Randy sent me his sermon thesis summed up in just two sentences: “Jesus must be first; nothing may come before Him.” So when it came to songs, the first thing that popped in my head were songs that encourage us to follow and walk with Him. There’s no better way to follow Him!
1. Not a Step Without Jesus
It’s interesting to read the lyrics of a song and try and put yourself in the shoes of the lyricist. What was Ira Brister going through when he wrote this song? The line that strikes me the most when thinking of his life is “though I often am tempted to leave Him.” It could be easy for us to think ‘why would someone ever leave Jesus?’ But I don’t think that’s what he was saying. When we choose to sin, we are straying from Jesus’ will for our lives. In that sense, we leave Him often. But praise God He’s always waiting for our return.
2. Stepping in the Light
This hymn always has just a little bit of contention attached to it. I have heard some people make the argument (as well as read on the Internet) that they’re not comfortable with the opening phrase of “trying to walk in the steps of the Savior.” They argue the the word “trying” is too passive. However, I would argue that Eliza Hewitt was just being honest by using the word “trying,” indicating that she may not always be successful, as none of us are. Not only that, take into account that she had a spinal malady and was a shut-in for much of her life, that puts a whole new meaning into “trying to walk.” I’m so glad she didn’t just use her time as a shut-in to sit idly but instead wrote words to this and numerous other songs.
3. Each Step I Take
Would you believe this song was written by a nineteen year old? That is shocking both musically and lyrically. Lyrically, the words show someone with great faith at such a young age. From the standpoint of the music, this song is one of the most harmonically rich songs in our hymnal. Most songs we sing tend to stick to the diatonic scale (Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So La Ti), limiting to just 7 notes. But this song makes great use of the chromatic scale (Do, Do sharp, Re, Re sharp, etc…), which expands the choices to 12 notes. That provides for a rich sound. See if you can hear those chromatic steps. (Hint: listen to the melody on the phrases “loving hand” and “higher ground.”)
4. Follow Me
When we’re feeling down or sorry for ourselves, one of the best ways we can put things in perspective is by looking at what others have gone through. There is no shortage of people who have suffered much greater than I have. That is exactly what this song accomplishes. In verse 1, Ira Stanphill finds himself complaining how he is being treated by others. Jesus answers by reminding Him how He was mistreated on the road to Calvary. (Just like the last song used the chromatic scale, listen for it in this song in the alto part.)
5. Lord, Take Control
This is one of those songs that you better think hard BEFORE you sing it. “My heart, my mind, my body, my soul, I give to You–take control!” If we’re honest, we don’t always like to relinquish control of all those things. If that’s the case for you, let this song be a prayer that you would learn how to relinquish control to Him each and every day.
6. In Christ Alone
It’s hard to believe this song is over 15 years old when it’s still in the top 20 most used songs in the church in the United States. This song fits our theme of “Jesus First!” because if we place our hope in Christ alone, not only will He be first, He will be our only hope. (As He should be!)
7. El Shaddai
What truly motivates someone to put God first is when we can see how He puts us first. This song tells the story of how God had a plan from the very beginning, saving Abraham’s son Isaac, leading the Israelites out of Egpyt, all the way to the death of Jesus. When we realize that, our response is to “praise and lift You high, El Shaddai.”
8. Who Will Follow Jesus?
Remember how I said earlier that Eliza Hewitt wrote numerous songs in her lifetime? (She was the one who wrote “Stepping in the Light.”) Here is another one of her works! What a great message for us to leave with: “I am on the Lord’s side; Master, here am I.”
ORDER OF SERVICE
Not a Step Without Jesus (1,2,3)
Stepping in the Light (1,2,3)
Each Step I Take (1,3)
Follow Me (1,2,3)
Lord, Take Control
In Christ Alone (1,2,3,4)
SCRIPTURE READING – Luke 14:26-27
Who Will Follow Jesus? (1,2)