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, within those parameters, I try to select music that will reinforce and support the text and the 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 few 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 these commentaries 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.

A complete list of hymns is located on the right side panel.

Ralph M. Petersen

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Sunday, June 4, 2017


Redemption is a “once for all” transaction where a sinner is washed in the blood of the Lamb of God who was slain for our sins.  But in this world, we will do things and go places that will stain our hands and feet so we need regular and frequent cleansing to keep us in fellowship with the Lord.  He is holy and He commands us to be holy. 

If you were a child in the 1950s and 1960s, you probably remember Fizzies.  They were little, colored seltzer tablets that we would drop into a glass of water and then watch them fizz up.  When the tablets were completely dissolved, they turned plain tap water into tasty, carbonated soft drinks.  They came in seven flavors: grape, orange, cherry, lemon-lime, strawberry, cola and, my favorite, root beer.   By the early 1960s, Fizzies were more popular than Kool-Aid.

One day, when I was about 8 years old, my Mom left me at home with my grandfather.  It was a summer day and I wanted a Fizzie soft drink so I asked him if I could go to the market and get some.  He said no!

Well, I pouted about that for a while until I found some coins on my mom’s nightstand.  So, I took a quarter (that was equivalent to about $2.50 today).  I sneaked off down the street to the market and I bought some root beer Fizzies.  It sure tasted good.

When my mother got home from work, she found the Fizzies wrappers in the trash can and asked me how I got them.  I told her Grandpa gave me the money.   She didn't question me anymore and I thought I got away with that, but I really didn’t.  She knew that I lied to her.  Even though she never said anything else about it, I knew she was disappointed with me (I could tell by the silent treatment) and I carried the guilt of that sin for a long time.

Finally, after several days, I confessed; I lied to her, I took her money, and I disobeyed my Grandfather.  That’s when she forgave me, she smiled and hugged me, she told me she loved me, and our relationship was restored.

That heavy, guilty feeling, I had, is called conviction. That’s the way the Spirit of God works in our lives.  He is like a mother with eyes in the back of her head; she sees everything, and she knows what you did and she will make your life miserable until you are sorry and corrected.

When we sin, the Holy Spirit relentlessly chases and chastens us until we are grieved so much that we are brought to a place of confession and repentance.
And that work of the Spirit, in us, is evidence of true salvation.  It is one way a believer can know that he is saved.  If you are not miserable about your sin; if you can ignore the pleas from other Christians, to stop, and if you can quench or silence the Spirit and continue to sin, it is possible that you may not have the Spirit of God in you and there is good reason to question the reality of your salvation. 
When David sinned, he felt that same guilty feeling of conviction and he recorded his confession and repentance for us in Psalm 51 which was the inspiration for James Nicholson’s hymn, WHITER THAN SNOW. 

In the Psalm, we see that David is deeply troubled by his sin.  He knew that there would be no forgiveness from God without his confession and so, he is pleading with the Lord, “Have mercy upon me, O God, Blot out my transgressions.  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.  Against You, and You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight.”

Then, after admitting his sin, David asks God for His forgiveness and a restoration of their fellowship, Wash me, and I shall be WHITER THAN SNOW."

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