Mike Cope's blog

Monday, September 26, 2005

Yesterday we worshipped our way through Psalm 51 in the first part of our assembly--confession, petition, thanksgiving, and praise. Then during communion we sang "Just As I Am." For some reason, at both services, I had to fight back a tear. We don't sing "Just As I Am" much anymore. It hasn't completely disappeared, thankfully, but it's less common. It is, of course, THE invitation song. The one with 50 verses sung until that last white-knuckled sinner turns loose of the pew and comes forward. Yesterday it really was an invitation to me. An invitation to ingest the words of Psalm 51 while receiving again the body and blood of Jesus. An an invitation to remember. In my mind I traveled back to the age of 18, a freshman at Harding listening to the spell-binding words of one of my heroes (then and now), Jimmy Allen. And I also time-traveled back to the age of 21, when I began holding Gospel Meetings (not revivals--that was the Baptists!) in places like Seneca, Mount Vernon, Neosho, and Hottel Springs, Missouri. Just as I am! Thy love unknown has broken every barrier down; Now to be thine, yea, think alone, O Lamb of God, I come! I come! What invitation songs (or any other spiritual songs) still take you back to sweet moments of spiritual revival?


  • Mike,

    We also focused on Psalm 51 yesterday in our worship time. We utilized a Taize congregational responsive reading of Psalm 51. We also focused on the Prodigal Son and tried to follow the moves of that text in our worship: Repentance, Confession, Absolution, and Celebration. To get to the celebration we all moved over to the Activity Building and shared "larger than normal" portions of communion. I preached from there and then we celebrated around tables. We spent about thirty minutes in conversation and prayer in groups of eight. As for the song, when we were finished we sang "Blessed be the tie that binds." It was a wonderful time. For once our Lord’s Supper was a communal celebration as we wait expectantly for the coming of Christ.

    By Blogger Danny Mercer, at 9/26/2005 04:58:00 AM  

  • "There's a Fountain Free".

    By Blogger Clarissa, at 9/26/2005 05:21:00 AM  

  • Interestingly, I read Psalm 51 a few weeks ago. An older brother came to me quite agitated because he didn't like the content of verse 5. The "original sin" type of thought made him quite uncomfortable.

    Isn't it interesting the parts of scripture we choose to not read publicly very often.

    By Blogger MichaelPolutta, at 9/26/2005 05:23:00 AM  

  • "Just As I Am" was the song sung when I walked the aisle. Yesterday, I too was moved during both communion services. I think it hit me harder yesterday than ever before. It was the perfect song for the invitation to the table. Also, some of the "older" songs were sung and they were beatiful. "Father of Mercies" is one of my all time favorite hymns. Thanks so much for a wonderful service.

    By Blogger Nancy Kirk, at 9/26/2005 05:45:00 AM  

  • "Just As I Am" produces a different feeling in people than most other "invitation" songs. I feel it, and I see it in people's faces as I'm standing up front waiting for those who will respond.

    By Blogger Jeff Slater, at 9/26/2005 06:04:00 AM  

  • "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus" has always been one that forces me to continually ask that question – "Am I really Following Jesus?" I think it's an invitation song for all, no matter that situation in your life.
    And By the Way, we have started to "Pray" the Psalms in our worship. It is amazing how involved the Psalms are with our lives.

    By Blogger Buzz, at 9/26/2005 06:29:00 AM  

  • At our gospel meetings, we sang "O Why Not Tonight?" (Along with Just As I Am, of course).

    By Blogger Randy, at 9/26/2005 06:41:00 AM  

  • "My Hope is Built On Nothing Less" always will be a very special song to me. Each and every time I hear it I am called back to Nigeria to where 200 voices sounded like 20,000! I pray for the faith to live those wonderful words.....both as an individual and as a fellowship!

    All other ground is sinking sand!


    By Blogger David U, at 9/26/2005 06:48:00 AM  

  • We sang Just as I Am in our small group a week ago. I had exactly the same reaction to it. This song expresses such a powerful sense of self-abandonment and utter reliance on the grace of God.

    Each verse has a theme/image to it: cleansing, warfare, etc. I like to think of verse 1 as the lawyer's verse.

    Without ONE plea? That goes against all of my litigation instincts! There's GOT to be something I can argue. Some valid point that can be made to smooth everything over or at least give me a CHANCE. Something I can rely on to justify myself. But I can't lawyer my way into the presence of God.

    Thankfully, as it turns out, I DO have one "plea" of sorts: "Thy blood was shed for me and... thou bidst me come to thee."

    I recognize that I am forced to rely on that plea and that plea only, abandoning every other pretense of self-justification, when I come into His presence.

    Like I said: powerful stuff.

    By Blogger Matt, at 9/26/2005 07:10:00 AM  

  • "Hark, the Gentle Voice of Jesus Calleth"
    October 10, 1973, College Church of Christ, Searcy, AR, 5:30 service.
    Life began again and i no longer had to face depression alone.

    By Blogger KathyGS, at 9/26/2005 07:19:00 AM  

  • A few weeks ago, we honored the family's request to sing this at a funeral. It gave me a different take on this song to sing it picturing a faithful saint standing before the throne of God.

    On a related note, we did make it the first song, not the last! We didn't want to make the funeral have an alter call feel to it.

    By Blogger Steve Duer, at 9/26/2005 07:24:00 AM  

  • I am resolved no longer to linger charmed by the worlds delights. Things that are higher, things that are nobler these have allured my sight.

    By Blogger Jeremy Houck <>, at 9/26/2005 07:30:00 AM  

  • So many of my spiritual memories are rooted in song...One of my favorites is the verse of "My hope is built on Nothing Less"...
    When he shall come with trumpet sound
    Oh, may I then in Him be found
    Dressed in His righteousness alone
    Faultless to stand before the throne

    Had fun hanging out with your evacuee daughter in law!!.Glad you got to have some time with Matt, and that they got here safely...

    By Blogger tine, at 9/26/2005 07:34:00 AM  

  • I remember walking down a crowded pew one Sunday night in Austin, Texas at the North Side Church of Christ. It was 1980 and my dad was the preacher there. We had already talked about this night would be the night I would be baptized. I was really nervous, but seeing my dad waiting for me down front, calmed my fears. I was 12 years old and the song being sung as I walked down front was "Take My Life and Let It Be." I had no idea what those words meant then -- but now every time I hear that song, I think of that day -- the day I gave my life to Christ and the words mean much more to me now 25 years later than they did that day.

    Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
    Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.
    Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of Thy love.
    Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.

    Take my voice, and let me sing always, only, for my King.
    Take my lips, and let them be filled with messages from Thee.
    Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold.
    Take my intellect, and use every power as Thou shalt choose.

    Take my will, and make it Thine; it shall be no longer mine.
    Take my heart, it is Thine own; it shall be Thy royal throne.
    Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store.
    Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.

    By Blogger Michelle, at 9/26/2005 07:39:00 AM  

  • I've always had a special place in my heart for "O, Why Not Tonight?" Though I probably would never lead it today, nor suggest it for the order of worship, as a child it was my favorite song. I have no spiritual revival experience attached to the song, but I do remember as a young kid picturing myself singing the song to my Mom after she said no to me having some sort of forbidden dessert: "Oh, why can't I have it tonight, Mom?"

    You know you are a child of Churches of Christ when your favorite song was an invitation song.

    By Blogger Travis, at 9/26/2005 07:42:00 AM  

  • That makes sense to me, Travis. When I was 12, my favorite song (aside from the Budweiser song -- which played throughout the radio broadcasts of the Cardinals' games) -- was "Throw Out the Lifeline." It always reminded me of water skiing, which we often did shortly after church. I could imagine myself in the water with my skis on, waiting for someone to throw out the rope.

    By Blogger Mike, at 9/26/2005 08:02:00 AM  

  • A couple of Sundays ago, we had a missionary visitng from Africa. He prayed a very powerful prayer and at the end of the prayer, he softly began singing "To God Be the Glory". The congregation softly joined in and on the chorus he raised his voice in prayer and his hands as we softly sang "Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Let the earth hear his voice. Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Let the people rejoice. Oh, come to the Father, through Jesus the Son and give Him the glory GREAT things He has done!" What powerful words as he pleaded and praised God at the same time. It was very moving. It is funny how we can step outside of the box and see a song in a whole new light.

    By Blogger Meredith, at 9/26/2005 08:03:00 AM  

  • This isn't an invitation song, but in every song book where I grew up it had 728B, "Our God, He Is Alive". A friend of mine led singing yesterday and referred to this song as the "Church of Christ Anthem". Of course he meant it as a joke, but I was the only one laughing.

    By Blogger chrismc, at 9/26/2005 08:21:00 AM  

  • I think it's appropriate that #9-1-1 in "Songs of Faith and Praise" is "Bring Christ Your Broken Life." There's no one better to "doctor" us up than Dr. Jesus!
    Bring Christ your broken life
    So marred by sin
    He will create anew make whole again
    Your empty wasted years
    He will restore
    And your iniquities

    By Blogger Franklin Wood, at 9/26/2005 08:45:00 AM  

  • Nothing in my hand I bring;
    Simply to the cross I cling.
    Naked come to thee for dress;
    Helpless, look to thee for grace.
    Foul, I to the fountain fly;
    Wash me, Savior, or I die.

    By Blogger john alan turner, at 9/26/2005 08:45:00 AM  

  • Purer in Heart, O God.

    By Blogger James, at 9/26/2005 09:08:00 AM  

  • Today's blog has been a sweet time of worship with y'all. Bless each and everyone for ministering to me, and especially to you, Mike, for todays entry!

    One of my favorite older hymns is one my mother and I used to sing in duet. Hers was a sweet, lilting Irish alto voice. How I'd love to sing it one more time with her.

    In the Garden

    I come to the garden alone,
    While the dew is still on the roses;
    And the voice I hear, falling on my ear,
    The Son of God discloses.

    He speaks, and the sound of His voice
    Is so sweet, The birds hush their singing,
    And the melody that He gave to me,
    Within my heart is ringing.

    I'd stay in the garden with Him,
    Though the night around me be falling,
    But He bids me go; Through the voice of woe,
    His voice to me is calling.


    And He walks with me, And He talks with me,
    And He tells me I am His own;
    And the joy we share as we tarry there,
    None other has ever known.

    By Blogger Kathy, at 9/26/2005 09:33:00 AM  

  • O heart bowed down with sorrow!
    O eyes that long for sight!
    There's gladness in believing;
    In Jesus there is light.
    Come unto me, all ye that labor
    And are heavy laden,
    And I will give you rest.
    Take my yoke upon you,
    And learn of me;
    For I am meek and lowly in heart:
    And ye shall find rest unto your souls.

    The only answer for sorrow and the only healing for sightless eyes is Jesus! Thanks, Mike, for the reminder.

    By Blogger drjimwhite, at 9/26/2005 09:34:00 AM  

  • Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

    "Oh to grace how great a debtor daily I'm contrained to be! Let thy goodness, like a fetter (what is that?) bind my wandring heart to Thee.

    Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here's my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for Thy court above."

    By Blogger Amy, at 9/26/2005 09:54:00 AM  

  • "And when I think that God, His Son not sparing, sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in."
    - How Great Thou Art

    "My sin - Oh the bliss of this glorious thought - my sin, not in part, but the whole, is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more:
    Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul!"
    - It Is Well with My Soul

    By Blogger Stephen Bailey, at 9/26/2005 10:01:00 AM  

  • Oh Love that wilt not let me go
    I rest my weary soul in thee
    I give thee back the life I owe,
    That in Thine ocean depths its flow
    May richer, fuller be.

    O Light that followest all my way,
    I yield my flickering torch to Thee
    My heart restores its borrowed ray,
    That in Thy sunshine's glow its day
    May brighter, fairer be.

    O Joy that seekest me thro' pain, I cannot close my heart to Thee
    I trace the rainbow thro' the rain
    And feel the promise is not vain,
    That morn shall tearless be.

    O Cross that liftest up my head
    I dare not ask to hide from Thee
    I lay in dust life's glory dead
    And from the ground there blossoms red
    Life that shall endless be.

    This song has for a very long time been one of my favorites. It speaks to me of my every day submission to God and my eternal self being enveloped in His Glory.

    But you should hear "O Thou Fount of Every Blessing" with the alternative (older?) tune sung by a large chorus, spreading gradually into about 16 part harmony with the organ blasting. Chill bumps!!

    By Blogger Sarah_RN, at 9/26/2005 10:22:00 AM  

  • Two of my favorite books to thumb through are volumes One and Two of "Then Sings My Soul" by Robert J. Morgan. The subtitle is "150 of the World's Greatest Hymn Stories". I'd guess by some of the comments that several of you would enjoy this book.

    By Blogger Amy Boone, at 9/26/2005 10:37:00 AM  

  • I'm with Dr. Jim White with "O Heart Bowed Down With Sorrow".... nothing beats the chorus and I can barely hold tears back each time it's sung. It isn't led very often but fortunately for me, my husband is a worship minister so I am able to request it without hesitation!

    Jaime Sanderson

    By Blogger Murray & Jaime, at 9/26/2005 10:58:00 AM  

  • I too can't sing that verse of How Great Thou Art without choking up "And when I think that God his son not sparing"

    But the conviction moment is in O Why Not Tonight..."Tomorrow's sun may never rise, to bless thy long deluded sight". I am not sure how deluded my sight was at age 9, but it carried me down the aisle!!

    By Blogger DJG, at 9/26/2005 11:13:00 AM  

  • I love that you mentioned Jimmy Allen in this post. I thought of him immediately when I read, "Just As I Am." I am only a little over a year out of Harding and I have memories of this song from every year there.
    I was blessed to take a class on Romans with Jimmy Allen as well.
    Thank you for this post.

    By Blogger KSullie, at 9/26/2005 11:23:00 AM  

  • There have been several, but I would like to mention the first time I heard Sarah Lynn sing "Make Me More Free" in our high school Bible class.

    By Blogger RPorche, at 9/26/2005 12:13:00 PM  

  • We also read Psalm 51 yesterday at our church. We read it in evening Bible class after we went through the story of David and Bathsheba. Very powerful to hear David's repentance after we had seen the vast darkness of his sin.

    A song that always stood out to me as a child was "Low in the Grave He Lay." It was a very confusing song to me because I misunderstood the words. I thought it said: "Low in the gravy lay Jesus my Savior, waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord...Up from the gravy a rose" (as in, I pictured Jesus emerging from the gravy as a red rose). Years later, when I could read the words, I realized that the song is really telling the story of Jesus...but I did NOT understand that when I was 6.

    One of my favorite hymns these days is "Breathe on me Breath of God." I don't remember when I learned it. It's not one that we sing much, but those words come back to me often from a place deep in my childhood and they are very meaningful to me:

    Breathe on me, Breath of God,
    fill me with life anew,
    that I may love what thou dost love,
    and do what thou wouldst do.

    Breathe on me, Breath of God,
    until my heart is pure,
    until with thee I will one will,
    to do and to endure.

    Breathe on me, Breath of God,
    till I am wholly thine,
    till all this earthly part of me
    glows with thy fire divine.

    Breathe on me, Breath of God,
    so shall I never die,
    but live with thee the perfect life
    of thine eternity.

    By Blogger jocelyn, at 9/26/2005 12:35:00 PM  

  • So many great ones here, but David mentioned my all-time favorite:

    His oath, his covenant, his blood
    Supports me in the whelming flood. When all around my soul gives way,
    He then is all my hope and stay!

    By Blogger Sarah, at 9/26/2005 02:05:00 PM  

  • How Great Thou Art
    Precious Lord, Take My Hand

    I cry often when we sing now. I don't think people cry at the church where I grew up.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/26/2005 03:16:00 PM  

  • I planned this coming Sunday's worship today PRIOR to reading your blog; we'll be singing "Just As I Am" during communion. Synchronicity, dude!

    I'm thrilled that "Just As I Am" has been rescued from invitation song purgatory. I'm not sure how such a beautiful song about God's grace and acceptance got co-opted as a guilt anthem! I recognize that's not everyone's experience with that song, but it sure felt that way back in South Alabama. :-)

    Ever since I heard Cynthia Clawson sing "Softly and Tenderly" at the beginning of the movie "The Trip to Bountiful" back in the 80's, I can't get through the song without choking up.

    By Blogger Matt Elliott, at 9/26/2005 03:27:00 PM  

  • There are so many great old songs that bring back memories from childhood. My dad used to lead "There's a Fountain Free" alot and I loved that. I love "Just As I Am" more now than I did when I was a kid. Actually, more now than I did say 10 years ago. Is it because we don't sing it as often that makes us appreciate it more? I have a scary ability to recall the page numbers of some songs too and which song book! Just yesterday I nudged my husband a couple of times with page numbers!

    By Blogger Danna, at 9/26/2005 04:45:00 PM  

  • Well here is my "Just As I Am" twist. I hate locking a song into a set place in a worship order.

    One of my favorite uses for "Just" is to sing "On Zion's Glorious Summit' which paints the picture of the redeemed. Then after sining the "Sanctus" at the end "Holy, holy, holy" go straight into "Just As I Am." The picture painted of where God has set us, the centering of the holiness of God, followed by the confession of who we are with and without him makes for a great call to worship.

    Another song that I think many are using as a call to worship is "Here In This Place." I cannot help but see it as an amazing invitation song. As far as being in the a cappella C of C, that song is the bread and butter for my heart right now. But Chris Tomlin singing "Take My Life" is something that sweeps me away too.

    This summer, I led worship at a youth conference at Lipscomb. The theme for the week was "Escape." The first night we watched a video of former POWs and how they survived. From that we went to black with a scripture montage of Jesus words declaring that he is light of the world that came to set us free from darkness. From the darkness we started singing the words to "Here I am to Worship." "Light of the world you stepped down into darkness..." Slowly white, moving lights faded in to a fog filled room. The lights slowly moved across the darkness embracing the audience as they sang this great worship song. I wish that everyone could have seen what I was able to see.

    I wish that churches would understand the impact that the physical environment has on worshippers and that we would be creative to create irresistable environments for our worshippers. (Yes, I hang out at Northpoint alot for those of you who understand my language)

    Why must the C of C be behind 20 years in everything we do? Sorry to change the subject, but that will always be a frustration.

    By Blogger Jon, at 9/26/2005 06:27:00 PM  

  • Thanks for the trip down memory lane. As a fellow Harding alumn, I too fondly recall Jimmy Allen's gut-wrenching sermons where EVERYONE went down front by the 33rd verse of "Just As I Am." I miss those days and that singing!

    By Blogger angi, at 9/26/2005 07:42:00 PM  

  • Interesting to see that several people posting today have mentioned that they too were in Psalm 51. I wonder what God is teaching us as a community.

    This past weekend the men of the Okolona church in Louisville had a retreat. Ken Greene from Dallas joined us for the weekend, and a large part of what God led him to share with us had its foundation in Psalm 51. What a rich opportunity we have to cry "Have mercy on me O God, according to Your unfailing love."

    As far as invitation songs...Just As I Am takes the cake. I am convicted by that song more and more each time I sing it. It's funny that you mention Jimmy Allen, b/c that's the very first thing that comes to mind when anyone mentions that song. Growing up at the College C of C, I probably sang a combined 4000 verses of that precious hymn. I do fondly remember as a little child counting the number of people that responded during its singing after a J.A. gospel meeting sermon...it numbered somewhere over 100 people in one service. Now that's a lot of verses!

    By Blogger Keith, at 9/26/2005 07:45:00 PM  

  • Amy, thanks for mentioning O Thou Fount of Every Blessing. My son who is now a senior at Lipscomb learned to sing that song when he was 2 years old. I loved to hear him sing it...sweet little voice, big words and deep theology...powerful!!! Thanks for bringing back that memory.

    By Blogger julie, at 9/26/2005 08:10:00 PM  

  • Mike,
    I often read but am not that comfortable responding to your blog, but I too have had a song on my heart all day, so I think I must share. "I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever..." Your lesson yesterday was very meaningful to me about the beatitude of mercy. Last night, our daughter Clare returned to Waco where she is at school at Baylor, and had a terrible accident on the traffic circle there. She struck a Suburban and it sent her little SUV into a roll. She rolled a couple of times, landed upside down.......and crawled out the broken passenger window with apparently little injury. After the January "wreck", this has been my big fear, but God has spared her and we are very humbled and very grateful for His mercy. "I will sing of the mercy of the Lord forever...I will sing, I will sing"

    By Blogger terrybrowder, at 9/26/2005 08:31:00 PM  

  • another one that has great meaning for me is "My Jesus I love Thee"
    I sang it from the back of the church before I came down the aisle at my wedding and it was the perfect prayer for what I was feeling at that moment.

    "If ever I loved thee, My Jesus, tis now"

    Everyone asked how I sang at my own wedding, how I could get through that, wasn't I nervous? But truthfully, I think those words brought me more peace than anything could have at that moment of great joy in my life. I sing those words over my precious baby boy now and they have a whole new meaning...what a rich heritage we have in those "ancient words"...our praise team at Richland Hills just came out with a cd that is all out of the Blue hymnal. The songs were chosen by our seniors, and it is meant to be a tribute to those whose faith has helped bring us to where we are today.

    By Blogger tine, at 9/26/2005 09:53:00 PM  

  • Terry -

    I hadn't heard about Clare's wreck. I join you this morning in singing of the mercies of the Lord!


    By Blogger Mike, at 9/27/2005 04:21:00 AM  

  • I know how we feel about "war" songs, but We're Marching to Zion doesn't qualify. It reminds us of the joy and beauty HERE where there are"a thousand sacred sweets" and THERE where there are
    "fairer worlds on high." The older I get, the better I like this song. Also speaks of all of
    us singing with "sweet accord"....
    Wouldn't that be wonderful? Hey, Mike remember that list I made for the worship committee last year of songs we don't sing much any more? Might be a good time to drag it out. Love you!

    By Blogger judy thomas, at 9/27/2005 01:44:00 PM  

  • All to Jesus I surrender, All to Him I freely Give;
    I will ever love and trust Him, In His presence daily live.
    I surrender all, I surrender all;
    All to Thee my blessed Savior, I surender all!

    All to Jesus I surrender, Humbly at His feet I bow;
    Worldly pleasures all forsaken, Take me Jesus, take me now.

    I recall my mom's lovely alto on this song after my dad had preached his heart out in Natchez, Mississippi and Tuscaloosa, Alabama; also holding summer meetings--in pre-air conditioning days--in Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia.

    There's within my heart a melody, Jesus whispers sweet and low,
    "Fear not, I am with thee, peace be still,
    in all of life's ebb and flow."

    By Blogger Mark Tucker, at 9/28/2005 07:50:00 PM  

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