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, February 5, 2017


A pastor friend of mine, died, about a month ago, at the age of 81 years.   Some of you knew him; his name was Tom Hilterman.  Years ago, he told me an amazing story about his friend, Bob Harrah.  In 1954, Bob was a janitor at Akron Baptist Temple, a large church with multiple ministries.

The church staff had planned to start a new church in a small facility about 60 miles away.  They leased a facility for one year, furnished it with chairs and hymnbooks, and assigned one of their associate pastors to start the new ministry.

After several months of unsuccessful efforts, the associate pastor gave up and returned to Akron.   Bob was sent to bring back the chairs and books and lock up the property.

As soon as he arrived, he sensed the Spirit of God calling him to that ministry, and he immediately phoned his pastor with a proposal.  He asked if they would be willing to continue his janitor’s salary for the remainder of the lease, and allow him to try to start up the new church.  His pastor agreed and Bob started to work.

He walked the neighborhood, knocking on doors.  At one home, he met some ladies with their mother and their aunt. They visited for a while and then Bob invited them to come to the very first meeting of the new church. When Sunday arrived, those ladies were the only ones who attended but Bob conducted the service anyway.  He accompanied their singing with an old, beat up, guitar.

The next Sunday, again, only the six of them attended but Bob was not discouraged. He just kept inviting neighbors to church and preaching the Gospel.  God began to work in that church and, people’s lives were being changed.
One of those first six ladies was my pastor friend’s wife, Barbara.  During that first visit to her home, he asked her to read Romans 10: 9-10. When Barbara read, “…if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved,” she believed God’s Word and He saved her.

Bob pastored there for many years and eventually, that little church grew to about 350 members and they have helped start about fifteen other churches.
By most people’s assessment, Pastor Bob Harrah was destined for failure.  He had no credentials, no education, no experience, and no idea what he was doing.  He used no modern marketing gimmicks, no Starbucks Coffee in the lobby, and no opinion polls to find out what the local community wanted in a church.  He didn’t even have a clever, church growth plan published by some megachurch celebrity preacher.

In fact, he didn’t have any books at all.   One day Tom Hilterman saw that Bob’s bookshelves were empty.  He thought, “Every pastor should have a library to help in his studies,” so Tom gave him some of his own books. Later, during another visit, Tom noticed that there were still no books in Bob’s office, so he asked where they were.  “I gave them away,” he said, “I don’t need any other books.  I have the Bible; it’s enough.”

Every Sunday, Bob stepped up to his pulpit, opened his Bible, and began to do the only thing he knew; He read the Word of God.   And when he finished the passage, he always turned back to Isaiah 1:18 and read, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
And then he moved the subject directly to the cross and he preached the gospel; he told his people how Jesus suffered and bled and died to pay the penalty for their sins and to provide for their salvation. 

Pastor Bob never deviated from that pattern.  He didn’t have much but he had all he needed; he just preached “The Book, The Blood, and The Blessed Hope.”

Several well-known hymns and gospel songs have been written that build on that three-point doctrinal pattern but my favorite is, MY FAITH HAS FOUND A RESTING PLACE.  Those foundational themes are emphasized throughout the hymn.  As you read through the lyrics, note how many times the author references the Word of God, the sacrificial Blood of Christ, and our salvation which is our Blessed Hope. 

And then, following each stanza is this great declaration of encouragement and assurance; “I need no other argument; I need no other plea.  It is enough that Jesus died and that He died for me.”


My faith has found a resting place,
Not in device nor creed.
I trust the ever-living One;
His wounds for me shall plead.

Enough for me that Jesus saves,
This ends my fear and doubt;
A sinful soul, I come to Him;
He'll never cast me out.

My heart is leaning on the Word-
The written Word of God;
Salvation by my Savior's Name;
Salvation through His blood.

My Great Physician heals the sick,
The lost He came to save.
For me His precious blood He shed;
For me His life He gave.

I need no other argument,
I need no other plea;
It is enough that Jesus died,
And that He died for me.

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