Here is a hymn I shared t church some weeks back. Our bi-lingual congregation is unique so our worship is constantly pushing the limits of what we experience and how we express it to God. My prayer is that you may be blessed today. Surely our Lord Jesus is fairest of all!
Yes as promised I am back at least for Easter. This is the opening of our before Easter program at the nursing home. Christ arose is one of my very favorite hymns, maybe because it is one of those written for men with low voices to sing. I don’t let an Easter pass without trying to sing it at least once.
Most who know the song “I Rather Have Jesus” associate it with George Beverly Shea. In fact though he did write the popular melody, the words were composed by Rhea Miller in 1922. George Beverly Shea’s mother copied the words and left them by the piano where she was certain her son would find them.
The words from verse two tell us –
I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause
I’d rather be true to His dear cause
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame
I’d rather be true to His holy name!
While everyone has heard of George Beverly Shea, almost no one remembers the woman who not only declared but lived out the line, “I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame!” Rhea Miller lived and died virtually unknown beyond her circle of friends and family.
Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:20
Some few of us might, like George Beverly Shea, become internationally known, but most of us live in more like Rhea Miller while here on earth. Take this moment to close your eyes and ask yourself: Do you wish have a mansion on earth and yet be forgotten in heaven; or will you choose to live for him in a tiny house on an unknown street and have an address remembered in heaven?
In 1855 when this hymn was first written in France my great-great grandfather (a rare French protestant) was making his way from Alsace-Lorraine to Patterson, New Jersey. I still have in my upper drawer a very old and undated French Bible handed down from the family. It has always been amazing to me how Hymns (and the Christmas ones we call Carols in particular) have preserved the inheritance of faith from all around the world. I always love playing this carol for our youth to sing in our Christmas program. It is a great opening number as it gets people tapping their feet and almost everyone joins in on the chorus. As I have often said, “The best song to sing is the one they will sing with you!” May you be blessed as you begin to turn your heart, schedule mind and pocketbook towards Christmas!
This particular hymn holds a lot of personal meaning for my life. When I was briefly homeless as a teenager I experienced so much of these verses. “Jesus sought when a stranger” could have never been more true than my being invited to church on an Easter Sunday. I wasn’t just the guy next door, I was the vagrant hitchhiker that needed a warm meal. I had no idea that it was Easter until I entered the church service to which I had gone to get the free food afterward. I chose to sit in the back when I realized that I was definitely not dressed for the occasion. But contrary to my expectations, I discovered that the people at that little church accepted me and seemed strangely delighted that I had come.
Once the Easter service was over I was served a traditional ham dinner out back of the church together with all the other members. The afternoon passed quickly as I enjoyed the time with my new friends. How surprised was I to learn that they also had a late afternoon worship. By that time I was more than happy to stay a bit longer. No one pressured me that entire day to “be born again” or any of the other terms which I wouldn’t have recognized anyway. But I was drawn as if by a gigantic spiritual magnet.My heart was becoming bound with the fetter of God’s love yet I didn’t struggle a bit. Afterward when it was nearly time to go on my way, I was just hanging around with some of the teens and someone (not the pastor!) innocently asked if I would like to take a friend along. “What do you mean?” I suspiciously asked beginning to wonder which of them wanted to follow me. “We’re talking about Jesus?” one of them smiled and replied. In that single moment all my past defenses fell to the ground at the very evident power and presence of the love of Jesus Christ. At that moment God began what has now become a 45 year sealing of my heart to His courts above.
God bless you as you listen again to these familiar lyrics written by a young man by the name of Robert Robinson in 1757. Like Robinson I have also had my struggles over a lifetime journey of faith, yet God has been faithful and His grace always mighty to save!
This hymn’s lyrics were originally written as a poem by a teenager named William Featherstone. His short life reminds me a bit of the apostle John, whom scholars believe to have been about 14 when he began to follow Jesus. Featherstone seems to have been quite shy but these lyrics so moved him that he sent them off to his aunt who (lucky for us) had them published. After Featherstone’s death the poem came to the attention of Adoniram Judson Gordon who set the words to the music we sing today in 1876. What a testimony Featherstone has left for us. We know little of his life but much of his heart. What will others remember of our lives after we have stepped into eternity?
Since it’s composition as a poem by Carl Boberg in Sweden more than a century ago this beloved hymn has passed through several renditions, translations and editors. Our most popular English version was translated and added to by Stuart Hine in 1949. This single song is likely sung by more churches around the world in more languages than any other hymn. Have a blessed Lord’s day1