Sunday, September 14, 2014

Hymn-ful Sundays! "Jesus, Friend of Little Children"

This week's hymn is best known as a children's hymn. It was written by Walter Mathams, a British chaplain, in the late 19th century.

Jesus, Friend of little children,
Be a friend to me;
Take my hand, and ever keep me
Close to Thee.

Teach me how to grow in goodness,
Daily as I grow;
Thou hast been a child, and surely
Thou dost know.

Step by step O lead me onward,
Upward into youth;
Wiser, stronger, still becoming
In Thy truth.

Never leave me, nor forsake me;
Ever be my friend;
For I need Thee, from life’s dawning
To its end.

Walter J Mathams

What an awesome example of what it means to have childlike faith! To take Jesus' hand so that you may stay close to him, to look to Him for guidance in growth every day and over time. And yet, even as we grow with Jesus, we know that we will always need this Friend, in every stage of life.

Be blessed and shine with Jesus!

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Hymn-ful Sundays! "Here I am, Lord"

This week's hymn is another fairly contemporary one, written by Dan Schutte in 1981. Schutte was asked to write a song based on Isaiah 6, three days before the event at which it was to be sung. In combining his thoughts on Isaiah 6 with the story of God's call to Samuel, he came up with this song, Here I am Lord, also known as "I the Lord of Sea and Sky". He says that the song "tells of the God who overshadows us, giving power to our stumbling words and the simple works of our hands, and making them into something that can be a grace for people."

I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin
My hand will save.
I who make the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?

Here I am, Lord. Is it I Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, where you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.

I, the Lord of snow and rain,
I have borne my people’s pain.
I have wept for love of them.
They turn a-way.
I will break their hearts of stone,
Give them hearts for love a-lone.
I will speak my words to them.
Whom shall I send?

I, the Lord of wind and flame,
I will tend the poor and lame.
I will set a feast for them.
My hand will save.
Finest bread I will provide,
Till their hearts be satisfied.
I will give my life to them.
Whom shall I send?

Daniel Schutte

The combination of the responses of both Samuel and Isaiah to the Lord's call reminds us always that God is speaking, if we are listening. And the same God, the God of sea and sky, hears the cries of his people: those in bondage, in persecution, in depression, in fear. And who does He send to them? He sends us, trusting us to carry his love to the darkest places of the world. Will we answer Gods call?

Be blessed and hear God's voice!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Hymn-ful Sundays! "How Deep the Father's Love for Us"

This week's hymn is another modern one, written by British song- and hymn-writer Stuart Townsend in 1995. Townsend also co-wrote "In Christ Alone", which I featured earlier this year. He is the son of a Church of England minister, and the youngest of four children. He began writing music at the age of 22.

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
 How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

 Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers
 It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

 I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
 Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom
Stuart Townsend

These words are so moving, to know the depth of God's love for us that He gave His only Son so that we might be reconciled to Him! And even as we see the significance of the cross in our own lives, we acknowledge that we too, would have been in the crowd yelling "Crucify Him". We might even have been among the scribes and Pharisees who plotted His demise! Yet we were brought to new life by Jesus' dying breath, leaving us to both in nothing but Christ alone.

Be blessed and shine in His love!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Biweekly Bits #15: You Never Know...

After writing 26 bits, I realized that there is so much I could elaborate on with each of my bits. So I decided to turn them into a biweekly (i.e. fortnightly) series, for the next year.

You never know who is praying for you. As a teenager, I was involved in a dance ministry at my church, a part of which was a combined group with dancers from other churches. Every year we'd have a little awards ceremony. One year, the leaders gave out tokens of appreciation for the adults who had prayed for us over the year. Many of the people who got up to receive these little gifts I had never seen before in my life, but because I was a member of the dance ministry, they were praying for me! How awesome is that?! You just never know who's interceding on your behalf, lifting you up in prayer.

Every week at my church we have prayer cards which members write, which are then read aloud to the congregation. Sometimes the prayers are for some members of the church praying for others within the church, but oftentimes they are for people who are not present. In fact, many times I have heard people offer prayer requests for friends and coworkers and loved ones who may never know that this person is praying for them.

But that is part of the beauty of prayer: to intercede on behalf of another, petitioning God on their behalf. And as much as we may pray (or neglect to pray) for others in our lives, many times there are people who are praying on our behalf. As a PK (preacher's kid), it is so interesting to return home for the holidays and have people that I don't know come up and talk to me conversationally, because they have been praying for my family for so long, it is like we are friends. It is such a blessing to know that others are lifting me up in prayer, and my life has been blessed through the prayers of others.

So I guess my challenge to you is to pray for someone else. It can be someone close to you, or someone you don't know well, or at all. But take some time to lift up another in prayer, to talk to God on their behalf, either with them as they lift up their own prayers, or for them if they do not know Him. And you don't necessarily have to tell them that you have been praying for them. (Of course, you should if you have been led to.)

Be a blessing to someone else by earnestly and unselfishly praying for them, praying for God's will (not what you think God's will should be) in their life. After all, you never know who has been praying for you!

Be blessed and pray for someone!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Hymn-ful Sundays! "Take My Hand, Precious Lord"

This week's hymn is by Thomas Dorsey, a black American musician of the early 20th century. Credited with being the father of black gospel music, Dorsey's music was influenced by jazz and blues, but has since spread far and wide. He wrote this hymn after he lost his wife in childbirth, and then two days later, the son she had died giving birth to.

Precious Lord, take my hand
Lead me on, let me stand
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn
Through the storm, through the night
Lead me on to the light
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home

When my way grows drear
Precious Lord linger near
When my life is almost gone
Hear my cry, hear my call
Hold my hand lest I fall
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home

When the darkness appears
And the night draws near
And the day is past and gone
At the river I stand
Guide my feet, hold my hand
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home

Precious Lord, take my hand
Lead me on, let me stand
I'm tired, I'm weak, I'm lone
Through the storm, through the night
Lead me on to the light
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home
Thomas A. Dorsey

What a beautiful image of our walk with God! When we are tired and weak, we can call on Him to take our hand and lead us on the way. We are confident that the Lord will indeed lead us through storms raging and nights dark, for we know that His strength is made perfect in our weakness, and the God will never leave us nor forsake us. Let us always remember the God can and will take our hand and lead us home.

Be blessed and shine holding His hand!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hymn-ful Sundays! "We Have an Anchor"

This week's hymn is by another female hymnwriter! Priscilla Jane Owens was a 19th century American teacher, who wrote many hymns for the Sunday School students that she taught. This hymn is one of her best-known ones.

Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift or firm remain?

We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
 Grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love.

 It is safely moored, ’twill the storm withstand,
For ’tis well secured by the Savior’s hand;
And the cables passed from His heart to mine,
Can defy the blast, through strength divine.

 It will firmly hold in the straits of fear,
When the breakers have told the reef is near;
Though the tempest rave and the wild winds blow,
Not an angry wave shall our bark o’erflow.

It will surely hold in the floods of death,
When the waters cold chill our latest breath;
On the rising tide it can never fail,
While our hopes abide within the veil.

When our eyes behold through the gath’ring night 
The city of gold, our harbor bright, 
We shall anchor fast by the heav’nly shore, 
With the storms all past forevermore.  
Priscilla Jane Owens

I think it's so interesting that this hymn starts out with a question: will your anchor hold throughout life's storms? Are you grounded in something that will last even in the toughest times. Then in the chorus we all declare that we do indeed have an anchor that is steadfast and sure, and it is fastened to a Rock that will not move. This anchor keeps the soul and is grounded in Jesus' love. What better thing could we be anchored to? What a beautiful metaphor for our reliance on Christ! For without being grounded in the love of our Savior, fastened to that Rock which cannot move, we would be driven and tossed by every wave, every wind, every storm.

Be blessed and shine anchored in Christ!