Friday, January 28, 2011

Salvation Belongs to Our God -- Adrian Howard and Pat Turner


A song whose composers saw a vision – that’s what you might guess had happened when “Salvation Belongs to Our God” was written in 1985. Or, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that these 20th Century composers - Adrian Howard and Pat Turner - were merely repeating a vision that they read from an inspired writer’s hand from two thousand years ago. But, wait a minute, for that might not be quite right either. That inspired guy, John, was actually repeating what he heard others saying in a vision of the future - Eternity - while he was on Patmos Island. The song title echoes what the beloved Apostle recorded that the multitude of saved souls sang in his vision (Revelation 7:10); and other words in the song are the response of the angels to the scene (Revelation 7:12). So, there’s actually many, many, even countless authors of this song.

We don’t know the circumstances that Adrian Howard and Pat Turner were experiencing as they put notes to the words in the song, but we can imagine what must have been some of their thoughts. They were pondering what heaven would be like, since the words they chose were undoubtedly those of Revelation. The second verse suggests Howard and Turner were declaring their allegiance to Him, and their intention to join loved ones already on the other side. When you read the prophetic words therein, what’s goin’ on with you? Has someone important to you passed on, crossing over the spiritual Jordan River? Or, is your own mortality becoming all too real? It can be a lonely episode, preparing to meet Him. If we can trust what we know of John’s experience, he too was alone when he heard this song, and was probably approaching his reward.
Musta been a jolt, don’t you think, to see and hear what John sensed? It’s hard to imagine or picture (though some have attempted – see the picture above). The multitude of people and legions of angels reassure me that the other side will be anything but lonely, however. Maybe that’s an essential part of the song – telling me that I’m not alone. This salvation He owns, He shares. Knowing the song’s background tells me that the saved can be certain of this fact. And, it’s also true for us mortals who voice the song's words here. So, when you hear these words of John now, think of yourself as one of the army of the saved, or perhaps among the angelic choir. It’s called ‘church’, the warm-up for the real thing.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

God Is the Fountain Whence – Benjamin Beddome

What would you say about God in your 50th year, or perhaps if you lived to be as old as 70? That’s a question someone might have asked Benjamin Beddome at one time, and he had an answer – read the words to the hymn “God Is the Fountain Whence”. One could sum it up this way: Beddome felt that he owed everything he experienced to the Lord. Not a surprise, coming from someone who preached sermons and wrote over 800 hymns during a half-century of ministry. He might be one of the more obscure hymnists, but Benjamin Beddome carved out a unique niche as he worshipped Him in old England.
Beddome was an English preacher and hymnist in the 1700s. He is said to have composed a hymn each week that would be sung following the sermon he delivered. How many other preachers/hymnists could have maintained the same schedule? And, did he try to blend his sermon and the hymn “God is the Fountain Whence” into a logical theme? One might suspect that he tried, and if so, the author of one blog devoted to Beddome (see it below) suggests a theme entitled “The Knowledge of God”. And, not just of the intellect, but an appreciation for God that motivates the devoted follower to action. Other bloggers of hymnody (see two blog links below) indicate other details of the hymn’s background. The original first word of the song was ‘Love’, which was later changed to ‘God’. Beddome may have written the words between 1767 and 1787, when he was between 50 and 70 years old. And, the fountain in the song may have sprung in part from a stream that flows through the village, Bourton-on-the-Water, in the Gloucestershire county of southwestern England where Beddome ministered for most of his 50+ years in God’s service (see the picture above).
You don’t have to really guess what Beddome’s sermon must have been that day, for it’s in the song. Since the Holy One was the source of all of his life, it was pretty sensible to offer all his life back to Him. Sometimes, honestly, it’s not so easy to give up all of my agenda. It seems Beddome felt and acted otherwise. Obscurity’s not a bad deal from our God, Beddome’s life-example says. Find the fountain, and jump in!
See this link for song audio and some history: http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/g/i/f/gifountw.htm
The below link has biographical information on the composer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Beddome
The below link is to a blog devoted to the composer:

Friday, January 14, 2011

The River Is Here – Andy Park


In 1994 Andy Park received a song idea from someone, although he didn’t know that’s what it was at first. By this time, he had already been involved with music projects in churches for several years in California and in British Columbia in Canada, so he was familiar with song development, composition, and production. Yet, the song “The River Is Here” came to him in a way that caught him off guard. Here’s what he says, in his own words:
‘This song began when I received a picture in my mind's eye of a mountain with a river running down it. I prayed about it, not realizing that it was a word from God to prompt a new song. I did a word study in the Bible for "mountain" and "river" and found imagery in Ezekiel, the Psalms and the book of Revelation which provided the basis for the song. While on a brief personal retreat I wrote the song.’

Andy Park no doubt discovered in his word search that ‘mountain’ and ‘river’ are really important to the Creator, our Holy One. Words like ‘holy’, ‘majestic’, and ‘glory’ describe the mountain of God, and yet He doesn’t stand far up there just to be aloof. No, He sends something from up above that I need. The river, His creation, that ancient songwriters and prophets describe, provides delight, nourishment, and life. This river emanates from the mountain where He lives -- where we’re going. Maybe it looks a little like one you’ve seen here on Earth (like the Yukon, see the picture). Even though the mountain may make me tremble, I can know that His presence will be enchanting, too.
That’s what “The River Is Here” communicates. Listen to the joy this mental imagery provokes. It’s infectious. God is love. He is generous (what an understatement!). And, His gift won’t wear out, but only grows more precious the closer we come to it, and the more people with whom we share this message. The next time you’re in a crowd that doesn’t know the song, teach it to them, and usher in some Eternity. The New Earth awaits, where all will be renewed, His word teaches. Words from Psalmists, Ezekiel, and John (Revelation), repeated by Andy Park, are a great place to begin the celebration.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. (Psalm 46:4)
And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. (Revelation 21:10)
Here’s a good U-Tube video of the song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcxdSaxVP_E
Andy Park shared this brief song story above with me in an e:mail on 1/12/2011.
Another source for Andy Park’s song story is the book “Celebrate Jesus: The Stories behind Your Favorite Praise and Worship Songs”, by Phil Christensen and Shari MacDonald, Kregel Publications, 2003.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

God Will Make a Way – Don Moen

Mission Impossible – remember this? A match lights, a fire sparks (see the picture), and the musical entertainment begins, building with energy to a climax. These cloak-n-dagger agents capture my imagination, probably because their story has more adventure than mine. They treat danger with a cocky air of confidence. ‘…your mission, should you decide to accept it…’ is really wasted on me, because I know ‘Jim’ always accepts the assignment. The impossible mission crew never found a challenge they couldn’t overcome with careful team coordination, technology, and guile. The make-believe never allows that heroes might be defeated, perhaps by the completely unexpected, perhaps a death of one of the team.
Real life is different, in which an impossible situation might make me feel more depressed than excited. Don Moen’s song “God Will Make a Way” sprang from this kind of episode, a tragedy in his family. See if this song’s story sounds familiar, and if its light-in-the-darkness message might help.
You can read Don Moen’s own words for this song story at: http://www.donmoen.com/Blog.aspx?iid=26017
If you don’t have the link, Moen’s story briefly goes like this. In 1990, his sister’s family lost their oldest son in a car accident, as they were travelling between Texas and Colorado. Moen was unable to be with them in the aftermath, due to a previously scheduled recording session, but in his grief for them, he found solace by writing the song’s words on an airplane trip the following day. Isaiah’s words (Isaiah 43:19) comforted him, so he rephrased them for the song’s lyrics. His sister’s family met the tragedy with those and other words in the same book (43:4), which helped them understand their son’s seemingly senseless death might have a higher purpose. Friends of the family’s son came to accept God, because of the promise of heaven, and of seeing him again. The family’s own lives were fed as they involved themselves in their local church in a deeper way. Fruit comes about in ways we don’t expect, Moen’s sister remembers.
Have you lost someone close? How are you dealing with it – does life seem unfair, maybe even impossible to comprehend, in death’s wake? There’s but one way to manage life, when death intrudes. It’s not pie-in-the-sky to hope in God and to prepare for a home with Him. I believe. If you don’t, what have you got to lose if you change your mind today? That’s what Don Moen and the prophet Isaiah have to say. There’s a way He’s made, though I cannot sometimes fathom it. Impossible, you say? What was impossible in Isaiah’s day is commonplace today – ah, technology. So, what impossibles will become possible in 3000 A.D.? In 4000 A.D.? The Beyond? Let’s go find out!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

I Belong to Jesus – Dennis Jernigan

If someone told you one of his favorite “Christian” songs was similar in some ways to Chuck Berry’s rock-n-roll classic “Johnny B. Goode”, or maybe to a jazz\boogie-woogie or swing tune, what would you think? Rock-n-Roll and Christianity? Jazz and God? Time was when they were considered mutually exclusive, right? Hrrrumph…God doesn’t boogie – isn’t that what grandma said? Dennis Jernigan composed something in “I Belong to Jesus” that tests that presumption, although his real message is in the song’s words. The message is potent, overflowing with energy, one that can turn a life on its head. So, what kind of revolutionary music would be appropriate for such a song? Jernigan must have been wondering the same thing when he composed it.
Jernigan has a lot of life to tell in his music – maybe that’s why he’s written over 2,000 songs. His story of delivery from the gay (homosexual) lifestyle is stirring (one can read about it in many places – see them listed below). He tells the story readily, including a brief segment on a video in which he calls the song his personal declaration of what Christ has done for him. The Apostle Paul’s words to the Corinthians about becoming a new creation ring in Dennis Jernigan’s ears. He shares that he’s been ‘signed, sealed, and delivered…His’. There’s few issues in human culture that are as powerful as those surrounding sex, agreed? You can hear how dangerous sexual sin is in Jernigan’s words that he borrows from another Apostle (Peter) in the song’s first verse…Satan is a roaring lion, hungry to devour me and you (1 Peter 5:8). You can sense he knows the risk, given his former lifestyle. And, grace is not a license for a return to sin, but a gift that should make us want to not sin all the more, he says. Though Satan is to be feared, I just need to believe in ‘the truth’ that God has communicated to me – I belong to Him, not Satan. And, He was tempted by Satan, just as I am (see the picture above).
The magnet that draws my physical being toward evil is overpowered by Jesus. That’s the song’s theme. If that tension between the world of right (Jesus) and of evil (Satan) suggests a conflict is ongoing, maybe that’s what Jernigan’s musical accompaniment in the song intends to convey. It’s jumpy, exciting stuff. It reminds me that the Christian life is not for docile, couch potato-types. Jesus could not be tamed. When you hear the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection, set to Jernigan’s music, who wouldn’t want to join Him? Begin 2011 knowing and being confident in what Dennis Jernigan has you sing in “I Belong to Jesus” – you’re free !
Some biographical information on Dennis Jernigan: websites: http://www.dennisjernigan.com/
A video and testimony for the song “I Belong to Jesus”, by the composer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-JUa0Ux0mU
And, see this book: Giant Killers: Crushing Strongholds , Securing Freedom in Your Life, by Dennis Jernigan. WaterBrook Press, 2005.