As a follow-up to last week’s article, I share with you background information that gave rise to some of the hymns that are significant and rich in meaning. Also, after next week, I will share with you some of the feedback from last week and this week’s updates. Hopefully, you will find the information informative.
We Have This Hope
“We Have This Hope” (#214) was published in response to a request that Wayne Hooper write a theme song for the 1962 General Conference Session in San Francisco. Hooper, a member of the King’s Herald Quartet for the Voice of Prophecy Radio Broadcast, started thinking about the motto that had been chosen, “We Have This Hope.” Accordingly, he prayed to the Lord seeking to write something useful and that the Holy Spirit would impress his mind with the right combination of words and music that would be a blessing at the General Conference Session. In just a matter of half an hour, Hooper “had all the words and most of the music.” The transition section came about a week later. Needless to say, this musical piece, with its rich music and theologically sound lyrics, blessed the 1962 General Conference Session, and has been used as a theme song for several sessions since that time. Today, we continue to use this hymn, as it reawakens and reaffirms the blessed hope of our Lord’s return.
I Saw One Weary
Secondly, I proffer the hymn “How far From Home” (#441), written by another Adventist author, Annie Rebekah Smith, the only daughter of Samuel and Rebekah Spalding Smith, born at West Wilton, New Hampshire, on March 16, 1828. Annie joined the Baptist church in 1838 and became a follower of William Miller, but after the disappointment of October 1844, she lost interest in the doctrine of the Second Advent of Christ. She trained to be a teacher, later specialized in painting; and in 1851, at the request of her mother, she attended a meeting conducted by Joseph Bates. It was during that meeting she decided to join the Sabbath keeping Adventists and devoted her poetic talent to writing for the church paper, The Review and Herald. It was also during this time that she wrote numerous hymns that made a permanent impression on the early believers in the advent and brought encouragement to those who laid the foundation of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Unfortunately, she died at the early age of 27 on July 26, 1855, after less than four years of service to the church.
It is of interest to note that the first three stanzas of this hymn written in 1852 refer to three outstanding personalities in the early history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The first stanza refers to Joseph Bates whom God used to convert her. The second stanza refers to James Springer White who faced poverty, incessant labor, fanaticism, and other hardships. His courage remained steadfast because of his firm hope in the advent of Christ. He and his wife, Ellen, whom we refer to as Sister White, pioneered the development of the Seventh-day Adventist Church against much opposition. The third stanza refers to John Nevins Andrews who became the first missionary to be sent by the church from North America.
How Far From Home
Listed as #439 in the current Hymnal, the hymn “How Far From Home” is based on Isaiah 21:11 & 12. Annie penned this hymn in the form of a question to inspire early believers with a sense of confidence in the nearness of the eternal home.
Given the aforementioned information, one can understand why I am so passionate about our using hymns and knowing their background; for if we are unaware of what motivated the writing of these hymns, we are likely to miss out on their rich meaning and history. For example, the three hymns employed for this Weekly are tied to the disappointment of 1844, the early pioneers who sacrificed greatly for the church, and above all, the glorious return of our Lord which sparks daily hope. Of course, I repeat that I am not in any way advocating that we should not use contemporary praise and worship songs, but that we as pastors and elders ensure that hymns such as these are included, so that the younger ones will know their church, its history and its returning Lord.
(A few more hymns to follow next week)
Are the “Praise & Worship” Songs Replacing “Traditional” Hymns?
Here is a repeat and modification of an article written a few years ago on “Praise and Worship.” I thought to present it again based on observations and a request to do an article on the topic.
A Shift Toward Praise & Worship
Within recent years, I have witnessed at some church services and crusade meetings the use of non-traditional hymnal songs for song service and divine worship. These are commonly referred to as “Praise and Worship” songs. You will recognize these, for example, “Lord Prepare Me to Be a Sanctuary,” “As the Deer Panteth,” “Lord, I lift Your Name on High,” and the like. Today, there are some new ones that some of you know all too well. And as if there was a shortage, these would be sung each evening in a crusade, or weekly at church. Additionally, the one leading out or directing may say to members and visitors who are invited to participate in the singing, “O come on –you must not have the Spirit,” or “Everybody Praise the Lord!” If there is no favorable response, or if there is reluctance, then one may assume it is because persons do not have “the Spirit.” “What’s wrong?” you may ask. To me, it is limiting the church to one type of songs. I feel that those desirous of what they term “Praise and Worship” could be inclusive by using both hymns from the Hymnal and contemporary gospel songs.
Employing Hymns from the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal
I believe there are many hymns in the current Seventh-day Adventist Church Hymnal that could be used as Praise and Worship songs. These include #100, “Great is Thy Faithfulness;” #109, “Marvelous Grace;” #8, “We Gather Together;” #10, “Come, Christians, Join to Sing;” #15, “My Maker and My King;” #34, “Wake The Song;” #86, “How Great Thou Art;” #108, “Amazing Grace;” #371, “Lift Him Up;” #341, “To God Be the Glory;” #338, “Redeemed!;” #294, “Power in the Blood;” #286, “Wonderful Words of Life;” #189, “All That Thrills My Soul.” These are but a few that could be sung in different ways, using a stanza or two and just moving into another song, once preparation is made. It may be of interest to know that there is a companion book to the hymnal. The chorister, by looking up the history or story behind the hymn and sharing a little before the song, would enable worshipers to truly engage in praise and worship. Then the song is bound to take on meaning. For me, one is #530, “It Is Well with My Soul.” Employing the use of a large screen and projector may prove useful as well. The point is that we do not always have to throw away all that we have to embrace the new. Even songs from the Hymnal can appeal to the young. It all depends on what we put into them and the level of spiritual preparation on the part of the song leader/s.
Purpose of Praise & Worship
The term, “praise and worship,” is “praise” and “worship.” It is for the purpose of our coming together at church, and that is to praise and worship God. We can employ the use of traditional hymns for Praise and Worship. It is important that our members, especially our new members, know these things. Each hymn carries meaning and a theology; and some hymns speak to significant and unique theology that could be lost if church pastors and choristers choose to bypass them. Furthermore, if we are not careful, some members will view the Seventh-day Adventist Church as just another church as opposed to God’s remnant church with a specific mission. As we move forward, it is alright “every now and then to look in our rear-view mirror to appreciate where we are coming from.”
Instruments have their places, too, but it is important that they compliment and enhance instead of drowning out the lyrics creating unbearable noise and thus distorting. Equally important is that the musicians be sanctified and understand that they play to the honor and glory of God, whether at a church building or at a crusade. We need to find a way to avoid extremes seen at some of our meetings; for it is hard for visitors or newly baptized ones to transition into some of our churches. Also, it is important not to use music per se as a means to draw people, for there is the temptation to compromise “to get them.” On the other hand, services can be exciting and dynamic with planning and much spiritual preparation. Let us not underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit, for Jesus says, “If I be lifted up I will draw all men unto me.” Let’s lift up Christ in our Praise and Worship.
For further guidance and counsel refer to “A Seventh-day Adventist Philosophy of Music – Guidelines” at www.adventist.org.
(Article marking Bahamas 44th Anniversary of Independence)
Prior to the Bahamas national elections in May of this year, I wrote the first of a two-part article captioned “Mark the Manner of Your Bearing.” Today, I share with you the second part to that article, now that the elections are behind us.
Premised on the fact that citizens and residents can make a difference in strengthening democracy by holding leaders and themselves accountable, as opposed to feeling that they can do so only but once every five years, I seek to share the following points for consideration.
Holding Ourselves Accountable
Our deportment as citizens and residents of these wonderful islands is always under scrutiny. Gone are the days when we could say or do something and it would take the rest of the world a long time to hear or see. No longer is this the case with social media which can over inflate as well as misstate. Therefore, a call to high standard, national pride and a commitment to best practices must so mark a people seeking to build a commendable nation that the late Timothy Gibson, composer of the national anthem, envisaged.
The notion of excusing ourselves because of our small size in comparison to other nations is unacceptable. Notwithstanding our size, one only needs consider our location which has us perched between Cuba and one of the greatest nations on earth, The United States of America. In many ways our location, style of living and economy make us in some respect the envy of the region. However, the late Carlton Francis warned years ago, “We are a small nation that can be easily permeated by any pernicious influence.” Furthermore, he observed, “I am saying that where we are aspiring to the disciplines of hard work and industry we are not yet off the ground.” From 1973 to the present, we must ask ourselves: “Are we living up to or fulfilling what was anticipated by our forefathers?” A country is only as strong as its people and values. Likewise, it is my opinion that a government is only great to the extent that it is prepared to govern in accordance with such values and standards referenced above, and to the level people hold their leaders accountable.
Embrace the Best
The call to excel through love and unity denotes genuine care for one another as well as a commitment to work together. Of course, this is easier said than done given the make-up of our country which is comprised of whites and blacks, Bahamians, Haitians, Jamaicans, Chinese, and other nationals who now call the Bahamas home. How do we live together in love and unity harnessing the collective gifts, talents, and abilities that make for a great nation? While I am in no way advocating a violation of our Immigration laws, I am calling for a full acceptance of those who hold citizenship and legal status to reside here. On the other hand, I hope that the government can find a solution to address the many undocumented residents who were born in our country. It would seem disingenuous that when some of these children excel in academics and sports the nation is quick to claim them as its own. However, an approach to harnessing the collective talents and abilities of our people and residents will truly make us a great little nation on this earth aspiring to “best practices” in all areas. As already noted, our size need not cause us to think small. To the contrary, we must be proud in a positive sense believing in our ability, believing in one another, and ever seeking to improve. Our government must assure that room is created for Bahamians who desire to make the Bahamas great.
God Is Watching
Finally, I note that Timothy Gibson was a man of God given to godly principles, for he wrote, “'Til the road you've trod lead unto your God,” According to the fifth book of the Bible, Deuteronomy 4.7-9, a nation is great “who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for.” Additionally, it explains that a nation is great when it has “statutes and judgments so righteous.” Thirdly, a nation is great when it remembers God and passes on His teachings to successive generations as noted by Moses when he penned, “Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons.”
Based on these three principles in the passage, the Bahamas must take seriously the importance of having God present. A desire for some lewd practices, as manifested in aspects of Junkanoo Carnival, does not bode well for godlikeness. Also, a great nation is one that does not only possess laws and statues but is not afraid to execute them. When slackness is tolerated, it is embraced and eventually become a part of us. However, when a nation remembers God, it demonstrates a spirit of gratitude as opposed to entitlement; an appreciation for opportunities as opposed to handouts, and a true desire to be the best --ever grateful.
Happy Independence as we mark the manner of our bearing!
The Heart of A Pastor Part III
Final article in a three-part series
Best Practice for Pastoral Ministry
Essentially, Jesus’ example constitutes best practice for present pastoral ministry. It goes against the selfish grain of today’s thinking and looking out for “me.” Instead, it considers others with the view of helping them to know the Good Shepherd and committing to Him. As such, it is important that today’s pastors know Jesus personally. For how does one model or represent Him without knowing and spending time with the Him? Says the Apostle Peter when confronted by the lame man for assistance in Acts 3, “’Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.’ And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up” (Acts 3:6, 7, NKJV). That which Peter possessed was faith because of knowing Jesus personally --especially given the manner Jesus related to Peter when he had denied Him several times. It was personal, and it was touching in the way that Jesus reached out to Peter and pardoned him as recorded by Mark: “But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you” (Mark 16:7, NKJV). One can argue that there was no need to single out Peter as the term “disciples” was used, and it covered all disciples. But that Jesus did so shows His heart of compassion, forgiveness and acceptance toward Peter. Hence, Peter is manifesting a shepherd’s heart for the lame man. Apart from faith, Peter possessed a short but powerful message: “rise up and walk” and the record says Peter took him by the “right hand.” Ministering to others must be seasoned with faith, compassion, hope and genuine care. So it is important that the pastor knows Christ as evidenced by Peter on the occasion when confronted by Jesus as to whether he and the other disciples would also abandon Him as had others: “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more” (John 6: 66). To the contrary, Peter professed, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also, we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:68, 69, NKJV).
Beyond Best Practices –The Ideal Practice and Model
Therefore, one can deduce that more than just a template, Jesus’ example ought to inform and influence the pastor’s actions and mode of operation. For example, one is led to note His concern for the wedding attendants at Cana of Galilee in John 2. It is obvious that He is interested in the physical and social needs of members and non-church members. In John 4, He pays personal attention to the woman at the well. Unfortunately, his disciples saw a Samaritan and a non-Jewish woman, but Jesus saw a person to be saved, and one with great evangelistic potential. Talk about a pastor’s heart of discernment! In commenting on this encounter, Ellen White explains, “It seemed a small matter, even to His disciples, for the Saviour to spend His time upon a woman of Samaria. . . She proved herself a more effective missionary than His own disciples (The Desire of Ages, Vol. 3, pp. 194–195). As noted already in John 6, with all of His efforts to reach the Jewish nation, many of the Jews rejected Him especially when He failed to comply with the desire to make Him king (John 6:14, 15). They got upset with Him, but as a caring pastor He goes to great lengths to reach them. Yet, they rejected Him, baffled as to how could He be from heaven when His parents were supposedly Mary and Joseph (John 6:42). Furthermore, Jesus is insulted and lambasted in John 8:41. However, He would not be deterred as He reaches out to a woman caught in adultery; He does not only heal the man born blind in John 9, but He is there to receive this grateful soul when rejected by his church leaders.
Embracing The Good Shepherd Model Leads to Long time Commitment
The examples recorded in John’s gospel tell us that shepherding calls for commitment and a strong belief that God has gifted one for pastoral ministry; otherwise, he or she is not likely to survive (refer to John 15 regarding the vine and branch connection). The joy of ministry comes in knowing that one is fulfilling Christ’s mission. Cognizant of this purpose and design by God, gives one meaning and fulfillment in ministry. In fact, I would imagine that Jesus portrayed this in His actions of John 13. The first few verses of John 13 show that Jesus knew Himself. He knew from whence He came. He knew where He was headed, and He also knew His mission. Therefore, as noted in verse 4, He rose from the table and began to wash feet when nobody else volunteered to do so. Indeed, He was moved by love that drew Him to a service of humility. On the other hand, the disciples did not venture to stoop down and wash each other’s feet or their Master’s feet for fear of being excluded from leadership consideration. Again, I am challenged by Christ’s selfless example, as I cannot boast of being any better than the disciples. As I view Christ’s example my motive is exposed. But the Good Shepherd, knowing His flock, knew that they needed a heart cleansing; and He knew that they needed a visible lesson. Indeed, He possessed the heart of a pastor - one that could read motives and not respond in the manner that He was treated. Is it any wonder that He is considered the model pastor? He possesses a heart of compassion, understanding and love. Without question, He is the Good Shepherd and One to be embraced!
A Need to be Committed to The Good Shepherd
Reading the book of John, it is seen time and time again where Jesus implores His audience to believe in Him. For example, John 3:16, 4:48, 5:24, 6:29, 14:1-3, etc. Grasping this concept, John themed his book on the concept of belief as recorded in chapter 20 and verse31: “but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (NKJV). And thus, one may deduce that the Good Shepherd motif provides not just a model but contents for today’s pastors to teach and preach, and for the priesthood of believers to live out. When this is manifested, individual lives, families, societies, countries and ultimately the world would be impacted with hope and salvation. After all, did not the Good Shepherd enjoin His followers to preach the good news to the world for it is what mankind created by Him needs? Manifested and proclaimed by His servants, such a message will have a positive and transforming impact on nations. People will get a sense of God and His love in sending Jesus and, hopefully, come to know Him. And to know Him is eternal life as proclaimed: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3 NKJV). What a Model! What a Good Shepherd! But do we believe? Hopefully, believing Jesus will lead us to demonstrate an altruistic heart of love, service, understanding and care.
Continued from last week
Informing Our Understanding of Pastoral Care and Practice
With such remarkable characteristics of the ideal pastor (Jesus), it is anticipated that there would be an impacting, an influencing, and an informing of how today’s pastors function. As we have already seen, the Good Shepherd is fully committed to the well-being of His flock, and the hireling has no interest except for himself. Accordingly, this remarkable example of Jesus should challenge today’s pastors to go the extra mile, serve with distinction and sacrificially. His example should spur on pastors to be fully committed. To do otherwise is unacceptable as seen in Ezekiel 34. Writes Ezekiel, “Thus says the Lord GOD to the shepherds: ‘Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them’” (Ezekiel 34:2-4, NKJV). Certainly, these actions do not speak of a pastoral heart of love and concern, whereas “the Latin word ‘pastor’ means a shepherd and comes from ‘pasco,’ to feed, whence comes also our word pasture” (Ball, C. F., 1949, The Minister as Pastor, Bibliotheca Sacra, 106, 465).
Conversion Is Essential for Effective Pastoring
No wonder Ellen White says, “unless the ministers are converted, our churches will be sickly and ready to die. God’s power alone can change the human heart and imbue it with the love of Christ. God’s power alone can correct and subdue the passions and sanctify the affections. All who minister must humble their proud hearts, submit their will to the will of God, and hide their life with Christ in God (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 143). On the other hand, she adds, “Christ will be with every minister who, although he may not have attained to perfection of character, is seeking most earnestly to become Christ like” (Ibid). She contends, “Such a minister will pray. He will weep between the porch and the altar, crying in soul anguish for the Lord’s presence to be with him; else he cannot stand before the people, with all heaven looking upon him, and the angel’s pen taking note of his words, his deportment, and his spirit” (Ibid). Such a minister will possess a pastor’s heart based on his/her attention to spiritual growth and nurturing.
Embracing the Good Shepherd Model
It would be fair to say that no pastor wants to model the “hireling,” but truth be told it is easy to look out for self. While some persons are more given to being sensitive and caring, not everyone is. Nevertheless, the example of Christ in John 10 and elsewhere in the gospels in relating to His disciples calls pastors to a higher standard of ministry. It calls pastors and by extension, the priesthood of all believers to love and have compassion for one another. However, unlike Jesus, one is not called to lay down his life in order to provide salvation. For Jesus did that once and for all as noted in Hebrews 9:11, 12. “But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (NKJV). Therefore, as observed by Nathan H. Gunther, “Broad scholarly support exists for the assertion that Jesus fully intended that His description of the ‘Good Shepherd’ should be understood as a template for future leadership among God’s people” (The Journal of Applied Christian Leadership, Volume 10, NO 1, Spring 2016 “For The Flock: Impetus For Shepherd Leadership In John 10,” Nathan H. Gunther).