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, June 20, 2016


I overheard a conversation between a couple ladies who were talking about a recent death in their church.  At one point, one of the women said, “I am still angry at Satan for taking the life of my friend.”
That comment surprised me but it shouldn’t have; it revealed a prevalent aberrant belief among many Christians today.  Much of the modern Christian church has created a god who doesn’t exist.  He is a god of our own imaginations; he is fabricated according to our likings.  If you listen carefully, you will hear people talk about him with phrases like, “The god I worship accepts me just the way I am,” or “My god would never condemn anyone to eternal torment in Hell,” or “What kind of a god do you worship who would allow suffering?”   

In other words, we have become accustomed to thinking that God only does good and pleasant things for us and Satan is responsible for all our discomfort, inconvenience, and everything that we don’t like.  And when it comes to salvation, he is described as a god who is cheering for and encouraging sinners to “accept him” or “invite him into their life,” as opposed to the enemy who is also there enticing you away.  In the words of a famous televangelist, “God is voting for you and Satan is voting against you.  It is up to you to cast the deciding vote.”  That really renders your god equal to Satan in their power and influence over your life and it leaves you with more power than either one of them. 

But that is not the God of the Bible.  Our God is Sovereign and all powerful.  He is in control of ALL things; even death.  The theological word for that is Providence.   Eric Landry has explained the Providence of God like this:

"Because God sustains the universe's, moment by moment, existence, nothing comes about independently of His will.  He governs all creatures, and events so that they accomplish what He intends, either by their acting freely (as through human choice) or contingently (as when something happens that did not have to happen) or necessarily (as with the law of gravity).

"Thus God, in ways beyond our understanding, works in and through everything to bring about His good purposes."

There are some sects, in Christianity, that insist on the practice of “Exclusive Psalmody,” or singing Old Testament Psalms ONLY, in their worship services.  Although most Christian denominations reject that, there is some benefit in their rigidity; it prevents the unintended propagation of false doctrine and man-centered worship.  We learn a lot of doctrine from the songs we sing and that can be good.  It can also be dangerous.  The more we learn about the True God, the better we can worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.  In God’s hymnbook, (the Psalms) He has given us a sufficiently balanced revelation of His attributes and His works and they all glorify Him.

We love to sing feel-good praise songs but it is important to sing songs about God’s judgments which also work to humble us and convict us of our pride.  So if we are not deliberate in our congregational worship, those themes will be pretty much non-existent in our regular diet of worship songs.  But there is no question about their presence throughout the Old Testament (especially in the Psalms), and in the New Testament as well.

For example, (Lk. 1:51-55) “He hath shewed strength with His arm; He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.  He hath put down the mighty from their seats and exalted them of low degree.  He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He hath sent empty away.  He hath helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy;  As He spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed forever.”

Or this passage (Rev; 19:1-5) “And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God:  For true and righteous are His judgments: for He hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of His servants at her hand.  And again they said, Alleluia.   And her smoke rose up for ever and ever.  And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshiped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia.  And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye His servants, and ye that fear Him, both small and great.”

These kinds of hymns are direct reminders of God’s mercy toward us.  We will only know and fully appreciate His goodness, grace, and righteousness when we understand the magnitude of our sin that required His great sacrifice.

Psalm 7:11 says, "God is a just judge…"  That means He is morally right. Everything He does is deliberately orchestrated for His good purpose and is all-together righteous.

Or, can also be sung to the tune of GOD OUR FATHER, WE ADORE THEE.)

God is righteous in His doings,
He is perfect in His ways;
Just is He in all His actions,
And He well deserves our praise.
Righteous was His condemnation,
Righteous His requirement;
For the law had deemed us, sinners,
And for judgment, we were meant.

Oh, how blest the love that spared us,
For the law had judged us dead.
God, to meet the righteous judgment,
Passed it on His Son instead.
Hallelujah! Our Redeemer,
Christ, to God, has purchased us;
Now enjoying His redemption,
We become God’s righteousness.

God is holy in His nature,
Holiness is what He is.
In this way He sanctified us,
Makes our nature one with His.
Spreading from our quickened spirit,
He renews each inward part,
Moving into all our being,
Making home in all our heart.

Oh, how blessed is this process!
It’s the Lord’s life-saving way.
It’s our constant, real experience;
It’s our life from day to day.
As we’re minding just the spirit,
Then the mind is life to us,
And the Lord in us is gaining
Transformation marvelous!

Glory is God’s true expression,
All He is, in full, expressed;
Final stage of our redemption,
Bodily made manifest.
Glory is the consummation
Of this life which sanctifies;
Our complete transfiguration
Is the goal which life supplies.

’Tis for this we wait, expecting
To be raptured, glorified.
Then the earth will see God’s fullness;
Christ completely testified.
We fore’er will just express Him,
Nature will rejoice to see
All the sons of God in glory
Manifested finally.

By His mercy, we’re selected,
Ours a glorious destiny.
Not by running, nor by willing,
But through God’s own sovereignty.
Once we were wild olive branches,
Now the root and fat partake,
Grafted in, rejoice together,
Growing for the kingdom’s sake.

As we’re daily in this process
And by life are sanctified,
How we thank Him for the blessing
Of the church life He’s supplied.
Here God is our full enjoyment,
Practical and real to us;
Sons we are, and heirs together,
In the church life, glorious!


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