Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sweet Hosanas Ring

At our church every year on Palm Sunday, the Sunday school children process into the sanctuary at the beginning of the service, waving palms and singing a Palm Sunday song. More than once, they've sung All Glory, Laud and Honor. How beautiful and stirring. And appropriate.

All glory, laud, and honor, 
to thee, Redeemer, King,
to whom the lips of children
made sweet hosannas ring.
Matthew 21:8 says that a very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road and others cut tree branches and spread them on the road.

This all happened to fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9:
Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!
Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

We are commanded in these verses to rejoice and shout. Palm Sunday is a day of celebration. Our King is establishing His kingdom. He has secured it for us. We rejoice because because He brings us salvation. "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4)
The people of the Hebrews 
with psalms before thee went;
our prayer and praise and anthems
before thee we present.
That salvation came at a price we can't imagine. What He did for us on Good Friday and on Easter deserves our undying praise. And He gives us all eternity to praise Him. How glorious it will be. "Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds — his name is the LORD— and rejoice before him." (Psalm 68:4)

Yet a mere five days later, these same crowds cried out, "Crucify him, crucify him!"

Is that how fast our devotion for our Lord evaporates? Or do we live a life of praise - no matter what the circumstances? Living a life of praise is a conscious decision. Each day we must pray for the strength to praise Him in all things. Palm Sunday should live in our hearts, not just on this day, but every day of the year. Every minute of our lives, we should be mindful of Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter. "Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens." (Psalm 68:19)
Thou didst accept their praises; 
accept the prayers we bring,
who in all good delightest,
thou good and gracious King.

All glory, laud, and honor,
to thee, Redeemer, King,
to whom the lips of children
made sweet hosannas ring.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Story Behind All Glory, Laud and Honor

Theodulf was born in Spain around the year 760 AD, but fled the Iberian peninsula because of the Muslim conquest. Charlemagne promoted him to Bishop of Orleans and he served as a scholar, an educator, a poet, and an adviser to the emperor. He was a church reformer, opposing the use of icons. He wrote books on baptism and the Holy Spirit. When Charlemagne died in 814, his sons squabbled over the empire, and his son Louis the Pious imprisoned Theodulf on suspicion of conspiring with his enemies.
Louis the Pious

The story is told that Theodulf composed this hymn while in prison. As Louis passed by his cell on a Palm Sunday, Theodulf sang the hymn and Louis released him on the spot. The story is likely untrue, as Theodulf died four years later, most believe in prison and of poisoning.

Whatever the story, the Lord used Theodulf to write a beautiful and classic hymn that has survived for 1200 years.

Monday, March 26, 2012

All Glory, Laud and Honor

This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday. This is an ancient hymn of the church celebrating Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem just five days before his death.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Music of the Spheres

Spring has come to many in the United States very early this year. Even in the Upper Midwest, forsythia are blooming, magnolias are budding out, and grass is greening. Add in the carol of the birds as they flit across the blue skies, and it's truly beautiful.

No matter where you look in God's creation, true beauty can be found. Blue-green Caribbean water.

Majestic mountains.

Pine trees laden with snow.

Flowers and butterflies.

A mountain stream.

Psalm 19: 1-4 says,
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
3 There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.
4 Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.

Too often we worship the creation and not the Creator. Yet Romans 1:20 says, "For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse."

God gave us this amazing creation so that we could learn about Him. The stars, the majestic oaks, the blades of grass, the human hand are like books, revealing God to us. Without words, they show us how incomparably powerful God is. There is none beside Him. (Deuteronomy 4:35). We are mere creatures, He the divine Potter. He is truly the one over us. When we look at a harvest moon shining in the sky or study cells under a microscope, we must recognize that next to the all-powerful Lord, we are finite. He is infinite.

This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.

The passing of the seasons, the inbred knowledge of the birds to build their nests, the regular rising and setting of the sun all serve to remind us here on earth of God's sovereignty and his faithfulness. If He has control of all of this, He will not forget us but will care for us.

"If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?" Matthew 6:30.

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.

Then together, let's say, I will proclaim the name of the LORD. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! Deuteronomy 32:3

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Story Behind This Is My Father's World

Maltbie D. Babcock was quite an athlete in his day, not only competing, but also excelling in several sports. He was born into a well-to-do and aristocratic family. In addition to all of this, he was an outstanding scholar.

The Lord blessed him with one more thing - a heart forhis Heavenly Father. He followed the Lord's humble call and became a pastor in a Presbyterian church in upstate New York. It was a beautiful area known as the "escarpment". He loved to walk through what he called, "my Father's world." In the distance, he could often see Lake Ontario.

Legend says that these walks are what inspired him to write "This Is My Father's World". The hymn, however, wasn't published in his lifetime. In 1901, at the age of 42, he set out on a tour of the Holy Land. During the Atlantic crossing, he contracted a bacterial infection and died at an international hospital.

After his death, his wife went through his papers and complied them into the book "Though for Everyday Living". That book contained this hymn. Frank L. Sheppard, an accomplished musician, set the words to an old English tune and published in 1915 in his book "Alleluia", a Presbyterian Sunday school book.

Monday, March 12, 2012

This Is My Father's World

This week, we'll be taking a look at This is My Father's World. It's one of my favorites. Enjoy!

This is my Fathers world
and to my listening ears,
all nature sings and round me rings
the music of the spheres.

This is my Fathers world,
I rest me in the thought
of rocks and trees, of skies and seas,
His hand, the wonders wrought.

This is my Fathers world,
the birds, their carols raise,
the morning light, the lily white
declare their makers praise.

This is my Fathers world,
He shines in all thats fair.
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass,
He speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Fathers world,
oh let me neer forget
that though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.

This is my Fathers world,
the battle is not done.
Jesus, who died, shall be satisfied
and earth and heaven be one

Friday, March 9, 2012

Wonderful, Marvelous Grace

The story is told that Mayor Laguardia of New York, in the depths of the Great Depression, walked into a courtroom, dismissed the judge, and sat to preside over some cases himself. Mayors had the right to do so in those times.

The case came up of a poor old woman accused of stealing bread for her grandchildren.

Mayor Laguardia found her guilty, sentencing her to a fine of $10 or 10 days in jail. Even as he pronounced the sentence, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a $10 bill. Then he fined all those in the courtroom 50 cents for living in a city where a woman had to steal to feed her family. The woman left the courtroom, tears in her eyes, with enough money to feed her family for several months. *

Isn't that a beautiful picture of God's love for us? When we stand before him, we are guilty. There is no denying that fact. We have broken his law over and over again. Yet, even as he hands down the censure, he is sending Christ to bear our punishment. We don't have to pay the fine - the fine we could never repay no matter how long we tried.

What emotions swirled inside that woman as she left the courthouse? There must have been overwhelming relief - the burden of feeding her grandchildren had been lifted, at least for a few months. Unbelievable joy. She must have been so frightened when the mayor sentenced her. How would she ever pay the fine? Then to have it paid for her? I imagine she went home, threw a small party for the children and told all of her neighbors.

These are the emotions Haldor Lillenas portrays in his beautiful hymn.

Isn't that a beautiful picture of God's love for us?

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9.

Wonderful Grace of Jesus is a celebration of the fact that we, saved by God, stand in his grace. Listen to the pure joy in the first verse.

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!

Just how big is this grace? It is greater than all our sin. Sounds small, but when you think of it, the depth of God's love and mercy to us in indescribable. We, alone, are helpless to do anything about a guilty, polluted, sinful state. Yet God saw us, sitting in our rags on the ash heap, chose us, loved us, and saved us. Wonderful, marvelous, matchless.

Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus,
Deeper than the mighty rolling sea;
Higher than the mountain, sparkling like a fountain,
All-sufficient grace 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!

My guess is that Mr. Lillenas had a difficult time coming up with the words to adequately describe the fullness of his heart when he pondered how much the Lord loved him. Have you felt that matchless bursting of your heart?

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 4:15

Does our thanksgiving overflow so that others can see the joy of God's grace in our lives? Do we live our lives, every day grateful for what He did for us? Because of us, will God's grace reach more and more people?

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!

*Snopes neither confirms nor denies the validity of this story. I post it here only as an example of grace.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Story Behind Wonderful Grace of Jesus

The writer of the hymn Wonderful Grace of Jesus, Haldor Lillenas, was born in Norway and immigrated to the United States when he was a small child.
Converted to Christianity at the age of 21, he entered Bible college and later became an elder and a pastor in the Nazarene church. He obtained his musical training through personal and correspondence study. He and his wife, Bertha, worked as evangelists for a time, traveling the country.

Later, he settled down in Illinois and bought himself a used organ for the extravagant sum of $5. They didn't have much money at the time. He composed Wonderful Grace of Jesus on that organ and made - you guessed it - $5 on the sale of the hymn.

In 1924, he founded Lillenas Publishing Company which later became Nazarene Publishing Company. He worked there for 20 years as an editor. Like many other hymn composers, he was prolific. Together, he and his wife wrote over 4000 hymns.
In 1982, he was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

While the tune may lend itself to being played uptempo, in a bubbly sort of fashion, Lillenas himself cautioned about the hymn begin played too fast. He wanted it to be slower so that everyone could focus on the the wonderful grace of Jesus.