Friday, February 26, 2010

Hosanna – Carl Tuttle

Carl Tuttle’s been a worship leader for over 30 years since the mid-1970s, when a house church experience that he helped initiate in California spawned many churches in a broad movement (commonly called the Vineyard movement) of worship renewal in the U.S. His song “Hosanna” appears to be one that he says was a “God-directed” effort during this time. It was born out of a time when new adherents to the Christian faith sought a more personal, intimate bond with God, and so Tuttle shares (see his website address below) that singing in those times might be sustained for 30 to 45 minutes at a time, as worshippers sought a passionate experience through simple songs. Hosanna, an ancient word that expresses the fervent gratitude of Jesus’ disciples in His day (see the picture here), is a reminder that my song to Him doesn’t need to be complicated – just heartfelt.
Tuttle recalls that the years during which he wrote and published “Hosanna” (1985) were the best of his life. He had freedom, he says, to develop his ministry, and to participate in mentoring and spreading the worship revival inside and outside the U.S. What made the worship rejuvenation possible? One of Tuttle’s tenets of worship that he relates is that songs should be ‘singable’, with easy melodies ‘accessible to the masses’. Nevertheless, even Tuttle admits he was amazed to hear “Hosanna” being sung in the Superdome in New Orleans in the early 1980s by a gathering of Catholics, since the song had at that point only been recorded once. Yet, you can tell it’s a Tuttle tune, with a straightforward message and graceful words, ones that even believers who were not part of the Vineyard churches could (and still do) appreciate.
Carl Tuttle communicated something in “Hosanna” that is as true today as it was the day Jesus rode a white colt into Jerusalem. He’s salvation in the flesh, worthy of adulation. Although Jesus’ name today may also still spark apathy, if not blatant scorn as it did among some within earshot that day he entered the holy city (see Matthew 21:15), I need to be unafraid to proclaim my deepest devotion to Him, despite the unbelief that’s evident around me. ‘Hosanna’ is what I reserve for Him. Others are bound to notice and ask ‘why’…could it also be, that’s why I should say it more often? An authentic admiration for God might just be what your neighbor secretly wants to hear and see. Biographic information on Carl Tuttle and information on the song “Hosanna” can be found at the following site: http://www.carltuttle.com/

Friday, February 19, 2010

All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name – Edward Perronet


Edward Perronet published what came to be known as the ‘national anthem of Christianity’ in 1779 and 1780. In fact, the words of “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” have been so well regarded that they have been married to three different tunes, so that Perronet’s thoughts survive today in multiple versions in many hymnals. Yet, Perronet’s efforts originally were incognito, apparently of his own choice. In fact, many of Perronet’s songs reportedly were written anonymously. Why? Did he doubt himself, or think the songs were of low quality?

The ‘national anthem’ is Perronet’s best-known hymn – in fact, perhaps the only one that we still have today. Other episodes from Perronet’s life, and even this song’s words, show us a bit of the composer’s personality when he composed. Maybe it was Perronet’s association with the Wesleys (John and Charles) that made him humble. Perronet, though an ordained minister himself, is said to have always been reluctant to preach if John Wesley was present. When coaxed by Wesley on one occasion to speak, Perronet instead recited Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount, redirecting attention elsewhere. He also reportedly suffered humiliating treatment -- being thrown into mud -- while suffering persecution along with the Wesleys during their evangelism campaigns in the 1740s and 1750s. Perronet’s song’s words indicate he practiced humility here too, deflecting others’ attention from himself, and -- correctly -- toward the Lord. Every stanza in this poem reminds us to ‘crown Him’ – an admonition undoubtedly from which Perronet drew his courage and life’s purpose.

Perronet wrote the song in his early-to-mid 50’s (he lived another 12 years, until 1792), so was he looking backward or forward? Maybe both? If this song sums up Perronet’s earthly life up to that point, maybe he was feeling reflective, and admonishing others that they could do what he had already done to advance the Lord’s work even further. Perhaps he already saw his own demise approaching, and was merely practicing for the grand worship on the other side. It would be interesting to see more of Perronet’s personality in the other poems he wrote, and so examine more of his journey, but regrettably they remain a mystery…at least for now. Heaven and lots of new or reintroduced songs like Perronet’s await us, so keep those vocal chords loose!

 Information on the song was obtained from the books “101 Hymn Stories”, by Kenneth W. Osbeck, Kregel Publications, 1982; “Amazing Grace – 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions”, by Kenneth W. Osbeck, 1990; and “The Complete Book of Hymns – Inspiring Stories About 600 Hymns and Praise Songs”, by William J. and Ardythe Petersen, 2006.

Also see the following website for information on Perronet and more verses to the song: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/a/h/ahtpojn.htm
See information on Perronet at the following website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Perronet

Friday, February 12, 2010

Highest Place – Ramon Pink


Have you sung about Jesus being the high priest before? If you have, and done so with a genuine desire to make Him be in the place He deserves, it means you have taken your own ego totally out of the picture. How would you feel about doing this if you were on vacation, say perhaps in Hawaii? When I think of Hawaii, I think of doing something for me, about treating myself to a little corner of paradise here on earth. So, for me, Hawaii and the High Priest just might not fit in the same space. This apparent contradiction is what makes the song “Highest Place” intriguing, knowing where the composer Ramon Pink was, and what he was doing and thinking when he wrote about making Christ the High Priest.

The below are Ramon Pink’s own words (shared with me on Thursday, February 11th 2010) about “Highest Place”: I wrote “Highest Place” when I had first visited Hawaii, around 1982. It’s a beautiful chain of Islands, warm and picturesque. It’s also a place of a lot of spiritual activity. I found myself speaking out the Lordship of Jesus frequently, and saying “I place you above all else”. I wrote the song, in a personal time of worship, and put it on a tape that I played in my room. I wanted the song to affirm the lordship of Jesus where ever it was sung/played and it was only right to start in my room! Some 6-12 months after I wrote it, I sang it at a camp I was at. The campsite was set in amongst some bushclad hills: it seemed appropriate to sing out the lordship of Jesus. The group I was with responded in worship to God through the song, and it went from there. I had the privilege of being with David and Dale Garratt, worship pioneers (Scripture in Song). In their extensive travels, they shared the song and it grew from there. The song still challenges me at the personal level. I think the key is that when Jesus is worshipped, the spiritual order of things is put right, at a personal level and at a ‘corporate gathering of believers’ level. I fear that too many songs are becoming “me” centred; we need to focus back on worshipping Jesus. The personal needs get put into perspective, and it feels easier to identify what is on the heart of God.

Today, some 28 years later, Ramon Pink is a public health physician in Christchurch in New Zealand. Knowing this, you might think, ‘OK, this guy probably gave up being a composer after one song – a one-hit wonder’. But, Ramon wrote or co-wrote several other songs (see the links below), hinting that he was talented for many years, prior to his next (or maybe it was coincident) calling as a doctor. I wonder how many of his colleagues or patients think about his background as a musician, and now physician. Do his hands sing as he treats patients? Hmmm, maybe he’s been cultivating something these last few decades to become more like our great High Priest…someone with a musical spirit (Exodus 15:2 and Zephaniah 3:17 describe God as a musical being) and physician skills both. No better way to go, than to compose His praises and treat and heal your fellow man, and so enthrone God. Someone else to meet in the hereafter! Thanks to Ramon Pink for sharing!

Following website lists another song by Ramon Pink: "God Has Not given Us a Spirit of Fear," words and music by Ramon Pink (© 1989 Scripture in Song (Maranatha! Music)) http://www.jesuswalk.com/timothy/timothy-songs.htm
Following website has a U-Tube rendition of another song Ramon Pink co-wrote: “Romans 16:19-Be Excellent at What Is Good” (co-writers John Childers, Ramon Pink, Graham Burt & Dale Garratt) http://www.topchristianlyrics.com/2010/01/15/romans-1619-chords-and-lyrics/
Following link shows a U-Tube video of an acoustic guitar piece (Jesus ist der Herr [Jesus is the Lord?]) composed by Ramon Pink: http://new.us.music.yahoo.com/ramon-pink/
 
Following link shows a song “Keep On Praying (Ephesians 6:18)” by Ramon Pink: http://pwarchive.com/song.aspx?SongID=929&v=1
Finally, the following website is one among many that show the words to Ramon Pink’s song “Highest Place”: http://www.higherpraise.com/lyrics/love/love201097.htm

Friday, February 5, 2010

A New Hallelujah – Michael W. and Debbie Smith, Paul Baloche

Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you islands, and all who live in them. (Isaiah 42:10) Do you like new songs? And, just how long does it take for a ‘new’ song to become an ‘old’ song? The answers are probably different for everyone, and you may even have different answers for yourself, depending on the day. Michael W. Smith and his collaborators, his wife Debbie and his friend Paul Baloche, composed “A New Hallelujah”, and we can read what Michael says about the song (see the link below) and ponder what might be considered new in it. From what he says, it’s the song’s sentiments, its directives, which call worshippers to re-new something Christians have done for a long time – to reach out to others with God’s love. This time, however, it’s not just a walk across the street the songwriters have in mind. It’s global. Smith says his travels around the world to places in Europe, Africa, and Israel sparked this song’s development. He brings Spanish and African tongues into the fold on the album that “A New Hallelujah” headlines to emphasize the potential its message has to unite various cultures. Freedom, love, grace – all from God – are universal gifts that we sing in “A New Hallelujah”. Universal? They ought to be, but perhaps we sing this new song because there are always some who need to hear, to savor for the first time God’s message. Smith says he was the ‘cheerleader’ in the live performance in Houston, the guy urging singers to reach out to people different than themselves. ‘Reach to the other side’, the song’s words implore. The song makes me reconsider, then, what makes a song new, and whether it ever really becomes old or stale. It’s not the singers who sing a new song for themselves – indeed, after the first time, it’s not really new anymore. No, we sing it because we invite someone to hear it for the first time. Arise, the song says. I need to get up off my backside and show God to someone who’s not really seen Him in action before. It’s not a request. God said go and do this everywhere. And do it with some passion, like you believe it, since ‘hallelujah’ means ‘shout’. Those song thoughts, carried out in everyday life, might catch someone’s attention. What if this song stoked Christians’ hearts all over, from Brazil to China, from Africa to Australia? What if it was more confined, from New York to Houston? Wouldn’t it still make a noticeable impact? The film “Pay It Forward” proposed the radical idea of outrageous grace to total strangers, and that’s what “A New Hallelujah” proposes also. When I sing this Smith-Baloche composition, I’ll have to consider novel, revolutionary, radical thoughts. Like, God loves that guy whom I can’t stand – and He loved me before I was even likeable -- so maybe I oughta at least try doing the same? See the below link for Michael W. Smith’s comments about the song and the album “A New Hallelujah”: http://www.michaelwsmith.com/pressbio.html