“When are they going to get those f—ing ree-tards out of here?!”
Those are said to be the infamous words of Hillary Clinton – also known as Arkansas’ “Mother of the Year” in 1984 – when Hillary reportedly grew frustrated that handicapped children weren’t collecting their Easter eggs quickly enough on the lawn of the Arkansas governor’s mansion.
“Two little lines I heard one day, Traveling along life’s busy way; Bringing conviction to my heart, And from my mind would not depart; Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.” C.T.Studd.
Only what’s done for Christ will last. This verse has often been used to motivate Christians to get on with it and join in the work for the Lord. And so it is, we get excited and work what we believe is for the Lord.
Isn’t that putting the cart before the horse? We can see in Ephesians 2:8-10 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
The old hymn-writer John Newton understood this. The old hymns have a reverence for God and how we can praise and worship Him with the proper perspective.
So it was one crisp fall evening on the night of a full moon. Our church had a family hayride through the countryside, and we sang the old hymns, one after another. The next night, when it was time to put the children to bed, as it was time to sing the good night song for my five year old daughter she said: “Daddy, daddy, sing Crazy waisy.” There was no way I could figure out what she meant, but she said “We said it yesterday at the hayride” I was clueless so she helped me: “You know the one about lost and found”. This rang a bell so we both sang:
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me, I once was lost but now am found, Was blind, but now, I see.
This is what separates true Christianity from all other religions. It is not man seeking God. It is God seeking man.
7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you willask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.9 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. (John 15: 7-10)
My father was a middle school teacher in a city with many immigrants and refugee children from the second world war. There were Finns, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Polish, Serbs and an occasional Jew. Many children came from single moms since this was a textile city. So naturally he was a flaming liberal. But he had a very developed sense of right and wrong. He had a way with children, so the administrators gave him a large number of children from broken homes. He always tried his best to help them succeed in spite of hardships, and even now, 60 years later they call my mom in thankfulness, even going so far as to say “He saved my life”. Then in the 60’s and 70’s he saw the excesses of a socialist government, year after year taking more than the salary increases in additional taxes, so the take home pay every ear was a little bit lower. Meanwhile we had raging inflation. After his retirement my mom took a job as a therapist for people with cognitive challenges. Many had been in state facilities all their lives. The social administrators decided one day that they too should lead normal lives and gave them a dinner at the town’s most expensive restaurant. Not only did they not appreciate it, but they wanted to go back home and eat what they were used to. When my father found out the size of the bill he said bluntly: That’s it. From now on I am a conservative. But now he had to search out, how shall we then live, so he started going back to his childhood faith, the faith he abandoned as a young man because of the hypocrisy he saw in those to proclaimed to be Christians.
Meanwhile my wife and I had been saved and one of my brothers married a strong Christian, and he searched for the truth.
At his funeral we sang Eventide (Abide with me), and looking through his writings I found this poem: There is a road that’s leading heaven bound. A strait and narrow, not like others found. It ends abruptly at a raging sea, Don’t doubt, your faith your wanderer’s staff shall be. That road is leading homeward just the same, through evil seas of sin, and guilt, and shame. There is a bridge appearing on the scene; To land that no-one mortal ever seen. This land of hope and grace and peace sublime. Thank God, You let me find that road in time.
Written by my father (in Swedish) in 1978.
Wow! Looking at the poem I heard the roaring sea and i heard Finlandia in my head for the first verse. Then for the second verse, Eventide became the obvious choice.
My father indeed found the only way, reconciliation through Jesus Christ. Only a few years later he lost much of his creative abilities, but he was ever thankful God had let him find that road in time.
Clouds have always been my fascination. They come and go, form and disappear, cool by day and warm by night. But most impressive of all are thunderstorms, forming when the temperature and humidity are high, transport a lot of water vapor to higher elevations, there condensing as rain or ice, coming down, cooling and watering the earth. Clouds and thunderstorms are the thermostat of the earth. Without it the earth would respond like climate models, predicting a sharp temperature rise as carbon dioxide levels increase. The models are all flawed, since they predict a hot spot in the troposphere over the equator, but there is none. The thunderstorms in the tropical doldrums take care of that. “Settled science” instead has settled on ignoring the lack of the hot spot, for to acknowledge it would make the global warming claim invalid.
I thank God for providing us with a thermostat that protects the earth from overheating, and especially for thunderstorms!
Such was the case in July 1885, when Carl Boberg, a 26 year young pastor of a small congregation of the Swedish Missionary society was the honored guest of the ladies’ auxiliary annual picnic, held in a meadow near Mönsteråsviken, (a bay of the Baltic Sea in southeastern Sweden). The day was perfect, the sky was clear, pleasant temperatures, the cows were grazing on the meadow, the birds were singing, in short, a pastoral idyll. Then it happened. In a few short minutes thunderclouds appeared out of nothing. There was no time to go home, so they all sought shelter in a barn close by. The rain came down hard, and lightning struck a nearby tree. Then as suddenly as it started the rain stopped and all was calm. In Sweden it turns much cooler after a thunderstorm, and the birds sing like they got a new lease on life.
They all went home, and the young pastor pondered the events of the day. He
heard the Coalthrush singing its melodic, beautiful drill and in a distance he heard the church bells ringing from Kronobäck’s church. The bay was calm like a mirror, and inspired he started penning the song “O store Gud”. Here is the first verse:
O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder, Consider all the works Thy Hands have made; I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Refrain: Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee, How great Thou art, How great Thou art. Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee, How great Thou art, How great Thou art!
He continued to write and write of all the mighty works that God has made and what He has given us through His word, and continued long into the night. Before going to bed he had penned over twenty verses. The next Sunday he wove the poem into his sermon. They all loved it, but that was about it. Slowly the word got around the poem was pretty good, after much editing down 9 verses were published in the local newspaper Mönsteråstidningen in 1886. Carl Boberg didn’t make any efforts to publish it further, and was surprised when he heard it sung a few years later to a Swedish folk melody (in 3/4 tempo). This was then published in the periodical “Sanningsvittnet” (witness of the truth) in 1891.
It was translated into German by an Estonian, Manfred von Glehn. Five years later it was translated into Russian by Ivan S. Prokanoff, the Martin Luther of modern Russia. It was published in a book with the title “Cymbals”.
Later, while in the Carpathian Mountains of what is now Western Ukraine the English Missionary couple Hine heard the song sung in Russian, this time as a wandering song in march tempo. He got impressed by God’s great works in the Polish mountains, and as Stuart Hine heard the people singing it on their way to church he penned a translation. This become the second verse:
When through the woods, and forest glades I wander, And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees. When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.
From now on the English version is different than the Swedish original. This is the origin of the third verse: It was typical of the Hines to ask if there were any Christians in the villages they visited. In one case, they found out that the only Christians that their host knew about were a man named Dmitri and his wife Lyudmila. Dmitri’s wife knew how to read — evidently a fairly rare thing at that time and in that place. She taught herself how to read because a Russian soldier had left a Bible behind several years earlier, and she started slowly learning by reading that Bible. When the Hines arrived in the village and approached Dmitri’s house, they heard a strange and wonderful sound: Dmitri’s wife was reading from the gospel of John about the crucifixion of Christ to a houseful of guests, and those visitors were in the very act of repenting. In Ukraine (as I know first hand!), this act of repenting is done very much out loud. So the Hines heard people calling out to God, saying how unbelievable it was that Christ would die for their own sins, and praising Him for His love and mercy. They just couldn’t barge in and disrupt this obvious work of the Holy Spirit, so they stayed outside and listened. Stuart wrote down the phrases he heard the Repenters use, and (even though this was all in Russian), it became the third verse that we know today: And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing; Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in; That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin.
The second world war broke out, and the Hines were forced to return back to England, but they continued their ministry. The fourth verse was was added by Stuart Hine after the Second World War. His concern for the exiled Polish community in Britain, who were anxious to return home, provided part of the inspiration for Hine’s final verse. Hine and David Griffiths visited a camp in Sussex, England, in 1948 where displaced Russians were being held, but where only two were professing Christians. The testimony of one of these refugees and his anticipation of the second coming of Christ inspired Hine to write the fourth stanza of his English version of the hymn. According to Ireland: One man to whom they were ministering told them an amazing story: he had been separated from his wife at the very end of the war, and had not seen her since. At the time they were separated, his wife was a Christian, but he was not, but he had since been converted. His deep desire was to find his wife so they could at last share their faith together. But he told the Hines that he did not think he would ever see his wife on earth again. Instead he was longing for the day when they would meet in heaven, and could share in the Life Eternal there. These words again inspired Hine, and they became the basis for his fourth and final verse to ‘How Great Thou Art’:
When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation, And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart. Then I shall bow, in humble adoration, And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”
The complete song was soon published, not in England but in the Soviet Union (in English). The famous Gospel singer George Beverly Shea got hold of it, liked it a lot, but he wanted to change two words in the first verse: Instead of works, he wanted to use worlds, and instead of mighty he wanted to use rolling. Very reluctantly Stuart Hine agreed, but only for use in the Billy Graham Crusades. It was first sung in Canada in 1955. It became so popular that in Billy Graham’s 1956 New York Crusade it was sung at all 99 events, and from there the song spread out through all the world, even back in Sweden where the new version became the popular one.
There have been over seventeen hundred documented recordings of “How Great Thou Art”. It has been used on major television programs, in major motion pictures, and has been mentioned as the favorite Gospel song of at least three United States’ presidents.
Now thejust shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him. (Hebrews 10:38)
After having come to faith the first week in February 42 years ago after reading the Gospel of Matthew I grappled with what to read next. I remembered my school years in Sweden, where we had a daily dose of Christianity. Our teacher liked the old stories from the Old Testament, so every morning she drew a map of Palestine, as it was called at that time and talked about Abraham and Jacob and Moses. We were supposed to have Old Testament in grade one and the New Testament in second grade, but our teacher loved the Old Testament so much we never even got around to hear the stories about Jesus. So I read Genesis and Exodus, but when I came to Leviticus, I decided that was too much law for anyone, so I switched back to the New Testament, but which book? Having read the Gospel of Matthew I decided on the letter to the Hebrews, after a brief visit to first Corinthians 13. It was most powerful, but it raised more questions. Am I totally secure in Christ, of are there conditions I have to meet to be fully saved? Then in Hebrews 10:38 it hit me: I must live by faith. I didn’t have to know all the answers, it wasn’t even important I knew the questions. But the second part of the verse started to worry me: if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him. I suddenly realized the faith part was not partial, I had to go all in. As a child I was baptized and confirmed, and I wanted to think that was enough; God knows who is his, but this time it was different, I had to take a stand in obedience and testify of my faith in Christ. So I signed up for baptism, and to my delight my wife decided to join, even though she was 6 months pregnant.
Coming out of the pool, I felt a wonderful release, my wife smiled in agreement; yes at that point I fully knew His soul has pleasure in me.
Through joys and hardships this has never left me, I regained my sense of wonder, and I can sing again the old Swedish hymn: How Great Thou art!
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” ( Jeremiah 1:5)
I woke up this morning with a chorus we sang in Church in the 70:s.
With eternity’s values in view, Lord,
With eternity’s values in view.
May I do each day’s work for Jesus
With eternity’s values in view.
Then it hit me: Is this really right? It sounds so good, but is it right? The words from Jesus in Matthew 7: 21-23 rang in my ears:
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
In the case of the prophet Jeremiah God knew him before he was even conceived, but in the case of the false disciple Jesus never knew him in spite of all the things he did for Jesus. Why the drastic difference? Does God pick winners and losers, or is there anything we can do to be assured to be on God’s side?
The answer may lie in one more quote, this one from the apostle Paul in Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
There we have it: God doesn’t want us to do things for Christ, God wants us – all of us as a living sacrifice. He wants us to die to self and be resurrected to new life in Christ. This is available to anybody – a new life in Christ. Then the Holy Spirit can lead us into God’s perfect will.
One more quote. Many can quote Ephesians 2:8-9, but the answer is really in verse 10: 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—9 not by works, so that no one can boast.10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
By the way, the word handiwork is in the Greek ποιημα (poiema) from which we get the word poem. We are God’s poem. I like that.
At my mature age I try to keep my brain active by making Limericks. There are many types of Limericks, and millions have been made and printed over the years, some straight forward as the one above, some with a twist. I try to stay with the clean ones.
In my childhood’s Sweden we started learning English in fifth grade. The first semester, since English has weird spelling we learned the basics in phonetic script, and right from the start we were introduced to finer English poetry, such as this Limerick:
There once was a lady from Riga
who rode with a smile on a tiger.
They came back from the ride
withe the lady inside
and the smile on the face on the tiger.
Since then I have always loved the format, a strict rhyme scheme (AABBA), and a predominantly anapesticmeter 88668, or in this case 99669.
But my real love has been for songs and music. I have a very hard time to memorize things, but if it is set to music I hear the melody inside me and it stays with me for life. Even now I sometimes wake up in the morning with a song in my heart, a song I heard maybe fifty years ago and have not heard since I emigrated from Sweden. Such is the power of music. The cadence in the song and the melody work together to bring to remembrance the emotions I felt as a young lad.
Coming to America I decided to join the Rochester oratorio society. We sang Handel’s Messiah. It meant nothing to me except fantastic music. But the next piece was Elijah, and at the performance, the great base William Warfield was Elijah. He didn’t just sing, he was Elijah!
We moved away from Rochester and I didn’t sing for five years. Things didn’t go so well moodwise, but circumstances led me to again sing Handel’s Messiah. This time it spoke to me and rekindled in me the joy I once had singing. So I joined a church choir, still unsaved, but they let me sing anyway.
Since I found new life in Christ I have found that whenever things go bad, as they often do, God brings back a melody in my heart, not always with words, but they usually come back to remembrance a little bit later.
Thank God for hymns and songs with melody and words that bring back to remembrance the greatness of God!
(Sometimes I wake up with songs I heard in my youth that has very little to do with God and His greatness, but that is another story).