If God Had Chosen Quarantine by P.M. Gilmer

If God Had Chosen Quarantine

What if God had chosen to quarantine

Himself (as the agnostics would have us

believe)? To be isolated from

the virus of man, to keep a social

and moral and holy distance from

Heaven to earth, (six feet, six miles–it

may as well be a million of either),

then what would have happened to all mankind?     

 

For in the beginning we were

separated by a great gulf of sin–

by a rebellion caused by pride.

We listened to Another and

chose to believe we could be

wiser than our Creator and King.

 

What if God had chosen then to

quarantine Himself from us? To keep

His distance and His face covered and

His voice silenced and His heart closed?

 

How could our feet be cleansed that we

might stand on holy ground? And who

would wash our hands that we might

lift them to praise and worship

our Creator and our Savior

 

For we walk in this world where

communicable diseases of sin

brush up against us and cling to us.

They touch our eyes, our ears, our hands,

our feet, and our minds. How can we not

be touched daily by the virus of sin?                         

 

What if the Veil had not been torn?

If a mask still covered the face of God?

A mask that keeps the breath of God

from reaching us? A mask that keeps                                     

us from his mercy, his grace, his goodness?

 

But the God of the universe risked

contamination and broke the quarantine.

He came down to us and the Veil

was torn, the mask ripped away

to reveal the face of a merciful God.

 

He that would not be quarantined.

He did not keep himself apart from us,

but came down and bridged that sinful

distance, and cleanses us with his blood

and daily washes our feet and hands.

P.M. Gilmer

Soli Deo Gloria

 

National Poetry Month 2020

Today is the last day of National Poetry Month, and I hope you’ve spent some time reading poetry during this unusually stressful month. I have been dipping into several authors including: Malcolm Guite, Jeanne Murray Walker, Edward Clarke, George Herbert, and Luci Shaw. I have also been reading the book of Isaiah, taking more notice of the poetry in that book and comparing several translations.

From Isaiah 26–The path of the righteous is level; you make level the way of the righteous. In the path of your judgments, O LORD, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul. My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.

In my reading, I came across a tradition of English poetry known as “the metrical psalms.” Starting during the Renaissance, many English poets began to put certain psalms of the Old Testament in the form of English poetry. These poems usually rhyme and have a way of making the reader see something familiar with a fresh eye. The first one I read was George Herbert’s The Twenty-Third Psalm. Herbert never published in his lifetime, keeping his work “private” because he wrote for God. Fortunately, The Temple (a book which contains most of his more well-known poetry) was published in 1633, the year of his death.

Though our language has changed since 1633, I hope you will enjoy Herbert’s “spin” (as one commentator put it) on psalm 23 and recognize how he, just as David did in the original some thousands of years ago, wrote this as worship and adoration to God.

The Twenty-Third Psalm

The God of Love my shepherd is, And he that doth me feed; While he is mine, and I am his, What can I want or need?

He leads me to the tender grass, Where I both feed and rest; Then to the streams that gently pass; In both I have the best.

Of if I stray, he doth convert And bring my mind in frame; And all this not for my desert, But for his holy name.

Yea, in death’s shady black abode Well may I walk, not fear; For thou art with me, and thy rod To guide, thy staff to bear.

Nay, thou dost make me sit and dine, Even in my enemies’ sight; My head with oil, my cup with wine Runs over day and night.

Surely thy sweet and wondrous love Shall measure all my days; And as it never shall remove, So neither shall my praise.

 

 

Frances Ridley Havergal Her Death

Like a river glorious, is God’s perfect peace; Over all victorious, in its bright increase.

In a previous post, I wrote of the accomplishments of Frances Havergal and the way she sought to glorify the Lord in all she did. Now, I will recount some of the account concerning her death. Havergal suffered ill health for much of her life. At the age of 42, she went on holiday with her family to South Wales. While there, she developed a very severe cold which soon led to an inflammation of the lungs.

Perfect yet it floweth, Fuller every day, Perfect yet it groweth Deeper all the way.

When Havergal was told that her life was in danger, her response was: “If I am really going, it is too good to be true!” Should that not be the response of all Christians–no matter, their age, their goals, their plans? To learn that we may soon be with the One we claim to love? For this was Havergal’s ultimate desire–to be with the One for whom she wrote her poems and hymns.

Hidden in the hollow of his blessed hand–never foe can follow, never traitor stand.

Later she said, “Splendid! To be so near the gates of heaven.” Closer to the end, her sister reported that she sang one of her hymns, “Jesus, I will trust Thee, Trust Thee with my Soul.” Though she was weak and her voice faint, the words were clear to all.

Not a surge of worry, Not a shade of care, Not a blast of hurry, Touch the spirit there.

“She looked up steadfastly, as if she saw the Lord; and surely nothing less heavenly could have reflected such a glorious radiance upon her face. For ten minutes we watched that almost visible meeting with her king, and her countenance was so glad, as if she were already talking to Him! Then she tried to sing; but after one sweet high note, her voice failed, and as her brother commended her soul into the Redeemer’s hand, she passed away.”

Stayed upon Jehovah, Hearts are fully blest, finding as He promised, Perfect peace and rest.

“I should have liked my death to be like Samson’s doing more for God’s glory than by my life; but He wills it otherwise.” Though Havergal could not see it, I believe her death did give glory to God, not only to those who were with her as she went home, but also for those of us who continue to read her words years later.

 

Quotes taken from Memorials of Frances Ridley Havergal by her sister, M. V. G. H. (Maria V. G. Havergal), April 1880

Frances Ridley Havergal–Her Life

 

I enjoy learning about the hymn writers of my favorite hymns because it makes them more meaningful and puts a face and a life to the words. It’s easy just to sing the words of a familiar song and forget that someone wrote them because of a particular event in their life or because of the way the Lord had been dealing in their life at the time.

Take my life and let it be–Consecrated, Lord, to thee. Take my moments and my days; Let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Several months ago I heard a pastor speak about the life of Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-1879) before we sang, “Like a River Glorious.” Intrigued, I began to read more about her, as well as listen to more of her hymns and read some of her poetry. I was impressed in both the way she lived and the way she died. In this post, I will discuss how she lived, and I’ll have a follow up post on how she died.

Take my hands and let them move–At the impulse of thy love, Take my feet and let them be–Swift and beautiful for thee.

Born at the rectory in Astley, Worcestershire (England) where her father was the rector, Havergal accomplished much in her short life. From the time she was a young child, she always sought to serve and lift up Jesus. She was writing poetry at the age of seven and had verses published while still a teen in “Good Words.”

Take my voice and let me sing,–Always, only for my King, Take my lips and let them be–Filled with messages for Thee.

Receiving her education at both English and German boarding schools, she proved herself a natural linguist learning Latin, German, Italian, French, Hebrew, and Greek. She also played the piano and was said to be a beautiful singer.

Take my silver and my gold; Not a mite would I withhold; Take my intellect and use–Every power as Thou shalt choose.

Four years after writing the words: “take my silver and my gold,” she packed up and shipped a box of valuable jewelry to a church missionary house. Of the few pieces she kept: “I retain only a brooch or two for daily wear, which are memorials of my dear parents; also a locket with the only portrait I have of my niece, who is in heaven. But these I redeem that the whole value goes to the Church Missionary Society.”

Take my will and make it thine; It shall be no longer mine. Take my heart, it is thine own; It shall be thy royal throne.

Havergal told the story behind the writing of the hymn “Take My Life and Let It Be” in Memorials of Frances Ridley Havergal. “I went for a little visit of five days (to Areley House). There were ten persons in the house, some unconverted and long prayed for, some converted but not rejoicing Christians. He gave me the prayer ‘Lord, give me all in the house.’ And He just did. Before I left the house every one had got a blessing. The last night of my visit, after I had retired, the governess asked me to go to the two daughters. They were crying. Then and there both of them trusted and rejoiced. It was midnight. I was too happy to sleep and passed most of the night in praise and renewal of my own consecration, and these little couplets formed themselves and chimed in my heart one after another, till they finished with ‘Ever, only, all for Thee.”

Take my love, my Lord, I pour–At thy feet its treasure store.Take myself, and I will be–Ever, only, all for Thee.

 

 

One Starry Night–A Christmas Poem (part 3)

One Starry Night (part 3)

A manger, they knew, would be found where the

animals were fed, so they made their way

behind the first inn and followed the sounds

(and smells) of animals whose nightly slumber

had been disturbed. Quietly, they approached

a cave carved into a small hill where the

soft, smoky glow of an oil lamp cast a

shadow. They stopped as one when they reached the

entrance, suddenly unsure of their next

move. Just as Reuben decided to go

forward, the cry of a baby broke the

stillness of the night. The shepherds gasped and

several of them surprised themselves with tears.

Going in together, they peered in awe

at the sight. A young woman (a girl to

their eyes) along with a man dressed in

garments plain, crouched over a manger where

a newborn infant lay wrapped in cloths just

as the Messenger had told them. They crept

as close as they dared, wondering at the

babe whose birth had been declared to them by

a heavenly being and even sung

about by a heavenly choir. “We

were told to come here,” the old shepherd broke

the silence. “By a . . .” He stopped, unable

to continue and unsure of how to

explain the phenomenon they had witnessed.

The young woman smiled at them. “An angel?”

she suggested. “Yes!” they all said at once.

Then, mindful of the sleeping babe, they told

their story in excited, though hushed whispers.

“Yes, yes! An angel, that’s what he was. A

messenger sent from God. He told us he

had good news.” “Good news for everyone. The

whole world.” “He said it was great joy.” “For

everyone.” “He said we would find a baby.”

“A baby wrapped in cloths.” “In a manger.”

They stopped for breath and gazed anew at the

sleeping babe. How could such a small, helpless

newborn baby be the cause of such a

revelation? Of a heavenly

announcement? The promise of good news for

all people? “He said,” the old shepherd, Asa,

cleared his throat. “He said, the Messenger, I

mean, that this baby is the Christ. Our

Messiah.” Tears filled his eyes. “I never

thought he’d come for me.” The plain-dressed

man, who seemed to be the baby’s guardian,

placed an arm around the old shepherd’s shoulders.

“We were as amazed as you when the

Messenger came to us and gave us the

same good news. This baby is God’s gift to

us and will do more for us than we can

ever imagine.” “We must go and tell

everyone what we have seen and heard,” Asa

declared. His companions, though mildly

amused at the old shepherd’s change of heart,

joyfully agreed. With a final look

at the Christ child and a farewell to the

young couple–whom they all knew would face times

of trouble and sorrow as they raised this

baby in this sin-struck world–they set out

to walk the streets of Bethlehem as morning

broke and people began to stir. They stopped

and told everyone they met of the

celestial announcement they had received

about the baby and the significance

of his arrival. Though some had no interest

in hearing news of any kind from lowly

shepherds, many others marveled at their

story and spread the word throughout their town

and still others carried the story to

their homes in places near and far throughout

Israel. “A baby has been born to you.”                  P.M. Gilmer     Soli Deo gloria

One Starry Night–A Christmas Poem (part 2)

One Starry Night (part 2)

The shepherds all gathered together to

discuss this news that had been given to

them. “Could this be true?” one old grizzled

veteran shepherd asked. “A baby who

is the Christ?” “Did you ever hear such

singing?” asked another, his eyes still on

the sky and his ears still ringing with the

fading heavenly melody. “What should

we do?” worried a third. “Go and see!”

exclaimed one eager shepherd. This shepherd

put on his sandals, grabbed his cloak and staff,

and made ready to leave for Bethlehem,

not caring if anyone joined him

or not. He wanted to see this baby

whose birth had launched a choir of heavenly

messengers. “Now, wait,” the old veteran

cautioned. “We can’t just run off and leave our

sheep, especially when we’re not sure who

those creatures were or even where they came

from.” The rest of the shepherds looked at him

aghast. “Why, they surely came from heaven.

Where else could they be from?” “They were angels,

I be certain,” declared another. “And

I am with Reuben. To Bethlehem, I

am bound.” And he, too, put on his sandals

and took up his sack and staff. Soon, they were

all picking up their things, murmuring with

excitement. “A message from heaven, did

you ever hear of such a thing?” “No!” said

the old shepherd. “I never have and neither

have any of you. Why would someone from

heaven want to speak to the likes of us?”

Reuben placed a hand on the old man’s shoulder.

Good news for all people. Come with us, Asa,

and see if this baby is where the

Messenger said he would be. Our sheep will

be fine until we return.” The old shepherd

considered his companions, shrugged, and fell

in line. A trip to Bethlehem in the

middle of the night seemed like madness to

the old shepherd, but this whole night had been

unlike any he had ever encountered

in his eighty some years. A messenger

from heaven? Or a demon to mislead

and taunt them? His friends seemed certain the word

came from Heaven, but he had experienced

more of the latter than the former. Still,

a surge of hope went through him as he

tottered after his fellow shepherds,

listening to their excited chatter

as they made their way along the moon-lit

road to Bethlehem, the city of David.

They entered through the gates of Bethlehem,

(How did those shepherds know which way to go?)

and walked unerringly through the darkened

streets. Shops were closed and houses still, but from

overflowing inns, light and noise spilled out

and in front of one of these the shepherds

stopped and considered again the words of

the Messenger. “You will find a baby

wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”               P.M. Gilmer

One Starry Night–A Christmas Poem (part 1)

One Starry Night  (part 1)

A long day finally over, the sheep

now settled to sleep. The weary shepherds

found places to rest–some to lay their heads;

others to keep watch over their flocks (many

of them destined to be a sacrifice

for man’s sins), alert for any dangers

that might be lurking or for any sheep

that might decide to take a midnight stroll.

Under a clear sky with stars so bright,

the night air took on a chill, causing the

sheep to huddle together and the shepherds

to wrap their cloaks around themselves and most

stayed near one of the fires kept burning throughout

the night. The men on the first watch neither

saw nor heard anything to make them believe

this night would be any different than hundreds

of others. When their time was ended, they

went to wake their companions for the second

watch. Before they could rouse the slumbering

shepherds, a light so bright filled the sky and

caused the poor shepherds to gasp and cover

their faces. Some fell to their knees and one

even stumbled into the companion

he had come to waken causing a stir

amongst the others whose dreams had just been

shattered. But when they tried to open their

eyes and grumble at their rude awakening,

they too were blinded by the light and covered

their faces in fear. Barely able to

think or breathe, they heard a Voice speak from–

where? The Light? The sky? It seemed to fill the

very air. “Do not be afraid!” the Voice

cried out. Though still they trembled, they slowly

lowered their arms and their hands from their

faces; and their eyes began to make out

a form. A form so majestic they knew

it was no ordinary being and

had to have come from Heaven. “Behold!”

the Being proclaimed and as he continued

to speak, the shepherds ceased their trembling and

stared and listened in awe. Even the sheep

had shaken off their drowsiness and seemed

to be listening as well. “I bring you

good news that will bring great joy to all

people. Today in Bethlehem, the city

of David, a Savior has been born to

you. He is the Christ, the Messiah, the

Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you

will find a baby wrapped in cloths and

lying in a manger.” Before the shepherds

could marvel at these words, the Messenger

Being was, in an instant, joined by a

whole host of more of these Heavenly Beings.

They began to sing in voices so sweet,

the shepherds stood entranced and the sheep

bleated softly as if in accord with

their song. “Glory to God in the highest

of heavens, and peace on earth among all

those who delight Him.” And as suddenly

as they had appeared, the messenger choir

was gone, leaving the shepherds to stare up

into the star-filled sky as if waiting

for more miracles to appear. The sheep,

however, knew the heavenly show

was over and so settled themselves to

to return to their peaceful slumber.            P.M. Gilmer

 

“Man of Sorrows! What a Name”

“Man of Sorrows! What a Name,” a hymn also known by its repeating refrain “Hallelujah! What a Savior!” was written in 1875. The author, Philip P. Bliss, took his title from Isaiah 53.

Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root from a dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised and we esteemed him not.

Knowing Bliss wrote several of his hymns based on sermons he heard preached, it is possible that a sermon from Isaiah 53 also inspired him or perhaps it was his own personal reading of this moving and prophetic chapter that gave him the inspiration to write this hymn.

The first stanza introduces the Savior and his purpose for coming here: “Ruined sinners to reclaim.”

The second stanza paints a vivid picture of the sacrifice Christ gave for us. “Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned he stood.”

The third illustrates the contrast between us “guilty, vile and helpless we” and our Savior, “Spotless Lamb of God was He.”

The fourth proclaims both his death and triumphant finish and the fifth proclaims His return when we’ll sing forever, “Hallelujah! What a Savior!”

Ira D. Sankey, a singer for D. L. Moody’s evangelistic meetings–who also wrote hymns and compiled a book of hymns with Bliss–wrote of the hymn “Man of Sorrows” in his autobiography. “When Mr. Moody and I were in Paris, . . . I frequently sang this hymn as a solo, asking the congregation to join in the single phrase, “Hallelujah, what a Savior,” which they did with splendid effect.

“It is said that the word ‘Hallelujah’ is the same in all languages. It seems as though God had prepared it for the great jubilee of heaven, when all his children had been gathered home to sing ‘Hallelujah to the Lamb!'”

(Is there any other word that is recognized in all languages? In both Italian and Irish–hallelujah; in Spanish–aleluya; in Slovak–aleluja; in Swahili–Haleluya. ‘Hallelujah, what a Savior’ will surely be heard in heaven.)

Bliss discovered his love of music at a young age and studied when he could, eventually becomin an itinerant music teacher. When he was 26, he and his wife moved to Chicago where he conducted musical institutes and was soon known for both his teaching and singing. One night in 1869, he passed a revival meeting where D. L. Moody was preaching. Apparently, the singing was “rather weak” that night, and Bliss offered his help. After a quick interview, Moody accepted his offer and later urged him to give up his business and become a singing evangelist.

In 1873, Bliss did decide to give up everything (musical conventions, writing secular songs, business position, and work at the church) in order to go full-time into singing music for evangelism.

On November 24, 1876, Bliss sang at a minister’s meeting led by D. L. Moody in Chicago. Over 1,000 preachers were there to hear Bliss introduce a song he had just written the music for: It is Well with My Soul. He had only a month left to live.

 

Again, from Sankey’s autobiography: “This was the last hymn I heard Mr. Bliss sing. It was at a meeting in Farwell Hall in Chicago, conducted by Henry Moorehouse. A few weeks before his death Mr. Bliss visited the State prison at Jackson, Michigan, where, after a very touching address on ‘The Man of Sorrows,’ he sang this hymn with great effect. Many of the prisoners dated their conversion from that day.”

Bliss and his wife and children spent Christmas that year with his mother and sister in Pennsylvania, planning to return to Chicago in January to work with Mr. Moody. He received a telegram asking him to come sooner, so he and his wife obtained train tickets, deciding to leave their children with his mother. On December 29, 1876, the Pacific Express was three hours late due to a blinding snowstorm. Crossing a river over a trestle bridge, the first engine reached the other side but the rest fell 75 feet into the ravine of icy water.

Mr. Bliss managed to free himself, crawling through a window. However, his wife was trapped and he returned to try and help her. A fire broke out and soon the wooden coaches were ablaze aided by the fierce winds. The Blisses, along with at least 92 others, did not survive.

As Mr. Bliss’s trunk was sent ahead on another train, it reached Chicago safely. Inside were several songs, Mr. Bliss was working on. One hymn, “He Knows,” by Mary G. Brainard (Bliss wrote the music and chorus) began with the words: “I know not what awaits me. God kindly veils my eyes . . .”

Mourning the loss of Mr. Bliss, D.L. Moody had this to say about his friend: “In my estimate, he was the most highly honored of God, of any man of his time, as a writer and singer of Gospel Songs, and with all his gifts he was the most humble man I ever knew. I loved him as a brother, and shall cherish his memory . . .”

Though the life of Mr. Bliss was tragically cut short, he left a legacy of music that continues to lead us to worship the Man of Sorrows who became our glorious King.

 

Bibliography:

https://www.wholesomewords.org/biography/biobliss.html

My Life and the Story of the Gospel Hymns: and of Sacred Songs and Solos Ira D. Sankey

http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1801-1900/train-wreck-killed-hymn-writer-bliss-and-wife-11630582.html

 

How Firm a Foundation

April is National Poetry Month and though I don’t read as much poetry as I would like–between studying the Psalms and some hymns, I have been reading more poetry than usual.

We don’t often think of hymns as poetry, but when we take the time to read  and hear the words, we often find beautiful phrases with some deep theology woven in. Leland Ryken, a literary editor of the ESV Bible and a professor of English at Wheaton College for almost fifty years, writes in 40 Favorite Hymns on the Christian Life: “Much of the beauty that we experience when we sing hymns is the beauty of the music. Experiencing hymns as poems puts the focus on the verbal beauty of the words and phrases. The great hymns of Christian tradition are an untapped source of devotional poetry, just waiting to be made available for the pleasure and edification of Christians.”

In my familarity with hymns, I have too often sung through the words, not appreciating their depth of feeling and theology. I would like to challenge you to read through some of your favorite hymns and consider the words and what the writer may have been going through or trying to convey.

For today, I want to look at the hymn, “How Firm a Foundation.” The opening stanza contains words of comfort and assurance. A reminder that since God has given us His Word to live our lives by, how could we have a more firm foundation?

“How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, Is laid for your faith in his excellent Word! What more can he say than to you he hath said, To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?”

What more can He say? Nothing–though, of course, we need to read His Word to know what He has said. The next four stanzas are written as if God were speaking, reminding us of the promises from His Word.

In the second stanza: “Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed. . . . I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

Third stanza: “When through the deep waters I call thee to go,” I will be with thee. (Isaiah 43:2)

Fourth stanza: “When through fiery trials they pathway shall lie”–His grace is sufficient. (2 Co 12:9; 1 Peter 4:12-13)

Fifth stanza: “The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose”–He will never forsake. No, Never! (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Though written in 1787, the words are no less true or relevant for our lives. Enjoy and worship this hymn written with the ancient truths of God’s Word.