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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Friday, April 1, 2016


If the Apostle Paul had been a songwriter, he might have written a song like LIVING FOR JESUS.  

This song is a call to sincere loyalty to Christ.  In so many ways, the author lifted concepts and phrases right out of the letters of Paul.  It’s a call to live, willingly and joyfully, in submission and obedience to the Lord.

In 2 Cor. 4:10, Paul wrote that we should desire that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” and, in Gal. 2:20 he said, “the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

His goal (Col. 1:10) should be every Christian’s goal, “that [we] may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

The song’s refrain emphasizes our rightful response to all that Christ has done for us.  And the motivation for that response is stated by Paul in Rom. 12:1 “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God [or, because of all He has done for you], that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”

The song reminds us of so much more.  We are, in fact, constrained and compelled by God’s love (II Cor. 5:14), and that our love for Him is in response to His love for us (Rom. 5:8; I Jn. 4:19).

If we are going to walk with Christ, we can be sure that there will be hard trials and heavy burdens in every aspect of our service for Him.  And there will be sacrifices as we will take up our own crosses to identify with Him and His ultimate sacrifice (Lk. 9:23).

Nevertheless, we continue, “doing each duty in His holy name.” “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col. 3:17).

The last verse emphasizes that our time is short, and Christ will return.  In the meantime, our responsibility is to seek the lost and to encourage the saints.  The Lord Jesus came to seek and save lost sinners (Lk. 19:10; I Tim. 1:15), and we ought to share the good news of salvation in Him.

Thomas Chisholm was the author of this song and, in the final verse, he wrote that his “dearest treasure” is “the light of (the Lord’s) smile.” When we stand before Him and hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” that reward will be great enough.

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