Happy To Welcome You To The Hallelujah Chorus

I will exalt you my God, the King, I will praise your name forever and ever. Every day I will praise you and exalt your name forever and ever. Psalm 145:1-2

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Eternal Father Strong To Save #2

My last post highlighted the origin and national importance of the Navy Hymn, "Eternal Father Strong To Save". I learned to sing it while in boot camp and sang it many times during my Navy enlistment. The song is a powerful prayer asking the Father to care for all who navigate the unforgiving and unpredictable sea. I want to reiterate if you are unfamiliar with it you should Google the title and read it.

I think these words from Psalm 107 carry the same message and just a bit more that should inspire -
"Others went down to the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters, they saw the works of the Lord, his wonderful deeds in the deep. For he spoke and stirred up the tempest that lifted the waves. They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away. They reeled and staggered like drunken men; they were at their wits end. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men. Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people and praise him in the council of the elders."

I've truly been there, done that, several times. I vividly recall the first hurricane I rode out while at sea, many hundreds of miles from any land mass. We knew it was coming and rather than try to outrun it, which would have been impossible anyway, our Captain turned the ship into the teeth of it and headed into the eye where the sea is calmer. Most of that first night we were fighting swells in excess of 80 feet tall and every time one of those waves crashed over the ship there was much groaning and shuddering as that nearly 600 ft long craft struggled to break through it. I stood two deck watches during that night and had to use my belt to anchor myself to a steel pole that supported the level above me. Every time we hit one of those waves it would dump untold gallons of cold water down on my head from the deck above. So yeah, it was scary and all of us did a lot of praying. In fact, our ship's Chaplain remained on the bridge all that night in an effort to keep everyone calm.

One other passage has been a huge source of encouragement to me in my older adult years and I pray it will energize your faith to appreciate at a deeper level just what the Eternal Father has given you in his Son.

"Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand." Romans 5:1-2

The word "ACCESS", is truly something very special because it is the idea of "introduction". The Greek word contains two powerful "word pictures" that you need to know to appreciate.
(1) It was the common word used for introducing someone into the presence of royalty
(2) It was also the word for the harbor where ships could find safe haven from a storm

Because of Jesus and in him, we have been formally introduced into the presence of the real King, the absolute Ruler of heaven and earth. Jesus has given us "access" into the grace of God by bringing us into the Father's presence in a way that is utterly impossible otherwise. As our Father, He planned this for us at some point in eternity past and brought it to reality through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Because of Jesus and in him, we have gained entry into the harbor of safety to shelter us from certain death and destruction. No longer sailing in unprotected waters, we are now free from the fear and desperation that is always unpredictable on this sea of life. God's grace, his undeserved and unearned favor, protects us.

I am honored to do as the Psalmist encourages, to thank my Eternal Father for his unfailing love and praise him in the assembly of others who have also sheltered in the safe harbor of Jesus Christ our Lord.

HALLELUJAH!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

"Hymn Stories #1"

As a kid growing up in the country I always enjoyed singing because I was raised in a singing family. My grandfather Sid Darnall taught me to sing bass in church at a very young age and two of my uncles, brothers of my grandmother Lottye Darnall, taught me to sight read shape notes and sing tenor before I was even a teenager. I taught myself to play guitar, sang in a quartet and chorus all through high school and was involved in just about every play and musical that was presented by South Marshall High School. In my early college years I also sang in a rock 'n roll band called The Sweepers. It was all great fun. As I grew older my love for gospel music really became a passion and has continued throughout my adult life.

All of that is to explain why I have decided to use this medium as a forum to share some of my most cherished Hymn Stories. For many years I collected old hymnals and devotional type song books because I just loved the sincere ways that older hymn composers laid their heartfelt prayers out there for the world to read and sing, just like King David of old. Behind nearly every one is a moving story of faith, just like in David's Psalms. So, I want to share some of those great stories with my readers with the prayer that they will inspire you to greater faith too.

ETERNAL FATHER STRONG TO SAVE

Until my service in the US Navy, I had never heard of this hymn, but soon became quite familiar with it's great power to move the human spirit. Written by a Londoner named William Whiting, it seems to have been intended as a poem Whiting composed for a friend who was about to embark on a long sea voyage and had expressed his fear of the sea. I have found no clear trail of how it became such an institution both in Great Britain and America, only bits and pieces that are virtually impossible to verify. However it does seem fairly certain that the melody was composed by John B. Dykes who gave it the original title MELITA, an ancient rendering of MALTA, the island near where Paul was shipwrecked as found at Acts 27.

Commonly known today as the Navy Hymn, it has been performed in many different ways for important events in our nation's history i.e., the funerals of Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon and many others including fallen warriors. The Hymn was one thing I was taught in boot camp because there are certain occasions when Navy protocol requires the performance of the Hymn on every ship and shorebased installation and all hands are expected to join in when no formal band or choir is available for its presentation. Today, there are also very specific versions of the Hymn that are performed by all branches of the armed forces for their own commemorative occasions.

If you have never sung or heard this powerful hymn, I suggest that you GOOGLE it as you may not find it in your church's current hymnal. As you read the words, try to visualize William Whiting writing it as a portable means of fortifying the faith of his friend.

In my next post, I will tie this beautiful hymn to some powerful words from God.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"On My 71st Birthday"

If my grandaddy Sid Darnall, my Mom's father, were alive today, I am fairly certain he would be quite surprised to see me at this age. I grew up less than a quarter of a mile from his house so he sat on his front porch and watched me grow up. He told me often that I would not live to be 20 years old because I was forever getting hurt riding my bicycle on that gravel road or falling out of a tree or the hay loft or cutting myself on something that I had no business messing with. But, he always let me know he loved me and was proud of my courage. I was very privileged to be able to sit by his side in a hospital room and spend most of a day, just the two of us, him unable to speak from a severe stroke and me doing all the talking. That day I was able to just tell him how much I loved him and how he had impacted my life. He just lay there very still, and occasionally nod with tears rolling down his cheeks. What a man of God he was! Next to my Dad, he was my hero and my spiritual mentor.

For several years now I have been able to actually see the end of my life on this earth. That prospect doesn't frighten me at all because I feel like David when he penned these simple words -

                                      "I love the house where you live, O Lord,
                                        the place where your glory dwells." Psalm 26:8 NIV

Although I cannot say for certain what David was thinking of as God's house, my instincts and knowledge of David's Psalms tend to make me think that for me, that "house" is a place inside my own spirit where I meet with my Father to just talk and listen. I do that daily and guard that place within me with fierce intensity.

Two great servants of Jesus come to mind as I think about the end of my earthly life and how I have had many failures and successes as a slave of Jesus Christ.

              "Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil
                and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he
                must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and
                his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against
                those who do evil." 1 Peter 3:10-12 NIV

Peter quotes David's Psalm 34:12-16 as a lifestyle that will finally receive the blessing of God. Obviously, from the context, there were some Christians, then as now, who spent way too much time trying to "one-up" each other. Doing "good" is a sometime thing that can be easily cancelled by harsh, judgmental words that produce only evil outcomes. I am trying more and more to eliminate that kind of thinking and speaking from my life because we all have "feet of clay" to some extent. If we aren't careful we will tear down more than we will build up. I surely don't want that kind of memory left behind of who I was in God's kingdom.

               "I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come
                for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I
                have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness
                which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day - and not
                only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." 2 Timothy 4:6-8 NIV

When Paul wrote these, his last recorded words, to Timothy, he speaks as a man who has truly given his all as a slave of Christ Jesus and is looking ahead beyond the final hour of earthly life to the "prize" as he called it, that the "Righteous Judge" will award to me too. Paul had endured some very hard years and many near death experiences and now was ready to hang it up for good.

I'm not THERE yet but my heart and my spirit are prepared for whatever lies ahead. It's all good because of two huge gifts God has already given me - (1) Jesus Christ and his righteousness, (2) the Holy Spirit. With those two indescribably gifts, I am already blessed beyond any words and live free. HALLELUJAH!