Review of Candy Apple Blessings

Candy Apple Blessings is a board book suitable for toddlers and preschoolers. The cover is a bright and colorful picture of a cartoon dog, cat, and mouse under an apple tree, with foil accents that make the red apples and the gold edges of the fall leaves glimmer. If I were to judge a book by its cover, this cover is certainly one of the most eye-catching ones I’ve seen.

There isn’t really much of a story per se, but more so little vignettes as you follow the cat, dog, mouse, and other friends like bunnies turtles, pigs, and raccoons through different fall activities, from eating candy apples, to going to school, to decorating the home for autumn, to going on hay rides, to jumping in the leaves, going to the pumpkin patch, and going through a corn maze. The last page is one where they buy corn dogs from a food stand, and where the book says they thank God for their treats, and for fall blessings.

The pictures on the hard board stock are just as colorful as the cover, with lots of details that you can use to engage your young ones as you read to them. The illustration style is unique, almost like collage drawings. The pages are nice and thick and will withstand multiple readings.

Overall, this is a nice book to buy if you’re celebrating fall traditions with your child and would like a book to reinforce these traditions and some of the sheer joy of the season. While the book is a Christian book, there’s really no mention of God until the last page. Normally, I don’t mind this–some Christian books go the other extreme and can be too “preachy” or heavy handed in their message. But in this case, how they brought God into the book seemed a bit tacked on, as if it were a bit of an afterthought. I would have liked to have a message of God’s love and the beauty of his creation woven into the story a bit more, although it does take tremendous skills to do that without sounding contrived. Overall, a very good book, especially as you prepare to do Fall activities with your child.

Review of The Call by Os Guinness

I first heard of Os Guinness when I saw him speak at Socrates in the City in 2012 about his book “A Free People’s Suicide”. In it, he spoke of the “Golden Triangle of Freedom” in speaking of the American founders’ vision of a free society. Freedom requires virtue, virtue requires faith, and faith requires freedom. It was one of those truths that seemed fairly obvious on the surface, but as you started to think about how society has grown so far away from concepts like faith and virtue, you start to realize how radical his commentary is.

Os Guinness wrote “The Call” in 1998 and was immediately considered a classic; it’s recently been updated with several additional chapters and a thought-provoking study guide after each chapter to help you reflect on the chapters.

This book couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I’m in the middle of a career transition, plus being a new parent, plus going through a mid-life crisis. So I’ve been asking the questions we all ask with increased urgency: “what’s the purpose of my life?”, “what was I put here on Earth to do?”, and “how can my life be meaningful?”

The Call doesn’t answer those questions for you–to paraphrase Billy Crystal in City Slickers, that’s an answer everyone need to come up with themselves. On the other hand, the book does provide valuable context in which you can ask those questions.

As a Christian apologist, Guinness doesn’t mince words in laying out what the word “Calling” means. Early in the book, Guinness lays out his definition of calling: “Calling is the truth that God call us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have invested with a special devotion, dynamism, and direction lived out as a response to his summons and service”.

He goes on to discuss two common “distortions”. The first is one he calls the “Catholic distortion”, that your “Calling” can only be fulfilled by doing sacred or “holy work”. The second is one he calls the “Protestant distortion”, discussing how in our society today, words like “calling” and “vocation” (derived from the Greek word “voice” or “call”) have taken on generic and watered-down meanings–you refer to something you do well or something you enjoy doing. His argument is that whatever place God has put you, and whatever talents God has given you, that can be the basis of a highly meaningful calling.

Each chapter further unfolds the concept of “calling”. Do we fear God enough to hear and acknowledge the call? How can we distinguish the voice from other voices? How can we achieve the full potential we were created to be? How do we dedicate our lives to answering the call? Are we frustrated with a church that seems to have lost its heart? How do we live an examined life? Do you view and use your talents as something for yourself, or for something greater? Do you feel jealous of others with a similar calling? Does money cloud your understanding of calling? Do you long to rise above a mediocre and tedious life? Is your faith just something you see in private or is it salt and light to others?

I won’t lie–this book is dense and not the easiest of reads. Because of the range of topics it covers, it’s not exactly the kind of book you can pick up an read in one sitting. If you’ve ever heard Os Guinness talk in person, the language of the writing mirrors his speaking style–imagine a distinguished, upscale British voice pontificating on deep matters. It takes some getting used to, especially for those of us Americans that have been grown accustomed to taking information in 140-characters at a time.

But on the other hand, you will hardly find a better assemblage of insights, stories, and teachings relevant to the question of “What is my calling in life”. Funny thing is, as I read it there were no parts that really jumped out at me as “a-ha! That’s the secret”. It all seemed more or less like…common sense. But like Ezra reading the Torah after decades of exile, it all seemed refreshingly new too, as if all the misconceptions and deceptions that the world has used to obfuscate the original meaning of “Call” is methodically swept away.

Like I said, this book won’t answer your questions about what your call is. But if you can make it through it (and I’d suggest doing it one chapter at a time, perhaps spread a few days apart), you’ll have an excellent foundation and background to start really thinking about the question.

Review of Go to Sleep, Sheep!

Any parent of a toddler knows that bedtime is one of the first places where a child learns a lot of skills–how to negotiate, how to think quickly on your feet, how to compose fiction. As a grown-up, we sometimes forget what it’s like to be a kid. How can anyone sleep when there’s so much of the world to explore, so much fun to be had, so many things to see and do?

Go to Sleep, Sheep! was clearly written by a parent who’s been through this. It’s the story of a mother lamb who tries to get her four little kids to go to the barn to sleep. They go through all the delay tactics we all know: “We’re not tired” “I’m still hungry” “Just one more story” “I’m thirsty’. Finally, they say their good night prayers, the littlest lamb tells her mom she loves her, and they sleep under the stars. It’s a story that will resonate with little ones because it’s their story–and it may even help them do a little self-refection as they read the story from the mother sheep’s perspective and pull for the mother to get her sheep to bed.

The book itself is a board book that’s uniquely shaped like a barn. The pages are thick and durable and will be able to withstand multiple readings. The illustrations are cute—not so much in the “funny cute” way, but more so in the “pretty cute” way. Each of the baby sheep has distinguishing characteristic–one has a blue bow, one has a red scarf, one has glasses–so you can make up your own little stories about each one. As with all great children’s books, there are plenty of details in the pictures such as other barnyard animals that you can use to engage your child and teach new words.

I’m rating it 4 of 5 stars. It’s a great book that helps reinforce the bedtime routine in a fun and playful way. It is simple, so it’s probably best suited to be read to children from 1-3, although given its simplicity it’s also a great one to bring out for toddlers who are learning to read (each page ends with “Go to Sleep, Sheep!” which is fun to read and say).

Getting Rid of the Bugs in Your Soul: Thoughts on Search Me, O God

In my old apartment, I had great success growing basil plants. I had purchased a few small plants at the Montclair Historical Society’s annual herb sale. By the time it came for me to move out of my apartment, those little plants had grown. They then filled four giant flower pots, producing beautiful, gigantic leaves. I’d used them for all kinds of dishes. Seasoning for homemade spaghetti sauce, chicken and basil, you name it. I had so much basil that I even started putting basil in things that probably would have been a bit better off without basil.

Sadly, when I moved out of the apartment, I had to figure out what to take and what not to. The big flower pots of basil were the first to go. (I had not yet grasped the concept of making and freezing pesto).

When I moved into my new apartment, one of the first orders of business was to get basil plants again. So I went to a nursery and bought two little basil plants again. While I was at it, I decided to start my own little indoor herb garden. At one point, I even had my own “Scarborough Fair” (parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme).

It started out well enough. I did make myself some very good pesto, and mixed it up a bit. One night I had it with rigatoni, the next with fettucine. It was, to put it mildly, quite yummy.

A few days ago, I got ready to make another big batch of pesto. But I noticed something. There were big blotches on the leaves. I had a mint plant which had almost completely died, because the leaves were brown. It seemed that this had spread to the basil. I was a bit confused, because I water them just right, and they get the right sunlight.

Needless to say, no pesto for me. I picked off the offending leaves and threw them away. What was left was a lonely stalk with a few leaves left.

I looked carefully at one of the leaves, and noticed a tiny brown speck underneath one of the leaves. It was the size of a piece of dust. I used my finger to nudge it, and it moved. It was a pretty revolting experience.

I went onto Google, and searched for ‘brown blotches basil bug’. What I found was more information that I could possibly have wanted to know about a little thing called a “spider mite”.

A spider mite, it seems, is a tiny little bug that sucks the juices out of leaves. It’s very common in indoor plants, and it’s very hard to spot, because it does its dirty business on the underside of leaves. Gone untreated, the mites suck and suck and suck until the leaves are completely brown and unusable. Yes, spider mites suck.

To find them, one Web site said to put a white piece of paper under the plant and shake the plant. I tried that and surely enough, I got a result worse than a bad Head and Shoulders commercial. Dozens of little mites fell onto the paper, creeping and crawling around. Some were just the size of pinheads. Others were green, having gorged themselves on basil juice.

I collected all my plants, and proceeded to the kitchen sink. I doused each plant in water. It was strangely satisfying to imagine the tiny little screams of all those spider mites. Afterwards, I made a mixture of my own insecticide from household soap. I sprayed each leaf, above and below. The Web site said to do this every four days.

After spraying, I examined the plants a bit more. There were still stragglers—left on the plant, they would multiply and multiply. I even saw one little spider mite hiding inside the crevices of two leaves. I got the bottle and gave him a nice jolt of soapy water.

I thought about it, as I am wont to do. In terms of our spiritual lives, sin works kind of the same way as these little spider mites.

Psalm 1 talks about the type of person we should all aspire to be. A man who “walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers”. A man whose “delight is in the law of the Lord.” The Psalm goes on to say that such a man is like a tree, planted by streams of water, bearing fruit in its season. His leaf doesn’t wither. In all he does, he prospers.

The wicked, the psalmist goes on, are like chaff. Dead, dried out leaves.

Sin is one of those things that you can’t always tell is infesting you. But little sins add up. And pretty soon, you find yourself far away from that ideal of a green tree. Your leaves and your fruit are infested. The life is sucked out of them, and they dry out and die. You’re really not good for anything anymore. Your work for the kingdom becomes completely unproductive, your relationships turn sour very easily, and you find yourself more and more inundated with stress, and guilt, and anger, and despair. No, you really never do equate those things with “sin”, because there’s not an obvious cause-and-effect relationship between the two.

But sin is very often exactly what causes those negative things. Because sin separates us from God. When sin latches on to our souls, like so many of those little spider mites, they just suck the life out of us. They make it so we can’t be productive.

What’s the solution then? Same as for my basil plants.

The first thing is to admit it. I could have gone for weeks and months just watering my plants and ignoring the little brown blotches. But eventually, the complete plant would have been destroyed. No, I had to shake it in front of a white piece of paper and see what drops out. The same is true of your soul. Anyone who claims to be without sin, so the good book goes, is only fooling himself. There are sins of omission and sins of commissions. Left inside you, they fester, and suck the life out of you.

Second, douse yourself in the kitchen sink. Baptism is the way to clear yourself of the spider mites of your soul. But even more important than the physical act of baptism is that pledge—the pledge of a good conscience. The pledge that says you’re not going back.

Third, keep shaking out your leaves to make sure the spider mites don’t return. They will try. They will attack your most vulnerable leaves, and hide deep where they think no one will find them. For my basil plants, every few days, I’d shake them out on top of white paper. And sure enough, mites would fall out. But as the weeks went by, the number of mites got to be less and less as I kept shaking and spraying.

Don’t let even one spider mite live. The moment you are tempted to sin, tell yourself—I don’t want to get to the point again where my leaves are brown and blotchy and unusable for anything.

Sure enough, after a while, new leaves sprouted, and they were rich and green and thick. I have a little bit of time yet before I can start harvesting them, but the day will come when I’ll again be able to enjoy pesto and spaghetti sauce and all kinds of good stuff.

I wish the same were true of my mint plant. I had a lot of plans for that mint plant. When it was new, the leaves smelled so nice. I figured I’d use them in cooking, making jelly, or whatever else it is that they use mint for. But that didn’t happen. Eventually, I had to take the plant, dirt and all, and throw it into the garbage. Because it just wasn’t useful anymore. The leaves were completely brown, and the underside of the leaves were covered with spider mites.

I hope that never happens to my basil plants. Basil can be used for so many things. So can you and I.
1.
Search me, O God,
And know my heart today;
Try me, O Savior,
Know my thoughts, I pray.
See if there be
Some wicked way in me;
Cleanse me from every sin
And set me free.

2.
I praise Thee, Lord,
For cleansing me from sin;
Fulfill Thy Word,
And make me pure within.
Fill me with fire
Where once I burned with shame;
Grant my desire
To magnify Thy Name.

3.
Lord, take my life,
And make it wholly Thine;
Fill my poor heart
With Thy great love divine.
Take all my will,
My passion, self and pride;
I now surrender, Lord
In me abide.

4.
O Holy Spirit,
Revival comes from Thee;
Send a revival,
Start the work in me.
Thy Word declares
Thou wilt supply our need;
For blessings now,
O Lord, I humbly plead.

Shining the Light: Thoughts on Brighten the Corner Where You Are

Next, I’d like to share a moving story.

No, it’s not a particularly touching story. It’s a story about my recent move…from New Jersey to New York…

I recently moved into a new apartment. Now, it’s been a few years since I’ve moved, so I’d forgotten what the procedure is with regards to electric and gas. But since the electricity was working, I didn’t think too much about it. Until a few days later.

That’s when I came home, and switched on the light. Nothing. I flicked the switch a few more times. Still nothing. Then, a very unpleasant realization came upon me. They’d shut off all the gas and electricity.

I frantically groped my way through the pitch-black room, still filled with moving boxes from my move. Boxes went crashing left and right. I grabbed my cell phone out of my pocket and pressed a button. The light went on for ten seconds and then went out. I pressed the button again. The light went on again. I felt like a lame, modern day version of Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Match Girl.

Finally, using the light of the cell phone, I found my way to the closet, and got out the yellow pages. I flipped to the white pages and found the power company. I called the emergency number. Of course, by this time, the battery on my cell phone was almost finished.

After an eternity on hold, a woman answered. Sorry, she said, but due to some recent storms, all the workers were out repairing other things. She told me the earliest date that she could send someone out. It was three days away.

I grudgingly said okay. By this time, the battery indicator on my cell phone was just a sliver. I had this awful sinking feeling that I would be groping blindly for the rest of the night.

Then, a thought occurred to me. I had a little keychain flashlight packed in one of the moving boxes. So, I used what was left of my cell phone light to see so I could open the boxes and look into them, one after another. After searching through several boxes, I finally stumbled across my Sharper Image keychain flashlight. I gave a little cry of victory.

The keychain flashlight was good, but it had too small a beam to really see more than a foot in front of me. So I used that flashlight to open some more boxes. In one of the boxes, I found a big ol’ Eveready flashlight. Four D-Cells of power.

Once I found the Eveready flashlight, I could see more, including the mess I’d just made rummaging through the boxes. Using the Eveready flashlight, I managed to find the mother lode. A drawer full of candles and a gas lighter.

Pretty soon, the room was filled with the scent of apples, and vanilla, and pretty flowers. But more importantly, it was filled with light. I had candles set up around my bedroom, where I could do what I needed to do before calling it a night. As bedtime came, I blew out the candles, and went to sleep. The next morning, the sun came out.

There’s something you hear a lot, even among Christians. Sometimes especially among Christians:

I’m not good enough.

What can I do? I’m just one person.

What difference can one person make?

The funny thing is, I couldn’t have found the candles without the Eveready flashlight, the Eveready flashlight without the keychain flashlight, and the keychain flashlight without the teeny light of the cell phone.

Sometimes in church, we have the wrong concept. We think there are a handful of superstars. The ministers. Maybe the board members. And everyone else is just a bit player.

But the truth is, every single person in the body of Christ has talents given to them from God. Talents which no one else on this earth has. Perhaps all our lives, others have told us that we’re worthless. Or maybe we’ve told it to ourselves. We think we don’t look good, or we don’t talk good, or we don’t have the right education, or we don’t have the right job, and that makes us less valuable as a person.

That’s a lie.

Because this is the truth. You have worth, you are unique in God’s eyes, and you have a unique mission which God has prepared for you. Maybe the mission is to preach the gospel to the world. Or maybe it’s to help one little child get a drink of water. And perhaps, just perhaps that child will grow up and preach the gospel to the world.

In God’s eyes, whatever your mission, if you fufill it, he’ll be ready to welcome you and say “well done”

Remember the story of Naaman in the Bible? It was a little girl who told Naaman about Elisha. Remember the story of the bread and the fishes? It was a little boy who handed his lunch over to the disciples.

If you’re tempted to sell yourself short, remember what Jesus said in Matthew 5:14. You are the light of the world. People do not light a lamp and put it under a bowl. The purpose of any light is to shine in the darkness. Even the tiniest light can pierce through the darkest darkness.

—————————————————————————————–

1.
Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do,
Do not wait to shed your light afar,
To the many duties ever near you now be true,
Brighten the corner where you are.

Refrain
Brighten the corner where you are!
Brighten the corner where you are!
Someone far from harbor you may guide across the bar;
Brighten the corner where you are!

2.
Just above are clouded skies that you may help to clear,
Let not narrow self your way debar;
Though into one heart alone may fall your song of cheer,
Brighten the corner where you are.

Refrain

3.
Here for all your talent you may surely find a need,
Here reflect the bright and Morning Star;
Even from your humble hand the Bread of Life may feed,
Brighten the corner where you are.

Refrain

Review of God Bless Our Bedtime Prayers

God Bless Our Bedtime Prayers is another in a series of books by Hannah C. Hall. Other books have included God Bless My Friends, God Bless our Christmas, God Bless My School, and God Bless My Boo Boo.

The book contains ten “bedtime prayers” that span all kinds of different situations—a prayer asking for God to be with me, a prayer to help me show my love to others, a prayer to say sorry for not sharing, a prayer for protection when I’m scared, a prayer for healing when I’m sick, a prayer to thank God for good things, a prayer for peace, a prayer to help find a lost toy, a prayer to say thanks for fun times with Mom, and a prayer to tell God I love you before you go to sleep.

Each prayer is about four sentences long. I love that each includes a relevant bible verse at the end, which is great for older children just learning how to flip the Bible. For younger kids, the illustrations have a lot of little details that your little ones will love exploring.

As with those other titles, this one features illustrations of animals by Steve Whitlow. His drawing style is cute and playful without being saccharine. Each page has a different pair of animal parents and kids—giraffes, cats, hedgehogs, gorilla, squirrels, raccoons, wolves, bunnies, bears, and deer.

Overall, my daughter and I enjoyed the book. I’m a parent who tries to say a goodnight prayer every night with my daughter, and I welcomed this book in giving me ideas for things to pray for with her. The rhymes are pretty and natural, and the Bible verse helps remind me of some of the deep truths that I need to reinforce in myself so I can pass them on to her.

Review of All Things Bright and Beautiful

All Things Bright and Beautiful is a wonderful little hardcover book whose contents contain just the words of the famous Cecil Frances Alexander hymn.

The book is filled with delightful little color illustrations of each of the stanzas, from the “bright and beautiful” rainbows to “great and small” creatures like elephants and turtles. Some of the illustrations are even embellished with special textures such as glitter on a river, a mountain, or the breath of the “cold wind in winter” to provide even more engagement for youngsters.

This is not the sort of book to just “read”, but rather to explore with your little one–I’d say it’s great for any child age 2 or higher. Each page is filled with different illustrations perfect for very young children who are just learning to speak and read. Even younger children will be enthralled by the bright colors and appealing illustrations. The poem itself is so simple but with a powerful message that both you and children will benefit from.

Highly recommended.

Be Transformed by God’s Word: Thoughts on the Battle Hymn of the Republic

One of the best-loved hymns in history originally began with these words:

“John Brown’s body lies a-smoulderin’ in the grave.”

Sound familiar? No? How about this?

“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord”.

Ah yes, that’s better. It’s “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”. No doubt you’ve memorized the first stanza of the hymn. If not, at least you know the Refrain.

“Glory, Glory Hallelujah! His truth is marching on!”

I’ve become somewhat of a hymn geek lately, so one of the things I’d noticed was that the hymn tune name to the Battle Hymn of the Republic is “John Brown’s Body”. I looked it up, and found out that the song used to be a little ditty from the 19th century, popular around civil war times. John Brown was an abolitionist who led an unsuccessful insurrection to free slaves. He died, but as the ditty went, “his soul goes marching on.”

Julia Ward Howe happened to visit a Union Army camp one day, and heard the song. The next day, in the early morning before dawn, she woke up and scrawled the verses to the Battle Hymn of the Republic. It’s a good thing she found the stump of a pen she was using before, or this tune and the poem in her mind would have been lost to obscurity.

The poem she wrote, of course, was inspired by the word of God. The second line, “He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored” seems to be inspired by Revelation 14:19…”The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath”. The third line is from Ezekiel 21:9. “A sword, a sword, sharpened and polished—sharpened for the slaughter, polished to flash like lightning”. In the third stanza, which not many people know, she writes, “Let the Hero, born of women, crush the serpent with His heel”, from Genesis 3:15.

The hymn has become one of the most beloved hymns in history. You can hardly sing it without feeling excited about the coming day of Christ, without feeling the fear of God’s righteous judgement, without feeling the need to get yourself ready for the train a-coming.

And to think that it started as a little war camp ditty.

When my mom was still on the earth, she had a gift for counseling. To her last days, people would literally come to her for counsel and wisdom. Even as she lay in the hospital with cancer, a steady stream of people came to her hospital room. They came to visit her, but by the end of their visit, they were telling her about their problems and asking for advice.

I once asked her what her ‘approach’ was to pastoral work. I’ll never forget her answer. She said that too many people think you need to be versed in psychology, or to learn counseling techniques. Mom didn’t learn any of that—in fact, she was a chemist. What did she do when people came to her for advice? All she did was to sit with them, let them talk, and then share some scripture verses with them. She always seemed to have just the right verse for the occasion. Then, she would put them into prayer. Mom once told me that endless talk is worthless–because man can do nothing…only God can melt the human heart.

What’s the message here? Only this. The word of God is “living and active. Sharper than any two-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Just as the word of God transformed this song, it can transform your life. If the Word of God is a part of you, your mundane, workaday job becomes a blessing, even a ministry to the co-workers around you. Casual, ordinary conversations with friends become blessings to them.

If we view Bible reading just as some kind of chore, forcing ourselves to read three chapters a day just so we can read through it once by the end of the year, that’s exactly what will happen. But if we read the Bible because we know that its words can transform our lives and help us be a blessing to those around us, that’s exactly what will happen too.

————————————————————————————————————–
1.
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

2.
I have seen Him in the watch fires of a hundred circling camps
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His day is marching on.

3.
I have read a fiery Gospel writ in burnished rows of steel;
“As ye deal with My contemners, so with you My grace shall deal”;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with His heel,
Since God is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Since God is marching on.

4.
He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet;
Our God is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Our God is marching on.

5. In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free;
While God is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
While God is marching on.

6.
He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is wisdom to the mighty, He is honor to the brave;
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of wrong His slave,
Our God is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Our God is marching on.

When Your World Falls Apart: Thoughts on It Is Well With My Soul

Have you ever heard of a man by the name of Horatio Spafford? Probably not. He lived back in 1828-1888. He lived in Chicago, and was a successful businessman.

In 1871, there was the Great Chicago Fire…one of the greatest disasters of their time, similar to how Hurricane Katrina was a disaster in our time. Many people lost all their possessions. Worse, Horatio Spafford’s son had died of scarlet fever at the age of 4 just prior to the Chicago Fire.

It was around that time that Mr. Spafford decided to make a new start, and to move his family overseas. He arranged to sell what was left of his property, and he bought tickets for himself, his wife, and his four daughters on a ship to take them to Europe. From there, they would move to Jerusalem.

Right before the ship was to set sail, Spafford found out that one of the sales of his property had fallen through. So he sent his wife and his daughters on ahead, while he went back to take care of the sale of his property. He would take the next ship and join them in Europe.

A few days later, Horatio Spafford received a telegram. It was signed by his wife. And there were only two words on it. “Saved alone”.

The ship that Horatio Spafford’s family was on was struck by another ship. It sank quickly. Spafford’s wife made it. But his four little girls did not. They lost their lives when the ship went down.

Spafford soon sailed across the Atlantic to join his grieving wife in Europe. While he was halfway across the Atlantic, the captain called him to the bridge. He pointed out the exact location that his daughters lost their lives, as they sailed past it.

It was then that Spafford wrote the words to a poem.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way.
When sorrows, like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot,
Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul.

There is one thing that is certain about life, and that is life is uncertain. Sometimes you make plans for your life, and the plans go up in flames. One minute you might be surrounded by your loved ones. The next moment you may be all alone. Sometimes things happen that in a million years you can never explain.

It’s easy to say that you have faith in God when things are good. But when things go bad, which they invariably will from time to time, during those moments can you say…whatever my lot, it is well with my soul?

The question is…how could a man who lost his son, lost his business, lost his four daughters…possible say that things were well with his soul?

People in the world look everywhere for peace. Banks and insurance companies say that having money, that’s what brings you peace and security. If you go to a store, you’ll see them sell aromatherapy candles and shampoo and soap that are supposed to bring peace to you. Some say that listening to light music can bring peace to you. Or seeing Therapists. Or doing meditation and yoga.

But this is all peace as the world gives. These things might bring some temporary relaxation, but they don’t bring peace to the soul.

True peace only comes from one source.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

In life, sometimes things can get chaotic.

Sometimes you will feel alone. Sometimes you will feel afraid. In this world we will have trouble. That’s guaranteed.

But the remarkable thing is, when you really know Christ, you have the blessed assurance that you’re never really alone. And because of this you never need to be afraid. Because as chaotic as life gets, He has things under control. He will not leave you alone. He’s already done all he can, by taking your sins away–not because we deserve it, but because of His love. And nothing can separate you from that love.

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1.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Chorus
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

2.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

3.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

4.
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

5.
But, Lord, ‘tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh trump of the angel! Oh voice of the Lord!
Blessèd hope, blessèd rest of my soul!

6.
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

The Luckiest Man in the Bible: Thoughts on There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood

Who was the luckiest man in the Bible?

It wasn’t Paul, or Jonah, or Samson.

No, the luckiest man on the face of the earth was a man who was nailed to a cross. Not the man you normally thing about, but the one next to him.

“Lord, remember me when you get into your kingdom”

Talk about being in the right place at the right time. Here’s a man who was condemned to die, probably justly. The Bible doesn’t say what crimes he committed, but Roman law at that time was generallly just, with one obvious exception. The punishment generally fit the crime. Maybe this man had been a murderer, or a thief.

But at that moment…maybe it was a brief moment when the people hurling insults stopped to get their lunch…at that moment, this man happened to have the ear of the Savior. So did the fellow a few feet away from him, on the other side.

“Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

Bad move. This was from the mouth of someone who was dealing with death unceremoniously. Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, all in one sentence. He had become one of the accusers of Christ. If you don’t save me, you’re a liar. You have no power to save. You’re a fraud. He didn’t believe in Christ, but in one last ditch desperate attempt, he lashed out, caught up in the frenzy of the accusers below.

But our friend on the other side of the cross had made a decsiison. He had accepted his fate, and had confessed his sin. Who knows how he knew of Jesus’s power to save, but he did. Against popular sentiment too. Everyone at his feet and the fellow on the other side of Jesus were calling Jesus every terrible name imaginable. But somehow, this criminal saw Jesus clearly. Who he was….what he came on earth to do…and what to do about it.

This criminal was humble. The other one was proud. This criminal asked nothing more of Jesus than simply to remember him. The other one demanded that Jesus do according to what he wanted. This criminal knew that he was a sinner, and accepted his fate. The other was was unrepentant, looking for escape from accountability for his crimes. This criminal worshipped Jesus. The other one accused.

Which side of the cross are you on?

Every day, we need to make the decision that the criminals on the crosses made. Some people demand that God do what they want God to do, as if God were some kind of genie, granting wishes to us, the masters. Aren’t you God? Aren’t you an all-loving and powerful God? Then why did I get fired? What did my father get cancer? Why is my child dying? If you’re God you will do what I say. Save yourself and us.

Others are humble. Thy Will Be Done. I don’t deserve a thing from you, but I hope beyond hope that you’ll just remember me. Nothing else matters. I know there’s something better out there.I can’t see it, but I know you can. And that’s good enough for me. Remember me when you enter into your kingdom.

You bet that Jesus remembered that thief. Because Jesus never breaks a promise. And if Jesus remembered that wretched soul, how much more will he remember us?

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1.
There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
Lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

2.
The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away.
Wash all my sins away, wash all my sins away;
And there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away.

3.
Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.
Be saved, to sin no more, be saved, to sin no more;
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.

4.
E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.
And shall be till I die, and shall be till I die;
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.

5.
Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I’ll sing Thy power to save,
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.
Lies silent in the grave, lies silent in the grave;
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.

6.
Lord, I believe Thou hast prepared, unworthy though I be,
For me a blood bought free reward, a golden harp for me!
’Tis strung and tuned for endless years, and formed by power divine,
To sound in God the Father’s ears no other name but Thine.