Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing


Words by Robert Robinson (1758), 4th Verse Alternate Words by Bob Kauflin

Prone to wander

VERSE 1
Come, Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the name! I’m fixed upon it
Name of Thy redeeming love

VERSE 2
Here I raise my Ebenezer
Hither by thy help I come
And I hope by thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wondering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood

VERSE 3
Oh to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, oh take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above

VERSE 4
Oh that day when freed from sinning
I shall see Thy lovely face
Full arrayed in blood-washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry
Bring Thy promises to pass
For I know Thy pow’r will keep me
Till I’m home with Thee at last

As I write this, in front of me sits an open Bible – it’s a Bible I used while I was in Secondary school. I got this Bible in 1988 and it is still intact except for a few pages. My daughters know that when I take hold of this Bible, some serious meditation is on the way. The first few pages (that were once completely blank) are full of quotes or sayings that have helped me, and important decisions I made during those formidable years of my life.

These pages that are full of wisdom from many dear servants of God have been such a blessing to me over the years as I have transitioned into marriage, parenthood, professional career and other new roles. However, I can’t help but feel heartbroken over one quote I wrote down in 1988 at a youth conference when late pastor Mfula spoke. He was a man, whose preaching was always an incredible blessing to me, said these words, and I wrote them down:

The sermon title was – “The Tragedy of Missing the point”. If you ever mess up in life, it’ll be because you took your eyes off of Jesus.

Twila Paris’ song written in 1982 called “Keeping My eyes on You” and appears on the album Keepin’ My Eyes On You (1982) and on the album The Early Works (1991) became my theme.

In part it goes;

I’m not looking behind me; At mistakes I’ve already made’ Hope is living inside me’ I believe that my debts are paid. Trusting You now, I know I can make it. I made a vow, I don’t want to break it

There’s no good in comparing; With my friends who are serving You, Lord, all the grace that You’re sharing’ Is enough for what I must do’ Trusting You now’ I know I can make it’ I made a vow’ And I’m not gonna break it

Chorus:
Lord, I’m keeping my eyes on You; Following You, following You; My Lord, I’m keeping my eyes on You; Following You; Following You, my Lord

I won’t look to the left or right; My only goal is keeping You in my sight

There are many that started well, but are no longer walking with the Lord. Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. There have been times when I have walked out of the way and many have lashed me for it. To others I am reprobate headed for hell itself. Thank God who is full of grace, did not come to save the righteous, but came for worse sinners such as I. By God’s grace and protection along the way, I have kept on the path. The anchor holds, though the ship is battered, but I can’t help but wonder… Why did I falter? Why have many faltered? Will I, too, wander from that which I currently hold near and dear to my heart? God forbid.

Some may argue that a man like this who would wander from what is right and go to the “far country” as the prodigal did was never really serious about the Lord. In some cases, that may be true. However, I have seen genuine and sincere Christians who were living in victory with the Lord one day, but were sinking in the sea of sin the next. How does this happen?

Just like many once great Christians, it will be because we take our eyes off of Jesus that we drift away. Just ask Peter what happens when you take your focus away from the Lord. Even while walking on water – defying the laws of nature – Peter fell. Who are we to think we are any better?

Our hymn writer today, Robert Robinson was a wicked drunkard, even at the age of 17. One day, he and some friends attended an evangelistic meeting where they, in drunken stupors, intended to mock the preacher – George Whitefield. That day, Whitefield preached on the wrath of God, and the young Robinson never forgot it. In fact, after three years of wrestling with conviction, he placed his trust in Christ for his soul’s salvation! A couple of years later, as a preacher himself, Robinson wrote the words to what we now know as the great hymn “Come, Thou Fount.” Interestingly, Robinson included these words:

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 courts above.

Robinson’s words tragically came true as he lapsed into a lifestyle of sin.  The story is told that one day Robinson was in a stagecoach when a lady near him began humming one of her favorite hymns – “Come, Thou Fount.”  The lady then turned to Robinson and asked him if he knew this hymn that had been such a blessing to her.  Robinson replied:

“Madam, I am the poor unhappy man who wrote that hymn many years ago, and I would give a thousand worlds, if I had them, to enjoy the feelings I had then.”

What would cause a man who once wrote “Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it” to later say such a thing in a state of deep regret? I will argue that he took his eyes off of the One he once loved so much. Thankfully, that day was a turning point for Robert as he eventually “got back on track” for the Lord.

Friend, this world doesn’t need another Christian wipeout – this world needs us to be the light of the world, shining brightly with the love of God in a dark day. How can we point them to Christ if we won’t even practice what we preach? I challenge us all to take heed to the Lord’s challenge to the church of Ephesus, lest we, too, fall:

“Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” –Revelation 2:4-5

I’d Rather Have Jesus


Composer Rhea F Miller, Music George Beverly Shea

I'd rather have Jesus

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold,
I’d rather have His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands,
I’d rather be led by His nail pierced hand

Than to be the king of a vast domain
And be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause,
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame,
I’d rather be true to His holy name

He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom,
He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb;
He’s all that my hungering spirit needs,
I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead

The power that this song has had in influencing and changing lives for God will only be fully evaluated in eternity. I remember singing this hymn in 1986 when I first met the Lord. Over the years, I have heard many similar testimonies. There are countless other testimonies by individuals whose lives have been changed by the singing of this one hymn; “I’d Rather Have Jesus”.

The song has an interesting history. There was a woman named Rhea F. Miller who wrote a poem in 1922. Nothing much is said about her and the poem thereafter, but came 1932, a copy of that same poem was placed on the top of an organ in a family home in New York. Seated at the organ was a 23-year-old musician named George Beverly Shea. This act became a turning point in the life of the musician George Beverly It stirred deep longings in his heart. He tells the story in his latest book, How Sweet the Sound:

“At the age of twenty-three, I was living at home with my parents, continuing to work at Mutual Life Insurance and studying voice. Going to the piano one Sunday morning, I found a poem waiting for me there. I recognized my mother’s handwriting. She had copied the words of a poem by Mrs. Rhea F. Miller, knowing that I would read the beautiful message, which speaks of choice. As I read these precious words:

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause.
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause.

I found myself singing the words in a melody that expressed the feelings of my heart.”

The words of Mrs. Miller’s poem caught young George’s attention. The words on the paper rang true to the cry of his heart. And so, he set them to music. Upon hearing her son singing this testimony of commitment, George’s mother came in from the kitchen, with tears in her eyes, and encouraged him to sing the new song in church the following Sunday.

As the congregants listened to George’s deep voice sing out I’d Rather Have Jesus, than silver and gold, little did they know that the song was destined to become one of the most well-known of all contemporary Christian songs.

Very soon he developed a radio music ministry with the purpose of sharing the Good News of Christ. A few years later, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was formed in the 1940’s. George then joined forces with another young man called Evangelist Billy Graham. They asked George to become the soloist. Together they traveled the world. Billy would preach and George would sing. His two favorite songs were How Great Thou Art, and his signature song, I’d Rather Have Jesus.

After many years with this world wide ministry, Dr. Shea  officially retired but continued to accept invitations to sing God’s praises especially with the Gaither Homecoming. He mades his home in Montreat, NC, which was near the home of his friend Billy Graham.

On February 1, 2009, Dr. Shea celebrated his 100th birthday. His family and friends were united in festivities full of music. Among the many hymns that he has made famous, “I’d Rather Have Jesus” was a meaningful part of the rejoicing.

Selected writings about this hymn:

~I’d Rather Have Jesus (2)

When King George VI and the queen visited Washington, DC, a state dinner was given in their honor. Chief Whitefeather, an Indian, began the program by singing the British anthem. After the applause the chief sang, to the surprise of those present, the hymn whose opening words are, I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold!

Later in the evening, the chief sat near the king and queen. Tactfully he asked the queen, Do you believe on Jesus? The queen replied graciously, He is the Possessor of my heart, and of my husband’s also! The king, smiling, added, I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold!

~I’d Rather Have Jesus (3)

It was in the thirties. Business curves were still heading downward and there was rumor of a salary cut at the New York insurance office where twenty-two-year-old Beverly Shea was employed as a clerk. Possessor of a deep melodious voice, the young man was offered a radio contract and immediately saw opportunities for fame and possible riches in his regular appearance on a secular program.

He had been pondering the matter for several days when he sat down to the piano early one Sunday morning to rehearse a hymn he was to sing in church that morning. As he played and sang his eyes fell on a piece of paper, on which was written:

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold

I’d rather be His than have riches untold!

The poem, by Mrs. Rhea Miller, had been placed where Beverly would see it by his mother, a minister’s wife, who knew of the offer her son was pondering. Above all, she wanted her son, a Christian, to become wholly consecrated to his service.

As his eyes raced over the words, the sentences I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause and I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame struck his very heart. His fingers unconsciously left the tune he was rehearsing and began to find this melody which is today known to millions —Earl C. Willer.

~I’d Rather Have Jesus (4)

George Beverly Shea yielded his talents and his life to the service of Christ at a very early age. Because he realized that in this life only what is done for Christ is of any lasting value, his singing has been a blessing around the world.

I wrote ‘I’d Rather Have Jesus’ in 1933, said Shea. As I sat one evening playing the piano, my mother brought to me a piece of paper on which was written a poem by Rhea Miller. She thought it to be a very wonderful poem and wanted me to read it. She then asked me to try my hand at writing a melody for it. I began to play as a melody came to me. I then sang and played for the first time ‘I’d Rather Have Jesus.’

When the rich voice of George Beverly Shea is but a memory, many happy Christians will still be singing his song.

I have Decided To Follow Jesus


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1 I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus –
no turning back, no turning back.

2 The world behind me, the cross before me,
the world behind me, the cross before me,
the world behind me, the cross before me –
no turning back, no turning back.

3 Though none go with me, I still will follow,
though none go with me, I still will follow,
though none go with me, I still will follow –
no turning back, no turning back.

“I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” is a  Christian hymn originating from India and . For many years I only knew this song as a Sunday school song for children. But most recently, I have come to know the history behind this song and I now sing this hymn without apologies. The “I have decided to follow Jesus” is a polarizing hymn. When viewed through the lens of Calvinism vs. Arminianism, the song seems decidedly about free will. It can easily strike us as singing about our role in salvation, while minimizing the work of God in regeneration. Yet for the Calvinists, it is helpful to know the history, to understand that not all music was written in the context of debates about God’s role vs. people’s work in salvation. In this song, the word “decided” doesn’t have a minimalistic feel to it, but rather has a once-for-all commitment attached to it; a commitment that the author knew would lead to imminent death.

For those that use this song as an emotional manipulator, or as an example of how easy salvation is, they too should be embarrassed. Nothing could be further from the author’s intent. This song does not capture the ease of making a decision, but rather is about the staggering cost of picking up your cross and following after Christ.

The hymn was made popular during the Billy Graham crusades, it is inseparable from the concept of altar calls and emotional pleading. I am therefore conscious that, for some, it stands as a sort of Arminian anthem—a testimony to the power of human volition and an example of all that is wrong with modern Christian lyrics. For others, it is a song celebrating the simplicity of conversion–simple and sincere.

But when you know the story behind the song, you realize that it is not a statement about free will, nor about the ease of placing your faith in Christ. It actually stands as a monument to the international nature of the gospel, as well as a radical call to suffer and die with Jesus.

The late 1800’s saw an evangelistic explosion in India. Entire provinces formally closed to the gospel were swept up a missionary movement perhaps unparalleled in history. Wales in particular sent hundreds of missionaries to Northern India, and they were joined by Indian evangelists, as well as missionaries from England, Australia, and the United States. This movement was remarkable for two reasons; first, it was led mostly by Indians themselves, and those men became national figures.  Second, this missionary endeavor was focused on Northern India, which was firmly in the grips of the most oppressive forms of Hinduism. It was a place where the caste system was entrenched, and where headhunters ruled.

These provinces often prided themselves on the hostile reaction they gave foreigners. Dozens and dozens of these missionaries were martyred, but despite the opposition and violence (or perhaps because of it) the gospel made inroads into this previously off-limits area.

In the 1880’s a Welsh missionary who had endured severe persecution finally saw his first converts in a particularly brutal village in the Indian province of Assam. A husband and wife, with their two children, professed faith in Christ and were baptized. Their village leaders decided to make an example out of the husband. Arresting the family, they demanded that the father renounce Christ, or see his wife and children murdered. When he refused, his two children were executed by archers. Given another chance to recant, the man again refused, and his wife was similarly stuck down. Still refusing to recant, the man followed his family into glory.

Witnesses later told the story to the Welsh missionary.  The reports said that when asked to recant or see his children murdered, the man said: “I have decided to follow Jesus, and there is no turning back.”

After seeing his children killed, he reportedly said, “The world can be behind me, but the cross is still before me.” And after seeing his wife pierced by the arrows, he said, “Though no one is here to go with me, still I will follow Jesus.”

According to this missionary, when he returned to the village, a revival had broken out, and those that had murdered the first converts and since come to faith themselves. The Welsh man passed along these reports to the famous Indian evangelist Sadhu Singh. Singh had risen to prominence in India because he was training foreign missionaries, and a theme in his teaching had been the necessity of avoiding the cultural trappings of Western Christianity. He insisted that the missionaries now pouring into India focus on the essentials of the gospel while allowing the now vibrant Indian Christian community to develop their own Christian customs.

The accounts of the family that had been martyred in Assam were so astonishing and widely circulated that most Indian believers were familiar with it. So Singh took the martyr’s last words, and put them to traditional Indian music in order to make one of the first uniquely Indian hymns.  The song immediately became popular in Indian churches, and it remains a mainstay of worship music there to this day.

Eventually some of the American missionaries returned from India and they brought that song with them. Finally, it ended up with Canadian song writer George Beverley Shea, and he made it a staple at the Billy Graham crusades.

When viewed through the lens of Calvinism vs. Arminianism, the song seems decidedly about free will. It can easily strike us as singing about our role in salvation, while minimizing the work of God in regeneration. Yet for the Calvinists, it is helpful to know the history, to understand that not all music was written in the context of debates about God’s role vs. people’s work in salvation. In this song, the word “decided” doesn’t have a minimalistic feel to it, but rather has a once-for-all commitment attached to it; a commitment that the author knew would lead to imminent death.

For those that use this song as an emotional manipulator, or as an example of how easy salvation is, they too should be embarrassed. Nothing could be further from the author’s intent. This song does not capture the ease of making a decision, but rather is about the staggering cost of picking up your cross and following after Christ.

This song reminds me of Christian, from The Pilgrim’s Progress. As his neighbors came out to persuade him not to leave the city and press on to the gate for eternal life, Christian put “his fingers in his ears, and ran on, crying ‘Life! Life! Eternal Life!’ So he looked not behind him, but fled towards the middle of the Plain.”

Remind Me Dear Lord


By Dottie Rambo – 2nd March 1934 – May 11, 2008

Remind Me

The things that I love
I hold dear to my heart
They are borrowed and
Not mine at all
Jesus only let me use them
To brighten my life
So remind me, remind me dear Lord

Roll back the curtain of memory now and then
Show me where you brought me from and
Where i could have been
Just remember I’m a human and human’s forget
So remind me, remind me dear Lord

Nothing good have i done
To deserve God’s own Son
I’m not worthy of the scars
In His hands
Yet he chose the road to Calvary
To die in my stead
Why He loved me i can’t understand

Roll back the curtain of memory now and then
Show me where you brought me from and
Where i could have been
Just remember I’m a human and human’s forget
So remind me, remind me dear Lord

Just remember I’m a human and human’s forget
So remind me, remind me dear Lord

One deplorable weakens of us all is our forgetfulness on the blessings of the Lord and his watchful care of us. We need to do all we can to break this habit by often opening our hearts to His loving reminders.

Dottie Rambo, the writer of this lovely song had an encounter with the Lord that left her clearly sure of the direction the Lord wanted her to take in her music career. This song was written on the day she signed a contract for her music. It was the time that Dottie was still living with her family in Kentucky. At that time the Lord clearly showed Dottie which way to go with her career. It is a true fact, that when the way ahead is foggy and unclear, God can choose what could be an insignificant act to guide us into decision making. This is what happened to Dottie Rambo leading to the writing of the song Remind me dear Lord.

Remind me dear Lord was written on the day that Dottie got her music recording contract. During those days, Dottie was not a full time musician we got accustomed to, but she would only sing over the weekends because she also held on a job.

One day Dottie received a telephone call from a man called John T Benson whom they referred to as “Pop”. Benson, had called about having Dottie sign a writer’s contract and also to ask that Dottie’s family should sing for him. The challenge was that Dottie and her family knew very little about contracts and what to do with them at all. Benson did not live very far away from Nashville, just a couple of 100 miles. Dottie’s family drove to see Pop Benson. As they travelled, Dottie would write, “I prayed, Lord, we do not know anything about contract, so you will have to lead us. If we are to sign the contract, let it read so many hundred dollars and thirteen cents. If you’ll just let thirteen cents be the last numbers on the contract, then I’ll know that we are supposed to sign it. But Dottie did not tell anyone about her prayer.

When they arrived, they begun to look over the contract. Dottie was trying to look out for the amount. “I said, “Let me look at it”. Mr Benson looked over his glasses and said, “well, Dot, my girl, this is the best I can do!. Dottie was not really interested in anything except that “thirteen cents”. When Dottie saw that, she immediately said, “Give me a pencil”. There was a mild protest, “Wait a minute, we have not read it that well. We do not know that much about it. Dottie replied, “We do not need to know anything else, we are just supposed to sign it. So they signed it.

When they got to the car and begun pulling away from the curb, all of a sudden, Dottie begun talking quietly to the Lord. She said, “Lord, I appreciate You doing this for me. I know you must have done a million things like this that I did not know about or do not remember, and have not thanked you for, but you know me. I am human and I forget. But when You do good things, just roll back the curtain and remind me of them and I’ll thank you for them.

When that happened, the melody in her heart started rolling and she started weeping. She was asked, “What is wrong with you?’ She replied, “I am writing a song”. During the one hundred miles back home, without an instrument, Dottie wrote the song – “Remind me dear Lord”.

In this song, Dottie reveals the unusual talent. She had received from the Lord a unique insight into human character, played out in the life of a Christian. Dottie’s experience teaches all of us to occasionally let the Lord “Roll Back the Curtain” Of memory now and then and remind us that all we have accomplished is because of god’s goodness. She also reminds us of our humanness and our frailty.

A poem in honor of my lovely wife. Thank you God for giving her to me.


Throughout the ages, a woman has had the potential to be a great blessing for man. Proverbs 31:10 says it, “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. 11 Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. 12 She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.” However, a woman has also proven to have great potential to be a curse. The same book of proverbs 21:9 says, “Better to live on a corner of the roof     than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.”

History has shown woman to be a key in the direction of mankind to operate in either a cycle of giving and blessings or using man and being a curse. God created woman to a helpmate to man. Without her, my life would be a mess.

There are some wonderful things about a godly woman especially when she is your wife. I have had more reason to thank God for good women in my life than most men. Enid and I have been married enough years to tell our story. Then God has given us lovely daughters. Enid, like Abigail of the Bible, is a woman of beauty and brains. What would I be without her?

Living with Enid has taught me true womanhood. She has been a great blessing to me. Like Abigail of the Bible, Enid is a smart, strong woman who has helped her husband many times. True of proverbs 31:30, “Charm and grace are deceptive, and beauty is vain (because it is not lasting), but a woman who reverently and worshipfully fears the Lord, she shall be praised!” The key for true womanhood is to be a woman who follows and reverently fears God.

When asked to describe what my wife means to me, I am rendered speechless. When I met her my life was functioning like I was whole. It was not apparent to me that I needed anything. The story of how we met is always a moment of evoking God’s divine sovereignty. Sure I was lonely and longed to hold someone and physically express love to someone but those urges would come and go with the day. God had me in His hand and kept me and my needs in check. God and I were okay as we were. But God knew something about me that I didn’t know. He knew my potential with a godly wife at my side.

He knew how much she would do for me and how I needed her to fulfill a purpose in my life that I as yet did not know. The following poem is written in honor of my lovely wife, Enid. Thank you God for giving her to me.

God your love for me, is very clear

You know my flesh, you know my fear,

You know my body, you know my mind

You know my growth, can fall way behind

So you gave me a gift, unspeakable, real

Emotions so strong, I can’t say how I feel,

I open my eyes, at the start of each day

To behold beauty, that with me does stay,

She smiles at me, though knowing my sins

And prays for me, when a new day begins,

She comes alongside, put there by God

She’s fully aware, her husband is flawed,

But she loves me to death, I know that ’tis true

And I run out of ways, to say “I love you.”

She lends me her spirit, to help focus my thought

She lends me her wisdom, lessons God’s taught,

She gives me her body, so completely, so free

With passion and love, complete ecstasy,

So I love her like Christ, said to love your bride

And cherish that girl that stays by my side

I love her and honor her, a gift straight from God

I feel giddy, happy, filled with great awe,

I want you to think, for a moment or two

Just what that woman, really means to you,

How your work for the Lord, would suffer or die

If she didn’t help, but stood idly by,

Do you realize your mind, would fold in on itself?

Do you think all that work, is done by an elf?

The meals she cooks, the dishes she does

She does backbreaking work, and it’s all because

It’s a ministry from God, she’s smart enough to know

How God works in a family, whose life’s on the go,

Now let’s all thank God, for the gift He has given

And serve Him together, a team bound for heaven.

Abigail is an interesting woman whom you find in 1 Samuel chapter 25.  Like several women in the Old Testament, Abigail is described as beautiful.  Unlike other women in the Old Testament, Abigail is also described as “intelligent” (NAB, NIV, TEV), or “clever” (NRSV), or “of good understanding” (KJV, ASV), etc.

Abigail was married to a wealthy man and she may have enjoyed the benefits of an affluent lifestyle, but her rich husband Nabal was foolish, intemperate and mean. Abigail’s name is derived from two Hebrew words, “father” and “happiness”, and means “my father’s happiness”.  She may have been the cause of happiness in her father’s house, but Abigail’s marriage cannot have been a happy one. Nabal’s name means “foolish” or “senseless” in Hebrew.  As an adjective the word is used especially of people who have no perception of ethical or religious claims. It is an apt name for this character, who typifies such behavior.

In the Cross, In the Cross – be My Glory Ever


Jesus, keep me near the cross,
There a precious fountain—
Free to all, a healing stream—
Flows from Calv’ry’s mountain.

Refrain:
In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever;
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.

Near the cross, a trembling soul,
Love and Mercy found me;
There the bright and morning star
Sheds its beams around me.

Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day,
With its shadows o’er me.

Near the cross I’ll watch and wait
Hoping, trusting ever,
Till I reach the golden strand,
Just beyond the river.

The story of Funny Crosby, the writer of this hymn, we have already looked at and will not be the center of our discussion today. But for reference please follow this link: https://austinbhebe.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/jesus-keep-me-near-the-cross/

I love to talk and preach on the theme of the cross of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the axis of salvation, the climax of the cosmic conflict between good and evil. So Fanny Crosby’s ‘Near the Cross’ is a favorite hymn of mine. In this hymn Funny Crosby takes us back to the cross.

When we sing Calvary, Calvary be my glory ever, it is not Calvary that we glory in. But it is what happened at Calvary that we glory in. Christ the son of God died a substitutionary death at Calvary. In His death eternal death was dead forever. Now I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene and wonder how He could love me a sinner condemned unclean. How marvelous, how wonder and my song shall ever be. In the Gospels we read that our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified for our sins at a place called “Golgotha.” “And when they reached a place called Golgotha, which is the place of skull.” (Matthew 27:33), there they crucified him.

So Golgotha is the “place of the skull.” But if you’ve ever studied Hebrew, you may have realized a difficulty with the claimed translations here. Golgotha doesn’t mean anything close to “skull” in Hebrew, Aramaic, or any other language. That is a big problem. It is a puzzle that must be solved and when it is solved we will be amazed. In my studies of this place I came up with the following facts which we now lay out.

Let’s lay out the facts:

  1. Golgotha, a seemingly unintelligible word, has something to do with a “skull.”
  2. Golgotha is located outside the city walls of Jerusalem.
  3. Golgotha was a widely known Jewish location with a proper name. Presumably the location symbolized something.

Here’s a possible solution that you may not have expected:

The “place of the skull” is where King David buried the head of the decapitated giant Goliath of Gath. The Bible teaches that after David slew Goliath, he cut off his head and brought it – the skull – to Jerusalem:

“He ran, and stood over the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath, and slew him, and cut off his head. And the Philistines seeing that their champion was dead, fled away. And the children of Israel returning, after they had pursued the Philistines, fell upon their camp. And David taking the head of the Philistine brought it to Jerusalem: but his armor he put in his tent.” (1 Samuel 17:51–54,)

This would explain why the “place of the skull” is oddly named “Golgotha.” The term is a corruption of Hebrew for “Goliath Gath”:

Goliath Gath > GoliGath > GolGath > GolGatha

So King David killed the enemy of Israel (Goliath of Gath) and then brought the giant’s head to Jerusalem. Jews would not have permitted the Gentile giant’s head to be buried in the city walls. It would have been buried outside the city walls. This matches with what we know about the location of Golgatha. It was outside the city walls.

The slaying of Goliath by David was one of the most important events in “Israelite history.” The location of the giant’s head would have been known by all. Hence, “Golgatha” is likely the place of not just any old skull, but the place of the skull of Goliath of Gath.

This is a beautiful connection since Christ is the Messianic Son of David. Our Lord Jesus Christ is constantly reaffirming that He Himself is the definitive “Son of David”:

“And the chief priests and scribes, seeing the wonderful things that he did and the children crying in the temple and saying: Hosanna to the son of David, were moved with indignation,” (Matthew 21:15)

“And Jesus answering, said, teaching in the temple: How do the scribes say that Christ is the son of David?” (Mark 12:35)

Our Lord Jesus Christ crushed the head of Satan while he was on the cross (see Gen 3:15).

Just as the shepherd David crushed the head of Goliath of Gath with a little stone, so Jesus Christ crushed the head of Satan. The foundation of God’s Kingdom on earth (the Universal Catholic Church) was embedded into the forehead of the Roman Empire while Jesus hung on a Roman cross. The “little rock” that Christ threw was his appointed apostle and vicar – a man whom he named “little rock” or “Peter.” Peter was embedded into Rome by also being crucified on a Roman cross, albeit upside down. And there Peter was buried: “On this rock I will build my Church.”

Jesus’ crucifixion was a battle that ultimately delivered all humankind from the power of Satan – from sin and from death. And we, who are in Christ, share in this victory.

Jesus went to his death on Golgotha knowing that it was the path to his glorification as well as our salvation. In his last public discourse, he had indicated how – and why – he would soon die, saying, “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say – ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name. . . . And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:27-28, 32-33). And on the very eve of his crucifixion, Jesus prayed,

Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed. (John 17:1-5).

The Fathers of the Church even refer to the cross as Jesus’ “throne of glory.” The crucifixion led ultimately to Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven, where he is gloriously enthroned at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 1:3).

I hope this brings everything together for you. Now I am aware there are many thoughts about this place called the skull, its appearance of a skull, the thought that Adam’s skull was buried there and so forth, but I thought I would share something that touched me in my research.

Now thank we all our God


ThanksImagine a world without sound and the frustration of trying to express what you feel or need to others. Hearing is very important. Of all the five senses, our hearing is perhaps the most precious. If we lose it, we lose contact with the people we love and the world around us. Consider all the sounds that surround you every single day: a child laughing, a bird singing, a friend chatting, or a great song on the radio – it is this symphony of sounds that makes life richer. When you hear a loved one say I love you, it is different from reading it.

Hearing is an easy thing to take for granted. Occasionally we might miss a few words, but in general we move around effortlessly in everyday life, talking to one another, chatting over the phone or listening to the TV, without paying it a second thought.

Hearing empowers us and enriches our lives. Hearing enables us to socialise, work, interact, communicate and even relax. Good hearing also helps to keep us safe, warning us of potential danger or alerting us to someone else’s distress.

Hearing is essential for us to be able to live and participate in life more fully. Problems with our hearing may lead to feelings of isolation and even depression. Our hearing provides us with an enormous source of information, some of it obvious and some we barely notice but when combined, this information forms the bridge between the world and how we interact with it. Hearing helps us lead our everyday lives without limitations.

Things are not nearly as easy with a hearing loss. When hearing loss occurs, a simple thing like following a conversation in a boardroom meeting or hearing the doorbell or telephone can become a real issue. You may start to experience all sorts of emotions – from worry to sadness and loneliness. You may also feel tired and irritable from having to concentrate just to hear what people are saying. Left unattended, hearing loss can ultimately lead to feelings of isolation and depression.

I was just partially deaf for two days, but the impact it has left on me will live forever. I now consider deafness differently. My life changed temporarily in a split second. For two good days, I could not hear completely in one ear. The other ear came on and off. I remembered Enid and I missed her so much. I knew for sure what God meant when He said it is not good for a man to be alone. I called her on her trip and could only wish she was right next to me. I was left in that state with the girls alone to do all that we normally do. Unfortunately this time, I could only do a little and I felt frustrated. The doctor quarantined me from air travel for two weeks till I am completely healed. But whatever the cause of deafness, being unable to hear is a traumatic experience.

It is this experience that led me to read the biography of Helen Keller. She went on to acquire an excellent education and to become an important influence on the treatment of the blind and deaf. Born physically normal in Tuscumbia, Alabama, Helen Keller lost her sight and hearing at the age of nineteen months to an illness now believed to have been scarlet fever. The International NGO Helen Keller is named after her.

Helen Keller once said, “I have always thought it would be a blessing if each person could be blind and deaf for a few days during his early adult life. Darkness would make him appreciate sight; silence would teach him the joys of sound.” I can also not agree more with  Honore de Balzac’s quote, “A good marriage would be between a blind wife and a deaf husband.” I experienced all this in a twinkling of an eye. I also appreciate that Helen Keller also noted that, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it”.

For that reason my hymn of choice today is a thanks giving hymn called Now Thank We All Our God.

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

Oh, may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And guard us through all ills in this world, till the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given,
The Son, and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven—
The one eternal God, Whom earth and Heav’n adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

The story behind this hymn is one of my favorite hymn stories. Let me just say just a little bit about the author and the composer of this hymn.

Now Thank We All Our God, is a wonderful, wonderful hymn, and was written by Martin Rinkart, who was born in 1586 and died in 1649. He was a Lutheran deacon and composer. Martin Rinkart left us a beautiful testament to faith and thanksgiving. Some details about his life and times shed new light on this familiar hymn:

German pastor Martin Rinkart served in the walled town of Eilenburg during the horrors of the Thirty Years War of 1618-1648. Eilenburg became an overcrowded refuge for the surrounding area. The fugitives suffered from epidemic and famine. At the beginning of 1637, the year of the Great Pestilence, there were four ministers in Eilenburg. But one abandoned his post for healthier areas and could not be persuaded to return. Pastor Rinkhart officiated at the funerals of the other two.

As the only pastor left, he often conducted services for as many as 40 to 50 persons a day–some 4,480 in all. In May of that year, his own wife died. By the end of the year, the refugees had to be buried in trenches without services.

The war in Germany that took place 1620 to 1648 or somewhere in there, roughly took about Thirty Years War. It is one of the horrendous periods in European history. Largely, if you think of Germany today, that’s really where the war took place. It’s confusing as to who was on which side: the French Catholic king was on the Protestant side because he was eager to overthrow the Hapsburg dynasty. It’s all very complicated, but for our purposes it was just horrendous in terms of the loss of life, in terms of starvation, the cruelty…. War is always cruel, but The Thirty Years War was a very cruel war, and there are some dreadful statistics of thousands of people in certain towns being decimated. Some of the famous cities of Germany that we think of — Brandenburg and so on — lost upwards of forty or fifty percent of their population during The Thirty Years War, including Martin Rinkart’s wife. She died of starvation and disease. Towns would be surrounded, they’d be starved…disease would spread and so on…plague….

And just like the Puritans during the plague in a later period, slightly later period in the 1660’s in London, the Puritan ministers stayed in the city when all the other ministers left the city. Rinkart stayed and ministered to the people. It was a horrendous time, and some think — although there’s no evidence — that this hymn had been composed in its final form in the peace treaty that ended… the Peace of Westphalia, I think it was called, that ended The Thirty Years War. So “Now Thank We All Our God, with heart and hands and voices, who wondrous things hath done, in whom His world rejoices….” And there’s an air of tremendous gratitude to God through what was an enormously difficult period in his life and the life of his country.

When Rinkart was ministering in the city of Eilenburg they were actually surrounded and besieged by the Swedish army, and starvation was rife. And it is said that eventually one by one the pastors in the city died, leaving Rinkart as the only pastor. I’ve read sources that said towards the end of the time of the siege–and I think he was actually used to help lift the siege…I think he was actually sent out by the leaders of the city to meet with the Swedes, who respected him in their negotiations–but it is said that towards the end of the siege he was doing fifty funerals a day. It’s hard to conceive of what it would have been like in a situation like that.

Yet, while living in a world dominated by death, Rinkart wrote this timeless prayer of thanksgiving for his children:

Now thank we all our God With hearts and hands and voices;
Who wondrous things hath done, In whom this world rejoices.
Who, from our mother’s arms, Hath led us on our way,
With countless gifts of love, And still is ours today.

 

 

 

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