Happy To Welcome You To The Hallelujah Chorus

I will exalt you my God, the King, I will praise your name forever and ever. Every day I will praise you and exalt your name forever and ever. Psalm 145:1-2

Monday, September 17, 2012

"Songs of Deliverance"

If ignoring God is the crown jewel of human arrogance, hiding from him is the epitome of human ignorance. The assumption that we humans can do either is both futile and fatal. Why would the human spirit even listen to the deceit of Satan, the one who KNOWS from firsthand experience, that we're only fooling ourselves if we even have the thought that God doesn't know all there is to be known? If you ignore God long enough and if you hide in the shadows of darkness long enough, that becomes a lifestyle of lies and constant fear of the unknown.

I praise my Father that even though he had to stick it out with me a long time, I can now hear him sing in my spirit just like King David of old. His life had its ups and downs too and he turned his back to God for a short period, but his faith was always strong enough to bring him back. That's my story too.

        "Let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when the waters
          rise, they will not reach him. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble
          and surround me with songs of deliverance."      Psalm 32:6-7 NIV

Until I was writing a journal from David's Psalms for my daughter I am sure I had never thought of God as singing. Somehow, the vision of God I had grown up with didn't create that kind of picture of who he is or what he does. After I became a father, I gradually learned how to do that from God. His fatherhood paints for us the perfect picture of how a father thinks and acts on behalf of those he loves.

Now, as I recall those early days of fatherhood, I have vivid memories of sitting in a rocking chair late at night holding a small baby who was having trouble sleeping, rocking and softly singing. The amazing thing is it always worked. Some nights required more rocking and singing than others, but it always worked. Now, I am comfortable with allowing God, my Father, to do the same for me in difficult situations.

         "The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you
          he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."  Zephaniah 3:17 NIV

What does that mean for me? I fully realize this prophecy is directed to the nation of Israel and specifically about Jerusalem, however it says something about the fatherhood of God that is his nature. He is "mighty", he "takes great delight" in his family, his "love" expresses itself most when we feel afraid or defeated, he rejoices over us with "singing".

Disagree if you feel you must, but I feel that my Father God sometimes sings over me through the songs of my family, especially my grandchildren, sometimes when in assembled worship with my church family and often through uplifting Christian music that I listen to daily. However, there are also times when I feel him singing to my spirit at times I really need comforting or encouraging. What does he sing? I truly don't think I am capable of putting it into words. He just lets me know I am his and he wont let go - EVER!

Have you heard God sing? I am willing to confidently affirm that you have if you are his child. Get your Bible and read Romans 8, carefully, at least two or three times. You will hear God SING!  HALLELUJAH!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

"Precious Lord Take My Hand" Hymn Stories #4

One evening last week I was mindlessly channel surfing and came across a show on GAC that was featuring performances of spiritual songs on the Grand Ole Opry. The thing that immediately caught my attention was a performance of Ronnie Milsap, a singer I have admired and appreciated for many years but haven't seen or heard much of in the last two decades. He was telling a story in his animated way about a man named Tommy Dorsey. I knew that name from the past because during the early days of television Tommy and his brother Jimmy Dorsey were very popular with their orchestra. Well, according to Ronnie Milsap, THAT Tommy Dorsey wasn't a famous hymn writer as some had assumed.

Thomas Dorsey was born in Georgia in 1899, the son of an African American minister. When Thomas was a young pre-teen the family moved to Atlanta where he developed a love of the blues. Later when they moved again to Chicago, Dorsey eventually began playing piano in local blues and jazz clubs and writing. music. He also attended classes to learn more about music composition to further his career. However, he attended the National Baptist Convention in Chicago in 1921 and soon began composing hymns instead. Gradually his hymn writing began to capture more attention and eventually became his passion. Some time in August of 1932 he was in St Louis on business and received word that his wife had died. After driving all night to get home he learned that his baby son had also died during the birth. His life was shattered to the point that he later wrote, "I didn't want to serve Him (God) anymore or write gospel songs". But that feeling only lasted a few days until he again sat down and put his fingers on a keyboard. He wrote, "As my fingers began to manipulate over the keys, words began to fall in place on the melody like drops of water falling from the crevice of a rock."

Precious Lord, take my hand
Lead me on, let me stand
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn
Thru the storm,
Thru the night
Lead me on, to the light
Take my hand,
Precious Lord lead me home.

Thomas A. Dorsey went on to compose many memorable hymns, such as "Peace In The Vally" and has been honored as the so-called "Father of Gospel Music".

This beautiful hymn puts me in mind of a group of Psalms known as the Passover or Hallel Psalms. They were sung during Passover and at many other times by the Jews even in Jesus' day as the haggidah,  a liturgical re-telling of Israel's deliverance from Egypt by Yahweh. Consisting of Psalm 113-118 this group of songs sort of carry the same message as "Precious Lord, Take My Hand". In English vernacular, the word Hallel translates to HALLELUJAH, or Praise the Lord. See what you think from this short excerpt -

"I called on the Lord in distress, The Lord answered me and set me in a broad place. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The Lord is for me among those who help me ...... It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put trust in princes." Psalm 118:5-7 NASB

Thankfully, I have never had to face the same test of my faith that Mr Dorsey did but I am very grateful to him for having the faith to encourage my spirit for many years with his powerful prayer. I have sung and prayed it often. HALLELUJAH!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

"In Christ Alone" Hymn Songs #3

One of my most deeply moving worship experiences in recent years occurred a few years ago in Searcy, Arkansas at the College Church of Christ. The Rose and I were there visiting with our kids at Harding University and when we went with them to worship on Sunday we all sat on the very front row. I really didn't plan this but maybe my Father did because that morning he gave me a gift that has changed something in me forever. I sat next to my beautiful daughter Felicia, but there's more to this story. That morning the worship leader had chosen a song I had never heard.. Being unfamiliar with the lyrics and instead of trying to just stumble through the song, I sat and listened to Felicia's beautiful voice singing the lyrics to "In Christ Alone". Almost immediately those absolutely soul stirring words coupled with the beauty of my daughter's clear, strong voice turned on the tears. I just sat there and cried. Couldn't sing a note. I still can't.

This very morning in worship, years later, we sang that song and I still cannot get through it. In fact, every time I have tried to sing it since that first time I heard my daughter sing it, I cannot even get the words to come out of my mouth. This morning I was sitting beside a young guy whom I love very much and even though he didn't mention it to me, I feel sure he was wondering why I wasn't singing and kept wiping my eyes.

"IN CHRIST ALONE" the story.

The birth of this hauntingly beautiful hymn occurred because Keith Getty and Stuart Townsend met in the fall of 2002 at a worship event through a mutual friend. They began to discuss the possibility of collaborating on some hymn writing projects and Getty told Townsend he would send him some melodies that he had been working on. It wasn't long before Townsend received a recording of three such melodies, the first of which was to become their first collaborative effort. Townsend was moved by that first melody and immediately began to jot down lyrical ideas. Over a period of a few weeks the two changed it a little here and there but they were able to achieve their shared goal to "capture biblical truth in songs and hymns that will not only cause people to express their worship in church but will build them up in their Christian lives."

There is more to the story of this profound song, but I would rather you read it for yourself from those who actually wrote it. You can go to gettymusic.com and youtube and hear the very moving performance of it by Keith Getty's wife, Kristyn and also hear Stuart Townsend talk about it's creation.

"Till on that cross, as Jesus died
the wrath of God was satisfied
for every sin on him was laid
here in the death of Christ I live."
"No matter how many times I hear that verse, I get chills up my spine. The picture of Christ standing in victory, the image of sin's grip being broken and the promise that I cam his and knowing in fact that he is mine, brings him incredibly close to me."

Those words written in a letter to Getty and Townsend by a soldier, pretty much sums it up for me too. Once again this morning I was able to relive that indescribable moment in time that my Father touched my spirit and moved me to understand and appreciate at a deeper level his love for me with those words coming from the heart and spirit of my sweet daughter. I am never ashamed of the tears that always come.  All I can say is HALLELUJAH!