Monday, September 17, 2007

Hymns of the Faith

This past Sunday morning our new radio program aired for the first time. Hymns of the Faith explores the devotional treasures of the ages found in our hymnal. Christianity is a singing faith, because the Lord has put a song in our hearts. So we live and die singing. On Hymns of the Faith we talk about, listen to and learn from these great songs.

The program airs every Sunday morning on WJNT 1180 AM at 9:00 a.m. and runs for an half hour. Of course, it is also available worldwide via the internet, 24/7, at or you can purchase or check out a CD from the The Presbyterian Bookstore or the Learning Resource Center, here at the church. Want to hear the great hymns of the church, learn more about who wrote them and composed them, and explore the meaning of their beautiful and beloved poetry? Then join us for Hymns of the Faith.

By the way, a number of you have said that you’ve heard the new ads for the program on the radio! I’m sure that is a relief to those who are tired of hearing the almost ten-year-old ads for First Things! Our first four hymns are airing on Hymns of the Faith in the following order: 1. 9-16-07, "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty." 2. 9-23-07, "If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee." 3. 9-30-07, "Now Thank We All Our God." 4. 10-07-07, "Our God, Our Help in Ages Past."

This coming Lord’s Day, then, we’ll be looking at the moving words and music of the great hymn, "If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee." It is a glorious and realistic and emphatically Christian and spiritual meditation on God’s providence. It is also worth memorizing.

The Cyber Hymnal™ (a resource you really should bookmark on your web-browser favorites – at says: "It was composed in 1641 with the heading ‘A Song of Comfort. God will care for and help everyone in His own time,’ under the text Psalm 55:22. The author was robbed by highwaymen near Magdeburg as a student and left destitute with no prospect of earning a living. At last he unexpectedly received an appointment as tutor in the family of a judge, ‘which, he says, . . . greatly rejoiced me, and on that very day I composed to the honor of my beloved Lord [this] hymn.’"

In this hymn, we profess our confidence in God’s goodness and guidance, even in the midst of trial. As noted above, the author wrote it after being robbed of almost all his possessions (except a prayer book) and enduring extended unemployment, so when you sing it, you are singing with a fellow Christian who personally understands about destitution and hard circumstances. How encouraging a thought that is. We are never alone in our hardships, and even when we come with great burdens and fears to church, we can sing in a fellowship of suffering, with brothers and sisters from over the ages, who personally understand what we are going through. Isn’t God kind to us?

Here’s a taste of the first stanza (original English tranlastion in bold), and my (inelegant and unpoetic, but simple and clear) translation of it follows after the * in each line. The song is written in the form of a testimonial (like so many of the Psalms), but is utterly God-centered.

If thou but suffer God to guide thee
*If you will only trust God to guide you
And hope in Him through all thy ways,
*and hope in Him in every circumstance
He’ll give thee strength, whate’er betide thee,
*He’ll give you strength no matter what happens
And bear thee through the evil days.
*And he’ll carry you through bad times
Who trusts in God’s unchanging love
*The person who trusts in God’s unchanging love
Builds on the rock that naught can move.
*Builds on a the one Rock that no one can move.

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