Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wonderful Grace of Jesus – Haldor Lillenas

If you’ve not heard the name Haldor Lillenas, you may in fact know something about him through a song that sounds familiar, perhaps one that appears to be written by Virginia Rose Golden, Laverne Gray, Richard Hainsworth, Rev. H. N. Lines, Robert Whitmore or Ferne Winters. They’re all pseudonyms that Lillenas used to publish his own songs. If you’ve ever been in a church (especially a Nazarene church), you may have sung one of his 4,000 hymns, perhaps the most well-known of which is “Wonderful Grace of Jesus”. Or, maybe you’ve sung from some sheet music that came from the Lillenas Music (Publishing) Company. He’s the same guy, a Gospel Music Hall of Fame inductee in 1982.
Lillenas wrote the song “Wonderful Grace of Jesus” in 1918. He was in his early 30’s (32/33 years old), and the pastor of a Nazarene church in Auburn, Illinois. He and his wife Bertha Mae had little to no money after buying a home nearby, but that didn’t impede Lillenas’s productivity. With $5, he bought a rundown organ from a neighbor, and composed this song soon thereafter. His family’s strong faith had been evident in Lillenas’s early life, probably even before their emigration from Norway to the United States in the 1880s. But, it may have been the events in 1906 that set the stage for Lillenas’s spiritual growth and the genesis of the song. That year in Astoria, Oregon, Lillenas committed himself to Christian work, in the wake of his mother’s death and the fervor he felt hearing and singing the songs in that place. Particularly in Portland, Lillenas saw many people come to Christ, an experience that further solidified his decision to work for Him. The impact of God’s grace apparently stuck with Lillenas over the next decade-plus, as he studied and ministered in Oregon and California.
What would happen if I thought about God’s grace for more than a decade? How long would it take to say all that the subject deserves? Might it be something outrageous, akin to Jonah’s experience of being swallowed by a fish (see the picture above)? That was some grace, wasn’t it?! It seems like those were the thoughts Lillenas was mulling over as he composed the song, considering its words. The theme he dwells on is the grandeur, the extreme nature of this grace. One senses that what Lillenas had seen or felt by 1918 overwhelmed him. ‘Greater than all’, ‘the most’, ‘the uttermost’, ‘for all’, ‘matchless’…these are some of the phrases that Lillenas employs to express his feelings about God’s gift. A doubter might accuse him of hyperbole – after all, how great can a song be that was composed on a $5 organ? But, this is just how our God is -- nothing posh is required for Him. You think God will have this ‘cheap’ grace-song playing for us along the streets of gold?
Biographic information on the composer found in the following:
“The Complete Book of Hymns – Inspiring Stories About 600 Hymns and Praise Songs”, by William J. and Ardythe Petersen, 2006, Tyndale House Publishers.

Friday, December 17, 2010

What Can I Do ? (#2) – Paul Baloche and Graham Kendrick

Paul Baloche is not a brand-new believer, but he sings like one might in the song “What Can I Do?” that he and Graham Kendrick co-composed in 2005. He and Kendrick ask the question, as anyone who discovers God for the first time might. The Creator is also human, disgraced and crucified, the song emphasizes – a mystery that may confound us. But, for the one who wants to know how to respond to Him, the song has the answer too. I may keep asking the question over and over, year after year, trying to make sense of Him, yet the answer Baloche and Kendrick offer is the only one that makes sense, really. See if you think so. (A scoop on this song was orignally published on 26 July, 2009. This scoop # 2 on the same song connects you with Paul Baloche's own thoughts. You can see and hear the story verbatim from Baloche at the following link: )

Paul Baloche says that his collaboration with Graham Kendrick took place at the latter’s invitation for the two to spend some time in Britain (Kendrick’s home) in 2005. Kendrick already had the chorus written, which asks the basic ‘question’ and provides the ‘answer’ too, for the song. ‘What does one do, but say thanks, hallelujah (see the Hebrew text for this word in the picture), and live a life of praise?’, Kendrick had written. Baloche says worship for him is about revelation and response. ‘Revelation comes first’ he says, but perhaps in a way that has not occurred to us before, prompting a response. Take a sunset (verse 1 of the song), which Baloche shares he often uses near his home in Lindale, Texas to show his children God’s beauty. He’s like a great artist, painting colors in the sky for us to admire. It’s just one way, for when the sun goes down, the stars appear, allowing us to imagine Him on top of the vast galaxy. What kind of response makes sense toward One who paints earth’s sky, who has prepared the universe, and revealed Himself in this way? Baloche’s verse 2 sings of another revelation – greater and more personal for us – Jesus’ own life, sacrificed and then rejuvenated. Baloche offers me revelations on two levels, neither of which I can ignore if I’m really being honest with myself.

The creation I can see, and life from death – what can I do without God in either situation? That is the way Baloche has me position myself versus God, as I sing “What Can I Do?”. I cannot escape being here on Earth, can you? Oh, watching sci-fi films is one attempt to break away, but even in outer space I’d be where He’s already been. Are you troubled by thoughts of dying? ‘Don’t be morbid’, someone might say. Well, God-the-Son spoke of it, often. He was scared too, in the garden. But, he conquered it, and says I can too. I cannot escape the universe or the death that awaits. God’s created the one, and overcome the other. I’m sticking with Him. Singing praise, saying ‘Hallelujah’, living for Him…these are all He’s asking me to do in exchange!

Some biographical information on Paul Baloche:

Monday, December 13, 2010

Thou Art Worthy, Great Jehovah (# 2) -- Karen Chandler Eagan Tynan

Karen Eagan has given us the real scoop on the song "Thou Art Worthy, Great Jehovah", a scoop first posted on this blog on December 13, 2008 ! See it in her own words below:
I wrote Thou Art Worthy ,Great Jehovah during a devotion. Some of my other songs have been recorded but it seems that God has truly blessed me through Thou Art Worthy. I shared the song with my then fiancee, Rex Eagan and (he) began to play it on the guitar for me. As we began to sing it in the van, the driver had to pull over because the Spirit of the Lord began to move and he was weeping. The next time we shared it was in a County Jail and as I began to share the line Abba Father with the inmates they began to weep. About a month later we shared the song at Church on the Rock and Pastor Larry Lea, prophesied and said, "Karen and Rex that song will be heard around the world" within 6 months..Dr. Yonghii Cho, Pastor Robert Tilton, Pastor Larry Lea satellited a New Years' service around the world. Guess which song the Pastors' decided they wanted led? "Thou Art Worthy, Great Jehovah" WOW! God had blown it around the world.
Years later...and many songs later, the Lord began to give me verses to Thou Art Worthy and said, this is where this song came from. I was an abused child and the Lord had healed and delivered me and when you read the verses you will understand a little more.
vs.1... Here I am alone in my room, thinking about what I've been through. Though the years of pain and fear have left behind the stains of tears, Still in my heart these words keep ringing and then my spirit begins singing.
Chorus:Thou art worthy, Great Jehovah. Thou art worthy, Mighty God. Thou art worthy, Abba Father. Thou art worthy, Lamb of God
Vs.2 Here You are, Your Presence is so real to to deliver cleanse and heal. And as my hands begin to raise, so my lips break forth in praise.
....That is the "rest of the story". After I began the verses I have had women tell me," the only song that I could listen to when I had to lock my abusive (husband) out of my room was 'Thou art worthy', now I understand". more precious story. I was ministering at a nursing home for Christmas one year. An elderly man wheeled his wheelchair to me and said, " I love all the old hymns you all are leading but I was wondering if you knew a song that I used to sing in church? 'Thou Art Worthy Great Jehovah'! I said, 'yes sir I know it, did you know it had verses? Let me sing them to you and you join me in the chorus.' By the time I had sung the 1st verse and he joined me in the chorus I really understood where Thou Art Worthy came from. A wounded heart, soul, body that was totally delivered and healed by Him.
The above was shared with the blog author on 11 December 2010 on Facebook.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Lord Is In His Holy Temple -- God

Habakkuk, William Kirkpatrick, and God. What do these people have in common? One being is timeless, another one lived some 2,600 years ago, and another is a relative babe compared to the other two (he lived in the 19th and early 20th Centuries). Yet, they all knew the words “The Lord Is In His Holy Temple”, a song that is one of the more unique compositions among Christian songs. Oh, the words seem pretty familiar, exhorting the audience (fellow Christians) to hold Him in reverence (perhaps as Solomon and the Israelites did, see the picture). But, who wrote the words? It might surprise you, as the exploration of the song did for me.

William Kirkpatrick wrote the music for the song in 1900, and the words first appeared in the prophet Habakkuk’s brief volume (Habakkuk 2:20) that was written in probably the 7th Century B.C (the 600s), but the words are not composed by the prophet. Instead, they are God’s. Habakkuk is sharing his angst with the Lord over injustice in the southern kingdom, and then his shock over God’s solution – sending Babylonia to punish the nation. The context of God’s song verse (2:20) is His discourse about idol worship’s futility, versus the True God. What has brought God to this point? Judah had survived the foreign invader longer than its northern neighbor, Israel, but by 605 B.C. (the approximate time of Habakkuk’s conversation with God) the Lord had seen enough. Idolatry, among other evils, permeated the nation. Habakkuk and his contemporary prophet Jeremiah could both see the approach of destruction. It came after decades of descent, telling us God was indeed patient with disobedience. Though resolute in His punishment on the people, He was not without compassion, for Babylonia would eventually be vanquished. ‘I am still GOD’, He seems to be saying with this verse. A nation will walk away from me, will be punished by evil invaders, and will be restored again – and I, the great I AM, am still here. Where have your idols gotten you?
Had God grown tired of Judah’s national waffle? Unlike Israel, which had a spate of evil kings for all of its 200 years (around 933 – 722 B.C.), Judah had been washed back and forth as bad and good kings reigned throughout its 350-year existence (933-586 B.C), first snubbing Him, then re-embracing Him. How would a volatile relationship like this work if it were person-to-person? I think it’s called divorce, usually, for most people who want stability and fidelity will tolerate nothing less. Think of it on God’s level, who regards time in eons, if you can. ‘Either choose me, or leave me’, He must have thought . And, this wasn’t the first era like this. Remember the 300 years of judges (roughly 1400 – 1100 B.C.) ? Can you hear Him saying ‘What else do I need to do to convince them? If they could just see things the way I do! ‘ Can you see the wheels turning in His head, later ? ‘Hey, what if I could get them to see me?’ I’m in heaven, my holy temple. Would it work if I visited them there, and became like them…? Hey, Jesus, I have an idea….’

See the following link for information about William Kirkpatrick:

Saturday, December 4, 2010

We Will Worship You – Scott Wesley Brown

What would I say to someone after 20-30 years of experience working at something? I might think about all of the things I had done, and count the awards – bask a little. Not the composer, Scott Wesley Brown, who wrote the song “We Will Worship You” in 1997 (which appeared on the 1998 album More Like You). He sings about things that have been lost in the song, but also more importantly what - or rather, whom – he has retained all that time. How does one worship, properly…kneeling before a stone and a flame (see the picture)? He’s been around the world, enough to probably have been jet-lagged and homesick, spreading a worship message. What else lies behind this worship song ?

Many things can be said about Scott Wesley Brown in 1997-98. In 1998, the same year the song appeared on the album, he was ordained into Baptist ministry. He was in his mid-forties, and had been producing Christian music on albums for 24 years already at that point. In fact, he’d been writing songs since the sixth grade in elementary school (about age 12), so he was what someone might call a veteran of the Christian music world. He would also compose a song “I Will Worship You”, so how is the song “We Will Worship You” different? ‘We’ tells us he was thinking about a group, about a body of believers, rather than just himself. Maybe he was reminiscing about all of the places he had already been at that point, spreading the message of Jesus in several countries, including behind the Iron Curtain in East Germany and the Soviet Union (in 1989). Was he encouraging new Christians in the song’s two verses to think about their temporal sacrifices, about ‘treasures’ (verse 1) and ‘all we’ve lost’ (verse 2) in exchange for Christ? His 1998 album Out of Africa suggests he visited that continent to communicate this Truth there too. This newly ordained, 40-something minister/musician must have had many impressions running through his mind in 1997-98.

The ‘we’ Scott Wesley Brown sings may include a swath of missions and activities that he has been supporting. He’s worked with nine different ministries listed on his website (see its link below), including the US Center for World Mission, in order to spread not just music and free musical instruments, but also food, health care, and the Word. He’s been active in ministry in the United States, as a pastor in churches in southern California and in Arizona. No one is an island, someone has noted, a perspective that Brown has adopted as a basic tenet in this song and more broadly in his life of worship. He notes in his biography that he’s visited more than 50 countries and every state in the U.S. His songs are about this journey, and are his confessions too, he says. ‘There is none beside You’, he confesses to God in the refrain of this song, quite a statement for a guy who’s been around the globe and seen so much. Maybe if we all saw as much as Scott Brown has, more of us would sing, and radiate these words. Time to get off the couch, and outta the pew, and worship.

The below links provide information on Scott Wesley Brown: