November 26, 2023

Call To Worship

Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus: 687

This hymn talks about the joy that can be found having faith in God! Although its author, Louisa M. R. Stead, experienced the terrible loss of her husband, she found resolution in her relationship with God. Through the creation of this hymn, she has helped many people deal with similar tragedy in their own lives – simply by encouraging them to trust in Jesus.

Louisa Stead was born in Dover, England in 1850. As a teenager, Stead felt called to be a missionary. She went to America at age 21, and lived for a time in Cincinnati, Ohio. Attending a camp meeting in Urbana, Ohio, she felt the missionary calling even more strongly. Unfortunately, she was not able to go to China as she had intended, due to her frail health. She married a Mr. Stead in 1875 and moved to New York, where the couple had a daughter, Lily.

When Lily was four years of age, the family decided one day to enjoy the sunny beach at Long Island Sound, New York. While eating their picnic lunch, they suddenly heard cries of help and spotted a drowning boy in the sea. Mr. Stead charged into the water. As often happens, however, the struggling boy pulled his rescuer under water with him, and both drowned before the terrified eyes of Louisa and her daughter. Out of her ‘why?’ struggle with God, during the ensuing days, glowed the meaningful words of the hymn Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus from the soul of Louisa Stead.

Soon after, Louisa and Lily left for the Cape Colony, South Africa, where Louisa worked as a missionary for fifteen years. She married Robert Wodehouse, a native of South Africa. Because of her health, the family found it necessary to return to the United States in 1895. Wodehouse pastored a Methodist congregation during these years until, in 1900, they returned to the mission field, this time to the Methodist mission station at Umtali, Southern Rhodesia (present day Zimbabwe).

Louisa passed away after a long illness, in 1917, at her home near the Mutambara Mission. Following her death, it was recorded by the Christians in Rhodesia that: “We miss her very much but her influence goes on as our 5,000 converts continually sing this hymn in their native language”.

Perhaps the hymn might be best described as a hymn based on the name of Jesus. Indeed, “Jesus” is sung twenty-five times if one sings all four stanzas and the refrain.

 


Welcome and Opening Prayer
Scripture Reading

Are You Washed in the Blood: 50

A hymn which asks if we have been washed from our sins in the blood of Jesus Christ the Lamb of God is “Are You Washed In The Blood?” (#307 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #613 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written and the tune (Washed in the Blood) was composed both by Elisha Albright Hoffman (1839-1929). A minister in the Evangelical Church, he is perhaps best-known for his “I Must Tell Jesus,” but he also provided words or music or both to a number of other beloved hymns, such as “Glory To His Name,” “Is Thy Heart Right With God?”, “Leaning On The Everlasting Arms,” and “To Christ Be True.” “Are You Washed In The Blood” was first published in the 1878 Spiritual Songs for Gospel Meeting and the Sunday School edited at Cleveland, OH, for Barker and Smellie by Hoffman and John Harrison Tenney (1840-1918). Its popularity is likely due in part to its inclusion in Ira D. Sankey’s 1881 Sacred Songs and Solos. The American poet, Vachel Lindsey, used part of the text in his poem “General William Booth Enters Heaven.”

     Among songbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ the has appeared in almost every one beginning with the 1925 edition of the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) edited by E. L. Jorgenson, including the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 also edited by Jorgenson; the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2, and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; and the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs for the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.

 

 

I Gave My Life for Thee: 268

Francis Ridley Havergal was a famous hymn-writer and singer. Raised in a preacher’s home, her talent was recognized very early in life. Her father was both a faithful pastor and a mighty singer/songwriter. Early on he encouraged her to pursue her love and gift of music.

Havergal began writing hymns and poems in her teen years. As part of her extensive education, she spent time in Germany studying the arts and languages. During her years there she was taken to an art museum in Dusseldorf. As she walked through the museum, she came across a painting whose depiction was of Pilot presenting Christ to an angry mob.

Interestingly, 150 years prior, a young man named Nikolaus von Zinzendorf had seen the same painting. As he looked at the depiction of his Savior and all that he had endured to save us, he surrendered His life to the Lord Jesus. God would use him to help spurn the mighty Moravian Mission work of the 1700’s.

Now, as Havergal gazed thoughtfully at the painting, her eyes fell to an inscription below it. The inscription reads, “I have done this for you; what have done for me?” Seventeen-year-old Havergal was so profoundly moved that she went straight home and began writing a poem. She spent quite some time trying to write out her thoughts.

Eventually, Francis gave up and threw her paper into the fire…or so she thought. Most accounts state that the paper flew out of the fire and onto the floor. Her father, coming in later, found the paper and encouraged her to finish the hymn. He even helped her compose its first version. Then, several years later, P.B. Bliss arranged the tune that we sing it with today.

Havergal would go on to write many, many more hymns of the faith. Many of them are still being sung today. In her book, Kept for the Master’s Use, she reflects, “The Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep. Oh, wonderful gift! Not promised, but given; not to friends, but to enemies. Given without condition, without reserve without return. Himself unknown and unloved, His gift unsought and unasked, He gave His life for thee…and we for whom He gave it have held back, and hesitated to give our lives, not even for Him…but to Him.”

Let us not miss the profound question that this young lady reminds us of: Christ gave Himself fully for us, must not we give ourselves fully to Him? May the Lord help us to consecrate our lives entirely to God’s will. We also do well to remember just how mightily God can use the humble offerings of one young woman. Determine to give yourself to the great Giver today!


Communion Meditation

Amazing Grace: 36

While this prayer by King David teaches us a lesson of thanksgiving and humility, it is a passage that was used in a popular hymn written by John Newton. Have you ever wondered who wrote some of the most popular hymns? Have you wondered for what purpose they were written? There are hundreds of hymns in the world, some incredibly well-known across numerous countries. The growing popularity of these hymns may make one wonder, how or why they gained so much traction in their journey throughout the world. Let’s dive deeper into the story behind the song of “Amazing Grace.”

It was December 1772, in Olney England. At the age of 47, John Newton, began the writing of a hymn that would grow increasingly more popular over the next 349 years. In his song, “Amazing Grace,” Newton writes about a grace that is immense; he writes about amazing grace, one that saved him out of his wretchedness. By looking within the hymn “Amazing Grace,” one is able to understand a little bit about Newton’s personal conversion. Although every person’s conversion story is unique, there is something about this hymn that remains relatable to Christians everywhere. Newton discusses where he was when he found God, or rather, when God found him. He was a wretch. He was lost. He was blind in sin.

Newton grew up with both his mother and father, however, his mother died while his father was away at sea. Newton’s father remarried and the couple had another child. Following in his father’s footsteps, Newton began his life’s career by searching throughout the African coast for slaves to capture and eventually to sell for profit. On one journey, Newton and his crew encountered a storm that swept some of his men overboard and left others with the likelihood of drowning. With both hands fastened onto the wheel of the boat, Newton cried out to God saying, “Lord, have mercy on us.” After eleven hours of steering, the remainder of the crew found safety with the calming of the storm. From then on, Newton dated March 21 as a day set aside for a time of humiliation, prayer, and praise.

Upon arriving safely home, Newton did not venture out to seek more slaves, instead he began to learn Hebrew and Greek. He occasionally accepted requests to speak about his conversion in front of various congregations. Newton was eventually ordained and began to lead his own church. God changed him from a man who was an advocate for the slave trade to a man actively working towards abolishing it. Newton’s literary work against the slave trade encouraged abolitionist William Wilberforce to continue his legal fight against slavery in England.

In later years, Newton began to lose his memory. Although his thoughts were limited, Newton said he could remember two things, “That I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Savior.” With this conviction of newly found life that he found only in Christ, Newton passed from his earthly life in 1807, at the age of 82. Newton did live long enough to see the signing of The Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade.

The song “Amazing Grace,” although originating in England, appeared in the colonies later accompanied with a different tune, more commonly known as “New British.” This song grew in popularity, but not because it was catchy tune, but because the words that Newton wrote related to every human being who encountered the saving grace of Jesus Christ. This song touched many people at various stages of their spiritual walks.

Since the day that Newton penned the lyrics to “Amazing Grace,” it has grown in popularity and has been present at numerous key moments in our country’s history. Newton experienced the darkness and hopelessness of his sin and the consequence of following his own corrupt ways. He focused on fulfilling what he wanted to do in his life instead of looking to the direction of God.

“Amazing Grace” speaks of the sweetness found in Christ’s grace for his children. As humans we are lost, blind in sin, and need saving. Jesus’s saving grace is amazing!

Continuing onto the second stanza, Newton writes that it was grace that taught his heart to fear the punishment of his sin and it was also grace that those fears were relieved. This precious grace appeared when he was standing in that vicious storm, the moment he first believed. Through the trials and storms of life, it is grace that brings us through life, and it is grace that will lead us to heaven.

God has promised goodness and provides his Word in which we can rest our hope. He is our Shield and Portion forever. When our life comes to an end, our possession is joy and peace in Christ. Although our flesh will fail and earth will come to an end, God our creator will remain the same and will be forever with us. When we reach the glorious streets of Heaven, we can sing of God’s praise forever in his presence. Because of God’s sweet and all-encompassing amazing grace, we can have forgiveness for our past, joy in the present and hope for a future with Him.

The song “Amazing Grace” is an account of one person’s conversion story almost 250 years ago, however no matter the amount of time that has gone by, the meaning in this hymn is truth for people all over the world.

John Newton was a man that despicably sold other human beings in the slave trade. As he states in the hymn, he was a wretch, but God found him. He was saved by God’s amazing grace, and it is that grace that sets God’s people free when, at the prodding of the Holy Spirit, we freely accept it for ourselves.


Sermon

Almost Persuaded: 31

The hymn, Almost Persuaded, was suggested to P. P. Bliss after hearing a sermon by Mr. Brundage, who, as he finished his discourse, said, He who is almost persuaded is almost saved, and to be almost saved is to be entirely lost.

Sing and Be Happy: 841

A song which encourages us to serve the Lord with gladness and come before His presence with singing is “Sing and Be Happy” (#683 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #653 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The text was written and the tune was composed both by Emory Speer Peck (1893-1975).  I have been able to find no biographical information about this person, except that Hymnary.org lists him as the author of two additional texts, “As another day is done, at the setting of the sun,” and “I am traveling to the country.”   “Sing and Be Happy” was first published in 1940 by Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Co. in Pearly Gates.  The copyright was renewed by Stamps-Baxter in 1968 and is now owned by the Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing Co. Inc. of Nashville, TN.

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the song has appeared in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 2994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church and the 2010 Songs for Worship and Praise both edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.; and the 2012 Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs edited by Steve Wolfgang et. al.; in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections.

The song contrasts the sadness and sorrow which we often experience with the joy and gladness which God offers.


Announcements & Closing Prayer