Friday, October 23, 2020

Oh Happy Day

Oh happy day (oh happy day)
Oh happy day (oh happy day)
When Jesus washed (when Jesus washed)
When Jesus washed (when Jesus washed)
When Jesus washed (when Jesus washed)
He washed my sins away (oh happy day)
Oh happy day (oh happy day)
He taught me how to watch, fight and pray, fight and pray
And live rejoicing every, everyday
Oh happy day
He taught me how

Written in 1968 by Edwin Hawkins, this Grammy winning gospel song went viral when San Francisco based DJ played it. It became controversial with Christian pastors complaining that it was being played on pop radio. It is very sad commentary when Christians have trouble how the gospel goes out. The Apostle Paul told the Corinthians that he did not care how the gospel went out, whether from Apollos, Cephas or himself.

Edwin Hawkins said of his song, “I think that it’s not just the song, but the gospel itself that transcends any racial barrier, language barrier, all of that.”  Yes, as Isaiah the Prophet said, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands” (Isaiah 55:10-12).

Sing a new song the psalmist says often, “Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy” (Psalm 33:3).  I like the old hymns and the new praise songs. Worship wars continue, but the word of God goes out in many ways to many people in many places throughout the word to the praise of the Lord.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Joyful, Joyful

Joy is part of the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians  5:21. It is the theme of my Joy Book and a powerful theme of Henry Van Dyke, born in Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1852.  His hymn is considered one of the greatest expressions of joy in English hymnody. This very able Presbyterian preacher and writer taught at Princeton served as Navy Chaplain in WWI and even became Ambassador to Holland and Luxembourg under Woodrow Wilson.

This hymn is considered his best and has a ring that fits well into the seeming chaos of our world and nation today. The recent Donald Trump inauguration comes at a time when people are afraid of many things, except the Lord.  He writes of his purpose:
These verses are simple expressions of common Christian feelings and desires in the present time, hymns of today that may be sung together by people who know the thought of the age, and are not afraid that any truth of science will destroy their religion or that any revolution on earth will overthrow the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore these are hymns of trust and hope. (101 Hymn Stories, Kenneth W. Osbeck, Kregel Publications, 1982)

The hymn portrays interplay between God’s created world and the manifestation of this same creative spirit in the life of a believer. Great metaphors like hearts unfold like flow’rs before thee, reveal this simile of life. It goes on to speak of the Creator and worshiping Him.  He marshals us to join with all God’s children in a mighty chorus of joy that began at creation’s dawn.  He is giving us the words of encouragement for all circumstances of life. The hymn rises to the mountains of which he was reminded in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.

The tune “Hymn of Joy” comes from the first movement of Beethoven’s 9th, or “choral” Symphony, thought to be his greatest. He wanted to combine voice and instrument in a majestic expression. Poet Friedrich Schiller who wrote, “Ode to Joy inspired him.”  I have chosen some of its words linked together that have the power of joyful gladness and the divine light of life.

Joyful, joyful, we adore thee, God of glory, Lord of love…stars and angels sing around thee…Melt the clouds of sin and sadness, drive the dark of doubt away…Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day! Call us to rejoice in thee…teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine. Joyful music lifts us sunward in the triumphant song of life.

Martin Luther loved hymns to express the gospel of which he said, “Gladly and willingly sing and speak about it so that others also may come and hear it.” He wanted to remind us of “A Mighty Fortress is Our God, a bulwark never failing.” He may have seen darkness often, but he found strength in the words of Scripture that joyfully set him and us free from works righteousness to just rejoice. “The heart overflows with gladness, and leaps and dances for the joy it has found in God. In this experience the Holy Spirit is active, and has taught us in the flash of a moment the deep secret of joy. You will have as much joy and laughter in life as you have faith in God… I have no use for cranks who despise music, because it is a gift of God. Music drives away the Devil and makes people joyful; they forget thereby all wrath, unchastity, arrogance, and the like. Next after theology, I give to music the highest place and the greatest honor. (Martin Luther Quotes)
“Music is God’s gift to man, the only art of heaven given to earth, the only art of earth we take to heaven.”- Walter Savage Landor

Friday, October 9, 2020

Joy to The World

All Christmas carol lists include the high-spirited celebration song, “Joy to the World.” This lively hymn is easily memorized and simple to play and sing. But there is an interesting story behind this beloved hymn.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748), author of around 750 songs, is commonly known as “The Father of Hymns” due to his popularity as the first English hymn writer. A few of his most well-known songs still sung today include: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross; At the Cross; and the topic of today’s post, Joy to the World. Watts was a young man when hymns other than the Psalms were allowed to be sung in the Church of England. This permitted Watts to develop many beloved songs. Watts still based many of his songs on the Psalms, but he was especially interested in writing hymns of human experience. Joy to the World was written in 1719 and based on Psalm 98 which speaks of salvation for all peoples of the earth through His “Right Hand” Christ Jesus: Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have worked salvation for Him…and reveled His righteousness to the nations…Shout for joy, to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music…Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy; let them sing before the Lord
If you notice the lyrics of the song, Joy to the World, you will see nothing about the Christmas story, as Watts did not write Joy to the World to be a Christmas carol. But joy is the keynote theme of Advent when God Himself invaded the world the first time. The original theme was the second coming of the Lord. Christmas isn’t always a joyful time, but when Jesus comes back, even the rocks will cry out!

More than 100 years later, in 1839, Lowell Mason adapted and arranged this song into a melody many believe to have been written by Handel. Who knows why this carol became associated with Christmas, except that He is come. Moreover, no Christmas story is complete without the reason for His coming, to die and be raised again on Easter. As you hear and sing this beloved carol this season, think about the words. Yes, they apply to the Christmas story in that the Lord has come! We should rejoice!  May the lyrics point you to the reason Jesus came: to save the world. Be ready because He is coming again! What a glorious day that will be.
Joy to the World
Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.
Joy to the world! the Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Friday, October 2, 2020

The One and Only

There is only one, “The One and Only” (John 14:14). Where does this statement come from? The whole verse says, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” This is Jesus Christ, the incarnated Son of God who came to save the word from it’s sin. The Lion of Judah is an image of the face of God. Judah is the tribe of Jesus Christ and David. In Revelation 5:5 we read of the Lamb of God being the Lion of Judah who was the only one who could open the scrolls. Jesus is this One and Only who reads of the revealing in the final book. Isaiah prophesies that the lion will lie down with the lamb in the new heaven and the new earth. He is talking about the 1,000 years of peace that will come when Jesus rules and reigns. There is symbolism of the One who is both gentle and powerful at the same time. This is God who has traits of all creatures and beyond.

Who is this One. “God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).  God’s only Son did not come to condemn but to bring peace to those who would believe in Him.

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him” (1 John 4:8). Here’s the thing, we cannot live a sinless life except through Him. We must seek and serve Him.

Joy of the Lord

“The Joy of The Lord is My Strength”  (Nehemiah 8:10).

What a wonderful rallying cry coming from Nehemiah, God’s chosen man to lead the rebuilding of the crumbled walls and spirit of the people of Israel. This chapter of the Book of Nehemiah is full of the call to God’s people for rejoicing in God’s faithfulness through trials. Their suffering and forgetfulness of God’s word led to triumph and returning to the Word in the end.

“One man,” Nehemiah was chosen to lead them back from the rubble to build a new wall and faith renewal. The wall was rebuilt through trials and harassment from God’s enemies. They had persevered with the leadership on this man. And now they all stood in front of the Water Gate to the city of Jerusalem. The Water Gate was where water for life and cleansing came through. This speaks of the cleansing of the water by the word, which is symbolic marriage where Ephesians 5 speaks of  sanctifying and cleansing her in this manner so that she, the church, might be presented as holy and without blemish.

All the people stood and were attentive to the Book of the Law being read by Ezra the Prophet. Notice that they were standing and they were concentrating to hear and learn. Then they bowed their heads and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground. That is how we are to worship, whether in body or in spirit. The people answered Amen, Amen after it was read.

Because the people had not been reading the word or being taught for many years, the Levites walked among them teaching that they might all understand. And Nehemiah, Ezra and the Levites all said, “’This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep. ’For all the people wept, when they heard the word of God” (Nehemiah 8:9).

Then Nehemiah told the people, ‘Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (v.10).

So the Levites quieted the people saying, ‘Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved. And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them’ (vv. 11-12). The people understood that they were to celebrate and share with the poor. They now were returning to be the people of God.

This sacred assembly was held on the Feast of Tabernacles or booths as prescribed in Deuteronomy 31:10-13. It was designed through Moses leadership as the Lord ordained that the people would hear the Law and fear the Lord as long as they would live in the land. And so they did because of the obedience of “one” leader, Nehemiah. The people of Israel had forgotten this once every seven year remembrance of God’s faithfulness in the wilderness to lead them to the Promised Land across the Jordan. It was a precursor to the incarnation of the “One” who would be Messiah and lead His people to repent of their sin and find redemption in His love. This is the celebration of God’s faithfulness to send an answer to our brokenness through the sanctifying of the water through His Word. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”  (Matthew 11:28).