If We Never Meet Again

“IF WE NEVER MEET AGAIN”

“And the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain…and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:16-17)

     INTRO.:  A song which expresses the hope of being reunited in the resurrection with those who are dead in Christ is “If We Never Meet Again” (#678 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #665 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The text was written and the tune was composed both by Albert Edward Brumley (1905-1977).  Brumley is perhaps best-known for “I’ll Fly Away,” one of his first songs.  “If We Never Meet Again” was copyrighted in 1945 by the Stamps Quartet Music Company and renewed by them in 1973.  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the song 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 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1994 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 and Sacred Selections

     The song looks forward to meeting again with the saints in heaven.

I. Stanza 1 talks about the parting

Soon we’ll come to the end of life’s journey,

And perhaps we’ll never meet any more,

Till we gather in heaven’s bright city

Far away on that beautiful shore.

 A. The end of life’s journey is, of course, death: Heb. 9:27

 B. As a result of this, there are those of loved ones, friends, and brethren, even some now alive, whom perhaps we’ll never see any more: Acts 20:37-38

 C. But those who are Christians have the hope that they shall gather together in heaven’s bright city: Rev. 21:1-2

II. Stanza 2 talks about the sorrow of parting

O so often we’re parted with sorrow,

Benedictions often quicken our pain,

But we never shall sorrow in heaven,

God be with you till we meet again.

 A. Even though Christians do not sorrow as those without hope, there is still sorrow at the death of loved ones: 1 Thess. 4:13

 B. The word “benedictions” here probably refers to the words of “good bye” said at funerals which often quickens our pain: Jn. 10:33-35

 C. However, such good byes for Christians are not final, but just “God be with you till we meet again” when we join all the servants of God around His throne: Rev. 22:3

III. Stanza 3 talks about the meeting again in heaven

O they say we shall meet by the river,

Where no storm clouds ever darken the sky,

And they say we’ll be happy in heaven

In the wonderful sweet by and by.

 A. This meeting will take place by the river of life: Rev. 22:1

 B. No storm clouds will darken the sky because the glory of God will illuminate it: Rev. 21:23

 C. And everyone will be happy because there will be no sorrow there: Rev. 21:4

     CONCL.: The chorus reminds us of the glory and grandeur of being with God and the redeemed in heaven.

If we never meet again this side of heaven

As we struggle through this world and its strife,

There’s another meeting place somewhere in heaven

By the side of the river of life;

Where the charming roses bloom forever,

And where separations come no more,

If we never meet again this side of heaven

I will meet you on that beautiful shore.

For various reasons, I am not a big fan of the Southern gospel music convention type of song, especially in the assemblies of the saints.  However, while I’m still not sure that I would highly recommend that this song is necessarily appropriate for public worship services, it nevertheless has a wistfulness that I find appealing on a personal level.  It certainly expresses the hope that we as Christians have for each other beyond this life, even “If We Never Meet Again.”

Jesus Paid It All (Shaffer)

“JESUS PAID IT ALL” (Shaffer)

“He bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isa. 53:12).

     INTRO.:  A hymn which emphasizes that Christ bore the sins of many and made intercession for transgressors is “Jesus Paid It All” (#677 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #145 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The text was written by M. S. Shaffer (Early 20th Century).  One source says that it was first published  in The Highway Hymnal, 1915, jointly issued by the Charlie Tillman Song Book Company of Atlanta, GA, and the Pentecostal Publishing Company of Louisville, KY.  The tune was composed by Samuel William Beazley (1873-1944).  The song as we know it was copyrighted by Beazley in 1916, although some sources give 1917 as the date of the music and even the words.  The copyright was renewed in 1944 by Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Co., which date would suggest 1916 for the original copyright.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the song has appeared in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; 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 and Sacred Selections.

     The song explains that Jesus paid the debt for sin that we owe.

I. Stanza 1 tells how Jesus paid the debt by His death

Gone is all my debt of sin, A great change is wrought within,

And to live I now begin, Risen from the fall;

Yet the debt I did not pay—Someone died for me one day,

Sweeping all the debt away—Jesus paid it all.

 A. It is possible for us to have our debt of sin taken away by forgiveness: Eph. 1:7

 B. However, in order for this to be done, someone had to die for us: Rom. 5:8

 C. Jesus is the one who swept the debt away by paying it all because He came into the world to save sinners: 1 Tim. 1:15

II. Stanza 2 tells how His paying the debt brings freedom

O I hope to please Him now, Light of joy is on my brow,

As at His dear feet I bow, Safe within His love.

Making His the debt I owed, Freedom true He has bestowed;

So I’m singing on the road To my home above.

 A. Jesus, who paid our debt, also brings light to our lives because He is the light of the world: Jn. 8:12

 B. Therefore, we should strive to abide in His love: Jn. 15:9-10

 C. Those who live in His light and His love find true freedom: Gal. 5:1

III. Stanza 3 tells how He paid the debt for everyone

Sinner, not for me alone Did the Son of God atone;

Your debt, too, He made His own, On the cruel tree.

Come to Him with all your sin; Be as white as snow within;

Full salvation you may win And rejoice with me.

 A. Jesus didn’t die for just one person but for everyone: Heb. 2:9

 B. Therefore all are invited to come to Him and be made white as snow: Isa. 1:18

 C. Only then can we rejoice in the Lord: Phil. 4:4

     CONCL.:  The chorus indicates what effect this payment of the debt should have on us.

Jesus died and paid it all, On the cross of Calvary,

And my heart was melted At His dying call;

Oh, His heart was broken On the tree for you and me,

And the debt is canceled, Jesus paid it all.

After this song was basically introduced into churches of Christ through Sacred Selections, it became rather popular in some circles.  There is certainly nothing unscriptural about the words or thought.  However, personally, this kind of song, with its somewhat breath-taking rhythm and emphasis on special parts, doesn’t appeal to me, and although I try not to make my own preferences any kind of standard for everyone else, if I had my “druthers,” I would prefer the other hymn with this same title by Elvina Mabel Hall beginning, “I hear the Savior say, ‘Thy strength indeed is small.’”  In any event, it is important for us to be reminded that “Jesus Paid It All.”

The Blessed Life

“THE BLESSED LIFE”

“Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8)

     INTRO.:  A song which helps to explain how the pure in heart are blessed is “The Blessed Life” (#675 in Hymns for Worship Revised).  The text was written and the tune was composed both by Glenda Barnhart Schales.  It was copyrighted in 1992 and first appeared in Hymns for Worship Revised edited by R. J. Stevens and Dane K. Shepard.  So far as I know, the only hymnbook published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ which includes the song is Hymns for Worship Revised (not in the original edition).

     The song encourages us to follow the teachings of Christ in the Beatitudes in order to be blessed by God.

I. Stanza 1 pronounces a blessing on those who hunger and thirst for righteousness

Blessed, blessed, blessed are we,

Whom God has blessed with mercy, comfort, and peace

When we have humbly sought His name to confess,

Hungered and sought His righteousness.

 A. Those who refrain from evil and follow God’s word are blessed: Ps. 1:1—2

 B. To receive these blessings, we must humbly seek His name to confess: Matt. 10:32

 C. We must also hunger and thirst after righteousness: Matt. 5:6

II. Stanza 2 pronounces a blessing on those who are pure in heart

Pure in heart

We see that God

Is great and pure in

Holiness.

 A. God wants us to be pure in heart: 1 Tim. 5:22

 B. Indeed, a child of God will purify himself just as He is pure: 1 Jn. 3:3

 C. Thus, we must be holy as He is holy: 1 Pet. 1:15

III. Stanza 3 pronounces a blessing on those

Poor in spirit,

Meek and gentle,

We are blessed with

Happiness.

 A. God desires that we be poor in spirit: Matt. 5:3

 B. He also wishes us to be meek and gentle: Matt. 5:5

 C. Only by doing what we know to be right can we be happy: Jn. 13:17

IV. Stanza 4 pronounces a blessing on those

Persecuted

Like our Lord,

And like the prophets,

We’ll be blessed.

 A. Those who are righteous may expect to be persecuted: Matt. 5:10-11

 B. Even our Lord was persecuted and told us that His servants will receive the same treatment: Jn. 15:18-20

 C. But we shall be blessed with a reward in heaven:  Matt. 5:12

V. Stanza 5 pronounces a blessing on those who seek God’s righteousness

Rich in blessings

From our God,

We humbly seek His

Righteousness.

 A. God has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ: Eph. 1:3

 B. All good blessings come from God above: Jas. 1:17

 C. But His richest blessings are for those who seek His righteousness: Phil. 3:9

     CONCL.:  I don’t wish to be overly critical, sound harsh, or appear unkind, but when I first saw this song, my initial reaction was, “What in the world is this?”  The basses sing stanza 1, apparently all by themselves at first, but then they continue to sing that same stanza over and over again, while the altos alone sing stanza 2, next the altos and tenors sing stanza 3, and finally the altos, tenors, and sopranos sing stanzas 4 and 5.  I still have to wonder how we can teach and admonish one another when different groups are singing totally different words at the same time.  I certainly appreciate the efforts of brothers and sisters in Christ who are trying to write new songs with which we can praise God and exhort each other.  I have even written a few myself, although I am probably a better tune smith than poet.  But whatever happened to simple hymns and spiritual songs with readily understood words and easily followed music in which all can join in together and be edified?  It disturbs me that some in the Lord’s church now apparently feel the need to imitate the medieval motets whose complexity helped fuel the return to congregational singing of the Reformation, ape Contemporary Christian Music with its difficult New Age harmonies and rhythms, or follow other musical forms that are characterized by a performance mentality for entertainment purposes.  Please do not misunderstand me.  I am not saying that this song is somehow sinful or wrong.  It is just that I could wish for a less confusing way to sing about “The Blessed Life.”

It Is Time to Build

“IT IS TIME TO BUILD”

“Thus saith the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways” (Hag. 1:4)

     INTRO.:  A song which encourages us to consider our ways is “It Is Time to Build” (#674 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).  It was copyrighted in 1990 and first appeared in Hymns for Worship Revised edited by Stevens and Dane K. Shepard.  In earlier editions of Hymns for Worship, the song at this opening (#591) was “Wonderful.”  The text of stanzas 1 through 3 was written by James Rowe (1865-1933).  The text of stanza 4 was written by P. J. Zondervan.  The tune was composed by M. L. Yandell.  The song was first published in 1938 and the copyright renewed in 1966 by Stamps-Baxter Music.  Among other hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “It Is Time to Build” has appeared in the 2007 Sumphonia Hymn Supplement and the 2012 Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs both edited by Steve Wolfgang et. al, with a slightly different musical arrangement made by Craig A. Roberts (b. 1957).

     The song, based on the appeal of the prophet Haggai to build the temple, applies the same principles to building the church.

I. Stanza 1 talks about the need for building the Lord’s house

It is time to build in the church of our Lord.

It is time to consider our ways.

This great work is before us, the need sounds its cry to all,

And God seeketh those who obey.

 A. God wants His church to be built up: 1 Cor. 3:10

 B. Such building involves a great work: 1 Cor. 15:58

 C. Thus, God seeks people to obey His will: Heb. 5:8-9

II. Stanza 2 talks about the importance of building the Lord’s house

Have we built our homes, have we cared for our own,

While neglecting the temple of God?

But it’s time, let us work, giving all to our blessed Lord,

Ye chosen, ye people of God.

 A. Unlike Timothy, some seek their own rather than the things of the Lord: Phil. 2:21

 B. The temple of God today is the church: Eph. 2:19-22

 C. In building this temple, we must give our all to the Lord by loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength: Mk. 12:29-30

III. Stanza 3 talks about the means of building the Lord’s house

Let us gather wood in the mountains of truth.

Hammer faith, hammer hope to its frame.

Now let’s strengthen our hands for the work, sound the Word as

We stand on the power of His name.

 A. Just as the temple required wood to build it, so we must find materials with which to build the church: 1 Cor. 3:12-16

 B. Also, just as the builders of the temple needed tools with which to build, so we use faith, hope, and love in building the church: 1 Cor. 13:13

 C. And we must strengthen our hands for the work: Heb. 12:12

     CONCL.:  The chorus exhorts us to have the faith and courage to build the Lord’s church.

“Now have faith, Now have courage, never fear,” says our Lord.

“I am with you, My spirit abides with you.

Now have faith, Now have courage, I will fill it with glory.”
Build the church, build the temple of God.”

As we consider our ways in comparison with what the Lord has commanded us to do, we must recognize that “It Is Time to Build.”

He Hears Me When I Pray

(Photo of Cecil E. Price)

HE HEARS ME WHEN I PRAY

“And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask any thing according to His will, He heareth us” (1 John 5:14)

    INTRO.:  A hymn which expresses the confidence that we have in God, that, if we ask any thing according to His will, He hears us is “He Hears Me When I Pray.”  The text was written and the tune was composed both by Cecil Edward Price who was born in Pasadena, TX, on Sept. 14, 1956, the son of Frank and Dorothy Price of Houston, TX, and the third of four children.  The Prices were a singing family, so Cecil grew up singing at home and at church singings, and began leading singing after he was baptized at the age of nine.  Educated in the public schools of Houston, he also attended the Foundation School of Music beginning in 1970, where he studied under Holland Boring Sr., Holland Boring Jr., Paul Epps, and Bob Connel.  In addition, he went to singing schools taught by L. O. Sanderson, Leon Sanderson, Tex Stevens, and Wilkin Bacon.  Even before graduating from Stephen F. Austin High School in 1975, Price had begun writing hymns and religious songs, such as “Follow Jesus” which was copyrighted in 1974 and was used in the 1980 compilation Our Garden of Song edited by Gene C. Finley. 

     Cecil taught song leading at the Foundation School of Music in 1976 and 1977.  He graduated from Harding College, where he was in the A Cappella Chorus, on Dec. 15, 1978, with a B.A. degree in Music Education, completing a five-year program in three and a half years with an additional semester of Graduate Work, in preparation to work with the church full time for the rest of his life preaching, teaching, and song leading for the Lord.  After graduation, he served for two years, 1979 to 1981, as Instructor of Bible, Chorus, Home and Family Living, and Physical Education at the Christian Academy of Oak Cliff in Dallas, TX, while also working as Youth Minister and Song Leader at the Sunset Church of Christ in Dallas.  For the next six years, 1981 to 1986, he was Youth Minister and Song Leader at the Cockrell Hill Church of Christ in Dallas, Texas.  His song “He Hears Me When I Pray” appeared in a little song book Gleam of Glory, published in the early 1980s, c. 1983, by Holland Boring Sr.

     Gleam of Glory contains three additional songs by Price, “I Shall Not Fear” (1980), “We Love You, Lord” (1980), and “Living for Him” (1980).  Then for two years, 1986 to 1988, he was Youth Minister at the Webb Chapel church in Dallas, Texas.  From 1988 to 1992, he served four years as Minister of Youth, Music, and Religious Education at the Eighth and Harrison church in Harlingen, Texas. From 1992 to 1995, he worked three years as Associate Minister at the Liberty Church of Christ in Liberty, Texas. From 1995 to 2000, he was Youth and Family Minister at the Parkview Church of Christ in Sherman, Texas, for five years.  In 1997, he became Director of the Foundation School of Church Music. He was with the Boulevard Church of Christ in Lake Charles, Lousiana, from 2000 to 2002, and the Sierra Vista Church of Christ, Sierra Vista, Arizona, from 2002 to 2016.  Currently, he lives in Rowlett, Texas, where he is a Technical Consultant with Belzona Industrial Solutions providing maintenance solutions to a variety of industries across the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and beyond.

     “He Hears Me When I Pray” discusses various situations when we especially need to remember that God will hear us in prayer.

I. Stanza 1 mentions times of trials

When I’m beset with trials,

My Lord is always near;

When temptations prompt denial,

My Lord my prayer will hear.

 A. As long as we live on this earth, we shall be beset with trials: 1 Pet. 4:12

 B. Yet even in such circumstances, the Lord will be near us if we draw near to Him: Jas. 4:8

 C. The reason why we need Him near is that our trials present temptations to deny Him, as happened to Peter: Matt. 26:33-34

II. Stanza 2 mentions times of weariness

When my path seems dark and dreary,

When my load is hard to bear,

Jesus helps me when I’m weary;

He takes on every care.

 A. Sometimes our path seems dark and dreary because man that is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble: Job 14:1

 B. At such times our load may be hard to bear: Gal. 6:5

 C. But in prayer we can cast all our cares on Jesus: 1 Pet. 5:7

III. Stanza 3 mentions times of storms

When storms of life assail me,

I stand firm without fear.

I have faith in God the Father;

He all my prayers doth hear.

 A. The storms of life represent the sufferings we must endure on this earth: 1 Pet. 3:13-17

 B. God’s people can face such situations without fear: Heb. 13:5-6

 C. Firm faith in God will enable us to have victory: 1 Jn. 5:3-4

     CONCL.:  The chorus talks about some of the blessings that come from going to God in prayer.

He lifts me when I’ve fallen,

He’s with me day by day.

He hears me when I’m calling,

Yes, He hears me when I pray.

While prayer has many therapeutic benefits of a mental and emotional nature, such as a sense of peace, for me, it is more than just an exercise that is meant to make me feel better.  Based upon the promise of the loving and Almighty God who created and controls the entire universe as revealed in His written word, I can have the firm assurance that “He Hears Me When I Pray.”

Above All, Love

 “ABOVE ALL, LOVE”

“And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Cor. 13:13)

     INTRO.:  A song which points out that the greatest of faith, hope, and love is love is “Above All, Love,” (#672 in Hymns for Worship Revised).  The text was written and the tune was composed both by Donald M. Alexander (b. 1946).  The arrangement was made by R. J. Stevens (1927-2012).  The song was copyrighted in 1994 and first appeared in Hymns for Worship Revised (not in the original edition), which to my knowledge is the only book published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ to include it.  Other hymns by Alexander in Hymns for Worship include “Saints Lift Your Voices,”  “I Am His Child,” “Blessed in Christ,” “Mended and Whole,” “In the Glory of His Cross,” and “Brotherly Love.” 

     “Above All, Love” emphasizes the superiority of love over everything else.

I. Stanza 1 shows that love is more important

If I speak with tongues of men and angels, too;

If I have the gifts of prophecy and faith;

If I give all I possess and give my body as a sacrifice;

If I have no love I’m nothing after all.

 A. It is possible to speak with the tongues of men and angels but not have love: 1 Cor. 13:1

 B. It is possible to have the gifts of prophecy and faith but not have love: 1 Cor. 13:2

 C. It is even possible to give all we possess to the poor and our bodies to be burned but not have love: 1 Cor. 13:3

II. Stanza 2 tells some things that love does

Love is patient, love is kind and envies not;

Never boastful, never rude or filled with pride;

Love is never seeking self and is not easily provoked to wrath;

Love hates evil but rejoices with the truth.

 A. Love is patient, kind, and unenvious: 1 Cor. 13:4

 B. Love does not behave rudely and is not filled with pride to seek its own: 1 Cor. 13:5

 C. Love hates evil by rejoicing not in iniquity and rejoices in the truth: 1 Cor. 13:6

III. Stanza 3 tells some more things that love does

Love protects, and trusts, and always perseveres;

Never failing, love will never pass away.

In the path of love the Savior walked and humbly gave Himself to die;

And the path of love leads straight to Calvary.

 A. Love protects and perseveres by bearing all things and enduring all things: 1 Cor. 13:7

 B. Love will never fail: 1 Cor. 13:8

 C. It was love that led Jesus to give Himself for us: Eph. 5:2

IV. Stanza 4 explains why love is so important

Help us, Lord, to love You with our heart and soul;

Teach us, Lord, to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Make us understand that loving one another is the only way;

May our hearts be moved to imitate Your love.

 A. We are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind: Matt. 22:37-38

 B. We are also to love our neighbors as ourselves: Matt. 22:39-40

 C. Loving one another is the only way in that it is essential to being a disciple of Christ: Jn. 13:34-35

     CONCL.:  God loved us enough to send His only Son to save us.  Jesus loved us enough to die for our sins.  We are to love the Lord with everything we have and our neighbors as ourselves.  All of these teachings from Scripture remind us of the importance, yea the absolute necessity of having, “Above All, Love.”

The Greater Light

 “THE GREATER LIGHT”

“For God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness hath shined in our hearts to give the light” (2 Cor. 4:6)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which talks about God’s light which He commanded to shine out of darkness is “The Greater Light” (#668 in Hymns for Worship Revised).  The text was written by Craig A. Roberts (b. 1957).  Other hymns by Roberts in Hymns for Worship include “Our Fellowship,” “Loved Ones,” “We Shall Stand Before the Throne,” “O Father, Let Us See His Death,” “Lord, Increase Our Faith,” and “Are You Weighed Down?”  The tune for “The Greater Light” was composed by R. J. Stevens (1927-2012).  The song was copyrighted in 1993 and appeared in Hymns for Worship Revised.  In earlier editions of Hymns for Worship, the song at this same opening was “When the Spirit Came Down,” with text written and tune composed in 1984 both by Dusty Owens, and arrangement made in 1986 by Dane K. Shepard.  Among other hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “The Greater Light” has appeared in the 1998 Hymn Supplement: Let the Whole Creation Cry “Alleluia” published by the Columbia Hymn Association, under the title “The Greater Light, the Lesser Light,” though with a completely different arrangement of the tune, copyrighted in 1995.

     The song compares the physical lights which God created to the greater Light of Christ and our lesser lights.

I. Stanza 1 refers to God’s physical lights

Above the earth and far away,

God stationed two great lights,

A greater light to rule the day,

A lesser light the night(s).

He set them high, and hour by hour,

All men look up and see

His unseen things: His endless power,

And His divinity.

 A. In creation, God made a greater light to rule the day and a lesser light to rule the night: Gen. 1:14-19

 B. He stationed these two lights so that men might look up at them as they declare the glory of God: Ps. 19:1-6

 C. In seeing these things which are made, men can understand the invisible attributes of God, namely His endless power and divinity: Rom. 1:20

II. Stanza 2 refers to the greater Light of Christ

Then shining down from God in heaven,

The greatest Light soon came;

He burned into the heart of man

And kindled there a flame.

He said, “The light I shine in you,

Let it be shed abroad,

So men will see the works you do

And glorify your God.”

 A. Jesus Christ came shining as a light down from God in heaven: Jn. 1:4-5

 B. Indeed, Jesus is the greatest light of the world: Jn. 8:12

 C. He wants the light of His gospel to shine into the hearts of mankind: 2 Cor. 4:4

III. Stanza 3 refers to our lesser lights

O lesser lights, we shine not bright

With glory of our own,

But we reflect a greater Light–

Bright glory from the Son!

When men behold the lives we live,

They see our God above;

And when they feel the warmth we give,

They touch our Savior’s love.

 A. The disciples of Christ are “lesser lights” to let their light shine to others: Matt. 5:14-16

 B. As His disciples, we do not shine with our own glory but reflect the glory of Christ by holding forth the word of Christ: Phil. 2:15-16

 C. And when we do that, others will see Christ living in us: Gal. 2:20

     CONCL.:  We know that God created physical light so that we can see.  He also is the source of all spiritual light, sending His Son as the Light of the world and revealing that light in the gospel.  We who have seen and experienced that light are to share it with others not by vaunting ourselves but by pointing them to Jesus Christ as “The Greater Light.”

He Bore It All

 “HE BORE IT ALL”

 “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we…should live unto righteousness” (1 Pet. 2:24)

     INTRO.:  A song which is centered on the fact that Christ bore our sins in His own body on the tree is “He Bore It All” (#666 in Hymns for Worship Revised, and #648 in Sacred Selections for the Church).    The text was written by Jessie Randolph Baxter Jr. (1887-1960).  The tune was composed by Virgil Oliver Stamps (1892-1940).  The song was first published in 1926 by Stamps-Baxter Music, and the copyright was renewed by them in 1954.  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the song 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 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons; 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 and Sacred Selections.

     The song is supposed to focus our attention on the suffering and death of Jesus Christ for our sins.

I. Stanza 1 mentions His pain and agony

My precious Savior suffered pain and agony,

He bore it all that I might live;

He broke the bonds of sin and set the captive free,

He bore it all that I might live.

 A. Jesus Christ is the Savior: Lk. 2:11

 B. Throughout His life He suffered pain and agony: Isa. 53:1-3

 C. His purpose in this was to break the bonds of sin and set us free: Rom. 8:1-2

II. Stanza 2 mentions some of the events surrounding His death

They placed a crown of thorns upon my Savior’s head,

He bore it all that I might live;

My cruel man with spear His side was pierced and bled,

He bore it all that I might live.

 A. One of the things done before Jesus was crucified was that a mocking crown of thorns was placed on His head: Matt. 27:27-31

 B. While Christ’s death was foreordained by God, it was accomplished by the hands of cruel and wicked men: Acts 2:23

 C. Another thing done during His crucifixion was that His side was pierced with a spear: Jn. 19:31-34

III. Stanza 3 mentions Calvary and His crucifixion

Up Calvary’s hill in shame the blessed Savior trod,

He bore it all that I might live;

Between two thieves they crucified the Son of God,

He bore it all that I might live.

 A. Calvary is the Latin name of Golgotha, the place where Jesus was crucified, traditionally though to be a small knoll outside the city gates of Jerusalem: Lk. 23:33

 B. As Jesus started on the road to Calvary to be crucified, at first He bore His own cross: Jn. 19:17

 C. On the cross, He was placed between two robbers: Matt. 27:38

     CONCL.:  The chorus identifies the purpose for which Jesus was willing to experience all these things.

He bore it all that I might see His shining face,

He bore it all that I might live;

I stood condemned to die, but Jesus took my place,

He bore it all that I might live.

I am going to express a personal opinion here.  In my estimation, this song has to be the poster-child for tunes that are totally mismatched with their subject matter.  Please don’t misunderstand my point.  I am not calling the song unscriptural.  In fact, I have no problem with the words.  They are perfectly fine.  And if you happen to like the song, I am not saying that you are wrong or bad or sinful.  It is just that, while a song about Christ’s crucifixion doesn’t necessarily have to be sad or somber, I have a great deal of trouble singing about the most sublime subject in the entire universe, the death of my Savior on the cross for my sins, to music that, with its fast tempo, upbeat rhythm, and frequent syncopation, sounds more appropriate for a circus march than a hymn.  It just seems to me that we could find some music, whether majestic or solemn, that is far more appropriate to remind us that “He Bore It All.”

He Gave Me a Song

 “HE GAVE ME A SONG”

“And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God” (Ps. 40:3)

     INTRO:  A song which refers to the new song of praise to our God which the Lord has put into our mouths is “He Gave Me a Song” (#664 in Hymns for Worship Revised).  The text was written and the tune was composed both by Alton Hardy Howard (1925-2006).  The song was copyrighted in 1977 by Howard and first published in the 1977 edition of his popular hymnbook, the 1971 Songs of the Church.  Other Howard songs in Hymns for Worship Revised include “There’s a Rainbow in the Cloud” and “I Believe in Jesus.”  Among other hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “He Gave Me a Song” has also appeared in the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed. and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise both edited by 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.

     The song is filled with praise to Jesus as our Savior, King, and Redeemer.

I. Stanza 1 indicates that Christ is our Savior

He took my burdens all away, up to a brighter day,

He gave me a song, a wonderful song;

A wonderful song I now can sing, in my heart joy bells ring,

He gave me a song, a wonderful song.

 A. Jesus is our Savior because He took our burdens all away by bearing our sins on the cross: 1 Pet. 2:24

 B. Thus, we have a wonderful song that we can sing to praise Him: Jas. 5:13

 C. This song is an expression of the joy that is in our hearts: Phil. 4:4

II. Stanza 2 refers to Christ as our King

Brighter the way grows every day, walking the heavenly way,

He gave me a song, a wonderful song;

A wonderful song I now can sing, praises to Him, my King,

He gave me a song, a wonderful song.

 A. Jesus is the heavenly way that grows brighter every day: Jn. 14:4-6

 B. Through Him, we offer the sacrifice of praise which is the fruit of our lips: Heb. 13:15

 C. In doing so, we acknowledge Him as our King: Rev. 19:16

III. Stanza 3 identifies Christ as our Redeemer

I am redeemed no more to die, never to say “goodbye,”

He gave me a song, a wonderful song;

And some of these days in that fair land, sing with the chorus grand,

He gave me a song, a wonderful song.

 A. Christ has redeemed us: Gal. 3:13

 B. As our Redeemer, He will someday take us to that fair land where He is: Jn. 14:1-3

 C. There, we shall sing with the chorus grand: Rev. 5:8-10

     CONCL.:  The chorus then reminds us that because of these facts, we should sing to Him

He gave me a song to sing about,

He lifted me, from sin and doubt;

Oh, praise His name, He is my King;

A wonderful song He is to me.

I don’t wish to harp too much on this subject, but one of the usual characteristics of English hymn poetry is rhyme.  A song isn’t unscriptural if it doesn’t rhyme, but it usually sounds better and makes a little more sense if it does.  In the chorus, the first two lines rhyme (about/doubt), but the last two don’t (King/me).  Perhaps Howard wanted to emphasize not only that Jesus gave us a song but also that He is our song.  But it would have been so easy to make that last line read, “A wonderful song I now can sing.”   In any event, the song has a good sentiment, exudes a cheery disposition, and is set to a catchy tune.  No matter what happens in life, if I am in Christ I need to remember that “He Gave Me a Song.”

Just a Little While

“JUST A LITTLE WHILE”

“For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry” (Heb. 10:37)

     IINTRO.:  A song which points out that it is but a little while for us to tarry on this earth is “Just a Little While” (#663 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #418 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The text was written and the tune was composed both by Eugene Monroe Bartlett Sr. (1885-1941).  Born at Waynesville, MO, he established the Hartford Music Company at Hartford, AR, in 1918.  “Just a Little While” was copyrighted in 1921 and later owned by Stamps-Baxter Music and Ptg. Co.  A couple of other songs used in some of our books for which Bartlett also wrote words and/or music or both are “It Won’t Be Very Long” with words by Morgan Williams (1928), and undoubtedly his most famous, “Victory in Jesus” (1939).  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “Just a Little While” 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; and the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.; in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections.

     The song takes an upbeat look at what will happen to the saint when this live is over.

I. Stanza 1talks about our entrance into heaven

Soon this life will all be over,

And our pilgrimage will end.

Soon we’ll take our heavenly journey,

Be at home again with friends;

Heaven’s gates are standing open

Waiting for our entrance there.

Some sweet day we’re going over

All the beauties there to share.

 A. This life will be over and our pilgrimage will end in death: Heb. 9:27

 B. Sometime after that the saints will take a heavenly journey because that is where their hope is laid up: 1 Pet. 1:3-5

 C, Thus, heaven’s gates are standing open waiting for our entrance into the everlasting kingdom: 2 Pet. 1:11

II. Stanza 2 talks about the new day of heaven

Soon we’ll see the light of morning,

Then the new day will begin;

Soon we’ll hear the Father calling,

“Come my children, enter in.”

Then we’ll hear a choir of angels

Singing out the victory song;

All our troubles will be ended,

And we’ll live with heaven’s throng.

 A. This new day will involve hearing the Father say, “Enter in”: Matt. 25:21

 B. It will also involve hearing the choir of angels singing the victory song: Rev. 5:11-12

 C. And it will mean that all our troubles will be ended because nothing that causes trouble will be there: Rev. 21:4, 27

III. Stanza 3 talks about the home in heaven

Soon we’ll meet again our loved ones,

And we’ll take them by the hand;

Soon we’ll press them to our bosom

Over in the promised land.

Then we’ll be at home forever,

Thru-out all eternity;

What a blessed, blessed morning

That eternal morn shall be.

 A. When Jesus returns, we shall be reunited with our loved ones: 1 Thess. 4:13-17

 B. He will then take us to the heavenly promised land of rest: Heb. 4:8-9

 C. Then we shall be at home forever because we shall receive the promised eternal life: Mk. 10:30, 1 Jn. 2:25

      CONCL.:  The chorus reminds us that all this will take place in a little while.

Just a Little while to stay here,

Just a little while to wait,

Just a little while to labor

In the path that’s always straight

(Basso obligato: That’s always straight and narrow).

Just a little more of trouble

In this low and sinful state;

Then we’ll enter heaven’s portals,

Sweeping thru the pearly gates.

Once again, Ellis J. Crum in Sacred Selections, followed by Shepard and Stevens in Hymns for Worship, wanted to make sure that we don’t think that we’ll have any friends or loved one in heaven, changing “Be at home again with friends” in stanza 1 to “Be at home with Christ our Friend,” and “Soon we’ll meet again our loved ones” in stanza 3 to “Soon we’ll meet all the redeemed ones.”  In one weblog, someone who obviously likes and was promoting the song wrote, “This is one of those toe-tapping, clap your hand songs.”  I have to wonder if this is what is really appropriate when we come together to worship God.  I recall hearing this song sung at Sunday afternoon singings in other area congregations when I was a teenager and then trying to introduce it into the church which we attended.  To be honest, it simply fell flat because we just did not have enough people trained in music to render the special parts and more complex harmonies.  These kinds of experiences tended to sour me on the country music singing convention type of song, which one friend called “hootenany hymns.”  Still, it is good to be reminded that so far as our lives here on earth are concerned, we have “Just a Little While.”