Hymn of the Week

by Jeff Mowery

I Gave My Life To Thee

I GAVE MY LIFE TO THEE

I gave My life for thee, My precious blood I shed,
That thou might ransomed be, and raised up from the dead
I gave, I gave My life for thee, what hast thou given for Me?
I gave, I gave My life for thee, what hast thou given for Me?

 

My Father’s house of light, My glory circled throne
I left for earthly night, for wanderings sad and lone;
I left, I left it all for thee, hast thou left aught for Me?
I left, I left it all for thee, hast thou left aught for Me?

 

I suffered much for thee, more than thy tongue can tell,
Of bitterest agony, to rescue thee from hell.
I’ve borne, I’ve borne it all for thee, what hast thou borne for Me?
I’ve borne, I’ve borne it all for thee, what hast thou borne for Me?

 

And I have brought to thee, down from My home above,
Salvation full and free, My pardon and My love;
I bring, I bring rich gifts to thee, what hast thou brought to Me?
I bring, I bring rich gifts to thee, what hast thou brought to Me?

I am going to do something a little different today.  This is the first time I have included a picture with the Hymn of the week, but to fully understand the background of the hymn and its author, I thought it was important.  The following painting is entitled “Ecce Homo” or “Behold the Man.”  As you can see, it is a picture of Christ with a crown of thorns on His head.  You may also have noticed, there are some Latin words at the bottom of the picture.  Translated they mean “I have done this for you;  what have you done for me?”  The author of this hymn, Frances Havergal, saw this painting at age 17 while in a museum, and the words to this hymn came to her as she studied the picture.

This particular hymn asks some extremely poignant questions of each of us.  So important that the author repeats the question in each of the verses.  I want to emphasize that I do not think the author was indicating a pre-salvation requirement of doing “things” i.e. good works to earn a salvation, but I do think the questions are as pertinent today as they were in the 1860′s when they were written.  There are four key questions the author uses to determine our commitment to Christ.  One of the great things about these questions is that we can find examples of how to or how not to answer them in Scripture.

  • Give - The Bible says to Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”  Are you giving as it has been given unto you?  Freely, abundantly, running over?
  • Leave – Jesus told the women caught in adultery Go now and leave your life of sin.”  We may not have committed the sins that she did, but we too are commanded to go and leave a life of sin.  Have you become a new creation?  Have old things passed away?  Have you left a life of sin?
  • BearBear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”  Col. 3:13  Do you put up with people that drive you crazy?  Are you looking to bear someone’s else burdens or do you think that you have too many of your own?  Paul’s instructions here are not recommendations, but commands to bear with each other and forgive one another as Christ forgave us.
  • Bring – I was recently reminded of a difficult passage of Scripture in Malachi Chapter 1.  God is speaking and is admonishing His people for bringing blind animals or crippled animals for sacrifices.  In verse 10 of that chapter, God says “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands.”  In verse 13 of that chapter, God asks a hard question “When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?”  I am convicted by these verses because I know I am guilty.  I have brought “injured, crippled, and diseased” offerings to the Lord.  No, not animals for sacrifices, but I have given Him my leftovers, my seconds or even my thirds.  I have brought Him “second rate” offerings, and He is saying to me, “I am not pleased.”  Have you been there before?  Are you there now?

 

As a parent of three children, there are times when I have asked my kids to look me in the eye when I am talking to them.  Sometimes I do this to determine if they are really focused on what I am saying, and to make sure they understand what I might be asking them to do.  Other times, I do this to find out if they are telling me the truth.  For those of you that are parents, you will agree that you can tell a lot by looking into the eyes of your children.

The author of this hymn was impacted by gazing into the eyes of Jesus in a painting – the image of Christ wearing a crown of thorns asking a tough question.  So I encourage you to look into the face of Jesus – the Wounded Christ – the Suffering Savior who died for your sins.  Then answer the questions the author asks in this hymn – What have you given to Him?  What you have left for Him?  What have your borne for Him?  What have you brought to Him?

Often times, I don’t have really good answers to those questions.  I am like a child who is too embarrassed to look his father in the eyes because I am ashamed that I have fallen way short and have disappointed him.  My prayer is that my devotion will be stronger, and that my commitment to do the things Christ asks of me will increase.  I pray that I will “give, leave, bear and bring” what He asks me to.  I hope that after you gaze into the eyes of Jesus that this is your personal prayer, too.

There Is A Balm In Gilead

THERE IS A BALM IN GILEAD

Chorus

There is a balm in Gilead

To make the wounded whole;

There is a balm in Gilead

To heal the sin-sick soul.

 

Sometimes I feel discouraged,

And think my work’s in vain,

But then the Holy Spirit

Revives my soul again.

 

Don’t ever feel discouraged,

for Jesus is your friend,

and if you look for knowledge

He’ll ne’er refuse to lend.

 

If you can’t preach like Peter,

If you can’t pray like Paul,

Just tell the love of Jesus,

And say He died for all.

 

This week’s hymn has both an interesting inspiration and an unknown origin.  It’s inspiration comes, like many great old hymns, from an obscure question found in Jeremiah 8:22 which reads “Is there no balm in Gilead, Is there no physician there?”  Jeremiah asks a question thousands of years ago, and the author of the hymn answers that question emphatically by saying “There is a balm in Gilead” and His name is Jesus.  What is unique about this hymn/spiritual’s origin is that there is no known author attribution.  It’s words appear in hymns in the 1800′s, and appear to have been merged from other older hymns which was not uncommon for spirituals from America 200+ years ago.  Part of the lyrics appear to come from John Newton’s writing (the author of Amazing Grace).  Newton wrote:

 

“How lost was my condition

Till JESUS made me whole!

There is but one Physician

Can cure a sin–sick soul.”

 

There is another red-back hymnal song (“Hide Thou Me”) begins:

 

“Sometimes I feel discouraged….and I think my work in vain….

I’m tempted oft to murmur, to grumble, and complain….

But when I think of Jesus…and what He’s done for me…..

Then I cry to the Rock of Ages…..Hide Thou me…..”

 

So, I can’t speak definitively on the author or origin of this hymn, but what I can do is speak definitively about the answer to Jeremiah’s question.  Is there no balm in Gilead?  Oh yes, there’s a balm in Gilead!! For that balm has cleansed and healed my sin-sick soul.  And that balm has been applied to millions of hearts throughout the ages, and that balm is still available today to heal the sin-sick soul.

 

Couple of comments on the lyrics:

  • “Sin-sick soul” - This phrase reminds of Jesus’ healing of the paralytic in Matthew 9.  The people bring a paralytic to Jesus.  He sees their faith, and He responds by saying “Your sins are forgiven.”  This infuriated the scribes.  How can this man claim to forgive sins?  Jesus, knowing their thoughts, does something amazing.  He proves His authority by healing the man of his physical illness as well.  This song reminds us that Jesus can make the wounded whole, and can heal the sin-sick, and physically sick, soul as well.
  • If you look for knowledge, He’ll never refuse to lend” - This phrase reminds me of James words in James 1:5. “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”  So who does God give wisdom to?  Anyone who lacks and asks.  How does God give His wisdom?  The verse in this song says He lends it.  I believe He gives it.  Generously.  Not looking for repayment.  But gives to the one who asks – freely, abundantly, generously, pressed down and shaken together, and without reproach.

 

In researching this hymn, I came across something very interesting, at least very interesting to me.  There is a famous poem written by Baltimore’s own Edgar Allen Poe that many of you will remember.  It is the poem “The Raven” the namesake of the NFL team – The Baltimore Ravens.  The most famous line from this poem is repeated over and over, and is “Quoth the Raven, Nevermore.”  This poem, like many of Poe’s works, is very dark.  What is interesting is that in a later stanza in this poem, Poe actually quotes from Jeremiah 8 himself when he writes ” Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore” Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”  I will admit, I personally haven’t done a complete analysis of Poe’s exposure to Christianity or what his beliefs, or lack thereof, were about God.  I cannot tell you if he was a student of the Word, or one that was merely around the Word and had a familiarity with Christian doctrine.  The darkness of his writings, however, cannot be argued.

 

Poe was, however, in this famous poem asking essentially that most important question.  Is there a balm in Gilead?  Is there someone who can heal my sin-sick soul?  Is there someone that free me from the shackles and chains of sin in my life?  I want to leave you a quote from the Edgar Allen Poe Society of Baltimore’s website about his religious beliefs:

 

“It would certainly have been understandable if Poe had lost confidence in a divine hand, one that directs our daily lives for purposes of our own spiritual benefit. The sad and youthful deaths of so many loved ones (his mother, Mrs. Stanard, Frances Allan, his brother and especially the long and lingering illness of Virginia) would have tested anyone’s faith. Poverty, illness and failure no doubt seemed his constant companions. If we can accept the testimony of Dr. John Moran, which generally must be taken with more than a little scepticism, Poe’s last words were “Lord, help my poor soul.”   

 

I am reminded of two types of people Jesus talked about in Luke 18.  “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” 

 

If on his death bed, Edgar Allen Poe repented of his sin, and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as His savior, then he went down to his house justified.  We can answer this question for Him – There is a balm in Gilead.  To heal the sin-sick soul.  Quoth the Christian – Evermore!!!

Let My Life Be A Light

LET MY LIFE BE A LIGHT

Let me live blessed Lord, in the light of thy word. Let my life be a light on a hill.
Leading souls now astray to the straight narrow way. Help me do some good deed while I live. 
 
Chorus
Let my life be a light shining out through the night. May I help struggling ones to the fold. 
Spreading cheer everywhere to the sad and the lone. Let my life be a light to some soul. 
 
Give me wisdom and power everyday every hour, let me drink from the fountain above. 
Guide my footsteps a right through the dark stormy night. Give me peace, give me joy, give me love. 
 
Give me souls for my hire, let my life be on fire, shining out to the world as a guide. 
Help me rescue someone sinking now with no hope that in Heaven we shall ever abide. 
Found on page 169 of the Redback hymnal, “Let my life be a light” was written by J.R. Varner and copy written in the 1940′s by the Tennessee Music and Printing Company from right here in Cleveland, Tennessee.  If you are not familiar with this song, here’s an acapella version as sung by one of my favorite gospel bluegrass groups – Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver.
The theme of this hymn is essentially a prayer – Lord, let my life be a light.  As a Christian, each of us should desire that the light of the Gospel would shine through us.   Jesus’ words in Matthew 5 are a reminder of this truth.  “You arethe light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  We are called to make a difference in the world through our actions and our words – good works that glorify our Father in Heaven.
Couple of comments on the lyrics:
  • “Help struggling ones to the fold” - This is one of those interesting phrases that in some ways may seem contradictory to Scripture.  We know that Jesus is the only one who saves.  Jesus’ sacrifice paid for our sins.  So can we, as Christians, help struggling ones to the fold?  Is there anything we can do to save somebody?  I believe the answer to that is yes and no.  If you mean, can I save someone else?  Clearly the answer is no.  There is nothing I can do to save someone from their sins.  However, if you mean, can my life and my testimony help someone to the point where they make a decision for Christ? Absolutely.  Peter preached in Acts 2 and 3,000 were saved that day.  Did Peter save them?  No.  Did Peter help struggling ones to the fold? Clearly he did.
  • “Guide my Footsteps a right” - I just love old phrases like this. To me, it is a reminder that we can live life with footsteps a-right and footsteps a-wrong.  The Bible does say in Psalm 37:23 “The steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord.”  God plays an important part in guiding our footsteps.  But we also have a part to play.  Psalm 50:23 says “And to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God.”  God guides our footsteps a-right and we can keep our footsteps a-right.
“Let” – This is a very interesting three letter word.  In the book of Genesis, when God says “Let there be light” it was automatic – there was light.  When God says, let there be water and living creatures, guess what?  It happened immediately at the word of His command.  But “let” as Jesus commanded in Matthew 5 is not always an automatic.  Just because Jesus said “let your light shine” doesn’t mean it happens automatically.  It requires effort.  It requires obedience.  It often times requires sacrifice.
I pray today that as followers of Christ we can begin to respond automatically to the “let” commands of Jesus.  To respond immediately, completely, and whole-heartedly.  Not to pat ourselves on the back.  Not to receive the praise of men.  But to do it because Jesus commands His followers to do so.  Let your life be a light!!

Be In Time

BE IN TIME
Life at best is very brief,
Like the falling of a leaf,
Like the binding of a sheaf,
Be in time!
Fleeting days are telling fast
That the die will soon be cast,
And the fatal line be passed,
Be in time!
 
Chorus 
Be in time! Be in time!
While the voice of Jesus calls you,  Be in time!
If in sin you longer wait,
You may find no open gate,
And your cry be just too late:Be in time!
 
Fairest flowers soon decay,
Youth and beauty pass away;
O you have not long to stay,
Be in time!
While God’s Spirit bids you come,
Sinner, do not longer roam,
Lest you seal your hopeless doom,
Be in time!
 
Time is gliding swiftly by,
Death and judgment draweth nigh,
To the arms of Jesus fly,
Be in time!
O I pray you count the cost!
Ere the fatal line be crossed,
And your soul in hell be lost,
Be in time!
 
Sinner, heed the warning voice,
Make the Lord your final choice,
Then all heaven will rejoice,
Be in time!
Come from darkness into light;
Come, let Jesus make you right;
Come, receive His life tonight,
Be in time!
I was not familiar with the words of this song until I heard part of them quoted in a sermon a few months ago.  I did not, however, feel led to send this song out as a “Hymn of the Week” for obvious reasons.  This song is about a subject that is difficult to talk about.  The subject of death.  Of judgment.  Of the finality of life.  It is a topic that we don’t like to dwell on.  We recognize that death is a part of life.  As Christians, we understand that death is a result of sin entering our world.  But it is not necessarily something that we want to spend a lot of time thinking about.  Over the past 30 days, however, there have been two unexpected deaths in my circle of friends – the step-mother of a family friend at church, and the father of a friend and co-worker.  Both of these deaths were tragic.  These losses are painful for the family members now, and their loss will be felt by the family for a long time.
The wonderful thing about the Bible is that it doesn’t avoid tough, every day realities like death.  Scripture is filled with comfort for those that have experienced loss.  Scripture gives us hope that we will see our loved ones again one day in Heaven.  At the funeral I attended Sunday, one of the speakers spoke from John 11 and quoted the words of Jesus when He said “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:  And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”  Most of the time I hear that verse, the speaker stops with “shall never die.”  But on Sunday, this pastor finished the verse by saying “Believest thou this?”  You see, Jesus got to the heart of the matter with Martha.  He asked her a tough question – “Believest thou this?” or put another way “Do you believe in me and believe what I am saying?”  That is the critical question of life.  It is the crux of the message of this hymn.  Do you believe in Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you put your trust in Him?  I am grateful today that the individuals that passed away could answer like Martha did in John 11 “Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God.”  I praise God for the testimony of Lindy Watts and James Dunn because they lived lives that were testimonies of God’s saving grace.
Couple of comments on the lyrics:
  • “Like the falling of a leaf” – In Cleveland this time of year, there are not a lot of leaves falling from the trees.  But in my mind, I can picture a lone leaf falling from the oak trees around my house.  It gently falls.  It twists in the wind.  It floats up a little, and then comes back down.  It does not however stay in the air forever.  It eventually will fall to the ground.  It doesn’t take long.  There are slight delays along the leaf’s journey, but a journey from the top of the tree to the ground below is inevitable.  Our lives are no different.  We go from being green and productive in one season of live to aging and dying in the fall and winter season.  “Life at best is very brief, like the falling of a leaf.”
  • “The die will soon be cast” – I will be the first to admit I don’t know a whole lot about die casting.  I know that there is a process where one heats metal to the point where it is in a molten state.  It is then poured into a cast, and then allowed to cool.  Once set, there’s not a whole lot you can do with it.  It is set.  It is finished. The same is true with our life and eventual death.  When death comes, we no longer have second chances.  We don’t have another bite at the apple.  Our decision to accept or reject Christ will seal our eternal destiny.  Our die will be cast.  If we have accepted Christ’s free gift of salvation, we will spend eternity with Jesus.  But if we have rejected Him over and over and over again, our “die will be cast and the fatal line will have passed.”
  • “Fatal line be crossed” – Have you ever heard someone say “You have crossed the line.”  It typically means you overstepped your bounds.  You have said something that is just too mean, too critical, or too hurtful and your actions will now cost you something.  This verse reminds us that the same is true in life.  There is a line that one day will be crossed by all of us (save those that are raptured by the Lord).  There are no “I’m sorry’s” then. There are no “let me take that back.”  The fatal line will be crossed and there will be no longer any hope of redemption – only a painful expectation of judgement.
In looking up the history of this hymn, I discovered it was written by one of the most prolific writers in history – a man named “Anonymous.”  This particular song has no author attribution. I could only find a little about the person that wrote the music to the song, but I could not find any specific details about an author.  I sure wish I knew the circumstances behind this song.  Was it written by an old man on his death bed who found the Lord and was inspired to tell others to not wait?  Was it written by someone who unexpectedly lost a loved one who had put off making a decision for Christ?  I don’t know the answer to this.  What I do know is that the message of this hymn is for every man and women.  It is an urgent message to heed the Spirit’s call.  To listen to God’s knocking on the door of your heart.
I pray today that you will share the warning of this song with an unbeliever.  Time is ticking away.  The sands of time are sinking.  We are not promised tomorrow.  Life is but a vapor.  Today is the day of salvation.  Be in time!!! 

Holy Manna

HOLY MANNA
Brethren, we have met to worship and adore the Lord our God;
Will you pray with all your power, while we try to preach the Word?
All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One comes down;
Brethren, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.
 
Brethren, see poor sinners round you slumbering on the brink of woe;
Death is coming, hell is moving, can you bear to let them go?
See our fathers and our mothers, and our children sinking down;
Brethren, pray and holy manna will be showered all around.
 
Sisters, will you join and help us? Moses’ sister aided him;
Will you help the trembling mourners who are struggling hard with sin?
Tell them all about the Savior, tell them that He will be found;
Sisters, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.
 
Is there here a trembling jailer, seeking grace, and filled with tears?
Is there here a weeping Mary, pouring forth a flood of tears?
Brethren, join your cries to help them; sisters, let your prayers abound;
Pray, Oh pray that holy manna may be scattered all around.
 
Let us love our God supremely, let us love each other, too;
Let us love and pray for sinners, till our God makes all things new.
Then He’ll call us home to Heaven, at His table we’ll sit down;
Christ will gird Himself and serve us with sweet manna all around.
Written in the early 1800′s, I was made aware of this song by a great couple in our church (Thanks Mike and Karen).  This particular hymn, in my opinion, has an interesting take on the purpose of the Church.  The Church in this song is not seen as a social club.  It is not seen as just a place to go on Sundays.  Not a place to have our “itching ears” scratched.  But the Church is seen as a place where we meet together, and we break and partake of the “Bread of Life.”  Where God’s Word is preached about, is sung about, and is lived out in the lives of God’s children through fellowship, burden bearing, praying for and caring for one another – Brethren and Sisters in the Lord.
Jesus speaks of this bread, this Holy Manna, several times in John Chapter 6:
  • Verse 32-33 -“Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
  • Verse 35 – And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.
  • Verse 48 – “I am the bread of life.
  • Verse 51 - I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”

The Church ought to be the place where “manna” comes down on a regular basis.  It ought to be a place where we feast on God’s Word and dwell in His presence.

 

Couple of comments on the lyrics:

 

  • “All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One comes down” - I was reminded of the old song that says “Without Him I could do nothing.”  It is a theme from John 15:15 where Jesus says “Apart from me you can do nothing.”  Our work is in vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One comes down.  Our striving and our efforts are worthless unless the Spirit is central to what we are doing.  We, as the Church, need the Holy Spirit to lead, guide, direct, comfort, convict, and spur us on to good works.  If we are not living lives filled with the Spirit being led by the Spirit, all that we do is vain.
  • “Hell is moving” -  What an interesting phrase this is.  Is Hell really on the move?  As a physical place, I don’t see Hell as a place that is moving.  But as an indicator of the pervasiveness of sin in the world, “hell” is definitely on the move.  The newspaper and internet is filled with awful stories of sinful people. Sin seems to be on the increase.  Wickedness is on the rise.  The enemy is seeking whom he may devour.  But the question is, what should be our response to Hell moving closer and closer in?  Our response should be “the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.”  We should take up the shield of faith to quench the fiery darts of the evil one.  Hell may be moving, but the Church of Jesus Christ will prevail.  “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

“What is it?”  That is the actual meaning of the word “Manna” in the Old Testament.  Exodus 16:15 says “So when the children of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was.  And Moses said to them, “This is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat.”

 

So let me ask a a question about the Church.  What is it  - to you?  Is it a pretty white building out in the middle of the country with old wooden pews and hardwood floors where they sing hymns every Sunday? Is it a modern, technologically up-to-date building with all the latest sound systems, wide screens, lights, and comfy stadium seats?  Is it a 1,000 year old cathedral with beautiful stained glass and granite pillars – empty of both people and the Word?  What is it?

 

The Church is the Bride of the Christ.  It is made of up God’s people doing God’s work.  It is not a temple built by human hands.  The Church is God’s Spirit living on the inside and visible on the outside of all believers.  It ceases to be Church when the Church ceases to preach, teach, and live out the Word of God on a regular basis.  I hope today that this hymn has encouraged you to be more involved in the Church.  To be more committed to the Church.  To love the Church where His Holy Manna will be scattered and showered all around.