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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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

*YIELD NOT TO TEMPTATION

“…Do not yield your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” 
Romans 6:13

YIELD NOT TO TEMPTATION was written shortly after the Civil War by Horatio Palmer who was a professional musician.

One day while he was at work on the subject of Music Theory, the idea for this song suddenly came to him in a flash.  He immediately laid aside his theoretical work and started writing both the words and the music.

And the song he wrote that day is exactly the song we have now with the exception of some minor alterations in verse three.

In Palmer's own account of that incident (where he laid aside his theoretical work) he said, “I see hints of a larger reality: our Christian faith will never "be music" to anyone's ears if we do not get beyond theories—the details of doctrines or traditions. There is more. We need to get beyond the momentary ‘flash’ of insight or feeling, and test our faith in the real world.  A life of faith involves more than just hearing or singing sweet words of love for God."

This song is a musical sermon.

Palmer starts his challenging commands with a very sharp tone: YIELD NOT!  FIGHT ONWARD!  SHUN EVIL!  DISDAIN THE BAD!  BE EARNEST!
  
Ultimately we all have to make choices. Do we really want to resist temptation?  Do we really want to be holy?

Palmer doesn’t just leave us with a command to “man up.” He ends his sermon with the reassurance that we are not left alone in our resistance to temptation. 1 Cor. 10:13 says, "God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear."

The repeated last line of each stanza leads us right into the chorus- “Look ever to Jesus, He’ll carry you through.”  “Ask the Savior to help you, comfort, strengthen, and keep you; He is willing to aid you, He will carry you through.”

1.    Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin;
Each vict’ry will help you some other to win;
Fight manfully onward, dark passions subdue;
Look ever to Jesus, He’ll carry you through.

Refrain:
Ask the Savior to help you,
Comfort, strengthen, and keep you;
He is willing to aid you,
He will carry you through.

2.    Shun evil companions, bad language disdain,
God’s name hold in reverence, nor take it in vain;
Be thoughtful and earnest, kindhearted and true;
Look ever to Jesus, He’ll carry you through.

3.    To him that o’ercometh, God giveth a crown,
Through faith we will conquer, though often cast down;
He who is our Savior, our strength will renew;
Look ever to Jesus, He’ll carry you through.




11/8/15



Monday, April 25, 2016

Christian Music and Doctrinal Deviation

Truth must be guarded.  Doctrinal deviation is insidious.  It creeps slowly into our thinking and then into our practices and ultimately into our traditions.  Then, if we ever wake up to it,  we wonder how we ever got there in the first place.

Modern hymn writer, Kieth Getty, has said, "What we sing affects how we think, how we feel and, ultimately, how we live, so it's important that we sing the whole scope of truth the Bible has given us."

*TEACH ME THY WAY, O LORD

One late afternoon my dad and I decided to take two different routes home, from the job site, in order to take care of some business matters.  As I was giving him directions to where he needed to go, I pointed down the street and said, “Go west…”
He interrupted me and said, “That’s east.”  Somehow he had gotten turned around and was totally disoriented.  
It was late in the afternoon so I pointed to the sun that was setting in the west but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t convince him of the truth.  Finally, I referred to the ultimate authority; the book; the travelers “bible.” I opened my Thomas Brothers Guide and showed him where we were, where he wanted to go, and how to get there.


He took the book, silently studied the map for a few moments, closed the book, and said, “I don’t care what the map says; that’s east.”

When it comes to matters of faith and practice, we don’t need to try to find our own way; we need God to show us, to guide us, to teach us His way;
That’s the title of this song, and that prayer appears two times in Scripture.  One of them is in Ps. 86:11 where David prays, “TEACH ME THY WAY, O LORD;” and then he adds, “I will walk in Thy Truth.”
So according to David, God’s way is found in God’s Truth.   In Ps. 25, He made a similar petition but with more details.  He prayed, “Shew me Thy ways, O LORD; teach me Thy paths.  Lead me in Thy Truth, and teach me: for Thou art the God of my salvation.
I read a shocking statement, this week, by a pastor who said, “The Bible is NOT the Word of God; Jesus is.” 
In at least two other hymn commentaries, I have emphasized the inseverable relationship between the written Word of God and the Incarnate Word of God.  Both are called THE WORD of GOD.  We can’t just claim to follow God’s leading and ignore His Word.  It’s not possible for us to know His Way without knowing His Truth.
Jesus said, “I am the WAY, the TRUTH, and the Life; No man comes to the Father but BY Me.”  We usually think of that verse in reference to salvation, but in the context, Jesus is declaring that He doesn’t only know the way and the truth; He IS the way and the Truth.  Jesus and God’s Truth, are One.
Similarly, when Jesus was praying for His disciples, He said to His Father, “I have given them Thy Word; Sanctify them through Thy Truth: Thy Word is Truth.” 
If the Lord knows the way we should take, then we should seek His guidance to find it.  He hasn’t left us to discover our own way or rely on our own senses.  Prov. 16:25 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end, it leads to destruction.”
God’s direction for our lives, is found in knowing Him and His guidebook – The Word of God.

TEACH ME THY WAY, O LORD

Teach me Thy way, O Lord,
Teach me Thy way;
Thy gracious aid afford,
Teach me Thy way.
Help me to walk aright;
More by faith, less by sight;
Lead me with heav’nly light,
Teach me Thy way.

When doubts and fears arise,
Teach me Thy way;
When storms o’erspread the skies,
Teach me Thy way.
Shine through the cloud and rain,
Through sorrow, toil, and pain;
Make Thou my pathway plain,
Teach me Thy way.

Long as my life shall last,
Teach me Thy way;
Where’er my lot be cast,
Teach me Thy way.
Until the race is run,
Until the journey’s done,
Until the crown is won,
Teach me Thy way.



4/24/16

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

*TELL ME THE STORY OF JESUS

"But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman," Galatians 4:4

What can we say really happened on Christmas day?  Well, the short answer to that question is, “Easter.”  And without trying to sound trite about it, It’s like the nursery rhyme, “Mary had a little lamb,” That’s the Christmas part of the rhyme but the verse continues, “Its fleece was white as snow.”  And that is the Easter part of the rhyme; The Lamb of God would be the pure, spotless, and only acceptable sacrifice for the sins of many.

The Savior was born in Bethlehem for the express purpose of redeeming His people by the deliberate and voluntary sacrifice of His life on the cross at Calvary.  His death was the purpose of His incarnation.  We get a glimpse of that purpose at his birth where we see that He was swaddled in burial cloths and later, one of the gifts of the Magi was myrrh; a kind of embalming fluid.  He was born to die.


The birth of Jesus is meaningless and irrelevant without His death, burial, and resurrection. It was all part of His divine plan that started “when the set time had fully come.”


TELL ME THE STORY OF JESUS was written by Fannie Crosby and in four short verses, she chronicles His birth, His triumph over temptation, His death on the cross, His resurrection, the accomplishment of the redemption of His people, His ascension, and His soon return for His Church.


That phrase, "the fullness of time," literally means “at the appointed time.”   The arrival of the Savior in a dirty feeding trough in a strange town was not an accident.  He came exactly on schedule in the precise place, and time, and circumstances as God ordained and foretold in prophetic scripture.

 







1. Tell me the story of Jesus,
Write on my heart every word;
Tell me the story most precious,
Sweetest that ever was heard.
Tell how the angels in chorus,
Sang as they welcomed His birth,
“Glory to God in the highest!
Peace and good tidings to earth.”

Refrain:
Tell me the story of Jesus,
Write on my heart every word;
Tell me the story most precious,
Sweetest that ever was heard.

2.  Fasting alone in the desert,
Tell of the days that are past,
How for our sins He was tempted,
Yet was triumphant at last.
Tell of the years of His labor,
Tell of the sorrow He bore;
He was despised and afflicted,
Homeless, rejected and poor.

3.  Tell of the cross where they nailed Him,
Writhing in anguish and pain;
Tell of the grave where they laid Him,
Tell how He liveth again.
Love in that story so tender,
Clearer than ever I see;
Stay, let me weep while you whisper,
“Love paid the ransom for me.”

4.  Tell how He’s gone back to heaven,
Up to the right hand of God:
How He is there interceding
While on this earth we must trod.
Tell of the sweet Holy Spirit
He has poured out from above;
Tell how He’s coming in glory
For all the saints of His love.


Monday, April 18, 2016

*MY SAVIOR FIRST OF ALL (A Tribute to the Music and Faith of FANNY CROSBY)


(This past Sunday I detoured from my normal routine of featuring one song.  Instead, I featured the testimony of the great faith of a prolific hymn writer.  All of the songs in our service, Sunday, were written by Fanny Crosby.)  


"He Hideth My Soul”

In Exod. 33, the LORD said, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock.  So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by.  Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.’”

That was God’s response to Moses who asked, “Lord, Please, show me Your glory.”  The opening stanza alludes to that incident where God was willing to show Himself in the form of a Man, but only in a carefully veiled way because “…no man can look on His face and live.”

It seems noteworthy, to me, that the hymn writer, by the providence of a loving God, was afflicted with total blindness.  Yet she had an amazing ability to see the glory of the Lord through the eyes of faith.

******************

“I Am Thine, O Lord”

Fanny Crosby was only six weeks old when she developed an infection in her eyes.  Her family’s doctor was out of town, so her parents took her to a quack who was pretending to be a doctor.   He covered her eyes with a mustard paste.  Her parents began to question the wisdom of his methods as she was screaming with pain. 

Nevertheless, he insisted that the ointment should be left on her eyes for a full day in order to kill the infection.  When it was finally removed, the damage had been done and Fanny spent her entire life in the dark.

In one of her songs, she wrote, “I Am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice, and it told Thy love to me.  But I long to rise in the arms of faith and be closer drawn to Thee.”

With those very personal words, we get a glimpse into the faith and trust of a woman who was totally dependent on her Lord.

******************

“My Savior First Of All”

I wonder how many of us would be contented and satisfied with God’s grace through tragic circumstances?  The Providence of God is an attribute that seems to have been lost in recent generations.  It is the understanding that God is not passively observing from afar; He is active over ALL things in His creation.  He does ALL things for His glory. 

In her autobiography, Fanny wrote; “It seemed intended by the blessed Providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank Him for the dispensation.  If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it,” she said, “I might not have written and sung thousands of hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me."

One signature feature that is very noticeable, in many of her songs, is how many allusions she makes to that day when she will finally see her Savior face to face.  

And that is evident in these great lyrics, “When my life-work is ended and I cross the swelling tide, when the bright and glorious morning I shall see; I shall know my Redeemer when I reach the other side, and His smile will be the first to welcome me.”

******************

“Blessed Assurance”

Assurance and faith are like two sides of the same coin.  Assurance means full confidence, free from doubt and fear.

On the other side, Faith is an action; we put our trust in something or someone.  And when we put our trust in God, His Spirit brings assurance that our trust is well founded on something that will not fail.

When we fully surrender to Christ in faith, we have full assurance.  And this is how we can have both a testimony (“this is my story”) and a song (“praising my Savior”).   We can be “certain”, of a hope for our future as we continue “watching and waiting, looking above.”        

******************
    
"Close To Thee”

Fanny Crosby wrote nearly 9000 songs.  She is widely regarded as “the most prolific and significant writer of gospel songs in American History.” 
         
In her book “Memories of Eighty Years,” Fanny Crosby wrote: “Toward the close of a day in the year 1874, I was sitting in my room thinking of the nearness of God through Christ as the constant companion of my pilgrim journey, when my heart burst out with these words, ”Close to Thee, close to Thee.  All along my pilgrim journey, Savior, let me walk with Thee.”

*WHEN WE ALL GET TO HEAVEN

There are a few songs, in our hymnbooks, that I use with caution, not necessarily because they are wrong, but because they can be confusing.  And so, when I select them, I want to be careful to present the message of the songs accurately and in a biblically sound context. 

WHEN WE ALL GET TO HEAVEN, is one of those.  It is listed among the best-loved favorites of all time.  And it’s a great hymn of faith for today, of encouragement through our trials, and the assurance of our hope for eternity.   So, what is the problem?  Well, I’m glad you asked. 

A recent Pew Research survey revealed that 70% of Americans who claim a “religious” affiliation say there are many paths that lead to heaven and one is no different or more special than another.

That is astounding, especially when we understand that the majority of the sample is comprised of those who claim to be Christians.  It is not uncommon, especially at funerals, to hear so many people casually say, about those who have passed away, “Well, he’s in a much better place now.”

I don’t want to be vague about that in the songs we sing.  And that is why I want to be careful about this song.  The problem is the word, ALL.  I don’t want that inclusive generalization to go without putting the word in its proper context.  In this song, All is limited by the word WE (when WE all).  And the word, WE, is identified in the text, as those of us who are True and Faithful; those of us who, by God’s saving grace, have placed our faith and trust in Jesus, and have experienced His mercy.

Consider these words from Jesus.     
“Enter through the narrow gate,” Jesus said. “for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter trough it. For the gate is small and THE WAY IS NARROW that leads to life, and there are FEW who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14.

So there it is—most people are on a wide, broad highway that leads to destruction.  But ALL those who are on the narrow way will find life.      

Most people want to be found in favor with God.  They want to believe that they are all right and that they are going to heaven when they die.  And they strive for it through their own good works and rituals.   But Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, NO ONE comes to the Father except through me.”   John 14:6.

The message of the Gospel is that we are ALL sinners and can never do enough good to satisfy God.  The only way of salvation is by faith alone, in Jesus Christ who shed His own blood to redeem us. 

And only then, can we sing with full assurance, “WHEN WE ALL GET TO HEAVEN, what a day of rejoicing that will be.”   

Sing the wondrous love of Jesus,
Sing His mercy and His grace.
In the mansions bright and bless├Ęd
He’ll prepare for us a place.

While we walk the pilgrim pathway,
Clouds will overspread the sky;
But when traveling days are over,
Not a shadow, not a sigh.

Let us then be true and faithful,
Trusting, serving every day;
Just one glimpse of Him in glory
Will, the toils of life, repay.

Onward to the prize before us!
Soon His beauty we’ll behold;
Soon the pearly gates will open;
We shall tread the streets of gold.
  
(Refrain)
 When we all get to Heaven,
What a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
We’ll sing and shout the victory!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

*NOW THANK WE ALL OUR GOD

Holiday times are always hard days for caregivers as, typically, the death rates in elder care facilities rise significantly following Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

In my fifteenth year at the Christian home for the elderly, we lost one of our favorite residents on Thanksgiving Day.  She had gone out with her daughters for a family Thanksgiving dinner.  Late in the afternoon she began to feel nauseous and complained of stomach and back pains. They took her to the emergency room at the hospital where she was diagnosed with flu symptoms and discharged back to our care by early evening.  

My staff monitored her every thirty minutes through the evening.  About 12:45 AM they found her unresponsive and called 911.  By the time I arrived the paramedics had already pronounced her "dead on arrival." I called her pastor and the two of us spent the next few hours comforting and praying with her daughter until the funeral home representatives arrived to remove her mother.

Our resident pastor and I kept very busy conducting about 30-40 funerals a year. We once had seven services in one week.

As emotionally difficult as those times were, I am aware that many others have endured far more difficulty and loss and suffering than I have ever experienced. 

Martin Rinkart was a provincial clergyman in Germany in the early 17th century.

At the age of thirty-one, he was assigned the office of archdeacon at his native town of Eilenburg in Saxony just about the time the Thirty Years War broke out.  And he died just after the end of the war. 
Throughout those thirty-one years, he stood faithfully by his flock and helped them under every kind of distress.   He endured the forced quartering of soldiers in his own house and the frequent plundering of what little stock of grain and household goods he had.  But those were just the small things.

The plague of 1637 was extraordinarily severe; the town was overcrowded with refugees from the districts where the Swedes had been spreading their devastation, and that year, 8,000 townspeople died.   Nearly all the town council, a large number of school children, and the clergymen of the neighboring parish were all carried off as prisoners of war.  Rinkart was left alone to do the pastoral work of three men, and most of his time was spent at the bedsides of the sick and dying.  In that one year alone, He buried over 4,000 of his parishioners. 

The pestilence was followed by a famine so extreme that frequently, 30-40 people could often be seen fighting in the streets for a dead cat or crow.  

Rinckart, with the help of the burgomaster and one other citizen, did what they could do to organize assistance to provide for the needs of the people, and he, personally, gave away everything but the barest of rations for his own family.

And after all that suffering, the Swedes came, again, this time, to impose a tax, equivalent to about $ 30,000, on the devastated townspeople.  Rinkart visited the enemy camp to beg the general for mercy.  When he was refused, it was recorded that he turned to the citizens who followed him, and said, "Come, my children, we can find no hearing, no mercy with men, let us take refuge with God."

At that point, He fell on his knees and prayed with such touching fervor that the Swedish general relented, and lowered his demand to just a few dollars.

Rinkart's own losses were so great that he had difficulty finding bread and clothing for his children, and was forced to mortgage his future income for several years.

Yet his spirit was never broken.  In the middle of that terrible time of calamities and incredible losses, he wrote a table grace for his children that has come to be one of our most loved Thanksgiving hymns:

NOW THANK WE ALL OUR GOD


1. Now thank we all our God,
With heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done,
In whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers' arms
Has blessed us on our way,
With countless gifts of love,
And still is ours today.

2. O may this bounteous God
Through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts
And blessed peace to cheer us;
And keep us still in grace,
And guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills,
In this world and the next.

3. All praise and thanks to God
The Father now be given;
The Son, and Him who reigns
With them in highest heaven;
The One Eternal God,
Whom earth and heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now,
And shall be evermore.

*ROCK OF AGES

“The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.”  Psalm 18:2

It was a terrible and unusual lightning storm followed by deafening thunder and merciless, torrential rain.  Augustus Toplady had been traveling on foot, where steep, high cliffs rose up along the roadside.  When the storm came, rushing streams of mud and rainwater were pouring down the craggy slopes and rolling across the road.  He was fortunate enough to find protection in a small cave in the rocks where he waited out the storm.  That’s where he began to muse over the concept of the “rock of faith” as a shelter from the “storms of life.”

That’s the popular legend about the inspiration for the hymn, ROCK OF AGES.  And the legend may have some elements of truth.  But beyond just the first lines, there is a backstory that, I think, is far more important and revealing about the great faith of a man who was humbled by God’s grace and mercy.

Toplady’s father died when he was very young and he was raised by an indulgent and permissive mother who pretty much spoiled him.   But by God’s grace, he had a good but strict, uncle who guided and disciplined him. 

He was exceptionally intelligent; some would call him precocious.  He was saved at a very young age and began to strive for a deeper relationship with God.  By the age of 12, he was preaching sermons, and at age 14 he began writing hymns.  He was ordained to the ministry in 1762 at the age of 22.   He died at the age of 38.

He wasn't well liked while he was alive and there are plenty of critics even today.  He was a very outspoken opponent of questionable and errant doctrines.   In fact, he once published an article to rebut some statements made by John Wesley.  That article concluded with the words of his original poem, ROCK OF AGES. 

One critic has described that hymn as "strange, unlike any other, and one that is certainly a muddle of images and excessively egocentric in its self-flagellation and abnegation – perhaps because it was the product of a slightly deranged mind.”

But, even though some people thought him to be arrogant and unlikeable, excerpts from his writings, including his personal journal, reveal that he was deeply devoted to His Savior.

In this hymn, he wrote some of the greatest declarations about the doctrine of salvation and our helpless condition that have ever been set to music.

In verse two, he could not be more clear; salvation is not achieved by our works, our goodness, our zeal, our remorse or our tears.  We can bring nothing to God that will ever merit His grace.  We can only come to Him empty-handed, naked, helpless, and dirty. 

And then verse three affirms our ONLY hope; that salvation is by God’s grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Jesus Christ alone and it is all for HIS glory alone.  If God doesn’t save us, we can’t be saved.


Rock of Ages cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When my eyes shall close in death,
When I rise to worlds unknown,
And behold Thee on Thy throne,
Rock of Ages cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.

Monday, April 11, 2016

*ALAS! AND DID MY SAVIOR BLEED?

Is our sin nature something to sing about?

Thirty-some years ago when my friend, Phil, got saved, he began reading through his Bible starting with Genesis.  One day while we were discussing his thoughts about his reading, he observed that – “all those guys (meaning the patriarchs) were dirty rotten lowlifes just like me.”

I thought that was pretty insightful.  It was revelatory for him; if God could save those guys, He certainly could save Phil.

People, then, were no different than we are today.  We all have the same problem.  It is our sin nature. It is universal.  We are all dirty. We are all disgusting. The reformers called it Depravity.

So for our song service in church one Sunday, I was looking for hymns that addressed that problem.  In the past, there were plenty of hymn writers who were explicit about our sinfulness and its consequences.  But songs on those themes are rare today.

Our contemporary culture, with its fixation on positive self-esteem, likes to obscure the reality of sin in more palatable terms like “missing the mark,” “shortcomings,” “failures,” or “errors.”   But sin is not an error.  An error is like when you forget to carry a digit while adding a column of numbers.

Do we really want to sing about the darkness of our sinfulness?   I know that it seems strange but, when contrasted with the sinless perfection of our Savior, our redemption, then, shines even brighter and those songs become much more meaningful.  We can never fully appreciate all that God has done to save us until we get a clear picture of what we really are without Christ.

Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed? was written by Isaac Watts.  In spite of the fact that many modern editors have changed the last line of the first verse of This hymn to “For sinners such as I” (or even worse, “for such a one as I”) Isaac Watts was purposefully deliberate in crafting the phrase, “for such a worm as I.”

And he was certainly biblical in that description.  In the book of Job, Bildad raised the question: “How then can man be righteous before God?”  “Man…is a maggot, and…a worm.” 

And in Psalm 22, David (speaking prophetically, the words of Christ) cried out to God saying, “I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised by the people.” 
In Isa. is a strange Word of encouragement from God to Israel, “Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I will help you,’ says the LORD and your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel”

Isaac Watts drew his inspiration from Psalm 51 when he wrote these words in another hymn:
         
“Lord, I am vile, conceived in sin,
                  And born unholy and unclean;
         Sprung from the man whose guilty fall
                  Corrupts the race, and taints us all.”


That is sound, biblical theology.  Apart from the intervention of God’s sovereign grace, we are utterly helpless and hopeless.  And it’s in that context that we should sing with great joy and thanksgiving, words like these from the hymn, “It Is Well” by Horatio Spafford:
    
“My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
            My sin, not in part but the whole,
    Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
            Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!”

But it’s also in that context of God’s grace in our salvation, that we can sing, reverently and soberly:
       
 “Was it for crimes that I had done
                  He groaned upon the tree?
         Amazing pity! Grace unknown!
                  And love beyond degree!”


ALAS!  AND DID MY SAVIOR BLEED?

Alas! and did my Savior bleed?
And did my Sov'reign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?

Was it for sins that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!

Well might the sun in darkness hide
And shut his glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker, died
For man the creature's sin.

Thus, might I hide my blushing face
While His dear cross appears,
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
And melt my eyes to tears.

But drops of grief can ne'er repay
The debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give my-self away
Tis all that I can do.

Empty Words

"Do our actions contradict our words?  Do our shallow lives reflect the poverty of so much that passes for "worship" in many churches today but is little more than the repetition of pitifully empty expressions from new songwriters?

"Although sincere, many are not spiritually mature enough to be writing replacements for the old hymns of the faith written by people who knew the Lord for many years and expressed their love and appreciation for God and Christ so well.  It's not the style -- it's the words and the lack of real depth so often expressed in contemporary 'worship.' "

Dave Hunt

Songwriters are Teachers

“Like it or not, songwriters are teachers as well. Many of the lyrics they write will be far more deeply and permanently ingrained in the minds of Christians than anything pastors teach from the pulpit. How many songwriters are skilled enough in theology and Scripture to qualify for such a vital role in the catechesis of our people?"


John MacArthur

Saturday, April 9, 2016

*MAY THE MIND OF CHRIST, MY SAVIOR

Philippians 2:5 says, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus."


May the Mind of Christ My Savior, was written by Kate B. Wilkinson as a result of her meditating on that verse.  She thought about what it meant to have the mind of Christ. To have the mind of Christ is to think His thoughts; to keep His commands; to do His will; to submit to Him.
 

In the words of her song, it is “to have Christ with His love ‘controlling all I do and say.’”  She also alluded to Hebrews12:1-2 in her hymn: "May I run the race before me…looking unto Jesus."
 

The song is a prayer that asks God to help us add to our lives, various aspects of the will of Christ.  It was first published in the London children’s hymnbook, Golden Bells, in 1925.
 

The six stanzas of the hymn were originally intended for daily devotional reminders; one for each day of the week leading up to Sunday.


May the mind of Christ, my Savior,
Live in me from day to day,
By His love and power controlling
All I do and say.

May the Word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through His power.

May the peace of God my Father
Rule my life in everything,
That I may be calm to comfort
Sick and sorrowing.

May the love of Jesus fill me
As the waters fill the sea;
Him exalting, self-abasing,
This is victory.

May I run the race before me,
Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus
As I onward go.

May His beauty rest upon me,
As I seek the lost to win,
And may they forget the channel,
Seeing only Him.