Strength Through Adversity

(Photo of Barry P. Epps)

STRENGTH THROUGH ADVERSITY

Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him (James 1:12)

     INTRO.:  A song which is designed to help us endure the temptations and trials of life so that we may receive the crown of life is “Strength Through Adversity.”  The source of the text for stanzas 1 and 2 is listed as “Author Unknown.”  Other sources identify it as being taken from a three-stanza poem of six lines each entitled “Climb The Steep,” beginning “For every hill I’ve had to climb,” and attributed to L. E. Thayer.  The tune was composed by Barry Paul Epps, who was born in Muskogee, OK, on Nov. 30, 1940, to Mr. and Mrs. Paul Epps, and was baptized in 1952 at Paris, TX.  Barry played in his high school band; two college bands while attending Lubbock Christian College from 1959 to 1961 and Abilene Christian College from 1961 to 1963, where he received a B.S. degree in marketing with a minor in Bible; and the Second Armored Division Band at Fort Hood, TX.

     In 1966 Barry married Glenda Minchew of Dimmitt, TX, and they had two sons, Lance and Todd.  For twelve years, he was employed by Montgomery Ward and then went to work as a buyer for United Stationers of Dallas, TX.  In addition, he studied music every summer under such teachers as Wilkin Bacon, L. O. Sanderson, Texas Stevens, and his own father.  For “Strength Through Adversity,” Barry took the first four lines from the first two stanzas of Thayer’s poem and reversed their order.  The text of stanza 3 was added and the melody was harmonized both by Barry’s father, Paul H. Epps (1914-2002).  Then a chorus was fashioned using the omitted fifth and sixth lines from Thayer’s original stanzas 1 and 2.

     The song was copyrighted in 1976 by Barry and Paul and was published in the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons.   It also was used in the 1980 compilation Our Garden of Song edited by Gene C. Finley.  Among Barry’s other published songs is “The Land of Perfect Peace.”  Two more of his songs, “I Want to See Heaven” copyrighted in 1975, and “Jesus My Friend” copyrighted in 1980, are found in the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.  The latter also appears in the 1999 Into Our Hands: Songs for the Church edited by Leland R. Fleming.  Both were written in conjunction with his father Paul.  

      “Strength Through Adversity” reminds us that God can use the trials and tribulations that we experience to accomplish good in our lives (variations noted in parentheses).

I. Stanza 1 mentions heartaches

For all the heartaches and the tears,

For all the anguish (misery) and the pain,

For gloomy (the gray) days and fruitless (useless) years,

And for the hopes I’ve (that) lived in vain:

 A. Heartaches are often accompanied with tears: Ps. 6:6

 B. They also frequently bring anguish and pain: Ps. 25:17-18

 C. As a result, we sometimes find that our days are gloomy and full of trouble: Job 14:1

II. Stanza 2 mentions hills

For every hill I’ve had to climb,

For every stone (rock) that bruised my feet,

For all the blood and sweat and grime,

For blinding storms and burning heat:

 A. There will be hills to climb if we are pressing upward: Phil. 3:13-14

 B. Along the way, we may be bruised as Christ was bruised: Isa. 53:10

 C. And we may face storms which represent the tribulations of life: Acts 14:21-22

III. Stanza 3 (Thayer’s original 3rd stanza) mentions adversity

It’s (‘Tis) not the softer things of life

That arouse our (stimulate man’s) will to strive,

But raw (bleak) adversity and strife

Do most to keep our (man’s) will alive:

 A. Some people seek the softer things of life: Matt. 11:8

 B. However, it is by facing the adversity of trials that we are blessed: Jas. 1:2-3

 C. It is this kind of experience that gives our will the hope to keep us alive: Rom. 5:3-5

IV. Stanza 4 (Paul Epps’s added 3rd stanza) mentions burdens
I thank Thee, Lord, for all the years,

For every burden of the day,

For all the heartaches and the fears

That I have known along the way:

 A. We should be thankful in every situation: 1 Thess. 5:18

 B. Each of us has a burden or load in life that we must carry: Gal. 6:4-5

 C. And all of us have various fears from time to time: 2 Cor. 7:5

     CONCL.:  The chorus expresses gratitude for even these difficulties because they help us grow and make us stronger.

My heart sings (but) a grateful song,

These (Those) were the things that made me strong.

I do give thanks for now I know,

These were the things that made (helped) me grow.

The last two lines of Thayer’s original stanza 3 are as follows:

Over (O’er) rose strewn paths the anointed ones (weaklings) creep,

But only those deserted (brave hearts) dare (to) climb the steep.

No times of suffering ever seem to be joyful for the present.  But whenever we are called upon to undergo afflictions, it is always good to know that we can look to the Lord for “Strength Through Adversity.” 

Burdens Are Lifted at Calvary

(Photo of John M. Moore)

“BURDENS ARE LIFTED AT CALVARY”

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

     INTRO.:  A song which points us to Calvary as the place where Jesus has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows is “Burdens Are Lifted At Calvary” (#603 in Hymns for Worship Revised).  The text was written and the tune was composed both by John M. Moore, who was born on Sept. 1, 1925, in the town of Kirkintilloch in Dunbartonshire, Scotland, of humble Scottish parents.  After reaching the age of sixteen, he joined the local Baptist Church, becoming engaged in Sunday school work, open air meetings, and tract distribution.  Also at age sixteen he began his apprentice-ship as an engineering draftsman.  However, he decided to become a Baptist minister and was educated at the Evangelical Baptist Fellowship Bible College in Glasgow, Scotland, after which he became an assistant superintendent at the Seamen’s Chapel of Glasgow, one of the area’s outstanding evangelistic centers. 

     In 1952, while serving at the Seamen’s Chapel, Moore received a call from the company secretary of a large shipping firm requesting that he visit a young merchant seaman who was lying in a Glasgow hospital critically ill.  After obtaining permission from the nursing staff, he visited the young sailor and found him glad to have company.  They talked for a few minutes, and then Moore handed him a tract based on Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, with a color reproduction of “Pilgrim” coming to the cross with a great burden on his back.  After Moore explained the story, the two prayed, and the young man’s face lit up as he said that his burden had been lifted.  Later that night, sitting by the fireside with paper and pen, he Moore started the words, and the melody followed at the same sitting.  The song was copyrighted that year by Singspiration Music Co. and has appeared in many hymnbooks since then.

     Following his service with the Seamen’s Chapel, Moore became minister at the famous Tent Hall in Glasgow, the largest evangelistic center in Scotland, for nine years.  From there, he moved to Inverness, the capital town of the Scottish Highlands, where he was minister of the Inverness Baptist Church for five years and where he married Esther Marr from nearby Beauly.  They had a son, David Lawler Moore.  Travelling across the Atlantic on several occasions to tour Canada and the United States, he preached in many different churches and participated in various Bible conferences.  Settling in Canada, he became minister of the Willowdale Baptist Church in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in 1985 and has continued to write gospel music, producing over 150 hymns, some of which have translated into other languages.  As of January, 2013, he was still alive..

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “Burdens Are Lifted at Calvary” has appeared in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1977 Special Sacred Selections edited by Ellis J. Crum; the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat; and the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church and the 2010 Songs for Worship and Praise both edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.; in addition to Hymns for Worship Revised (not in original edition). 

     John M. Moore’s best known song mentions several types of burdens which we should bring to Calvary.

I. According to stanza 1, we can bring our burden of sorrow and loneliness to Jesus

Days are filled with sorrow and care,

Hearts are lonely and drear;

Burdens are lifted at Calvary,

Jesus is very near.

 A. Our days are often filled with sorrow and care because man that is born of women is of few days and full of trouble: Job 14:1

 B. At such times our hearts may be lonely and drear: Ps. 102:3-7

 C. But when our lives are filled with sorrow and loneliness, we can bring our burdens to Calvary and look to Jesus for comfort: 1 Thess. 4:13-18

II. According to stanza 2, we can bring our burden of care and worry to Jesus

Cast your care on Jesus today,

Leave your worry and fear;

Burdens are lifted at Calvary,

Jesus is very near.

 A. We can cast all our cares on Jesus because He cares for us: 1 Pet. 5:6-7

 B. This includes all our worry or anxiety: Phil. 4:6-7

 C. It also includes all our fear: 1 Jn. 4:18

III. According to stanza 3, we can bring our burden of trouble and tears to Jesus

Troubled soul, the Savior can see,

Every heartache and tear;

Burdens are lifted at Calvary

Jesus is very near.

 A. There are times when our hearts are troubled: Jn. 14:1

 B. Such times often bring tears: Ps. 6:6

 C. When the world brings us such  troubles that lead to tears, the Savior sees and we can go to Him for peace: Rom. 5:1-5

     CONCL.:  The chorus reiterates the importance of bringing our burdens to Jesus.

Burdens are lifted at Calvary,

Calvary, Calvary,

Burdens are lifted at Calvary,

Jesus is very near.

Moore wrote that he never imagined that this little hymn would become a favorite throughout the world.  Although somewhat repetitive, it still gives us courage in the knowledge that “Burdens Are Lifted at Calvary.”  NOTE: John MacFarlane Moore passed away on November 2, 2017.

I Want to Be Like Jesus

“I WANT TO BE LIKE JESUS”

“God anointed Jesus of Nazareth who went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed” (Acts 10:38)

     INTRO.:  A song which encourages us to follow the example of Jesus who went about doing good is “I Want to Be Like Jesus” (#600 in Hymns for Worship Revised).  The text was written by Thomas Obadiah Chisholm (1866-1960).  A Methodist minister who wrote over 1200 poems, he was the author of a number of well-known gospel songs, including “Bring Christ Your Broken Life,” “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” “Living For Jesus,” “O to Be Like Thee,” “Only In Thee,” “The Only Way,” and “There Is a Place of Refuge.”  The tune for “I Want to Be Like Jesus” was composed by David Livingston Ives, who was born in 1921 on the island of Barbados in the West Indies, where his parents were Wesleyan Methodist missionaries to.  David was converted at a young age and also gave early evidence of musical talent.  He was thirteen years old when he wrote his first song. After graduating from the Reading, PA, high school, he attended Fort Wayne Bible Institute, and Goshen College, both Indiana schools.

     While Ives was at Fort Wayne Bible, one of his fellow students was Richard E. Gerig.  One day Gerig was playing a new tune on his organ when Ives stopped by.  David related that it said, “On the cross of Calvary,” to him. That evening he produced the first stanza. Four years later he and Richard were putting together a song book for men’s quartets. At that time David completed the second stanza.  The song first appeared in the 1943 collection Inspirational Choruses.  After getting his degrees he established Ives Music Press in Archbold, OH. “I Want to Be Like Jesus” was copyrighted in 1945.  Ives was song director at his local church. He and three other businessmen formed a quartet called the Gospel Messengers in which he sang bass. 

     Unfortunately, David Ives’s musical creativity was cut short in the 1950s when he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. The disease was not well-researched in those days. Treatment was minimal and ineffective. As a result, he spent the last thirty years of his life in and out of hospitals and institutions. Sadly, he was never able to create music again.  Lillenas Publishing bought his company and all copyrights, including these two songs, and “I Want to Be Like Jesus” was renewed by them in 1973. He was 66 years old when died in 1987.  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the song appears only in Hymns for Worship to my knowledge.

     The song expresses the supreme desire to be like Jesus in different areas of our lives.

I. Stanza 1 talks about having His likeness to shine forth in our hearts

I have one deep, supreme desire, That I may be like Jesus.

To this, I fervently aspire, That I may be like Jesus.

I want my heart His throne to be, So that a watching world may see

His likeness shining forth in me.  I want to be like Jesus.

 A. Each of us has one thing which we desire above all others: Ps. 27:4

 B. Our main desire should be to have Christ  dwelling on the throne of our hearts: Eph. 3:17

 C. When He does so, His likeness will be shining forth in us: Rom. 5:5

II. Stanza 2 talks about serving Him by serving others

He spent His life in doing good; I want to be like Jesus.

In lowly paths of service trod, I want to be like Jesus.

He sympathized with hearts distressed, He spoke the words that cheered and blessed,

He welcomed sinners to His breast. I want to be like Jesus.

 A. He trod in lowly paths of service: Matt. 20:28

 B. He sympathized with hearts distressed, and as we do likewise we serve Him: Matt. 25:35-40

 C. He welcomed sinners to His breast, and we should follow Him in seeking and saving the lost: Lk. 19:10

III. Stanza 3 talks about looking to Him and His life for guidance

O, perfect life of Christ, my Lord! I want to be like Jesus.

My recompense and my reward, That I may be like Jesus.

His Spirit fill my hungering soul, His power all my life control;

My deepest prayer, my highest goal, That I may be like Jesus.”

 A. We must look go the perfect life of Christ for our example: 1 Pet. 2:21

 B. Only in this way can we hope to have His recompense and reward: 2 Jn. v. 8

 C. When we do this, the influence of His Spirit will fill our hungering souls: Eph. 5:18

     CONCL.:  This is not an extremely well known song among churches of Christ.  Although it has been in Hymns for Worship since 1987, I don’t recall ever being in an assembly where it has been sung.  However, Chisholm wrote many other excellent hymns, and this one also has a good message.  As a Christian, a follower of Christ who died to save me from my sins, it should always be my aim that “I Want to Be Like Jesus.”

We Bow Down in Reverence

 “WE BOW DOWN IN REVERENCE”  

“Thou hast heard my voice; hide not Thine ear at my prayer” (Lam. 3:56)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which asks the Lord to hear our voice and not hide His ear from our prayer is “We Bow Down in Reverence” (#599 in Hymns for Worship Revised).  The text was written and the tune was composed both by Glenda Barnhart Schales.  The arrangement was made by R. J. Stevens (1927-2012).  The song was copyrighted in 1989 and first published in Hymns for Worship Revised, edited by Stevens and Dane K. Shepard.  Among other hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the song appears in the 1998 Hymn Supplement Let the Whole Creation Cry Alleluia published by the Columbia Hymn Association; and the 2010 Songs for Worship and Praise edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.

     The song centers upon the thought of our prayers to God.

I. Stanza 1 appeals to His holiness

Please hear our prayer, holy God,

O let our words come to Thee.

 A. Children of God want God to hear their prayers: Ps. 4:1 (the original read, “Oh hear our prayer…Oh let our words…”)

 B. It is to a holy God that we pray: Ps. 99:9

 C. Our prayers take the form of words which we want to be acceptable to Him: Ps. 19:14

II. Stanza 2 appeals to His love

Now we approach in Thy love;

We know Thou hearest our plea.

 A. Prayer is one way in which the child of God approaches or has access to the heavenly Father: Eph. 2:18

 B. This access is made possible because of God’s love in sending Jesus: Jn. 3:16

 C. If we ask according to His will, we know that He hears us: 1 Jn. 5:14

III. Stanza 3 appeals to His greatness

For humbly now do we bow

Before Thy throne praising Thee.

 A. Because God is so great, we must come to Him humbly: 1 Pet. 5:6

 B. This humility is symbolized by bowing to Him: Eph. 3:14

 C. Only in this way can we come before the throne of such a great God: Heb. 4:16

    CONCL.:  The chorus, which is more of a refrain attached to each stanza,

We bow down (in thy presence and seek Thee) in reverence

For we believe (in Thee).

This is a very short song, and there is nothing necessarily wrong with that, but in comparison to even the shorter hymns of the past, there is just not a lot of substance here, primarily due to the repetition of the chorus, to provide for much of an exhaustive in-depth hymn study.  However, whenever we do go to God in prayer, we need to be reminded that “We Bow Down in Reverence.”

Lord, Increase Our Faith

“LORD, INCREASE OUR FAITH”

“Lord, increase our faith” (Lk. 17:5)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which encourages us to look to the Lord to help us increase our faith is “Lord, Increase Our Faith” (#591 in Hymns for Worship Revised).  The text was written by Craig A. Roberts (b. 1957).  The tune was composed by R. J. Stevens (1927-2012).  The song was copyrighted in 1994 and first published in Hymns for Worship Revised (not in the original edition).  Among other hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, it has appeared in the 1998 Hymn Supplement: Let the Whole Creation Cry published by the Columbia Hymn Association; and the 2007 Sumphonia Hymn Supplement and the 2012 Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs both edited by Steve Wolfgang et. al.  In all these other books, there are minor alterations in the song, from first person plural to first person singular, and it is entitled, “Lord, Increase My Faith.” 

     The song specifies several different actions in which we need to show an increased faith.

I. Stanza 1 refers to sacrifice

Lord, may our (let my) faith be like Abraham’s,

Our (My) path, the path he trod;

Our (My) gifts from Thee, sacrificed as alms,

Our (My) name, the “Friend of God.”

 A. The faith of Abraham is cited in Scripture as an example for us: Heb. 11:8

 B. One specific way in which he is an example is his willingness to sacrifice, was willing to offer Isaac: Gen. 22:1-12

 C. This is part of the reason that he was called “the friend of God”: Jas. 2:21-23

II. Stanza 2 refers to work

Like others’ faith, Lord, may our (would my) faith be,

At work in times of fear,

Protecting men who would die for Thee

On noble missions here.

 A. We are told to follow the faith of others whose lives are recorded in God’s word for our example: Heb. 13:7

 B. They show us that our faith, like Rahab’s, must be demonstrated by works in order to be effective: Jas. 2:24-26

 C. One way to show our faith by our works is by helping those who go about serving the Lord: 3 Jn. vs. 5-7

III. Stanza 3 refers to patience

Lord, may we (help me) be like the patient man,

Whose faith could long endure,

Though blessed by Thee, tried and blessed again,

In all, remaining pure.

 A. Job is an example of a patient man who was blessed because he endured: Jas. 5:11

 B. Jesus tells us that those who will be saved are those who endure to the end: Matt. 24:13

 C. Therefore, when we are tempted or tried, we must endure to be blessed and to receive the crown of life: Jas. 1:12

IV. Stanza 4 refers to prayer

Lord, may our (let my) prayers, like the faithful prayers

Of prophets long ago

Call down Thy power, so that everywhere,

The cause of Christ will grow.

 A. The Lord wants us to be faithful in our prayers: Lk. 18:1

 B. Prophets of long ago, such as Elijah, often resorted to prayer as they sought to do God’s will: Jas. 5:17-18

 C. Therefore today, we need to pray that the cause of Christ will grow: Eph. 6:18-20

     CONCL.:  We are justified by faith, but not by faith only, because faith without works is dead.  Instead, we need to add to our faith such other characteristics as virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love, so that in all things we might walk by faith and not by sight.  Therefore, we should always make our request of the heavenly Father, “Lord, Increase Our Faith.”

He Will Pilot Me

“HE WILL PILOT ME”

“And He arose…and said unto the sea, ‘Peace, be still.’  And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” (Mk. 4:39)

     INTRO.:  A song which draws its thought from the account of where Jesus stilled the wind on the sea is “He Will Pilot Me” (#590 in Hymns for Worship Revised).   The text was written by Charles T. Bailey.  I have been able to find no further information on this author.   The tune was composed by Byron Lawton Whitworth, who was born in 1898, probably in Georgia.  I have been able to find almost no information on the composer either, except the following facts.  According to the 1920 census, he lived in Gwinnett, GA, and according to the 1930 census, he lived in Fulton, GA.  He provided either words or music or both for several songs, including “Grace for Every Need” copyrighted in 1936, owned by Morris and Henson, and published in their Songs of Praise No. 5; “My Lord Will Care for Me,” with tune composed by J. M. Henson, copyrighted in 1939 and published in Songs of the Morning edited by Henson; and “He Filled My Life with Song,” with words by Alfred Barratt, published by Lillenas Publishing Company in Golden Wings.  “He Will Pilot Me” was copyrighted in 1955 by J. M. Henson in Fountain of Song.  In 1963 it was assigned to Lillenas Publishing Company and,  after its renewal in 1983, it was owned by Psalm Singer Music.  Whitworth also edited or co-edited songbooks, such as Choice Gospel Songs with James C. Moore, and died in 1962.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “He Will Pilot Me” has appeared in the 1971 Songs of the Church and the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed. both edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1983 edition of the 1978 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat; and the 2010 Favorite Songs of the Church edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.; in addition to Hymns for Worship.

     The song refers to several aspects of our journey through life in which we need Jesus as our Pilot.

I. Stanza 1 mentions the tempestuous sea

Although I cannot see the way

O’er life’s tempestuous sea (dark sea),

I know that Jesus is my Friend

And that he’ll pilot me (pilot me).

 A. We cannot see the way because we “do not know what will happen tomorrow”: Jas. 4:14

 B. Our journey into the future is often pictured as a tempestuous sea: Ps. 107:23-29

 C. However, our Pilot on these uncharted waters is our Friend, Jesus Christ: Jn. 15:13-15

II. Stanza 2 mentions dark clouds

Dark clouds may gather in the sky,

And rough the sea may be (may be);

His love shall ever my song,

I know He’ll pilot me (pilot me).

 A. Dark clouds may represent times of sorrow and sadness that we face: 1 Thess. 4:13

 B. These times of sadness and sorrow can make life rough: Job 14:1

 C. But we can always look to the love of our Pilot, Jesus Christ, to help us sing: Rom. 8:35-39

III. Stanza 3 mentions storms

Dear Lord, whate’er the storm may be

I’ll simply trust in Thee (in Thee),

Relying on Thy love so true

To safely pilot me (pilot me).

 A. Storms often symbolize the trials and tribulations of life: Jas. 1:2-3

 B. During such storms, we must learn to trust in the Lord: Ps. 37:3-5

 C. We can do this because Jesus our Pilot is true and will always be with us: Matt. 28:20

    CONCL.  The chorus continues to emphasize that Jesus will pilot us from day to day.

He’ll pilot me from day to day

When blinded eyes can’t see the way;

Let come what may on life’s dark sea,

My blessed Lord will pilot me.

I cannot say that I really care for this song.  The words are entirely scriptural, but the music is too much like barbershop quartet, especially in the chorus, for my taste.  That doesn’t necessarily make it wrong or sinful, and I actually happen to like barber shop quartet singing, but I really have to question whether that style is appropriate for psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to be used in worship and praise to God.  If I wanted a hymn about Jesus as my Pilot, I would prefer the lovely “Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me” with words by Edward H. Hopper and music by John E. Gould.  In any event, as I make my way on the sea of life, I need to live in such a way that I can always say of Jesus that “He Will Pilot Me.”

Ten Thousand Angels

(Photo of Ray Overholt)

“TEN THOUSAND ANGELS”

“Thinkest thou not that I cannot pray to My Father, and He shall give Me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:53)

     INTRO.:  A song which reminds us that Jesus could have prayed for twelve legions of angels to save Him but chose to suffer and die for us instead is “Ten Thousand Angels” (#580 in Hymns for Worship Revised).   The text was written and the tune was composed both by Ray Overholt, who was born at Dutton in Kent County, MI, on July 24, 1924, and spent his young years living on a farm near Middleville, MI, a town southeast of Grand Rapids. He caught the musical itch at an early age when he took two dollars, got a guitar, and taught himself to play. By the time he was ten years old, he had written a tune called “The Lonesome Cowboy.”  He continued to write songs after growing up and beginning to entertain the folks in the Grand Rapids area. Two tunes they remembered were “Desert Sand” and “Believe in Me Or I’ll Be Leaving You.”   Over the next few years he rose to a measure of success.  Ray was said to have given the youngsters in Grand Rapids, MI, quite a treat each evening at 6:00 P. M., Monday through Friday over WOOD-TV hosting his own television show, “Ray’s Roundup,” which included a partner that they said was an “…old codger named ‘Shorty’….”

     Ray would play his guitar and sing, while Shorty would spin some tall tales.   His guest list was impressive, with stars such as Hank Williams, Red Saunders, Stewart Hamlin, Ray Price, and Delores Hawkins appearing on the show.   He himself even appeared on Kate Smith’s national program.  And Ray also continued his songwriting, having one tune published by the Country Music publishing company called “Will the Lord Look Down and Frown At Me” that was recorded on a Diamond label. Another tune, “Finance Company Blues,” was published by Venice Music and recorded for Specialty Records.  However, after Ray left his television show, he entered the nightclub circuit and began drinking pretty heavily, but after a while decided that there must be a better life than the show-business whirlwind and told his wife that he was quitting all of the smoking, drinking, and cursing.  A little later, he thought that if he had made up secular songs, he could do a song about Christ.  So he opened his Bible, which he seldom read but knew a little about from his mother, and began to read the portion of scripture that describes Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, telling Peter to put away his sword and saying that He could ask His Father for twelve legions of angels, although at the time he did not know that this would be 72,000 angels. 

     Thinking that “He Could Have Called Ten Thousand Angels” would make a good title for a song, Overholt began doing a little research and found that the more he read about Jesus, the more he admired Him for what He had done.  While performing in Battle Creek, MI, he produced the song in 1958.  It was first published in 1959 by Lillenas Publishing Company.  After being converted that year at the age of 35, Overholt went on to become a travelling singer and preacher for the next nearly fifty years and is credited with a number of other songs, including “Hallelujah Square” which was nominated for three Gospel Music Association Dove Awards in consecutive years, and “I’m The One” which has also appeared in some of our books. In addition, he was a member of the Michigan Gospel Music Association’s Hall of Fame and was inducted into Michigan Country Music Hall of Fame.  On Sunday, Sept. 14, 2008, Overholt, age 84, died at his Battle Creek, MI, home as he was getting into the van to make a trip for a Grand Rapids concert. It was assumed that heart failure was the cause.

      Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “Ten Thousand Angels” has appeared in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1977 Special Sacred Selections edited by Ellis J. Crum; the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat; 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.

     The song emphasizes the decision of Jesus to sacrifice rather than to save Himself.

I. Stanza 1 focuses upon the arrest of Jesus

1. They bound the hands of Jesus in the garden where He prayed;

They led Him through the streets in shame.

They spat upon the Savior so pure and free from sin;

They said, “Crucify Him; He’s to blame.”

 A. After He had prayed in the garden, Jesus was bound by the officers who led the mob to arrest Him: Jn. 18:3, 12

 B. He was led through the streets to the high priest: Matt. 26:47, 57

 C. It was this mob which later shouted to crucify Him: Mk. 15:12-14

II. Stanza 2 focuses upon the mocking of Jesus

2. Upon His precious head they placed a crown of thorns;

They laughed and said, “Behold the King.”

They struck Him and they cursed Him and mocked His holy name.

All alone He suffered everything.

 A. While mocking Jesus, the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head: Matt. 27:29

 B. They laughed at Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews”: Mk. 15:18

 C. They also beat Him and struck Him: Lk. 22:63-65

III. Stanza 3 focuses upon the crucifixion of Jesus

3. When they nailed Him to the cross, His mother stood near by;

He said, “Woman, behold thy son!”

He cried, “I thirst for water,” but they gave Him none to drink.

Then the sinful work of man was done.

 A. After His trial, Jesus was taken out and nailed to a cross: Lk. 23:33

 B. His mother stood nearby and He said to her, “Woman, behold thy Son”: Jn. 19:25-26

 C. Also while on the cross, He cried, “I thirst” but rather than water they gave Him sour wine: Jn. 19:28-29

IV. Stanza 4 focuses upon the death of Jesus

4. To the howling mob He yielded; He did not for mercy cry.

The cross of shame He took alone.

And when He cried, “It’s finished,” He gave Himself to die;

Salvation’s wondrous plan was done.

 A. All through His ordeal, Jesus never cried for mercy but remained silent: Matt. 27:12-14

 B. His last words were “It is finished”: Jn. 19:30

 C. Then, after crying out with a loud voice, He breathed His last and died: Mk. 15:37

     CONCL.:  The chorus continues to point out what Jesus could have done to spare Himself the agony of the cross.

He could have called ten thousand angels

To destroy the world and set Him free.

He could have called ten thousand angels,

But He died alone, (alone), for you and me.

This song is sometimes used to prepare our minds for the Lord’s supper, and it is certainly an appropriate one to do so because it brings to our minds what Jesus went through in His suffering and death for our sins.  We can be so thankful that Jesus was willing to sacrifice Himself for us and not call for deliverance from “Ten Thousand Angels.”

Launch Forth

LAUNCH FORTH

“And He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God” (Rev. 19:13)

      INTRO.:  A hymn which identifies Jesus as the Word of God whose vestment is dipped in blood is “Launch Forth.”  In most books, the place for the author’s name has only the instruction “Majestically” and is otherwise left blank with no name.  One might have guessed that the text may have been written by the same person who composed the tune (Langston), namely Rodney Langston (b. 1932).  Praise for the Lord confirms that this is the case.  I have no other specific information about this individual.  A little Internet research turned up references for several different people by that name, a number of which mentioned a preacher named Rodney Langston who officiated at lot of funerals for Baptist folks.

     However, I found only one that is likely to have any kind of relationship to the song.  In the digital catalogue of the Papers of R. G. (Reuel Gordon) Lemmons (1908-1989), long-time editor of the Firm Foundation magazine and compiler of two Foundation hymnals, the 1959 Majestic Hymnal No. 2 and the 1978 Hymns of Praise, at Abilene Christian University, there is a reference to “MISCELLANEOUS in box 11,” which included “15 sermons or discussions; 2 prayers; Rodney Langston, Thanksgiving Prayer, Typed Manuscript. “  I have no other information about Langston and do not know for sure whether this person mentioned in the Lemmons files has anything to do with the song or not, but it might be assumed given the double connection with Lemmons. 

     “Launch Forth” was copyrighted in 1959 by the Firm Foundation Publishing House.  It appeared in the 1959 Majestic Hymnal No. 2 and the 1978 Hymns of Praise, both edited by Lemmons.  Also it was used in the 1971 Songs of the Church edited by Alton H. Howard, the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand, and the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.

     The song describes several functions of Jesus as the Word.

I. Stanza 1 talks about His work

Launch forth Thou Mighty Word!

Thy glorious work fulfill;

Fling out Thy living verities

O’er seas both wild and still.

 A. The work of Jesus Christ is to seek and save the lost: Lk. 19:10

 B. “Verities” refers to the truth by which He accomplishes His work: Jn. 8:32

 C. He wants His gospel message of salvation preached everywhere “O’er seas both wild and still”: Mk. 16:15-16

II. Stanza 2 talks about His warfare

Launch forth Thou Mighty Word!

For Thou alone canst fight;

Destroy the power of ignorance,

Dispel the gloom of night.

 A. Jesus is the one who leads us in fighting the good fight of faith: 1 Tim. 6:12

 B. He came to destroy the power of ignorance, which is one of the works of the devil: 1 Jn. 3:8

 C. And He dispels the gloom of night by being the light of the world: Jn. 9:5

III. Stanza 3 talks about His comfort

Launch forth Thou Mighty Word!

Though waves about may roll,

Subdue and quieten, Lord, make still,

And calm the troubled soul.

 A. The “waves about” represent the trials of life: Jas. 1:2-3

 B. Jesus subdued and quieted the literal waves of the sea: Matt. 8:23-27

 C. And He can calm our troubled souls by His comfort: 2 Cor. 1:3-7

IV. Stanza 4 talks about His people

Lord, we Thine agents are;

Our  courage overflows.

O give us faith and fortitude

To overcome Thy foes.

 A. As agents of the Lord, we need courage: Josh. 1:6-9

 B. Only by faith can we gain the victory: 1 Jn. 5:4

 C. This courage and faith will enable us to overcome His foes: Eph. 6:10-12

      CONCL.:  When I preached with a church which used a songbook that had this hymn in it, I do not think that we ever sang it.  As I would casually glance at the song while leafing through the book, I just assumed that it was about the Bible as God’s word.  However, the term “Mighty Word” is addressed to the Lord Jesus Christ as the living Word of God.  As His soldiers, we must stand with Him as together we “Launch Forth.”

O Lord, Help Us Remember

 “O LORD, HELP US REMEMBER”

“This do in remembrance of Me” (Lk. 22:39)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which asks the Lord to assist us in partaking of the Lord’s supper in remembrance of Christ is “O Lord, Help Us Remember” (#575 in Hymns for Worship Revised).  The text was written by Tommy L. McClure, who was born on Sept. 10, 1925, at Cave Springs in a rural part of Arkansas, the son and only child of Sanford Ervin and Allie Jane Crank McClure.  Reared on a farm during the great depression, he entered the first grade at Cave Springs, AR, where he remained through high school.  From there, he went to Freed-Hardeman College (now University) at Henderson, TN, where he sat at the feet of N. B. Hardeman, James R. Cope, and W. Claude Hall among others. While a student there, from 1945 to 1947, he preached every weekend at Poplar Bluff, MO, and worked the summer with the McLemore church of Christ at Memphis, TN, in between his two years at college.

     Also while at Freed-Hardeman, McClure met Janette Lumpkin from Marvell, AR.  They were married on Mar. 17, 1947, and had three sons, Tommy G., Curtis Lynn, and Richard Dale.  His full-time preaching work began in 1947 at the South Parkway church in Memphis, TN.  After that he did local work in Mobile, Alabama; Blytheville and Paragould, Arkansas; Franklin, Tennessee; El Dorado, Arkansas; and El Cajon and Antioch, California, which included daily radio programs, and holding meetings in several different states.  Following his return to Arkansas, he and Jeanette lived near Marvell, and he preached for churches in Marvell, West Helena, and Pine Bluff.  Over the years he had attended singing schools conducted by several men, such as Frank Grammar, Thomas J. Farris, James L. Neal, Tommy Nicks, and R. J. Stevens, but the thought of writing songs did not occur to him until later in life. 

     The tune, in a minor key, for “O Lord, Help Us Remember” was composed by R. J. Stevens (1927-2012).  The song was first published in 1994 in Hymns for Worship Revised edited by Stevens and Dane K. Shepard.  Tommy also wrote a couple of other hymns which to my knowledge have not been published, “The Death of Christ” and “Praise God and Fight for the Right,” the latter with tune by Vicki Mullins Stevens and arrangement by R. J. Stevens, copyright in 1998.  After a short period of declining health, McClure died at Little Rock, AR, on Sept. 20, 2001.  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the only one in which I am aware “O Lord, Help Us Remember” has appeared is Hymns for Worship Revised (not in the original edition).

     The song refers to several concepts that we need to remember about Christ when we eat the Lord’s supper.

I. Stanza 1 talks about remembering Christ’s death

O Lord, help us remember,

As we these emblems take,

Your suffering death on Calvary,

For our unworthy sakes.

 A. The emblems are the bread and cup, or fruit of the vine: 1 Cor. 11:23-26

 B. They remind us of Christ’s death on Calvary: Rom. 5:8

 C. His death was for our sake in that it was “for our sins”: 1 Cor. 15:3

II. Stanza 2 talks about remembering Christ’s blood

O Lord, help us remember

The crown of thorns You wore;

Although You’re vision blood-stained,

Your love divine outpoured.

 A. One of the things which we remember about the death of Christ is the crown of thorns: Matt. 27:29

 B. The fact that His vision was thus blood-stained symbolizes the fact that He shed His blood for our redemption: Eph. 1:7

 C. And He did all of this because of His love for us: 1 Jn. 3:16

III. Stanza 3 talks about remembering Christ’s resurrection

O Lord, help us remember

That from death You arose;

The power of God did raise You

Triumphant o’er Your foes.
 A. Not only must we remember the death of Christ, but we must also remember His resurrection: 2 Tim. 2:8

 B. It was the power of God that raised Christ from the dead: Acts 2:22-24

 C. In His resurrection, He triumphed over all His foes: 1 Cor. 15:20

IV. Stanza 4 talks about remembering Christ’s return

O Lord, help us remember

You are at God’s right hand;

This feast reveals Your suffering

Until You come again.

 A. After Jesus arose, He ascended into heaven where He sits at God’s right hand: Acts 2:32-33

 B. The Lord’s supper reveals His suffering in that it is the communion with His body and blood: 1 Cor. 10:16

 C. And it points forward to the fact that He will come again: Acts 1:11

     CONCL.:  I noted in another hymn study that “There is nothing inherently unscriptural in using minor tunes,” but also pointed out that “My experience tells me that many congregations, especially smaller ones, unless they have trained musicians among them, tend to have a great deal of difficulty in trying to render songs in minor keys.”  First, there is always the question of whether it is a natural minor, melodic minor, or harmonic minor scale, and if melodic is it ascending or descending.  And I’ve noticed that even though the key for this song is “E minor,” in which E should be do, the shaped notes show E as la and G as do, probably because the related major key is G Major.  I don’t know whether this is just an anomaly of the music printing program or what, but it is rather strange.  Why can’t do be do?  Before he died, Tommy indicated to me that he was not too happy that this hymn had been set to a minor melody because he was afraid that it would severely limit its usefulness among brethren.  In any event, we should certainly ask God, when we partake of the Lord’s supper, “O Lord, Help Us Remember.”

O Father, Let Us See His Death

“O FATHER, LET US SEE HIS DEATH”

“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death…that He…should taste death for every man” (Heb. 2:9)

     INTRO.:  A hymn that asks God to help us see Jesus who tasted death for everyone is “O Father, Let Us See His Death” (#567 in Hymns for Worship Revised).  The text was written by Craig A. Roberts (b. 1957).  The tune was composed by R. J. Stevens (1927-2012).  The song was copyrighted in 1994 and first published in Hymns for Worship Revised (not in the original edition).  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the only other ones in which I believe the song has appeared are the 2007 Sumphonia Hymn Supplement and the 2012 Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs both edited by Steve Wolfgang et. al.

     The song emphasizes the importance of remembering Christ’s death in His supper on His day.

I. Stanza 1 tells us when

O Father, bless this solemn day,

When we assemble, sing and pray,

To honor Christ, Thine only Son,

Who tasted death for everyone.

 A. This “solemn day” is the first day of the week, when disciples came together to break bread: Acts 20:7

 B. Thus, Christians are not to forsake the assembling of themselves: Heb. 10:24-25

 C. When they do assemble on the first day of the week, they honor Christ by proclaiming His death till He come: 1 Cor. 11:26

II. Stanza  2 tells us how

In fervent prayers and sacred hymns,

We all cry out, “Remember Him,”

And cry within, “For me He died,

And for my sins was crucified.”

 A. When the early church came together, their worship included prayers and singing: 1 Cor. 14:15

 B. The purpose of the Lord’s supper is to “remember Him”: 1 Cor. 11:23-25

 C. Thus, when we partake, we remember that Christ for our sins was crucified: 1 Cor. 1:23, 2:2

III. Stanza 3 tells us what to do

Then as we eat unleavened bread,

And drink the cup, we bow our heads,

And see the suffering death of Christ:

His blood! His body! Sacrificed!

 A. We eat the unleavened bread, which symbolizes His body: Mk. 14:22 (cf. v. 12)

 B. We drink the cup, or fruit of the vine, which symbolizes His blood: Mk. 14:23-25

 C. This is designed to remind us of the suffering death of Christ : Rom. 5:8

IV. Stanza 4 tells us why

O Father, let us see His death,

And hear “forgive them” on His breath,

And feel His grief, disgrace, and pain;

O let us see His death again.

 A. The death of Jesus is extremely important to Christians: 1 Cor. 15:1-4

 B. Its essentiality to our own forgiveness is foreshadowed by His cry “forgive them” as He hung on the cross: Lk. 23:34

 C. We “see” His death, having communion with His body and blood, in the bread and cup of the Lord’s supper: 1 Cor. 10:16

     CONCL.: There is nothing inherently unscriptural in using minor tunes.  Many of the old German chorales are set to minor melodies.   However, there may be a good reason why the vast majority of psalm tunes, hymn tunes, and gospel song melodies that believers have used in worship over the last four hundred years or so have been primarily in major keys.  My experience tells me that many congregations, especially smaller ones, unless they have trained musicians among them, tend to have a great deal of difficulty in trying to render songs in minor keys.  In any event, when we prepare to partake of the Lord’s supper, it is essential that we ask God, “O Father, Let Us See His Death.”