of Stephen (vs. 18), and went on to persecute the church of Christ (Acts 8:1; 9:1-2). But he put his faith in Christ and was transformed. Later known as Paul, he wrote this:

“In nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:20-21; cf. Acts 26:22).

And most of the churches that received letters from him were told to stand firm, whatever the cost.

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong” (I Cor. 16:13, NIV). “Stand fast [firm]…in the liberty by which Christ has made us free” (Gal. 5:1). “Stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11, 13, 14). “Stand fast in the Lord” (Phil. 1:27; 4:1; also see I Thess. 3:8; II Thess. 2:15).

This has been the determination of many ardent servants of Christ ever since, and that same spirit has been echoed in a multitude of our hymns. A few days ago I wrote an article on the song Standing on the Promises, but there are many more that make use of the standing imagery.

¤ The Solid Rock, by Edward Mote, declares “On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand.”

¤ Charles Wesley’s Soldiers of Christ Arise urges, “Stand then in His great might.”

¤ In the great hymn How Firm a Foundation the Lord says, “I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand.”

¤ And Philip Bliss’s Dare to Be a Daniel hails those who are “Standing by a purpose true,” and “dare to stand alone.”

This is merely a small sampling, but we conclude with George Duffield’s Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus.

CH-1) Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
Ye soldiers of the cross;
Lift high His royal banner,
It must not suffer loss.
From victory unto victory
His army shall He lead,
Till every foe is vanquished,
And Christ is Lord indeed.

CH-6) Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
The strife will not be long;
This day the noise of battle,
The next the victor’s song.
To him who overcometh
A crown of life shall be;
He with the King of Glory
Shall reign eternally.

Questions:
1) Have you recently faced some kind of opposition or criticism for your Christian stand?

2) How did you handle it?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article on this hymn, see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | September 8, 2017

How Sad Our State by Nature Is

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

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Isaac Watts (b. July 17, 1674; d. Nov. 25, 1748)
Music: Southwell (or Irons), by Herbert Stephen Irons (b. Jan, 19, 1834; d. June 29, 1905)

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

Note: Isaac Watts was both a pastor and a prominent hymn writer–in fact, he’s considered the Father of English Hymnody. And he was determined not to gloss over sin, but to call it what it is, a vile abomination to a holy God. Some churches today, bent on emphasizing the positive and making each church service a happy experience, shy away from some of his songs (or others like them). But their strong medicine is needed all the same.

Perhaps you’ve said it yourself in disciplining a child–said it with exasperated impatience, “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times not to do that.” Which being interpreted means: “If I’ve told you once, I [might as well] have told you a thousand times [for all the good it’s done].”

Christian psychologist Henry Brandt asked a group of parents, “How long does it take us to teach a boy to tidy his room?” His answer, after a pause, “Twenty years!” which brought the laughter of recognition from his audience. Yes, some things have to be repeated over and over, before we learn them and apply them consistently.

That relates to our hymn singing in church. “Let [literally, keep on letting] the word of Christ [or God’s Word] dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace [or thanksgiving] in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16).

We are to keep on filling our minds with Scripture, allowing it to bear fruit in our lives as we assimilate and apply it. And that practice should both inform and motivate our hymn singing. Our sacred songs are meant to reinforce the teachings of God’s Word. We don’t just sing them as an empty ritual, or because it’s a traditional part of what we do in church. Our singing is to be intentional. We’re singing our thanks and praise to God, and also singing to one another, to teach, exhort, and encourage those around us.

Years ago, a strongly worded hymn by Isaac Watts was to be sung in an evening service with an interesting result. Pastor Spencer announced the hymn, reading the words first, so the congregation could think about them. (A worthy practice.)

CH-1) How sad our state by nature is!
Our sin, how deep it stains!
And Satan binds our captive souls
Fast in his slavish chains.

CH-2) But hark! a voice of sovereign grace
Sounds from the sacred Word;
“Ho, ye despairing sinners, come,
And trust upon the Lord!”

CH-3) My soul obeys the Almighty’s call,
And runs to this relief;
I would believe Thy promise, Lord;
O help my unbelief!

CH-4) To the blest fountain of Thy blood,
Incarnate God, I fly;
Here let me wash my spotted soul
From sins of deepest dye.

Dr. Spencer almost hesitated to finish his reading, because he knew there was, in the congregation, a young woman who was deeply troubled about her spiritual condition. How would she handle the last stanza in which the hymn writer calls himself, “a guilty, weak, and helpless worm”? Well, she left at the end of the service without speaking to him–possibly a bad sign.

But the next day she came to see her pastor to say she’d made a great discovery. “I have never been so happy before,” she said. “All is light to me now. I see my way clear, and am not burdened and troubled as I was.” After Pastor Spencer had read the hymn, she’d apparently sat in the pew reading it over and over. “I did not hear your prayer. I did not hear a word of your sermon–I do not know your text.”

Here is Watts’s final stanza of the hymn through which her heart found peace.

CH-6) A guilty, weak, and helpless worm,
Into Thy hands I fall;
Be Thou my strength and righteousness,
My Saviour, and my all.

“Why sir,” she said simply, “don’t you think the reason we don’t get out of darkness sooner is that we don’t believe?” The pastor realized this simple truth was something that had been “told to her a thousand times,” but it needed to be said again–which is one job of our hymns. And at last she got it!

Sometimes the simplicity of the gospel can almost discourage us. We feel there must be something more to it. One time a young man wrestled for hours in prayer, not sensing that he had done enough to be saved. Finally, he said, “Well, it’s all of no use. I have done all I can do.” But that’s just the point! It’s not up to what we can do at all, but accepting what Christ has already done on our behalf (Acts 16:30-31).

Questions:
1) Do you have the confidence that you have received God’s forgiveness and eternal salvation? If not, check out the article God’s Plan of Salvation.

2) Why is it that we want to complicate things and add certain works to the offer of God’s grace?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | September 6, 2017

As the Deer

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

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: a meditation on Psalm 42:1 by Martin L. Nystrom (b. Oct. 17, 1956, some erroneously have 1957)
Music: Martin L. Nystrom

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

Note: Hymnary.org has more detail on Nystrom’s biography. His is a popular contemporary version of the opening of Psalm 42. A longer, metrical version of the psalm from 1562 is As Pants the Hart for Cooling Streams.

Thirst. It’s something we’re familiar with. On a hot day, or after physical exertion, our mouth is dry, and we may even feel a little light-headed, or find our muscles cramping. We want and need something to drink.

The body’s thirst monitor in the brain is the hypothalamus, an organ that also regulates such things as body temperature, sleep, and appetite. When sodium levels in the body are high–for example, after we eat a salty snack–the message is sent out that we need to drink something. The same thing happens when blood pressure drops to a low level (suggesting a lack of fluids in the body).

Surprisingly, this sensitivity decreases with advancing age, sometimes to the point where the individual loses the sense of thirst completely. Or, the opposite can happen. Certain diseases or conditions cause an extreme and uncontrollable thirst.

The word “thirst” itself has been around for centuries, and it’s been used since the early thirteenth century, not only of a physical craving, but of emotional desires as well. With reference to the emotions, thirst describes an ardent desire, a yearning, a craving or passion for someone or something. A person may thirst in this way for knowledge, or for truth. Or strongly desire the presence and affection of another individual. When the latter is not controlled by dependence on God and moral convictions it can become sinful lust.

The Bible uses the word thirst many times. Sometimes a physical thirst is in view. The Israelites thirsted for water in their journey through the wilderness (Exod. 17:3). The Lord Jesus thirsted during His agony on the cross (Jn. 19:28). And in describing the hardships of his missionary work, the Apostle Paul spoke of being “in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst” (II Cor. 11:27).

But the thirst God’s Word describes as more significant is emotional and spiritual. In warning of coming judgment on Israel, the Lord says, “I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11). And in the Beatitudes, Christ says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matt. 5:6).

In John’s Gospel, we learn that eternal life comes through a spiritual birth, which is an inner work of the Holy Spirit, a ministry symbolized by water. Jesus says, “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (Jn. 4:14). And later, “Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink’” (Jn. 7:37; cf. Isa. 44:3).

In Psalms, David uses thirst as poetic imagery to express his intense longing for fellowship with God.

“Early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water” (Ps. 63:1).

“As the deer pants for the water brooks [perhaps as it flees from a hunter], so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Ps. 42:1-2).

It is these last verses that Martin Nystrom turned into a hymn in 1984. A Seattle school teacher in his mid-twenties, Marty enrolled in a six-week summer course in Dallas, chiefly so he could get to know a girl who was also taking the course. However, things didn’t work out romantically with her, and he was heart-broken and discouraged. It was then, after a period of fasting and prayer, he said, “My spirit became more and more hungry for communion with God.”

Sitting at the piano with this heart desire, he wrote a musical setting for Psalm 42:1. Ten years later he was thrilled to hear a gathering of 100,000 believers in Seoul, Korea, sing his song, which begins:

As the deer panteth for the water,
So my soul longeth after You.
You alone are my heart’s desire,
And I long to worship You.

Significantly, given Nystrom’s prior romantic disappointment, the second stanza of his hymn says, “I love You more than any other,” and, in the final stanza, “only You can satisfy.”

Questions:
1) Do you have a deep thirst or hunger for God, and His Word?

2) If you do, how does it express itself? (If you don’t, what might be the reason?)

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

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