Devotions

Access to Power

 

“We are often troubled, but not crushed: sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 

Early Christians faced dangerous situations because of their faith. Their lives were often on the line. It was a tense and uncertain way to live. Paul’s letters were a bright light for them during those dark days. He told the early church at Philippi how Christ humbled himself even to the point of death and shares with the Corinthians that though they are in pain, they are never without a friend. Throughout Paul’s correspondence, he consistently brings up Jesus Christ as the one who has helped in the past, helps in the present and will help in the future. With Christ we can fight the good fight and run the race. Through Christ we find strength to do all the things that must be done, and his light shines out of our hearts. There are two key promises we should always hold close: that Jesus died for us, and that he will never leave us. 

Hard times aren’t a new phenomenon. Adam and Eve were given a glorious place to live. Everything was hand made for them to enjoy and God was there living right next door and going on twilight walks with them. Somehow that wasn’t enough for Adam and Eve. They knew what was right but dove headfirst into wrong. It was a terrible choice, and the consequences were awful. But the good news is that God did not abandon them. He set in motion a plan that would rescue them and all the generations following.  

A poster in a woman's kitchen had the words "As soon as this is over, I'm going to have a nervous breakdown. I’ve worked hard for it. I deserve it, and nobody is going to deprive me of it." With all that is going on in the world right now, that would be a tempting goal, and while it’s a poster that makes me laugh, I’m not putting it on my wall. As children of God and followers of Christ, we have access to a power beyond our own to help us through any crisis. We have a Savior who died so we could live, our sins are forgiven, our hopes have been renewed and Jesus loves us beyond our ability to describe. He will never abandon us, so we will walk with him, trusting that his holy light will see us through any and every dark valley. 

in Church

He Leadeth Me

He leadeth me: O blessed thought! 
O words with heavenly comfort fraught! 
Whate'er I do, where'er I be, 
still 'tis God's hand that leadeth me. 

He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  Psalm 23:3 

“He Leadeth Me” by American Joseph Gilmore (1834-1918) was birthed out of a particular struggle in American history. This hymn was composed in 1862 during the Civil War, a time of upheaval and insecurity. The author was preaching at First Baptist Church in Philadelphia soon after his ordination.  Gilmore’s states “I set out to give the people an exposition of the 23rd Psalm, which I had given before on three or four occasions, but this time I did not get further than the words ‘He Leadeth Me.’ Psalm 23:2, ‘he leadeth me beside the still waters,’ became the theme of the song.” The famous gospel song composer William Bradbury (1816-1868) included these words anonymously with his own tune in his collection The Golden Censer (1864). Bradbury is credited with adding the third line to the famous refrain (his faithful follower I would be). 

Joseph H. Gilmore, the son of Joseph A. Gilmore, governor of New Hampshire, received his education from Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island (1858), and Newton Theological Seminary (1861) where he taught Hebrew. An ordained Baptist minister (1862), Gilmore became a professor after serving churches in Philadelphia, New Hampshire, and New York. A prolific writer for newspapers and periodicals, Gilmore also authored three books in his academic field: The Art of Expression (1876) and Outlines of English and American Literature (1905), as well as a book of poetry, He Leadeth Me, and Other Religious Poems (1877). 

Nearly every hymn is birthed from a personal experience and/or an encounter with a particular scripture. In the case of “He Leadeth Me” it comes from Psalm 23 – scripture nearly every one of us can recite or are at least familiar with. He restores my soul. The definition of restore is “to bring back”. Other translations use refresh or renew. That is what God does for each of us – refreshes and restores our souls!  For me, the how is answered in verse 2, “he makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.” God restores and renews me in the quiet, intimate places. It’s in those places that I find true rest and peace. Early in quarantine I thought I was having more quiet time and intimate time with God. Upon reflection, my fears and need to feel busy were actually keeping me from that time.  In these days, I am trying to find still waters – to renew and refresh. I went up to Lake Junaluska a few weeks ago. I participated in a few days of prayers and reflection with some fellow church musicians.  For me, it’s hard, and really takes some intentionality.  But the restoration that comes from slowing down is immeasurable.  The virus is by no means gone but we seem to be trying to get back to normal – whatever that is now. As you do, try to include more renewal time. God will lead us in paths of righteousness – and supply all the needs we have along the way.  

He leadeth me, he leadeth me, 
by his own hand he leadeth me; 
his faithful follower I would be, 
for by his hand he leadeth me. 

“He Leadeth Me”, arranged by Benjamin Wegner. You heard this arrangement sung a few weeks in worship. The choir has also sung it. I think it is a beautiful setting of the text. 

Listen

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