Why Have You Chosen Me?

Among the many songs that I have in my music library and love to play on the piano, Why Have You Chosen Me? is one of the finest. It feels like a song that comes from the heart of one who knows exactly what they are: a sinner. The question, “Why have You chosen me out of millions your child to be?” is asked with a certain amount of incredulity because for the questioner, the answer seems to be beyond understanding. And yet, the answer to this question is very simple. “Because I love you.” This question could be asked by every human being who is, or ever has, living and lived on the earth from the beginning of time, and the answer would be the same for every one of them, “Because I love you.”

God created mankind because He wanted children to love and for them to love Him in return. To His newly-created children, Adam and Eve, He gave everything that would delight the eye, and overwhelm the senses. Fragrances that we cannot even comprehend today, filled the air in Eden. Imagine how much we love to walk barefoot in the grass here, and how much more pleasing it will be to walk barefoot upon the sloping landscapes of the new earth. Think of the tastes that God’s children experienced from the food He provided. And in Eden, there was nothing but love. Hatred, selfishness, anger, sorrow, sadness, discouragement, loss none of these had a place there, and soon, very soon, they will be gone forever.

Friend, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done, just come. It doesn’t matter what you’ve said, felt, or imagined, just come. Surrender, and let the Lord make you again into His image. Only then can you live, by His grace and mercy, a life of perfect obedience to His will.

“The Lord wants you to stand in His strength. He wants you to open the windows of the soul heavenward and close them earthward. He wants to reveal His salvation.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 13, 205, 206

“The Lord is our strength. It is safe for us not to build up self, but to let the Lord work His will in and by and through us.”  Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers (1923), 250

 

Why have You chosen me

Out of millions Your child to be?

You know all the wrong I have done.

O, how could You pardon me,

Forgive my iniquity

To save me, give Jesus Your son.

 

I am amazed to know

That a God so great could love me so.

He’s willing and wanting to bless.

His grace is so wonderful,

His mercy so bountiful,

I can’t understand it, I confess.

 

But Lord, help me be

What You want me to be.

Your word I will strive to obey

My life I now give, for You I will live,

And walk by Your side all the way.

by Rodger Strader

“Let the Lord take His way and do His work with me, so that I am refined and purified; and that is all I desire.” Atlantic Union Gleaner, March 17, 1915

Tell It Again Song

Mrs. Mary Bridges Canady Slade was born in Fall River, Massachusetts, in 1826. She was well educated, a teacher, poet, and a minister’s wife. She was an assistant editor of The New England Journal of Education, and the author of a children’s magazine, Wide-Awake. Mary authored hymns, Sunday School materials, and books on education, primarily for training teachers. She and her husband were active in the underground railroad. She spent her entire life living in Fall River, passing away in 1882 at the age of 56. Source: hymnary.org/person/Slade_Mary

I couldn’t find a backstory for this particular song, but it was a favorite, sung in my Primary Sabbath School class when I was a child. So simple a message that even a child can understand that we must take the gospel to everyone.

Tell It Again!

Into the tent where a gypsy boy lay,

Dying alone at the close of the day,

News of salvation we carried; said he,

“Nobody ever has told it to me.”

 

“Did He so love me, a poor little boy?

Send unto me the good tidings of joy?

Need I not perish? My hand will He hold?

Nobody ever the story has told!”

 

Bending, we caught the last words of his breath,

Just as he entered the valley of death,

“God sent His Son!” “Whosoever,” said he;

“Then I am sure that He sent Him for me!”

 

Smiling, he said, as his last sigh he spent,

“I am so glad that for me He was sent!”

Whispered, while low sank the sun in the west,

“Lord, I believe;” “tell it now to the rest!”

 

Tell it again! Tell it again!

Salvation’s story repeat o’er and o’er.

Till none can say of the children of men,

“Nobody ever has told me before.”

Master, the Tempest Is Raging

“Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing!’ But He said to them, ‘Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?’ Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.”

Matthew 8:23–26

You won’t find it in the new Seventh-day Adventist Church Hymnal, but in the old hymnal it is hymn 677. Master, the Tempest is Raging (also titled Peace, be Still) is a song about looking beyond ourselves and our own feeble efforts and putting our faith in the One who made the sea and the wind and who is our Refuge in a time of storm, a Comfort in a time of distress, an Empathizer in a time of loss.

Mary Ann Baker was an American composer and singer born on September 16, 1832. She was very active in her Baptist congregation and well-known for her temperance songs.

She was asked by Dr. H. R. Palmer to compose several songs to go with a series of presentations, in particular, the Bible verses telling how Jesus calmed the tempest.

It hadn’t been long since she had lost both her parents and brother to tuberculosis, and frustrated by the circumstances surrounding her brother’s death, it seems that Master, the Tempest is Raging, was born out of that frustration. I’ll let her tell the story, as she related it to Ira D. Sankey.

“A very dear and only brother, a young man of rare loveliness and promise of character, had been laid in the grave, a victim of the same disease that had already taken father and mother. His death occurred under peculiarly distressing circumstances.

“He was more than a thousand miles away from home, seeking in the balmy air of the sunny South the healing that our colder climate could not give. Suddenly he grew worse. The writer [Mary Ann] was ill and could not go to him.

“For two weeks the long lines of telegraph wires carried back and forth messages between the dying brother and his waiting sisters, ere the word came which told us that our beloved brother was no longer a dweller on the earth.

“Although we mourned not as those without hope, and although I had believed on Christ in early childhood and had always desired to give the Master a consecrated and obedient life, I became wickedly rebellious at this dispensation of divine providence. I said in my heart that God did not care for me or mine. But the Master’s own voice stilled the tempest in my unsanctified heart, and brought it to the calm of a deeper faith and a more perfect trust.”

Dr. Palmer set the words to music, and it has enjoyed appeal among religious schools and churches.

“During the weeks when we kept watch by the bedside of our greatly beloved President Garfield, it was republished as especially appropriate to the time, and was sung at some of the many funeral services held throughout the United States.”

During the 20th century, the hymn gained lasting popularity.

“Suddenly a flash of lightning pierces the darkness, and they see Jesus lying asleep, undisturbed by the tumult. In amazement and despair they exclaim, ‘Master, carest Thou not that we perish?’ … As the lightning’s glare reveals Him, they see the peace of heaven in His face; they read in His glance self-forgetful, tender love, and, their hearts turning to Him, cry, ‘Lord, save us: we perish.’

“Never did a soul utter that cry unheeded. As the disciples grasp their oars to make a last effort, Jesus rises. He stands in the midst of His disciples, while the tempest rages. … He lifts His hand, so often employed in deeds of mercy, and says to the angry sea, ‘Peace, be still.’ … As Jesus rested by faith in the Father’s care, so we are to rest in the care of our Saviour.” Lift Him Up, 57

Master, the tempest is raging!
The billows are tossing high!
The sky is o’ershadowed with blackness,
No shelter or help is nigh;
Carest Thou not that we perish?
How canst Thou lie asleep,
When each moment so madly is threatening
A grave in the angry deep?

Master, with anguish of spirit
I bow in my grief today;
The depths of my sad heart are troubled
Oh, waken and save, I pray!
Torrents of sin and of anguish
Sweep o’er my sinking soul;
And I perish! I perish! dear Master
Oh, hasten, and take control.

Master, the terror is over,
The elements sweetly rest;
Earth’s sun in the calm lake is mirrored,
And heaven’s within my breast;
Linger, O blessed Redeemer!
Leave me alone no more;
And with joy I shall make the blest harbor,
And rest on the blissful shore.

Refrain

The winds and the waves shall obey Thy will,
Peace, be still!

Whether the wrath of the storm tossed sea,
Or demons or men, or whatever it be
No waters can swallow the ship where lies
The Master of ocean, and earth, and skies;
They all shall sweetly obey Thy will,
Peace, be still! Peace, be still!
They all shall sweetly obey Thy will,
Peace, peace, be still!

O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus

“Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us; and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”

Micah 7:18, 19

It is said that O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus was written by Samuel Trevor Francis as a personal testimony after nearly committing suicide as a teenager by jumping from London’s Hungerford Bridge into the Thames River. While there is little evidence to corroborate the story, the hymn itself still stands as a reminder of God’s sustaining, powerful, and immeasurable love.

Francis compares Jesus’ love to the ocean, exemplifying the vastness, unchanging, and sacrificial nature of God’s love for all humanity. The ocean is the largest thing on earth, its deepest point being deeper than the highest mountain on earth. Yet, God’s love is deeper still. We can stand at any point on the coast, and see just a small fraction of it. The ocean is vast, but has its boundaries. God’s love, however, is boundless and free.

We sing of the love of the Father who sent His Son as a sacrifice to redeem us, and who now is interceding on our behalf.

There are several tunes associated with Francis’ words, but the most common is a minor melody in 4/4 time written by Bob Kauflin.

O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
vast, unmeasured, boundless, free,
rolling as a mighty ocean
in its fullness over me.
Underneath me, all around me
is the current of Your love,
leading onward, leading homeward
to Your glorious rest above.

O the deep, deep love of Jesus.
Spread His praise from shore to shore,
how He came to pay our ransom
through the saving cross He bore;
How He watches o’er His loved ones,
those He died to make His own;
How for them He’s interceding,
pleading now before the throne.

O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
far surpassing all the rest.
It’s an ocean full of blessing
in the midst of every test.
O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
mighty Saviour, precious Friend.
You will bring us home to glory,
where Your love will never end.

Sources: hymnary.org/text/o-the-deep-deep-love-of-jesus; Wikipedia.org/wiki/O_the_Deep_Deep_Love_of_Jesus

Songs – Just as I Am

Charlotte Elliott was born on March 18, 1789, in Westfield Lodge, Brighton (England). She was the third of six children, with two brothers and three sisters. Charlotte was highly educated and developed a great passion for music and art at an early age and was surrounded by great refinement and piety in her family.

While still young, Charlotte became “aware of her sinful nature and realized her need to resist sin’s enticements. She felt unworthy to receive God’s grace, and wholly incapable of facing a righteous and perfect God.” She was a frequent visitor at many different churches and the pastors advised her to pray more, study the Bible more, and to do more virtuous deeds.

The first 32 years of her life were spent in Clapham, a district in S.W. London, where she was popular as a portrait artist and wrote humorous verses. In 1821, she suffered a serious illness that removed her from the whirl of social life in London and put her in a position to feel her dire need of a personal Saviour. A pastor visiting in her father’s home, asked her, “Are you at peace with God?” She resented the question at first, but some days later, she called for the pastor to return. She apologized for her behavior and told him that she wanted to cleanse her life before becoming a Christian. But the pastor replied, “Come just as you are.” Charlotte committed her life to Christ that very day.

She had a weak constitution thereafter, but in 1834, undertook the editorial supervision of The Christian Remembrancer Pocket Book and in 1836, the Invalid’s Hymn Book. This she did for the next 25 years and many of her own hymns can be found in these annual publications.

In 1835, Charlotte wrote the hymn Just As I Am. It is sung to at least four different hymn tunes, but the tune Woodworth, written by William B. Bradbury, is the best known and used by congregations the world over today.

Charlotte Elliott died on September 22, 1871. Little did she know that her most famous hymn would become the number one altar call song in the world. It was the song to which Billy Graham gave his heart to the Lord and then used for decades during his own crusades.

Just imagine the number of people who will come to Charlotte Elliott, if she remained faithful, to tell her how this beloved song touched their hearts and helped them to come, just as they were, to the Saviour.

“Jesus loves to have you come to Him just as you are, hopeless and helpless, and cast yourself upon His all-abundant mercy and believe that He will receive you just as you are.” In Heavenly Places, 119

Sources: Wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_as_I_Am_(hymn); Wikipedia.org/wiki/Clapham; Wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlotte_Elliott

 

Just as I am – without one plea,

But that Thy blood was shed for me,

And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee,

O Lamb of God, I come!

 

Just as I am – and waiting not

To rid my soul of one dark blot,

To Thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,

O Lamb of God, I come!

 

Just as I am – though toss’d about

With many a conflict, many a doubt,

Fightings and fears within, without,

O Lamb of God, I come!

 

Just as I am – poor, wretched, blind;

Sight, riches, healing of the mind,

Yea, all I need, in Thee to find,

O Lamb of God, I come!

I Must Tell Jesus

Each morning, before we start the workday here at Steps to Life, we have staff worship. Part of our worship is singing a hymn. Recently, we sang I Must Tell Jesus, and after having sung the hymn, we contemplated what tragedy or discouragement might have befallen the writer of the song to elicit such a heartfelt declaration. I determined to see if I could find out.

I Must Tell Jesus was written, both lyrics and music, by Elisha (E. A.) Hoffman. He was born in 1839 in the town of Orwigsburg, Pennsylvania.

In 1864, at the age of 24, Elisha served in the Union Army during the Civil War. In 1865, he married Susan Orwig, who died in 1875. In 1879, he married Emma Sayres Smith. In total, he had three children, sons Orey and Harry, and daughter Florence.

He worked for eleven years in the Evangelical Association’s publishing house. In 1868, following in his father’s footsteps, he was ordained in the Presbyterian Church. He served as a minister for over 60 years in Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan, spending 33 of those years as pastor of the Benton Harbor Presbyterian Church.

He is credited with writing over 2,000 hymns, such as Are You Washed in the Blood?; Leaning on the Everlasting Arms; and I Must Tell Jesus. He was both lyricist and composer of his songs.

While serving a church in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, he visited a woman who had faced a number of struggles. He relates his visit with her thusly:

“There was a woman to whom God had permitted many visitations of sorrow and affliction. Coming to her home one day, I found her much discouraged. She unburdened her heart, concluding with the question, ‘Brother Hoffman, what shall I do?’ I quoted from the word, then added, ‘You cannot do better than to take all of your sorrows to Jesus. You must tell Jesus.’

“For a moment she seemed lost in meditation. Then her eyes lighted as she exclaimed, ‘Yes, I must tell Jesus.’ As I left her home, I had a vision of that joy-illuminated face, and I heard all along my pathway the echo, ‘I must tell Jesus. I must tell Jesus.’ ”

Upon arriving home, he wrote the words of this beloved hymn and composed the tune he titled “Orwigsburg” after his birthplace. I Must Tell Jesus first appeared in the Pentecostal Hymns hymnal in 1894.

Perhaps some might find the song simplistic or repetitious, since in the four stanzas, with their refrains, the phrase “I must tell Jesus” is repeated twenty-one times. But I think it would be true to say that, sometimes, we most definitely need to be reminded—and reminded again—that Jesus alone is the One who can help us.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you. I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

Elisha Hoffman retired from the ministry in 1922, and died at the age of 90 on November 5, 1929, in Chicago, Illinois.

Sources: dianaleaghmatthews.com/i-must-tell-jesus; hymnary.org/person/Hoffman_Elisha; wordwisehymns.com/2011/12/02/i-must-tell-jesus; Wikipedia; hymnologyarchive.com/elisha-hoffman

I must tell Jesus all of my trials;

I cannot bear these burdens alone;

In my distress, He kindly will help me;

He ever loves and cares for His own.

 

I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!

I cannot bear my burdens alone;

I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!

Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.

Be Still, My Soul

One of my very favorite songs is Be Still, My Soul set to the tune of Finlandia. The words to Be Still, My Soul were written by Katharina von Schlegel in 1752.

Not a lot is known about Katharina. She was born October 22, 1697. She was a Lutheran woman living in Germany a century after Martin Luther began the Reformation there. But movements begun with great passion often wane over time and this was true of the Lutheran church in Germany.

It is believed that Katharina was a “Stiftfräulein” in the Evangelical Lutheran Stift (similar to a convent) at Cöthen, but this cannot be confirmed.

While she wrote a number of hymns, Be Still, My Soul is the only one which has passed into English. She was inspired by God’s promise found in Psalm 46:10, first part, 11, “Be still, and know that I am God; The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”

This hymn survived only because of the work of a British woman, Jane Borthwick, who translated Katharina’s words into English a century after it was written. Eventually, the words were paired with the tune The Finlandia Hymn by composer Jean Sibelius, which he composed from 1899-1900. Finlandia was written in protest of Russian oppression and to celebrate Finnish history. The piece is rousing and tempestuous until the final movement, where it calms and becomes The Finlandia Hymn.

During times of great suffering and distress, people look up to see the face of God. This remains true today just as it was in the 18th century.

Be still, my soul; the Lord is on your side;

Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;

Leave to your God to order and provide;

In ev’ry change He faithful will remain.

Be still, my soul; your best, your heav’nly friend

Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul; your God will undertake

To guide the future as He has the past;

Your hope, your confidence, let nothing shake;

All now mysterious shall be bright at last.

Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know

His voice who ruled them while He lived below.

 

Be still, my soul; when dearest friends depart

And all is darkened in the vale of tears,

Then you will better know His love, His heart,

Who comes to soothe your sorrows and your fears.

Be still, my soul; your Jesus can repay

From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul; the hour is hast’ning on

When we shall be forever with the Lord,

When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,

Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.

Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,

All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Sources: https://sermonwriter.com/hymn-stories/be-still-my-soul; Kathrina von Schlegel | Hymnary.org

 

Joy to the World

A few years ago, a friend emailed me a story told about a mother who encouraged her young son to practice playing the piano, and specifically, to practice his scales. She told him to practice them not only forward, from middle C up the scale to C an octave higher, but to also practice them starting at the octave C and going back down to middle C. I’m not sure that I have everything exactly right about this story, but this part I know is right, she told him, as he played the descending scale, to put pauses at certain points in the scale. When the son did so, he recognized, not just a scale of notes, but the carol Joy to the World. As of right now, I’ve been playing the piano just shy of 60 years, and that was news to me. But let’s look at the real story behind this beautiful song.

The lyrics were written by Isaac Watts in 1719, though not with the intention of becoming a Christmas carol. It was written as a response to or reinterpretation of Psalm 98 and has more to do with Jesus’ second coming than His first.

“Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! For He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory.

“The Lord has made known His salvation, His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations. He has remembered His mercy and His faithfulness to the house of Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

“Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth; break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises. Sing to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of a psalm, with trumpets and the sound of a horn; shout joyfully before the Lord, the King.

“Let the sea roar, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell in it; let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills be joyful together before the Lord, for He is coming to judge the earth. With righteousness He shall judge the world, and the peoples with equity.” Psalm 98

An accomplished and well-known composer and arranger, Lowell Mason arranged the tune used today in 1848. This tune is somewhat reminiscent of a couple of musical phrases found in Handel’s Messiah; although Handel scholars dismiss as mere coincidence the idea that Mason might have “borrowed” these phrases for his arrangement of Joy to the World.

Source: wikipedia.org/wiki/Joy_to_the_World

A joyful and glorious hymn of praise to God for sending His Son, and a looking forward to His soon return, Joy to the World is a wonderful song to sing all throughout the year.

“Joy to the world! The Lord is come;

Let Earth receive her King;

Let every heart prepare Him room,

And heaven and nature sing,

And heaven and nature sing,

And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.”