Posted by: rcottrill | November 24, 2017

We Saw Thee Not

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 Hampden Gurney (b. Aug. 15, 1802; d. Mar. 8, 1862)
Music: Knowles Shaw (b. Oct. 31, 1834; d. June 7, 1878)

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

Note: John Gurney was a British pastor. He is credited with publishing the final version of the hymn in 1851. The Cyber Hymnal says it’s a revision of a poem by Anne Rigby Richter, who died in 1857. However, W. J. Limmer Sheppard, in his book Great Hymns and Their Stories (1923) says the original was a poem by an unknown American poet, later revised in 1834 by a Mrs. Carus-Wilson, then still later by Gurney. Evangelist and song writer Knowles Shaw who composed the tune is best known for Bringing in the Sheaves.

How much of this old world’s history have you lived through? Twenty or thirty years? Seventy or eighty years? That’s not much of the totality of recorded history. It goes back thousands of years. Wouldn’t it be amazing to travel back through time and witness some events of the past?

Novelists have frequently made use of that theme. The Time Machine (1895), by English author H. G. Wells, became not only a popular book but a Hollywood film. In it, the central character actually moves forward in time, and he’s discouraged to find a dark and dangerous society up ahead. Madeleine L’Engle’s award winning novel, A Wrinkle in Time (1962), was a children’s adventure about time travel. And Jack Finney’s classic book, Time and Again (1970) is a romantic adventure about traveling back to New York City, in the 1880’s.

But these books and others like them are all fiction. What about seeing and hearing real history? In the nineteenth century the means of taking still photographs and, later, movies, were invented. Experimental sound recording began in 1860, and movies with sound in 1900–though it took more than two decades for the latter to become workable at a commercial level. Of earlier times than this we have only written records.

Of special significance to Christians is the fact that we have no photographs of the Lord Jesus, or sound recordings of His teaching. (Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we did!) But we do have the trustworthy record of the Bible, particularly the four Gospels that describe His days on this earth, books that include some extended times of teaching, such as the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5–7).

But there’s something unusual about those four biographies that some may not have noticed. Though they cover the entire time Christ was on earth, all the way from before His birth to His ascension back into heaven again, much of the Gospel record deals with a single week of His life. In all, nearly a third (32.75%) of the Gospels is taken up with the Passion Week, from Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, to His death and resurrection a week later.

There was an incident at the time of Jesus’ resurrection that illustrates the issue of not being personally present to experience or confirm a historical event. The Lord appeared to His disciples at a time when one of them, Thomas, was absent, perhaps purchasing food or doing some other errand. When he returned, the others excitedly told him they had seen the risen Christ. But Thomas said he could not believe it.

“Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (Jn. 20:25).

Then, days later, Christ visited the disciples once more, when Thomas was present. He was then convinced (vs. 27-28). But the Lord gently chided him for his reluctance to believe, saying, ““Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (vs. 29)–which includes each one of us, today.

We were not actually there. Separated by nearly two thousand years from those events, we know about them through the inspired record. We’re those who, Jesus says, “will believe in Me through their words” (Jn. 17:20). Among the New Testament authors, Peter and John were witnesses of those long-ago events.

“We did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty [at His Transfiguration]” (II Pet. 1:16).

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life [Christ]…that which we have seen and heard we declare to you” (I Jn. 1:1, 3a).

The present hymn is based on the Lord’s comment to Thomas in John 20:29. The song describes different events in Jesus life, saying, “We saw Thee not…but we believe.”

CH-1) We saw Thee not when Thou didst come
To this poor world of sin and death;
Nor yet beheld Thy cottage home,
In that despisèd Nazareth.
But we believe Thy footsteps trod
Its streets and plains, Thou Son of God.

CH-2) We did not see Thee lifted high,
Amid that wild and savage crew;
Nor heard Thy meek, imploring cry,
“Forgive, they know not what they do!”
Yet we believe the deed was done,
That shook the earth and veiled the sun.

CH-3) We stood not by the empty tomb,
Where late Thy sacred body lay;
Nor sat within that upper room,
Nor met Thee on the open way.
But we believe that angels said,
“Why seek the living with the dead?”

May we be among those who see Him, by faith and, “though now [we] do not see Him [physically], yet believing, [we] rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (I Pet. 1:8).

Questions:
1) Other than Christ’s death and resurrection, which scene during His earthly stay would you most wish you had witnessed?

2) Is there a special way we are blessed by having to trust in God’s Word, rather than being there to see Christ at the time?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | November 22, 2017

Pray, Always Pray

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: Edward Henry Bickersteth, Jr. (b. Jan. 25, 1825; d. May 16, 1906)
Music: Pax Tecum, by George Thomas Caldbeck (b. _____, 1852; d. Jan. 29, 1918)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Edward Bickersteth)
The Cyber Hymnal (Edward Bickersteth)
Hymnary.org

Note: Edward Bickersteth was a pastor, hymn writer, and hymn book editor. He wrote at least thirty hymns. The tune for the present hymn is also used with another of his songs, Peace, Perfect Peace.

After traveling through the Canadian North in the 1880’s, pioneering anthropologist Franz Boas claimed the Eskimos (Inuit) had fifty different words for snow–hard snow, soft snow, heavy snow, light snow, icy snow, watery snow, and so on. Boas’s claim was debated for a time, but more recent study has proven him right.

Living with an abundance of snow for most of the year led the people to adopt words that made important distinctions in what they were dealing with. It’s surely the same with many different areas of expertise. A doctor, for example, will have many different and distinguishing terms for a pain, or a cough. Defining these conditions more precisely points the way to the most effective treatment.

In the spiritual realm, the Bible’s discussion of prayer similarly uses many different terms. Some form of the word “prayer” is found there more than three hundred times. But there are other words too: supplication, intercession, confession, worship, praise, thanksgiving, plus more general words–ask, seek, plead, and so on–that may be related to prayer.

However, that’s not to suggest that the subject is complicated and difficult to understand. In simple terms, prayer is talking to God. Even a child can grasp that, and children can pray sincerely and meaningfully. Prayer is one half of a conversation with God, of which the Bible, in which He speaks to us, is the other half.

Prayers can be audible or silent. Even a wordless cry of anguish lifted heavenward, in a time of severe trial, can be a prayer. We should all have a set time each day to read God’s Word and pray, but we can also talk to God through the day, sending up flash prayers of gratitude or expressing a need.

Prayers can be private or public, formal (even written down) or informal (off the cuff). There are examples in the Word of God of people praying standing up, kneeling down, lying in bed, or even chained in prison. Jonah is unique in that he prayed to the Lord from the belly of a great sea creature (Jon. 2:1-9)!

Prayer is a definite act, not just an attitude. But it’s founded on an attitude of faith, trust and confidence in God, and on the many promises of God. Scripture says:

“Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6).

The Lord Jesus taught His followers that they should pray in His name (Jn. 16:24), that is in His authority–just as we take a cheque to the bank and ask for money on the authority of the one who has signed it. “For through Him [Christ] we both [Jew and Gentile] have access by one Spirit to the Father” (Eph. 2:18).

This hymn of Pastor Bickersteth’s, little known now, is called Pray, Always Pray. It presents, in seven short stanzas, many important truths about our subject. The title phrase is repeated in every stanza, urging us to pray. This is in accord with the Bible which says, “Men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Lk. 18:1), and “pray without ceasing [i.e. habitually]” (I Thess. 5:17).

Here are some stanzas of the hymn, with Scriptures inserted relating to the points covered.

1) Pray, always pray; the Holy Spirit pleads
Within thee all thy daily, hourly needs. [Rom. 8:26]

2) Pray, always pray; beneath sin’s heaviest load,
Prayer sees the blood from Jesus’ side that flowed. [Eph. 1:7]

4) Pray, always pray; amid the world’s turmoil,
Prayer keeps the heart at rest, and nerves for toil. [Phil. 4:6-7]

5) Pray, always pray; if joys thy pathway throng,
Prayer strikes the harp, and sings the angels’ song. [Ps. 28:7]

7) All earthly things with earth shall pass away;
Prayer grasps eternity; pray, always pray. [II Cor. 5:1; Rev. 21:1-5]

Questions:
1) Do you ever say to someone, “I’ll pray for you about that”? (Great! But, if so, make sure you keep your promise.)

2) Do you have a prayer list to remind you to pray about various things? (If not, how about jotting one down.)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Edward Bickersteth)
The Cyber Hymnal (Edward Bickersteth)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | November 20, 2017

A Passion for Souls

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: Herbert George Tovey (b. May 6, 1888; d. Mar. 20, 1972)
Music: Foss Luke Fellers (b. May 4, 1887; d. June 16, 1924)

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

Note: Herbert Tovey was an American pastor and musician, and taught at a number of colleges. He established the Sacred Music Foundation, which published several collections of Christian songs, and wrote a number of gospel songs and tunes himself. His book, Applied Song Directing, gives practical help to service leaders and choir directors. It was very useful to me as a young man, when charged with the direction of our church choir.

A survey was conducted by Forbes Magazine. One hundred women in their thirties were asked: What are you passionate about? The top answer was, “Being a good daughter, mother, sister, wife/partner, aunt, granddaughter, friend and member of the community.” Second was, “Living a life filled with meaning and finding the balance to enjoy their lives.”

A few more things high up on the list of what these women were most passionate about; health, nutrition and exercise; professional success; gender equality–helping other women to be successful; learning, both personally and professionally; and supporting causes that are meaningful to them.

Back to that list in a moment. It’s revealing. But it will be helpful to think about what it means to be passionate. Passion is a strong and compelling emotion (for example, love or hate). It involves qualities such as longing, desire, craving, enthusiasm, and excitement. In a negative sense passion can be an immoral lusting after something we have no right to have.

The latter seems to be the way the Bible most often speaks of it. When people turned from the living God to worship idols, Scripture says, “God gave them up to vile passions” (Rom. 1:26). And “each of you should know how to possess his own vessel [his body] in sanctification and honour, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God” (I Thess 4:4-5).

But it’s certainly possible to have a strong and compelling emotion–to be passionate–in a good and godly sense too. The Apostle Paul says, “the love of Christ compels [urges, impels, continually constrains]” believers to live “for Him who died for them” (II Cor. 5:14-15). Phillips’ paraphrase says, “The very spring of our actions is the love of Christ.”

Strikingly, and sadly, this did not make the list anywhere in the things the women surveyed were passionate about. Imagine! Women keen to be successful, and with many fine goals. Yet no room for the Lord Jesus Christ who loved them so much He came to this earth to die, paying the penalty for all their sins.

After all God has done for us, in saving us, and blessing us in so many other ways, we ought to “Serve the Lord with gladness [with joy and pleasure]” (Ps. 100:2). “Never lag in zeal and in earnest endeavour; be aglow and burning with the Spirit, serving the Lord” (Rom. 12:11, Amplified Bible).

One particular aspect of that service is our witness for Christ. When one has experienced the joy of God’s forgiveness, through Christ (Eph. 1:7), and the promise of an eternal home in heaven (Jn. 3:16; 14:2-3, 6), it makes sense that he or she will want to share that with others, and invite them to put their faith in the Saviour. We have passions for many things in life–enjoyable things, fun things. Music, football, fancy cars, chocolate, and more. Why not that?

Herbert Tovey thought so. In the early years of the twentieth century, he was a young student at Moody Bible Institute, in Chicago. One of the requirements for the students was to speak to someone about Christ, at least once each week. This meant leaving the classrooms and dorms behind, and going out into the busy city streets to share their faith.

Perhaps Tovey found this difficult, or at least it wasn’t a compelling desire of his heart. But he prayed for a loving concern for lost sinners, and he wrote one of his first gospel songs about that. A prayer for the kind of passion that would motivate him to reach out to those in need of Christ. A music teacher at the school provided the tune.

CH-1) Give me a passion for souls, dear Lord,
A passion to save the lost;
O that Thy love were by all adored,
And welcomed at any cost.

Jesus, I long, I long to be winning
Men who are lost, and constantly sinning;
O may this hour be one of beginning
The story of pardon to tell.

CH-3) How shall this passion for souls be mine?
Lord, make Thou the answer clear;
Help me to throw out the old life line
To those who are struggling near.

Questions:
1) How long has it been since you talked to someone about what the Lord means to you?

2) What are some ways you can aid in the cause of evangelism, either through your church, or by helping some other agency or individual?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | November 17, 2017

Only a Few More Years

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: Philip Paul Bliss (b. July 9, 1838; d. Dec. 29, 1876)
Music: Philip Paul Bliss

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Philip Bliss)
The Cyber Hymnal (Philip Bliss)
Hymnary.org

Note: P. P. Bliss was one of the most outstanding gospel musicians of the nineteenth century. He wrote words and music for many songs, and also provided tunes for words written by others. A few of the many songs he gave us: Hallelujah, What a Saviour; Wonderful Words of Life; I Will Sing of My Redeemer; The Light of the World Is Jesus; Jesus Loves Even Me; and More Holiness Give Me.

Sadly, the man’s life was cut short by a terrible accident. When they were returning home from a Christmas holiday, the train the Blisses were traveling on crashed and burned, killing more than a hundred people. Bliss died trying to rescue his wife from the burning railway car. He was only thirty-eight. In his trunk, afterward, was found a slip of paper with the beginning of a new song: “I know not what awaits me, God kindly veils my eyes…” True, not only for him, but for each of us.

American author Mark Twain once claimed that, as a practical joke, he sent a dozen of his friends a telegram that said, “Flee at once. All is discovered,” adding, “They all left town immediately!” It was not that Twain knew anything incriminating about them. But they each applied the message according to what they knew about themselves.

Then there was the politician, around the same time, who had a standard question he asked someone he’d met before, but couldn’t remember who he or she was. He simply asked, “How’s the old complaint?” and could be guaranteed a long and revealing description of some trouble or other–because we all have them.

Sometimes messages will be read in different ways by different people. Even when the meaning intended by the author remains the same–and it’s clear to him, its application to us is affected by our own knowledge and experiences, and our own circumstances. All of this applies to the present hymn by Philip Bliss.

It’s a song published in one of his books for the Sunday School. And it’s very brief– three short stanzas, fewer than sixty words in total. It will be helpful to see the full hymn to consider its application to us. Philip Bliss entitled it Soon and Forever. Above it, in an early publication, are the Bible’s words, “The time is short” (I Cor. 7:29).

1) Only a few more years,
Only a few more cares;
Only a few more smiles and tears,
Only a few more prayers.

2) Only a few more wrongs,
Only a few more sighs;
Only a few more earthly songs,
Only a few goodbyes.

3) Then an eternal stay,
Then an eternal throng;
Then an eternal, glorious day,
Then an eternal song.

As the Bible verse quoted says it: “Time is short”–and we don’t really know how short. We may not have much longer to do things that have been a part of our lives for years. And when you think about it, there’s a message in the song that applies to various needs.

¤ It should speak to lost sinners, especially in the first two stanzas. The opportunity to turn to Christ and be saved is not endless. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (II Cor. 6:2). The grace of God is boundless, but will not be offered forever. Not much longer. “Only a few more…” Then what?

¤ There’s also a message there for suffering saints. Times may be difficult, but a better day is coming, a day of glory and eternal song. “Therefore we do not lose heart….For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (II Cor. 4:16-17).

¤ Finally, there is a message there for the servants of God–which every Christian should be, in one way or another. We need a sense of urgency. How much longer do we have to work and witness for Him, before the Lord brings down the curtain on this old world’s history? Will we say with Paul, “The time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (II Tim. 4:6-7)? May it be so.

Questions:
1) Which of the three applications mentioned relates most closely to you?

2) How will you respond to the message of the song?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Philip Bliss)
The Cyber Hymnal (Philip Bliss)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | November 15, 2017

O Lord and Master of Us All

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 Greenleaf Whittier (b. Dec. 17, 1807; d. Sept. 7, 1892)
Music: St. Anne, by William Croft (b. Dec. _____, 1678; d. Aug. 14, 1727)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (John Whittier)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: New England poet John Greenleaf Whittier didn’t consider himself a hymn writer, saying he had no knowledge of music. Even so, several hymns have come from his poems. The hymn O Lord and Master of Us All consists of a number of verses taken from a much longer poem entitled “Our Master.”

It should also be noted that different hymnals have used different verses of the original poem, causing the hymn to look quite different from book to book. And at least one hymnal has the last line of stanza nine as the more expected “the Life, the Truth the Way” (Jn. 14:6).

The tune St. Anne is commonly used with Isaac Watts’s O God, Our Help in Ages Past.

The saying, “You can’t see the forest for the trees,” has been around at least since the fourteenth century. It portrays a person in the middle of a forest, who can see the trees around him, and may even make a careful study of some. But from his point of view he’s unable to appreciate the immensity and grandeur of the forest as a whole. To do that, he must go back (or above) some distance.

It points to the difficulty of one who can get so involved in the details and complexities of his subject that he fails to appreciate the main point, or misses the big picture. For example, consider an orchestra performing Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony (the Pastoral Symphony).

¤ A newspaper reporter is there so he can write an article for his paper. He notes that the horn section in the first movement seems too loud, and the violins come in too soon at bar thirty-four. But he describes the depiction of the storm in the fourth movement as particularly well done.

¤ Another who attends the concert is herself a composer. She’s there to study the sonata format of the second movement, and note how it transitions into the scherzo of the third movement.

¤ But what of the one who simply delights in listening to good music? The music lover who attends likely notices none of the things mentioned. He’s there to enjoy the music, to simply let it wash over him, feeling it’s changing moods, and delighting in the experience.

It’s not that the purposes of the first two individuals are unworthy, or of no value. Examining every tree in the forest has its place. But so has the appreciation of the forest in broader terms.

This has its application to the Christian faith. There are 783,137 words in the King James Version of our Bible. And every word is important. It’s all God’s true and trustworthy Word, worthy of our study. But we mustn’t lose sight of the essential message of faith and obedience, sin and salvation, and the centrality of Christ in it all (Lk. 24:26-27, 44-45).

In Whittier’s hymn, he turns us from the many learned volumes about various details of theology, and from the systems, and symbols of various churches and denominations. Whatever “our name or sign,” he paints the Christian faith in broader strokes. To Whittier, the big picture is to follow Christ, the One who calls Himself the Light (Jn. 8:12), the Truth and the Way (Jn. 14:6). The Apostle Paul states it simply: “For me to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:21).

It’s not at all that the details of theology are unimportant. There is a place to study Bible doctrines and know them well. There is a place for symbols and rituals too, if they represent the reality of the Christian faith, and the gospel.

And what is that? The Christian gospel rests upon a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and the faith and confession that He died to pay the penalty for our sins. Without that, doctrine is dead, and symbols become empty playacting.

CH-1) O Lord and Master of us all,
Whate’er our name or sign,
We own Thy sway, we hear Thy call,
We test our lives by Thine.

CH-7) Apart from Thee all gain is loss,
All labour vainly done;
The solemn shadow of the cross
Is better than the sun.

CH-8) Our Friend, our Brother, and our Lord,
What may Thy service be?
Nor name, nor form, nor ritual word,
But simply following Thee.

CH-9) We faintly hear, we dimly see,
In differing phrase we pray;
But dim or clear, we own in Thee
The Light, the Truth, the Way.

Questions:
1) What does the poet mean by saying, “The solemn shadow of the cross is better than the sun”?

2) What is the author trying to convey by saying “in differing phrase we pray”?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (John Whittier)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | November 13, 2017

Look to the Lamb of God

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: Henry Godden Jackson (b. Jan. 1, 1838; d. Nov. 10, 1914)
Music: James Milton Black (b. Aug. 19, 1856; d. Dec, 21, 1938)

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

Note: Henry Godden Jackson and his wife spent many years in Buenos Aires, Argentina, serving as Christian missionaries. After returning to the States, they lived in the area of Chicago. Jackson wrote quite a few hymns, many of them in Spanish. He based the gospel song we’re considering here on John the Baptist’s announcement of Jesus quoted below. The tune was composed by James Black, who also gave us the song When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder.

Some animals have remarkable eyesight. It’s said that an eagle can spot a rabbit 3.2 kms (2 miles) away. But which human being has the sharpest vision? Years ago, the testing of an unnamed Aboriginal man found he had what they called 6/1.5 sight, meaning the smallest print the average person could read he could read from four times further away.

But now, a new laser eye surgery is able to give patients what’s been called “super vision,” the ability to see fifty percent better than the best humans could formerly do by nature. Doctors say new eye charts will be needed to test this, since those with “super vision” can easily read the smallest print on the chart.

We can look with our physical eyes. But there’s also looking with our soul’s insight and perception, a kind of looking that involves giving attention to our interests and priorities. “Look to your future,” some will say, meaning think about what you’re going to do with the rest of your life. Or we could be advised, “Look to your health.” Or, “Look to your conscience.”

The Bible too talks about this kind of looking. Using the term in a negative sense, the Lord describes corrupt leaders in Israel as “greedy dogs,” saying, “They are shepherds who cannot understand; they all look to their own way, every one for his own gain” (Isa. 56:11). And in our day, who hasn’t known politicians like that–who seem to be in office mainly for what they can get out of it for themselves?

In the positive sense, we are to look to God in faith and expectant hope.

“Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, until He has mercy on us” (Ps. 123:2). That’s an appealing image of trust and confidence.

The great nineteenth century preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, put his faith in Christ in 1850, at the age of sixteen, responding to the call of God from Isaiah 45:22, “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth!” He decided, as the prophet Micah did, “Therefore I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me” (Mic. 7:7).

In the New Testament this look of faith is focused particularly on the Lord Jesus Christ. When John the Baptist introduced Him at the beginning of His public ministry, he called out:

“Behold! [Look!] The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29).

It was a way of saying, “Here is the One who’ll fulfil those Old Testament sacrifices. His will be the final and full atoning sacrifice.

The writer of Hebrews invites us to…

“Consider Him [think over what you have learned about Him]….Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher [the Source and Goal] of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2-3).

CH-1) If you from sin are longing to be free,
Look to the Lamb of God.
He to redeem you died on Calvary,
Look to the Lamb of God.

Look to the Lamb of God.
Look to the Lamb of God.
For He alone is able to save you,
Look to the Lamb of God.

CH-2) When Satan tempts and doubts and fears assail,
Look to the Lamb of God.
You in His strength shall over all prevail,
Look to the Lamb of God.

CH-4) Fear not when shadows on your pathway fall,
Look to the Lamb of God.
In joy or sorrow Christ is all in all.
Look to the Lamb of God.

Questions:
1) What or whom are you looking to, today, to meet your deepest needs?

2) What does it mean that Paul calls Jesus “our Passover” (I Cor. 5:7)?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | November 10, 2017

Lord, While for All Mankind We Pray

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 Reynell Wreford (b. Dec. 12, 1800; d. June 9, 1881)
Music: Dalehurst, by Arthur Cottman (b. circa Nov, ___, 1841; d. June 3, 1879)

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

Note: Wreford seems to have begun as a Unitarian, but there’s some evidence that he later joined the Presbyterian clergy. However, when he began to have serious problems with his voice, he retired from pastoral ministry and founded a school. He wrote A History of Presbyterian Nonconformity, in 1832. He also wrote several volumes of verse, and at least fifty-five hymns.

There is some question as to the date of his death. Another source has July 2, 1881, and still another has 1891. Historian John Julian, usually reliable in these matters, says Wreford’s death took place in 1881.

Most of the nations we know of have their own national songs. We hear some of them played at the Olympic Games, or on other occasions that bring countries together. So, what makes a good national anthem or song?

¤ The text should establish the identity of the nation, and perhaps tell a little of its history.
¤ It should glow with patriotism.
¤ Ideally, it will also have a spiritual element that recognizes the blessings of God, and includes prayers for the future.
¤ It helps too to have a tune that is uplifting, inspiring, and singable.

The English word “nation” has been used since the twelfth century. It comes from an Old French word, nacion, having to do with birth and descendants. In early years, the focus of the word was on a large group of people with a common ancestry (cf. Israel, Isa. 41:8). Later on, there was more emphasis on the nations being political and geographical entities.

After the worldwide flood wiped out all of humanity, with the exception of Noah and his family, God gave a detailed catalogue of the nations descending from Noah’s three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth (Genesis chapters 10–11).

The list of seventy nations in the tenth chapter has proven to be amazingly accurate. Using this list, and other ancient documents, British author William Cooper has been able to trace with precision the origins of the earliest Europeans. His book, After the Flood (revised in 2015) makes fascinating reading.

Though human beings, through exploration, settlement, treaty and conquest, establish themselves as national entities, the Bible makes clear that a sovereign God oversees this aspect of human history.

“When the Most High divided their inheritance to the nations, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the boundaries of the peoples” (Deut. 32:8).

This had particular significance for the nation of Israel. In the Scriptures, God assures them, nearly one hundred and fifty times that it is He who has given them the land of Canaan, in perpetuity, as their own special possession. “The Lord appeared to Abram [later called Abraham] and said, “To your descendants I will give this land” (Gen. 12:7; cf. 13:14-15).

But Deuteronomy 32:8 is not simply for Israel, it’s for all nations, asserting God’s sovereignty over them all. “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein” (Ps. 24:1). “Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the Lord your God, also the earth with all that is in it” (Deut. 10:14). “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty; for all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours”(I Chron. 29:11).

Therefore, our national songs perform a significant service when they remind us of our accountability to God, and our dependence on Him. America’s Star-Spangled Banner, and My Country ‘Tis of Thee, as well as O Canada, celebrating my own nation in the north, each end with a stanza expressing trust in God and a prayer for His aid. Katharine Lee Bates’s America the Beautiful is a true hymn, and every stanza is an insightful prayer.

But in examining each of these songs, we can see that they’re nationally specific. They can’t be sung with the same meaning by other nations. However, that’s not the case with a hymn written by English clergyman John Reynell Wreford. He produced it in recognition of Queen Victoria’s 1837 ascension to the throne, but its application to any “native land” was recognized, and it was soon included in hymnals both in Britain and America.

CH-1) Lord, while for all mankind we pray,
Of every clime and coast,
O hear us for our native land,
The land we love the most.

CH-4) Unite us in the sacred love
Of knowledge, truth, and Thee;
And let our hills and valleys shout
The songs of liberty.

CH-6) Lord of the nations, thus to Thee
Our country we commend;
Be Thou her refuge and her trust,
Her everlasting Friend.

Questions:
1) What do you especially appreciate about your native country?

2) What concerns do you have about your country that you need to pray for?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | November 8, 2017

Lead Us, O Father

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

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

Words: William Henry Burleigh (b. Feb. 12, 1812; d. Mar. 18, 1871)
Music: Langran, by James Langran (b. Nov. 10, 1835; d. June 8, 1909)

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

Note: Just after the Civil War, American poet, editor, and abolitionist William Henry Burleigh wrote a hymn, owning the nation’s weakness and appealing to God for help. While I don’t agree with his Unitarian theology, there are some good things in this hymn, which Burleigh entitled “Prayer for Guidance.” It could work as a New Year’s hymn.

It’s usually a mistake to criticize other people’s children–especially to the parents. We may think we’re being constructive and helpful, but it’s often not well received.

The same can be said for pointing out the faults of another nation. They may be justified in retorting, “That’s none of your business! Mind your own affairs!” But having said that, it might be legitimate to use another country’s troubles, with due humility, to discern instructive lessons for our own situation.

To the point, the United States, as I write this, has been facing a steady cataract of disaster and heart-wrenching tragedy. There was hurricane Harvey, followed quickly by hurricane Irma, bringing widespread destruction and flooding to southern Texas and Florida. Then came hurricane Maria, which leveled whole communities of Puerto Rico. And, as if that weren’t more than enough to bear, the worst mass shooting in modern American history was inflicted on an outdoor concert venue in Las Vegas.

Where does the fault lie for all of this? With certain individuals? With the government, or a political party? Or possibly more broadly still? Some see national disasters as a judgment of God on the spiritual drift of the nation as a whole. We must be careful of saying we can discern the mind and purposes of God in every case, but it’s true that there are times when the Lord allows adversity to get our attention, and turn our hearts toward Him.

The Bible says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach [a shame] to any people” (Prov. 14:34). And, “Happy [blessed] are the people whose God is the Lord!” (Ps. 144:15). The history of Israel shows what happens when that’s not the case (Jud. 2:12, 14). Possibly there are other more recent examples.

In 2012, historian Stephen Mansfield published a remarkable book called Lincoln’s Battle with God. In it he traces the development of President Abraham Lincoln’s faith, from his early days as an atheist and a mocker of God’s Word, through a gradual acceptance of biblical truth and to his personal commitment to the Lord.

In the years before his assassination, the president grieved over the war that was dividing his country and bringing suffering to so many. He came to believe that neither the North nor the South was free of wrongdoing in the matter, but that the calamity of war was the punishment of a righteous God upon a sinning nation, especially because of slavery. He called his people to a day of “national humiliation, fasting and prayer,” with words which likely no politician would dare to use today. He sounds a warning that has echoes of what Moses said to Israel (Deut. 8:11-20). Lincoln said:

“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us.

We have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and pray for clemency and forgiveness.”

In light of this, William Burleigh’s hymn seems especially relevant, and it surely has a message for America, and Canada, and other nations, in our own day. Especially in the second stanza (and a fourth stanza, not included here) there is an appeal at the individual level, both to young and old.

CH-1) Lead us, O Father, in the paths of peace:
Without Thy guiding hand we go astray,
And doubts appall, and sorrows still increase;
Lead us through Christ, the true and living Way.

CH-2) Lead us, O Father, in the paths of truth:
Unhelped by Thee, in error’s name we grope,
While passion stains, and folly dims our youth,
And age comes on, uncheered by faith or hope.

CH-3) Lead us, O Father, in the paths of right:
Blindly we stumble when we walk alone,
Involved in shadows of a darksome night;
Only with Thee we journey safely on.

Questions:
1) What does the Lord expect of our nation’s leaders?

2) How can we as individuals help to guide our nation in a wise and righteous path?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | November 6, 2017

Have You Any Room 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: Daniel Webster Whittle (b. Nov. 22, 1840; d. Mar. 4, 1901)
Music: Room for Jesus, by Charlie C. Williams (b. Sept. 4, 1852; d. Sept. 11, 1882)

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

Note: Major Whittle, a veteran of the Civil War, later worked for the Elgin Watch Company. Then he committed himself to serve the Lord and became a full-time evangelist. His hymn has a powerful message, not only for the unsaved, but for lukewarm believers. For the utterly amazing incident that brought about Whittle’s conversion, see the first of the Wordwise Hymns links. (And imagine the joy of those two men meeting in heaven!)

In 1959, college students, newly returned for the fall semester, decided to try answering a novel question: How many of them could stuff themselves in the Volkswagen Beetle of that day?

The car was designed for four people, with maybe room for an extra one if it’s a child. But if you aren’t expecting to drive anywhere, and a bunch of people simply pile into every nook and cranny, the students found they could manage seventeen or eighteen. And it became a fad for awhile. The current record, officially recognized, is twenty!

And what about the capacity of outdoor stadiums? The largest in North America is Michigan Stadium, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which seats 107,000–though there are claims of larger crowds there than that. The biggest in the world is the May Day Stadium in North Korea, which can hold 114,000 people.

The word “room” (from the Old English word rum) means space. To make room for something is to provide space for it.

It’s an important factor when purchasing a computer. How much information can it hold? This is calculated in bytes. A byte is a small unit of information, perhaps representing a letter of the alphabet or a single number. As the capacity of computer hard drives grows, new terms are needed to describe this “roominess.” A terabyte is one trillion bytes. Even bigger are petabytes, exabytes, zettabytes, and yottabytes. (The combined space of all the computers in the entire world does not amount to even one yottabyte.)

But we can think of room in another way too. At the personal level, it can represent our priorities and what we do with our time and our treasures. Do you make room in your busy life for times of recreation and fun? Do you make room for family time? More importantly, do you make room for the Lord?

The Bible says of the wicked, “God is in none of his thoughts” (Ps. 10:4). Such a person has no room at all for God. The Lord doesn’t figure in his plans or activities. The Lord’s will is not consulted, the Lord’s person is not honoured. But what of the more religious of us?

Some have the idea that the answer to the question involves church attendance. That attending church Sunday by Sunday is making room for the Lord–which means roughly giving God His due for one hour out of one hundred and sixty-eight each week. But that could only be “church-ianity,” not Christ-ianity.

The Christian faith involves a personal relationship with Christ. Honouring Him as we should will not only mean a commitment to church activities. It will affect how we relate to our family, and to our friends and neighbours. And it will affect how we perform at school, at work, in our leisure hours and more.

It’s the desire of God the Father that we recognize “Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:11), and that “He is Lord of all” (Acts 10:36). In Revelation, the Lord is pictured knocking on the door of a church, seeking admittance (Rev. 3:20). He also wants to be “received” into each part of our lives at the personal and individual level (Jn. 1:12).

CH-1) Have you any room for Jesus,
He who bore your load of sin?
As He knocks and asks admission,
Sinner, will you let Him in?

Room for Jesus, King of Glory!
Hasten now His Word obey;
Swing the heart’s door widely open,
Bid Him enter while you may.

CH-2) Room for pleasure, room for business,
But for Christ the Crucified,
Not a place that He can enter,
In the heart for which He died?

Questions:
1) What are the things that take up the most “room” in your life?

2) What are you doing to keep Christ central and in control in all things?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | November 3, 2017

God Is My Strong Salvation

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: James Montgomery (b. Nov. 4, 1771; d. Apr. 30, 1854)
Music: Aurelia, by Samuel Sebastian Wesley (b. Aug. 14, 1810; d. Apr. 19, 1876)

Links:

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: This is a fine hymn. The tune Aurelia, also excellent, is usually used with The Church’s One Foundation.

But if you use the song, you need to address a little problem. The word “affiance” (line three of the second stanza) means trust, or confidence. It’s related to our word fiancee, referring to a trusted pledge of marriage. It could be explained to a congregation before the hymn is sung, but there’s another solution–to replace the word with another.

The Cyber Hymnal currently substitutes the word “sustenance.” But then the line doesn’t seem to scan properly. The parallel line in the first stanza, “In darkness and temptation,” has 7 sounded syllables. “His truth will be my sustenance” has 8, unless we shorten the last word to “sust’nance” which is a little odd.

Another word that (1) retains the meaning, (2) rhymes with “reliance,” and (3) can fit the metre is “assurance.”

His truth be my assurance,
When faint and desolate.

In Charles Dickens’s wonderful story, A Christmas Carol, when Scrooge is first confronted by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, he tries to explain away the apparition. “You may be an undigested bit of beef,” he says, “a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato.”

He’s saying that what we eat can affect our perceptions, our point of view. So can other things. Illness, fatigue, or stress can do it too. Not that we necessarily begin seeing ghosts, but our understanding of how things really are is affected. We may move from happiness to discouragement, from faith to fear, simply because of such matters of human frailty.

The Bible tells us about a great king of Israel, and how his rebel son brought him into mortal danger and pierced his soul with grief. The king was David, and his wayward son was Absalom. David was a man of faith, and the Lord had led him from one triumph to another. But now he was growing old, and less able to cope with the troubles that descended upon him.

The account is found in Second Samuel, chapters 15-18, describing a period when the king experienced a roller coaster of emotions. Absalom secretly and slyly won the favour of the people over time (15:1-6), and began to organize a rebel army (15:10-12). Then the king’s close friend and counselor Ahithophel deserted David and joined Absalom, and the king fled from Jerusalem (15:13-14).

When Absalom entered the city and tried to establish his reign (16:15-16), David responded not as one with a God-given right to the throne, or as one concerned for the welfare of the nation. His main worry, as a doting father, was that his son wouldn’t get hurt. “Deal gently…with the young man Absalom,” he said (18:5). But David’s forces knew Absalom was a danger to the people, and they killed him (18:15). With that, the king was stricken with grief at the loss of his son (18:33).

In all this David’s faith was severely tried, and he wrestled with fears. Some scholars have suggested that he wrote Psalm 27 during this period. It’s a beautiful expression of triumphant faith, except for a jarring change of mood in verse 7. Critics have claimed that maybe the centre section was written by someone else, and the two passages patched together.

However, this theory fails to taken into account a couple of things. First, that it’s not that unusual for David’s psalms to contain dramatic changes of mood. And second, that this struggle of the king fits human experience–our own experience. Moments of strong faith are sometimes interrupted by an attack of doubt and desperation. Listen to David’s cry for help:

“Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice! Have mercy also upon me, and answer me…. Do not hide Your face from me; do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my help; do not leave me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation” (Ps. 27:7, 9).

We can identify with times like that. The important thing is that, as the psalm ends, David sounds a note of hope for us all: “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart” (vs. 14).

“Waiting” involves trust, patience and attentiveness, with a readiness to respond, as the Lord reveals the next step. Waiting, in this context, does not necessarily mean inactivity. It means looking to the Lord, even as we are involved in life and our service for Him.

In 1822, newspaper editor and hymn writer James Montgomery produced a hymn on this psalm, focusing particularly on the first few verses and the last. It’s a brief hymn, but it has a stirring and encouraging message. (See the earlier note for the word “affiance.”)

CH-1) God is my strong salvation;
What foe have I to fear?
In peril and temptation
My Light, my Help, is near.
Though hosts encamp around me,
Firm to the fight I stand;
What terror can confound me,
With God at my right hand?

CH-2) Place on the Lord reliance;
My soul, with courage wait;
God’s truth be thine affiance*
When faint and desolate.
God’s might thy heart shall strengthen,
God’s love thy joy increase;
Mercy thy days shall lengthen;
The Lord will give thee peace.

Questions:
1) What do you think David means in Psalm27:1 when he says, “the Lord is my light”?

2) Is there something for which you are currently “waiting” on the Lord (see the definition of the word above)?


Links:

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

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