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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Monday, March 21, 2016


Lots of people, today, think it’s cool to sneer at those stuffy old hymnbooks; they want to sing a lot of poorly written 7-11 and "Jesus-is-my-girlfriend" songs that make them feel all warm and fuzzy about themselves.

Well, while picking appropriate music for our Sunday morning congregational singing, I rediscovered this great, old classic treasure, HE LIFTED ME.

It doesn't do much for my self-esteem, but it does make me feel all warm and fuzzy about my Savior.
In loving-kindness, Jesus came,
My soul in mercy to reclaim,
And from the depths of sin and shame
Through grace, He lifted me.

He called me long before I heard,
Before my sinful heart was stirred,
But when I took Him at His Word,
Forgiv’n, He lifted me.

His brow was pierced with many a thorn,
His hands by cruel nails were torn,
When from my guilt and grief, forlorn,
In love, He lifted me.

Now on a higher plane, I dwell,
And with my soul I know ’tis well;
Yet how or why I cannot tell,
He should have lifted me.

From sinking sand He lifted me,
With tender hand, He lifted me;
From shades of night to plains of light,
Oh, praise His Name, He lifted me!

I was discussing this with a friend who explained it something like this:

“It's not like we were in danger of drowning and God threw us a lifeline to grab so that we could save ourselves.  NO, we were hopelessly buried in the deepest sea, helplessly mired in the sand and mud.  We were dead.  And God reached down, picked us up, brought us up, and breathed new life into us.”  Ron Livesay

"He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings."  (Psalms 40:2)

HE LIFTED ME -- written by Charles H. Gabriel, 1905.

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