Monday, April 20, 2009


Ten days before he died, Ernest Fremont Tittle reminded his Evanston United Methodist congregation that Christianity brings both pain and joy, but it is first and foremost a religion of joy.

Dr. Tittle recalled how early Christians experienced persecution. They were poor. They were cruelly harassed. Most notably, they were happy. Thus, he concluded, a Christian could say in the third century, “The church is the one thing in the world that always rejoices.”

Before my birth, a teenager left my home community to become a musical evangelist. He became a song writer and developed a hymnology of unspeakable joy. That motif became foundational to my childhood. It has remained throughout my life. He left our community a few decades ahead of me, following his conversion to Christianity.

He began by going with D. S. Warner,a popular evangelist. He started by singing bass in a traveling gospel ensemble. This led him into a life of musical evangelism, as a pastor, evangelist, and songwriter. Across his lifetime he eventually penned more than two thousand songs.

Characteristic of his lyrics was the unspeakable joy and glory that Christians experience when walking with Christ. His music flowed in a torrent of joy and he left thousands of faithful believers singing his messages. Lyrics like the following verse have fortified my life for more than three-quarters of a century.

I have found His grace is all complete,
He supplieth ev’ry need;
While I sit and learn at Jesus’ feet,
I am free, yes free indeed.

It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,
Full of glory, fully of glory;
It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,
O the half has never yet been told.1

Several decades of actively interfacing with people have allowed me to observe the unspeakable joy that other people find in the Christian message. It is a quality of life that far surpasses the cleansing powers of the dish-washing soap I use on the evening dishes.

Barney Warren’s lyric assures me that at the very center of God’s great universe there is a deep, abiding, and everlasting joy.

Perhaps Clement of Alexandria said it best when he insisted that a beautiful hymn to God is an immortal man who is being built up in righteousness, and upon whom the oracles of truth have been engraved.

From Warner's World, there is joy in following Jesus.

1 B. E. Warren, “There Is Joy in the Lord,“ Worship the Lord. (Anderson: Warner Press, Inc., 1989), p.616.

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