THE PURPOSE OF THIS BLOG

I am the song leader in my church. I am not very proficient as a musician or a choral director. I pray that, someday soon, God will send someone more capable, to take this ministry from me. But for the time being it is my responsibility to select the music and lead the congregation in the singing every week.

I take that responsibility seriously. The hymns and songs that I select must be doctrinally sound, they must be appropriate for worship with a God-centered worldview, and, withing those parameters, I try to select music that will reinforce and, support the text and subject of my pastor’s messages.

Some of us have been singing the hymns for years; the words roll off our lips but the messages often don't engage our minds or penetrate our hearts. With the apostle Paul, I want the congregation to "sing with understanding."

So for the past couple years, it has been my practice to select one hymn each week, research it, and then highlight it with a short introductory commentary so that the congregation will be more informed regarding the origin, the author's testimony, or the doctrinal significance of the hymns we sing.

It is my intention here with this blog, to archive these hymn commentaries for my reference and to make them freely available to other church song leaders. For ease of reference, all the hymn commentaries in this blog will be titled IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. Other posts (which will be music ministry related opinion pieces) will be printed in lower case letters.

I know that some of the comments contain traces of my unique style, but please feel free to adapt them and use the content any way you can for the edification of your congregation and to the glory of God.

All I ask is that you leave a little comment should you find something helpful.


Ralph M. Petersen

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Thursday, March 31, 2016

*MY HOPE IS IN THE LORD

"Hope,” is a word we tend to use as a synonym for a wish or a desire.  But in Scripture, the word is better defined as the joyful certainty of a future reality.  It is a “know so” confidence in the faithfulness of a reliable and never-changing God and His never-changing Word.

MY HOPE IS IN THE LORD, a hymn written by Norman Clayton, gives us, in four short verses, a clear, biblical declaration of the Gospel of grace.  As a general rule, I try to avoid most Christian songs that have an abundance of, first person, personal pronouns when selecting music for our Sunday worship services.  This one is different.
It is significant to note that this song is personal; and although it is full of the personal pronouns MY, and ME, there is not one single occurrence of the word, I.  This song is really NOT about ME.  The subject of the song is my hope, who is my Lord and my Savior.  

The first verse properly affirms that MY hope rests in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He willingly gave His life on the cross to pay MY debt of sin.  And then, because He rose from the dead, MY hope is a “living hope” in a “living Savior.”

The second verse makes it very clear that the saving work of Christ is not just any hope in the modern, wishful thinking sense; it’s MY ONLY hope.  I can never be good enough to earn my salvation and there is nothing I can do to secure it.  It is ONLY by God’s grace that MY sin has been laid on Him and the righteousness of Jesus Christ is credited to my account.

The third verse describes the present, intercessory work of Christ.  He is MY great High Priest in heaven.  He is seated there at the right hand of the Father, eternally proclaiming that MY debt has been paid.

Verse four declares that all this is a work of God’s amazing grace.  He planned it all and He did it freely.  His grace in saving me renders any of my effort worthless and completely irrelevant.  It is only for me to believe and receive His unearned and unmerited favor.



1.    My hope is in the Lord
Who gave Himself for me,
And paid the price of all my sin at Calvary.

2.    No merit of my own
His anger to suppress.
My only hope is found in Jesus’ righteousness.

3.    And now, for me, He stands
Before the Father’s throne.
He shows His wounded hands and names me as His own.

4.    His grace has planned it all,
’Tis mine but to believe,
And recognize His work of love and Christ receive.

(Chorus)
For me, He died,
For me, He lives,
And everlasting life and light He freely gives.



Monday, March 28, 2016

Tiptoe Through The Tulips (to the tune of "I'm A Little Teapot")

I offer this just for fun!

Eddie Eddings is a very talented and prolific cartoonist with a weird sense of humor.  He began his blog, Calvinistic Cartoons in November 2008. 

A few years ago, Eddie introduced a lyric contest for his followers. The object was to write lyrics of a theological nature to the tune of the children’s song, “I’m A Little Teapot.”


There were several contributors and a total of 16 entries. Some of them were actually quite clever.  I submitted four entries because I thought Eddie was going to award the winner a certificate like he does for his caption contests and I REALLY WANTED A CERTIFICATE.

Well, I am happy that one of my entries was the winner but I DIDN’T GIT NO STINKIN’ CERTIFICATE.  Oh well, I got over it.

My attempt at writing the winning lyrics was to articulate each of the five points of Calvinism (TULIP) in five verses. Remember, sing this to the tune of “I’m A Little Teapot.”


There really is no good in me.
I am rotten and I’m sure you will agree.
Everything I do is all about me.
That is Total Depravity.

My salvation is all of Grace,
Nothing I can offer will my sins erase.
God has chosen me for His mercy,
Election comes unconditionally.

Christ came to seek and save His own.
His death on Calvary did atone.
For all He called, His blood was shed
And only those, it’s limited.

I was on the run, I wouldn’t be found
But the Spirit tracked me like a thirsty hound.
When He caught me I could not resist
And now my soul is finally at rest.

From my sins, I have been freed.
My perseverance is guaranteed.
He has saved me to the uttermost,
And for that, I cannot boast.


Well, that was lots of fun. Thank you, Eddie Eddings.

*JOYFUL, JOYFUL, WE ADORE THEE

“Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth. Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises. Sing to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of a psalm, with trumpets and the sound of a horn; shout joyfully before the Lord, the King” (Ps. 98:4-6).


All God’s people have great reasons for rejoicing because He has blessed us in so many ways.

But not just in good times; God expects us to rejoice even in times when troubles seem to overwhelm us.  After all, most of us will never experience troubles like Job, who said, "though He slay me, yet will I trust Him!" 

The prophet Habakkuk expressed it this way:
“Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labour of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls–yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation”

Our God is Great.  We have full assurance that He does all things right and He will resolve ALL things; We have great confidence that He will deliver His people.  So then, we can rejoice in difficult times knowing that it is “…God who works ALL things together for good to those who love God; those who are called according to His purpose.”

Jesus was a perfect example for us.  During this time of year (Christmas) we are often reminded of the humility of His incarnation; how He set aside His glory and became a man.  We are all familiar with the story of His lowly birth in a dirty feeding trough.   The events around His birth were not comfortable.  In fact, it was difficult; He was a man of sorrows; He came to die.  But Hebrews 12:2 says, “He endured the cross for the JOY that was set before Him.”

Even if our circumstances aren’t especially happy or pleasant for the moment, it is always appropriate to sing great songs of Praise to the God of our salvation.

JOYFUL, JOYFUL, WE ADORE YOU

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee,
Opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day!

All Thy works with joy surround Thee,
Earth and heaven reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee,
Center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain,
Flowery meadow, flashing sea,
Singing bird and flowing fountain
 Call us to rejoice in Thee.

Thou art giving and forgiving,
Ever blessing, ever blessed,
Wellspring of the joy of living,
Ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou, our Father, Christ our Brother,
All who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other,
Lift us to the joy divine.

Mortals, join the happy chorus,
which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us,
Brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward,
 Victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us Sunward
 In the triumph song of life.



*ALLELUIA, ALLELUIA! GIVE THANKS TO THE RISEN LORD

“Alleluia, Alleluia!  Give Thanks” is probably a new song for most of us.  It has a simple, easy to sing, melody.  It is a good praise song to teach our children.  In fact, it was written to be sung responsively, by an adult on each of the five stanzas and by children on the chorus (listen to it on the video at the bottom of the page).

But it may surprise you that this song doesn’t start with a word of praise.  It starts with an imperative; an exhortation to praise. Praise is not something we say; it is something we do.

Alleluia (or Hallelujah) is a universal word; it sounds similar and means the same thing in almost every language.  The Hebrew word, when translated into English, is actually a complete sentence.  It is a command with the subject (you) understood; “(You), praise the Lord.”

One commentator said, “It is saddening to see how this majestic word has been trailed in the mire of late.  Its irreverent use is an aggravated instance of taking the name of Jehovah, our God in vain.  Let us hope that it has been done in ignorance.”   

In other words, repeating the word, Hallelujah, or even the phrase, Praise the Lord, is not praise in and of itself.  Saying it is not the same thing as doing it.

When God is the object (which He is in this command), the word, “Praise” is a verb that means to rehearse or recite His attributes, perfections, works, benefits and His provisions.   

There is an interesting phrase in 1 Peter 2:23. It says, “But You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel…”   Here in this verse is a description of God enthroned, in His sanctuary, where the praises and prayers of Israel are always and continually being offered up to Him.  God wants to hear our praises.

And the way we do that is with words.  Our voices are involved in our praises.  To praise the Lord means to acknowledge Him and give Him credit for all He has done and is doing.     

And one way we express our praises to Him is with songs of praise.  In fact, Psalm 146:2 says, “While I live I will praise the LORD; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.”

In all its simplicity, the song, ALLELUIA, ALLELUIA!  GIVE THANKS, is quite a profound song of thankful praise.  In just a few short lines, it proclaims that Jesus is Lord; He is the King of all creation.  He died on the cross for our sins, we were raised together with Him in newness of life as He rose, triumphantly, from the grave.  He is our Savior.  He is worthy of our thanks and our praise.


Alleluia, Alleluia!
Give thanks to the risen Lord.
Alleluia, alleluia! give praise to His Name.

1. Jesus is Lord of all the earth;
He is the King of creation

2. Spread the good news o'er all the earth;
Jesus has died and has risen.

3. We have been crucified with Christ.
Now we shall live forever.

4. God has proclaimed the just reward;
Life for all men, alleluia!

 5. Come let us praise the living God.
Joyfully sing to our Saviour.





Sunday, March 27, 2016

Come Just As You Are To Worship

There is no shortage of crappy and doctrinally unsound hymns and praise songs that pollute the atmosphere of the church today.  And I have had to zip my lips and hold my nose through many church services while the “worship team” led the people in multiple repetitions of feel-good, man-centered, musical happycrap. 



COME JUST AS YOU ARE TO WORSHIP 

Where did we ever get the idea that we could approach God “just as we are” and that He should be pleased to accept our worship?  That idea did not come from scripture.


I once led a Bible Study on the topic of The Laver in the outer court of the Tabernacle in the wilderness. The laver is symbolic of the Word of God and its sanctifying effect on the believer.


God spoke to Moses and said: “You shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base also of bronze, for washing. You shall put it between the tabernacle of meeting and the altar. And you shall put water in it, 19 for Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet in water from it. 20 When they go into the tabernacle of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn an offering made by fire to the LORD, they shall wash with water lest they die. 21 So they shall wash their hands and their feet lest they die. And it shall be a statute forever to them—to him and his descendants throughout their generations.” Exodus 30:17-21


Take note of the purpose of that washbasin. The priests were to wash their hands and their feet BEFORE THEY ENTERED THE TENT OF MEETING OR BEFORE THEY COULD MAKE ANY OFFERINGS TO GOD.


God expects His people to be clean before they can come to worship Him. This kind of cleansing is not for salvation; it is for daily sanctification. The cleansing by the shedding of blood was accomplished once for all at the cross (symbolized by the altar) where the Lamb of God was slain for our sins. 

But in this sinful world, we will do things and go places that will stain our hands and feet so we need regular and frequent cleansing by the Word of God before we can worship Him.  He is holy and He commands us to be holy. In His instructions to Moses, He repeated this warning two times – “they shall wash their hands and their feet LEST THEY DIE.” And furthermore, He commanded that this statute shall remain forever to Aaron and his descendants throughout their generations.

So how is it that we think we can glibly approach God with our acts of worship once a week on Sunday mornings with unconfessed sins and unrepentant lifestyles and think that He should be pleased with our noise?


There is another song with similar words but a totally different meaning; “Just As I Am.” That is the way God expects us to come to Him for forgiveness and salvation – as helpless sinners “without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me.”   That is the song of salvation.  But after that, we cannot remain just as we are.   He expects us to look into His Word and to be sanctified by it.


Okay, so I am not a model of sanctification; I know that. I’m just saying that I don’t need my head filled with false doctrines and errant man-centered philosophies learned through the music we sing.  Church leaders should take care to be just as accurate and discerning with the words in the songbook as they are with the content of their teaching.  

But maybe that’s the problem.

Feel Good Religion

"I would like to see a re-emphasis of awe and reverence in worship and a disappearance of 'feel-good religion.' 

"People who arrive in heaven in their blue jeans and short shorts are going to be struck suddenly by the necessity to fall down prostrate before the throne. We dress up for our employers from Monday to Friday, but come Sunday morning, it's only the Lord of the Universe, so anything goes. It's not so much formality, but a recognition of our place before God. I recognize that the prodigal son didn't put on a tuxedo to come back home. But once back, he bathed, shaved, and shed his "pig sty" appearance. 

"It seems to me that meshing rigorous, biblical exposition is increasingly hard with a "feel good" mood in the congregation. The preacher is at a disadvantage when everything else, including the nature of the music and the frivolity, connotes a club meeting rather than entering into the sacred presence of a thrice-holy God who is a consuming fire."

Bruce Lockerbie


Dr. Bruce Lockerbie is Chairman and CEO of PAIDEIA, Inc. (pie-day-ah), a team of consultants working with schools, colleges, seminaries, churches, and other public interest institutions. He is also Chairman of the Olympus Group, which offers counsel on sports-entertainment events and programming. He holds two degrees from New York University and for thirty-four years served on the faculty of The Stony Brook School in Long Island, New York. Upon leaving the school, he was the Thomas F. Staley Foundation Scholar-in-Residence.

Lockerbie is the author, co-author, or editor of more than three dozen books whose topics range from aesthetics and biography to family living and popular theology. His most recent volume is Dismissing God: Modern Writers' Struggle Against Religion. A frequent lecturer, he has also contributed hundreds of articles and essays to various publications.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

*LIKE A RIVER GLORIOUS

For several weeks we have been instructed, from God’s Word, as to how we can rest and live in peace during times of trouble because trouble will come to each of us. And then, this past week, the terrorist attack in San Bernardino brought a lot of nervousness and the reality of imminent danger, right here, close to home.  

In 1876, When Frances Havergal was vacationing in the south of Wales, she became very ill.  When she heard how severe her illness was, and that she might die, she replied, "If I am really going, it is too good to be true."

Her friends were amazed at how peacefully she received that information.  

She did survive and later that year she wrote this hymn, LIKE A RIVER GLORIOUS, in which she pointed to the source of her perfect peace with these words:  "Stayed (or fixed) upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blessed, Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest."

Last week I featured the hymn, “Be still My Soul?” and you may recall the illustration about how that little sparrow stayed quiet and calm in my hand?  And then, in our pastor’s sermon, he reminded us, that, whenever trouble comes, we have the assurance that we are under the mighty hand of God.

Well, in verse two of this song, the author picked up on that same imagery; 

Hidden in the hollow of His mighty Hand,
Where no harm can follow; in His strength, we stand.  
 We may trust Him fully, all for us to do.  
Those who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.


In a letter to a friend, Miss Havergal, quoting Romans 5:1, wrote, "We have peace with God," adding "It is yours already, purchased for you, made for you, sealed for you, pledged to you – by the Word of the Father and the precious blood of Jesus."

Usually, around this time of year (Christmas), we like to talk or sing about peace on Earth among human beings and we realize that peace often seems unlikely.  But for Christians, peace in the midst of chaos, or pain, or loss, or tribulation, or even persecutions is possible, not because of what we do, but because of Who God is and what He has already done.

Like A River Glorious

 Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace,
Over all victorious, in its bright increase;
Perfect, yet it floweth fuller every day,
Perfect, yet it groweth deeper all the way.

Refrain:
Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest
Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.

Hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand,
Never foe can follow, never traitor stand;
Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,
Not a blast of hurry, touch the spirit there.

Every joy or trial falleth from above,
Traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love;
We may trust Him fully, all for us to do;
They who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.



Isaiah 26:3  "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee.”

*LEANING ON THE EVERLASTING ARMS

Anthony Showalter studied music in England, France, and Germany.  He taught music and published over 130 music books.

On one particular day, he received letters from two former students.  Each letter bore similar, heartbreaking news; both men's wives had just died.

Image result for leaning rhinoHe responded with personal letters of encouragement and comfort, and he included these words from Deut. 33:27 in his comments: “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”

About that verse, Mr. Showalter told a friend, “Before completing the writing of the sentence, the thought came to me that the fact that we may lean on those everlasting arms and find comfort and strength ought to be put into a song.  And before finishing the letter, the words and music of the refrain were written.”

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms.
Leaning, leaning; leaning on the everlasting arms.

That initial work on the song was later sent to the hymn writer, Elisha Hoffman, who added the three stanzas to the hymn;

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms

What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.
O how bright the path grows from day to day,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

(refrain)
Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms.
Leaning, leaning; leaning on the everlasting arms.

Biblical Worship Music


"If the church has a biblical mandate, with clear instruction from God, about what we are to do in our worship services (which it has) then, certainly, those instructions must also apply to what we do with our worship music." 

Ralph M. Petersen




The Evolution of Worship Songs


Contemporary Christian Song Writing


And I can add one more to that...
'What's it to ya?'

Friday, March 25, 2016

*INFANT HOLY, INFANT LOWLY

I came across a meme* that has appeared frequently this Christmas season and some of you might have seen it also.  It is a picture of the manger with the caption; “One unplanned pregnancy saved us all.”  

The use of that imagery to make a social argument against abortion (or even homelessness) seems repugnant.

It’s not that the picture, itself, is bad or that it doesn’t invoke thoughts about God coming into His creation in the form of a baby.  It’s just that the suggestion that Mary’s pregnancy was unplanned is incompatible with the doctrines of God and the incarnation.  In fact, the incarnation was planned before the creation of the universe and, God ordered every single detail, of the story, with meticulous accuracy. 

And that seems to be a troublesome paradox. 

There is an ancient Polish Christmas carol that dates back possibly 700 years.  The title of the song suggests the paradox; INFANT HOLY, INFANT LOWLY.  It is hard to comprehend an Almighty, Sovereign God who would plan such a lowly entrance into His creation.

That paradox (the lowly birth or the lowliness of Jesus) is noted in several other songs, poetry, and prose.  Consider these words by Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430)

Filling the World, He Lies In a Manger

Maker of the sun,
He is made under the sun.

In the Father, He remains,
From His mother, He goes forth.

Creator of heaven and earth,
He was born on earth under heaven.

Unspeakably wise,
He is wisely speechless.

Filling the world,
He lies in a manger.

Ruler of the stars,
He nurses at His mother's bosom.
He is both great in the nature of God,
and small in the form of a servant.


"The claim that Christianity makes for Christmas is that at a particular time and place God came to be with us Himself.  When Quirinius was governor of Syria, in a town called Bethlehem, a child was born who, beyond the power of anyone to account for, was the high and lofty One made low and helpless. The One who inhabits eternity comes to dwell in time. The One whom none can look upon and live is delivered in a stable under the soft, indifferent gaze of cattle. The Father of all mercies puts Himself at our mercy."                            

Frederick Buechner


INFANT HOLY, INFANT LOWLY

Infant holy, infant lowly,
For His bed a cattle stall;
Oxen lowing, little knowing
Christ the child is Lord of all.
Swiftly winging, angels singing,
Bells are ringing, tidings bringing:
Christ the child is Lord of all!
Christ the child is Lord of all!

Flocks were sleeping, shepherds keeping
Vigil till the morning new
Saw the glory, heard the story,
Tidings of a Gospel true.
Thus rejoicing, free from sorrow,
Praised voicing, greet the morrow:
Christ the child was born for you!
Christ the child was born for you!




(Meme - a cultural item in the form of an image, video, phrase, etc., that is spread via the Internet and often altered in a creative or humorous way).

"O CHRIST! WHAT BURDENS BOWED THY HEAD!

The Cripplegate is a devotional and informational resource blog I follow regularly.  The blog gives a place for like-minded Christians and pastors to share their thoughts about ministry, theology, and issues that affect the church today, in a way that brings encouragement and clarity to those who read it.

THIS POST IS NOT MINE.  

It was written by Mike Riccardi one of the contributing pastors to the Cripplegate blog and is posted here with permission.



(a commentary on the hymn)  
“O CHRIST! WHAT BURDENS BOWED THY HEAD.”

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve found that around Easter time it’s very easy for our thoughts to be occupied with the events of Resurrection Sunday—sometimes even to the exclusion of the events of Good Friday. That may be for a number of reasons. Perhaps it’s because the church’s time together on Good Friday is usually an abbreviated service at the end of a busy workday, while Resurrection Sunday is a special holiday spent with family. Perhaps it’s simply because it’s more pleasant and encouraging to meditate on the triumph and the victory of Christ’s resurrection than the injustice, suffering, and agony of His death.

But truly, you can’t have Easter Sunday without Good Friday. You can’t have the resurrection of Christ without the atonement of Christ. Each is vitally essential to the Gospel. And of all days, Good Friday is a day to give ourselves to the contemplation of and reflection upon the nature of Christ’s atonement on our behalf. Something that has stirred me to worship, supplemental to Scripture’s accounts of and commentary on the atonement, is a 19th-century hymn called “O Christ! What Burdens Bowed Thy Head.” It may be the best non-inspired worship song that I know of that captures the depth of the theology of penal substitutionary atonement. And it not only purveys the soundest of theology, but it’s also one of the most beautiful pieces of poetry I’ve ever read. Consider the words of these six verses, Christian, and worship the Lamb who has borne the wrath of God in your place.

*     *     *     *     *
O Christ! What burdens bowed Thy head!
Our load was laid on Thee;
Thou stoodest in the sinner’s stead,
Didst bear all ill for me.
A Victim led, Thy blood was shed;
Now there’s no load for me.

Death and the curse were in our cup:
O Christ, ’twas full for Thee;
But Thou hast drained the last dark drop,
‘Tis empty now for me!
That bitter cup, love drank it up;
Now blessing’s draught for me!

Jehovah lifted up His rod;
O Christ, it fell on Thee!
Thou wast sore stricken of Thy God;
There’s not one stroke for me.
Thy tears, Thy blood, beneath it flowed;
Thy bruising healeth me.

The tempest’s awful voice was heard,
O Christ, it broke on Thee!
Thy open bosom was my ward,
It braved the storm for me.
Thy form was scarred, Thy visage marred;
Now cloudless peace for me.

Jehovah bade His sword awake;
O Christ, it woke ‘gainst Thee!
Thy blood the flaming blade must slake;
Thine heart its sheath must be;
All for my sake, my peace to make;
Now sleeps that sword for me.

For me, Lord Jesus, Thou hast died,
And I have died in Thee!
Thou’rt ris’n—my hands are all untied,
And now Thou liv’st in me.
When purified, made white and tried,
Thy glory then for me!

*     *     *     *     *
That load of sin was my burden to bear. But there’s no load for me. That bitter cup of wrath was mine to drink. But now I drink from the stream of overflowing blessings. The rod of God’s anger was for my back. The sword of His wrath was to pierce my heart. But it pierced the heart of the innocent Son of God, and now that sword sleeps for me.

And, dear sinner, it can be put to sleep for you as well. What could be keeping you from fleeing to this Savior? What fleeting and false pleasure of sin is worth losing your soul to the flaming blade of God’s wrath? To you who are outside of Christ on this Good Friday, God Himself calls upon you to turn from your sin—to put away all hope of attaining righteousness and forgiveness by your own good works—and to look upon this Savior, and see in Him all the righteousness and all the satisfaction that you could ever dream of. There is only one Mediator between God and men: the Man, Christ Jesus. And He is bruised and scarred and broken for you, that you might know the cloudless peace of eternal life. Turn to Him and live.


To my brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what we celebrate on Good Friday. May it be that the truths of this hymn enrich your worship. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.



Tuesday, March 22, 2016

*I GAVE MY LIFE FOR THEE


I GAVE MY LIFE FOR THEE is one of those songs that I generally try to avoid, not because of bad theology, but because, in casual singing or even a superficial reading, it could mistakenly convey the idea that some kind of reciprocal action or work on our part is required to earn our salvation.  Of course, there is nothing we can do to earn or buy our salvation. 

This hymn, written by Frances Havergal in 1858, asks four thought-provoking and pertinent questions that should cause us to consider our commitment to Christ and we should read them as if they were being asked by Jesus, Himself.

The questions center around four action verbs – Give, Leave, Bear, and Bring.  The interesting thing about these four questions is that we can find instructive examples in Scripture as to how we should respond.

In Luke 6:38, Jesus said,“…GIVE, and it will be given to you. Good measure pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”  So how should we give?  The same way God has given to us - freely, abundantly, and running over. 

In John 8:11, Jesus told the women caught in adultery, “Go now and LEAVE your life of sin.”  The commandment He gave her is the same one He gives to each one of us.  When we were born again, we became new creations.  Old things are passed away.  We may not have committed the same sins that she did, but we are all expected to leave our old lives of sin.   

Col. 3:13 says, “BEAR with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.   Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”    How should we put up with people who are really annoying or even hurtful?  Paul’s instructions here are not recommendations, but commands to bear with each other and forgive one another because, after all, Christ forgave us.

There is a strange passage in chapter 1 of Malachi.  God says, “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you, and I will accept no offering from your hands.” 

A little further in that chapter, God asks a hard question, “When you BRING injured, crippled, or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?”  These are convicting verses even today.   I know I am guilty.  I have brought Him offerings of time, and talents, and worship, and praise, that were less than my best and in this passage He is saying, “I am not pleased.”

So this song doesn’t really suggest any obligatory compulsion to try to earn God’s favor. That would be an insult to God.  We are saved by grace through faith.   Grace that is earned is NOT grace.

Instead, our reactions should be willful, loving responses to His grace that come from grateful hearts because of all that He has done. 


I gave My life for thee,
My precious blood I shed,
That thou might'st ransomed be,
And quickened from the dead;
I gave, I gave My life for thee,
What hast thou giv'n for Me?
I gave, I gave My life for thee,
What hast thou giv'n for Me?

My Father's house of light,
My glory circled throne,
I left for earthly night,
For wanderings sad and lone;
I left, I left it all for thee,
Hast thou left aught for Me?
I left, I left it all for thee,
Hast thou left aught for Me?

I suffered much for thee,
More than thy tongue can tell,
Of bitt'rest agony,
To rescue thee from hell;
I've borne, I've borne it all for thee,
What hast thou borne for Me?
I've borne, I've borne it all for thee,
What hast thou borne for Me?

And I have brought to thee,
Down from My home above,
Salvation full and free,
My pardon and My love;
I bring, I bring rich gifts to thee,
What hast thou brought to Me?
I bring, I bring rich gifts to thee,
What hast thou brought to Me?