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, April 30, 2017


Miss Cecil Humphreys was just 21 years old when she published her first book entitled "Verses for Holy Seasons." It was a children’s book that contained a hymn or poem for each Sunday of the year.

In her Sunday School classes, her students were often confused about the meaning of some of the statements in the Apostle’s Creed. So, she began to write easy to memorize verses in the children’s terminology.  Many of those verses were developed into hymns, some of which are familiar to us.

For example, the first phrase of the Apostle’s Creed is, "I believe in God the Father Almighty."  The song she wrote to explain that phrase was, All Things Bright and Beautiful. For "Born of the Virgin Mary" she wrote, Once in Royal David's City. And to explain the meaning of the death of Jesus who was crucified and buried, she wrote, There is a Green Hill far Away.

In 1848, she married the Rev. Mr. William Alexander and in that same year, she published her second book titled, "Hymns for Little Children," which included the songs that were inspired by the Creed. 

In total, she wrote over four hundred hymns and poems but, of all her works, JESUS CALLS US is the most often sung and best loved.  

It has been said that prayer is like having a direct telephone line to God.  We can call Him anytime.  But have you ever thought about the fact that the phone line goes in two directions? Do you realize that JESUS CALLS US

In our prayers, we tend to call out to God as if we think He should serve us or that He should do what we tell Him.  We expect Him to fix our messed up situations, patch up our bad relationships, bail us out of financial difficulties, or heal our diseases.  And sometimes maybe that is His will, but usually, that’s not the case.  Our place is not to make demands or impose our wills on Him but rather to yield to His will for us.

JESUS CALLS US to serve Him regardless of our circumstances.  Paul’s words, in his letter to the Church at Philippi, are helpful.  “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things, I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:11-13)

I think our best example, though, is Christ, Himself, when He was tempted in the wilderness.  He was weak, hungry, lonely, and despised.  Satan tempted Him with great promises of wealth, and political power, and physical comfort.

Yet Jesus didn’t grasp for those things.  He loved and trusted His Father more than His own life. And just as He had instructed His disciples when He taught them to pray, “Thy will be done,” He obediently did what He was sent to do.   It was His Father’s will that He should suffer and die for our sins.

And that’s the way God works in our lives too; He doesn’t normally just make us comfortable or give us lots of stuff.  He molds us in the presses and tests us in the fires because He wants to make us Holy.

The hymn starts with a note of encouragement; when our lives are full of hardship and turmoil, JESUS CALLS US, not to remove our difficulties but to follow Him in and through them.

Our God is a jealous god and He wants first place.  If people or hobbies or wealth or other vain idols dominate or control our lives, JESUS CALLS US to “dump the junk” and love Him more.

Whether we are happy or sad, whether life is easy or tough, whatever conditions or circumstances we are in, JESUS CALLS US to love Him more than anyone or anything else.

The final verse begins with a subtle reminder; the very fact that JESUS CALLS US is evidence of His love and mercy toward us.  The hymn concludes with a prayer, that, by His Spirit, we may hear Him, and that He would soften our hearts to serve Him and love Him best of all.

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