All posts in "History"

Return of the ‘classic’ Christian song


My wife, son and I attended a concert on the Christian Classics Tour last Friday that featured Michael Card, Wayne Watson, Twila Paris, and Steve Green.   I’m old enough to remember when these four were pillars of what was known as “contemporary Christian music” in the 80s and 90s (‘classic’ is a nice euphemism). The local paper here called it “bringing back songwriters, not just performers.” I can see why.  We were reminded of what a great trove of music these artists represent.  For example, look at the lyrics to this Michael Card song: It seems I’ve imagined Him all of my life As the wisest of all of mankind But if God’s Holy wisdom is foolish to men He must have seemed out of His mind For even His family said He was mad And the priest said a demon’s to blame But God in the form of this angry young man Could not have seemed perfectly sane When we in our foolishness thought we were wise He played the fool and He opened our eyes When we in our weakness believed we were strong He became helpless to show we were wrong So we follow God’s own Fool For only the foolish can tell Believe the unbelievable Come be a fool as well Come lose your life for a carpenter’s son For a madman who died for a dream Then you’ll have the faith His first followers had And you’ll feel the weight of the beam So surrender the hunger to say you must know Have the courage to say, “I believe” For the power of paradox opens your eyes And blinds those who say they can see So we follow God’s own Fool For only the foolish can tell Believe the unbelievable Come be a fool as well Have you seen any of the shows? Do you have a favorite “Christian classic” from one of these artists?


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Hymn for Memorial Day


Here’s a musical setting for the classic poem “In Flander’s Fields” by John MaCrae, which lyrics are below. According to the site: Paul Fussell writes in The Great War and Modern Memory, ‘Each image accurately triggers off its expected emotional response:  We have the red flowers of traditional pastoral elegy — which go back to Milton (and beyond); the crosses which suggest the idea of Calvary and sacrifice; the sky as seen from a trench; the larks singing in the midst of the horrors and terrors of man’s greatest folly; the constrast between the song of the larks and the voice of the guns; the special significance of dawn and sunset with the anticpated echoses of Gray’s Elegy; the conception of soldiers as lovers; and the antithesis drawn between beds and graves.” Let’s not forget also that “greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below. We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields. Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields. Free downloads for both medium high voice and low voice.    


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The ignominious history of Amazing Grace


Did you realize that Amazing Grace does not mention either God or Jesus? In fact, contemporaries of the hymn’s author (John Newton) did not consider the song among his best work? This piece from Christianity Today elaborates and explains that the hymn is not included in many hymnbooks and includes this anecdote: In regard to “Amazing Grace,” this is most obvious with Hymnal 1982, the Anglican hymnal currently in use. Erik Routley served as a consultant to the committee that produced Hymnal 1982. When the inclusion of “Amazing Grace” was broached (it had not appeared in previous editions), Routley questioned whether the members of the committee had been unduly influenced by the media. I picture him, pipe in hand, arching an eyebrow. The committee included it anyway.  


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The story of St. Valentine


(Courtesy of Lutheran Hour Ministries) In 270 A.D., marriage had been outlawed by the emperor of Rome, Claudius II. Claudius issued this decree because he thought that married men made bad soldiers since they were reluctant to be torn away from their families in the case of war. Claudius had also outlawed Christianity in this time period because he wished to be praised as the one supreme god, the Emperor of Rome. Valentine was the bishop of Interamna during this period of oppression. Valentine thought that the decrees of Rome were wrong. He believed that people should be free to love God and to marry. Valentine invited the young couples of the area to come to him. When they came, Valentine secretly performed services of matrimony and united the couples. Valentine was eventually caught and was brought before the emperor. The emperor saw that Valentine had conviction and drive that was unsurpassed among his men. Claudius tried and tried to persuade Valentine to leave Christianity, serve the Roman empire and the Roman gods. In exchange, Claudius would pardon him and make him one of his allies. St. Valentine held to his faith and did not renounce Christ. Because of this, the emperor sentenced him to a three-part execution. First, Valentine would be beaten, then stoned, and then finally, decapitated. Valentine died on February 14th, 270 A.D. While in prison, waiting for his sentence to be carried out, Valentine fell in love with the jailer’s daughter, the blind Asterius. During the course of Valentine’s prison stay, a miracle occurred and Asterius regained her sight. Valentine sent her a final farewell note. He signed his last note, “From Your Valentine.” To learn how the early church started the custom of Valentine cards, click here.


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Library of Congress receives ‘treasure trove’ of old recordings


The NYTimes has this report which includes at least some Gospel songs: The Library of Congress has begun taking possession of a huge donation of recordings, some 200,000 metal, glass and lacquer master discs from the period 1926 to 1948 that have been languishing in the subterranean vaults of Universal Music Group, the largest music conglomerate in the United States. Check out the clip of  ‘Your Enemy Cannot Harm You’ by Rev. Edward Clayborn from 1928 (!).


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Martin Luther on music


“I, Doctor Martin Luther, wish all lovers of the unshackled art of music grace and peace from God the Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ! I truly desire that all Christians would love and regard as worthy the lovely gift of music, which is a precious, worthy, and costly treasure given to mankind by God… A person who gives this some thought and yet does not regard music as a marvelous creation of God, must be a clodhopper indeed and does not deserve to be called a human being; he should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying of asses and the grunting of hogs.” HT:  Bob Kauflin, Worship Matters


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Jonathan Edwards on giving to the poor


THIS duty is absolutely commanded, and much insisted on, in the Word of God. Where have we any command in the Bible laid down in stronger terms, and in a more peremptory urgent manner, than the command of giving to the poor? – in his message on Deuteronomy 15:7-11, Christian Charity (or The Duty of Charity to the Poor, Explained and Enforced). Photo cred:  Photobucket


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Harriet Tubman’s hymnal


From the Washington Post: On a blue-covered table in a Capitol Hill hearing room, an ordinary hymnal was raised to the status of a historical object with the simple signature of its owner, Harriet Tubman Davis. The book of gospel hymns was among an extraordinary trove of Tubman artifacts given Wednesday to the National Museum of African American History and Culture… Lonnie G. Bunch, the founding director of the museum, described the November meeting in Philadelphia when Blockson, who lives there, first showed the staff the 39 objects he is donating. “Each object in this collection humbled us, excited us and moved us to tears. And then, Dr. Blockson uncovered Harriet Tubman’s personal hymnal, and I think many of us lost it,” Bunch said. Harriet Tubman, of course, was the 19-century leader in the Underground Railroad and an emancipation leader, leading hundreds of slaves to freedom. The hymnal, titled “Gospel Hymns No. 2,” was by Philip Bliss (“It Is Well With My Soul”) and Ira Sankey (“The Ninety and Nine” and D.L. Moody’s songleader) can be seen here, including Tubman’s autograph. Interesting to note the ceremony concluded with everyone singing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” The truth sets you free indeed…


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Xmas is okay


Scholar R.C. Sproul has a short explanation on why using “X” for “Christ” in Christmas is acceptable: The idea of X as an abbreviation for the name of Christ came into use in our culture with no intent to show any disrespect for Jesus. The church has used the symbol of the fish historically because it is an acronym. Fish in Greek (ichthus) involved the use of the first letters for the Greek phrase “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.” So the early Christians would take the first letter of those words and put those letters together to spell the Greek word for fish. That’s how the symbol of the fish became the universal symbol of Christendom. There’s a long and sacred history of the use of X to symbolize the name of Christ, and from its origin, it has meant no disrespect. HT:  Justin Taylor


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