Friday, June 29, 2012

We Have Come Into His House -- Bruce Ballinger

His name was Bruce Ballinger, and he must have been emotionally affected one day when he was 31 years old to write something, to suggest to others how they might change a habit. Perhaps this habit had grown old, and Bruce wanted to rekindle some feelings that he remembered had more fervor at one time. In fact, he succeeded. His son, Leigh, gives us insight into what his dad was doing and where he was, so enjoy hearing some personal reflections from Bruce’s offspring about “We Have Come Into His House” (perhaps thinking of a house not unlike the one shown here).

It was 1976, and Bruce Ballinger wrote a pretty simple little tune for something that lots of believers love to do -- worship. Leigh Ballinger, Bruce’s son, writes the following about this period, in March 2105:  My father wrote the song while in the position of Music Minister at a church in Toronto Ontario, Canada -- Kennedy Road Tabernacle. KRT was our home church till 1980. My dad was a man after the presence of God, He wrote the song during a time that the church was going through what you would call…Revival. He said to me that he sat at the piano and just started to play it. The words were truly inspired by the Holy Spirit, and have had the incredible impact on those who sing it. The song has traveled across the world…to Russia, and to underground churches in China…

Revival. That speaks volumes about how and why “We Have Come...” resonated in places like Russia and China, where people experienced a refocus after decades of desolation. Worshippers in those distant places, like Ballinger, were identifying with a time of shared uplift. The mid-1970’s was the period of the “Jesus movement”, so perhaps Ballinger’s words and music fit into that era’s character too, a time when searchers of God walked away from conventional methods of worship. They wanted something more than mere vocalizations of belief. Hippies, communes, and house churches invaded Christianity, as some older folks might have termed it at the time. Bruce and his family’s experience in Toronto indicates the revival found in the “Jesus movement” wasn’t just an American phenomenon, but had spread across the Canadian border. Won’t it be something when there’s a time when the revival doesn’t stop or wane? Leigh shares these final thoughts about his dad and the song he composed:

There are so many more stories, from underground churches in China with his song in their worship books to amazing people like Benny Hinn using his music. In the end my dad was just a lover of God’s presence. On October 24, 2004 my father entered the presence of God for the last time and has never left that place. As I do miss him every day, I know that he is now in the presence of the King, rejoicing, singing and worshiping like never before.

Thanks Leigh Ballinger for sharing this fresh scoop information!

Following site indicates composer was born in 1945:

See this link for history on ‘Jesus movement’:

Saturday, June 23, 2012

You’re the One – Babbie Mason

The story of a song sometimes doesn’t really need an explanation. The words seem to line up with what one knows about the writer. Babbie Mason felt the need to express what was obvious in her life in 1991, when she wrote “You’re the One” in 1991, perhaps with the same sort of inspiration that compels a mate to vocalize feelings with three little words. ‘I love you’ someone often says, doesn’t really need to be said, yet we do anyway. In the same way, I need to tell Him that He’s my axis. Everything revolves around Him. Meet Babbie Mason, and see how she makes that statement in her life.

Babbie Mason is multi-talented, but single-minded. She composes and sings (obviously), speaks at conferences, has a television talk show, writes books, and generally lifts those whom she contacts with the Spirit. Yes, she’s known through things called ‘Embrace’, a ministry directed at women in this culture who struggle with so many challenges, especially in their marriages. She is a regular at women’s conferences headed by Beth Moore, Ann Graham Lotz, and Kay Arthur, no doubt in large part because of the wealth of musical talent that has earned her two Dove awards. Her television show ‘Babbie’s House’ is beamed not only to houses in the U.S.A., but also in Europe, northern Africa, and Asia. Could she have imagined all this back in the early 1980s, when she was a schoolteacher? She’d taught school in Michigan and then in her native Georgia, before deciding in 1984 that her life should be directed musically toward God. It probably was not an impulsive decision, as she had had many generations of believers in her family and had been an integral part of the musical ministry in the church in which her father was a pastor. ‘You’re the One’ were no doubt already familiar words in her life, even if she hadn’t yet put them in a song. He was and is her focus, a choice she has made and a truth-experience that is deeply embedded in her, as you can read in an interview she gave (see it here: ).

What would make someone choose another? Babbie Mason doesn’t really try to answer that question, including what motivated her as a 36-year old woman to say what was already apparent in 1991. Her only hint at the impetus is in the song’s third verse, in which she tells Him that His providence uniquely provides freedom. He is the one. The rest of her verses describe how that realization plays out among us believers. Perhaps Babbie had an epiphany, discovering the extent of this freedom He provides. Knowing her biography also tells us that she had already appreciated this liberty for some time, so maybe the song and her life tell us something important about Him and our relationship with Him. He offers us this gift that we can accept in an instant, but it doesn’t stop there. It grows, or maybe ‘mushrooms’ would be a better verb. Its layers fold over us as life extends, like pages that we can look back upon and remember and appreciate. The crescendo becomes more clear as we age, recalling how He has provided, and what reward awaits us. Try on this freedom, feel it grow!

Check out the following links to read about the composer:

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Great Physician -- William Hunter

What was in the mind of this Irishman turned American when he sat down to compose some words in 1859? William Hunter must have been feeling a vast sense of relief from an illness when he penned the words to “The Great Physician” that year, perhaps like a child getting treated by a doctor with just the right vaccine (see the picture). And, he knew who he could count on repeatedly for help, as he laid his heart open with the words he recorded in the song’s refrain. His words remind the hearer that though his malady might have been only mental or spiritual, the cure was no less essential for his well-being. And, the end product he recommends in his verses lasts a lifetime.    

William Hunter was a 48-year old believer in 1859, with a past that included his birth in Ireland, immigration to the U.S. as a child, and education and work in music editing by the time he reached his later middle aged years. He came to America at just six years of age, leaving his native Ballymoney, Ireland, probably like many others who left the old world for the new in the 19th Century; one suspects his parents or other guardians at his young age were looking for a new beginning, with more economic opportunity. Perhaps they discovered it, since Hunter eventually went to Madison College (Wisconsin?) in 1830, edited Christian journals and several hymnals for many years thereafter, and later became a professor of Hebrew at Allegheny College (Pennsylvania?). He and his family indeed must have found “the land of opportunity”. We know little else of his life, but his words in “The Great Physician”, one of 125 hymns he wrote, tell us he must have known his spiritual condition needed something. The hymn’s first words tell us he had been depressed but lifted by the Divine Healer. Two of the other seven verses (two and six), if indeed they are autobiographical, reveal he’d been healed from his soul’s disease – sin. He doesn’t stop there, however, but in the remaining verses he invites others so restored to join in the devotion and ultimate reward this rescue prompts. He sounds balanced -- someone who most likely had seen difficulties as a child, but came to know a better life, articulating as an adult God’s hand in his life. We don’t know, but it must be true that significant people – perhaps his parents or other relatives – had been believers too, modeling lives of faith overcoming struggle.  

Hunter found his cure was sweet, so much so that he has us sing it over and over again. But, make no mistake, Hunter says with his poetry. You and I must admit we’re sick, in order to savor this unique type of therapy. Maybe it was easier for folks in the 19th Century, when spiritual revival was in vogue. ‘Sin’, ‘forgiven’, and ‘Jesus’ weren’t just punch lines then, Hunter’s hymn reminds us. It’s easy to think old hymns are square, and not really relevant some 160 years later. But, I’m no more immune to disease today than William Hunter was. Providentially, I’m not immune to Him either. How about you?            

For all seven original verses and the chorus-refrain, see the following link:

See the following links for some biographical information on the composer:

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Thomas' Song -- Ken Young

He thought ‘this guy got a bum rap’, as he mulled over the life of this fellow Thomas, whose name, rightly or wrongly, will probably always be linked to the word ‘doubt’. Ken Young was feeling a little like Thomas in 1992 as Easter approached, so he did what all poet-songwriters do when they’re touched by something – he wrote a song. “Thomas’ Song” was perhaps Ken’s way of saying ‘…this is my song too.’ Can you see yourself examining Jesus’ wounds, perhaps the way Thomas must have (as pictured here in Caravaggio’s The Incredulity of Saint Thomas)?

Hear what Ken says in his own words, as he reflected on the song’s genesis in June 2012:  
On Easter of 1992 several churches in the Metroplex (Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas area) joined together and celebrated The Celebration of the Resurrection.  It was hosted at South Mac (MacArthur Church of Christ) in Irving with over 3,000 in attendance.  One of the songs written for the drama was Thomas' Song.  I had long believed Thomas got a bad break as "doubting Thomas".  And yet, there are so many other indications that he was a man of great faith and conviction, even dying a martyr's death.  I saw a lot of each of us in Thomas' questioning as I sat down to put that song together.  I never thought it would find its way to a hymnal – (making it) more of a special song.  But people over the years have seemed to resonate with this song.

Ken’s words show that he knew a little more about the apostle than we could learn from just the Biblical account, so Ken’s a good history student, besides being a believer with a golden music touch. Thomas is thought to be the only apostle who journeyed outside of the Roman empire to spread the news about Jesus. The gospel’s spread to India indeed probably has its roots in Thomas’ post-resurrection life. Was this his other, more courageous side -- after all, he was known by another name, Didymus? How many of us generally know about the heroism of this ‘doubting’ apostle in India? Ken probably also was thinking about an earlier brave episode in which Didymus asserted that he was ready to die with Him (John 11:16). Yet, the ‘twin’ Thomas also showed his duality when he wondered aloud how he and his buddies could hope to follow Christ (John 14:5), exposing his cautious, even suspicious, nature. Of course there’s the most well-known episode with which Thomas’ character is often tarnished (John 20:24-28). Ken wants us to sing his confession of identity with Thomas, to admit that we too, in our human weakness, wonder how Jesus could be alive. Isn’t it good to know that Jesus didn’t scold and then discard Thomas, just because he lapsed into apprehension? Do you have two names? Fear, but believe too. Maybe your India is out there, awaiting your Didymus to show itself.

See the soloist Jeff Nelson in the drama on Thomas that was produced in 1992 here:

Biography of the apostle Thomas:

The sole source for the story on “Thomas’ Song” was an e:mail Ken shared with this song scooper on 6/7/2012. Thanks Ken!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Shine Jesus Shine -- Graham Kendrick

Graham Kendrick was thinking about what it would be like to see something spread in 1987. Not just for a few yards or even a few miles. Not just temporarily, either. “Shine, Jesus, Shine” was his dream for his homeland in the British Isles. It ended up perhaps travelling more broadly than he expected, and it’s still being sung, so who knows how long it will endure. Its development wasn’t just a one-stop effort either, coming in fact over a months-long period. What’s that say about Him and me, and about how His purposes might be accomplished?

Graham Kendrick was born and lives in Britain’s Croydon, in South London, and has much more on his resume about evangelism than one song. The movement known as March for Jesus began in 1987, coinciding with the origin of “Shine, Jesus, Shine”. So, if one really wants to know about the song, look into this march. It began in just one place in the United Kingdom – London -- through the collaboration of three church groups. It was a modest beginning, with the first one called City March. If Kendrick’s song was written then, that should tell us that his vision for the march was rather confined, at least until maybe the song spoke of something more.  The song really is a prayer, asking the God-Son to do something only He can do. Kendrick says the three original verses were written first, with the chorus coming several months later. Look into the verses, versus the chorus, and something sticks out that suggests Kendrick’s vision, though limited at first, must have grown over that several month span. From a ‘City March’-type beginning, the song’s chorus mushrooms the evangelism into ‘nations’ where the message and person of Jesus could travel. By 1994, the march to spread Jesus’ name had gone into 170 nations, across all time zones, to millions of people. And, the song is widely used in hymnals throughout the world.

Shine, Jesus. He listens when someone asks Him to do that, but perhaps not the way we might expect. Graham Kendrick’s experience writing the song and organizing the March for Jesus tells a story. His light may be like the light He places in the sky. At dawn, I can look at it easily, without shades. It doesn’t seem like very much, and there may even still be shadows and dimness…turn on those headlights. But it grows, gradually, inexorably, so that its brilliant presence cannot be avoided. It might even burn you. Or, it can bring blessed warmth on a chilled day. That’s like Him. He will shine, if I ask Him to, just not all at once. Keep asking, and watch what He does!  


Information on the song was obtained from“The Complete Book of Hymns – Inspiring Stories About 600 Hymns and Praise Songs”, by William J. and Ardythe Petersen, 2006. 

See the following sites for information on the composer:

Also see the following, for background on the movement that perhaps inspired the song, or vice versa:

The song’s verses are here: