The Christian’s Song

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(Photograph of Odom Hawkins)

THE CHRISTIAN’S SONG

“…The life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20)

     INTRO.:  A song which points out how followers of Christ live by faith because He loves them is “The Christian’s Song.”  The text was written and the tune was composed both by Odom Lon Hawkins, who was born on September 21, 1932, in Eva, AL, near Decatur and Huntsville, to Homer and Erie (nee Cobbs) Hawkins.  His wife’s name was Jessie, and he was the father of two children, a son Brian, and a daughter Ann.  Living in Cullman, AL, he was a minister with the Church of Christ.

Back in 2007, I saw a notice, either in a magazine published by members of the Church of Christ or on an online list operated by folks associated with the Church of Christ, advertising that Hawkins had written some songs and offering to mail copies to anyone interested.  I wrote him, and he responded by sending me six.  They were “The Savior’s Call” (1993); “Think on These Things” (1994); “The Land of Rest” (1995); “I’m Going Home” (1995); “Worship God” (1993); and “The Christian’s Song” (2003).  I later found out that Hawkins has also written and published several religious e-books that are available on such services as Kobo, Smashwords, Kindle, and Scribd.

Odom L Hawkins, aged 82, passed away on Tuesday, February 3, 2015, at Princeton Medical Center in Birmingham, AL.  Preceded in death by his parents and several of his brothers and sisters, he was survived by his wife, his children, a daughter-in-law, a step-daughter, two step-sons, three grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, and a sister.  Funeral services were held on Saturday, February 7, at Cullman Heritage Funeral Home, with interment in Cullman City Cemetery.

“The Christian’s Song” expresses three reasons, past, present, and future, why we should want to live for Jesus.

I. Stanza 1 says that we can sing because Christ died on Calvary to save us from sin

Jesus came from heaven and He saved our souls,

Gave His life on Calvary to make us whole.

Now we live for Him; we’re under His control.

We’re living for Christ each day.

  1. Jesus came from heaven to earth to save our souls: 1 Tim. 1:15
  2. To accomplish His mission, He gave His life on Calvary: Rom. 5:8
  3. As a result, we should strive to live for Him: 1 Jn. 4:9

II. Stanza 2 says that we can sing because Christ helps us to bear our burdens in life

When our cross is heavy and the way seems long,

Then we bow to heaven with a prayer and song,

Clinging to the Savior with a faith that’s strong;

We’re living for Christ each day.

  1. To be a disciple, we must be willing to bear the cross: Matt. 16:24
  2. However, Jesus promises us that we can come before His throne in prayer to find help in time of need: Heb. 4:14-16
  3. This enables us, like Abraham, to cling to Him with a stronger faith: Rom. 4:19-20

III. Stanza 3 says that we can sing because Christ will take us home to live with Him forever

When our journey’s ended and our work is o’er,

We shall live forever on that golden shore,

Singing praise to Jesus there forever more;

We’ll be with our Lord for aye.

  1. Our journey will be ended and our work done at death: Rev. 14:13
  2. Then we shall live forever on that golden shore by the river of life: Rev. 22:1-5
  3. And there we shall sing praises to Jesus evermore: Rev. 15:2-4

CONCL.:  The chorus reminds us of the importance of living for Jesus every day.

Living for Jesus in one accord,

Fully we’re trusting our blessed Lord.

Mansions in glory will be our reward;

We’re living for Christ each day.

As we journey through this life towards eternity, knowing that Jesus died to save us from our sins, being guided by His word, and looking forward to a home with Him in heaven, we have every reason to sing “The Christian’s Song.”

christian-song

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His Name Is Jesus

max-wheeler1

(photograph of Max Wheeler)

HIS NAME IS JESUS

“And she shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus…” (Matt. 1:21)

     INTRO.:  A song which stresses the importance of the name of Jesus is “His Name Is Jesus” (#650 in Hymns for Worship Revised).  The text, in two stanzas, was written and the tune was composed both by Max Duane Wheeler, who was born on Sept. 18, 1932, at Nocona, TX, to  Ed and Eula Wheeler.  The Wheelers were a singing family.  Max’s father was a first cousin to Palmer Esker Wheeler (1904-1983).  Palmer was a well known song writer among churches of Christ, who did much to popularize the song “I Know the Lord Will Find a Way for Me,” and also set the books of the New Testament to music for children to learn.  That made Max a second cousin to Palmer’s son, Thomas Esker “Tommy” Wheeler (1931-2015).  Tommy was also a hymn writer whose songs have appeared in several books published and used among churches of Christ.  Max married Nancy Lyles, and they had three children, Julie, Jeff, and Melanie.  A graduate of Abilene Christian University, Max lived in the Dallas, TX, area, and led singing at the Preston Rd. church for many years.

During this time, Max produced many hymns and provided music for hymns written by others.  He and Tommy were members of some special recording groups. They teamed up to write songs together.  Max would write the words, and Tommy would compose the music to go with the words. As a team, over the years, they produced hundreds of songs together. They began to send their songs to several of the convention song book publishers to be included in their song books. Then Tommy and Max began attending the various conventions that were held around the country. As Tommy and Max made these conventions to promote their own songs, they traveled not only in Texas, but to Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Tennessee as well.  Through their involvement in the singing conventions, Tommy and Max were privileged to meet Robert Arnold, who wrote the song “No Tears In Heaven.”  Arnold was 92 years old at the time, and was also one of the song book publishers. He was a very active person, and was privileged to sing solos at these conventions. Max thought it might be good if he and Tommy could sing in a quartet with Arnold. He suggested the idea to Tommy, and considering Arnold’s age at the time, thought it might be the last time they would get the opportunity to sing with him. Max set up the recording equipment, and secured another singer, and together they sang “No Tears In Heaven.” Not long after that event, Arnold passed away.

In 1986, Max was preparing some material for a series of lectures on church music in the early days of the “restoration movement” and compiled a collection of hymns by some of the leaders, including Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone.  Campbell had never allowed any of his hymns to be set to music, so one evening Wheeler tried to come up with a musical arrangement for Campbell’s poem “Upon the Banks of Jordan Stood.”  About a month later, he was doing some recording with Ray Walker at a Dallas studio and scratched out a quick manuscript copy of the music, asking Ray to look over it.  By the next night Ray had recorded it.  The producer, Bill Shockley, liked it so much that he decided to include it in one of his production tapes and market it.  A few months later, Bill Humble asked to use it as the theme music for a video that he was producing on the life of Alexander Campbell.  Since then it has been included in several hymnbooks.  “His Name Is Jesus” was first published in 1991.  Also, Max did much research on hymns, and for some three years the Christian Journal presented a series of articles that he wrote on well loved songs.  These articles were collected and published as a book known as Reflections on Our Hymns in 1992.  In 1996, a special singing was held at the Cedar Hill Church of Christ in Cedar Hill, Texas. It was to honor Tommy Wheeler on his 65th birthday on Feb. 1st. Tommy published a song book to be used at the singing. It contained not only a few of Tommy’s songs, but some of Max Wheeler’s, and some of Palmer Wheeler’s songs. There were an estimated 250 to 300 people present that evening. Max D. Wheeler died peacefully on September 10, 2012, in Dallas, TX. Preceded in death by his parents and daughter Julie, he was survived by his wife, Nancy, son Jeff and wife Cara, daughter Melanie Wheeler Johnson and husband David, brother Gary Van Wheeler and wife Maggie, sister-in-law Vicki Hart and husband Bill, and eight grandchildren. The memorial service was held on Sept. 20th at the Preston Rd. Church of Christ in Dallas.

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “His Name Is Jesus” has appeared in the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1999 Into Our Hands edited by Leland R. Fleming; the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church and the 2010 Songs for Worship and Praise both edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.; and the 2012 Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs edited by Steve Wolfgang et. al.; in addition to Hymns for Worship Revised (not in the original edition).

The song identifies several concepts that are identified with the name of Jesus.

I. Stanza 1 emphasizes His love

His name is Jesus, His name is Jesus,

Oh how He loves you and me.

Oh, wonderful Savior sent from the Father;

Oh how He loves you and me.

  1. We know that Jesus loves us by what He did for us: 1 Jn. 3:16
  2. He was born to be the Savior: Lk. 2:11
  3. To accomplish this, He was sent by the Father: Jn. 3:16

II. Stanza 2 emphasizes His holiness

His name is holy, His name is holy,

His name is holy to me.

Oh wonderful mystery, how He could love me;

His name is holy to me.

  1. His name is holy because He Himself is the Holy One: Mk. 1:24
  2. This Holy One reveals to us the mystery of godliness: 1 Tim. 3:16
  3. The greatest “mystery” is how He could so love us and give Himself for us: Gal. 2:20

III. Stanza 3 (added) emphasizes His salvation

His name means Savior; He died on Calvary,

So He could save you and me.

Then He rose triumphant and lives in heaven;

Someday He’ll come back for me.

  1. He died on Calvary for our sins: 1 Cor. 15:3
  2. His whole purpose in coming was to save sinners: 1 Tim. 1:15
  3. Someday this Savior will return to take us to heaven: Phil. 3:20-21

III. Stanza 4 (added) emphasizes His preciousness

His name is Jesus, His name is holy,

His name means Savior to me.

He’s God of creation, Lord of salvation;

His name is precious to me.

  1. Christ is the God of creation: Jn. 1:1-3
  2. He is also Lord of salvation: Acts 4:12
  3. Therefore, He and His very name are precious to us: 1 Pet. 2:3-4

CONCL.:  When we sing some of these one and two stanza songs, I often imagine what it would be like to have three or even four full stanzas, and sometimes I am able to come up with additional ones.  Certainly, it is good to be reminded in song of all the wonderful spiritual blessings that are available to us in Christ because “His Name Is Jesus.”

his-name-is

Father, Take This Heart of Mine

annette-jenkins

(photograph of Annette Jenkins)

“FATHER, TAKE THIS HEART OF MINE”

“Our Father, which art in heaven…Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven…” (Matt. 6.9-10)

     INTRO.: A song which asks that God our Father will take our hearts so that His will may be done in our lives is “Father, Take This Heart of Mine” (#370 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The text was written and the tune was composed both by Annette A. Jenkins, who is a native of Tennessee, but for many years lived in Plantation, FL, having moved there from Beaufort, SC. Her husband was an elder with the Harding St. church of Christ in Hollywood, FL, and they had two sons who are now married.  “Father, Take This Heart of Mine,” along with some other hymns, had been produced several years before her move to Plantation, but she had put them aside until she met David Norman Henderson (1925-1986).  An avid and able song-writer himself, Henderson not only renewed her interest in song writing but also gave it direction by supplying the harmony for this song.

Mrs. Jenkins’s first two published songs, both copyright in 1977, were “The Power of God” which was published in the Firm Foundation by the Firm Foundation Publishing House of Austin, TX, and “Father, Take This Heart of Mine” which was first published in Special Sacred Selections, edited in 1977, by Ellis J. Crum (b. 1928). Another of her songs, “Fading Light,” based on ideas gathered from reading an article entitled “On Going Back Home” written by Mrs. Bobbie Miller in the Sept., 1978, issue of Searching the Scriptures, was copyrighted in 1980, again with harmonization by Henderson. These three songs, along with her “We Have Seen the Star,” were included in the 1980 book, Majestic Praise and the 1982 booklet Songs by Songlight, both edited by Henderson and Michael J. Schmidt, and published by Songlight Publishers of Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

All of Mrs. Jenkins’s songs have either been assigned to or copyrighted by Songlight Publishers, and she has said that singing praise has been a very enjoyable part of her life and worship to God since she became a Christian. Having put her own words of praise to music, she hopes that they will be profitable to others. A new arrangement of “Father, Take This Heart of Mine” was made by Dane K. Shepard (b. 1951). It was first published in 1986 in Hymns for Worship. Mrs. Jenkins later moved from Florida to Tullahoma, TN. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, “Father, Take This Heart of Mine” may be found in Special Sacred Selections, Majestic Praise, Songs by Songlight, and Hymns for Worship.

The song encourages us to give our hearts to God in doing His will.

I. Stanza 1 tells us to ask God to help us make our wills as His.

“Father, take this heart of mine;

Make my will to be as Thine.

Help me in the things I do

Ever to my Lord be true.”

  1. God wants us to give Him our hearts: Prov. 23.26
  2. To do this, we need to have the same attitude of complete submission to God’s will that Jesus expressed in the garden of Gethsemane: Lk. 22.42
  3. Having this attitude will help us to be true or faithful to the Lord in everything that we do: 1 Cor. 4:1-2

II. Stanza 2 tells us to ask God to help us have wisdom and love that we may teach others

“Give me wisdom so I may

Teach someone Thy saving way;

Let me love as You command,

And in truth forever stand.”

  1. The Bible says that when we need wisdom we can ask of God: Jas. 1.5
  2. One area in which we surely need wisdom is to take what we have learned and teach it to others also: 2 Tim. 2.2
  3. The prime factor which motivates us to do this is our love for our fellow man: Mk. 12.31

III. Stanza 3 tells us to ask God to help us live so that we can go to that peaceful shore

“When this life on earth is o’er,

Take me to that peaceful shore;

Then I’ll spend eternity

With Thy children, praising Thee.”

  1. “When this life on earth is o’er” refers to the fact that it is appointed for each person to die once, and after this will come the judgment: Heb. 9.27
  2. Then we can go to that peaceful shore if we have fought the good fight, run the race, and kept the faith: 2 Tim. 4.6-8
  3. What will make that peaceful shore so grand is that not only shall we be reunited with those who have gone on before, but we shall ever be with the Lord: 1 Tim. 4.16-17

CONCL.: A song does not have to be long in order to be full of meaning. Many of our short, devotional hymns can be very useful in reminding us of our responsibilities before the Lord and the blessings of our relationship with Him. Therefore, I need to have the attitude expressed in this song, saying to God, “Father, Take This Heart of Mine.”

father-take

In Memory

dicus

(photograph of A. W. Dicus)

IN MEMORY

“…This do in remembrance of Me” (Lk. 22:19)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which explains that we partake of the Lord’s supper in remembrance of Jesus Christ and His death is “In Memory.”  The text was written and the tune was composed both by Aaron Wesley Dicus (1888-1978).  In addition to being a scientist, a school teacher, an inventor, head of the physics department at Tennessee Polytechnical Institute in Cookville, TN, a military trainer in nuclear studies at Oak Ridge, TN, and academic dean of Florida (Christian) College in Temple Terrace, FL, near Tampa, Dicus was throughout his career a gospel preacher and in his later life a hymn writer who produced several songs.

Probably, Dicus’s best known songs are “Our God, He Is Alive” from 1966 and “Lord, I Believe” from 1970, both of which have appeared in most recent hymnbooks published by brethren, but he composed some 22 others.  This communion hymn, “In Memory,” was copyrighted in 1969 by Dicus.  In 1973, a few years before his death, Dicus assigned the rights to his hymns to Ellis J. Crum of Kendallville, IN, owner of Sacred Selections Inc. Dicus’s son, the late E. A. Dicus of Cleveland, OH, told me that the Dicus family had to obtain Crum’s permission to publish a small booklet, Songs and Hymns by A. W. Dicus: A Scientist with a Song, containing all of brother Dicus’s songs.

The booklet was printed by the Dicus family, and published in Chattanooga, TN, sometime after his death in 1978, perhaps around 1979 or a little later.  On the same page in both of these books, there is a one-stanza song entitled “Lord’s Day Worship” with the same time and key signature, also copyrighted in 1969 by Dicus and assigned to Sacred Selections in 1973, which could be used as a sort of refrain or chorus after singing all three stanzas of “In Memory.”  The two tunes are even melodically and rhythmically similar

The song reminds us of the purpose of the Lord’s supper and thus is an appropriate one to help prepare the minds of a congregation to eat the communion.

I. Stanza 1 tells us where and when to partake as the disciples gather together to break bread

Lord, within Thy holy temple,

At this table Thou hast spread,

Every Lord’s day we assemble,

Here with Thee to break our bread.

  1. “Thy holy temple” here refers not to a physical building but to the assembled church as the spiritual temple of God today: Eph. 2:19-22
  2. The table symbolically represents the communion service, since one of the major purposes of this assembling together is to “break bread,” which in contexts such as these refers to the Lord’s supper: 1 Cor. 10:16-21
  3. The specific assembling together of the song is on the “Lord’s day,” which is universally used by the “early church fathers” in their writings to refer to the first day of the week: Acts 20:7, Rev. 1:10

II. Stanza 2 tells us why we partake, the purpose of the Lord’s supper being to remember Christ’s death

Thanks we give Thee for this favor,

Which renews our memory,

To discern our dying Savior,

On the cross of Calvary.

  1. In the Lord’s supper we give thanks to God for what it represents as Jesus Himself did: Matt. 26;26-28
  2. As the purpose of the Lord’s supper is to help us remember the body and blood of Christ, this we do in His memory, showing His death till He comes: 1 Cor. 11:23-26
  3. Thus we discern our Savior who died on the cross of Calvary, emphasizing to our minds the importance of the death: Lk. 23:33, 1 Cor. 15.1-3

III. Stanza 3 tells us how to partake, focusing on the elements that are to be used in the Lord’s supper

Clear our minds, all else forsaking,

While with Thee we sup and dine;

Bless us while we are partaking,

Bless the bread, and bless the wine.

  1. We need to clear our minds of all else and forsake all other thoughts at that time to partake worthily: 1 Cor. 11:27-29
  2. We need to think about the fact that in partaking, we are having communion or fellowship with Christ, His blood, and His body, remembering as we dine that the bread represents Christ’s body and the cup or fruit of the vine represents His blood: Mk. 14:23-25
  3. Some object to using the word “wine” with reference to the Lord’s supper; it is true that the scriptures never use it that way, but for years we have preached that the word “wine” (both in English and Greek) can be used to refer to unfermented grape juice, so if we can understand it that way, we can use it: Jn. 2.9-10

CONCL.: “Lord’s Day Worship” combines the thoughts of the three stanzas of “In Memory”

Hear, God, our prayer, while now we break our bread;

May we discern our Lord whose blood was shed.

Cleanse, Lord, our hearts, while we our minds make free;

These emblems, while now we drink with Thee.

The word “bless,” as when Jesus blessed the bread, simply means to give thanks. In that sense, we “bless the bread” and “bless the cup” before we partake. The scriptures really do not tell us that we should ask God to bless the bread and the cup, but I assume that many brethren use this term simply in asking God to set the elements apart from what their usual usage would be in providing food and drink for the body and to work through them in reminding us of Christ’s death.  Recently, while trying to prepare some Sunday morning song services, I was impressed with the small number of good songs that are actually about the Lord’s supper in most of our books, and the fact that of that relatively small number we usually sing only a few (over and over and over again!). While there is no specific command to have a song to prepare our minds for the communion service, we can always use a few more different good songs to help us in making sure that we truly partake of the Lord’s supper “In Memory.”

in memory

A Bend in the Road

rick knight

(photograph of Rick Knight)

“A BEND IN THE ROAD”

“…The trying of your faith worketh patience” (Jas. 1:3)

     INTRO.: A song which encourages us to develop patience from the trying of our faith is “A Bend in the Road.” The text of stanzas 1 and 2 and the chorus were presented to Stacy King, wife of gospel preacher Greg King then of Benton, IL, during her battle with cancer. At that time, the authorship and original source were unknown. The text of stanza 3 was written and the tune was composed both by a member, song leader, and now elder of the Benton church, Rick Knight. The arrangement was made by R. J. Stevens (1927-2012). Later, it was learned that first two stanzas were taken and adapted from a poem entitled “Life’s Crossroads” written by Helen Steiner Rice, often referred to as the “poet laureate of inspirational verse,” who was born Helen Elaine Steiner on May 19,1900, to John and Anna Steiner of Lorain, OH. Even as a little girl, she loved to write rhyming couplets and preach about God’s love to her family. Pretty, pert, and precocious, young Helen became a conscientious and outstanding high school student. Her teachers, some of whom were suffragists supporting women’s right to vote, encouraged the teenager to set high goals. She dreamed of attending college, and her high school yearbook noted that she hoped to become a Congresswoman, but her plans changed unexpectedly when her father, a railroad worker, died in the influenza epidemic of 1918, the same year she graduated from high school.

Instead of attending college, Helen became the family breadwinner and supported her mother and sister. Initially she was employed at the Lorain Electric Light and Power Company where she demonstrated how to create attractive lamp shades. Energetic and enterprising, Helen asked to be trained as a bookkeeper. After mastering those skills, she also started designing eye-catching display windows and, having proved that her insights in marketing were sound, she became the company’s advertising manager, which was rare for a woman at that time. She also became the Ohio State Chairman of the Women’s Public Information Committee of the Electric Light Association. In time she was invited to be a spokeswoman for the Ohio Public Service Company and, in her twenties, crisscrossed the country giving speeches. In addition to promoting the advantages of the electric lighting industry, she also spoke about the importance of the opinions of women as consumers and about the value of women’s talents in the workplace, campaigning for women’s rights and improved working conditions.

In 1929 Helen married Franklin Dryden Rice, a bank vice-president in Dayton, OH. After the stock market crash in October that year, Franklin lost his job and his investments. He fell into a depression from which he never recovered, and died in 1932. Mrs. Rice became a successful businesswoman and lecturer, but found her most satisfying outlet in writing verse for the prominent greeting card company American Greetings and is best remembered as an American writer of religious and inspirational poetry. Her poems received wide exposure in the 1960s when several were read on the poetry segment of the Lawrence Welk television show. The demand for her poems became so great that her books are still selling steadily after many printings, and she has been acclaimed as “America’s beloved inspirational poet laureate.” Rice’s books of inspirational poetry have now sold nearly seven million copies. Her strong religious faith and the ability she had to express deep emotion gave her poems timeless appeal. She died on the evening of April 23, 1981, a month before her 81st birthday, in Lorain, OH.

I first saw the song pasted in the backs of the hymnbooks of the Benton, IL, church of Christ. The composer, Rick Knight, made a copy for me. The entire original poem read thus:

  1. When we feel we have nothing left to give,

And we are sure that the song has ended,

When our day seems over and the shadows fall,

And the darkness of night has descended,

  1. Where can we go to find the strength

To valiantly keep on trying?

Where can we find the hand that will dry

The tears that the heart is crying?

  1. There’s but one place to go and that is to God,

And dropping all pretense and pride,

We can pour out our problems without restraint

And gain strength with Him at our side.

  1. And together we stand at life’s crossroads

And view what we think is the end;

But God has a much bigger vision,

And He tells us it’s only a bend.

  1. For the road goes on and is smoother,

And the pause in the song is a rest;

And the part that’s unsung and unfinished

Is the sweetest and richest and best.

  1. So rest and relax and grow stronger;

Let go and let God share your load.

Your work is not finished or ended;

You’ve just come to a bend in the road.

helen steiner rice

(photograph of Helen Steiner Rice)

     The song reminds us that the trials of life are not permanent but only temporary setbacks.

I. Stanza 1 tells us to focus on God’s omniscience

Sometimes we come to life’s crossroads

And view what we think is the end,

But God has a much wider vision,

And He knows that it’s only a bend.

  1. The picture of a crossroads has often been used by poets to symbolize some important decision that we must face but aren’t sure what to choose because we know that we can’t direct our own steps: Jer. 10:23
  2. We may think that we’ve come to the end and like Paul not know what to choose: Phil. 1:22-24
  3. But God has a much wider vision because only He can see the end of a thing from the beginning, and he will help us to do so too: Eccl. 7:8

II. Stanza 2 tells us to focus on walking the path before us

The road will go on and get smoother,

And after we’ve stopped for a rest,

The path that lies hidden beyond us,

It is always the path that is best.

  1. The road will get smoother in the sense that God will allow us to suffer nothing beyond our ability to bear: 1 Cor. 10:13
  2. There may be times when we need to stop for a rest, and Jesus offers us that rest: Matt. 11:28-30
  3. But we can be assured that the path which God lays before us is always the best because He works out all things for our good: Rom. 8:28

III. Stanza 3 tells us to focus on prayer

So when you have troubles and trials,

Just go to the Father in prayer,

And trust in His infinite wisdom,

For He know what is best for us here.

  1. We shall all have our share of troubles and trials in this life: Jas. 1:2
  2. The best way to deal with them is to go to God in prayer: Phil. 4:6-7
  3. He knows what is best for us, so we should always trust Him: Ps. 37:3-5

CONCL.: The chorus tells us to focus on faith in God:

So rest and relax and grow stronger;

Let go and let God share your load.

Have faith in a brighter tomorrow;

You’ve just come to a bend in the road.

Everyone will have his or her share of good times and bad times in life. When the bad times come, as they surely will now and then, it will help us to get through them if we shall just remember that each one is simply “A Bend in the Road.”

a bend in

“‘Twas on that Hill”

blackstone

(photograph of John D. Blackstone)

“‘TWAS ON THAT HILL”

“And they bring Him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull” (Mk. 15:22)

     INTRO.: A song which emphasizes what Jesus did for us on Golgotha is “‘Twas on that Hill.” The text was written and the tune (Blackstone) was composed both by John David Blackstone Sr., who was born in 1946 at Dallas, TX. After graduating from Wylie High School in 1965 and receiving B. A. and M. A. degrees from the University of Texas at Arlington, he became an Assistant Supervisor of Appeals at Texas Workforce Commission.  Also he studied hymn music with Austin Taylor, Tillit S. Teddlie, Holland Boring Sr., and C. T. Lynn. Taylor, who impressed upon Blackstone the importance of stressing the basics, and Teddlie were two of the most influential men in his life.

Blackstone’s first song, “‘Twas on That Hill,” was published in 1967. He was a student of Austin Taylor’s at the Texas Normal Singing School in Sabinal, TX, at the time.  I first saw the song when it was printed on the front page of the Apr. 4, 1968, issue of The Gospel Guardian. Another one of his well used songs, “Moment of Prayer” with words by Edith Harris Heflin, was also copyrighted in 1967, along with his “In the Name of Jesus.”  Two weeks after his marriage in 1968, Blackstone taught his first singing school at the Trinity Heights Church of Christ in Dallas, TX, with a distinguished faculty that included Teddlie, Lynn, and Harold Neal.

For ten years, from 1968 to 1977, Blackstone served on the teaching staff of the Texas Normal Singing School. During this time he produced several other songs, such as “O Weary Soul” in 1972; “Golden Glorious Sunset” with words by Sue Blackstone and “Yet He Loved Them” in 1974; and “Song of Dawn” in 1975. In 1977, Blackstone published an unusual collection in a gospel music play about the life of Paul entitled Come Before Winter.  In 1978, he organized a new singing school called the Southwestern Singing School, utilizing the facilities of the former Thorp Spring Christian College at Thorp Springs, TX, where he designed the curriculum so that each class would co-ordinate with the others and complement them.  In addition, he has completed two books on the subject of hymn composition.  He currently lives in Scurry, TX, with his wife Maureen.

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “‘Twas on That Hill” may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1977 Special Sacred Selections edited by Ellis J. Crum; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; the 1999 Into Our Hands: Songs for the Church edited by Leland R. Fleming; and the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church edited by Robert J. Taylor, Jr.

The song reminds us of what Jesus did for us on the cross.

I. Stanza 1 says that He died to save our souls

“‘Twas on that hill so long ago,

My Savior suffered grief and pain;

The Master died to save my soul,

That I the joy of heaven might gain.”

  1. While on the cross, Jesus suffered grief and pain: 1 Pet. 3.18
  2. The purpose for which He did this was to save our souls: Lk. 19.10
  3. His ultimate goal was so that we might gain the joy of heaven: 1 Pet. 1.3-5

II. Stanza 2 says that He shed His precious blood

“Not one was there to ease His pain,

When on the cross He cried to God.

And there for me He gave His life;

For me He shed His precious blood.”

  1. While on the cross, Jesus cried to God: Matt. 27.46
  2. The life that He gave was for us: 1 Jn. 3.16
  3. Therefore, His precious blood was shed for the remission of our sins: Matt. 26.28

III. Stanza 3 that He paid the ransom for our guilt

“A precious price! His blood was shed.

He gave His life to God above.

My ransom from the dreadful guilt;

At last! the Lord’s triumph of love.”

  1. Because we have sold ourselves to the devil when we chose to sin, a price needed to be paid to buy us back: 1 Cor. 6.20
  2. It was the death of Jesus Christ that paid the ransom for our dreadful guilt: Matt. 20.28
  3. He did this because of His triumphant love for us: Eph. 5.2

CONCL.: When I labored with a congregation which used Songs of the Church back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I would occasionally lead this song to prepare for the Lord’s supper.  While the scriptures never specifically refer to Golgotha as a hill, it is generally believed, probably based on reasonably reliable historical tradition, that the place identified in Latin as Calvary was probably on a rounded elevation of land. The fact is that the exact site cannot be determined with any degree of absolute accuracy.  However, the precise location is not so important as what the scriptures record happened there, for when Jesus died for our sins, “‘Twas on That Hill.”

NOTE: Words and music copyright 1967 by John D. Blackstone. All rights reserved.

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Let Your Light Shine

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(photograph of Mike McMurray)

LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE

“Let your life so shine before men, that they may see your good works…” (Matt. 5:16)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which exhorts us to let our lights so shine before men that they may see our good works is “Let Your Light Shine.”  The text was written and the tune was composed both by Michael (Mike) McMurray, who was born in 1955 at Lexington, KY, and raised there. His father, Gene Baker McMurray (1926-1980), was a well known song leader and long time elder with the University Heights Church of Christ in Lexington.  I never knew Gene, except by reputation, but I did know Bob Crawley, former preacher at University Heights now deceased, who often spoke highly of Gene.  Also, my wife’s aunt, Nancy Starnes, and her family lived in Lexington and attended at University Heights until her death around 1970.  From 1972 to 1974, I was a student at Florida College in Temple Terrace, FL, with Mike’s first cousin Carl P. (Mac) McMurray Jr., who is now a gospel preacher in Anderson, IN.   And while I was at Florida College, I attended at the North Blvd. Church of Christ in Tampa where Mike’s grandparents, J. Russell McMurray and Hettie (Roberts) McMurray, were members, and I ran around with them all over the area attending Sunday afternoon singings.

Mike attended the Indiana University School of Music from 1973 to 1976, and in 1976 he married Debbie Dollenmayer.  They have two sons, James and Doug.  Mike played double bass in the New Orleans, LA, Philharmonic for three years, from 1976 to 1979, before moving to the Houston, TX, Symphony, where, in addition to playing the bass for 40 years, he also worked for 21 years in the Houston Symphony Music Library as an assistant Librarian with Librarians Tom Takaro and Hae-A Lee. Mike and his wife, who are members at the Fry Road Church of Christ in Katy, TX, enjoy many of the same activities and hobbies, such as gardening, antique shopping, politics, history, and pop music. Mike himself loves basketball (University of Kentucky, Indiana), fishing, and the outdoors.  His hobbies also include genealogy and family history—doing the research and writing it all down.   Mike plans to retire in a year and a half, and he and Debbie will move to Burnet, TX, in the Hill Country northwest of Austin, where they will be about 45 minutes away from their grandchildren in Round Rock.

Back in the late 1970s, probably around 1977, my college friend Ralph Walker, sent me a copy of a hymn which Mike had written when in college, entitled “My Home Over There.”  It was copyrighted in 1977 and published that year in Special Sacred Selections edited by Ellis J. Crum.  Then in 1986 Mike had this song entitled “Let Your Light Shine” in the original Hymns for Worship edited by R. J. Stevens and Dane K Shepard, though not carried over into the Revised edition.  It was written “In memory of Gene B. McMurray.”  Mike told me, “I was moved to write ‘Let Your Light Shine’ after my father’s funeral in 1980.  He died young at age 53.  I was struck by all of the testimonials from non-Christians in the community, some of whom he did business with and others with which he shared common interests and hobbies. They all testified to his character and influence on them for good.  I had no idea, probably because of the quiet manner in which he went about his work and interactions with others. He led singing at University Heights in Lexington for many years, and also served as an Elder there.”  Mike also wrote another hymn, first in Spanish with the help of Ruben Amador called “Alaba a Jehova,” then sort of translated into English and called “Praise the Lord.”

“Let Your Light Shine” encourages all Christians to be good examples to others and suggests how to do it.

I. Stanza 1 tells us to live in good works

Let us live so that men may see our good works,

And glorify our God above.

We can lead them to Jesus if our lamp is bright;

Let it shine before all men.

  1. Those who have been saved by grace should live so that others may see their good works: Eph. 2:8-10
  2. These good works will prompt those who see them to glorify God: 1 Pet. 2:11-12
  3. In this way, God’s people can lead others to Jesus by shining as lights in the world: Phil. 2:14-16

II. Stanza tells us to sow the seed of the gospel

Are you sowing the seed of the gospel today?

Can others see Him in your life?

Let us teach them and guide them to heaven above;

Let it shine before all men.

  1. Christians are to be sowers of the seed which is the word of God: Lk. 8:5-15
  2. One way to do this is to let others see Christ in our lives: Gal. 2:20
  3. This will then open doors of opportunity to teach them: 2 Tim. 2:2

III. Stanza 3 tells us to pray and work

You must pray as if all things depended on God;

With His help you’ll surely succeed.

You must work as if all things depended on you;

Let it shine before all men.

  1. We should pray as if everything depended on God because the effective, fervent prayers of righteous people avail much: Jas. 5:16
  2. God has promised that He will help us as His ears are open to our prayers: 1 Pet. 3:12
  3. Then we should work as if everything depended on us because we are to be always abounding in the work of the Lord: 1 Cor. 15:58

CONCL.: The chorus continues to remind us of the importance of letting our lights shine before men.

Let it shine, Oh my brother,

If souls you’re expecting to win.

Let it shine; they depend upon you.

So let your light shine before all men.

God has saved His church not only so that Christians can individually be redeemed from sin and have the hope of being with Him in heaven but also that he can have a people in this world who will be an influence for good on others and will accomplish His work on earth.  Therefore, we need to admonish one another to “Let Your Light Shine.”

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