mgpcpastor's blog


Sunday Songs – Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah

Back when I was Pastor of the Mordialloc Presbyterian Church, part of our worship each week was to sing three hymns chosen by the Congregation. Our organist was a lovely Christian lady named Gwen who could play most of the hymns in our hymn book on sight, and I knew how to sing most of them, so it worked pretty well. It also meant each week I never had to worry about being told that the Congregation didn’t know the hymns we sang on any given Sunday.
One Sunday before the service I was talking to Ila, who told me that she wanted to sing the hymn with ‘songs of praises’ in it. Somehow or other I worked out that she was referring to ‘Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah’.
Apart from the fact that it is set to the great tune Cwm Rhondda, the words are a magnificent set of biblical theological expressions of faith. The amazing skill with which the experiences of the people of God in the old Covenant are recognised in the life experiences of the people of the new Covenant, and then personalised in expressions of daily faith are beautiful to behold.
As I have mentioned before some contemporary songs seem to be unable to sustain a metaphor from one half of a line to the next, or simply string a few Christian words like ‘blood’, ‘cross’, and ‘veil’ together with no context, and then repeat them a few times.
Here is a song in which the name of Jesus is not mentioned and yet the Gospel is ever present. Bread of heaven, the crystal fountain, the fire and cloudy pillar, the crossing of the Jordan river and entering the promised land, all biblical pictures of the work and person of Jesus. Did I mention the tune is great as well?
Here is a typical version of the words. Wikipedia and Cyberhymnal can provide you with background history on the original Welsh versions and extra verses that have fallen from modern usage. But this is the version I know, so that’s what I’m posting here.
Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but Thou art mighty;
Hold me with Thy powerful hand.
Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven,
Feed me till I want no more;
Feed me till I want no more.
Open now the crystal fountain,
Whence the healing stream doth flow;
Let the fire and cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through.
Strong Deliverer, strong Deliverer,
Be Thou still my Strength and Shield;
Be Thou still my Strength and Shield.
When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of deaths, and hell’s destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan’s side.
Songs of praises, songs of praises,
I will ever give to Thee;
I will ever give to Thee.

These days it is impossible to assume that everyone would have heard this hymn, so here’s a genuine Welsh Choir singing it. There are a few lyrical differences, but it’s a room full of singing Welsh people, how can we pass that up? (All the men are even wearing ties.)


The Church of Scotland and the Presbyterian Church of Australia

Just this last week I attended the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of South Australia. Another Church has just concluded its Assembly as well, the Church of Scotland, the church from which the Presbyterian Church of Australia was founded. Events at that meeting should concern every Christian and particularly those who trace their spiritual heritage through the Presbyterian and Reformed tradition.
This blog is written mostly for people who don’t read a lot of other blogs, so the following borrows freely from a lot of other comment that is available on the internet. The Sydney Presbyterian College blog comments here and here. But the issue to my mind is not whether this another step into decline or whether these are the steps that are taken when the decline is finished.
Continue reading

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Travelling Home from the South Australian Assembly

Travelling home from the seventh Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of South Australia that I have attended provides time for a brief reflection. (Don’t worry, Roger’s driving)
Over the course of an evening, the following day, and another morning we have time to be fed from God’s Word. This year Robert Benn preached on Monday night (from Isaiah 64); Tuesday morning (from John 19) and gave a devotional talk (from Jonah 2) on Wednesday morning.
The business of the Assembly proper is to hear of the work of the Assembly’s committees. One of our principles as a chrurch is that there are areas of our work and witness that we carry out in partnership with our sister Congregations. We share expertise, resources and enthusiasm as we do so, achieving more together than we would on our own.
The Committees are made up of people from accross our Congregations. Each year they report on their progress and seek a mandate for their future plans.
Our Public Questions committee is an active advocate for Biblical principles in public debate, including issues such as gambling, religious liberty. and euthanasia.
The Mission committee seeks to help our local churches to fruitfully partner with those serving cross-culturally.
Fellowship is an important aspect of our meeting. Many Presbyterys have more members than the twenty four commissioners which comprise the PCSA Assembly. It means we’ll talk to just about everyone. Given our spread as churches in the South-East of SA through Adelaide and then beyond to Port Augusta and Whyalla, these time of friendship are vital.
We have a dinner together at a restaurant on Tuesday night. I know in other places that Commissioners would simply not come to such times, as if they are not an aspect of our kingdom work. I disagree.
Robert Benn and I presented the oppotunity for the PCSA to be involved in East Timor. The response was encouraging. I made one sale of twenty copies of ‘Timotio Nia Istoria’. Time to send some money to Darwin and get some more.
Meetings such as these get a lot of criticism, much of it unfair. If the work of the Gospel is not being accomplished in our Congregations and Denomination I don’t think the blame rests in the few days a year we spend at such meetings.
It seems to me there must be some failing with our activities on all the other days we are not at such meetings.
One other small matter: this was the first Assembly I’ve attended here that a dear friend has been absent. I missed his presence deeply, but as he has always maintained, the Lord is not dependent on any of us and His work goes on, even when we are gone.
And with thanksgiving to God, that’s exactly what happened: the work of the kingdom is advancing. All praise to God.

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Sunday Songs – Receive The Glory

A great song that has a great lyric is ‘Receive the Glory’ by Bob Kauflin. Written to celebrate God’s goodness to the Sovereign Grace movement of churches, the theme of the song is instantly transferrable to any group who want to praise the God who is pleased to work His will through the imperfect efforts of His people.

Not to us, but to Your name alone
Be all the glory, the glory, forever
For Your faithfulness and steadfast love
Receive the glory, the glory belongs to You
Verse 1
All that we’ve accomplished You have done for us
And any fruit we harvest is a gift from Your hand
We are only jars of clay that hold a priceless treasure
And we exist to bring You pleasure, O God
Verse 2
Only by Your mercy can we come to You
Though we deserved Your judgment You have called us by name
So we glory in the cross of Christ that made us Yours forever
That joined our lives together to sing

To hear about a minute or so of the song visit the Sovereign Grace music website.
Use this web address: and type ‘receive the glory’ in the keyword search. A selection of songs will be given from which you can pick ‘Receive the Glory’.
You’ll hear the refrain and the first verse. The album from which the song comes, Sovereign Grace Live is consistently good.

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Timor Leste – Moving Toward Partnership

As mentioned during the blog entries journaling our trip to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Timor Leste, a report was submitted to the Australian Presbyterian World Mission outlining the findings and recommendations of our three person team.
That report was considered by the executive of the APWM today. Robert Benn attended the meeting.
He was pleased to email us tonight saying that our findings and recommendations had been approved with a minor change. So what are those findings and recommendations? Read on. Continue reading

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May Australian Presbyterian Magazine – John Calvin

The May edition of Australian Presbyterian magazine features John Calvin. Commemorating the 500th anniversary of Calvin’s birth, the lead interview features Dr Ligon Duncan, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi. His insights into Calvin’s life and legacy make interesting reading. Continue reading

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What is the Presbyterian Church?

Tomorrow a group of students from our local Lutheran School will be visiting mgpc along with three other local churches.
In under thirty minutes together the students will learn about the Presbyterian denomination as part of a process of understanding the similarities and differences of some of the Christian Denominations.
As a guide we were given some questions that the students will be trying to find answers for. The questions themselves are quite interesting in that they primarily focus on people, events, rituals and actions and don’t really open up the fact that the church is a body that moves and grows under the influence of the Spirit of God. There’s something about that dynamic that is problematic in church schools.
In any case, addressing these areas is challenging, as we cover quite a lot of ground, can’t assume any background knowledge, and have to make sure that everything is easy to understand. Though I’ll summarise these details in a presentation tomorrow, here are my notes. Continue reading