O God, It Is You


(Jay Conner)


“He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which reminds us that God is love is “O God, It Is You.”  The text of stanzas 1-3 was written and the tune was composed both by Jay Conner, who was born near the Atlantic Ocean in the small Eastern North Carolina town of Newport. In addition to making his living as the owner of Conner and Wood Insurance and as a real estate investor in Morehead City, NC, he is a composer and pianist of popular music which is designed to soothe tired spirits, return forgotten joys, refresh troubled hearts, and heal ancient wounds. His first album, Grand Escapes, was released in 1997, followed by a second, Suspended in Time, in 1998, and a third, Romancing the Memories, in 2006, all available from his record label, Encore Music. Some of his music accompanies the Carolina Seascapes footage which airs on local cable access and is available on DVD.

Conner’s work has travelled far and wide, both here and in a number of foreign countries–from a TV music channel, on many radio stations, to a Hollywood movie soundtrack when his “Fill Me With Your Love” was used on the motion picture soundtrack for the Allan Smithee film Burn Hollywood Burn. In addition, Conner has written several hymns and in 2000 put together a collection of spiritual songs which he has composed entitled Songs from the Heart and Soul. Conner is a member of the Church of Christ in Morehead City. I had the opportunity of meeting him when I preached one weekend several years ago for the Morehead City congregation. If I recall correctly, he led the singing for at least one of the services when we were there.

“O God, It Is You” was copyrighted in 2000 and appeared with three stanzas by Jay and Stanza 4 by Carol Conner, who I might assume is his wife, in Songs from the Heart and Soul.  Another hymn for which Conner provided the music is “Praise the Lord, I’m Coming Home” with words by Gilbert and Joe Gann, originally copyrighted in 1994.  It is found in Hymns for Worship Revised.  In addition Conner has composed a melody for “I Close My Eyes,” based on Psalm 143 with stanzas compiled from Clarence Johnson’s Psalms to Sing. It also appeared in Songs from the Heart and Soul and has achieved some popularity since its inclusion in the 2007 Hymns for Worship Supplement.

“O God, It Is You” emphasizes the love that the Lord has shown for sinful mankind.
I. Stanza 1 is about the Father’s love

O God, it is You who has loved me so dearly;

You sent Your only Son to die for me.

O God, take my hand, lead me to Your promised land;

Oh yes, God, it is You who has loved me so.

  1. The Bible teaches that God loves us: Tit. 3:4
  2. The extent of His love is seen by His sending His Son to die for us: Jn. 3:16
  3. His purpose in doing this is to bring us to glory: Heb. 2:9-10

II. Stanza 2 is about Jesus’ love

Jesus, it is You who has loved me so dearly;

You came and You died on the tree.

Jesus, take my hand, lead me to Your promised land;

Oh Jesus, it is You who has loved me so.

  1. The Bible also teaches that Jesus loves us: Eph. 5:2
  2. The extent of this love is seen in that He died on the tree: 1 Jn. 3:16
  3. His purpose in this sacrifice is to take us home to be with Him: Jn. 14:1-3

III. Stanza 3 is about the Holy Spirit’s love

Spirit, it is You who has loved me so dearly;

You wrote on my heart every word.

Spirit, take my hand, guide me to His promised land;

Oh Spirit, it is You who has loved me so.

  1. Although the Bible doesn’t specifically say that the Spirit loves us, we know that He does because He plays a role in our salvation: Jn. 16:7-13
  2. His purpose was to reveal the word that God wants written on our hearts: Eph. 3:3-5
  3. And the ultimate goal of all this is to make it possible for us to go to heaven: 1 Pet. 1:3-5

IV. Stanza 4 is about the entire Godhead’s love

O God, it is You who has loved me completely;

You set forth a plan to make me free.

O God, take my hand, help me reach the promised land;

Oh yes, God, it is You who has loved me so.

  1. There can be no doubt that the Lord has loved us: Rom. 5:8
  2. This is why He set forth an eternal plan to make us free: 2 Tim. 1:9-10
  3. His purpose is to give us eternal life in His promised land: 1 Jn. 2:25

CONCL.:  This is a good song to sing at any time.  But since the purpose of the Lord’s supper is to remember the sacrifice of Christ and show forth His death, the song, with its statements that God sent His only Son to die for us and that Jesus came and died upon the tree, could be useful as a communion hymn.  And whenever we sing with grace in our hearts about the love of God, we should tell Him, “O God, It Is You.”

o god it is you


Do You Love the Lord?

tom holland

(Tom Holland)


“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matt. 22:37)

     INTRO.: A hymn which encourages us to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind is “Do You Love the Lord?” The text was written by Thomas H. Holland, who was born in 1931 to Ross R. and Elzie Flanagan Holland, graduating from Freed-Hardeman College (now University) in 1951. His further education included a B.A. (David Lipscomb College), an M.A. (Abilene Christian University), and a Ph.D. (Southern Illinois University). His wife’s name is Linda D. Holland.  A well known preacher and lecturer among Churches of Christ, he is the author of numerous books on homiletics and sermon outlines. One website listed the following sermon outline books by Tom Holland: Essential Elements of Expository Preaching, Steps into the Pulpit, Lasting Truth about Last Things, Worship–Meaning and Manifestation, The Ways of Wanderers, Preaching: Principles and Practice, Christ Has Come, Spiritual Self Examination, The Work of the Preacher is Working, Encouraging Preachers, Encouraging Expository Preaching, and Sermon Design and Delivery, the last of which, published in 1967 by Gussie Lambert Publications, I have in my library.  After serving as Professor of Speech at Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN, Holland was for many years instructor in speech and Bible at Freed-Hardeman in Henderson, TN.

In addition, Holland has had an interest in hymn singing and has reportedly written some xx hymns and helped to edit two hymnbooks. In July, 1969, a gospel meeting was held in Diana, TN. William Sanders of Diana led the singing, and Tom Holland, then of Henderson, TN, did the preaching. Afterwards, the two men decided to hold an all night singing in Diana which has since become a twice yearly event.  “Do You Love the Lord?” was copyrighted in 1971 by Holland Publications of Henderson, TN, and the tune was composed by Holland with P. W. Epler. It was apparently first published in the 1977 Special Sacred Selections edited by Ellis J. Crum.  I first noticed the song on sheets pasted on the inside front cover in copies of the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3, edited by L. O. Sanderson for the Gospel Advocate Co., used by the Eastside Church of Christ in Booneville, KY, when I held a gospel meeting there in 1990.

Holland retired as university communication professor in 1998, but later became director of the Nashville School of Preaching and Biblical Studies, sponsored by the Crieve Hall Church of Christ, 4806 Trousdale Drive in Nashville, TN.  One person wrote, “Tom Holland … was another excellent teacher. I had him for homiletics and for several Bible classes. I became better acquainted with him on a personal level in later years, but I am one of a great number of gospel preachers from my generation who learned the nuts and bolts of sermon crafting from brother Holland.”  He also remained active by being an author, lecturer, after dinner speaker, and leadership workshop presenter; serving as President of Guyana Christian University in Lethem, Guyana, South America; doing a television program “Tom’s Past-Time Porch;” hosting a new radio program, “Stand Up For America;” and working as an evangelist.

Among other hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, I have seen the song in the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; and in the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat (which makes the original stanza 4 the chorus for stanza 3). The copyright was renewed by Holland in 1999. Sacred Songs for the

Church also contains six other songs by Holland as well.

The song reminds us why we love the Lord and why it is so important to show our love for Him.

I. Stanza 1 says that He sent His Son for us

“God sent His only Son

From realms of light above

To fill our lives with peace

And show us His great love.”

  1. God sent His only Son: Jn. 3:16
  2. The Son came from realms of light above: Phil. 2:5-8
  3. One purpose for which He came was to fill our lives with peace: Eph. 2:14-18

II. Stanza 2 says that He paid for our sins by the death of His Son

“He bled and died for thee

On cruel Calvary;

His precious life He gave

Our souls from sin to save.”

  1. The basic reason God sent His Son was to bleed and die for us: Rom. 5:8
  2. This He did on cruel Calvary: Lk. 23:33
  3. God’s aim in making this great sacrifice was to save our souls from sin: Matt. 1:21

III. Stanza 3 says that He makes it possible for us to have a home above

“When in that home above

Where all is peace and love,

We’ll sing our Savior’s praise

Through never ending days.”

  1. God has prepared a home above for His people: Heb. 11:13-16
  2. All is peace and love there because all things that disrupt peace and love will be absent: Rev. 21:1-4
  3. There, the redeemed of all ages will join with the heavenly hosts to sing the Savior’s praise through never ending days: Rev. 5:8-10

IV. Stanza 4 says that He helps us to serve Him and walk the narrow way

“Oh, yes, we love the Lord,

Oh, yes, we love the Lord;

We’ll serve Him every day

And walk the narrow way.”

  1. In order to have the benefits of Christ’s death to receive salvation and the hope of eternal life, we must love Him and keep His commandments: 1 Jn. 5:4
  2. If we do this, He will help us serve Him: Rom. 7:6
  3. Also, He will help us walk the narrow way that leads to everlasting life: Matt. 7:13-14

CONCL.: The chorus continues to emphasize the importance of loving the Lord and showing it by serving Him and walking in His way.

“Oh, do you love the Lord?

Oh, do you love the Lord?

Then serve Him every day

And walk the narrow way.”

Since the first and greatest commandment is that we love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind, and only those who do so can hope to receive a home in heaven, we shall do each other a great favor by asking one another, “Do You Love the Lord?”

do you love the lord

This Is Not My Place of Resting

this is not my place


“For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come” (Hebrews 13:14)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which urges us, since we have no continuing city here on earth, to seek the one that is to come is “This Is Not My Place of Resting.”  The text was written by a Scottish Free Church preacher named Horatius Bonar (1808-1889).  It was published in The Bible Hymn-Book of 1845.  Other well known hymns by Bonar that have appeared in our books include “For Me He Careth,” “Go, Labor On,” “Here, O My Lord, I See Thee,” “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say,” and “No Shadows Yonder.”  Several tunes have been used with “This Is Not My Place of Resting.”  The traditional one (Vesper Flotow) was composed in 1875 by Friedrich von Flotow.  Another (Talmar), which has also been used with a number of other hymns, was composed in 1845 by Isaac B. Woodbury.

So far as I know, Bonar’s hymn has not appeared in any hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, until 2010 when Legacy Music Publishing of Dothan, AL, the successor to M. Lynwood Smith Publishing, issued Glory Echoes compiled by Kevin Presley, with 238 selections.  The first time I had seen this hymn was in the 1969 Hymns of the Spirit edited by Connor B. Hall and published by Pathway Press of Cleveland, TN.  Both of these books use a tune (Rest Beyond) composed by Anthony Johnson Showalter (1858-1924).  It was at one time owned by the Tennessee Music and Printing Co.  Showalter is best known for the song “Leaning On the Everlasting Arms.”  Interestingly, both books also erroneously credit the text to Showalter as well.

The song reminds us that this earth is not our final resting place.

I. Stanza 1 tells us that there is a city yet to come

This is not my place of resting;

Mine’s a city yet to come.

Onwards to it I am hasting—

On to my eternal home.

  1. Christians look forward to a city which God has prepared: Heb. 11:13-16
  2. Therefore, like Paul, we press onward to that goal: Phil. 3:13-14
  3. It will be an eternal home where we shall have eternal life: Mk. 10:29-30

II. Stanza 2 tells us that all traces of sin’s sad story will not be there

In it all is light and glory,

O’er it shines a nightless day;

Every trace of sin’s sad story—

All the curse hath (has) passed away.

  1. In this city all is light and glory because the glory of God illuminates it and the Lamb is its light: Rev. 21:23
  2. As a result, it basks in a nightless day for there is no night there: Rev. 21:25
  3. Also, the curse of sin has passed away: Rev. 22:3

III. Stanza 3 tells us that we shall feed on the freshest pastures

There the Lamb, our Shepherd, leads us

By the streams of life along;

On the freshest pastures feeds us,

Turns our sighing into song.

  1. The Lamb is the Shepherd who leads us: Rev. 7:17
  2. The place where He leads us is beside the pure river of water of life: Rev. 22:1
  3. There He will turn our sighing into song: Rev. 15:2-4

IV. Stanza 4 tells us there we shall say farewell to pain

Soon we’ll pass this desert dreary,

Soon we bid farewell to pain;

Never more be (are) sad or weary,

Never, never sin again.

  1. Soon we’ll pass this dreary desert in death: Rev. 14:13
  2. In heaven there will be no more sorrow or crying: Rev. 21:1-4
  3. The reason is that the sin which is the ultimate cause of all our sadness here will not be there: Rev. 22:14-15

CONCL.:  Different composers have used Bonar’s hymn to make a gospel song, such as J. J. Jelley in the 1893 Pearls of Praise who provided this chorus:

Beautiful home, Oh, may we come

Safe to its fields of fadeless day;

Where every trace of sin’s dark story,

All the curse hath passed away.

God created me not just for life on this earth, which is simply a probationary period of preparation, but for eternal bliss with Him in heaven.  Therefore, while I must exist in this world, I must not get too attached to it but remember that “This Is Not My Place of Resting.”

Make Me a Blessing


(photo of Ira B. Wilson)


“…So will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing…” (Zech. 8:13)

     INTRO.:  A song which reminds us that one reason why we are saved is to be a blessing to others is “Make Me a Blessing.”  The text was written by Ira Bishop Wilson, who was born on September 6, 1880, at Bedford, Iowa. Wilson’s sister taught him to play the violin and organ while he was still at home, and he began studying music theory in his youth. Around 1902, Ira began studies at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois, with the view of training to be a musical evangelist. However, in 1905, he went to work for the Lorenz Publishing Company in Dayton, Ohio, as a composer and editor. There he wrote a large number of hymn arrangements, choral anthems, and cantatas, often using the pseudonym of Fred B. Holton.  His compositions appeared in The Choir Leader and The Choir Herald; he also served as editor in chief of The Volunteer Choir. His works include The King’s Message (1910), The Beginners’ Choir (1911), Praise Ye: A Collection of Sacred Songs (1913), and His Worthy Praise (1915).

Apparently, these words were written around 1909.  The tune (Schuler) was composed by George Stark Schuler (b. Apr. 18, 1882; d. Oct. 30, 1973).  A native of New York City, NY, he received his training at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, where he went on to be a faculty member for forty years.  The melody is dedicated to the Moody Memorial Church in Chicago and was probably produced during a period when he was song director there.  The song was first published as a leaflet with Schuler’s music in 1924 and introduced at the International Sunday School Convention in Cleveland, OH, that year.  The original copyright was owned by Schuler.  Later it appeared in Songs of Evangelism edited by Schuler and E. O. Excell for Glad Tidings Publishing Company of Chicago, in 1925.  After retiring from Moody, Schuler served as an editor with the Rodeheaver Publishing Company for several years before his death at Sarasota, FL.

In 1930, Wilson moved to Los Angeles, CA, but continued his relationship with Lorenz.  Around 1944, a friend named Phil Kerr came to visit Wilson one day. Both men were gospel musicians and, at Ira’s invitation, the other man sat down at the piano to play.  He finished with “Make Me a Blessing.”  Wilson listened politely, but it was evident he did not know the song. His eyes widened in astonishment when Kerr said, “You wrote that. That’s one of yours.” The song was being widely used, but its author had long forgotten it. Part of the reason is that Wilson’s main ministry was composing music for the lyrics of other people. “Make Me a Blessing” is one of the few numbers for which he wrote the words himself–about 35 years before. Wilson died on April 3, 1950, at Los Angeles, California, and his remains were buried at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California.  The song’s copyright was renewed in 1952 by Schuler. It was later owned by Alfred B. Smith and eventually assigned to The Rodeheaver Company.

The hymnals in my collection which have the song include All American Church Hymnal, American Service Hymnal, Favorite Hymns of Praise, Christian Praise, Worship in Song, Hymns of the Living Church, Broadman Hymnal, Hymns of the Spirit, Soul Stirring Songs and Hymns, Inspiring Hymns, Living Hymns, New Church Hymnal, Hymns of Praise and Service, Living Praise Hymnal, Crusader Hymns, and Praise!   Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, it has not appeared in any to my knowledge except the 2014 Ceaseless Praise edited by Kevin W. Presley for Legacy Music Publishing of Dothan, AL.

The song has long challenged many believers to fuller service for Christ.

I. Stanza 1 encourages us to be a light to others

Out in the highways and byways of life,

Many are weary and sad;

Carry the sunshine where darkness is rife,

Making the sorrowing glad.

  1. The Lord wants His servants to go out into the highways and hedges to invite people: Lk. 14:22-23
  2. He invites such individuals because they are weary and heavy laden: Matt. 11:23-25
  3. One way in which we do this is by letting our light shine: Matt. 5:14-16

II. Stanza 2 encourages us tell others about Christ

Tell the sweet story of Christ and His love,

Tell of His power to forgive;

Others will trust Him if only you prove

True every moment you live.

  1. We need to tell others the sweet story of Christ and His love: 1 Jn. 3:16
  2. We should also tell them of His power to provide forgiveness of sins: Eph. 1:7
  3. And we must both tell and show them the necessity of trusting Him: 1 Tim. 4:10

III. Stanza 3 encourages us to love others’ souls

Give as ’twas given to you in your need,

Love as the Master loved you;

Be to the helpless a helper indeed;

Unto your mission be true.

  1. God has given us an unspeakable gift: 2 Cor.9:15
  2. We should then love others as the Master loved us: Jn. 13:34-35
  3. This is accomplished by being a helper to the helpless and teaching others also: 2 Tim. 2:2

CONCL.:  The chorus continues to ask God’s help in doing good unto others.

Make me a blessing, make me a blessing,

Out of my life may Jesus shine;

Make me a blessing, O Savior, I pray,

Make me a blessing to someone today.

From the incident described previously where Wilson had forgotten the words that he had written earlier, one might conclude that for several years, without even knowing it, he had followed his own advice and been a blessing to many people.  I, too, should seek the Lord’s assistance to “Make Me a Blessing.”


He Loves Me


(photograph of L. O. Sanderson)


“…Christ also hath loved us, and gave Himself for us…” (Eph. 5:2)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which reminds us that Christ has loved us and given Himself for us is “He Loves Me” (#696 in Hymns for Worship Revised; cf. #136 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The text was written, under the penname of Vana R. Raye, and the tune was arranged both by Lloyd Otis Sanderson, who was born the middle of five children to James P. and Lucy Ann Hunt Sanderson on May 18, 1901, in Craighead County near Jonesboro, AR, in an old log house on the home place that his father, who was a singing teacher, had inherited.  His father belonged to the Methodist church, but his mother was a member of the church of Christ. During his time at home, the family had a piano, an organ, a violin, a guitar, a mandolin, a harmonica, and a Jew’s harp. The children all learned to sing and play early in life.  At age four, Sanderson entered public schools and was taught to read notes at age five by his mother. This was his first exposure to the theory of music. His father soon began to teach him song leading.   Sanderson’s cousin, L.E. McElroy, came to Union Grove to teach and urged him to take high school work, so he finished two years of high school with good marks. He had been going to summer music normals, so when he received a diploma for teaching, he began his first singing school on the day he became 15. During the four years of this music normal work, he would pick cotton and work at a sawmill to gain the necessary cash. Finally, he had enough money to do more schooling, and for four years he studied more intensely, attaining a graduate status in music at age 18.  His father died soon after, and he elected to be with his mother and the two younger children. They moved to Bono, a small town on the Frisco Railroad, where he became the choir director for the First Methodist church and worked for the Bono Mercantile Co. part time.

When Sanderson came home in 1919, he decided to finish his high school work and did so at the Bono High School.  There was a congregation of Christians in Bono where his mother, older brother, and younger sister were members. Through a good friend, Robert Cherry, the main clerk at Bono Mercantile, Sanderson learned and accepted the truth of God concerning salvation, becoming a Christian in July 1922 when he was baptized by James E. Laird.  This meant the end of choir directing for the Methodist church and soon after the work at the Mercantile as he began to get calls to lead singing in gospel meetings, so he really did not miss any work at all. The local church immediately employed him to direct singing for a big tent meeting, and other calls came in plentifully. In the spring of 1923, J.N. Armstrong, president of Harper (Kansas) Christian College, offered Sanderson a job as music director and an opportunity to do college work. While at Harper, he took a year of voice with Inez Dodds Barber of Friends University. Also at Harper, he met Rena Raye Woodring, a sister of the Harper College librarian, and they began dating.  In 1924, Harper College merged with Arkansas Christian College of Morrilton, AR, to form Harding College. He held the same obligation with Harding from 1924 to 1928. During the four years at Harding in Morrilton, he completed two years of work at Little Rock Conservatory of Music. Rena also came to Harding.  He and Rena were married on Aug. 29, 1927, and they had two children, Leon and Lloydene. They stayed one more year at Harding for Rena to finish her bachelor’s work and then went to Springfield, MO, to serve the church there.

While in Springfield, Sanderson enrolled at Southwest Missouri State College (now a university) for two years and also did some music work (mainly history) by correspondence from the University of Arkansas. In 1935, the Sandersons moved to Nashville, TN, where he became business manager for the Gospel Advocate Co. For three years he also taught part time at David Lipscomb College. He had already been employed by the Gospel Advocate since 1933 as music editor.  For them he compiled Christian Hymns in 1935, Christian Hymns No. 2 in 1948, and Christian Hymns No. 3 in 1966.  For these books, Sanderson not only chose the best hymns and gospel songs by others, but provided many of his own.  For some he produced both words and music, such as “The Lord Has Been Mindful of Me” and “Where Livest Thou,” while for others he composed tunes for hymns by different authors, including “Be With Me, Lord” and “Bring Christ Your Broken Life” both with Thomas O. Chisholm, for a total of some 500 songs and hymns.  He resigned from the Gospel Advocate in August 1942, in order to do full time church work as the local minister and served churches in Springfield, MO; Columbia, TN; Little Rock, AR; Amarillo, TX, and Norman, OK, where he also attended the University of Oklahoma. “He Loves Me” is a text that he wrote for an old camp meeting tune and chorus that dates back to at least 1898 when it first appeared in Anthony J. Showalter’s Song-Land Messenger No. 2.  Sanderson’s version was first published in the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2.  In his latter years, Sanderson worked with the Woodale church in Memphis, TN.  His wife, Rena Raye, died on Aug. 15. 1984, after being hit by a car while crossing the street. The same accident left L.O. crippled.  He married Vesta Stowe in 1988 and passed away on Jan. 17, 1992, at his home in Memphis, TN.

Besides Christian Hymns No. 2, among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “He Loves Me” has also appeared in the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3; the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise 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 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 Praise 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 WorshipSacred Selections uses the same tune with Isaac Watts’s hymn, “Alas, and did my Savior bleed?”

The song identifies several things that Jesus did as a result of His love for us.

I. Stanza 1 mentions that He came to earth

Why did the Savior heaven leave,

And come to earth below,

Where men His grace would not receive?

Because He loves me so!

  1. To be our Savior, Christ Jesus left heaven: Phil. 2:5-7
  2. Thus, He came to earth as a flesh and blood man: Heb. 2:14-17
  3. And He did this knowing that men would not receive His grace: Jn. 1:1, 14—10-11

II. Stanza 2 mentions that He suffered temptation

Why did the Savior mark the way,

And why temptation know?

Why teach and toil and plead and pray?

Because He loves me so!

  1. The Savior marked the way and thus left us an example: 1 Pet. 2:21-23
  2. In doing this, He was tempted just as we are: Heb. 4:14-15
  3. Additionally, He taught mankind God’s will: Matt. 7:28-29

III. Stanza 3 mentions that He died on the cross

Why feel the garden’s dreadful dross?

Why through His trials go?

Why suffer death upon the cross?

Because He loves me so!

  1. Christ felt dross, literally waste material or refuse, here referring to great sorrow and anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane: Matt. 26:36-39
  2. Then He went through trials in which, though He was completely innocent, He was condemned to be crucified: Mk. 15:12-15
  3. Finally, He suffered death upon the cross: Phil. 2:8

IV. Stanza 4 (added) mentions that He gave us the hope of heaven

Why will the Savior come again,

And all His glory show,

To take me home to heaven then?

Because He loves me so!

  1. The Savior promised to come again: Jn. 14:1-3
  2. Then He will show all His glory: Matt. 25:31
  3. At that time, He will take His people home to heaven: 1 Thess. 4:16-17

CONCL.:  The chorus emphasizes the fact that Jesus did all these things because He loves us

He loves me!  He loves me!

He loves me, this I know!

He gave Himself to die for me,

Because He loves me so!

When I was growing up, the church where my family attended used Christian Hymns No. 2, and we frequently sang this song to help prepare our minds for partaking of the Lord’s supper.  A preacher friend of mine once said that he liked it better than the one which goes, “Why did my Savior come to earth, And to the humble go?  Why did He choose a lowly birth?   Because He LOVED me so,” since this one is in the present tense.  There’s a place for both songs, but it’s good to know that Jesus makes possible salvation from sin and the hope of eternal life because “He Loves Me.”

Channels Only


(photo of Ada Rose Gibbs)


“A vessel unto honor…and fit for the Master’s use” (2 Tim. 2:21)

     INTRO.:  A song which points out the need for us to be vessels unto honor and fit for the Master’s use is “Channels Only” (#659 in Hymns for Worship Revised).  The authorship of this hymn is questionable. It is attributed to Mary E. Maxwell (Late 19th-Early 20th Century).  Some have suggested, with no supporting evidence, that she was the prolific and popular Victorian novelist Mary Elizabeth Braddon Maxwell, who was born on Oct. 4, 1835, in the Soho section of London, England, to Henry and Fanny Braddon.  Educated by private tutors, she married John Maxwell in 1874 and died at Richmond in Surrey, England, on Feb. 4, 1915.  However, others believe that crediting the hymn to her is highly unlikely for two reasons.  She had a history of living with Maxwell, a married man, for thirteen years while his first wife was still alive before the wife died and Maxwell could remarry.  Also her works showed no interest in religion.  In fact, her most successful and well-known book, Lady Audley’s Secret, was a sensation novel published in 1862, with a plot that centered on bigamy, which was in literary fashion in the early 1860s.

The only facts which are reasonably certain are that Mary E. Maxwell was probably associated with the Keswick Convention movement in northern England and produced a number of hymns.  The tune (Channels) for “Channels Only” was composed by Ada Rose Gibbs, who was born on Oct. 5, 1863, at Whitechapel in London, England. Ada’s parents were George Edward Rose and Erllen Stenson Reeve Rose.  A contralto, she sang at City Temple, Holborn, London, and studied at the Royal Academy of Music in Marylebone, London, for five years. After joining Richard D’Oyly Carte’s opera company around 1885, she played parts in several Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, such as Katisha in The Mikado; Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance; Dame Carruthers in The Yeomen of the Guard; and Duchess of Plaza-Toro in The Gondoliers.  Gibbs parted ways with D’Oyly Carte around 1890, and began working with the Salvation Army. She also sang with Dwight Moody’s evangelistic missions, and was apparently was part of the Keswick Convention movement. Her husband was William James Gibbs, at one time superintendent of the Methodist Central Hall in Bromley, Kent; they married around August of 1898 in Islington, London, England.

The circumstances behind the origin of this hymn are not certain.  It first appeared in a 1900 booklet entitled Twenty-Four Gems of Sacred Song, edited by Mrs. Gibbs who provided the music, probably published for use at the Keswick Convention.  The date of 1910 is sometimes given because the song was included under “Special Solos” in J. H. Allan’s Redemption Songs: A Choice Collection of 1000 Hymns and Choruses for Evangelistic Meetings, Solo Singers, Choirs, and the Home, published in 1910 by the Scottish Bible and Book Society of Glasgow, Scotland, which gave it more widespread notoriety. Ada Rose Gibbs, who was the mother of one of the former directors of Marshall, Morgan, and Scott, Ltd., who owned the song’s copyright, died on April 16, 1905, at Bromley in Kent, England.  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “Channels Only” has appeared in the 2012 Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs edited by Steve Wolfgang et. al. (with updated pronouns), in addition to Hymns for Worship.

The song suggests some things which we must do to be channels that are useful for the Master.

I. From stanza 1 we learn that we must be saved, cleansed, and filled by Christ

How I praise Thee, precious Savior,

That Thy love laid hold of me;

Thou hast saved and cleansed and filled me

That I might Thy channel be.

  1. Before we can become servants of Christ, we need to be saved from our sins: Matt. 1:21
  2. Even after being saved, we must still seek cleansing through Christ’s blood when we sin: 1 Jn. 1:7-9
  3. Once we have been saved and cleansed, we can be filled with the fullness of God: Eph. 3:17-10

II. From stanza 2 (not in HFWR) we learn that we must tell others of salvation

Just a channel full of blessing,

To the thirsty hearts around;

To tell out Thy full salvation,

All Thy loving message sound.

  1. There are thirsty hearts all around us: Ps. 42:1-2
  2. Christ wants us to tell them of His full salvation: Mk. 16:15-16
  3. The reason is that He wants them to know His message of love: Jn. 3:16

III. From stanza 3 (st. 2 HFWR) we learn that we must look to Christ for power

Emptied that Thou shouldest fill me,

A clean vessel in Thy hand;

With no power but as Thou givest

Graciously with each command.

  1. We are emptied when we are made free from sin: Rom. 6:16-18
  2. The only power that we have as Christ’s servants then is the gospel: Rom. 1:16-17
  3. And as we obey His commands, the Lord uses this power to supply our needs: Phil. 4:19
  4. From s

IV. From stanza 4 (st. 3 HFWR) we learn that we must allow Christ to possess us

Witnessing Thy power to save me,

Setting free from self and sin;

Thou who boughtest to possess me,

In Thy fullness, Lord, come in.

  1. Witnessing here is not necessarily the idea of “witnessing” to others but that of having seen ourselves what the Lord did for us so that we might then tell it to others: Mk. 5:18-20
  2. Thus having witnessed what He did for us, we remember that He bought us: 1 Cor. 6:20—Acts 20:28
  3. And as His servants, we have been crucified so that Christ lives in us and possesses us: Gal. 2:20

V. From stanza 5 (st. 4 HFWR) we learn that we must surrender ourselves completely to Christ

Jesus, fill now with Thy Spirit

Hearts that full surrender know;

That the streams of living water

From our inner self (man) may flow.

  1. Though it is nothing miraculous, God wants us to be filled with His Spirit: Eph. 5:19, 6:17 (Gal. 5:22-23)
  2. This is possible only as Christ’s servants surrender by denying self, taking up the cross, and following Him: Matt. 16:24-26
  3. Then streams of living water will flow through us to others: Jn. 7:37-38

CONCL.:  The chorus asks the Lord’s help and direction in applying these principles

Channels only, blessèd Master,

But with all Thy wondrous power

Flowing through us, Thou canst use us

Every day and every hour.

The highest calling in life is for us to serve God as “Channels Only.”

Wonderful Grace of Jesus

Lillenas, Haldor portrait (PF)

(photo of Haldor Lillenas)


“And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 1:14)

      INTRO.:  A song which extols how wonderful the grace of our Lord Jesus is with faith and love is, “Wonderful Grace of Jesus” (#638 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #452 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The text was written and the tune (Wonderful Grace) was composed both by Haldor Lillenas, who was born on November 19, 1885, at Stord Island, near Bergen, Norway, the son of Ole Paulsen Lillenas and his wife Anna Marie Lillenas.  Ole was a farmer and storekeeper; Haldor’s siblings were named Paul, Johanes, Katrine, and George.  The Lillenas family farm was sold to allow the family to migrate to the United States. Ole came to the States via Canada in 1886 and bought a farm in Colton, SD. Anna and the children were re-united with him in 1887. In 1889 the Lillenas family relocated to a farm on the Columbia River near Astoria, OR. While living in Astoria, Lillenas learned English and began to attend school. In 1900 the family moved again to Roseville Township, Kandiyohi County, MN. While in Roseville, Lillenas began attending high school in a Lutheran school at Hawick, MN.  At the age of seventeen, Lillenas began a four-year correspondence course from the International Correspondence Schools in chemistry and chemical analysis with private tutors, working as a farm laborer most of the year, but during winter concentrating on his studies. About 1906 Anna Marie Lillenas died, and Ole decided to return the family to North Dakota; however Haldor decided to move back to Astoria, OR, where he finished his correspondence course and found employment in a chemical factory.

Like many Scandinavians at that time, Lillenas was raised in a Lutheran family. In 1906 Lillenas began to attend meetings at the Peniel Mission, a holiness rescue mission, in Astoria.  One summer evening he paused to listen to a street corner service and made his decision then to devote his life to Christian service.  In 1907 Lillenas moved to Portland, Oregon, where he worked with the Peniel Mission located there.  In 1908 Lillenas became a member of the Portland First Church of the Nazarene.  Soon after he enrolled in the ministerial course of studies, which he began by correspondence, joined a vocal group called the “Charioteers’ Brigade,” which held street meetings and revival services. In 1909 Lillenas was able to continue his ministerial studies at the Deets Pacific Bible College, now Point Loma Nazarene University, located at Los Angeles, CA.  Additionally, during this time he studied voice at the Lyric School of Music in Los Angeles.  While at Deets College, Haldor met another student, Bertha Mae Wilson, and on October 4, 1910, Lillenas married Bertha Mae, who became a songwriter like himself. They had two children, Evangeline Mae and Wendell Haldor.   Lillenas was a minister for the Church of the Nazarene for fifteen years from 1910. Soon after his marriage, he and Bertha moved to Sacramento, CA, where they took charge of the Peniel Mission.  After a year, Lillenas became the minister of the Lompoc, CA, Church of the Nazarene. During this time, he also took a two-year course in composition and harmony from the Siegel-Myers University Correspondence School of Music.  For ten years Lillenas was also a song evangelist and travelled with Bertha Mae holding revival services.  In addition, he provided songs for such meetings conducted by himself and others.  He subsequently worked with churches in Pomona, CA; Redlands, CA; Auburn, IL; Peniel, TX; and, from 1923 to 1926, Indianapolis, IN.  From a very young age, Lillenas had begun to write his own songs; however, it was not until later, that he attempted to have them published. Lillenas’ best known song is probably “Wonderful Grace of Jesus,” which he wrote during his time at the Church of the Nazarene in Auburn, IL, for use by evangelist Charles M. Alexander.   This gospel song was copyrighted in 1918, but not published until 1922 in the Tabernacle Choir Book edited by R. J. Oliver and Lance Latham. Lillenas was paid $5.00 for it.

Lillenas was a prolific composer of hymns, and it is estimated that in his lifetime, he wrote some 4,000 hymns, and supplied songs for many evangelists. Lillenas was the editor and compiler of over fifty song books for church and Sunday School.  Lillenas’ first book was Special Sacred Songs, which was published in 1919.  In 1924, while still serving with the Indianapolis First Church of the Nazarene, Lillenas founded the Lillenas Publishing Company. He resigned from Indianapolis First Church to focus on his publishing house, Before Lillenas Publishing Company was sold to the Nazarene Publishing House in Kansas City, Missouri in 1930, more than 700,000 hymnals and song books were published and sold.  The sale agreement mandated that Lillenas would serve as manager for ten years and then be reviewed. However, he continued as an editor until his retirement in 1950, at the age of 65.  After his retirement, he served as an adviser to the music department of Nazarene Publishing House until his death.  Among his other publications was the first official hymnal for the Church of the Nazarene, Glorious Gospel Songs, published in 1931, soon after Lillenas Publishing Company became part of the Nazarene Publishing House.  It included about 700 hymns and gospel songs, of which 81 were of his own compositions.  In 1938 Lillenas became a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). That same year Haldor and Bertha Mae purchased a 500-acre rural estate, that they called “Melody Lane,” in the Miller County, MO, Ozarks, halfway between Tuscumbia and Iberia.  It was here that Bertha Mae died of cancer in March 1945, and that Lillenas married Lola Dell later that year.  They remained there until they relocated to Pasadena, CA, by 1955.  In 1941 Olivet Nazarene College awarded Lillenas an honorary Doctor of Music degree in recognition of his contributions to American hymnody.  He died on August 18, 1959, at Aspen, CO, where the Lillenases had a summer retreat.  In 1982 Lillenas was inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame.

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “Wonderful Grace of Jesus” has appeared in the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; 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 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church and the 2010 Songs for Worship and Praise both edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.; and the 2017 Standard Songs of the Church edited by Michael Grissom; in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections.

The song mentions three important aspects of God’s grace through Jesus.

I. Stanza  1 says that it is greater than all our sin

Wonderful grace of Jesus,

Greater than all my sin;

How shall my tongue describe it,

Where shall its praise begin?

Taking away my burden,

Setting my spirit free;

For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.

  1. The fact is that each of us has sinned: Rom. 3:23
  2. But God by His grace makes it possible for our burden of sin to be taken away through justification: Rom. 5:15-17
  3. In this way, the grace of Christ sets our spirits free: Rom. 8:1-2

II. Stanza 2 says that it reaches all the lost

Wonderful grace of Jesus,

Reaching to all the lost,

By it I have been pardoned,

Saved to the uttermost,

Chains have been torn asunder,

Giving me liberty;

For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.

  1. The gospel of God’s grace is His power of salvation to everyone: Rom. 1:16-17
  2. Thus all who are lost can find pardon or forgiveness in Christ by grace: Eph. 1:7-8
  3. Not only is this grace broad enough to save anyone but it is deep enough to save us to the uttermost: Heb. 7:25

III. Stanza 3 says that it reaches the most defiled

Wonderful grace of Jesus,

Reaching the most defiled,

By its transforming power,

Making him God’s dear child,

Purchasing peace and heaven,

For all eternity;

And the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.

  1. This means that there is no single sin so defiling that it cannot be forgiven: Mk. 3:28
  2. As a result, even the vilest sinner can be transformed by grace into God’s dear child: Gal. 3:26-27
  3. And God’s grace gives us not only peace here but also the hope of heaven for all eternity: Col. 1:3-6

CONCL. The chorus continues to express appreciation for the blessings of Christ’s grace

Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus,

Deeper than the mighty rolling sea;

Wonderful grace, all sufficient for me, for even me.

Broader than the scope of my transgressions,

Greater far than all my sin and shame,

O magnify the precious name of Jesus.

Praise His name!

This is not the easiest song to sing, but it is a good song.  There is a beneficial message about our salvation and about the exuberant joy available in Christ because of the “Wonderful Grace of Jesus.”