Nearer, My God, to Thee, Nearer to Thee!


By Sarah Flower Adams, 1841

Nearer

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me;
Still all my song shall be nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down,
Darkness be over me, my rest a stone;
Yet in my dreams I’d be nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

There let the way appear steps unto heav’n;
All that Thou sendest me in mercy giv’n;
Angels to beckon me nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Then with my waking thoughts bright with Thy praise,
Out of my stony griefs Bethel I’ll raise;
So by my woes to be nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Or if on joyful wing, cleaving the sky,
Sun, moon, and stars forgot, upwards I fly,
Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

NOTE– The text is taken from W. J. Fox’s Hymns and Anthems; with a single change, referred to under “Some Points for Discussion.

This is one of the hymns that I have taken long to review. At one point at the peak of reformed theology reintroduction in Zambia, I had trouble singing this hymn. But now I look back and appreciate it more than ever before.

This hymn is one of my favourites. It has a simple but beautiful melody and powerful lyrics. It conveys the longing of being with Heavenly Father again; it conveys the longing of home. There is the desire to be close to God, regardless the cost – even if it takes our own cross to get us there (which it often does in our own way).

Much of the hymn refers to an experience the patriarch of old – Jacob – had on a journey toward Haran. I’ll quote at length from the Bible (Genesis 28:10-22) and insert italicized commentary as appropriate.

Now I am very much aware that this is not the accepted stance by many. This hymn has been quite controversial especially among the reformed minds.

THE AUTHOR OF THE HYMN

In the year 1820 there came to Dalston, then a rural suburb of London, a little family composed of Benjamin Flower, a widower, and his two daughters, the younger of whom was afterward to write this hymn.

Something of a career lay behind Mr. Flower, then an elderly man. Unsuccessful in business speculations as a young man, he had become a traveling salesman on the continent. There he became an adherent of the French Republic, and in 1792 published a book on the French Constitution which was really an attack on that of England. He was selected to edit The Cambridge Intelligencer, an influential weekly of radical principles. Accused of libelling the Bishop of Llandaff, whose political conduct he had censured, he was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment in Newgate with a fine of £1oo. He was visited in prison by Miss Eliza Gould, a lady who is said to have suffered for her own liberal principles, and shortly after his release he married her. They settled at Harlow in Essex, where Mr. Flower became a printer and where Mrs. Flower died in 1810. These facts of their father’s career help us to understand the atmosphere in which the motherless girls grew up.

Both daughters had inherited their mother’s delicate constitution, but both were talented to an unusual degree, and they attracted to the Dalston home many friends who afterward became distinguished. Among these were Harriet Martineau and Robert Browning, “the boy poet,” as Eliza Flower calls him in her letters, who came often to discuss religious difficulties with her sister Sarah. Eliza, the elder, was a skilful musician with a remarkable gift for musical composition. Sarah, the younger of the sisters, was also musical, and possessed of a rich contralto voice, and was much given to singing songs in costume, with appropriate dramatic action. The elder sister always furnished the accompaniment, and sometimes the musical settings of these songs, in their domestic entertainments.

Sarah Flower was born at the Harlow home on February 22nd, 1805. She had the dramatic instinct, and from childhood cherished the ambition of adopting the stage as a profession. She idealized the stage as an ally of the pulpit, and held that the life of an actress should be as high and noble as the great thoughts and actions she was called upon to express. In 1829 her father died, and in 1834 Sarah Flower was married to John Brydges Adams, a civil engineer and an ingenious inventor in the early days of railroad building. Her husband encouraged her dramatic ambition, and in 1837 she made her first public appearance, at the Richmond Theatre, as “ Lady Macbeth.” Her success was great enough to gain for her an engagement at the Bath Theatre. But her health gave away under the strain of public performances, and she suffered a siege of illness at Bath which at once put an end to all hope of a dramatic career.

Mrs. Adams determined to devote herself to literary work, for she had in addition a considerable literary gift. She wrote much for the Monthly Repository, but her most ambitious effort was “Vivia Perpetua – a Dramatic Poem,” published in 1841. It tells the story of a young mother who suffered a martyr’s death at Carthage, A. D. 203, for her faith in Christ. There is but little doubt that her own moral earnestness and intense feelings are set forth in the character of Vivia. The poem is often eloquent, but as a drama not well constructed, and it has taken no permanent place in literature. “The Royal Progress,” a long poem in ballad meter, has met a like fate. Mrs. Adams’s high ideals and ambitions led her to undertake tasks beyond her powers. Though ambitious to lead in the moral uplifting of the stage, even the ordinary routine of an actress’s life was beyond her physical powers. And so her attempt to revive the poetical drama was quite as far beyond her intellectual powers. She had, however, a real gift for lyrical poetry. By her lyrics she retains a modest place in literature, and is chiefly remembered as the author of “Nearer, My God, to Thee.”

Mrs. Adams is described by her friend, Mrs. Bridell Fox, as ”“tall and singularly beautiful, with noble and “regular features; in manner gay and impulsive, her conversation witty and sparkling.” The portrait here given is a facsimile of a slight sketch believed to have been made by Miss Margaret Gillies in 1834. Mrs. Adams seems to have made a deep impression upon the minds of those who knew her. They speak enthusiastically of her personal charm, and of her purity and high- mindedness. In his “Blue-Stocking Revels,” the poet Leigh Hunt also pays tribute to her as “Mrs. Adams, rare mistress of thought and of tears.”

Both of the sisters died while still in early life, and within less than two years of each other. Eliza died of consumption in December, 1846, and Sarah on August 14th, 1848; the death of the younger sister was probably hastened by the cares and anxiety occasioned by the long illness of the elder. At the funerals of both, hymns by Mrs. Adams were sung to music composed for them by her sister. One cannot avoid a feeling of regret that some foretaste of her usefulness and fame did not come to brighten the failing days of the author of “Nearer, My God, to Thee.”

THE STORY OF THE HYMN

After the death of Mr. Flower, his daughters removed to Upper Clapton, a suburb of London, and there connected themselves with the religious society to which the gifted William Johnson Fox ministered, in South Place Chapel, Finsbury. Mr. Fox occupied an independent ecclesiastical position, though generally classed as a Unitarian. For the use of the congregation he prepared a collection of Hymns and Anthems, published in 1840 and 1841, in two parts. At his request Mrs. Adams wrote for the book thirteen original hymns and some translations. One of the hymns was “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” and it first appeared in the second part of the book. Like most of Mrs. Adams’s hymns it was set to music by her sister, and was often heard in the services of South Place Chapel.

“How she composed her hymns,” says Mrs. Bridell Fox, “can hardly be stated. She certainly never had any idea of composing them. They were the spontaneous expression of some strong impulse of feeling of the moment; she was essentially a creature of impulse. Her translations would, of course, be an exception; also, perhaps, when she was writing words for music already in use in the chapel.”

“Nearer, My God, to Thee” was not long in finding its way across the ocean. While Mr. Fox was compiling his hymn book for his London congregation, an American clergyman, somewhat like him in his religious views, the Rev. James Freeman Clarke, was organizing a new congregation in Boston as the Church of the Disciples. (It is the church described as the Church of the Galileans in Dr. Holmes’s Professor at the Breakfast Table.) Mr. Clarke printed a new hymn book for it in 1844, including a number of hymns from Mr. Fox’s book, a copy of which had been given him by his friend Mr. Bakewell of Pittsburgh. Among these was “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” and in 1846 Mr. Longfellow put the hymn into his Book of Hymns. It was some time, however, before it made its way into the orthodox Congregational churches. Henry Ward Beecher, who was never afraid of novelty, included it in the Plymouth Collection in 1855. But what started the hymn on its free course in America was the tune “Bethany,” which Lowell Mason wrote for it and published in 1856. And when the hymn, set to this taking tune, appeared in 1859 in the wonderfully successful Sabbath Hymn and Tune Book of the professors at Andover Seminary, its general use became assured. By 1866 it had found its way into the authorized hymnal of the Presbyterian Church.

SOME POINTS FOR DISCUSSION

(1) Although so popular with congregations, this hymn has had rather hard treatment at the hands of editors of hymn books. In a number of cases the editor has inserted a new stanza, composed by himself. Bishop How rewrote the entire hymn for the 1864 edition of his Psalms and Hymns. The object of these changes was to introduce the name and work of Christ, “to make the hymn more distinctly Christian.” Is there a real lack in the hymn, needing to be supplied in some such way? Or is it likely that the Unitarian origin of the hymn suggested the need of change?

(2) The text of the hymn has also suffered much from alteration, and is very rarely printed as Mrs. Adams wrote it. In the Protestant Episcopal Hymnal, for instance, “the wanderer ” of verse two becomes “a wanderer,” and the following line reads, “Weary and lone.” The “Bethel,” of verse four, becomes “altars.” Is not the Bible story on which the hymn is based completely hidden by these changes? In The Hymnal only one word differs from what Mrs. Adams wrote. In the fifth line she wrote “would be” instead of “shall be.” The editor thought “would be” better, because less boastful and self-confident, but he feared to make confusion by changing what everybody sings from memory. The editor of the new Presbyterian hymnal for Scotland was braver, and prints Mrs. Adams’s text, here, as in every other particular.

(3) Perhaps no hymn is sung more thoughtlessly than this, What is the meaning of “E’en though it be a cross That raiseth me”? Write out the leading thought of the hymn in plain prose. Is it not singular that a hymn expressing desire to draw nearer to God by the way of suffering should be so often declared their favorite hymn by persons apparently the most self-indulgent?

(4) The literary merits of the hymn are much debated. One may admit certain faults. Indeed, he owes it to himself to recognize that “stony griefs” is a bad metaphor, and that, if a verse is to be omitted in singing, the last verse is not ill-adapted to such a purpose. But notice, on the other hand, the perfect “singableness” of the hymn. And singableness is the first merit of a lyric. Note, also – who has not noted? – the haunting beauty of the refrain, and the happy introduction of the lonely figure of Jacob. Is it not fair to say that, even from a literary point of view, the merits of the hymn outweigh its defects?

Twenty and Nine Years – The Anchor Holds Still


Anchor Holding The Longer

For twenty and Nine Year, the Lord has done me nothing but Good. It is my spiritual birthday and the Lord has indeed been good to me. “We who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:18b, 19a).

Contemplate this thought-provoking quote, “In order to realize the worth of the anchor, one needs to feel the stress of the storm.” Faith is put to the test and best demonstrated during the deepest trials of life.

How thankful we should be for the blessed anchor of hope we have in Jesus!  This anchor is “firm and secure.”

Without trials and tests of life, we would have no experiences to evaluate, learn, and understand the magnitude of God’s faithfulness and promises.  We all face challenges that press us to our very limits.  This is where the ‘rubber meets the road’!  Our faith is tested to to the limits!  That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ (1Peter 1:7).  This is where we believe in Him no matter what,  and having done all we can…we stand.  For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord (1 Thessalonians 3:8).  Where lies the answer?  Who is our anchor?  It is Jesus Christ….The Rock of Ages!  He is my anchor!   My answer lies in Him!  This Anchor holds against all storms of life!

I have journeyed through the long dark night since that August 14th day of 1986. Out on the open sea, by faith alone, Sight unknown; and yet his eyes have been watching me.

Yet the anchor holds, though the ships been battered. The anchor holds, though the sails are torn. I have fallen on my knees as I face the raging seas and yet still, the  anchor holds in spite of the storm.

The road I have traveled has sometimes been steep, through wild jagged places of life. Sometimes I’ve stumbled and fallen so hard that the stones cut my soul like a knife. But the staff of my Shepherd has always reached out for me and lifted me to cool pastures green. With oil of the spirit anointing my wounds, there have often rested by the clear healing stream.

All I can say now is, but now more than ever I cherish the cross. More than ever I sit at His feet. All the miles of my journey have proved my Lord true, And He is so precious to me.

I remember the day when I was born again, indeed my soul was singing glory hallelujah. I do not know where and how to start telling my story. However, the experience was amazing, life changing. I really was not that kind of a bad boy that used to be bad. I was one of those good boys that went to church. I used to sing in the choir and I even got baptized at 12, but all along I did not know Christ.

When I got to secondary school, I was chosen as a Scripture Union Leader because everyone thought I was a Christian, but one day on 14th August 1986 the evening after a sermon at a Youth Camp, I could not pretend anymore. I knew something was wrong in my heart, I knew exactly what to do because I had led many others to Christ even when I had not done the same. That night, alone at Choma Secondary School, I confessed my sins and asked Jesus to come into my heart.

The next day I told my teachers Mr Hamoonga Choongo and Rachel Melhorn Phiri that I had become a Christian and they asked me what I meant. All my friends did not believe what I was saying but that was the case. It is possible to live like a Christian when you are not and many live that way.

It was that day I understood that God had created me to love and worship Him. But, because of my sinful heart, I worshiped other things rather than Him. Though I had an outward appearance of a “spiritual” person, I knew my heart was sinful and unchanged. I understood that my sin separated me from a Holy God and that there was nothing I could do to take away my own sin. I understood that Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died a sacrificial death, was buried in a tomb, and resurrected on the third day, showing His power and victory over sin, death and the grave. That is the day I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ, repenting of my sin and, by faith, trusting in Jesus as the only Lord and Saviour. This is the day I was “born again,” as Jesus told Nicodemus we must be if we want to receive eternal life. It was at this point that my life changed, where “old things passed away” and “all things became new” (2 Cor. 5:17).

God created us for life, to live our lives for His glory through worshiping and obeying Him. Our first birthday makes this possible. But, without a second birthday, a spiritual birthday, being “born again,” we will never live out the purpose for which God created us. In fact, as a result, we will die twice – experiencing physical death at the end of our physical life, and spiritual death, separation from the presence of God forever. Well did someone once say, “If we are born once, we will die twice. But, if we are born twice, we will only die once.” For those with two birthdays, eternal life begins at the point of trusting Christ. Physical death only ends our earthly existence but ushers us immediately into the presence of the One who gave His life for us so that we might live. As Paul reminds us, for those who are in Christ – those who have surrendered their lives to Him in repentance and faith – “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8).

Now the longer that I serve Him the sweeter he grows. The more that I love Him, more love He bestows. Each day is like heaven, my heart overflows, and the longer I serve Him, the sweeter He grows.

Anytime and anywhere know that Jesus’ love is there (Don’na tokidemo, don’na tokidemo)


Author: Junko Takahashi – Tune Don’na Tokidemo

Don’na tokidemo, don’na tokidemo (Kapan pun penderitaan datang)
kurushimini makezu, kujiketewa naranai. (aku tidak akan patah semangat)
Iesu samano, Iesu samano ai o shinjite. (aku percaya pada Yesus)

Don’na tekodemi, don’na tokidemo (Kapan pun penderitaan datang)
shiawaseo nozomi, kujiketewa naranai. (Kami berharap kebahagiaan, bukan berkecil hati)
Iesu samano, Iesu samano ai o shinjite. (aku percaya pada Yesus)

Anytime and anywhere, know that Jesus’s love is there .
When in grief and loss, when in pain, God will strengthen and sustain.
Put your hope in God, trust His holy Word everytime and everywhere.

Anytime and anywhere, know that Jesus’s love is there.
Don’t despair for God is kind. Look for joy and you will find.
Put away your fear, God is very near every time and every where.

Put away your fear… God is very near… Every time and every where…

This song is a Japanese hymn. Rarely have we explored hymns from this part of the world, but here is one that is appropriate to help us in troubled times. When I came across this Japanese song, it touched me and I hope it does to you too. It is called Don’na Tokidemo ~ Anytime & Anywhere.

About the Hymn

This simple hymn text was written by a young Japanese girl who died of cancer at age seven. Junko Takahashi died young, and her faith grew stronger even as she suffered in the hospital. What a testimony this young child has given to a nation where less than 2 percent of the population is Christian! The music is by Shin’ichi Takanami, Associate Professor of Music Education at Kunitachi College of Music in Tokyo.

This hymn was recommended for Sing! A New Creation by Dr. Yasuhiko Yokosaka, a professor of music at Niigata University in Japan. He served on the committee that prepared The Hymnal 21, the fourth Christian hymnal in Japan based on ecumenical efforts (21 stands for the 21st century; the earlier hymnals were published in 1903, 1931, and 1954). Many hymns in The Hymnal 21 have been translated from English into Japanese.

The text encourages us not to fear, but to trust Jesus’ love and God’s steadfast care. The gentle melody, in a tradition as much Western as Eastern, is in the simple style of children’s songs of earlier generations. It reminds us of God’s lovingkindness to generations before us as well as to our own. Like the words “anytime” and “anywhere,” the tune uses parallel phrases that build on each other. Sing at an andante tempo (q = 100), accompanied by guitar or keyboard, with instruments (flute, violin) playing the melody in unison with the singers.

The song is appropriate “anytime and anywhere”—consider having your children learn it and teach the adults during Lent, for a healing service, or for a funeral. Also consider singing one stanza at the beginning and another at the end of prayers of intercession.”

A few comments about struggles in Life

Struggle and storms of life – we have all faced them at one time or another. No one, not even the most religious among us, is immune to them. Sometimes it is health issues, sometimes money issues, work or family problems. Other times it is just life itself – waking up feeling like the minute that your feet hit the floor, the problems are going to flood through the door. You spend your day struggling just to keep your head above water so you can go to bed and get up the next day to do it all over again.

If you are there (or you have been there), you are not the first. The past one year has been on such a period for Enid and I. When hard times come, lines of familiar hymns often leap out at us, catch us unaware, and stick in our throats. At times we cannot sing, we cannot pray. It is then that we need the fellowship of believers more than ever. We need the comfort of knowing that others are singing and praying on our behalf, bringing before God the prayers and songs we cannot sing.

The comfort we get is this, that the Bible is filled with people much like us who struggled with things beyond their control. Jacob spent his life struggling with God. Moses struggled with his leadership role and the people around him. David seemed to have it all, yet he struggled with much (as the Psalms shares with us). Job was hit with loss after loss after loss. He suffered mightily for over 40 chapters and while he never cursed God, he did curse the day he was born. The Apostle Paul struggled and in 1 Timothy, called himself one of the biggest sinners of all time.

http://www.reformedworship.org/article/june-2004/songs-season-singing-through-hard-times

Give to our God immortal praise


Give to our God immortal praise

By Isaac Watts, The Psalms of Da­vid, 1719

Give to our God immortal praise;
Mercy and truth are all His ways:
Wonders of grace to God belong,
Repeat His mercies in your song.

Give to the Lord of lords renown,
The King of kings with glory crown:
His mercies ever shall endure,
When lords and kings are known no more.

He built the earth, He spread the sky,
And fixed the starry lights on high:
Wonders of grace to God belong,
Repeat His mercies in your song.

He fills the sun with morning light;
He bids the moon direct the night:
His mercies ever shall endure,
When suns and moons shall shine no more.

The Jews He freed from Pharaoh’s hand,
And brought them to the promised land
Wonders of grace to God belong,
Repeat His mercies in your song.

He saw the Gentiles dead in sin,
And felt His pity work within
His mercies ever shall endure,
When death and sin shall reign no more.

He sent His Son with power to save
From guilt, and darkness, and the grave
Wonders of grace to God belong,
Repeat His mercies in your song.

Through this vain world He guides our feet,
And leads us to His heav’nly seat
His mercies ever shall endure,
When this vain world shall be no more.

Praising God when times are hard is one of the most challenging experiences of any Christian. But being able to go through this with one you love is comforting. Sometimes when I’m going through a trial, I have a tendency to wear myself out trying to gain the victory. I pray almost constantly, I study my Bible with zeal, and I meditate on God’s Word day and night. These are all good things that please the Lord, but I know from experience that it’s possible to carry them to extremes. This was the case recently for me when God has had to remind me that real faith ushers us into the rest of God. (Hebrews 4:3) After impressing upon me that I was actually doing more fretting than resting, I felt that God was speaking to my heart and saying, “Just praise Me”. At first, I have had to do it by faith because my troubles have plunged me deep into a pit of depression. As I begin to sing praises to the Lord, I have felt my spirits lift and my focus shift from my problems to the Problem Solver. And that is exactly what I need because when I’m going through a trial, I have a tendency to want to figure out how I can get out of it. Unfortunately, this doesn’t do a thing to bolster my faith, but instead, it just adds to my doubt, confusion, and frustration.

Thank God for Enid and her habit of prayer. The song that has been ringing in my head is – Give to our God immortal praise “and that is what I am doing. That is what I will do. I will give Him immortal praise. Though He slays me, yet will I trust in Him.

All of us have moments when we feel discouraged by life’s circumstances. Sometimes our loved ones’ efforts to lighten our load or lift our spirits fall short, and we wonder if we will ever emerge from today’s trying situation with our joy intact.

It’s good to know that our Father invites us to confide in Him, to share our feelings honestly in prayer. He cares for us and understands our needs and weaknesses. His comforting words, “Be of good cheer,” can mean more to a hurting heart than anything else in the world.

There have been times when I thought, “I’ll never be cheered up.” Yet as soon as I began to remind myself of His mercy and goodness, the clouds would begin to disperse. Of course, this doesn’t mean that all of our problems will receive a quick fix or that it will be smooth sailing from here on out, but it does mean that our faces will brighten, the weight of the burden will lessen.  We will be free to experience the joy of the Lord in the midst of life’s storms and challenges.

This hymn which was written by Isaac Watts (1674-1748) encourages us to praise God because of His mercy which endures forever. The text is based on Psalm 136.    The song expresses praise to God because of His greatness and what He has done.

In the first stanza, the hymn writer praises God because of His mercy and truth. “Give to our God immortal praise; Mercy and truth are all His ways. Wonders of grace to God belong; Repeat His mercies in your song.”
The word “immortal” means living forever; never dying or decaying. In other words deathless, and while each of us must die, if we serve Him our praise to God can continue even after death: 1 Cor. 15:53.

Secondly, one reason that we praise Him is because of His mercy and truth: Ps. 89:14 and thirdly, we also praise Him because of His wonders: Ps. 77:14

The second stanza praises God because He is greater than all lords and kings
“Give to the Lord of lords renown; The King of kings with glory crown. His mercies ever shall endure, When lords and kings are known no more.”

The point is this, that our God is the Lord of lords the most high above all the earth: Ps. 97:9. He is also the King of kings over all the nations: Ps. 47:7-8 and His mercies shall endure even when the lords and kings of this earth are no more: 2 Pet. 3:10

In stanza three, the hymn writer praises God because He built the earth and sky
“He built the earth, He spread the sky, And fixed the starry lights on high.
Wonders of grace to God belong; Repeat His mercies in your song.”
The key point in this verse is that God is worthy to be praised because He created the heavens and earth: Gen. 1:1. In His creation, He fixed the starry lights on high: Gen. 1:16 and this same God has shown His grace to mankind: Ps. 84:11

In stanza number four, the hymn writer praises God because He created the sun and moon
“He fills the sun with morning light; He bids the moon direct the night.
His mercies ever shall endure, When suns and moons shall shine no more.”
Also in creation, He made the sun to give light to the day: Ps. 19:1-6. In addition, He made the moon to direct the night: Ps. 8:3-4. Yet His mercies shall endure even when suns and moons are gone: Heb. 1:10-12

In stanza number five, the hymn writer praises God because He sent His Son to save us
“He sent His Son with power to save From guilt, and darkness, and the grave.
Wonders of grace to God belong; Repent His mercies in your song.”
This mighty God we serve loved us so much that He sent His Son: Jn. 3:16. His purpose in sending His Son is to save us from guilt, darkness, and the grave: Matt. 1:2. Therefore, we should repeat His mercies in song continually: Ps. 69:30

In stanza number six, he praises God because He guides us to heaven
“Through this vain world He guides our feet, And leads us to His heavenly seat;
His mercies ever shall endure, When this vain world shall be no more.”
Because of His love, He also seeks to guide our feet through this vain world: Ps. 73:24. His goal in this is to lead us to His heavenly seat where we shall obtain eternal life: Matt. 7:13-14. Even then His mercies ever shall endure when this vain world is no more: Matt. 24:35

The poem of this hymn was originally in eight stanzas. The two omitted stanzas are as follows:

  1. “The Jews He freed from Pharaoh’s hand, And brought them to the promised land.
    Wonders of grace to God belong; Repeat His mercies in your song.”
  2. “He saw the Gentiles dead in sin, And felt His pity work within.
    His mercies ever shall endure, When death and sin shall reign no more.”

As we consider all that God has done for mankind physically and spiritually and what He will do for His people eternally, there is every reason in the world for us to “Give to Our God Immortal Praise.”

“Don‘t hope, friend, decide!“…


Christian quotes4

I was waiting for a taxi to pick me up at the airport. That day I had one of those experiences that change people‘s lives. It happened just two meters away from me. I noticed a man whom we were with on the plan, carrying two bags, coming toward me. His name was Dan. He stopped next to me to greet his family. Another man from the same plane stood next to me.

First of all he laid down his bag and came closer to his younger son (about six years old), they gave each other a warm, loving hug. Then the father looked in his son‘s eyes with words: „I missed you so much, it‘s so good to see you, son!“. The boy smiled and said: „Me too, dad“.

Then the man talked to his older son (nine or ten years old). „Oh, you are quite the young man, I love you very much!“ and cupped his face. Then they had the most tender hug too.

Afterwards the father said „Hi, baby girl“ to his baby daughter. She was squirming excitedly in her mother‘s arm and watching her returning father all the time. The man gently took his little daughter, quickly kissed her face all over and then held her close to his chest. The little girl laid her head on his shoulder in pure contentment.

After several moments the man looked at his wife and said „I‘ve saved the best for last“ and shared with her the most passionate kiss. They stared at each other, beaming big smiles. They reminded me of newlyweds.

Suddenly, I heard the man next to me asking „Wow, how long have you been married Dan?“. „Been together twenty years, and married fifteen of those“ . „Well then, how long have you been away?“. He replied with joyous smile on his face: „Two whole days!“.

Both of us were stunned, as we imagined that Dan had been gone for several weeks at least. We could only say: „we hope that our marriages will still be that passionate after several years“. The man looked straight into our eyes and told us something that changed our lives:

Don‘t hope, friend, decide!“…

„Don‘t hope, friend, decide!“…

Raising Daughters – Lessons from my Journey this far


Raising daughters

The raising of girls from babyhood is a magnificent task that requires unconditional love. I’m not going to lie, when Enid told me that she had had a scan and our next baby was also going to be a girl, a small tinge of disappointment hit me; I’d really been hoping for a boy. I know  It was worse for my wife  as she had made me believe it was a boy and now we had to face it. We even had a name for a boy and did not at all think that another girl was on her way – faith you know! I know, turn me in for the jerk-of-the-year award.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want a girl, it was just that I didn’t know how I would relate to, or help raise a gender that preferred tea parties and make up to an Arsenal or rugby match. I had enough girls already. It was time for a boy for a change.

It was easy to imagine how I would bring up a boy – the last born son.  At over 40, it would be strict discipline mixed with love and honour, lessons of wilderness survival, famous battles, endless wrestling matches and instruction in being a gentleman.  A girl on the other hand…?  The idea terrified me.  Pictures of puberty, boy relationships and sleep overs, awkward dad moments and an embarrassed/annoyed daughter helped convince me that I wasn’t cut out for the task of raising daughters.

Part of my misunderstanding came from being raised as an only boy child, growing up around girls with a very strict dad. Being raised by a dad that did not see value in girls. Let’s just say, while I appreciated growing up with girls, I knew very little about them other than they confused me and smelled nice and one day would change their names after another man from some place.

Then our daughters came and my theories were immediately tossed out the hospital window.  The girls were beautiful, and I quickly took to being their father.  These girls are mine and I am theirs.  My heart melted inside me each first time I held each of my girls and later, when they said “Dad!” and held out their arms to hug me.  The fears I once had about not being able to love girls as much evaporated as I became the ridiculously proud parent I’d always mocked.

Now, one of my daughters is still below 10 and others teenagers, so I know that I have many, many lessons still to learn (a fact that nearly kept me from writing this post in the first place).  The teenage years still loom ahead like a storm on the horizon taunting me…with nose piercings and glittery lip gloss.  But, even with only a short time under my belt, my daughters have taught me some incredibly important lessons that I never would have picked up had they not blessed my wife and I with their presence in our marriage.

1) Men are born to protect. Regardless of whether it has gone out of fashion in today’s society, deep in the heart of every man is a desire to protect his loved ones.  To make sure that they feel safe when you’re around, like the calming presence of a strong lion protecting the rest of the pride.  Though I’m sure that this instinct is there with boys as well, the strong conviction I have to protect my daughters is greater than nearly anything I’ve felt in my life.  It isn’t a feeling that has to be worked up, it’s just there, like cement mixed with sand and stone, daring someone to move it.

Taking on the protector role means carrying yourself a bit differently.  Rather than wandering aimlessly down any dark alley, I now am more aware of my surroundings and where I am taking my girls.  I also find myself a bit less sympathetic when other people’s reckless actions invade my daughters’ lives.  I used to work out mostly for vanity; I wanted to look good.  Now, I work out knowing that I could be the sole person standing between an intruder and my wife and girls.  And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the time I’ve spent developing intimidation tactics for future boyfriends.  Good luck Solomon et al brace-face.

2) “Girls keep a man’s heart from growing too hard”. Perhaps it’s because I went to a military academy of parenthood. I mean my father raised us like in a military camp, but I have realized after the birth of our daughters that my heart had grown a bit hard.  My compassion, patience and grace were all lacking.  I firmly believed that “second place was the first loser,”  “Pain was just weakness leaving the body,” etc.  I had great pride in the discipline and efficiency through which I ran my life and home.  These tough-guy attitudes suddenly seemed a bit ridiculous as I would look into the eyes of these innocent little girls content with blowing bubbles, chasing butterflies and eating copious amounts of ice cream.

It’s not that I have now become a bumbling mess of emotion and softness since the birth of my daughters, but I have allowed myself to accept that not everything in life is simply a resource that must be dedicated to some ultimate victory.  If we don’t get all of our chores done it’s not the end of the world.  My car used to be spotless, now it has crushed biscuits and toys strewn about the back seat and everywhere…who cares!  With a child in one’s life, schedules and plans become much more flimsy.  When my daughters cry I don’t try to numb the pain with a motivational talk, I just hug them.  These girls’ have kept my heart clean.

3) Every girl is some man’s daughter – There is no doubt that certain levels of sexism still remain alive in our culture today.  Until I had daughters, I gave the idea very little thought.  It had no direct impact on me, and I tried my best to be respectful to women, so why should I care?  Raising daughters and beginning to think about their future has caused me to reconsider my views on sexism, the glass ceiling, even the role of women in the advertising and entertainment industries.  I’m sure most guys are like I was, giving a sigh and roll of the eyes when HR begins their annual training on sexual harassment, but things are a little different when the victim could someday be your daughter. I am very protective of my girls.

 

4) Slow Down – The other day my wife and I were taking a walk along one of the streets by our house with two of our youngest girls. The youngest has a tendency of following us wherever we go without knowing how far we are going to go. She just joined in the walk and before too long it seemed a long way. We had to reduce our speed to let her catch up with us and feel a part of the team. When we felt like moving fast, our inner hearts would tell us to be considerate for the young one.

Looking around I realise that these girls are among the true blessings God has granted me on this earth, having beautiful girls in my life is no mean blessing. It is a reminder to slow down and enjoy the small, seemingly insignificant moments of life.  The ones that I had previously tried to fast forward or multi-task my way through. Patience and longsuffering have been the lessons God intend me to learn by bringing girls into my life.

I once heard a friend’s mom tell her kids before leaving on a long trip on a holiday trip “Wherever you are, there you are.”  The sage words have stuck with me for years as they reveal a life philosophy which refuses to take a moment for granted.  How often do we talk to our friends while trying to check our e-mail on our smartphone, or let our minds think about the rest of the day’s errands as a loved one tries to connect with us?  Children live life much differently; they take their time, fully engaging one task at a time, not too concerned with what lies ahead or behind.  Maybe we could learn a thing or two from them.

5) Living for someone else

“No man has ever risen to the real stature of spiritual manhood until he has found that it is finer to serve somebody else than it is to serve himself.” – Poor Austin.

Marriage is the first lesson most of us receive in learning to live for someone other than ourselves.  And just when we start to think we might have that lesson down, children shatter all our notions of self-righteousness.  Waking up at all hours of the night, changing diapers, feeding, cleaning…all these things are necessary parts of raising a healthy child, and they have been pivotal in forcing me to abandon some of my selfish habits.  My daughters could care less about my well-thought-out schedule or whether or not I have a flight early the next morning.  They continually challenge me to love them regardless of convenience.

Through marriage and living with my daughters, I have learned that one of the greatest tests of manhood is whether or not one has learned to abandon their life in the service of others. If I were alone by myself, I would do many things I desire. But for the sake of my wife and my children, I give up my preferences for those of my wife and children.

This idea makes some people’s skin crawl, but thus far it’s been one of the truest indicators of real manhood I’ve been able to find.  It doesn’t take much effort to be selfish.  In fact, it’s one of the most natural ways for us to live.  Children plop into our lives as miniature insurgents, waging war with our lifestyle of “me first.”  My daughters have opened my eyes to the beautiful struggle parents’ face in giving their lives to their children.  It isn’t comfortable, and often times it flat out hurts, but it builds a depth of character that can only be understood by others who have travelled a similar path. It is sanctifying grace I suppose!

For years men have been raising daughters into young women.  It used to scare me, it still scares me, but I’ll give my life away in pursuit of it any day.What a joy it has been to raise girls. I have had many lessons and continue to have more. i am not done yet. Just may be I should have waited to write this post but anyhow this can be an acting part 1!

 

Standing on the Promises of God


Standing

Words & Music: R. Kel­so Car­ter, in Songs of Per­fect Love, by John Swe­ney & Kel­so Car­ter (Phil­a­del­phia, Penn­syl­van­ia: John J. Hood, 1886)

Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
Through eternal ages let His praises ring,
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
Standing on the promises of God.

Refrain:
Standing, standing,
Standing on the promises of God my Savior;
Standing, standing,
I’m standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises I now can see
Perfect, present cleansing in the blood for me;
Standing in the liberty where Christ makes free,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord,
Bound to Him eternally by love’s strong cord,
Overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call
Resting in my Saviour as my all in all,
Standing on the promises of God.

The hymn Standing on the Promises of God was written by composer Russell Kelso Carter (1849-1928). This hymn song reflects his personal experience as a petitioner before the throne of God.

Carter was apparently a star athlete and a top student. It was at the age of fifteen during a prayer meeting at the Pennsylvania Military Academy that he committed his life to the Lord. He became an instructor at the academy in 1869 and an athletics coach.  Later, Carter allied himself with the Methodists and the holiness movement, becoming an ordained Methodist minister. His history, both personal and theological, passed through some deep and disturbing waters as he searched for balance in his belief.

Carter spent the last years of his professional life as a medical doctor. Somewhere in the midst of all his diverse adventures and professions he had time to become a musician and a songwriter. He worked with John Sweeney to produce, in 1886, Songs of Perfect Love, a hymnbook in which his famous hymn Standing on the Promises appeared, and with A.B. Simpson on Hymns of the Christian Life, published in 1891.

However, it wasn’t until Carter faced his own mortality that he came to understand exactly what it meant to rest on God’s promises. Diagnosed with a critical heart condition by age 30, Carter was facing imminent death.

Connie Ruth Christiansen writes: “He knelt and made a promise that healing or no, his life was finally and forever, consecrated to the service of the Lord.”  Christiansen goes on to say that from that moment on the Scripture took on new life for Carter and he began to lean on the promises that he found in the Bible. He committed himself to believe, whether or not God granted him healing.

God chose to heal him and Carter lived, with a healthy heart, for another 49 years, though he would later suffer many other health issues from which God did not choose to heal him. In the end, Carter came to the conclusion that healing was God’s choice to make and that God also chose the instruments through which that healing, if granted, would come. His hymn was a personal testimony to his faith.

The full story of Russell Kelso according to :- http://healingandrevival.com/BioRKCarter.htm

Russell Kelso Carter was born November 18, 1849 in Baltimore, Maryland. He was brought up in a strong Christian environment. He struggled with a personal decision for Christ until he was fifteen. At that time he attended a prayer meeting at his military academy and committed his life to God and the Presbyterian Church, which his parents attended. He went to meetings and grew sporadically over the next few years. He graduated from the Pennsylvania Military Academy (now Widener University) in Chester, in 1867, and became instructor there in 1869. He was commissioned as a Captain in the Pennsylvania State Line and appointed adjutant to the Military Academy by Governor Geary. He is often referred to as Capt. Carter in his writings.

Carter was a professor, at the academy, of chemistry and natural sciences. While teaching in 1872 he began to have heart trouble. In 1876 he went to California for three years as a sheep rancher to try and strengthen his health. In 1879 he was back at his parents house in a state of collapse. He had heard of the ministry of Charles Cullis in Boston and decided to try healing by faith. He prayed that God would heal him, and then took a trip to see Cullis. He was healed and when he returned three days later he went back to work at the military academy and became a professor of civil engineering and advanced mathematics.

By the end of 1879 Carter was looking for more of the presence of God. He started to attend Methodist meetings. He struggled with their emphasis on the sanctification experience but prayed about it and asked God to give him everything from the Bible. He had an experience, which filled him with the Spirit in a new way. He allied himself with the Methodists. In 1880 he wrote “Miracles of Healing”. In 1882 he revamped an book published in England called “Pastor Blumhardt”. Also in 1882 Carter, with a man named George McCalla, called for a convention to cover the subject of Divine Healing. They held a meeting but just a few people came. In 1884 he wrote a book called “The Atonement for Sin and Sickness”. His premise was that healing was in the atonement and that Jesus took not only our sins but our sicknesses on the cross. Carter was one of the strongest proponents of atonement theology. In 1886 he began publishing a periodical called “The Kingdom”. He had a strong musical ability and wrote hymns in “Promises of Perfect Love” with John Sweeney in 1886 and “Hymns of the Christian Life” in 1891, in conjunction with A. B. Simpson. One of his most famous songs is “Standing on the Promises”.

In 1887 Carter became associated with the Methodist Episcopal (ME) Church and was given a license to preach by Bishop Foss. He is sometimes referred to as the evangelist R. Kelso Carter in newspaper articles of the 1890s. He also seems to have had some kind of breakdown, which he refers to as “brain prostration”. Dr Cullis prayed for him but he did not receive any significant relief until he attended a camp-meeting in Mountain Lake Park, Maryland in July of 1887. In 1888 Carter had an attack of malarial fever. He was sick for two weeks and recovered. However he was left feeling chronically weak. He was eventually prayed for by Charles Cullis, A.B. Simpson, and John Alexander Dowie but did not improve. He initially took some medicine, but discarded it within a short time. He committed to seek healing through prayer alone but continued to struggle. Carter was also under marital pressure as his wife Josephine was possibly mentally ill. In 1889 he was ordained as a Deacon in the ME Church by Bishop Bowman. The ME Church was opposed to the teaching that healing was in the atonement.

In the summer of 1892 Carter made some very major changes in his life. He went to California, ostensibly for his health, leaving his family back east in Maryland. He conducted a few meetings with the Alliance until the fall of 1893. Things became difficult, however, when he filed for divorce from his wife. That would have been viewed as scandalous at the time. His relationship with the people he’d been closely associated with for almost twenty years was shattered. He ended up breaking with the Alliance and their teachings on divine healing, specifically on their stance of no help from physicians. He seemed to swing wildly in the other direction. Carter became connected with a couple of quack patent medical devices called the “Electropoise” (see the ad) and the “Oxydonor Victory.” (see the ad) These machines were so bogus that they were one of the first products taken to court for mail fraud by the US Postal Service, which eventually won its case against the manufacturers.

Carter changed his theology from “healing is in the atonement” to “healing by faith in this age is a matter of special favor from God, and is always peculiarly under the guidance and leading of the Holy Spirit.” * He was remarried around 1895 to a woman named Elizabeth. In 1897 he wrote a book called “Faith Healing Reviewed After Twenty Years” where he reviewed his own experience, along with others, to take another look at the “Prayer of Faith.” Carter’s proposition was that he was not healed because God did not want it. The book attempted to address the common question – why are people not healed when they sincerely believe and put themselves in God’s hands? He did not suggest that prayer was never effective, in fact he gave several positive examples of healing experiences. He did, however, point out that only a small percentage of people were healed in answer to prayer and it was important to bring that issue out for discussion. Many people in the Divine Healing movement saw the book as a repudiation of their sincerest beliefs. Since the book addressed healing prayer under John Alexander Dowie in a less than positive light Dowie made a point to denounce Carter’s personal life in his Leaves of Healing magazine and suggest that Carter’s lack of healing was due to personal sin.

In 1898 Carter became very ill again and was diagnosed with “consumption” (tuberculosis). Bacteria had recently been identified as the medical cause and a new treatment became available about the time Carter was diagnosed. He was healed through medical means within 90 days. What had been a potential death sentence was relieved by the medical breakthrough. Carter declared that God worked through the medicine just as surely as through prayer. He said that both were critical and necessary. Carter and his wife returned to the Baltimore area sometime in the late 1890s. Carter evidently received medical training in the Baltimore area as he is listed as a physician in the 1900 Federal Census. Kelso continued his work as a doctor until he died on August 23, 1928, in Catonsville, Maryland. He is buried in the Greenmount Cemetery, in Baltimore Maryland.

Names showing up in blue are other people who have biographies on this web site. * quote from “Faith Healing Reviewed” by R. Kelso Carter