Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Pilgrim's Progress: The Delectable Mountains & Little Faith

This lesson was intended for last Sunday, but since we got winter-stormed out, it will be tackled this next Sunday. All of the other posts and calendar items intended for last Sunday will all be handled next Sunday also. We did actually have Sunday morning service. The turnout was light, but for those who came it was well worth the price of admission. You ought to go over to Bulldogs and Piggies and listen to the audio of Pastor Rod’s message entitled A Godly Perspective on Stuff from Matthew 6. In working our way through John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress we come to that part dealing with Christian and Hopeful arriving at the Delectable Mountains, shortly followed by their encounter with Ignorance and Little-Faith. Concerning this last character, a very short piece of the exchange between Hopeful and Christian caught my attention:
Hopeful: Why did not LITTLE-FAITH pluck up a greater heart? He might, methinks, have stood one brush with them, and have yielded when there had been no remedy. Christian: But for such footmen as thee and I are, let us never desire to meet with an enemy, nor vaunt as if we could do better, when we hear of others that they have been foiled; nor be tickled at the thoughts of our own manhood, for such commonly come by the worst when tried.
Our discussion will center primarily around our attitudes in our Christian walk; how we view our and our brothers' standing in Christ:
  • Don't despise a brother who has fallen, looking on him as somehow weaker or less spiritual than you are, because he is not. We should seek to hold up and restore, not to glory over another's fall into sin. Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Galatians 6:1
  • Don't be arrogant and think that it could never happen to you. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 1 Corinthians 10:12
  • Realize and understand that the God who saves us is also the God who sustains us and keeps us. It is not in our power to bring about our own salvation, and it is not in our own power to preserve ourselves, either. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39
  • Realize that anything we are or ever hope to be is not because of our own efforts, but God's But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 1 Corinthians 15:10
  • Lastly, we should realize that even though salvation, from first to last is of God, and even though we are told the believer is secure, we are commanded to work, to strive, to examine and test concerning our salvation. Philippians 2:12, Luke 13:24, 2 Corinthians 3:15

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Traditional Hymnody

Just a quick post. For those of you who love the old traditional hymns, I have found two wonderful resources. The first one is The Center for Chruch Music. A few weeks ago I stumbled across the other great site supporting traditional hymndoy. It is A 21st Century Puritanism

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Respite, By-Path Meadow, and Giant Despair

(The text to our lesson coming up Sunday is posted on the class calendar, just to the right in the margin, on today's date.) . This trio of scenes show us another accurate picture and often painful truth of the life of the child of God as a "Pilgrim" passing through this world on his way to heaven. How often have you experienced sin and misery fresh on the heels of a time of spiritual refreshing, and all of that followed by guilt, shame, and despair of ever being done with your besetting sins? Respite: Times of refreshing are wonderful. They often times give us a foretaste of heaven. Christian and Hopeful have just recently left the company of Mr. By-Ends and his companions, and have successfully crossed over the narrow plain called Lucre without incident. They have been on the road some time and need a rest and some refreshment. Their way comes up to and follows along the bank of a river. The picture painted here is one of bathing in a flowing river, and eating and drinking by its banks, and being refreshed. What every pilgrim on a long, dusty road longs to find is clean, cold, running water to cool his sweaty brow and sore feet; to quench his dry, parched throat, and to hear the soothing sound of gently running water. In the Old Testament the river is quite often used to symbolize blessing, peace, plenty and prosperity (Psalm 1, Psalm 65, and Ezekiel 47, Revelation 22:1,2) We must always be careful during these times. The tendency is to be not so careful, to let our guard down. We get use to ease, and then expect it. That is when, if we are not careful, it is so easy to seek alternatives to the proper path when, all of a sudden it becomes difficult again. By-Path Meadow: The detour seems so slight, the harm seems not at all; so we ease a little out of the path. At first it looks as good as the other, but as we find in this episode, the farther our pilgrims go on this side path, the farther it diverges from the true path. What seems better at first turns out to be much worse in the end, so much so that they wind up having to turn back. The return trip proves to be more difficult that when the path was first taken. Oh how this is so like the sin we entangle ourselves in: getting in is much easier than getting out. Giant Despair: The largest part of our lesson will deal with this character, Giant Despair and his Doubting Castle. The believer, after falling into sin, often beats himself up, despairs of forgiveness, doubts his salvation, wishes himself dead. What a vivid picture this chapter paints of the torment we inflict upon ourselves. Notice also that the key called Promise was present all the time; Christian simply forgot he had it. What is that key? It is the word of God assuring us of our salvation. Remember, these words are not just anyone's words, but God Himself assuring us. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. (John 10:28,29), and So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. (Romans 9:16), and Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) and many, many others besides. We should never forget that salvation from first to last is of God: And I am sure of this, that he who began ha good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

One There Is Above All Others, Biographies

Biography of the Author and Composer

John Newton was born on July 24, 1725, in London, England. Newton is most noted for the hymn, Amazing Grace, but the hymn that we are looking at this week is equally powerful in the message that it conveys. Amazing Grace speaks of the wonder and amazement that Newton had for the gracious hand of God on his life. There is a good article at Christianity Today's website that details the numerous "dangers, toils, and snares" that God graciously brought him through, preserving his life, and then saving him. Newton was raised by his mother in a Nonconformist, Congregationalist church, but when he turned his life to the full-time preaching ministry, he entered service under the Anglican church. He began his first pastorate at the little village of Olney, near Cambridge, England,. His work for the next fifteen years (1764-1779) was a most fruitful and influential ministry in that very poor district of England. After concluding his ministry at Olney, Newton spent the remaining twenty-eight years of his life as pastor of the influential St. Mary Wollnoth Church in London. Not unlike the words to the hymn Amazing Grace, the words to the hymn One There Is Above All Others centers around saving grace, and the loving, self-sacrificing nature of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ toward undeserving, ungrateful sinners such as ourselves. This is a theme that remained near to Newton to the end of his life. Shortly before his death a spokesman for the church suggested that he consider retirement because of failing health, eyesight and memory. Newton replied, "“What, shall the old Africa blasphemer stop while he can still speak?" On another occasion before his death he is quoted as proclaiming with a loud voice during a message, "“My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: That I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior!" In the days of John Newton there was a dirth of good, sound hymns for church singing among English-speaking people. Newton, while serving at Olny parish, with the aid of his close friend William Cowper, produced what has come to be known as the Olney Hymnal. Newton contributed to the project by writing 280 hymns, while Cowper contributed 68. John Newton Died on December 21, 1807, in London, England. Albert Heinrich, the composer of the tune GODESBERG, was born on July 8, 1604, in Lobenstein, Saxony (Germany). While John Newton lived eighty-two years, Heinrich lived only a brief fourty-seven. The course of Heinrich's life was also very different from Newton's. From accountsunts, Albert Heinrich avoided much of the debauchery associated with that of the life of the young Newton. Albert Heinrich studied composition with his cousin Heinrich Schütz at Dresden in the early 1620's. While he attended the University of Leipzig, studying law for three years, his musical activities were encouraged by Johann Hermann Schein. In 1631 he became cathedral organist at Königsberg. Albert Heinrich composed hundreds of songs which were fine examples of the German Baroque style of his day. Albert Heinrich died on October 6, 1651, in Königsberg, Germany. Material Sources: 101 Hymn Stories, by Kenneth W. Osbeck, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI 49501. Christianity Today The Cyber Hymnal Encyclopaedia Britannica

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

One There Is Above All Others

This Weeks Sunday-School Hymn

Words: John Newton, 1779 Tune: GODESBERG, by Heinrich Albert, 1643
One there is, above all others, Well deserves the name of Friend; His is love beyond a brother's, Costly, free, and knows no end: They who once his kindness prove Find it everlasting love. Which of all our friends, to save us, Could or would have shed his blood? But our Jesus died to have us Reconciled in him to God. This was boundless love indeed; Jesus is a Friend in need. When he lived on earth abased, "Friend of sinners" was his name, Now above all glory raised, He rejoices in the same; Still he calls them brethren, friends, And to all their wants attends. Could we bear from one another What he daily bears from us? Yet this glorious Friend and Brother Loves us though we treat him thus: Though for good we render ill, He accounts us brethren still. O for grace our hearts to soften! Teach us, Lord, at length to love, We, alas! forget too often What a Friend we have above. But when home our souls are brought, We will love thee as we ought.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Am I a Soldier of the Cross? Biographies

This week's new hymn I posted the words to this hymn last week, on January 27. I inadvertantly gave the name of the most common tune used with these words as MARLOW, which was incorrect. The name of the tune most commonly associated with this hymn is called ARLINGTON. That tune is available to listen to for the next few days in the margin to the right.
Words: Isaac Watts, 1724 Tune: ARLINGTON, C. M., by Thomas A. Arne, 1762 Arranged by: Ralph Harrison, 1784
Isaac Watts was born on July 17, 1647, in Southampton, England. He was the eldest of nine children. His father was a learned deacon in a dissenting Congregational church, and at the time of his son’s birth he was in prison for his nonconformist beliefs. As a boy young Isaac displayed literary genius, writing verses at a very early age. It is said that he had an annoying habit of rhyming even everyday conversation, and that one day when he was scolded by his irritated father for this practice, he cried out, “Oh, Father, do some pity take, and I will no more verses make.” Am I a Soldier of the Cross was written in conjunction with a sermon that Isaac Watts preached on 1 Corinthians 16:13: Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Isaac Watts died on November 25, 1748, in Stoke Newington, England. He never married, and was in poor health the last three decades of his life. In spite of Watts' limitations, he was a prolific hymn writer, as well as the author of numerous theological works.

Thomas A. Arne was born and died in London England. He lived from 1710 to 1778, and was a fairly well-known composer in his own day. Ralph Harrison was born on September 10, 1748, in Chinley, Derbyshire, England. He was a Presbyterian minister, but later became professor at a Manchester Academy about 1780. It was about this time that he put together a collection of hymn tunes to be sung in the Manchester district, of which the tune ARLINGTON was one. Harrison died on November 4, 1810, in Manchesterr, Lancashire, England. Sources: 101 Hymn Stories, by Kenneth W. Osbeck, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI 49501.
The Cyber Hymnal