Thursday, March 31, 2011

What Have I to Fear?

Elisha Hoffman was a faithful 19th century Presbyterian pastor serving congregations in Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois. During his life, he published nearly 2000 hymns and songs--including "Are You Washed in the Blood?" "Down at the Cross," "Draw Me Closer, Lord, to Thee,"Hallowed Hour of Prayer," "What a Wonderful Savior!" "Sing of Jesus," and of course, his most enduring work, "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms."

That great hymn is most often sung to a tune written by another Presbyterian pastor, A. J. Showalter, who served for most of his ministry in Dalton, Georgia. Nearly as prolific as Hoffman, in his life he published more than 130 music books, which sold more than a million copies. They included the tunes for "After the Life-Paths," "Draw Me Closer, Lord, to Thee," "Like a Wayward Child I’ve Wandered," and "Waves of Salvation."

Their collaboration, written in 1887 for two friends who had recently lost loved ones, offers the only sure antidote to the sundry fears, dreads, and worries which so easily entangle and ensnare all of us:

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.

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;

Leaning, leaning, leaning on the Everlasting Arms.

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.

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the Everlasting Arms.

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.

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the Everlasting Arms.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Forgetting the Truth

"A lie can only seize the mind of that man who has forgotten the Incarnation." Andrew Nelson Lytle

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Stopping by the Way

William Olney and Joseph Passmore were deacons for many years at London's Metropolitan Tabernacle during the pastorate of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. They helped to restore the office of the diaconate to its original Biblical basis: serving for the poor. Their busy ministry in service to the needy involved the administration of almshouses, orphanages, relief missions, training schools, retirement homes, tract societies, and colporterages.

In a lecture to young Bible college students in 1862, Olney stated, “Deacons are called of God to a magnificent field of service, white unto harvest. . . . Ours is the holy duty of stopping by the way, when all others have passed by, to ministrate Christ's healing. Thus, we take the Good Samaritan as our model, lest the pilgrim perish.”

To that same audience, Passmore said, “It is ironic indeed that our type of diaconal faithfulness comes not from the life of a disciple of our blessed Lord. Nay, not even is our type from the ancient fathers of faith, the Jews. Instead, our type is from the life of a Samaritan. Mongrel, as touching doctrine, this Good Samaritan is all of pedigree as touching righteousness. Oh, that the Church of our day had such men. Oh, that the church of our day bred such men, men of unswerving devotion to the care of the poor and broken-hearted. Oh, that the church of our day was filled with such men, men driven by the Good Samaritan faith . . . offering both word and deed, the fullness of the Gospel.”

According to their pastor, Spurgeon, the two men were able to, “demonstrate that the words of the Gospel could be translated into actual, tangible deeds. As a result, they were to be counted among the greatest evangelists of our day.”

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Gospel Etymology

Just a little while ago a friend asked me to define "the gospel." He was prepping for a Sunday School class and wanted a good, succinct definition that he could use.

Instead of immediately thinking of the best doctrinal formulation, my mind recalled the etymological roots of the word. “Gospel” is from the Anglo-Saxon “godspel,” literally, “glad tidings,” or “good news” (from “god” meaning “good” and “spel” meaning “story”). “Good-gossip” was Samuel Johnson’s translation—which, I have to say, really captures the essence of the idea!

Thus, the word "gospel" connotes the happy announcement of God’s rescue and redemption of His fallen, sinful children by means of the gracious, sufficient, and finished work of Jesus Christ. What a wondrous truth!