Welcome!  Hymns have been and continue to be a real source of inspiration to me.  My desire in this blog is to share special hymns with my readers hoping that the words will minister to them, especially in times of great personal need.  If one of these hymns ministers to you, please take time to leave a comment so that I know that my blog is helping others as much as it helps me. Sometimes I will also provide a link where you can go to hear the hymn played.  So, please join me here each week and sing along as we praise God together.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

THE GOD OF ABRAHAM PRAISE



        When you think of Biblical examples of faith and obedience to the will of God, you have to think of Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation of Israel, the "father of a multitude".  Many examples of His faith are recorded for us in the Bible, especially in Hebrews 11:8 - 12.  The faith of Abraham pleased God.  And yet Abraham was human.  The Bible also shares his impatience, fear, and a tendency to lie and deceive under pressure.  And yet the God of Abraham, the very same God who is ours centuries later, used Abraham despite his failures and weaknesses. God can and will also use us in spite of our weaknesses and failures. The Lord is greatly pleased by our faith and willingness to obey him.  The God of Abraham is the same yesterday, today and forever and should be the object of our praise.  The hymn "The God of Abraham Praise" is a Christian adaptation of the Jewish hymn "Yigdal", loosely translated and Christianized by the evangelist Thomas Olivers (1725-1799) after a visit to the Great Synagogue of London in 1770.    Olivers was one of the many people from the middle and lower classes that were converted through the evangelical ministry of George Whitfield. He was orphaned at only four years of age and became an apprentice to a shoemaker. Young Olivers was known for his truly appalling behavior.  One day Olivers heard Whitfield preach on the text, "Is this not a brand plucked out of the fire?" from Zechariah 3:2. He was converted and his life changed dramatically. John Wesley recognized Olivers' talents and persuaded him to become one of his evangelists.  His hymn  was first published in 1772. and the title of the hymn was based on a verse in the Book of Exodus: "I am the God of thy Father, the God of Abraham". (Exodus 3:6)   The hymn was originally composed with thirteen verses although later reprints of the hymn omit a number of them with the majority of hymn books using just four verses.  As you review the words of this old hymn, use them to join in the praise of Abraham's God, the ancient days, who is the same God who deals with us today.  He is infinite, without beginning or ending in time.  He is omnipresent, always present in every place. He is holy, without a trace of evil or deception about Him.  He is a loving God.  He is powerful.  What a mighty God we serve!  Hail, Abraham's God and mine!  All might and majesty are Thine and endless praise!  Here are the verses normally found in hymn books today.

1.     The God of Abraham praise, who reigns enthroned above;
Ancient of everlasting days, and God of Love;
Jehovah, great I AM! by earth and Heav'n confessed;
I bow and bless the sacred Name forever blessed.

2.    The God of Abraham praise, at Whose supreme command
From earth I rise — and seek the joys at His right hand;
I all on earth forsake, its wisdom, fame, and power;
And Him my only Portion make, my Shield and Tower.

3.     He by Himself has sworn; I on His oath depend,
I shall, on eagle wings upborne, to Heav'n ascend.
I shall behold His face; I shall His power adore,
And sing the wonders of His grace forevermore.

4.     The whole triumphant host give thanks to God on high;
"Hail, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost," they ever cry.
Hail, Abraham's God, and mine! (I join the heav'nly lays,)
All might and majesty are Thine, and endless praise.

Here are other verses that were originally part of this hymn.

The God of Abraham praise, whose all sufficient grace
Shall guide me all my happy days, in all my ways.
He calls a worm His friend, He calls Himself my God!
And He shall save me to the end, thro' Jesus' blood.

Tho' nature's strength decay, and earth and hell withstand,
To Canaan's bounds I urge my way, at His command.
The wat'ry deep I pass, with Jesus in my view;
And thro' the howling wilderness my way pursue.

The goodly land I see, with peace and plenty bless'd;
A land of sacred liberty, and endless rest.
There milk and honey flow, and oil and wine abound,
And trees of life forever grow with mercy crowned.

There dwells the Lord our King, the Lord our righteousness,
Triumphant o'er the world and sin, the Prince of peace;
On Sion's sacred height His kingdom still maintains,
And glorious with His saints in light forever reigns.

He keeps His own secure, He guards them by His side,
Arrays in garments, white and pure, His spotless bride:
With streams of sacred bliss, with groves of living joys—
With all the fruits of Paradise, He still supplies.

Before the great Three-One they all exulting stand;
And tell the wonders He hath done, through all their land:
The list'ning spheres attend, and swell the growing fame;
And sing, in songs which never end, the wondrous Name.

The God Who reigns on high the great archangels sing,
And "Holy, holy, holy!" cry, "Almighty King!
Who was, and is, the same, and evermore shall be:
Jehovah - Father - great I AM, we worship Thee!"

Before the Savior's face the ransomed nations bow;
O'erwhelmed at His almighty grace, forever new:
He shows His prints of love - they kindle to a flame!
And sound thro' all the worlds above the slaughtered Lamb.

You can listen to a beautiful version here.  LISTEN1
And here is a more formal congregational version for you.  LISTEN2

Sunday, August 6, 2017

TRUSTING JESUS (TH#8)


TIMELESS HYMN #8 - Another one of the series of revised blogs of the great timeless hymns of the faith that I previously shared. This one was shared previously on February 22, 2009


          Sometimes a thought can jog a memory.  And when that memory happens to be a hymn, sometimes it is hard to get it out of your mind.  That is the case for me with this week's hymn.  This is one that we frequently sang in worship services as I was growing up.  I can picture great saints that I have known singing this with gusto because they had experienced the reality of the message in their daily living.  And, the older I get, the more the truth of this great hymn speaks to me.  How else can one face the  challenges of everyday living but by trusting Jesus for each moment?  What a thrill to realize that He knows our today and our future and we are safe in His care - even when our faith is small.  Trusting Jesus, that is all.  This is a hymn that is completely American in background.  Edgar Stites, author of the words, was a direct descendant of John Howland, one of the Mayflower's passengers.  Active in the Civil War, he was later a riverboat pilot and then a missionary to the frontier churches in South Dakota.  His hymn poem first appeared in a newspaper and was handed to the American evangelist D. L. Moody.  In turn, Moody gave it to his soloist and song leader, Ira D. Sankey, asking him to set it to music. In his book, Sankey's Story of the Gospel Hymns, the singer says, "I assented, on condition that he should vouch for the doctrine taught in the verses, and he said he would".  And with that a great hymn was written that has encouraged believers for many decades.  Hopefully this is your testimony.  So are you facing some challenges or some stormy ways today?  If not now, possibly you will tomorrow.  We all experience them at times in our life.  Then rest in the knowledge and experience that He does know all about it and He will guide you and comfort you as you trust Him. Who better to trust.  But we also need to trust Him and acknowledge Him in the good days, "singing if my path is clear". As the writer concludes, "Trusting Him while life shall last, Trusting Him till earth be past; Till within the jasper wall, Trusting Jesus, that is all."  What a wonderful privilege it is to walk with Him and trust Him each moment of our lives.

1.     Simply trusting every day,
Trusting through a stormy way;
Even when my faith is small,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.
Trusting as the moments fly,
Trusting as the days go by;
Trusting Him whate'er befall,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.
    
 2.     Brightly doth His Spirit shine
Into this poor heart of mine;
While He leads I cannot fall;
Trusting Jesus, that is all.
Trusting as the moments fly,
Trusting as the days go by;
Trusting Him whate'er befall,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.

  3.     Singing if my way is clear,
Praying if the path be drear;
If in danger for Him call;
Trusting Jesus, that is all.
Trusting as the moments fly,
Trusting as the days go by;
Trusting Him whate'er befall,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.
   
  4.     Trusting Him while life shall last,
Trusting Him till earth be past;
Till within the jasper wall,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.
Trusting as the moments fly,
Trusting as the days go by;
Trusting Him whate'er befall,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.

Listen to it here.    LISTEN

Sunday, July 30, 2017

I'LL FLY AWAY


          One of the things that I have always appreciated about the older hymns is that very often the final verse was devoted to the topic of our future home in heaven. Personally, I wish more of today's Christian music would be devoted to that theme.  I guess heaven is a theme that we appreciate more the older we become.  For the believer it is our final destination and hope and the closer we come to experiencing it, the more meaningful it becomes.  This week's choice, written by Albert Brumley (1905-1977), shares the believers hope and future experience, using an upbeat melody. Brumley was born into a family of impoverished tenant farmers, and spent his early years picking cotton. He quit school after the tenth grade, envisioning little future beyond being a sharecropper like his father. Then, when he was sixteen, Brumley attended a singing class and discovered he had a gift for making music. Soon he was composing songs. A few years later, he briefly enrolled in a music school, but dropped out and returned to picking cotton. Brumley says that one day as he worked he was "humming the old ballad that went like this: 'If I had the wings of an angel, over these prison walls I would fly,' and suddenly it dawned on me that I could use this plot for a gospel-type song." The song Brumley was humming appears to be "The Prisoner's Song". But it was an additional three years later until Brumley worked out the rest of the song, paraphrasing one line from the secular ballad to read, "Like a bird from prison bars has flown", using prison as an analogy for earthly life.  Brumley has stated, "When I wrote it, I had no idea that it would become so universally popular." It was written in 1929 and published in 1932 by the Hartford Music company in a collection titled Wonderful Message.  And it did become an instant favorite across depression-ravaged America. It is still a standard song at bluegrass jam sessions and is often performed at funerals. Brumley wrote over 600 published songs, including "Turn Your Radio On", "I'll Meet You in the Morning", and "This World Is Not My Home". Brumley's song not only has a message of hope for the believer, but it is fun to sing because of its rousing melody that is easily harmonized. What a day that will be, when Christians take flight into the presence of the glorified Christ, and "we shall always be with the Lord" (I Thess. 4:17)..  What a blessed hope we have as we continue to live in this world which is  filled with despair and evil.  We are just pilgrims here knowing that a perfect home is being prepared for us.  And one day, possibly soon, we'll fly away to God's celestial shore.  Hallelujah!  Rejoice in this truth this week.

1.     Some bright morning when this life is over, I'll fly away
To a land on God's celestial shore, I'll fly away
I'll fly away, oh glory, I'll fly away
When I die, hallelujah by and by, I'll fly away

2.    When the shadows of this life have gone, I'll fly away
Like a bird from these prison walls I'll fly, I'll fly away
I'll fly away, oh glory, I'll fly away
When I die, hallelujah by and by, I'll fly away

3.    Oh how glad and happy when we meet, I'll fly away
No more cold iron shackles on my feet, I'll fly away
I'll fly away, oh glory, I'll fly away
When I die, hallelujah by and by, I'll fly away

4.     Just a few more weary days and then, I'll fly away
To a land where joy will never end, I'll fly away
I'll fly away, oh glory, I'll fly away
When I die, hallelujah by and by, I'll fly away

You can listen to it here.    LISTEN

Sunday, July 23, 2017

STILL, STILL WITH THEE


          Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) is primarily known for her novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, which she wrote and first appeared in The National Era in 1852.  She was intensely interested in the abolition of slavery and this led her to write this well known book which brought her national attention. It is considered by many to be one of the factors that ultimately led to the Civil War.  The Stowe's home in Cincinnati was a station on the Underground Railroad.  However, it wasn't her novel that is the reason that we feature her this week, but what happened as a result of one of her daily habits.  Every morning she would rise at 4:30 am and take a walk in the silence before the rush of the day.  During that time she would enjoy hearing the birds sing and seeing the dawn break.  But more importantly, she would commune with Jesus.  If you are a morning person you may be able to relate yo the beauty of such moments.  Personally, I used to walk early every morning and spend time with the Lord in those quiet moments. It was a very special time. Unfortunately, I had several unexpected close encounters with skunks in the dark - none of which sprayed me - but that was enough to make me change my habit. In the summer of 1853, when Stowe was visiting at the home of a friend, the results of her experiences of meditation while walking in the early morning hours led her to pen the words of this week's featured song, "Still, Still With Thee".  This is the only hymn by Harriet Beecher Stowe to survive in common use. However, many hymnologists believe that for sheer poetic beauty, there is probably not a single American hymn that can excel it. As we are drawn into the silence of the dawn where we can be alone with the Lord, it is as if we are telling Him that there is no greater blessing in this life than being "Still, Still With Thee." "How precious also are Thy thoughts unto me, O God!….When I awake, I am still with Thee"  (Ps. 139.17-18).  The words of her poem were put to music by Felix Mendelssohn, but many different tunes have since been used by various musicians.  Now maybe you aren't a morning person and haven't experienced this morning, quiet meeting with the Lord.  But, hopefully, you regularly share another intimate time with him throughout your day.  If you do, then you should be able to appreciate and relate to the sweetness of this meeting which Stowe describes. What a thrill to know that we can meet with Him at anytime and in any place.  And even more amazing is the fact that He is always there and ready to meet with us.


1.     Still, still with Thee, when purple morning breaketh,
When the bird waketh, and the shadows flee;
Fairer than morning, lovelier than daylight,
Dawns the sweet consciousness, I am with Thee.

2.     Alone with Thee, amid the mystic shadows,
The solemn hush of nature newly born;
Alone with Thee in breathless adoration,
In the calm dew and freshness of the morn.

3.     As in the dawning o'er the waveless ocean
The image of the morning star doth rest,
So in the stillness Thou beholdest only
Thine image in the waters of my breast.

4.     Still, still with Thee, as to each newborn morning,
A fresh and solemn splendor still is given,
So does this bless├Ęd consciousness, awaking,
Breathe each day nearness unto Thee and Heaven.

5.     When sinks the soul, subdued by toil, to slumber,
Its closing eye looks up to Thee in prayer;
Sweet the repose beneath the wings o'ershading,
But sweeter still to wake and find Thee there.

6.     So shall it be at last, in that bright morning,
When the soul waketh and life's shadows flee;
O in that hour, fairer than daylight dawning,
Shall rise the glorious thought, I am with Thee.

Listen to it here.  LISTEN1

Sunday, July 16, 2017

IN HIS TIME


          I admit it.  I get upset when I must wait.  I am bothered when folks are late for a meeting and we must wait for them.  I get upset when a doctor's office asks me to arrive at least 15 minutes before my appointment and then I must wait an additional 30 minutes to  actually be seen.  I don't like waiting in lines when I am driving.  In fact, I have been known to go many miles out of my way just to avoid waiting in a slow line.  I don't like to wait for the bill in a restaurant.  So you see, I have a problem with waiting. When I was a youngster in CEF camp I can recall being taught that God answers our prayers in three ways ... yes, no, or ...wait.  The yes is wonderful.  The no can be disappointing, but He is always right.  But the wait ... well it can be difficult, unless we put our entire faith in the Lord.  He will always answer ... in His time, not necessarily our time.  There is something in particular that I have been praying for now for a few years and the answer still appears to be ... wait.  But along the way I have seen evidences that the Lord has not forgotten my prayer and He will answer, in His time.  Many Bible characters have waited for God's answer.  Abraham waited a quarter of a century before God allowed he and Sarah to conceive, keeping His promise. Genesis 21:1-2, "The Lord kept His word and did for Sarah exactly what he had promised.  She became pregnant and she gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age.  This happened at just the time God had said it would." It was Diane Ball, a camp director of a conference center in California and a mother of four children, who penned the words of this song.  It is said that she was on her way to speak at a meeting and was running late.  While driving many miles she heard not only the melody but also the words to this week's choice.  And while it is very short, it is a great reminder of our need to trust God and His timing.  For us waiting can often seem like an eternity.  But we grow deeper in our relationship with the Lord as we learn to wait with anticipation rather than worry.  We know that God keeps His promises so we shouldn't get concerned when He requires us to wait.  So if today you are waiting for an answer, as I am, be assured that He hasn't forgotten you and that He makes all things beautiful  ... in His time.

1.     In His time, In His time,
He makes all things beautiful in His time.
Lord please show me every day
As You're teaching me Your way
That You do just what You say 
In Your time.

2.   In Your time, in Your time,
You make all things beautiful in Your time.
Lord my life to You I bring 
May each song I have to sing
Be to you a lovely thing 
In Your time.

You can listen to it here.   LISTEN

Here is another rendition, a longer but beautiful one.   LISTEN2

Sunday, July 9, 2017

WHATEVER IT TAKES


          What would you be willing to do to draw closer to God? Would you be willing to go through the darkest valley you have ever faced in order to know Him more than you do today? Would you be willing to give up your most prized possession in efforts to have a closer walk with God? What about "giving up" your dreams?  Are you really willing to do whatever it takes to become more like Him?  If you are like me, so often we sings songs without really thinking about the words we are singing.  This is especially true of songs of consecration, such as this week's choice by Lanny Wolfe.  But it is a very serious thing to tell the Lord, even through our singing, that we are willing to bear whatever He feels we need to draw closer to Him and to be like Him.  Years ago I had a good friend who battled the habit of smoking.  He tried everything he could to break the habit but he wasn't able to do so.  Then one day after much frustration he told the Lord that he couldn't do it himself and that the Lord should  do whatever He needed to do to take this habit from him.  He desparately desired to be free from this habit which was hindering his walk with the Lord.  A few hours later he had a major heart attack.  The Lord spared his life and he never smoked again.  I believe Gid heard his cry and answered.  I've often heard about fox-hole conversions during war and I've often wondered what happened to these promises after the war was over.  We all should have the desire to draw closer to the Lord and to walk with Him.  But sometimes that means enduring persecution and sickness and a variety of challenges.  In 2 Timothy we are told that we are soldiers in the middle of a spiritual battle.  And what do good soldiers do?  They endure hardness for a specific purpose and they trust and follow their leader.  The beauty of this is that our leader, the Lord Jesus Christ, will never leave us in the fiercest of battles. He will be there with us. We can trust Him fully for He knows all of our ways.  And we can safely say "whatever it takes to draw closer, Lord, that's what I'll be willing to do."  May that be our desire.  Lord, change us, mould us and make us into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ.  May we lose all desire for our will, but give us your desires and your will.  We place our whole life in your hands.


1.     There's a voice calling me 
from an old rugged tree,
And it whispers "Draw closer to Me.
Leave your world far behind
There are new heights to climb,
And a new life in Me you will find.
For whatever it takes to draw closer to You, Lord
That's what I'll be willing to do.
And whatever it takes to be more like You,
That's what I'll be willing to do.

2.     Take the dearest things to me
If that's how it must be
To draw me closer to thee
Let the disappointments come
Lonely days without the sun
If through sorrow more like you I become
For whatever it takes to draw closer to You, Lord
That's what I'll be willing to do
And whatever it takes to be more like You
That's what I'll be willing to do

3.     Take my houses and lands,
Take my dreams and my plans.
I place my whole life in Your hands.
And if You call me someday,
To a land far away,
Lord, I'll go and Your will obey
For whatever it takes to draw closer to You, Lord
That's what I'll be willing to do
And whatever it takes to be more like You
That's what I'll be willing to do

bridge

I'll trade sunshine for rain, comfort for pain
That's what I'll be willing to do
For whatever it takes for my will to break
That's what I'll be willing to do
And whatever it takes to be more like You
That's what I'll be willing to do

Listen to it here, sung by a girl's trio.  LISTEN

Sunday, July 2, 2017

TURN YOUR EYES UPON JESUS (TH#7)


TIMELESS HYMN #7 - Another revised and repeated blog of one of the great hymns of the faith - TURN YOUR EYES UPON JESUS - originally shared on November 9, 2008

          Terrorism, political upheaval, the cost of living, higher taxes, political correctness, fake news, attacks on Biblical values, cancer, weather and fears of all types are problems which we face today.  It is easy to get discouraged and overwhelmed by the problems of life which we encounter.  How easy it becomes, even for those of us who profess to be faithful followers of Christ, to get caught up in the "things of earth," so that our heavenly vision and values become blurred and dull. This can even happen when we are active in our Christian ministries.  We can become so involved in merely doing things for God that we miss the real blessing of enjoying the personal fellowship of Christ Himself in our daily lives. My grandfather who was a pastor for many years used to encourage his congregation with the admonition, "Keep Looking Up".   And that is such good advice because that is where our relief and help comes from, today, day by day, and then one of these days when Christ comes back to take us away from the problems of this world.  We need to turn our eyes upon Jesus and keep our focus on Him, with eternity's values in view.  The author and composer of this hymn, Helen H. Lemmel (1863-1961), relates that one day in 1918, a missionary friend gave her a tract entitled "Focused." The pamphlet contained these words: "So then, turn your eyes upon Him, look full into His face and you will find that the things of earth will acquire a strange new dimness."  These words made a deep impression upon Mrs. Lemmel. She could not dismiss them from her mind. She recalls this experience following the reading of that tract:  "Suddenly, as if commanded to stop and listen, I stood still, and singing in my soul and spirit was the chorus, with not one conscious moment of putting word to word to make rhyme, or note to note to make melody. The verses were written the same week, after the usual manner of composition, but none the less dictated by the Holy Spirit." The hymn was first published in 1918 in the form of a pamphlet in London, England. Four years later, it was included in a collection titled, "Glad Songs", a book containing sixty-seven songs by Mrs. Lemmel. This hymn became especially popular that same year at the Keswick Bible Conference in northern England, where it was first introduced.  Have you lost your focus?  Has your spiritual vision become blurred?  "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus." Hebrews 12:2.  "Turn your eyes upon Jesus and look full in His wonderful face.  And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace."


(1)    O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There's a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

(2)    Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conquerors we are!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace

(3)    His Word shall not fail you — He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace

Listen to it here.   LISTEN

Sunday, June 25, 2017

THE PEACE THAT JESUS GIVES


         We've all been there and have experienced those times in life when we are discouraged, fearful, worried, perplexed and weighed down with care.  It is part of life. It might be due to the death of a loved one.  It might be because of a medical test result we are waiting for or have received.  It might be because our company is downsizing.  It might be due to bad choices our children have made.  It might be due to difficult decisions we are facing.  There are so many events in life which can overwhelm us.  As I am writing this I, too, am facing concerns over serious medical tests I am facing the next few days and the possible diagnosis.  But as I was working today, the Lord brought to my mind the words of this week's hymn choice.  It is a hymn which I haven't heard in years, but the Lord saw fit to bring it back to my mind today when I needed some encouragement.  Have you experienced this extra special peace from God, a peace that passeth all understanding, in your times of distress?  Years ago I received a telephone call that my parents were in an auto accident.  My mother was killed instantly and dad was hospitalized.  It was an overwhelming experience, but I vividly recall the special peace that God provided for my family during this very difficult time in our lives.  My mother's favorite verse was 1 Peter 5:7, "Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you."  We found that promise so true.  There are numerous promises of peace for God's children found in the scriptures.  Psalm 29:11, "The Lord will give strength to His people;The Lord will bless His people with peace."  I especially appreciate Philippians 4:7, "and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."  When I log on to my computer each day I see a picture of a mother bird covering her two babies with her wings.  The verse I've included with the picture is Psalm 91:4, "He will cover you with his feathers.  He will shelter you with His wings.  His faithful promises are your armor and protection."  The protection of a mother in a time of storm. The words to this song were penned by Haldor Lillenas (1885-1959).  He was born in Norway but emigrated to America as a child.  His family settled first in South Dakota and then moved to Oregon in 1889.  After attending college and becoming a pastor, he later founded the Lillenas Publishing Company.  He is said to have written some 4,000 hymns and supplied music for many evangelists.  Now I don't know what prompted the writing of this particular hymn, but I assume that he must have personally experienced the peace and calm which God alone can provide.  I don't know what your period of discouragement or fear might be today, but put your trust in the Lord and experience hope renewed and the peace which He will give in your time of challenge.  I know that I will do the same as I face the tests and unknown results in my life in the next few days.  May we experience that peace that passeth all understanding.

1.     Like the sunshine after rain,
Like a rest that follows pain,
Like a hope returned again,
Is the peace that Jesus gives.
Oh, the peace that Jesus gives
Never dies; it always lives.
Like the music of a psalm,
Like a glad, eternal calm,
Is the peace that Jesus gives,
Is the peace that Jesus gives.

2.     Like the soft, refreshing dew,
Like a rosy daybreak new,
Like a friendship tender, true,
Is the peace that Jesus gives.
Oh, the peace that Jesus gives
Never dies; it always lives.
Like the music of a psalm,
Like a glad, eternal calm,
Is the peace that Jesus gives,
Is the peace that Jesus gives.

3.     Like a river deep and long,
With its current ceaseless, strong,
Like the cadence of a song,
Is the peace that Jesus gives
Oh, the peace that Jesus gives
Never dies; it always lives.
Like the music of a psalm,
Like a glad, eternal calm,
Is the peace that Jesus gives,
Is the peace that Jesus gives.

Listen to it here.   LISTEN

Sunday, June 18, 2017

O FOR A CLOSER WALK WITH GOD


        Many of the great hymns of the faith have been penned when the authors faced a tragedy or suffered from great physical pain or emotional distress.  William Cowper (1731-1800), the author of this hymn, experienced a number of  tragic events in his life, beginning with the death of his mother when he was six years old. It is said that he suffered from depression all of his life.  The son of an Anglican clergyman, Cowper studied for the law, but was so intimidated at the prospect of the law exam that he attempted suicide. Cowper was institutionalized in a mental asylum for a time.  Upon his release, he went to church where he met the Reverend Morely Unwin and his wife, Mary.  The Unwins took Cowper under their wing, and Cowper lived with them for more than two decades.  When Rev. Unwin fell from a horse and was killed,  John Newton (author of the hymn, "Amazing Grace") came to the Unwin home to pay his respects.  He persuaded Cowper and Mrs. Unwin to move to Olney, where Newton served as the pastor of a church.  Behind her new home was a beautiful garden where Cowper and Newton met nearly every day to work on their hymns.  Then Mary Unwin became seriously ill, and it appeared that she would die.  Cowper began to experience severe depression again, because Mary had been a mother figure to him and his best friend.  That crisis, in 1772,  inspired him to write "O for a Closer Walk with God", words that comforted him in his distress.  The day after he penned these words he wrote: "She is the chief of blessings I have met with in my journey since the Lord was pleased to call me. ... Her illness has been a sharp trial to me.  Oh, that it may have a sanctified effect, that I may rejoice to surrender up to the Lord my dearest comforts, the moment He may require them.  ... I began to compose the verses yesterday morning, before daybreak, but fell asleep at the end of the first two lines:  When I awakened, the third and fourth were whispered to my heart in a way which I have often experienced."  Fortunately, Mary recovered from her illness.  Cowper, who had written poetry for most of his life, worked with Newton on a collection of hymns that they entitled Olney Hymns.  That collection included 280 of Newton's hymns and 68 of Cowper's hymns, including this one.  Through his trials and depression, Cowper's desire was to have a closer walk with God.  But, like most of us, at times he strayed and missed "the blessedness" and the peace which He experienced when He was walking with God.  To walk with God requires us to "walk in the Spirit" (Galatians 6:16, 25) and be submissive to Him and dependent on Him.  And if sin raises a barrier between us or if there is an "idol" which stands in the way of our relationship, we need to confess it to restore the intimacy with Him that we once knew.  Is it your desire to have a closer walk with Him?  Are there things that are hindering you in that walk?  If there are, then confess them to Him today and ask Him to "tear" them away and restore the joy of your salvation.  May our daily prayer be, "O for a closer walk with God".

1.     O for a closer walk with God,
A calm and heavenly frame,
A light to shine upon the road
That leads me to the Lamb!

2.     Where is the blessedness I knew,
When first I saw the Lord?
Where is the soul refreshing view
Of Jesus and His Word?

3.     What peaceful hours I once enjoyed!
How sweet their memory still!
But they have left an aching void
The world can never fill.

4.     The dearest idol I have known,
Whate'er that idol be
Help me to tear it from Thy throne,
And worship only Thee.

5.     So shall my walk be close with God,
Calm and serene my frame;
So purer light shall mark the road
That leads me to the Lamb.

Listen to this hymn here.   LISTEN
(note - Cowper's words have been put to numerous melodies over the years.  The one chosen here is probably the most commonly used one in hymnbooks.)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

JESUS I THY CROSS HAVE TAKEN


     "Then said Jesus unto His disciples, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow Me."  Matthew 16:24.  As a youngster Henry F. Lyte (1793-1847) and his family lived in severe poverty.  His father abandoned him and his mother. Later he was orphaned at 9 years old and left with no support. He was invited by  a Rev. Robert Burrows into his home, accepted as part of his family, and had his education paid for. He graduated from Trinity College in Dubland, Ireland.  He also suffered throughout his lifetime with a frail body that was always prone to tuberculosis. Shortly after his ordination to the Anglican Church ministry, He was asked to visit a fellow clergyman, an Abraham Swanne, who was dying.  During the visit both came to the realization that  neither had really ever had a personal relationship with Christ or a genuine conversion experience.  They began to study the scriptures together and both made a sincere commitment to God. Lyte said, "I was greatly affected by the whole matter, and brought to look at life and its issue with a different eye than before; and I began to study my Bible, and preach in another manner than I had previously done." It is said that Lyte became a skilled student of the Bible and a tireless preacher of the gospel.   Following his conversion he wrote some eighty hymn texts. His conversion experience stirred him to write this week's hymn choice in 1824.  It  reflects Lyte's own personal attitude toward the "cross" of his suffering and the fact that he found refuge in Christ alone in learning to accept and use suffering in a spiritual sense.  When Christ becomes everything, and all is sacrificed to one's life and service for Him, following the Lord Jesus makes a stark contrast to anything that came before. That is the sober message of this hymn. Faced with it, many would draw back in horror, and their lives would echo Paul's sad reference to a former traveling companion: "Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world" (II Tim. 4:10).  Jesus declared, "Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple" (Lk. 14:33).  We are humbled when we see this kind of devotion played out in the lives of God's faithful saints. Yet there's no indication that it's to be exceptional and unusual. Each of us is only a steward of what God has given - time and talents, material things, and even relationships. And if we confess all to be truly His, then the Lord has a right to do as He pleases with His property.  It is thought that in addition to Lyte's physical afflictions, difficulty with some individuals in his church also weighed heavily upon him.  This might account for expressions from the second and third verses such as "human hearts and looks deceive me...", "foes may hate, and friends may shun me ...".  But he concludes the hymn with the joyous words, "hope shall change to glad fruition, faith to sight, and prayer to praise." The pain and loss suffered here is  small when compared to the blessings of eternity ahead. Mozart was thought to be a possible composer of the tune, but the connection has not been authenticated. Generally Rowland H. Prichard is credited with having written the music. The original hymn had six stanzas. Of these, one, two, four and six are commonly used today. Henry Lyte's publication of the hymn was headed by the words, "Lo, we have left all, and have followed Thee" (Mk. 10:28, KJV).


1.     Jesus, I my cross have taken, 
all to leave and follow Thee.
Destitute, despised, forsaken, 
Thou from hence my all shall be.
Perish every fond ambition, 
all I've sought or hoped or known.
Yet how rich is my condition! 
God and Heaven are still mine own.

2.     Let the world despise and leave me, 
they have left my Savior, too.
Human hearts and looks deceive me; 
Thou art not, like them, untrue.
And while Thou shalt smile upon me, 
God of wisdom, love and might,
Foes may hate and friends disown me, 
show Thy face and all is bright.

*3.     Go, then, earthly fame and treasure! 
Come, disaster, scorn and pain!
In Thy service, pain is pleasure; 
with Thy favor, loss is gain.
I have called Thee, "Abba, Father"; 
I have set my heart on Thee:
Storms may howl, and clouds may gather, 
all must work for good to me.

4.     Man may trouble and distress me, '
twill but drive me to Thy breast.
Life with trials hard may press me; 
heaven will bring me sweeter rest.
Oh, 'tis not in grief to harm me while 
Thy love is left to me;
Oh, 'twere not in joy to charm me, 
were that joy unmixed with Thee.

*5.   Take, my soul, thy full salvation; 
rise o'er sin, and fear, and care;
Joy to find in every station 
something still to do or bear:
Think what Spirit dwells within thee; 
what a Father's smile is thine;
What a Savior died to win thee, 
child of heaven, shouldst thou repine?

6.    Haste then on from grace to glory, 
armed by faith, and winged by prayer,
Heaven's eternal day's before thee, 
God's own hand shall guide thee there.
Soon shall close thy earthly mission, 
swift shall pass thy pilgrim days;
Hope soon change to glad fruition, 
faith to sight, and prayer to praise.

Listen to it here.   LISTEN