Tuesday Hymns: “O God, Most Holy Are Your Ways”

The Psalter, 1912 is the source of hymn number thirty-nine in The Trinity Hymnal, O God, Most Holy Are Your Ways, which is our Tuesday Hymn of the Week. It is based on the text of Psalm 77:13-20, and is a reminder to the people of God that “the Almighty Shepherd” is the one who keeps His people safe, even during this world’s most violent tempests.

There have surely been times in our lives when “none understood but God alone,” but the comforting fact is that even then, He was at work in our lives to “finish the work” that He had started in all of those who have been justified through the finished work of Christ. May we trust in His promise that He will “never leave us, nor forsake us” in this present age or in the age to come. This song is often sung to the tune, VATER UNSER. Another appropriate tune that would fit the text (and also be much easier to sing) is ST. PETERSBURG.

O God, most holy are your ways,
And who like you deserves my praise?
You only do such wondrous things,
The whole wide world your glory sings;
Your outstretched arm your people saved,
Though sore distressed and long enslaved.

O God, from you the waters fled,
The depths were moved with mighty dread,
The swelling clouds their torrents poured,
And o’er the earth the tempest roared;
‘Mid lightening’s flash and thunder’s sound
Great trembling shook the solid ground.

Your way was in the sea, O God,
Through mighty waters, deep and broad;
None understood but God alone,
To man your footsteps were unknown;
But safe your people you did keep,
Almighty Shepherd of your sheep.

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Concerning “Soul Patches” and “Leisure Suits”

There are some things a person hates to admit. For example, I once owned several polyester leisure suits, enjoyed listening to Andy Gibb, and never missed Welcome Back, Kotter! on television. Those things were a part of the culture of the 1970s and it is probably a good thing that they now lay on the ash heap of history, and that, my friends, is the “sticky wicket” of cultural relevancy: By the time one embraces culture, it has already moved on.

Cultural relevance is considered by some in the church to be a prerequisite of reaching a fallen world with the truth of the Gospel, however, the Scriptures seem to say something totally different. We are told to be “salt and light” in a decaying and dark world. Salt is able to slow down decay because it is “different” from the meat to which it has been applied, and light is helpful because it is inherently “different” than the darkness it dispels. The world does not need a church that is a mirror image of itself in order to hear the Gospel.

Our worship services do not need to sound like a U2 or Toby Keith concert, our sermons do not need to resemble a David Letterman monologue, and our church organization does not to look like a Fortune 500 corporate chart. It would be much wiser to listen to the words of the Lord in Jeremiah 6: 16 where He says, “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.”

If our calling in life is to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever” we must ask ourselves where we can find the direction to do just that, and the answer is to be found in the second answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “The word of God, which is contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.” So, if I were you, I wouldn’t focus on “fitting in” with the transient culture of this age, but focus on the ordinary and timeless means of Word, Prayer, and Sacraments in our gathered assemblies of corporate worship.

Feel free to wear the “soul patch,” and I really have no problem with your tattoo (although it is important to remember that those things are permanent), but remember that it will not be long before it will join my leisure suits, and my 8 Track Tape of Andy Gibb in a box on the back wall of a storage building. (I am speaking metaphorically, I realize the soul patch and tatoo can not be placed in a box [although it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea]) ;^)

Tuesday Hymns: “Jesus Sinners Doth Receive”

Erdmann Neumeister (12 May 1671 – 18 August 1756) was a German Lutheran pastor during the first half of the 18th century, and is the author of our Tuesday Hymn of the Week: Jesus Sinners Doth Receive. The message of the hymn is the same as we find in the first two verses of Psalm 32: “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”

Although, as the hymn states, “on God’s grace we have no claim,” He has, through Christ’s perfect life and sacrificial death, provided salvation for His people. The message that “Jesus doth sinners receive” gives us the assurance that our sins are forgiven, not through any thing that we have done, or might do; but through the manifold grace of God. The hymn has been attached to Johann Crüger’s tune, JESUS, MEINE ZUVERSICHT, and Christian Keymann’s MEINEM JESUM LASS’ ICH NICHT.

Jesus sinners doth receive:”
Word of surest consolation;
Word all sorrow to relieve,
Word of pardon, peace, salvation!
Naught like this can comfort give:
“Jesus sinners doth receive.”

On God’s grace we have no claim,
Yet to us his pledge is given;
He hath sworn by his own Name,
Open are the gates of heaven.
Take to heart this word and live:
“Jesus sinners doth receive.”

When a helpless lamb doth stray,
After it, the Shepherd, pressing
Thro’ each dark and dang’rous way,
Brings it back, his own possessing.
Jesus seeks thee, O believe:
“Jesus sinners doth receive.”

O, how blest it is to know:
Were as scarlet my transgression,
It shall be as white as snow
By thy blood and bitter passion;
For these words I now believe:
“Jesus sinners doth receive.”

Now my conscience is at peace,
From the Law I stand acquitted;
Christ hath purchased my release
And my ev’ry sin remitted.
Naught remains my soul to grieve—
“Jesus sinners doth receive.”

Tuesday Hymns: Psalm 78:1-8

At our Sunday night service (yes, some churches still have those) we sang Psalm 78 (at least we sang the first eight verses) as praise to God, and to remind each other of the responsibility that God has given to each of us to raise our children in “the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” The Psalmist speaks of “not hiding God’s sayings from our sons,” of “telling the race to come of Yahweh’s praises and strength,” of encouraging those “yet unborn…to trust in God, recall God’s works, and His commandments heed,” and to not be faithless as so many of their fathers were.

We sang this wonderful Psalm to the tune, ELLENCOMBE.

O ye my people, to my law
Attentively give ear;
The words that from my mouth proceed
Incline yourselves to hear.
My mouth shall speak a parable,
The sayings dark of old,
Which we have listened to and known
As by our fathers told.

We will not hide them from their sons
But tell the race to come
Jehovah’s praises and His strength,
The wonders He has done.
His word He unto Jacob gave,
His law to Is-ra-el,
And bade our fathers teach their sons
The coming race to tell,

That children yet unborn might know
And their descendants lead
To trust in God, recall God’s works,
And His commandments heed,
And not be like their fathers were,
A race of stubborn mood,
Which never would prepare its heart
Nor keep its faith with God.

“The Other Man’s Grass is Always Greener”

In the early 1960s, Petula Clark sang a popular song entitled, “The Other Man’s Grass is Always Greener.” The chorus contained the following message:

The other man’s grass is always greener
The sun shines brighter on the other side
The other man’s grass is always greener
Some are lucky, some are not
Just be thankful for what you’ve got.

Now as a good Presbyterian who believes in the inerrancy of Scripture, I have no use for the fourth line (“some are lucky, some are not”) since I know that there is no such thing as luck or fate. As the Shorter Catechism states, “God’s works of providence are His most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all His creatures and all their actions.” However, it is far too common for each of us to want more than what we have.

We spend our time thinking that if only we had _____________ (you fill in the blank), then all would be right with the world. Sadly, that isn’t true. If we were to get __________, then there would be something else that we would desire. When John D. Rockefeller was asked how much was enough money, he replied, “Just a little more.”

Stop looking over the fence at the other man’s grass and focus on what God has blessed you with in Christ: “justification, adoption and sanctification, and the several benefits which in this life do either accompany or flow from them.” (WSC 32) The believer in Christ has been declared righteous with the righteousness of Christ, has been adopted into the family of God, and God is working by His Word and Spirit to sanctify him, and grow him up in His grace. So remember what the Tenth Commandment directs: “Thou Shalt Not Covet,” and bear in mind what Paul wrote to Timothy:

6 Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:6-10)

Tuesday Hymns: “Now Blessed Be the Lord Our God”

Because Presbyterians have a great heritage of Psalm singing, many of the hymns in The Trinity Hymnal were originally in Psalters. Our Tuesday Hymn for this week, Now Blessed Be the Lord Our God, is one such hymn. This hymn, which was taken from the 1650 Scottish Psalter, speaks of God’s reign over all the earth. We, as God’s people are not waiting to take ownership of the land between the Euphrates River and the Nile; we are looking forward to the day when we will enter the new heavens and the new earth. On that day, “every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, [which covers everyone] and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:10-11)

This hymn has traditionally been sung to the tune, DUNDEE, but The Trinity Hymnal editors united it with the tune, MCKEE.

Now blessèd be the Lord our God,
The God of Israel.
For He alone doth wondrous works
In glory that excel.

His wide dominion shall extend
From sea to shining sea,
And unto earth’s remotest bounds
His peaceful rule shall be.

Yea, all the kings shall bow to Him,
His rule all nations hail;
He will regard the poor man’s cry
When other helpers fail.

And blessèd be His glorious Name
To all eternity;
The whole earth let His glory fill,
Amen, so let it be.

Our Personal Paradise

Ryan McGraw over at Meet the Puritans posted a quote from Thomas Boston’s exposition of the tenth commandment that caught my eye: “Every one is to look on his own condition, as the paradise that God has set him down in; and though it be planted with thorns and briers, he must not look over the hedge; for thou shalt not covet” (Works, II, 336).

At first glance, we might think, “Paradise! He is not experiencing the same life that I am experiencing!” But we must understand, if we believe the Bible, that God has placed us exactly where He wants us, with exactly the gifts He wants us to have, with exactly the friends and enemies that He want us to experience, with exactly the resources with which He chose to bless us, and that He has done all of this to “cause all things to work together for good to those who love [Him], to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Rom. 8:28) As Calvinists we often preach God’s Sovereignty, while at the same time chafing at the providence that we are experiencing.

Now, don’t misunderstand me; I am not saying for you to pretend your circumstances are not sometimes painful, but I am encouraging you to take comfort in the fact that God is at work in your pain for your eternal good. He makes no mistakes in His dealings with His children. As Charles Spurgeon said so well:

It would be a very sharp and trying experience to me to think that I have an affliction which God never sent me, that the bitter cup was never filled by his hand, that my trials were never measured out by him, nor sent to me by his arrangement of their weight and quantity.”

I would encourage you to click on Meet the Puritans and read what Pastor McGraw has to say about Boston’s comment.