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Hymn History: He Lives June 1, 2022

He Lives

And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.” – Mark 16:6

We are thrilled to share a series of brief accounts of how some of the great hymns of our faith were written. Each synopsis has been compiled through the research of Jerry Vargo and is shared by permission. It is our hope that these stories will be a help and encouragement to your Christian walk. This week we read the full and powerful story behind the stirring hymn, “He Lives.”

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The year is 1932, and radio is the great means of communication. Pastor Alfred Ackley is getting ready to go to his church in Escondido, California. It’s Easter morning and he turns on his radio as he shaves. The voice of a liberal preacher from New York City comes on the radio:

“Good morning friends. It is Easter Sunday morning. It really doesn’t make any difference to me if Christ arose or not…..all that matters is that His truth is marching on.”

“That’s a lie!!” Alfred shouts as he hears the broadcast. Mrs. Ackley hears her husband shouting from the bathroom and asks him, “Why are you shouting?”

“Did you hear what that good for nothing preacher said on the radio? This is the second time this week that I have heard comments like this. I was witnessing to a Jewish college student telling him about Jesus and he asked me, ‘Why should I worship a dead Jew?’ And now this liberal preacher said that it didn’t matter to him that Jesus arose. That’s just the point. He is not dead. He is alive.”

Mrs. Ackley reminds her husband, “Alfred, you must get ready for church or we will be late.”

As Alfred arrives at the church, he is fired up and ready to preach. This preacher is riled by what he heard on the radio. He can hardly wait for the congregational singing to be done. He can hardly wait for the announcements to be made. Now he is sitting on the edge of his seat, ready to run to the pulpit to preach his sermon.

This morning he preaches a sermon on the resurrection of Jesus Christ like no one had ever heard before. Those brave enough to come back on Sunday night hear another sermon on the resurrection.

After church Sunday night, Mrs. Ackley is in the kitchen preparing some food for Alfred and herself. She hears footsteps pacing in the living room. Looking around the corner from the kitchen she sees her husband pacing back and forth. “What’s wrong now?” She inquires.

Alfred replies, “I still haven’t said all that I want to say about the resurrection.”

Mrs. Ackley says, “Listen here Alfred, why don’t you do what you do best? Why don’t you write a song about the resurrection and that way long after you are gone, the song can tell the story.”

Alfred was an accomplished preacher and song writer, and he immediately went to his study in his home. He read Mark 16:6, And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.”

A thrill fills Alfreds soul, and he begins to write. On and on he writes until all of the stanzas are complete. Moving to the piano, he writes the music. When he finishes, he has written the hymn which we know as He Lives.

Anyone who reads the words to this hymn, having heard the story of how it was written, can see the passion of Alfred Ackley on that Easter night in 1932.

Notice the last line of his hymn: You ask me how I know He lives; He lives within my heart.

*Alfred Ackley was a talented musician as well as a pastor. When he was younger, his father had diligently trained him in the area of music.  Little did he know his hymn would soon become one of the most favorite sung Easter hymns.*

 

1. I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today;
I know that He is living whatever men may say;
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him, He’s always near. (Refrain)

(Refrain) He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives, Salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.

2. In all the world around me I see His loving care,
And tho’ my heart grows weary I never will despair;
I know that He is leading thro’ all the stormy blast,
The day of His appearing will come at last. (Refrain)

3. Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian, lift up your voice and sing
Eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ the King!
The hope of all who seek Him, the help of all who find,
None other is so loving, so good and kind.(Refrain)

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2 Comments

  1. Ann Marie Bordner on June 9, 2022 at 9:19 AM

    One of my very favorite hymns! So interesting to hear the history of it.❤️?

  2. Susie Hall on June 12, 2022 at 2:36 PM

    Such a powerful song of truth. It surely has blessed many people since it was written.

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