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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Sunday, October 30, 2016


Oct. 31 is the beginning of what we generally refer to as the HOLIDAY SEASON and I am intrigued by how they line up on the calendar.
Halloween comes first and in actual dollars spent for decorations and entertainment, it has overcome Christmas as the biggest holiday of the year.  From a spiritual standpoint, the world is in darkness; that is our natural condition.  In fact, the Bible tells us that “men love the darkness because their deeds are evil” (John 3:19).  It also tells us that we are “dead in sin” (Eph. 2:1, Col. 2:13).  We are “of our father, the Devil” and have no knowledge of God so it is understandable that most people embrace or celebrate the holiday of darkness, superstition, and evil.   Unless and until the Spirit of God brings us light, we can’t know Him.
The next holiday on the calendar is Thanksgiving Day.  In 1621, the Pilgrims had just endured a terrible winter in which scores of children and adults had starved to death. They were discouraged and defeated and ready to return to England when God answered their prayers and another ship arrived with medical supplies, food, and just enough hope to encourage them to press on despite the adverse conditions.

Two years later William Bradford, the governor of the Plymouth Colony, said, “Inasmuch as the Father has given us an abundant harvest and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish; and He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship Him according to the dictates of our own conscience; I now proclaim that on Thursday, Nov. 29, 1623, we will render thanksgiving to the Almighty God for all His blessings.”

Romans 2:4 says, “The goodness of God leads you to repentance.” We celebrate His goodness at Thanksgiving and the ultimate manifestation of God’s Goodness was the gift of His Son, the Light of the world, and we celebrate the birth of Jesus at the very next Holiday on our calendar.

St. Valentine was a priest near Rome during the rule of Claudius II.  A few years before Claudius began persecuting Christians for not worshiping the Roman gods, war broke out in the Roman Empire and Claudius began drafting all the able-bodied men to go into battle.  Many of the men were reluctant to leave their families or their sweethearts.  So, to remedy that, Claudius ordered that there be no marriages and that all engagements were to be broken off immediately.

In addition to helping many Christians escape persecution, Valentine earned the reputation of being a friend of lovers by secretly performing Christian marriages in defiance of the Emperor's ban.  Claudius imprisoned him on Feb. 14, 270 A.D., and later had him beheaded because he would not renounce his faith.

Romans 5:8 tells us that “God demonstrated His love for us (the bride of Christ) in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  And He did that on the cross at Calvary, which brings us right up to Resurrection Day.

Spring is the season of new life.  Statistically, there are more babies born in the Spring than any other season.  There came a time when each of us was physically born into this world.   And, for Christians, there was another time when God caused His light to “shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (2 Cor 4:6 ).  He gave us new life and we were Born Again.

Next on our American calendar, is Independence Day when we celebrate our liberties which were secured by those who made great sacrifices for our political freedoms. Likewise, Christ sacrificed His life to free us from the bondage of sin and death. “If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). That’s real freedom worth celebrating.

Finally, we come all the way back to Halloween, but we who are Christians, no longer lurk in that darkness.  “The Light of the world has shined in our hearts.”  We walk in the Light and have no fear of death because Christ has triumphed over sin, death, Satan.

Oct. 31 is one of the most important dates on the church calendar.  It is Reformation Day; the day that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the Wittenberg Cathedral door.  After 600 years of worldwide spiritual darkness (the Dark Ages) when most men were illiterate and very few had access to the written Word of God, Martin Luther and a host of other reformers, ushered in the Renaissance by shining the Light of God’s Truth into a world of superstition and darkness.

Martin Luther wrote A MIGHTY FORTRESS IS OUR GOD, based on Psalm 46.  The hymn, sometimes called the Battle Hymn of the Reformation, is a celebration of the sovereign power of God over all the earthly and spiritual forces of darkness, and of the sure hope we have in Him because of our Savior, Jesus Christ who is the Light of the world. 

1 comment:

  1. And it sounds great on the bagpipes! I actually played this as a duet with a trumpeter.