Psalm 40 (Part One)

Lord,  I was sinking deep;
There was no hope for me
Until You heard my prayer for help
And picked me up and rested me upon a rock.

Lord, You picked me up
And put me on a rock
Where I can sing
A song of praise
For all that You have done,
All You’ve done.

Lord, on this rock I stand
And sing a song of praise
To thank You for the way You guide me
And to thank You for the many gifts You give.

Lord, You picked me up
And put me on a rock
Where I can sing
A song of praise
For all that You have done,
All You’ve done.

Lord, may this song I sing
Be heard by everyone
Who needs to be told all about Your love
And goodness and to put their trust in You.

Lord, You picked me up
And put me on a rock
Where I can sing
A song of praise
For all that You have done,
All You’ve done.

About this Song:
Early in 1985, Dr. Don Runion, the pastor of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia, preached a four-part series on a portion of the fortieth Psalm. I can’t recall whether “From the Mire to the Choir” was the name of the first sermon or of the whole series, but it was a catchy title–one I didn’t need to write down to remember. Don did such a terrific job that I felt led to write a song based on each of the four sections he covered.

Just as Don preached only on the first eleven verses, I limited my song set to the same ones.

I was about to insert the appropriate lyrics beneath each of the verses listed below, but then realized I couldn’t. Although the song matches the whole content of the first three verse of Psalm 40, they don’t match stanza to verse.

Here are the verses I used for this song:

1 I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.

King David must have been in humongous trouble. “Mud and mire” makes me think of quicksand. Not something someone can necessarily get out of without help.

But he didn’t start this psalm of praise by complaining about the “slimy pit” and the “mud and the mire.” He began by acknowledging God’s response to his cries for help.

Isn’t God’s help more important than the problems He helps us with?

God didn’t simply set David on solid ground again. Solid ground might have been at the same level as the top of the pit.

Instead, he set him on a rock. And a rock would be elevated–especially if it was so large that David couldn’t have climbed up on it by himself. Apparently it formed a natural pulpit.

Not a pulpit for preaching, however, but for composing a new song and singing praise to the Lord for His miraculous intervention in the midst of David’s otherwise insoluble problem.

But wouldn’t you know David realized that his song had an evangelistic function? “Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.”

Shouldn’t that be the desire of every Christian musician–to write songs that show what God has done in their lives, to stand on the rock where God has placed them, and to use those songs to “preach” God’s Good News to everyone who will listen?

We’ll look at Psalm 40 (Part Two) next Wednesday.

If you’d like to share any thoughts about Psalm 40, please leave a comment.

 

     

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Best regards,
Roger

 

Posted in Don Runion, King David, Mire, Psalm Forty, Quicksand, Rescue, Rock | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Better to Be Poor

It’s better to be poor
And have riches in the Lord
Than have vast earthly wealth
And let it ruin your health.

It’s better to eat soup
With your family and your friends
Than eat the finest steak
At the table of your foes.

It’s better to be patient,
For patience can bring peace,
Than always lose your temper
And make bad matters worse.

It’s better to speak softly
When anger fills the air
Than try to SHOUT your LOUDEST
When you wage a war with words.

About this Song:
The biblical book of Proverbs is chock full of King Solomon’s tidbits of wisdom. The four I’ve used for this song are the only ones I could find that fall into an “It’s better THIS than THAT” pattern, and I’ve searched Proverbs numerous times looking for more. If anyone reading this post can find another one, I’d be most grateful.

Proverbs 15:1

New International Version (NIV)
15 A gentle answer turns away wrath,
    but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Contemporary English Version (CEV)
15 A kind answer soothes angry feelings, but harsh words stir them up.

Good News Translation (GNT)
15 A gentle answer quiets anger, but a harsh one stirs it up.

Proverbs 15:16-18

New International Version (NIV)
16 Better a little with the fear of the Lord
    than great wealth with turmoil.
17 Better a small serving of vegetables with love
    than a fattened calf with hatred.
18 A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict,
    but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.

Contemporary English Version (CEV)
16 It’s better to obey the Lord and have only a little,
    than to be very rich and terribly confused.
17 A simple meal with love is better than a feast where there is hatred.
18 Losing your temper causes a lot of trouble, but staying calm settles arguments.

Good News Translation (GNT)
16 Better to be poor and fear the Lord than to be rich and in trouble.
17 Better to eat vegetables with people you love than to eat the finest meat where there is hate.
18 Hot tempers cause arguments, but patience brings peace.

I’m not sure what translation I based my wording on, but apparently not the three I quoted above. Isn’t it amazing how much difference exists among various translations of the Bible? Of course, some are transliterations rather than new translations–but those often help us get a special feel for the assumed intent of the biblical author.

Does this song bring to mind anything you’d like to share? If so, please leave a comment.


 

     

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Best regards,
Roger

 

Posted in Anger, Patience, Poverty, Proverbs, Solomon, Wealth, Wisdom | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Joy a Man Feels

What joy a man feels
When he’s found the right words
For just the right occasion.

Like apples of gold
In a silver setting
Are words fitly spoken.

About this Song:
Yes, I know this little piece is almost too short to call a song, but that’s okay. It’s still complete within itself, even though I normally use it to preface “It’s Better to Be Poor,” which I’ll post next week. These words come from two Scripture passages: Proverbs 15:23 and Proverbs 25:11. I’ve included those passages in each of five translations below.

New International Version (NIV)
Proverbs 15:23

23 A person finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely word!

Proverbs 25:11
11 Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a ruling rightly given.

**********************************************

Contemporary English Version (CEV)
Proverbs 15:23
23 Giving the right answer at the right time makes everyone happy.

Proverbs 25:11
11 The right word  at the right time is like precious gold set in silver.

**********************************************

The Message (MSG)
Proverbs 15:23

23 Congenial conversation—what a pleasure! The right word at the right time—beautiful!

Proverbs 25:11
11 The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry. . .

**********************************************

New King James Version (NKJV)
Proverbs 15:23
23 A man has joy by the answer of his mouth,
And a word spoken in due season, how good it is!

Proverbs 25:11
11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold
In settings of silver.

**********************************************

Good News Translation (GNT)
Proverbs 15:23
23 What a joy it is to find just the right word for the right occasion!

Proverbs 25:11
11 An idea well-expressed is like a design of gold, set in silver.

Isn’t that the goal of all speakers and writers–both secular and sacred–to convey a well-expressed idea? We–most of us, anyhow–wouldn’t waste time trying to communicate unless we either had something worthwhile to say or thought we did.

As a published novelist, I know first-hand what a struggle finding just the right word can be. I not only make frequent use of a dictionary and a thesaurus, but occasionally also use a “flip dictionary,” which allows me to look for words related to a given object. (For example, suppose I wanted to learn what the bathroom on a ship is called. I could look up “ship.”)

I’m reminded of a joke I heard years ago. An apartment building housed no one but music students. All day long, one could walk by and listen to the sounds of people practicing scales–up and down, down and up. But this one future cellist played only a single note. an A-flat. Somebody finally got up the nerve to ask why he played only one note hour after hour while everyone else was playing scales. His response? “I listen to the rest of you–day in and day out–and you keep searching for the perfect note. I’ve already found mine.”

Are you looking for just the right word–or don’t you have anything worthwhile to say? If you’re a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you always have something to talk about, although your “right words” may not always fall on receptive ears.

How about leaving a comment? I’d love to hear from you.

For a free lead sheet of this little song, click the Lead Sheets tab at the top of this page, click on “See list of available lead sheets,” and look for “What Joy a Man Feels” in the drop down list.

     

Links you might be interested in:

Look for me again next Wednesday. Better still, subscribe to receive these weekly posts by email.

Best regards,
Roger

 

Posted in Gold, Proverbs, Silver, Uncategorized, Words | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Faith Song

Faith’s acceding to God’s leading,
And it’s going without knowing.
Faith’s revering and adhering to God’s Word.
Faith is moving without proving
And agreeing without seeing;
Faith’s abiding in, not hiding from the Lord.

About This Song:
In 1994 I got the idea for a musical drama I was going to call Covenant Child–about Abraham and his sacrifice of Isaac and God’s deliverance of Isaac because of Abraham’s faith. I wrote the play and a few of the songs, but I never felt inspired to go any further than that. If you’ve listened to any of the songs on my website, you may have heard the instrumental Covenant Child Prelude. Because I’m not a keyboardist, I had to memorize that piece in order to record it.

This little song–I play it straight through in 3/4 time and then in 4/4, which makes it sound (much) faster–is descriptive of Abraham from start to finish: Abraham left his home country to follow God’s leading to an unknown land. He moved his family and his possessions without any proof that God’s promise would be fulfilled. He agreed to go without being able to see the end results. So he abided in the Lord rather than hiding from and failing to obey God’s commands.

It applies equally to the sacrifice of Isaac. God directed Abraham to take Isaac with him to a far place to sacrifice him, even though He had promised that Abraham’s off-spring–Isaac was his only son, and his birth was a miracle in old age–would father millions. But Abraham took God’s command to carry out the sacrifice just as seriously and faithfully as he had the command to move. Even as Abraham was about to kill Isaac, he didn’t question the fact that God was in control and would carry out his promises anyway he chose to.

God honored Abraham’s faith by sparing Isaac and using him to be the father of the Jewish people.

I claim to have a great deal of faith in God. But would I react the way Abraham did to being uprooted so completely and having to move so far away? Or to sacrifice my only child, knowing she was supposed to be a blessing to all humanity?

Abraham wasn’t perfect, but what an inspiration. The next time you feel God tugging at your heart about something that seems humanly unreasonable, think about Abraham. I will.

Has there been a time you’ve felt God calling you to do something that seemed impossible? How about sharing it in a comment.

Click on the Lead Sheets tab and look for “The Faith Song” in the drop down box to see, download, or print a free lead sheet.

     

Links you might be interested in:

Look for me again next Wednesday. Better still, subscribe to receive these weekly posts by email.

Best regards,
Roger

 

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The Goodbye Song

There’s no need for us to say goodbye;
There’s no reason for sorrow or tears.
There’s no need for words of farewell,
For we will be together soon.

About This Song:
Some years ago I belonged to a church that hired a summer youth worker.

To lessen the load on any of the members, he stayed a few days in each of a number of homes, including mine. Poor fellow. I don’t even remember his name now.

In fact, the only two things I remember about him are the mustard that mysteriously appeared on top of the toaster one day–and the times we started using the stereo, only to find he’d left it cranked up at full volume.

Nonetheless, his presence in my home and in the church had been a blessing, and I wrote “The Goodbye Song” as a farewell tribute to him. (Incidentally, I grew up believing that “goodbye” is not an actual word. I still believe that, but am using it because I believe most people do now.)

One of these days, I want to use this song in my church’s nursing home ministry. We’re not shy about talking about death. After all, for Christians it’s the doorway to something SO much better than what we experience here on earth.

No matter how long a lifetime–or how short–any of us has, no one lives very long in comparison with eternity.

And one of the things we have to look forward to is the reunion with friends and family who’ve gone on before.

If you’re interested, a free lead sheet for this little song is available here.

     

Links you might be interested in:

Look for me again next Wednesday. Better still, subscribe to receive these weekly posts by email.

Best regards,
Roger

 

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When You Close Your Eyes in Prayer

What do you say when you close your eyes in prayer?
What do you tell God when you call upon his name?
Do you say, “I love You, Lord, for being who you are”?
What do you say when you close your eyes in prayer?

What do you say when God knows just who you are?
What do you tell Him when He sees inside your heart?
Do you say, “I’ve done wrong, Lord, and I want to do right”?
What do you say when God knows just who you are?

What do you say when God knows the words you’ll use?
What do you tell Him? He already knows your needs.
Do you say, “I thank You, Lord, for all you do for me”?
What do you say when God knows the words you’ll use?

What do you say when your thoughts distract your prayers?
What do you tell God when the words refuse to come?
Do you cry, “I need help, Lord. I can’t live on my own!”?
What do you say when your thoughts distract your prayers?

About this song:
Years ago I was introduced to the concept of ACTS, an acronym that represents the four elements of prayer:

  • Adoration: praising God for who He is (and not for what He’s done for us)
  • Confession: admitting our sins to God and asking His forgiveness
  • Thanksgiving: thanking God for His many perfect gifts
  • Supplication: asking God’s help for ourselves and other people as well

Maybe I’m wrong, but I think many Christians concentrate on asking for God’s help–and for the things we want rather than necessarily what we need. At times, we’re all probably guilty of that.

In my prayers, I try to focus on adoration. The very fact that God is not only somewhere “out there” but lives inside us listening to us is worthy of adoration–and praise.

I strongly believe that if we were to spend more of our prayer time thanking God for His “every good and perfect gift,” we wouldn’t have time to pray selfishly.

I wrote this song in 1990, basing it loosely on the ACTS principle. It’s very slow and prayerful and–I hope–thought-provoking. You may download the free lead sheet here.

One really nifty thing resulted from this song. Jeff Ferrier, the pianist in the local Gospel Chickenhouse house band and a wonderful musician, took a recording of me singing “When You Close Your Eyes in Prayer” with guitar accompaniment and wrote a beautiful two-voice arrangement with piano accompaniment.


     

Links you might be interested in:

Look for me again next Wednesday. Better still, subscribe to receive these weekly posts by email.

Best regards,
Roger

 

Posted in ACTS, Adoration, Confession, Gospel Chicken House, Jeff Ferrier, Prayer, Supplication, Thanksgiving | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Days, Hours, Moments

I could spend my days
Just singing songs of praise
Unto the Lord who’s set me free.
I could spend each hour
Just singing of His power
And of the love that’s lifted me.
I could spend each moment
Singing of my atonement
And the hope Christ Jesus brings.
I could spend my time
Making songs in rhyme
For the Lord of whom I sing.

About this song:
I’m not sure what inspired this song originally, but it turned out to be an exercise in rhyming. You’ll notice that the ending words of each pair of sentences rhyme: “free” and “me”; “brings” and “sing”.

But there are also internal rhymes within each sentence: “days” and “praise”; “hour” and “power”; “moment” and “atonement”; and “time” and “rhyme”.

So the reference to “making songs in rhyme” is actually about writing this song.

The line about “And of the love that’s lifted me” should bring back memories of the old hymn, “Love Lifted Me.”

Believe it or not, I really struggled with the atonement line. Should it be “my atonement” because I’m talking about God making me “at one” with Him? Or should it be “His atonement” because He’s the one who’s done it? I’m still not totally sure, but I don’t think God will punish me if I’ve made the wrong choice.

I purposely started with the longest period of time–days–and then worked my way down to the shorter time spans, days and then moments.

To listen to this sing, go here, scroll down to the drop down box of songs recorded on the Yamaha, and select “Days, Hours, Moments.” A free lead sheet is available here.

As always, comments are welcome.

     

Links you might be interested in:

Look for me again next Wednesday. Better still, subscribe to receive these weekly posts by email.

Best regards,
Roger

 

Posted in Days, Hours, Moments, Praise, Rhymes, Singing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment