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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Saturday, March 26, 2016


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.

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.”

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