Friday, May 25, 2012

When Peace Like a River

When Mrs. Spafford survived the sinking of the ship that took the lives of her four daughters, she fell into despair. Easy to understand. Who wouldn't be despondent? Her three oldest daughters clung to her as the ship sank. Her infant was swept out of her arms by the waves. She was saved only because a plank of wood buoyed her unconscious body.

Yet she was able to sing along with her husband, "It is well with my soul."
        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.  Refrain:  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.   (Refrain)
Knowing the background of these words truly brings the hymn to life.

Of course, the Spafford's understood that we have been saved from something even bigger than the sinking of a ship.
        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!   (Refrain) 
With the Lord in our life, nothing can touch us. No trial is too big that he won't see us through. No sin is too much that he cannot cover with his blood. Yes, it is a glorious thought. A peace-filled affirmation to us that he will never leave us nor forsake us. A buffer in a season of storms.

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31; 35-39

Peace is a beautiful gift from the Lord and one that he bestows on us when we walk with him and submit our ways to him.

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. John 14:27

Even when our lives here on earth appear to be anything besides peaceful, we know we have a great peace waiting for us in heaven. Mr. Spafford must have been thinking of his children as he penned the last verse.

        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.   (Refrain
Then we will be in glory with all of the saints from time past and together with them and the Shunammite woman say, "All is well."

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Story Behind It Is Well with My Soul

This hymn grew out of the personal tragedy of the hymn's author Horatio G. Spafford. He was a well-known Chicago lawyer in the early 1870s when the Lord chose to take home his young son after a bout of scarlet fever.

In October, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire swept through the city and destroyed all of Mr. Spafford's holdings. Tragedy appeared to be his constant companion. After all their losses, Mr. Spafford decided the family needed to get away and relax. He arranged a trip to Europe. The family traveled to New York to board the Ville de Havre. At the last minute, Mr. Spafford was called back to Chicago, but he insisted his family continue on the trip and he would join them as soon as possible.

On November 23, 1873, the Ville de Havre collided with the Lochearn, an English ship. The Ville sunk in 12 minutes and claimed 226 lives, including those of his four daughters. His wife cabled him once they reached Wales with the words, "Saved alone." She fell into despair until a friend told her that it is easy to be grateful when things are good but that we need to be careful not to be a fair-weather friend to God.

Mr. Spafford rushed to his wife's side. As the ship passed the spot in the Atlantic where his daughters lost their lives, the captain called to him. Immediately afterwards, he went to his stateroom and penned the words to this hymn.

Philip Bliss, impressed with the sentiment Spafford expressed in the poem, quickly put it to music. Shortly afterward, Mr. Bliss was killed in a tragic train accident.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Story Behind I Need Thee Every Hour

This hymn's author, Annie Hawks, began writing poetry at the tender age of 14 and she had several published in a newspaper.

When she was 24, she married and she and her husband joined a church in Brooklyn, New York, whose pastor was the hymn writer Robert Lowry. He recognized Annie's talent and challenged her to use it to write hymns. He told her that if she wrote the words, he would write the music.

The best way to tell how I Need Thee Every Hour came to be is through Annie's own words. This happened in 1872.

"I remember well the circumstances under which I wrote the hymn. It was a bright June day, and I became so filled with the sense of the nearness of my Master that I began to wonder how anyone could live without Him, in either joy or pain. Suddenly, the words I need Thee every hour, flashed into my mind, and very quickly the thought had full possession of me.

Seating myself by the open windows, I caught up my pencil and committed the words to paper - almost as they are today. A few months later Dr. Robert Lowry composed the tune Need, for my hymn and also added the refrain.

For myself, the hymn, at its writing, was prophetic rather than expressive of my own experiences, for it was wafted out to the world on the wings of love and joy, instead of under the stress of great personal sorrow, with which it has often been associated.

At first I did not understand why the hymn so greatly touched the throbbing heart of humanity. Years later, however, under the shadow of a great loss, I came to understand something of the comforting power of the words 1 had been permitted to give out to others in my hours of sweet serenity and peace."

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I Need Thee Every Hour

This week's hymn is I Need Thee Every Hour. Because the lyrics aren't included with the video, I've printed them below. Enjoy!

1. I need thee every hour,
most gracious Lord;
no tender voice like thine
can peace afford.

Refrain: I need thee, O I need thee;
every hour I need thee;
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to thee.

2. I need thee every hour;
stay thou nearby;
temptations lose their power
when thou art nigh.

3. I need thee every hour, in joy or pain;
come quickly and abide, or life is vain.

4. I need thee every hour;
teach me thy will;
and thy rich promises in me fulfill.

5. I need thee every hour, most Holy One;
O make me thine indeed, thou blessed Son.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Everlasting Arms

“There is no one like the God of Jeshurun,
who rides on the heavens to help you
and on the clouds in his majesty.
The eternal God is your refuge,
and underneath are the everlasting arms.
He will drive out your enemy before you,
saying, ‘Destroy him!’
So Israel will live in safety alone;
Jacob’s spring is secure
in a land of grain and new wine,
where the heavens drop dew.
Blessed are you, O Israel!
Who is like you,
a people saved by the Lord?
He is your shield and helper
and your glorious sword.
Your enemies will cower before you,
and you will trample down their high places.” Deuteronomy 33:26-29

These verses come at the end of Deuteronomy, as part of Moses' farewell to the people. In the next chapter, Moses climbs Mount Nebo and dies. The book of Joshua then opens with the people of Israel preparing to enter and conquer the Promised Land.

What a formidable task that appeared to be. The inhabitants of the land had been proclaimed to be giants a generation before! The people had cowered in fear and as a result, wandered the desert for forty years. Joshua himself is seen begging the Lord for his help.

And God promised to go before them in a mighty way. So he did. He was the everlasting arms underneath the people. He was their strength and their mighty conqueror, delivering them from their enemies.

If he delivered his people from their earthly enemies in such a mighty way, how much mightier the way that he has delivered us from our ultimate enemy - Satan - and the sin and death he brings. At first glance, this deliverance didn't have the awesome punch that many of the battles in the book of Joshua did. Just a poor man on a cross.

Ah, but the victory over sin and death was greater and far more powerful. In the end, he will bring us to that place of new grain and wine where we will live in safety forever.

What troubles or enemies are assailing you today? Does God seem small and weak beside them? Remember, he is the everlasting arms supporting you.

Children like to play the game of "Catch Me". They fall backwards and trust that someone bigger and stronger than they are will keep them from falling flat on their backs on the ground. Do we have that kind of trust in our God. No matter what insurmountable problems lie before you today, God is there, bearing you up, caring for you, going before you to defeat it all.

What a fellowship, what a joy divine,   leaning on the everlasting arms;   what a blessedness, what a peace is mine,   leaning on the everlasting arms.  Refrain:  Leaning, leaning,   safe and secure from all alarms;   leaning, leaning,   leaning on the everlasting arms.  2. O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,   leaning on the everlasting arms;   O how bright the path grows from day to day,   leaning on the everlasting arms.  (Refrain)  3. What have I to dread, what have I to fear,   leaning on the everlasting arms?    I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,   leaning on the everlasting arms.  (Refrain) 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Story Behind Leaning on the Everlasting Arms

Anthony Showalter was leading a singing school in an Alabama church in 1887. When he returned to his boardinghouse room one night, two letters awaited him. Both were from former students, and both men told of the recent loss of their wives. Mr. Showalter wrote back, seeking to comfort the young men in the midst of their grief.

But what to write? When he came to the end of each letter, he wanted to include a Bible verse. He picked Deuteronomy 33:27, “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms ….”

He pondered the words of that verse as he penned them into the letters, and the lyrics of the chorus of Leaning on the Everlasting Arms came to his mind. He wrote to his friend, Elisha Hoffman, explaining that he had a chorus, but no verses. Mr. Hoffman wrote back with the rest of the words of this famous hymn.

Sam Duncan, a student and nephew of Mr. Showalter, was given the class assignment to write the tune for this poem. The piece was published under his uncle's name in the book Glad Evangel for Revival, Camp and Evangelistic Meeting Hymnal.