Suffered at the Cross

furr

(gravestone of Leroy Furr and her husband Edgar)

SUFFERED AT THE CROSS

“Foreasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same mind…” (1 Pet. 4:1)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which helps our minds to remember how Christ suffered for us in the flesh is “Suffered at the Cross.”  The text was written by Leroy Belle Smith Furr, who was born on   Dec. 31, 1911, at Rives in Obion County, Tennessee, the daughter of Joel Lancaster Smith (1887–1975) and Elizabeth B. Smith (1893–1981).  She married Edgar Everett “Ed” Furr (1906–1998), and they had two sons, Joe Ed Furr (1939-2019) and John Raymond “Tinker” Furr (1943–2012).  In 1944 Edgar Furr was a gospel preacher in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. He worked with the Church of Christ in Brownsville and also conducted many gospel meetings for churches in Texas. During World War Two, his travels among churches helped him to discover a shortage of song leaders created by the circumstances of the war. He knew that when Christian men came home from war many of them would not be prepared to become effective song leaders.  In the same year Austin Taylor (1881-1973), a well-known song writer, singing school teacher, and hymnal editor, was living in Uvalde, Texas, about 80 miles west of San Antonio. During the war years he also traveled among churches teaching congregational singing schools and leading singing for evangelistic meetings. He too became aware of the need to provide song leadership training among churches.

Edgar Furr met Austin Taylor, and the two of them began to share their insights into the need for song leadership training. For the next two years those men discussed ideas about how they might do something to help meet the need for song leaders.  In 1946 Furr and Taylor formed a partnership to establish a summer singing school. The school was named the “Texas Normal Singing School.”  It was located in Sabinal, Texas, a small town twenty miles east of Uvalde on the highway to San Antonio and the former site of Sabinal Christian College which was established in 1907, operated for ten years, and then closed its doors in 1917.  Edgar Furr was the school’s administrator and marketing agent. Austin Taylor and Holland L. Boring, Sr. were the first teachers in the school. Holland Boring, Jr. and Don Boring became teachers later. This faculty of teachers was the primary instructors for the first twenty years of the school’s existence.  “Suffered at the Cross” was copyrighted in 1953 by the Firm Foundation Publishing House of Austin, TX, and was first published that year in their book The Majestic Hymnal compiled by G. H. P. Showalter and Austin Taylor.  Taylor composed the tune.  After 1966 the Boring family decided to establish summer singing schools in other communities, so the faculty of the singing school experienced major changes.

Joe Ed Furr, John Furr, James Tackett, and Richard McPherson joined the faculty. Taylor’s passing resulted in some major changes in the school. A new song writing training program was added to the school. A number of new training classes were offered including History of Church Music, Advanced Worship Planning, and an extensive practice teacher’s program was offered to train singing school teachers. In 1974 the school added more teachers such as Ken Spoor, Walter Chaney, and Stanley Stevens.  The largest attendance the school was privileged to have occurred between the years of 1976 to 1979.   By the year of 1980, the enrollment of the school began to decline, and in 1984 the school decided to consider the need to relocate. In 1985 Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, invited the singing school to move to its campus and become a part of its summer activities. Then in 1988 Abilene Christian University invited the singing school to move to its campus. The College of Biblical Studies opened its doors to the school. Leroy Furr, who was fully involved in the affairs of the Texas Normal Singing School for much of her life, died on Mar. 11, 2000, at the age of 88, in Bexar County, Texas, and was buried at Sabinal Cemetery in Sabinal, Uvalde County, Texas.

“Suffered at the Cross” focuses our minds on the scene of Jesus’s death and what it should mean to us.

I. Stanza 1 emphasizes the suffering of Jesus

Have you suffered at the cross of Jesus?
Have you viewed His dying majesty?

Have you counted all as loss for the glory of His cross?

Have you seen His precious agony?

  1. Christ suffered on the cross for us: 1 Pet. 3:18
  2. We cannot literally view His agony and death, but we can see them through our mind’s eye as we read about them in Scripture: Matt. 27:45-50
  3. This should motivate us to count all as loss for Him: Phil. 3:8

II. Stanza 2 emphasizes the pain of Jesus

Have you seen them mock our Lord and Savior

As they taunted Him in misery?
Have you felt the sting of pain as they tortured Him again

As He suffered there for you and me?

  1. Herod and his men mocked Jesus: Lk. 23:6-11
  2. Then Pilate’s soldiers mocked again as they tortured Him: Matt. 27:27-31
  3. Jesus endured all of this for us: Isa. 53:3-6

III. Stanza 3 emphasizes the love of Jesus

Have you felt your sins at Calvary’s mountain?
Did you want to start your life anew?
Did you hear His dying cry pierce the overhanging sky,

“Lord, forgive, they know not what they do.”

  1. All responsible human beings have sinned: Rom. 3:23
  2. But Christ’s death makes it possible for us to start life anew: 2 Cor. 5:14-17
  3. His dying cry on the cross shows His willingness to forgive: Lk. 23:34

IV. Stanza 4 emphasizes the salvation of Jesus

Were you buried with our Lord and Master?

Did you rise to walk your life anew?

In the water’s crystal grave, did you wash your sins away?
Have you strove to keep your promise true?

  1. Just as Jesus died and was buried and then raised up, so we must die to sin and be buried in baptism so that we can rise to walk in newness of life: Rom. 6:3-4
  2. In the water’s crystal grave our sins are washed away: Acts 22:16
  3. Then we must keep our promise true by being faithful until death: Rev. 2:10

CONCL.:  This song would be useful in helping to prepare our minds for partaking of the Lord’s supper in which we show forth the Lord’s death until He comes.  It could also be used as a song of invitation as it asks if we have obeyed the gospel and been saved.  Not only when we assemble on the first day of the week but every day we need to remember that Jesus “Suffered at the Cross.”

suffered

Be a Light for Jesus

“BE A LIGHT FOR JESUS”

“Let your light so shine before men…” (Matt. 5:16)

     INTRO.:  A song which exhorts Christians to fulfill their responsibility to let their lights shine before men is “Be a Light for Jesus” (#86 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The authorship of this hymn is in question.  Sacred Selections leaves the author’s name blank.  Hymnary.org identifies the author as the same person who composed the tune, B. F. Sims, as indicated in Stamp-Baxter’s 1939 Favorite Songs and Hymns.  I have been able to find no other information about this individual except that Hymnary.org lists him as the author of fourteen other songs: “Come, go with me to Canaan’s land,” “I am going by and by,” “I am going to the fountain,” “I am happy every day,” “I pray thee, Savior, to give me faith,” “Jesus left His home in glory And to earth he came to die,” “O I love the story true,” “Shall this life of mine be ended,” “There is rest for the soul in that beautiful land,” “There’ll be joy in heaven when we all get home,” “There’s a mansion of rest in the home of the blest,” There’s a straight and narrow way, and it leads to heaven above,” “Though dark the way may seem to thee,” and “We’re marching on to the river of death.”

Concerning copyright information for “Be a Light for Jesus,” Sacred Selections also says, “Morris & Sims, owners.”  Often when a song was copyrighted by two people, it indicated that one provided the words and the other the music, but not always.  The earliest that I have been able to trace the song is to the 1919 Gospel Songs No. 2 edited by Austin Taylor and G. H. P. Showalter for the Firm Foundation Pub. Co. of Austin, TX.  Given the fact that the song was also found in the Sunday School and Revival Songs No. 2, published in 1933 by the Morris Henson Co. of Oklahoma City, OK, which was owned by Homer F. Morris and John M. Henson, I would assume that the “Morris” who co-owned the copyright might have been Homer Franklin Morris (1876-1955).  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the only songbook currently available in which the song is found is Sacred Selections.

The song mentions several things that we must do to be lights for Jesus Christ.

I. Stanza 1 talks about hoisting the banner of Christ

“O, ye Christian soldiers, as you march along,

Be a light for Jesus every day;

Keep His banner hoisted all the whole day long,

Be a light for Jesus every day.”

  1. Christians are often likened to soldiers: 2 Tim. 2:3
  2. Marching along is part of the picture of fighting the good fight of the faith: 1 Tim. 6:12
  3. Just as soldiers march under a banner to identify who they are, so God has given us a banner: Ps. 60:4

II. Stanza 2 talks about keeping our lamps trimmed

“Keep you lamps trimmed, burning so that all may see,

Be a light for Jesus every day;

Let the world see Jesus and from sin be free,

Be a light for Jesus every day.”

  1. While waiting for the bridegroom, the wise virgins kept their lamps trimmed: Matt. 25:1-7
  2. In like manner, Christians must keep burning as lights in the world: Phil. 2:15
  3. In this way, the world will see Jesus in us: Gal. 2:20

III. Stanza 3 talks about pointing people up to Calvary

“Thousands grope in darkness that can never see,

Be a light for Jesus every day;

Until we point them up to Mount Calvary,

Be a light for Jesus every day.”

  1. Darkness refers to the sinfulness of this world: 1 Jn. 1:5-6
  2. Those who continue to walk in darkness can never see: Matt. 13:14-15
  3. Therefore, it is our job to point them up to Mt. Calvary by sharing with them the message of Christ and Him crucified: 1 Cor. 2:1-2

IV. Stanza 4 talks about keeping our lights shining

“Keep the light bright, shining all the world around,

Be a light for Jesus every day;

Till, released from darkness, all the Lord have found,

Be a light for Jesus every day.”

  1. We keep the light bright by both our godly lives and by thus adorning the light of the glorious gospel of Christ: 2 Cor. 4:4-6
  2. This light needs to be kept shining all the world around because Jesus wants the gospel preached to the whole world: Mk. 16:15-16
  3. Our aim in this is that people can be released from the darkness of sin by finding the Lord in obedience to His word: Rom. 6:17-18

CONCL.:  The chorus reminds us of the importance of letting our lights shine for Jesus in order that we might bring others to the light of the gospel.

“Be a light, be a light,

Be a light for Jesus every day;

Be a light, be a light,

Be a light for Jesus every day.”

When I moved to work with the church in Medina, OH, the congregation was still using Sacred Selections when many other churches had long moved on to newer hymnbooks.  One time when I was leading some “new” songs, I chose this one, and one of the members said that he had fond memories of singing it in the congregation where he had grown up when he was younger.  Certainly Christians should want to encourage each other to “Be a Light for Jesus.”

be a light

Blessed They That Die

galena

(photo of Galena Park, TX, Church of Christ)

BLESSED THEY THAT DIE

“…Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth…” (Rev. 14:13)

     INTRO.:  A song which points out how blessed are the dead who die in the Lord is “Blessed They That Die.”  The text was written by Albert O. Goldfinch who was born in 1908 in Texas.  He may have been the son of Albert Otho Goldfinch who was born on Oct. 26, 1869, in Michigan, moved to Sour Lake, Texas, married Sarah Anna (born about 1875 in Texas), and died on Dec. 5, 1940.  His wife was Floy Faye Wilson Goldfinch who was born in 1919, the daughter of Milton and Winnie (Miller) Wilson.  The Galena Park, TX, High School (GPHS) school song, “Our Loyalty,” has words by A.O. Goldfinch.

In 1948, the first Christians began to meet in the building of the Galena Park Church of Christ (now a Hispanic congregation) located at 401 Holland Avenue and 3rd Street in the city of Galena Park, TX. Among these brethren were O. K. Rambin, G. B. Davis, Harold Northcutt, A. O. Goldfinch, and Donald Woods. “Blessed They That Die” was copyrighted in 1953 by the Firm Foundation Publishing House of Austin, TX, and was first published that year in their book The Majestic Hymnal compiled by G. H. P. Showalter and Austin Taylor. The tune was composed by Holland Lavelle Boring Sr. (1905-2000).   Albert O. Goldfinch died at the age of 76 in 1984 at Galena Park, Texas.

“Blessed They That Die” emphasizes some of the blessings that will come to those who die in the Lord.

I. Stanza 1 points out that those who die in the Lord obtain His promise

The blessed Lord is very pitiful,

Deep and tender His great love;

We meekly look unto His promise given,

Of endless life above.

  1. The Lord is pitiful, that is, full of pity or compassionate: Jas. 5:11
  2. Therefore, we trust in His great love: Eph. 2:4-7
  3. And we look forward to His promise of eternal life: 1 Jn. 2:25

II. Stanza 2 points out that those who die in the Lord receive rest from their labors

Yea, blessed are the dead that die in Him;

From their labors they shall rest.

Their works shall follow them as living; they

Shall be forever blest.

  1. Those who die in the Lord are blessed because their death is precious to Him: Ps. 116:15
  2. He has a rest prepared for them: Heb. 4:8-9
  3. Before they receive it, they will be judged according to their works: Rev. 20:12

III. Stanza 3 points out that those who die in the Lord have their tears wiped away

And God shall wipe away His children’s tears,

When shall come that perfect day,

And sorrow, pain, and death, and former things

Shall then all pass away.

  1. In this life we have our tears: Ps. 56:8
  2. But we anticipate that perfect day: Prov. 4:18
  3. Then God will cause sorrow, pain, and death to pass away: Rev. 21:1-5

CONCL.: The chorus reminds us that to fall asleep in Jesus we must love God and keep His faith.

Yea, blest are they that die,

And fall in the Lord asleep,

Who love God’s blessed word, and to the end

The faith of Jesus keep.

When we know that those who pass from this life are faithful Christians, we can truly say, “Blessed They That Die.”

blessed they

 

 

 

TRUSTING IN JESUS

james-p-needham1

(Photo of Karla Needham’s father)

TRUSTING IN JESUS

“That we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ” (Eph. 1:12)

     INTRO.:  A song which encourages us to be among those who trust in Christ is “Trusting in Jesus.”  The text was written and the tune was composed both by Karla Alberta Needham.  I do not know exactly when or where she was born, but it would have been around 1958.  She was the younger daughter of James P. Needham (May 8, 1927 – November 4, 2014) and Maria Dechert Needham.  Her father was a gospel preacher who was born in Trenton, TN, served in the military during World War II, went to Freed-Hardeman College, and worked with churches of Christ at Taylor Blvd. and Expressway in Louisville, KY; Palm Springs Dr. in Altamonte Springs, FL; Palm River in Tampa, FL, during which time he also was a Bible professor at Florida College in nearby Temple Terrace; and Azalea Park in Orlando, FL.  Also, James published Bible Bulwarks in the 1950s, was then on the staff of Truth Magazine, and later edited Torch.

The July, 1980, issue of Torch included the song “Trusting in Jesus” by Karla.  James included the following note about her.  “The above hymn was composed by our youngest daughter, Karla.  She has written several songs of a Biblical nature for her children’s Bible classes, and also some secular songs, but this is her first hymn….Karla holds a degree in music education with minors in voice and piano.  She teaches music in the public school system, and in special children’s classes at Par Street church of Christ where she worships.”  Karla had obeyed the gospel at age ten when her father preached for the Expressway church in Louisville during a gospel meeting held by Dudley Ross Spears. She attended college on a music scholarship, majoring in voice and minoring in piano.  A graduate of the University of Central Florida in Orlando, she also did extensive work at the University of South Florida in Tampa.”

In the May 5, 1994, issue of Guardian of Truth (a.k.a. Truth Magazine), James Needham wrote the following account (condensed).  “I had three by-passes on January 14 at University Community Hospital in Tampa.  About two weeks after I came home from the hospital, and still quite ill, my wife went to Karla’s (our 36-year old daughter who lived with us) bedroom to see if she had left for school (she taught music in the public school). As she tried to open her door, something was against it, and she could open it just enough to see that Karla was on the floor against the door (she evidently had realized that something was happening and tried to make it to the bathroom). My wife screamed for me to come, which I did at once. After some minutes I was able to get the door open wide enough to get inside, only to find Karla lying on her back against the door, and having hemorrhaged from the mouth. Medics said she had been dead several hours. Following an autopsy the medical examiner says the cause of death is ‘inconclusive.’   She left us with a thirteen-year-old granddaughter, Heidi-Marie, whose father was killed in a car wreck before she was born. The funeral was conducted by three dear and long-time friends, Melvin Curry, Cecil Willis, and George Eldridge.”

Her song, “Trusting in Jesus,” points out that we must trust in Jesus to get to heaven.

I. Stanza 1 says that heaven is the promise of God

The Lord has promised me heaven,

The beautiful land o’er the sea;

He says that if I but trust Him,

To me eternal life it shall be.

I know He will love me forever,

Through His word He has promised me this:

I know I must follow His teaching

To live forever in bliss.

  1. Heaven is a beautiful land over the sea: Rev. 22:1-2
  2. God has promised His people eternal life there: 1 Jn. 2:25
  3. To receive this promise, we must follow His teaching in obedience: Heb. 5:8-9

II. Stanza 2 tells us that heaven is a place where there will be no sorrow or pain

In this life we have our troubles,

We all have sorrow and pain;

We all must trust in our Savior,

Who died and on high now doth reign.

He promised a mansion up yonder,

A beautiful robe of my own,

To live there forever in glory,

With angels ‘round the bright throne.

  1. In this life we have our troubles: Job 14:1
  2. But there will be no sorrow or pain in heaven: Rev. 21:1-4
  3. Instead we shall wear beautiful robes: Rev. 7:13-14

III. Stanza 3 identifies heaven as the home of the soul

To live in happiness ever,

Through Jesus we shall reach the goal;

We should all strive for this treasure

To give us a home for the soul.

He promised a mansion up yonder,

A beautiful robe of my own,

To live there forever in glory,

With angels ‘round the bright throne.

  1. Only through Jesus can we reach this goal because He alone has the words of eternal life: Jn. 6:66-69
  2. By trusting Him we can have a mansion up yonder: Jn. 14:1-6
  3. There we shall join the angels around God’s throne: Rev. 4:9-11

CONCL.: The chorus exhorts us to trust the Lord that we might receive His reward.

Trust, trusting in Jesus,

Learning to live by Him still,

Following Him through the Bible,

A child of God, I’ll live by His will.

We can be saved from sin and go to heaven only by God’s grace (not the same as saying that we can be saved from sin and go to heaven by God’s grace only), but the Lord has laid down certain conditions that we must meet to receive the benefits of His grace, and these may be summed up as “Trusting in Jesus.”

trusting in Jesusss

An Old Account Settled

graham_fm

(photo of F. M. Graham)

AN OLD ACCOUNT SETTLED

“So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12)

     INTRO.: A song which points out that every one of us has an account with God which must be settled is “An Old Account Settled.”  The text was written and the tune was composed both by Frank Monford Graham, who was born on March 1, 1859, in Birmingham, Schuyler County, Illinois, son of David Graham and Lucinda Miller Graham. He is found in Illinois in the 1880 census but was in or around Spartanburg County, South Carolina, by 1899. Becoming a minister in the Wesleyan Methodist Church as well as a singer and songwriter, he held a revival at Mayo that year, where Graham Chapel Wesleyan Church was later named for him. His future wife was living and teaching in Spartanburg County in 1900, according to the Federal Census. Graham married Mary Ella Roof of South Carolina probably around 1902. Their son Herbert Roof Graham was born in 1903 and daughter Edith M. Graham in 1905.

Graham was living in Pelzer, a town in Anderson County, South Carolina, in 1902 when he published Songs for Jesus which included his best known hymn “The Old Account Was Settled.”  He was still in South Carolina from 1903 to 1905, when his children were born there. In 1906 he was one of the founders of the Wesleyan Methodist Bible Institute (now Southern Wesleyan University) at Central, Pickens County, South Carolina.  He was apparently in Greene County, Georgia, later in 1906 (when Songs for Jesus, No 1 and No 2 Combined was published).  In 1907 he served as president of the Northern Georgia Conference of the Wesleyan Methodist Church and served the Wesley Chapel Circuit of Wesley Chapel, Rebecca, and Winder churches.  By 1910 he and his family are listed in the Georgia census. That year he was at Caldwell, which is also listed as his residence in 1920. Other hymnbooks published by Graham during this time include Holiness to the Lord (1908) and Songs for Jesus No. 5 (1914), both in Greensboro, Georgia. In 1930 his residence is listed as Militia District 141, Greene County, Georgia.

Graham was a prolific composer, writing possibly as many as 100 songs. Cyber Hymnal credits him with a known 66. He wrote the song “Better Farther On” which was recorded by the Carter Family. “Don’t Grieve Your Mother” was published in the J. L. White editions of The Sacred Harp.  And some may recognize his prohibition song “Jim and Me.”  Graham published at least eight editions of Songs for Jesus. These books were particularly conceived for revivals and gospel meetings, as seen in his subtitle “The Book You Need for Revivals.” His tunes appear in many other song books as well. One commenter stated that Graham believed his songs were gifts from God, and therefore did not copyright any of his work so others could use them.  Frank Monford Graham died August 25, 1931, in Greensboro, Greene County, Georgia, and is buried at the Wesley Chapel Cemetery in Greensboro. His tombstone is inscribed “The Holiness Singer and Preacher.” His wife Ella and son Herbert are also buried there. What happened to Edith is presently unknown.

“An Old Account Settled” reminds us that Jesus died to pay our debt of sin to God.

I. Stanza 1 talks about the debt

There was a time on earth,

When in the book of heaven

An old account was standing

For sins yet unforgiven;

My name was at the top,

And many things below,

I went unto the Keeper,

And settled long ago.

  1. God keeps an account book in heaven: Mal. 3:16
  2. At one time, every responsible human being is on the “debt” side because of unforgiven sin: Rom. 3:23
  3. Anyone not found on the saved side will be cast into the lake of fire: Rev. 20:11-15

II. Stanza 2 talks about the enormity of the debt

The old account was large,

And growing every day,

For I was always sinning,

And never tried to pay;

But when I looked ahead,

And saw such pain and woe,

I said that I would settle,

I settled long ago.

  1. The account of those lost in sin keeps growing because they continue to transgress God’s law: 1 Jn. 3:4
  2. If they never try to pay, they may feel like Paul, who called Himself the chief of sinners: 1 Tim. 1:13-15
  3. But they would seek to settle if they would just look ahead and see the pain and woe that sin will bring in eternity: Jas. 1:14-15

III. Stanza 3 talks about the debt having been paid

When at the judgment bar

I stand before my King,

And He the book will open,

He cannot find a thing;

Then my heart will be glad,

While tears of joy will flow,

Because I had it settled,

And settled long ago.

  1. Someday we shall all stand before the judgment bar: Rom. 14:10-12
  2. When God opens the book, He will find that we have been accounted righteous if our sins have been forgiven: Rom. 4:1-8

3. Then we shall be glad because our hearts will not condemn us: 1 Jn. 3:21

IV. Stanza 4 talks about the results of having the debt paid

When in that happy home,

My Savior’s home above,

I’ll sing redemption’s story,

And praise Him for His love;

I’ll not forget that book,

With pages white as snow,

Because I came and settled,

And settled long ago.

  1. Someday those who have had their account settled by the blood of Christ will be received into the Savior’s home above: Jn. 14:1-3
  2. There they will join with the heavenly hosts to sing redemption’s story: Rev. 5:8-10
  3. This is possible because their sins have been washed whiter than snow: Isa. 1:18

V. Stanza 5 talks about what sinners must do to have their debt paid

O sinner, seek the Lord,

Repent of all your sin,

For thus He has commanded

If you would enter in;

And then if you should live

A hundred years below,

E’en here you’ll not regret it,

You settled long ago.

  1. Before we can settle our accounts, we must repent: Acts 17:30-31
  2. Then we must do what the Lord has commanded to enter into Christ: Gal. 3:26-27
  3. After that, we must live soberly, righteously, and godly: Tit. 2:11-14

CONCL.:  The chorus reminds us of the importance of settling our account with God while we have the opportunity.

Long ago, long ago,

Yes, the old account was settled long ago;

And the record’s clear today,

For He washed my sins away,

When the old account was settled long ago.

So far as I know, this song has never appeared in any hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in Churches of Christ.  A gospel preacher friend of mine recently asked me for information about it.  I first saw it in an old hymnbook given to me by my grandmother.  The cover and title page were missing, so she made her own cover out of white file folder paper, taped it to the book, and simply marked it “Church Songs.”  Thus, I have no name, date, or publisher for the book, but from the printing and contents, I would guess that it was published by Homer Rodeheaver.  The song was also found in the 1939 Favorite Songs and Hymns published by Stamps-Baxter Music and the 1951 Church Hymnal published by Tennessee Music.  When we have obeyed God’s conditions for pardon and been cleansed of our sins by the blood of Jesus Christ, then we may know that we have “An Old Account Settled.”

old-account

Each Step of the Way

jordan-thelma

(tombstone of Thelma O. Jordan)

EACH STEP OF THE WAY

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and He delights in his way” (Ps. 37:23)

     INTRO.:  A song which encourages us to walk in the steps that are ordered by the Lord is “Each Step of the Way” (#256 in Hymns for Worship Revised).  The text was written and the tune was composed both by Thelma O. Mullinex Jordan who was born to Jason L. and Mary J. Mullinex of Washington, West Virginia, on Oct. 24, 1901. She married Holly Rhodes on December 15, 1919, when she was 18. In 1930 they lived in Curtis, West Virginia, between Parkersburg and Charleston. According to a family group sheet at the West Virginia Pioneers site, they had three children.   Thelma and Holly separated in the early 1930s; by 1932, the Polk’s City Directory for Parkersburg, West Virginia, shows “Thelma O. Mullinex” boarding near the American Viscose Corporation’s rayon milling plant. Thelma’s marriage to Lester Milford Jordan (1911-1976) took place at least by 1937, when they were listed together in the Parkersburg city directory.  The 1940 census gives her occupation as a “spooler” at the rayon plant, which employed both single and married women in a variety of roles, and also indicates that an adult child from her previous marriage lived with them for a time.

Thelma was a gospel songwriter active during the 1960s, who published through the R. E. Winsett Company in Dayton, Tennessee, and the Stamps-Baxter publishing house in Dallas, Texas.  Two of her earliest songs were “What He’s done for others” in Vict’ry Songs (Dallas, TX: Stamps-Baxter, 1960) and “Are you doing your best?” found in Saving Grace (Dallas, TX: Stamps-Baxter, 1961).  “Each Step of the Way” was copyrighted in 1962 by Stamps-Baxter in their Gospel Way, but its earliest other appearance is found in Best of All: Number 2 (Dayton, TN: R. E. Winsett, 1963).  Successive Parkersburg directories showed Thelma and Lester remaining in that city at least through 1960. Since Thelma’s 1968 copyright on “Only the Best,” mentioned in the U.S. Copyright Office Catalog of copyright entries, was submitted from Palestine, WV, it is assumed they had retired to that more rural spot.  Though she is credited with at least sixteen more hymns, there is little evidence of other Thelma Jordan songs in current use, though presumably some are in the collections published by the Brentwood-Benson company, which owns her catalog.

“Each Step of the Way” probably came into the repertoire of the Churches of Christ in the U.S. in the 1970s by way of the Howard Publishing books, beginning with the 1971 Songs of the Church edited by Alton H. Howard.  Thelma, who sometimes used the initial of her given middle name and sometimes the initial of her maiden name, died on Feb. 17, 1988, at age 86, and is buried at the Bethesda Baptist Church Cemetery in Palestine, Wirt County, West Virginia.  David Hamrick (http://drhamrick.blogspot.com/2013/04/each-step-of-way.html), from whom most of this information came, wrote of Jordan’s music for “Each Step of the Way,” saying that it “is simple and functional, lending itself easily to congregational singing. The melody stays almost entirely within the range of a 6th above the tonic, band moves predominantly in stepwise motion. The soprano and alto are harmonized in parallel 3rds throughout the stanza, with the exception of just two or three notes. The bass supports the typical three-chord harmony by supplying the roots of the chords, but is saved from monotony in the stanza by walking up from dominant to tonic (‘by night and by day’), and then from tonic to subdominant (‘what it may bring’).  The alto lead in the refrain is written in the same extremely simple style, moving almost entirely by step and remaining within a narrow range.”

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in Churches of Christ, the song has appeared in the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed. and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise both edited by Alton H. 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 M. Taylor Jr.; and the 2012 Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs edited by Steve Wolfgang et. al.; in addition to Songs of the Church and Hymns for Worship.  I have added stanza 3.

The song looks from this life to heaven.

I. Stanza 1 talks about walking with Jesus in this life

I walk with the Savior each step of the way,

I trust Him to guide me by night and by day;

Not dreading tomorrow nor what it may bring,

I’m safe in the keeping of Jesus the King.

  1. We must trust Jesus to guide us as we run the race of life, looking to Him as the author and finisher of our faith: Heb. 12:1-2
  2. We should not dread what tomorrow may bring: Matt. 6:34
  3. Rather, we need to understand that we’re safe in His keeping as we’re kept by His power through faith: 1 Pet. 1:3-5

II. Stanza 2 talks about going to heaven

With joy we shall enter the city, up there,

Of wonderful beauty and mansions all fair;

His own shall be changed and made like Him that day,

Because we’ve walked with Him each step of the way.

  1. Heaven is pictured as a city: Rev. 21:1-4
  2. Our home there has many mansions or dwelling places: Jn. 14:1-3
  3. Someday our Savior will come again, change us to be like Him, and take us home: 1 Cor. 15:50-52

III. Stanza 3 talks about how we can walk with Him here and then be with Him there

Our Savior died for us and rose from the grave;

He gave us the gospel, His power to save.

So if we walk with Him each step of the way,

He’ll come back and take us to heaven some day.

  1. To make salvation in heaven possible, Jesus died and rose again: 1 Cor. 15:1-4
  2. Then He gave us as His power for salvation: Rom. 1:16-17
  3. Thus we look for Him to return and gather us unto Himself: 1 Thess. 4:14-17

CONCL.:  The chorus reminds us of the need to walk with Jesus now that we might follow Him to that home eternally fair.

Each step of the way, by night and by day;

Leads nearer the home eternally fair,

Where we shall meet loved ones, awaiting us there,

Who walked here with Jesus each step of the way.

In order to have something that will help us through our daily lives and enable us to get to where we want to go, we need to make sure that we are following Jesus “Each Step of the Way.”

each-step

I Want to Hear Him Say, Well Done

vera dennis

(photo of Vera Dennis)

I WANT TO HEAR HIM SAY, WELL DONE

“His Lord said to him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant…” (Matt. 25:21)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which expresses the desire to hear the Lord tell us in judgment, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” is “I Want to Hear Him Say, Well Done.”  The text was written and the tune was composed both by Vera Lillian Roe (Mrs. Marvin) Dennis, who was born on July 2, 1917, in Donnybrook, ND.   When she was one year old, her family moved to western Oklahoma where she graduated from high school at Chattanooga in 1936.  The Roe family could not afford music lessons because of its size and the children’s growing up in the Depression years.  So her father taught the family to read notes and sing at home, a very common practice during the Great Depression, and many people learned to sing well because of this.

In 1938, Vera was baptized into Christ.  That same year she was married to Marvin Dennis of Tishomingo, OK.  They had five children, Leon, Venita, Ronnie, Joyce, and Linda.  Marvin was an elder and song leader in the Church of Christ at Milburn, OK, several years prior to his   death.  Among Vera’s songs published by Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company were “Walking With Jesus,” “Stand By Me,” and “I Want to Hear Him Say, Well Done,” which was copyrighted in 1951 in their book Melodies of Joy.

Vera was employed by the United States Post Office in 1953.  Marvin passed away in 1958, and Vera retired on July 15, 1977, after 24 years and three months of service.  Following that, she moved to live in Stratford, OK, not too far from where her son Leon was minister with the Westside Church of Christ in Norman, OK.  In 1980, Gene C. Finley included “I Want to Hear Him Say, Well Done” in his collection Our Garden of Song.  Vera died on Oct. 28, 2003, in Ada, OK.

“I Want to Hear Him Say, Well Done” looks back on a life of service and ahead to the reward.

I. Stanza 1 reminds us that judgment is coming

When all my work on earth is ended, (toiling done),

When this life’s race at last is run,

And I shall stand before the Savior, (Christ the Lord),

I want to hear Him say, “Well done, (my child, well done”).

  1. Someday, our work on earth will have ended due to death: Heb. 9:27
  2. Then, like Paul, our race will have been run and the course finished: 2 Tim. 6:6-7
  3. Eventually, all shall stand before the Savior in judgment: Rom. 14:10-12

II. Stanza 2 points out that judgment will be sad for some

It would be sad, when comes the judgment, (that great day),

To be turned out from heaven’s throng,

To hear, “Depart, I never knew you, (O how sad!)

And never join the victory song, (the victory song).

  1. Judgment day will be sad for those who do not know God and have not obeyed the gospel: 2 Thess. 1:7-9
  2. They will be turned out from heaven’s throng: Matt. 25:41
  3. And they will hear the Judge say, “Depart”: Matt. 7:21-23

III. Stanza 3 indicates that judgment will be joyful for others

O wondrous joy to live in glory (with our Lord,)

And praise His name while ages run;

I’ll trust Him here and do His biddings (every day),

I want to hear Him say, “Well done, (my child, well done”).

  1. Judgment day will be joyful for those who go to live with the Lord in glory: 2 Tim. 2:10
  2. They will praise His name forever with the redeemed of all ages: Rev. 19:1-7
  3. But this joy is only for those who have trusted Him and done His bidding by keeping His commandments: Rev. 22:14

CONCL.:  The chorus exhorts us to prepare for judgment

While here on earth, I’ll follow Him,

Through sunshine bright and shadows dim,

For when shall come life’s setting sun,

I want to hear Him say, “Well done, (my child, well done”).

The inspired word of God is very clear.  This life is not all that there is.  Death is not the final end.  Judgment is coming.  The lost will be punished in eternal hell.  The saved will receive everlasting life with God in heaven.  So, I know not what course others may take, but as for me, “I Want to Hear Him Say, Well Done.”

i want--well done