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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Thursday, June 16, 2016

THERE IS A REDEEMER

If you’re 55 years or older, you will probably remember the Jesus movement that was spawned in the Southern California hippie drug culture of the 1970s.  And if you remember that, you will probably remember the controversial Christian singer and songwriter who rose to prominence from out of that culture.

Keith Green was born in 1953.   At a very young age, it seemed that he would become a musician.   Music was his passion; he wanted to be a pop-star and he was exceptionally talented.  At age eight, he began to perform in stage musicals.  At age 12, he published his first song and became the youngest member of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. That same year he signed a five-year recording contract with Decca Records.

He had a secular Jewish background but, as a child, he was fascinated with reading the New Testament.  The first time Keith ran away from home, he was 15 years old. Even though he was on a fast track to becoming a teenage idol, he never quite achieved that success and by the late 1960s, he began experimenting with drugs and dabbling in various Eastern religions.

He met the woman he would marry, Melody Steiner, another songwriter, in the early 1970s.  That is when his life began to turn around.  She was also of Jewish heritage and had been exploring the teachings of mysticism and Eastern religions.   After they met, they began to explore the Christian faith together.  

At the age of 21, Keith and Melody heard the Truth of the Gospel at a church in the San Fernando Valley, and the Lord saved them.

They never turned back from the Christian faith.  Not only did his life take a radical turn, so did his music.  He was no longer interested in stardom. His songs began to reflect the Joy of knowing Jesus and experiencing His love.   From that time, Keith focused his work, on a series of Christian music projects, including working with the band, Good News.

Keith developed some strong convictions that left him feeling inadequate and undeserving of God’s grace.  And his convictions affected and irritated many of his friends and separated him from most of the others in his industry.  He started holding concerts for free and he questioned how other Christian musicians could, in good conscience, charge for their concerts or make profits from their record sales.

But in the final years of his life, Keith Green, the Firebrand, was tempered by the grace of a loving God.  He met John Dawson, of YWAM, and through that relationship, he began to re-discover the love of Christ.  After striving for years to measure up to God's holiness, and sometimes questioning his own salvation, Keith came to a deeper understanding of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross―both to forgive his sins and to clothe him in His own righteousness.

Keith grew in grace without compromising his beliefs; he reconciled and restored all his relationships, and began to experienced real peace.   He wrote personal letters of apology to those he had offended with this admission:
“I hope you can understand that I am a man of principle, and yet, like a pendulum, I have a tendency to go too far to make a point.  I fear that in the past I have done just that.”  

In 1982 he released his final, and most worship-oriented album of all, Songs for the Shepherd.

One of the songs on that album is THERE IS A REDEEMER.  It was written by his wife, Melody, in the late 1970s during the time she and Keith were starting Last Days Ministry (LDM), an outreach to the drug culture and to unwed teenage mothers; a ministry that is still continuing today.  The song had been set aside, unpublished until she presented it during the production of this last album.

Keith loved the song but wanted to make it longer so, within a few minutes, he had penned this prophetic third and final verse:

When I stand in Glory, 
I will see His face,
And there, I’ll serve my King forever, 
In that holy place.

Just a few months later, at the young age of only 28 years, Keith Green was killed in a small plane crash.  He was standing in Glory, seeing his Father face-to-face.
  

There is a Redeemer,
Jesus, God's own Son,
Precious Lamb of God, Messiah,
Holy One,

Jesus my Redeemer,
Name above all names,
Precious Lamb of God, Messiah,
Oh, for sinners slain.

When I stand in Glory,
I will see His face,
And there I'll serve my King forever,
In that Holy Place.

(chorus)
Thank you oh my Father,
For giving us Your Son,
And leaving Your Spirit,

'Til the work on Earth is done.



6-11-2016

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