My Lord Was Crucified

MY LORD WAS CRUCIFIED

“…Also our Lord was crucified” (Rev. 11:8)

      INTRO.:  A hymn which encourages us to remember that our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified for us is “My Lord Was Crucified.”  The text was written and the tune was composed both by Wayne Steven Walker (b. 1954).   The song was copyrighted in 2017.

It reminds us of the crucifixion of the Savior and relates it to the Lord’s supper.

I. Stanza 1 tells why Jesus died

My Lord was crucified

In pain and agony;

Upon the cross He bled and died

To set my spirit free.

  1. Jesus was crucified in pain and agony: Matt. 27:35-44
  2. On that cross He bled and died: Jn. 19:25-30
  3. He did all this to set our spirits free from sin and death: Rom. 8:1-2

II. Stanza 2 tells how Jesus died

A cruel, thorny crown

Was placed upon His head;

The blood and water mingled down

As there His life was shed.

  1. To mock Him, the soldiers placed a cruel, thorny crown on His head: Mk. 15:16-20
  2. Then, as He hung on the cross, blood and water came forth: Jn. 19:31-34
  3. There His life was shed as He laid it down for us: 1 Jn. 3:16

III. Stanza 3 tells where Jesus died

To Calvary in shame

The blessed Savior trod,

And He was put to death whose name

Was called the Son of God.

1. Calvary is the Latin name for Golgotha where Jesus was crucified: Lk. 23:33

2. Jesus trod that road bearing His own cross at least part of the way: Jn. 19:17

3. There the Son of God was put to death: 1 Pet. 3:18

IV. Stanza 4 tells what we do to help us remember that Jesus died

We eat this holy bread

And drink the sacred cup

Of Him who for our sins was dead

But now has been raised up.

  1. The holy bread represents His body: Matt. 26:28
  2. The sacred cup or fruit of the vine represents His blood: Matt. 26:27-29
  3. We eat the bread and drink the cup to proclaim His death till He comes: 1 Cor. 11:26

CONCL.:  It is my experience that most congregations have a relatively small number of communion hymns which they sing over and over and over and over again.  Of course, there is nothing necessarily wrong with that.  Most hymn books have just a limited selection of songs suitable for the Lord’s supper to begin with, and we have a tendency to use only a low percentage of them anyway.  Therefore, I am always casting about for different communion hymns, either new or perhaps older but relatively unknown.  It is in this vein that I offer “My Lord Was Crucified.”

my-lord

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He Carried My Sorrows

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(picture of Glenda B. Schales)

 “HE CARRIED MY SORROWS”

“Surely He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows” (Isa. 53:4)

     INTRO.:  A song which refers to how Jesus has borne our griefs is “He Carried My Sorrows” (#671 in Hymns for Worship Revised).  The text was written and the tune was composed both by Glenda Sue Barnhart Schales, who was born on Mar. 15, 1949, to Glen and Evelyn Barnhart, raised in Arizona, and has resided in Texas most of her life.  After graduating in 1969 with an A.A. from Florida College in Temple Terrace, FL, she married Larry Schales, and they had three children, Robert, Joella, and Katrina.  When I was a student at Florida College from 1972 to 1974, I had her father as my English professor and her youngest sister Nancy (now Raif) as a classmate.  Glenda’s background is in music education, and she has taught as a Music Educator for many years in public schools of the Klein ISD at Spring, TX, in the Houston area. She attends the Kleinwood church of Christ in Spring where she is active in teaching children, especially in writing and composing songs designed to teach Bible themes, characters, and events.

In addition, Glenda is well known for hymns and gospel songs such as “He Is in Our Midst,” “Quiet Joy,” “We Bow Down in Reverence,” “It’s Time to Build,” and “The Blessed Life,” and many of them have been included in various publications such as hymnals and congregational supplement books.  Also, she is part of the faculty at the annual R. J. Stevens Singing School held on the campus of Eastern Oklahoma State College in Wilburton, OK, where she teaches a class involving children and their parents which includes learning music as well as the Bible through new songs and activities, and conducts a special women’s class involving the fundamentals of music and sight singing.  The Singing School has benefited from the talents and devotion of Glenda for many years. The arrangement for “He Carried My Sorrows” was made by R. J. Stevens (1927-2012).  The song was copyrighted in 1993 and first published in Hymns for Worship Revised.

In earlier editions of Hymns for Worship, the song at this opening (#589) was “The Spacious Firmament On High.”  The text, based on Psa. 19, was written by Joseph Addison (1672-1719).  It was first published in 1712 in his magazine The Spectator.  The tune (Creation) was composed by Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809; see #143).  It is an adaption of parts of the chorus, “The heavens are telling,” from his 1798 oratorio The Creation.  The arrangement was made by William Gardiner (1770-1853).  It was first used with Addison’s text in his Sacred Melodies from Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven published at London, England, in 1812.  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “He Carried My Sorrows” has appeared in the 1998 Hymn Supplement: Let the Whole Creation Cry “Alleluia!” published by the Columbia Hymn Association, the 1999 Into Our Hands: Songs for the Church edited by Leland R. Fleming, and the 2012 Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs edited by Steve Wolfgang et. al.; in addition to Hymns for Worship (not in the original edition).

The song reminds us of the suffering and anguish that Jesus experienced for us.

I. Stanza 1 mentions our transgression

He carried my sorrows,

He bore my griefs,

Was pierced for transgression,

Afflicted for peace.

  1. We know that the prophecy of Isa. 53 refers to Jesus: Acts 8:32-35
  2. The reason why Jesus had to suffer was because of our transgression: 1 Jn. 3:4 (lawlessness=transgression of the law)
  3. As a result, He was able to make peace: Eph. 2:14-18

II. Stanza 2 mentions His suffering

He suffered in anguish,

He writhed in pain,

Was smitten, forsaken,

Abandoned, and slain.

  1. Peter reminds us that Christ suffered for sins, the just for the unjust: 1 Pet. 3:18
  2. This suffering involved being smitten or struck: Matt. 26:67, 27:30
  3. In addition, His suffering was compounded by being abandoned as all His disciples forsook Him and fled: Matt. 26:56

III. Stanza 3 mentions His rejection

Despised and rejected,

He knew no sin,

Was crushed for His people,

No violence within.

  1. Christ was despised and rejected in that He came to His own and His own received Him not: Jn. 1:11
  2. He Himself knew no sin: Heb. 4:15
  3. Yet, He was crushed or died for us: Rom. 5:8

IV. Stanza 4 mentions our reaction

My heart mourns His chastening,

My tears still fall,

My sin is the reason

He gave me His all.

  1. Our hearts mourn for His chastisement: Isa. 53:5
  2. Our tears fall as we remember His suffering: Heb. 5:7-8
  3. Again, the reason for this treatment is that Christ died for our sins: 1 Cor. 15:3

CONCL.: The chorus again emphasizes why Jesus suffered and then points out the results.

He knew by His stripes I am healed,

Through His blood, I can kneel,

For by His oppression,

I worship my King.

As one who has been redeemed by the blood of Christ, every day I need to remember that “He Carried My Sorrows.”

he-carried

As We Partake

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(photo of Charles Willis)

AS WE PARTAKE

“But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup” (1 Cor. 11:28)

     INTRO.:  A song which encourages us to examine ourselves while we eat of the bread and drink of the cup is “As We Partake” (#519 in Hymns for Worship Revised).  The text of stanzas 1 and 2 were written and the tune was composed both by Charles L. Willis, who was born on March 13, 1965, the third child of Donald and Marilyn Willis. Both of his parents were raised up in Christian homes and served God all their lives. His father, one of four preaching Willis brothers, the others being Cecil, Lewis, and Mike, preached the gospel full time beginning at age sixteen in East Texas, retired from preaching in 2009, served as an elder, led many individuals to the Lord, and passed from this life in 2011. In her life, his mother has demonstrated the essence of Christianity in her godly attitudes and heart to serve others. Charles counts himself fortunate to have been raised in a household that believed in God so strongly.  Charles, who has three siblings, Cathy Price, Don Willis, Jr., and Christie Estes, was raised in and around Houston, TX. Most of his formative years were spent in Conroe, TX, just thirty minutes north of Houston. He is a graduate of Willis High School in Willis, TX, and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from Sam Houston State University.

While in college, Willis met Dee Hopper whom he married in 1988. God blessed them with two wonderful children, a son Joshua and a daughter Rachel.  “As We Partake” was copyrighted in 1993 and first published in Hymns for Worship Revised (not in the original 1987 edition).  After teaching Junior High School Band at Clear Creek ISD in League City, TX, for ten years, during which time he did some preaching on the side, Willis decided to preach full time, so one week after school dismissed in 1998, the Willises moved to Knoxville, TN, and he began laboring as the evangelist for the Northside Church of Christ where he remained for four and a half years.  Then in January of 2003, they moved to New Caney, TX, located about thirty minutes east of Conroe, for him to work with a congregation which his father had started while Charles was in high school, and where he continues to labor today, also serving as an elder.

In addition, Willis has written three books in the “Discussing the Word Series” for Truth Books.  Suitable for Adult or High School classes, they are Giving God Control, an in-depth study of Colossians chapter 3, in which thirteen principles are examined, complete with word studies and biblical references; The Heart of Paul, which is a workbook on the life of the Apostle Paul designed to encourage open discussion of relevant issues for the spiritual development of Christians; and Satan’s Assault on the Faith, which leads students through thirteen topics that cause some to lose their faith and encourages the individual to grow in knowledge and faith so as to not be led astray by Satan’s assault.  Also, Willis was a Technical Editor for Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, a hymnal published in 2012 by Sumphonia Productions, for which he provided a number of arrangements (I counted fifteen selections with a credit to him).

This hymn shows the importance of examining ourselves when we partake of the Lord’s supper.

I. Stanza 1 explains what we  remember when we partake of the Lord’s supper

As we partake of the supper of Jesus,

May we believe that He died on that tree.

He gave His life that we might have forgiveness.

He paid the price upon Mount Calvary.

  1. We remember that Jesus died on that tree: 1 Pet. 2:24
  2. He did this so that we might have forgiveness: Eph. 1:7
  3. Thus, He paid the price to redeem us: 1 Pet. 1:18-19

II. Stanza 2 explains whom we honor when we partake of the Lord’s supper

The Son of God came to earth to bring freedom.

He saw us chained in the bondage of sin.

We had no hope unless He would save us.

He is our King, Redeemer, and our Friend.

  1. We honor the Son of God who came to bring freedom: Jn. 8:31-36
  2. We would have had no hope if He had not come to save us: 1 Tim. 1:12-17
  3. Therefore, we honor Him as our Friend because He laid down His life for us: Jn. 15:13-15

III. Stanza 3 (added) explains what we do when we partake of the Lord’s supper

As we partake of this blessed memorial,

We show Christ’s death until He shall return.

We take the bread and the cup in remembrance,

And for His coming back our spirits yearn.

  1. We engage in a blessed memorial because we do this in remembrance of Him: Lk. 22:19-20
  2. Also, we show forth His death until He shall return: 1 Cor. 11:23-26
  3. And we eat the bread and drink the cup in communion with Him: 1 Cor. 10:16

CONCL.:  The song was originally published with only the first two stanzas.  I have taken the liberty of adding the third stanza to round it out for use before the Lord’s supper.  The words of all three stanzas are designed to help us focus our minds on the real meaning of the memorial feast “As We Partake.”

as-we-partake

To Love the Lord

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(photo of the building of the Ephesus Church of Christ in Athens, AL, where Robert Fudge currently labors as a gospel preacher)

“TO LOVE THE LORD”

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart…soul…strength…and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself” (Lk. 10:27)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which helps us to understand what it means to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves is “To Love the Lord” (#448 in Hymns for Worship Revised).  The text was co-written by Robert Clarence Fudge, who was born on Oct. 23, 1948, in Lester, AL, the son of Benjamin (Bennie) Lee and Sybil Belle (Short) Fudge, and raised in the Athens, AL, area.  Bennie Lee was a gospel preacher and the owner and manager of the C.E.I. Store in Athens.  Robert married Reba Dianne Gravitt in 1967, and they have one son, Robert Clarence Fudge II.  The text was co-written and the tune was composed both by Roy Joseph (R.J.) Stevens (1927-2012).  In the mid 1980s, Robert was living in Decatur, AL, and attending the Sommerville Road church of Christ.

Stevens came there and taught on singing.  During his Sunday morning lesson he made the comment that he had never seen a song on the first and great commandment. Fudge went home and wrote one that afternoon and brought it back to him that evening.  Stevens provided the music, changing a few of the words to fit the music; thus his name is listed as co-author. The song was ready to sing by the middle of that week.  Later it was copyrighted in 1986 and first published in the 1987 Hymns for Worship edited by Stevens and Dane K. Shepard.  It is the only song written by Fudge that has been published.  Fudge currently serves as minister with the Ephesus church of Christ near Athens, AL.  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, so far as I know, the hymn is found only in Hymns for Worship.

The song explains why it is so important to love the Lord and one’s neighbor.

I. Stanza 1 talks about loving the Lord

To love the Lord with heart and soul,

To love Him with the mind,

Fulfills the first and great command;

In Him true peace I find.

  1. When asked a question, Jesus pointed to the command to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind: Deut. 6:5
  2. He said that this was the first and great commandment: Matt. 22:36-38
  3. It is only by loving God and trusting Him that we can find true peace: Phil. 4:6-7

II. Stanza 2 talks about loving our neighbor

To love my neighbor as myself

To love him fervently,

Fulfills the royal law of love

And sets my spirit free.

  1. The second great commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves: Lev. 19:18
  2. This is referred to in scripture as the royal law: Jas. 2:8
  3. It is only by obeying God’s law, which includes this provision, that we can be free from the law of sin and death: Rom. 8:2

III. Stanza 3 talks about the importance of loving the Lord and our neighbor

To love my neighbor and my Lord

With all my heart and soul

Fulfills the prophets and the law

And makes my spirit whole.

  1. Jesus combined these two commandments as the first and the second: Mk. 12:29-31
  2. Obeying these two commandments fulfills all the law and the prophets: Rom. 13:8-10
  3. Doing this will make our spirits whole because the Lord said that if we do this we shall live: Lk. 10:28

CONCL.:  The chorus then encourages us to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind.

I love the Lord with heart and soul;

I love Him with my mind.

In Him I’ll live while ages roll;

In Him true peace I find.

In this life, we have many responsibilities in the various relationships which we sustain.  However, all of us, especially Christians, need to remember that our first and foremost responsibility before everything else is “To Love the Lord.”

to-love

The Gift of the Spirit

THE GIFT OF THE SPIRIT

“…Repent, and be baptized…and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38)

     INTRO.:  A song which relates the coming of the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit to our lives as Christians is “The Gift of the Spirit” (#500 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The text was written by Palmer Hartsough (1844 – 1932).  Educated in Plymouth, Ypsilanti, and Kalamazoo, MI, Hartsough was a teacher of vocal music who lived in Ontario, WI.  In 1893, he became associated with the Fillmore Brothers of Cincinnati, OH, and is perhaps best known for the invitation song, “I Am Resolved No Longer to Linger.”

The tune for “The Gift of the Spirit” was composed by James Henry Fillmore (1849-1936).  The song was copyrighted in and first appeared in The Praise Hymnal of 1896 edited by Fillmore and Gilbert Ellis for the Fillmore Bros. Publishing House of Cincinnati, OH.  The copyright was renewed in 1924.  Besides Sacred Selections, it was used in the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 edited by E. L. Jorgenson.  It was originally in two stanzas.  Stanzas 3 and 4 have been added.

The song talks about some of the blessings and benefits which the Spirit brings.

I. Stanza 1 mentions the coming of the Spirit

The Father kind above

Sent forth in tender love

His Spirit in full measure:

A gift divinely free,

In every heart to be

A comfort and a treasure.

  1. The Father sent the Holy Spirit in full measure (Ellis Crum in Sacred Selections changed “full measure” to “a measure,” whatever that means) to the apostles: Acts 2:1-4
  2. While no one else has the same power of the Spirit as the apostles did, the Scriptures do teach that there is some sense in which the Spirit is given to all who obey God: Acts 5:32
  3. Whatever this sense may be, it is a comfort and a treasure because it enables us to know that we abide in God and He in us: 1 Jn. 4:12-13

II. Stanza 2 refers to the indwelling of the Spirit

Within our hearts shall be

This fountain pure and free

Of living waters springing;

And every tender grace

Shall flourish in the place

While songs of joy are ringing.

  1. The Holy Spirit dwelling in the Christian is like a fountain pure and free of living waters: Jn. 7:37-39
  2. The influence of the Spirit in the Christian’s life produces every tender grace in bearing the fruit of the Spirit: Gal. 5:22-25
  3. Another result of being filled with the Spirit is singing songs of joy: Eph. 5:18-19

III. Stanza 3 identifies the message of the Spirit

O take the news around

Wherever  sin is found,

The Spirit’s message preaching;

Yes, we must share the word

With those who have not heard,

The hearts of lost ones reaching.

  1. The Spirit’s message is found in the word of God: Eph. 6:17
  2. The Spirit wants the message of His word preached to all: 2 Tim. 4:1-2
  3. This is how He reaches the hearts of the lost to convict them of sin: Jn. 16:7-11

IV. Stanza 4 tells of the ultimate goal of the Spirit

The Spirit guides our hand

Till we reach heaven’s land

Where there will be no sorrow;

Forever we shall sing

Our praises to the King

In that bright, glad tomorrow.

  1. The Bible definitely teaches that we are to be guided or led by the Spirit: Gal. 5:16-18
  2. The Spirit’s aim in this guidance is to lead us to heaven’s land where there will be no sorrow: Rev. 21:1-4
  3. There we shall join with the redeemed of all ages to sing praises to our King: Rev. 5:8-10

CONCL.:  The chorus emphasizes the importance of having the Spirit in our hearts.

The gift of the Spirit,

In gently falling showers descending from above,

Shall we not receive it

Sent to us from God in love?

Our hearts all renewing,

So peaceful and so pure, so beautiful and bright,

Our lives all bedewing

With its holy joy and light.

This song is not well known among us perhaps because brethren have generally been a bit leery of hymns about the Holy Spirit due to the large amount of false teaching concerning Him in the religious world.  Scholars have debated what “the gift of the Holy Ghost” is.  Is it the Spirit Himself as a gift, or is it a gift given to us from the Spirit, and if the latter, precisely what is this gift?  I personally understand this to be the objective genitive meaning that the Spirit is the gift.  However, I also understand it as simply a figure of speech in which the Spirit is put metonymously for the blessings and benefits that He brings us.  Believers have also debated how the Spirit dwells in the Christian.  Is it a literal, physical, bodily presence, or is it also accomplished figuratively?  Again, I understand that the Spirit metaphorically dwells in us by the influence that He has upon us through the teaching of His revealed word as we apply that teaching to our lives.  Thus, I can sing the song knowing that this is what I believe the Bible to teach about “The Gift of the Spirit.”

gift-spirit

Thy Will Be Done

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(photo of Larry L. Dickens)

“THY WILL BE DONE”

“I delight to do Thy will, O my God…” (Ps. 40.8)

     INTRO.: A song which points out the importance of seeking to do God’s will in our lives is “Thy Will Be Done” (#437 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The text was written by Larry Luther Dickens, who was born on Sept. 4, 1943, in Nashville, TN, and attended David Lipscomb High School. With his wife Mary, whom he married on June 7, 1966, Dickens has three daughters. In 1966 he received the Bachelor of Arts degree in teaching science from David Lipscomb College (now University) in Nashville, TN. Then in 1974 he was awarded the Ph. D. in chemistry by Clemson University in South Carolina. The title of his dissertation was The Iron Complexes of Octaphenyltetraazaporphine, Pthalocyanine, and Meso-tetraphyridylporphine.

In 1975, Dickens did post-doctoral studies at the University of New Orleans in Louisiana, and has published various articles related to his dissertation as well as several articles on physical and thermodynamical properties of silicon and the halosilanes. For 26 years, he taught chemistry at Clemson University and South Carolina State College and science courses in high schools, and served in school administration. Also, for several years he taught chemistry, qualitative analysis, organic chemistry, and physical science at Florida College in Temple Terrace, FL.  In addition to his academic work, Dickens has preached for churches in Millersville, TN; Greenville, SC; Sapphire, NC; Gulfport, MS; Nederland and Beaumont, TX; and Tarpon Springs and Tampa, FL.

The tune for this hymn by Dickens was composed by R. J. Stevens (1927-2012). The song was copyrighted in 1986 and first appeared in Hymns for Worship. When he retired from Florida College in 2006, Dickens moved to Mexia, TX, where he preached fulltime with the Shiloh church of Christ and was actively training young men to preach. Since August of 2014, he has lived in College Station, TX, where he currently serves as a gospel preacher with the Southwest church of Christ.  Also, he has written several articles in religious papers, such as The Preceptor.   Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, “Thy Will Be Done” is found only in Hymns for Worship.

It mentions several areas in which we need to make sure that we do God’s will.

I. According to stanza 1, it is God’s will that we praise Him with the songs of our tongues

“Lord, we sing unto Thy glory,

With our songs we sing Thy praise.

May our tongues give reverence to Thee;

May we praise Thee all our days.”

  1. Because of who God is and what He has done, it should be our desire to sing unto His glory: Col. 3.16
  2. With such songs we offer the sacrifice of praise which is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name: Heb. 13.15
  3. In this way, we use our tongues to give reverence to God: Heb. 12.28

II. According to stanza 2, it is God’s will that we come before Him humbly in prayer

“Lord, we pray for Thy rich blessings;

Humbly now we come to Thee.

Help our hearts Thy name to honor;

Thy will done is all our plea.”

  1. Prayer is our opportunity to receive God’s rich blessings by making known our requests to God: Phil. 4.6
  2. In order for our prayers to be acceptable to God, we must humble ourselves before Him: Jas. 4.10
  3. Another prerequisite for acceptable prayer is to have the attitude, “Thy will be done”: Mk. 14.36

III. According to stanza 3, it is God’s will that we dedicate our lives in service to Him

“Lord, we love and worship Thee;

With our lives in service give.

Bless each day unto Thy glory;

Give us hope while here we live.”

  1. The reason why we should want to dedicate our lives to God is because we love Him with all our hearts: Matt. 22.37-38
  2. Whatever other activities and responsibilities in life that we may have–job, family, community–we must always remember that we are to serve the Lord first: Col. 3.23-24
  3. With this determination, we will do all things to the glory of God: 1 Cor. 10.31

IV. According to stanza 4, it is the will of God that we repent of our sins to receive forgiveness

“Lord, we pray for Thy forgiveness;

With our tongues we oft offend.

Bless our lives to magnify Thee;

May we love Thee till the end.”

  1. While we seek to do God’s will, we sometimes fail, and then we need to repent of our sins and confess them that we might be pardoned by God’s grace: Acts 8.22, 1 Jn. 1.9
  2. One of the ways that we may often offend and thus need forgiveness is with our tongues: Jas. 3.1-12
  3. However, if we will seek cleansing of our sins, we can live so that Christ will be magnified in our bodies: Phil. 1.20

CONCL.: The chorus asks help from God in doing His will in all these areas:

“With Thy help we’ll do Thy will;

With Thy blessings we’re not alone.

To Thy name be all the glory;

Bless us Lord, Thy will be done.”

As long as we live upon this earth, our attitude should be such that we continually say to God, “Thy Will Be Done.”

thy-will

The Church

neal

(photograph of James L. Neal)

THE CHURCH  

“…The church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which discusses the church which Christ purchased with His own blood is “The Church.”  The text was written by Roland Rudolph “Rue” Porter (1890-1967).  An Arkansas born gospel preacher, well known throughout the south-central United States, who spent much of his adult life in Neosho, MO, and edited The Christian Worker, he produced several songs, of which the communion hymn “In Remembrance,” beginning “On this Lord’s day we assemble” with music by Will W. Slater, is perhaps the most famous.  The tune for “The Church” was composed by James L. Neal, who was born on Dec. 23, 1893, near Bates, AR.  He married Anna Montez Upchurch, and they had two children.  After being baptized by Lawrence Neal in Sept. of 1914, he began preaching in 1930 at Bates.  Through the years he served not only as a preacher but also as an elder while living at Springdale, AR.

In Oct. of 1936, a report about a debate at the Halcomb Street church of Christ in Springdale between C. B. Head (Christian) and A. M. Baker (Mormon) was made by James L. Neal of Springdale.  According to the website of the Winslow, AR, Church of Christ, in Oct. of 1940, Harbert Hooker came to Winslow to conduct a two-week gospel meeting, as a result of which, the Winslow congregation was established, and James L. Neal, one of the Springdale elders, also did some of the preaching for the new church.  Then in the September 18, 1958, issue of the Gospel Guardian, James L. Denison of Boling, TX, reported that “James L. Neal, an elder of the church at Springdale, Arkansas, recently held our meeting.” Neal also published a journal called The Gospel Age for a number of years from Springdale.  In addition, Neal was a song leader, vocal music teacher, and hymn writer, having attended normal schools and studied under S. J. Oslin, R. H. Brooks, Arthur Reed, and L. O. Sanderson.

Favorite Songs of the Church No. 2 was published in 1948 by the Church Music Company, compiled by Frank Grammer, Rue Porter, James L. Neal, and Albert Lovelady.  “The Church” was copyrighted in 1950 by Porter and Neal.  Neal had a special relationship with Will W. Slater.   Songs We Love No. 2 (1950), Spiritual Melody Songs (1951). and Joyful Praise (1952) were all jointly published by Will W. Slater and James L. Neal.   Then in 1952 Hymns of Praise and Devotion, which contained the hymn, was compiled and edited by Will W. Slater of Fort Worth, TX, assisted by James L. Neal and Graden Slater.   The song later appeared in the 1955 Youth Melodies and Action Songs edited by Palmer Wheeler and the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater.  My friend Tommy McClure said that he had attended singing schools conducted by such men as Frank Grammar, Thomas J. Farris, James L. Neal, Tommy Nicks, and R. J. Stevens.  In 1974, Neal provided music for a song “My Spirit Is Free” with words by Peggy McCormack.  And in 1982, Neal’s entry in Our Garden of Song edited by Gene C. Finley was “I Have Anchored My Life.” Neal died on November 16, 1990.

“The Church” emphasizes several important facts about the church belonging to Jesus Christ.

I. Stanza 1 calls it a habitation for God

The church was bought with Jesus’ blood,

A habitation for our God;

It is a city built four square,

And all the saints of God dwell there.

  1. Just as the Old Testament temple was a symbol of God’s presence among the people of Israel, so the church is like a temple built together for a dwelling place of God: Eph. 2:21-22
  2. Also like the eternal home in heaven, the church as God’s earthly habitation is a city built four square, implying that there is room for all who would come to it: Rev. 21:16
  3. And not only is it a habitation of God, but all the saints dwell there: 1 Cor. 14:33

II. Stanza 2 refers to it as the body of which Christ is Head

The church has Jesus for its head;

Its members by His Word are led.

They follow Him in righteousness,

For all His ways are paths of peace.

  1. Jesus Christ is head over all things to the church which is His body: Eph. 1:22-23
  2. Therefore, the members must be led by His word because they will be judged by it: Jn. 12:48
  3. Citizens of the kingdom of God, which on earth is the church, must follow righteousness and peace: Rom. 14:17

III. Stanza 3 identifies it as the object of Christ’s love

The church was built upon the Rock;

It can’t be moved by tempest shock.

The gates of hell cannot remove

This sacred object of His love.

1. Jesus promised to build the church on the rock of His deity: Matt. 16:18

2. Thus, it is a kingdom that cannot be moved or shaken: Heb. 12:25-28

3. As such, the church is the sacred object of His love: Eph. 5:25-27

CONCL.:  The chorus reminds us of these important aspects of the New Testament church.

There is no other king or head

By whom the church is ruled or led.

Christ Jesus is its only Lord;

His church is guided by His Word.

One of Neal’s two children may have been the James L. Neal who, around 1945 moved to Redlands, CA, from Arkansas and was introduced by a friend, Marie Messer, to her sister Aline Ball, who had come there from her home in Spur, TX, to try her luck in California.  The two dated, but Aline became homesick and returned to Spur.  Jim must have followed her to Spur, because while she was working there as a bookkeeper at Red Front Drug Store, Jim Neal came back into her life, and they were married on November 6, 1948, in Spur.  They headed for California where Jim went to work at Norton Air Base.  They had three children.  In 1966, Jim transferred to Tinker Air Base, OK, and they settled in Norsman. Four years later, Jim transferred to Altus. They bought a farm near Navajo Community where they lived until Jim’s retirement in 1974.   Upon retirement, they bought land from Jim’s grandparents near Waldron, AR, where they cut timber and built a home.  Then they returned to Spur in 1988, moving from Arkansas, and Aline died there on Saturday, December 20, 1997, with her funeral at the Highway 70 Church of Christ in Spur.  Whether the two are related or not, James L. Neal provided good music for Rue Porter’s excellent words about “The Church.”  (Note: This song is not to be confused with song number one in Sacred Selections for the Church by the editor Ellis J. Crum, originally titled “The Church of Christ” but later retitled just “The Church.”)

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