Seth Parker’s Hymnal

A couple months ago, Dad brought a bunch of hymnals that had been my Great Grandmothers and we spend some time at my sisters paging through them. It was cool to see some of our favorites today in those song books from 80 or so years ago.
One of them was named ‘Seth Parker’s Hymnal’. I had no idea who he was, but while paging through I came across this oddball:

(The Lord is Happy Too)

If you think that the Lord is Gloomy
If you think that the Lord is Blue
You will find that you’ve been mistaken
It isn’t the Lord, it’s you.
You’ve gone to the Lord with trouble
You’ve gone to the Lord when sad
Just change things ’round next time.
And go to the Lord when glad
When you’re happy, the Lord is happy too
When you’re smiling, the Lord will smile at you.
Don’t you think it’s fair when all is said
To visit the Lord before you’re dead
When you’re laughing, the Lord will understand
‘Cause he made laughs the same as he made man
And if you should think the Lord is sad,
Try calling on Him when you’re glad.

I have no words for that, some of it just doesn’t make sense (visit the Lord before you’re dead?) What kind of whacked out hymn is this and what sort of theology says put on a happy face for God?
But wait, there’s more:


I had a mess of troubles
That were troubling me
And each one was a thoroughbred
With a great long pedigree
But now I’ve gone and lost one
I’ve had since infancy
I thought my chronic trouble
Would have more loyalty
Has anybody found a trouble
The trouble that belongs to me?
It was as big a trouble
As troubles ever grow to be
You say you’ve found a small one
One you can hardly see?
Why that must be the trouble
The trouble that belongs to me.

So I Googled ‘Seth Parker’. Turns out he was a stage name for Phillips Lord (the songs were credited to both) who did a very popular radio show in the 1920s and early 1930s. Seth Parker was a character on the show, a folksy pastor based on his grandfather. The show aired 6 times a week and earned Lord close to $100,000 a year, according to the Wikipedia article linked above. He’s even got a star on the Hollywood walk of fame. I had assumed that Seth Parker was some sort of minister, but it turns out that he was just a showman with a sort of religious bent.
It wasn’t all goofy, folksy hymns. There are many old standards like IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL, ROCK OF AGES and JESUS LOVES ME. (There was also, ironically, THE OLD TIME RELIGION) There are a lot of hymns I’ve never heard of too, there among those odd balls by Mr. Lord.
But, he also wrote this one, which isn’t so odd at all:

(verses 1 & 3)

They tell me, up in heaven
The streets are paved with gold
The crowns upon the angels
are silver, I am told
The pearly gates of heaven,
Are made of jewels rare;
But what care I have for jewels,
If God is waiting there.
I’ve never even worried
About the things above,
When I have stopped to realize,
That I will have God’s love.
What heaven is or looks like,
I cannot seem to care.
For all I want to know is
That God is waiting there.

Hebrews 6 – Repentance and an Anchor

Hebrews 6:1-3 – A couple of things struck me here in these first 3 verses:
1 – ‘Repentance from dead works’ is an ‘elementary doctrine’. At first, I thought of repentance as in ‘stop sinning’. But, repentance isn’t really that. We simply cannot stop sinning, if we could we wouldn’t need Jesus. Besides, as Ed Anton pointed out in his book on Repentance, repentance is not a change of action (as I was so often taught),it’s a change of heart and mind, reorienting ourselves away from self and towards God.
With that in mind, I’m thinking that ‘repentance from dead works’ is a shift of the mind from our human way of thinking that we work our way into acceptance or righteousness or just being a good person, to the gospel where our faith is credited to us as righteousness.. The way of ‘works’ is dead, we need a new living way.
2 – “And this we will do, if God permits” We can only do as much as God allows. Sometimes we need to camp on the ‘elementary doctrines’ for a while, and God won’t allow us to move on just yet.
Hebrews 6:7-8 – This is the ‘fake grace’ I was eluding to in my last post. Not that works was part of the salvation process or somehow required, but that true grace produces fruit. It does not simply exist on it’s own. Grace that produces nothing, or ‘thorns and thistles’, is ‘worthless and near to being cursed’. My heart is convicted that the grace I’ve received is producing little more than feelings of relief and contentment. The gospel of Jesus is so much more precious and powerful than that.
Hebrews 6:13-20 – The whole oath and two things part of this passages turns my mind in knots. What I love here is the picture of God providing for “we who have fled for refuge“. God, steadfast, reliable, firm in the midst of our storms (why else would we seek refuge?), is both aware of our struggle and seeks to give our battered selves ‘strong encouragement’. but not only that, but this encouragement, this hope, is not simply good tidings. It is an anchor straight to the most holy place, where God lives and where man is unworthy to go. Jesus himself, though, is worthy and he went there, carrying this anchor and left it there so that we will never be disconnected from God.
Jesus went to God’s house, left an anchor there and he’s handed you the other end of the rope.
Think about that for a bit and see if your mind isn’t blown.

Hebrews 5 – Fake Gace

Hebrews 5:8 – It says that Jesus “learned obedience through what he suffered.” He didn’t learn it from instruction or study, but through what he suffered. I don’t want to suffer, I don’t want to work, I just want to be and do right. But being and doing right comes through work and suffering.
Hebrews 5:11-14:

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

I feel like this is me. Funny, for a long time I’d read this passage and think that I was not still on milk. I doubt the Hebrews that this was written to felt that they were either and most who read it don’t think they are.
But when I read this this time around, I knew I was needing milk. A big part of this is simply that I’m realizing that I’m not as smart or talented as I think I am. I think that’s true of humanity, we think we’ve accomplished much, we are smart and clever and have figured things out. We deceive ourselves, avoiding contemplating our sins. We are simply weak as humans apart from God. We need milk, not solid food.
It’s good to face that head on, if it turns us to God and to work, with His strength and grace. I think when we embrace our weakness, allowing it to drive us to our knees in humility and in prayer, and we embrace the grace freely offered us despite our weakness, we can then be supernaturally empowered to climb the mountain ahead of us, through the grace that comes from the cross.
But I’m realizing that’s not where I’ve been. I’ve seen my weakness and accepted it instead of accepting God’s grace which can make me strong. I’ve accepted some kind of fake grace that simply says “You’re weak, but God has still chosen you.” Real grace, and the gospel of Christ, doesn’t stop there. It empowers and emboldens us to work. Not work for acceptance, but work because of acceptance and because He works and because we want to be like Him.
I’ve settled for fake grace, and that will no longer do.

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