March 17, 2024

Call To Worship

God’s Family: 855

A song which encourages us to be affectionate one to another as brothers and sisters in Christ is “God’s Family” (#643 in Hymns for Worship Revised).  The text was written and the tune was composed both by Lanny Lavon Wolfe, who was born on Feb. 2, 1942, at Columbus, OH.  His father, Pearl, was a railroad engineer, and his mother, Precious, was the daughter of a Methodist preacher.  At age nine, he began taking piano lessons from Frank Meier but did not learn how to read notes and so had to play the piano by ear.  Educated at Ohio State University, he received his baccalaureate degree in business education, and began teaching in Columbus public schools first at Crestview Junior High School and then at Whetstone High School. Going to night school, he finished his MBA there as well.  In 1963 he was married to Marietta Wolfe.  A talented church musician, he was offered a job at International Christian Life College, a United Pentecostal Bible school in Stockton, CA, from 1965 to 1966 to teach worship music.  Without any formal training in music, he felt very inadequate about teaching at the Bible College level, so he signed up for music theory at San Joaquin Junior College in Stockton, leading him to return to a traditional learning atmosphere, where he eventually received his bachelor’s degree in Music Education from San Jose (CA) State University. He eventually finished a second Master’s in the same field and has also studied at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, IL.

After serving as head the music departments at several Bible schools affiliated with the United Pentecostal Church, including Gateway College of Evangelism in St. Louis, Missouri from 1968 to 1974; and Jackson College of Ministries in Jackson, Mississippi from 1974 to 1993, where he was also a minister with the First Pentecostal Church, he has served as music director at a charismatic non-denominational church in Houston, TX, as well as being a music instructor at South Texas Bible Institute, also in Houston.  His first song was published in 1971.  In addition, he directed the Lanny Wolfe Singers and Band.  This originally consisted of himself, his wife Marietta, and Dave Petersen. During the 80s, the group added others as Dave Petersen departed, followed by Marietta who left to raise their children. Eventually, the trio comprised young talent mostly taken from the student body of the Jackson College of Ministries. His last three albums listed the troupe simply as The Lanny Wolfe Singers, and on final one, the “Singers” were from a local church where he ministered at, since he was no longer affiliated with JCM. Also, for sixteen years he was a composer with the Benson Company of Nashville, TN.  Lanny is presently serving as CEO for Paradigm Music Productions, writing, conducting choir clinics at churches across the country and accompanying members of the original Lanny Wolfe Trio for reunion concerts at selected churches and venues throughout the nation.

A member of the United Pentecostal Church, Lanny related that before he wrote “God’s Family” he had participated in a meeting with a missionary from Asia who used an interesting illustration.  The speaker said that he been invited to share a meal with some local residents of a small community in Asia and noticed as he was finishing his food that others were searching frantically and inquiring about a missing dog.  As the story was being told, it became clear that the missing dog could well have been part of the meal.  The missionary could make the audience laugh one minute, and then instantly turn it around to sober everyone’s thinking up.  The experience of laughter and crying just moments apart inspired the lines, “Some-times we laugh together, sometimes we cry.”  What Lanny felt that night reminded him of all the emotions which happen in a physical family and also in the family of God.  The song was first published in 1974.  He won two Dove Awards from the Gospel Music Association in 1984 for Song of the Year, and Songwriter of the Year for his song, “More than Wonderful,” a song whose recording by gospel singers Sandi Patti and Larnelle Harris earned them a Grammy award. He has also served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Gospel Music Association.  By 1991, he had produced over 300 songs and ten musicals.

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “God’s Family” has appeared in the 1977 Special Sacred Selections edited by Ellis J. Crum; the 1983 edition of the 1978 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed. and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praiseboth edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; and the 2010 Songs for Worship and Praise edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.; in addition to Hymns for Worship Revised (not in the original edition).

Welcome and Opening Prayer
Scripture Reading

Be with me Lord: 40

A hymn which asks the Lord to honor His promise never to leave nor forsake us is “Be With Me, Lord” (#72 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #27 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Thomas Obadiah Chisholm (1866-1960). Chisholm was a school teacher and newspaper editor who became a Methodist minister but gave that work up because of poor health and went into the insurance business. A prolific hymn text author, he also wrote “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” for William M. Runyan, “O to Be Like Thee” for William J. Kirkpatrick, “Only in Thee” for Charles H. Gabriel, and “Living for Jesus” for C. Harold Lowden. The tune (Sanderson) for “Be With Me, Lord” was composed by Lloyd Otis Sanderson (1901-1992). Sanderson was a long-time music editor for the Gospel Advocate Co. of Nashville, TN, and compiled three major hymnbooks for that firm.

Sanderson and Chisholm never met, but they maintained an active correspondence by mail. In 1934 Sanderson, who was living in Springfield, MO, was working on a hymnbook and one evening had a tune with an unusual meter come to mind. Stopping to jot down the melody and completing the harmony later that night, he searched for words to fit but found none. Eight days later, he received a letter from Chisholm, who lived in Vineland, NJ, with a poem, telling of an incident that occurred to him the same night that Sanderson came up with his tune. Chisholm had gone to bed, but some words came to mind, so he got up and wrote them down. They matched Sanderson’s tune exactly. The song was first published in the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1) edited by Sanderson and others for the Gospel Advocate Co. It is probably the most popular of all Sanderson’s hymns, and the best known of Sanderson’s and Chisholm’s dozen or so collaborations which include “All Things Work Together for Good,” “Bring Christ Your Broken Life,” and “A New Creature” or “Buried With Christ.”

In addition to Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and Christian Hymns (No. 1), among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “Be With Me, Lord,” has appeared in the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2 and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 both edited by Sanderson; the 1952 Hymns of Praise and Devotion edited by Will W. Slater; the 1959 Majestic Hymnal No. 2 and the 1978 Hymns of Praise both edited by Reuel Lemmons; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal No. 2 edited by Tillit S. Teddlie; the 1975 Supplement to the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 originally edited by Elmer L. Jorgenson; 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 Revisededited by Forrest M. McCann; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat; 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.

Break Thou the Bread of Life: 59

Mary Lathbury (1841-1913) was the daughter of a Methodist minister, and the sister to 2 Methodist ministers. She was better known as a commercial artist than as a hymnwriter, and her illustrations appeared regularly in popular American magazines. But she was concerned about superficial Christianity. So many Christians didn’t seem to have any depth. Their Bible reading only scratched the surface, and they had no understanding of how culture and education could enrich their Christian lives.

During the summers, Mary often vacationed at Lake Chautauqua in New York, and shared her burden with others who vacationed there at the same time. Soon the Chautauqua movement was founded. Mixing Christian inspiration, culture, and education, the movement spread rapidly across the country. Knowing Mary’s concern that people study the Bible to get into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ, the leader of the movement asked her to write a hymn that would serve as their Assembly Anthem.

This hymn is often sung as a Communion hymn in churches today, primarily because of its reference to “bread”. But Mary actually wrote it to encourage Christians to go “beyond the sacred page” of their Bible and let Jesus reveal Himself to them as they read the “bread of life”.

Communion Meditation

Sing to Me of Heaven: 583

A song which expresses a desire for the place where the gates are pictured as pearls and the street as gold is “Sing To Me Of Heaven” (#208 in Hymns for Worship Revisedand #444 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Ada Powell (1882-?). No further information is available on this hymnwriter besides the fact that she’s written a couple of other songs which have appeared in various hymnbooks used by churches of Christ, such as “There’s A Crown for Your Cross” and “The Heart Shall Reap in Joy,” both with music by Austin Hazelwood.

     The tune (Beall) was composed by Benjamin Burke Beall, who was born on May 25, 1874, in Dallas, GA. Not much information is known about him either, other than that he graduated in music and elocution from the Texas Musical Institute and founded B.B. Beall and Co. which published hymnbooks in the early decades of the twentieth century. Probably his best-known tune is that used with the song “Lift Him Up,” which he published in 1903 with words by Johnson Oatman Jr.  Beall was living at Douglasville, GA, when “Sing to Me of Heaven” was copyrighted in 1914.  Its first known appearance in a songbook was apparently in Waves of Salvation, published at Dalton, GA, in 1922, by Anthony J. Showalter.  Beall died on Oct. 7, 1945, probably at Douglasville.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ the song appeared in the 1938 Spiritual Melodies and the 1943 Standard Gospel Songs both edited by Tillit S. Teddlie; the 1940 Complete Christian Hymnal edited by Marion Davis; the 1944 Gospel Songs and Hymns, and the 1952 Hymns of Praise and Devotion both edited by Will Slater; the 1959 Majestic Hymnal and the 1978 Songs of Praise both edited by Reuel Lemmons; 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 1986Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; as well as Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.


Teach Me Lord to Wait: 884

He was a 45-year old former alcoholic, singing cowboy, actor, radio personality, and presidential candidate (see his and his running mate’s 1952 campaign button here) when he wrote something, with a little help from what he must have been reading. Stuart Hamblen certainly didn’t look the part of a shy, retreating fellow – in fact, the apparent reverse of the person that had lived four decades in the limelight — when he made the heavenward appeal “Teach Me Lord to Wait”. Maybe he was drawing upon his family background when he wrote the words. Could the words also have been a reflection of where he’d been, the re-creation he now was, and where he wanted to go? It was mid-life for this native Texan, but he wasn’t headed downhill and certainly wasn’t all used up.

Stuart Hamblen began life in Texas, but really hit it big in California, in more ways than one. His father was a preacher in Texas, which must have given Stuart at least some of the background for what would take place in mid-life, after a tumultuous two decades in entertainment adventures. Hamblen was a 1930s radio and country-western movie star, and it wasn’t long until he had a record contract too. He owned race horses for a time, and by 1938 even ran for Congress (though he lost in a close race). All along the way he tried to manage the stress of his celebrity status with alcohol and gambling, a descent that found its bottom via an encounter with Billy Graham in 1949. Stuart gave himself to God, and perhaps any remaining conversion skeptics began to believe when he subsequently declined to promote beer on the radio, for which he was fired from his show. Perhaps his father’s career as a minister in Texas got Stuart’s attention during this time, too; it was in 1946 that Dr. J.H. Hamblen established the Evangelical Methodist Church in Abilene. Until 1952, the converted Stuart hosted a Christian radio show The Cowboy Church of the Air, and also ran on the Prohibition Party’s national ticket for president in the same year (though losing to Dwight Eisenhower). By 1953, this 45-year old was a twice-loser for public office, but also a converted drunk and still popular country-western musician, whose Christian faith stuck with him; Billy Graham delivered the eulogy at his funeral in 1989. “Teach Me Lord…” gestated in Stuart’s mind during these days in the early ‘50s, when he as a newfound believer and successful popular figure. Its words indicate he sought his direction from above; perhaps he also suspected the gracious Lord would bless him further – as Isaiah’s words suggested to that prophet when he thought of himself as airborne with God’s eagle wings (Isaiah 40:31).

Hamblen wasn’t finished in 1953, despite losing an election the previous year. Two of his most well-known songs came in 1954 and 1955 – “This Ole House” and “Open Up Your Heart and Let the Sunshine In”. In 1963 he testified at one Graham crusade about his Christian faith and sang perhaps his best-known song “It Is No Secret, What God Can Do”. Between 1970 and 1999 Stuart became a member of several halls of fame – and those were just some of the highlights. He’d waited, and the Lord let him soar. What do you think he’s seeing from that eagle’s perch now?

Announcements & Closing Prayer