Tuesday, April 17, 2018

"It is Well With My Soul" - the origin story and an analysis

“It is Well With My Soul” is one of the best-loved hymns of the Christian faith. “It is Well With My Soul” is in many hymnals, and many Christian artists have covered it. But do you know the story behind the hymn? 

The lyrics of “It is Well With My Soul” were written in 1873 by Horatio Spafford, a lawyer/ businessman from Chicago.  Mr. Spafford experienced great tragedies in the two years preceding the writing of the hymn.  His 2-year-old son died in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which also ruined him financially because of the many buildings he owned that burned down in the fire.  In the economic downturn of 1873, his business interests also took a downturn. The family was ready to take a cruise to Europe, but Spafford sent his wife and daughters ahead so he could take care of zoning problems that arose after the Great Chicago Fire.  He planned on meeting them in Europe after he had taken care of the zoning problems.

During the voyage to Europe, the ship on which Mrs. Spafford and her four daughters were sailing sank after colliding with another sea vessel.  Mrs. Spafford was the only family member who survived the crash, and she sent a telegraph to Mr. Spafford that read, “Saved alone.”  Mr. Spafford traveled to meet his wife and as the ship on which he was traveling passed the spot where his daughters drowned, he was inspired to write the words to “It is Well With My Soul.” The hymn tune was written by well-known composer Philip Bliss, who named the tune Ville du Havre, the name of the boat that sank. 

The lyrics of “It is Well With My Soul” are posted below. I will add the refrain after each verse and not post it separately. I’ll post my comments about each verse after the verse. 

When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul
It is well (it is well) with my soul (with my soul),
It is well, it is well with my soul.

No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, if we trust in and know Jesus as our Savior, it will always be well with our souls.  He is sovereign over all; nothing happens without His consent.  Sometimes it is hard to remember that it is well with our souls during trials we may be encountering.  We may not understand why things happen the way they do when they occur. 

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
It is well (it is well) with my soul (with my soul),
It is well, it is well with my soul.

No matter what trials and tribulations we may be going through, we are assured that Jesus loves us. He loves us so much that He died for us on the Cross so that our sins are forgiven.  We are to keep our eyes on and our confidence in Christ no matter what is happening around us or to us. 

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought,
My sin, not in part, but the whole
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, oh my soul!
It is well (it is well) with my soul (with my soul),
It is well, it is well with my soul.

When Jesus died on the Cross, He became the perfect sacrifice for the sins of mankind.  When we trust in and believe in Jesus, our sins are forgiven and are nailed to the Cross with Christ. Christ’s death on the Cross was a selfless act deserving of all of our glory and praise.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll,
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
It is well (it is well) with my soul (with my soul),
It is well, it is well with my soul.
The hymn writer was looking forward to the Rapture in this verse.  We believe in Jesus although we have never seen Him in the flesh.  We will, however, see Him in person for the first time at the Rapture.  The description in lines 2 and 3 match the description of the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:16. (1 Colossians?)  When we are finally at home with the Lord, it will be well with our soul for all eternity!  That will be one incredible day and I can’t wait for that, can you? 
There are two verses in the original hymn that are not sung in churches today.  They were probably removed so that the hymn wouldn’t take so long to sing, especially since there is a refrain at the end of each verse.

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live,
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
It is well (it is well) with my soul (with my soul),
It is well, it is well with my soul.

But Lord, 'tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal,
Oh, trump of the angel!  Oh, voice of the Lord,
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.
It is well (it is well) with my soul (with my soul),
It is well, it is well with my soul.

The second verse ties into the last verse of the hymn, I think, and in my opinion, should probably be sung too.  The “blessed hope” referred to is the Rapture, and lines 2 and 3 also match the description of the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17.
If you would like to see the handwritten manuscript of "It is Well With My Soul," you can go to the link here:  https://www.loc.gov/item/mamcol.016/
I hope that “It is Well With My Soul” is one of your favorite hymns as well.  Thanks for reading!
Bibliography:  "It is Well With My Soul," Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It_Is_Well_with_My_Soul

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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Down in the dumps? You’re not alone

When you turn your life, heart, and soul over to Jesus Christ as your Savior, you may think you are going to live a happy ever after life, like in a fairy tale.  But it isn’t like that. Christians have the same problems as the world has, but Christians have Jesus, their Rock and their Good Shepherd to lean on and cry out to in their times of need and times of despair.  The world does not, for they love the darkness rather than coming to the Light.

In the Bible, you will find people turning to God in their depression and despair.  Job is one example.  Satan took just about everything away from Job.  Job had a right to be angry and sorrowful.  He lamented the fact that he had even been born.  Yet Job turned to God to vent his anger and sorrow.  He knew who his Helper was.

Hannah was sorrowful because she could not get pregnant.  So she went to the temple and poured out her sorrow to the Lord.  Hannah’s sorrow was so profound that Eli, the priest, couldn’t understand what she was saying to the Lord.  Yet Hannah knew that the Lord would comfort her and heal her.

David, the great man of God, also suffered from great sadness.  Most of David’s sorrows were of his own doing – he sinned by sleeping with Bathsheba, he had rebellious sons because he didn’t discipline them correctly, and at times, he didn’t trust God to deliver him from the hand of Saul.  Yet, like Job, David took his sorrows to the Lord and confessed his sins.  In the book of Psalms, we find David’s lamentations and we can relate to his sorrows. 

Even Jesus was sad.  He was half-human, after all, so He has all the emotions that we have.  He cried when Lazarus died, even though He knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead.  He wept over Jerusalem, even though the people had hailed Him as Messiah and four days later, demanded that He be crucified.   In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus wept so hard, it was like great drops of blood fell because His human side didn’t want to die a horrific death on the Cross. 

You are not alone, my fellow Christian.  I too have been sorrowful, for reasons I don’t wish to go into detail about here. You may have noticed that I have not written many posts on this blog in the last two years and my sadness and sorrow is why.  There is a line in Psalm 56:8 where David says, “You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?”  God’s bottle of my tears must be as big as the Atlantic Ocean.  I have done more than my share of crying and despairing.  But I too have turned to God as my Comforter. 

We can look forward to the day when there will be no more pain and no more suffering.  In Revelation 21:4, it says: "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."

God will comfort you from your sorrows too, if only you will turn to Him.  He is always available when you need to pour out your sorrows.  But sometimes, the pain and despair are so deep that you feel the only way to be free from your sadness and despair is to end your life. My friend (for if you are reading this, I count you as my friend), that is when you need to cling to Jesus all the more.  But if you are in deep despair and need a human to talk to, visit with your pastor and he will give you godly counsel; or, if he’s not available, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273-8255 or go to the website.

Thank you as always for reading.   


Saturday, January 6, 2018

Reflections on the three wise men

Today is January 6, which is also known as the church holiday of Epiphany.  Epiphany, which occurs on the church calendar 12 days after Christmas, marks the visit of the three wise men to worship Jesus and present gifts to Him.  The Gospel of Matthew is the only gospel that contains the wise men’s story. It can be found in Matthew 2:1-12. 

Matthew states that the wise men were from the East.  He is not specific about the country that the wise men came from.  It was not important which country they were from, only the area of the world that they were from, to show that they were not Jewish. 

 How did the Gentile wise men know about the Star and that it would lead them to the King of the Jews?  Some of the Jews did not return to Israel from Persia after the Babylonian exile. The Jews may have told the wise men of the Persians about the coming of the Messiah.  They may have pointed out Numbers 24:7, which states: “There shall a Star come out of Jacob, and a Scepter shall rise out of Israel,” along with other Old Testament Scriptures about the Messiah.  This information would have been passed down by the Persian wise men over the centuries until the Star of Bethlehem finally appeared, fulfilling the Messianic prophecies.

The Persian Jews must not have told the wise men where the King of the Jews was to be born, however, so the wise men went to Herod, the Roman leader in Jerusalem. The wise men must have thought that since Herod was the ruler of the Jews, he would know where the King of the Jews was to be born. Herod didn’t know the answer to their question, so he asked the priests and the scribes if they knew where the King of the Jews was to be born.  They told him in Micah 5:2, it stated that the King of the Jews was to be born in Bethlehem.  Herod told the wise men and they left to find Jesus.

Most people set up their Nativity scenes with the three wise men near the manger.  This is wrong, however, because Jesus was not a baby when the wise men visited Him.  Matthew refers to Jesus as a young Child – if He had been an infant when the wise men paid their visit, Matthew would have referred to Jesus as the Baby Jesus.  Herod also refers to Jesus as a young Child, according to the time he determined from the wise men. Matthew also states that Mary and Jesus were living in a house, which meant they had left the stable.  Interestingly, Joseph is not mentioned in the story of the wise men – perhaps he was out of the house when the wise men came to call.

Even if the wise men had seen the Star of Bethlehem on the night of Jesus’ birth, it would have taken them a while to travel by camel and/or by foot to Bethlehem, perhaps up to 2 years, depending on what part of the east they lived in.  There were no interstate freeways and modern forms of transportation to get the wise men to Bethlehem sooner. Since they were important wise men, they may have had a large entourage to attend to their needs.  This would make the travel time even longer since there were more people traveling in the group.  The song “We Three Kings” states that the wise men were from the Orient.  It would probably take more than 2 years to get to Bethlehem from the Orient since the designation “the Orient” usually refers to China and Japan.  

After the wise men went home by another way and Herod realized he had been tricked, he ordered the deaths of all boy children under the age of 2 according to the time that the wise men had told him they had first seen the Star. This is another indication that Jesus was around 2 years old when the wise men visited. 

Legend has it that there were three wise men because of the three gifts that were presented to Jesus.  However, Matthew does not state for certain that there were only three wise men, and indeed, there could have been more than three wise men in the entourage, but only three of them presented the gifts. 

The wise men have been given names over the years and even been promoted to kings, but Matthew does not call them by name nor does he call them kings.  Matthew does not say that the three wise men introduced themselves by name to Mary either. 

More important than the background of the givers were the gifts themselves and the meanings of the gifts.  Gold was very valuable and it was given to a king as a tribute.  Jesus is not only the King of the Jews, He is the King of Kings.  Myrrh was a bitter perfume used for medicine and anointing oil. Myrrh was offered to Jesus on the Cross, and Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus wrapped Jesus’s body in a mixture of myrrh and aloe after He was taken down from the Cross.  Frankincense was a symbol of holiness and righteousness and was used as incense in the Temple.  It represents Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross, as frankincense was burned with the sacrifices on the showbread altar in the Temple.  

I am going to try and write more this year.  I apologize for not posting very often.  Thanks as always for reading and see you next time!


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Family reunion

Yesterday, my son and I attended the annual family reunion of my dad's family, who live the next state over from where we live. I am friends on Facebook with some of my dad's family, but it's always great to see them in person.  We catch up with what's going on in each other's lives, make new friends and remember loved ones that have passed on. I had a great time and can't wait until next year's reunion.

For those of us who are born again believers in Christ, there is an even better family reunion to come. Jesus will come down at the Rapture and bring His bride (which is the Church) to heaven. When we get there, we will be reunited with our saved loved ones who have gone before us and we will meet other believers for a family reunion that will last for all eternity.  Now that's a family reunion I'm really looking forward to!

Dear reader, have you accepted your invitation to the eternal family reunion by trusting Jesus as your Savior?  If you haven't, it's not too late. For a detailed explanation of how to trust Jesus as your Savior and obtain eternal life, click here.  I look forward to meeting you at the eternal family reunion!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Ms. Diane's Guide to Funeral Etiquette

If you are a loyal reader of this blog, you may recall my post on public transit etiquette, which you can read here.  My mother-in-law recently passed away, which made me see the need to write another etiquette blog post, this time on funeral etiquette.  Unlike the old days, people are no longer taught the proper way to pay their respects to those who have shuffled off this mortal coil (my apologies to William Shakespeare).  So here's my list of funeral etiquette items:

1.  If you know someone who has lost a loved one, please express your sympathy and condolences, either by attending the visitation, the funeral, or both, if possible.  Your friend or loved one is hurting and sad due to the loss of their loved one.  They deserve your support and sympathy. You will want and need their support when one of your loved ones die.  If you can't attend the visitation and/or funeral because of work or sickness or because you're out of town, send a sympathy card or send flowers. Obituaries will often list favorite charities of the deceased and a donation in the decedent's name is often very much appreciated by the family.  If you can't do any of these things, at least post a sympathy message online on the funeral home obituary listing or on the online newspaper obituary listing.  In these days of social media, you can't complain that you didn't know someone died, because people post their loved one's obituary on Facebook, etc.  If you are afraid you're going to miss a friend's or loved one's obituary, you can go to www.Legacy.com and set up an account to have them email you obituaries when the criteria you have set is met.  Here is the direct link to set up an account and a search:  https://www.legacy.com/obit-messenger/sign-up.aspx You can also search for obituaries at Legacy.com as well.

     2.   When you attend the visitation and/or funeral, please dress respectfully.  This does not mean holey jeans, T-shirts, and flip flops.  This means dress pants, a nice shirt and dress shoes. Ladies may wear a dress or a skirt and blouse if they would like.  Also, please take a shower and wash your hair. Perfume/cologne is nice, but don't drown yourself in it.  Some folks are allergic to too much scent.

    3.     When you get to the funeral home, don't forget to sign the guest book.  This will let the family know that you were there.  There may also be a place to write your mailing address.  This is to make sure that thank you notes get to the right addresses.  There will usually be a box located next to the guest book for you to put the sympathy card in you may have brought with you, if you didn't mail it beforehand.  There will also be memorial folders next to the guest book.  This will have information about the deceased, including dates of birth and death, where they were born and died, and other pertinent information.  I always pick up a memorial folder at every visitation I attend. When I run across them while cleaning out my purse or whatever other place I keep them in, it's nice to take a moment to read them and remember that person.

     4.     When you enter the viewing room, a family member will usually take you to the casket to view the deceased.  You do not need to touch the body if you're not comfortable doing so.  If you want, say something like, "She/he looks so peaceful," or "She/he looks very nice."  Be sure you shake hands with family members and friends of the deceased or, if you and they feel comfortable with it, you can give them a hug.  You don't need to stay for the entire visitation, unless there's a lot of people you haven't seen in a while and you want to chat.

      5.     There is a disturbing new trend of people taking selfies with the deceased in the casket.  This is highly disrespectful and very disgusting.  If you would like a photo of the deceased in the casket, please ask a family member if it's okay that you do this.

      6.    If you are asked by the funeral director or a family member to be a pallbearer (a person who helps put the casket in the hearse and takes the casket from the hearse to the grave site) and you are available to attend the funeral and the graveside service to assist, please say yes.  It is getting increasingly difficult to find pallbearers due to people having to work or they are not physically able to be a pallbearer.  This is not to sound sexist, but pallbearers are usually men.  Some funeral homes provide pallbearers for an extra fee, which the family has to pay.

      7.    If you attend the funeral, please stay off of your cell phone and turn off the ringer.  (Please do this during the visitation as well.)  Pay attention to the person conducting the funeral and the funeral director.  If the person conducting the funeral asks if anyone wants to say a few words about the deceased and you feel comfortable doing so, then go ahead, but don't go overboard.  A five minute speech should be sufficient.  If the funeral service has religious ceremonies, please participate even though you are not of that religion.

      8.     If you don't feel comfortable attending the graveside service, you don't have to.  Just tell the family goodbye and then leave before the cars line up for the funeral procession.  If you do decide to join the funeral procession, make sure you turn on your car's headlights and the flashers.  Funeral homes will put signs or flags on the cars in the processions so other drivers know the cars are part of the funeral procession.

      9.     This item is for people who in their travels meet up with a funeral procession.  Please, at the very least, stop until all of the cars in the funeral procession have passed by.  Do not cut in front of a car in the funeral procession.  If you are entering a highway from an entrance ramp and a funeral procession comes by, please do not enter the highway until all of the cars in the funeral procession have passed.  Do not cut in front of cars in a funeral procession on the highway; the cars all need to arrive at the same time at the cemetery.  Some people who are attending the funeral from out of town may not know where the cemetery is and they're depending on those cars in front of them in the funeral procession to show them the way. My mother-in-law's funeral procession drove down a major highway and cars entering the highway cut in front of our car and several other cars in the funeral procession.  It was very disrespectful. If a stop light changes from green to red while the procession is proceeding, the cars in the other direction should not proceed until the procession has cleared the intersection.  When my brother-in-law died, some blonde chick almost hit my sister-in-law's husband's truck by trying to go through an intersection before the funeral procession had passed through.

I hope these funeral etiquette tips are helpful and you remember them should a loved one or a friend passes away. If there is anything you think I missed, please comment below. Thanks as always for reading! See you next time!


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Keep your lamp trimmed

In this blog post, I will look at the parable of the 5 wise virgins and the 5 foolish virgins.  This parable is found in Matthew 25: 1-13.  I’ll post the whole parable and then comment on the verses.

"Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish.  Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them,  but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.

“And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ 

Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’  But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’  And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.

“Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’  But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’

“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.
Jesus told this parable to his disciples, and they were surely aware of the Old Testament wedding traditions.  The groom was to come in the middle of the night, after all things were ready, to take his bride from her father’s house.  The virgins were the ones attending the bride; in today’s vernacular, they were the bridesmaids.  They knew the time was close and that the groom was coming to take his bride soon, but they were unaware of the exact date and hour. 

The wise virgins took extra oil with them in their flasks in case their lamps ran out.  They were unsure how long it would be until the groom came, so they wanted to make sure they had enough oil. Oil is one of the symbols of the Holy Spirit.  When we are born again, we receive the Holy Spirit through Jesus.  By spending time in the Word and in prayer, we can keep the oil of the Holy Spirit renewed in us.

The shout of “Here’s the groom! Come out to meet him,” reminds me of Revelation 4, where Jesus tells John, “Come up here!” and he was instantly transported to heaven. 1 Thessalonians 4:16  reveals that we will be called to heaven with a shout and the blast of a trumpet at the Rapture. 

The wise virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps at the call. They kept their flasks filled with oil.  The foolish virgins, however, didn’t keep their flasks filled, so they lost their chance to attend the wedding banquet because the master didn’t know who they were.  He didn’t know who they were because they didn’t spend any time with him. 

When the foolish virgins asked the wise virgins for some of their oil, the wise virgins refused to give them any of their oil because there wouldn’t be enough oil for all.   The foolish virgins should have brought their own oil in their flasks, which is obtained by spending more time with the Lord and being filled with the Holy Spirit.  The oil of the Holy Spirit in you is your own.  We each need our own supply of oil of the Holy Spirit.

As time passes and Jesus has not yet come back for His bride, we can become spiritually lazy and we can “fall asleep.” If we “fall asleep,” we will not be ready when the Bridegroom comes.  Friend, take a look at your faith. Are you staying filled with the Holy Spirit by spending time in God’s Word and spending time in prayer?  Will you be ready when the shout comes and the trumpet sounds?  Or will you not have enough oil of the Holy Spirit?  Will you be unprepared?  Will you be one of the foolish virgins who the Lord will say He doesn’t know?  Jesus said in the parable that we should be alert because we don’t know the day or hour of His coming.

If you have “fallen asleep,” take time today to repent of your spiritual laziness and spend more time with the Lord in prayer and His Word so you can know Him more and He can say He knows you. When the time is right and all is ready, Jesus will come back and claim His bride (the church).  You don’t want to be left behind when the trumpet sounds.   All of the events going on in the world today means the Lord’s return is closer than ever before.  Maranatha! 

Thanks for reading! See you next time!


Saturday, May 2, 2015

The ultimate Avenger

Our family, along with many others, will be heading to the movie theaters this weekend to see Avengers: Age of Ultron, which will probably be the top grossing film of the summer.   The comic book/movie Avengers are quite a motley crew.  There is a scientist who, when angry, turns into a giant, green guy with shaggy hair who likes to beat up bad guys.  There is an attractive woman in a skintight black jumpsuit who is a trained assassin.  There is a handsome man with long, blond hair who swings a large sledgehammer very well.  There is a guy who is really good with a bow and arrow. There is a guy who was unfrozen over 50 years after World War II who uses a round shield to defeat the bad guys.  And last but not least, there is a technologically savvy, snarky guy who has a ball of adamantium in his chest, and who flies around with an iron uniform on.  In the first Avengers movie, the adversary was named Loki, and he resembled Satan in word and in deed. All these colorful characters are courtesy of the fertile mind of Stan Lee. 

There were avengers in the Old Testament as well.  The avenger of blood was the person who would chase after a murderer and then kill the murderer.  If the murder wasn’t premeditated, the murderer could escape to a city of refuge and the avenger of blood couldn’t touch the murderer there.  If the murderer left the city of refuge before the high priest died, however, the avenger of blood had every right to kill the murderer. 

The ultimate avenger, however, is Jesus Christ Himself.  At the Second Coming, Christ will return in the sky, riding a white horse, and all the armies of heaven will ride behind Him.  Jesus will then defeat the Antichrist and the False Prophet into the lake of fire.  An angel will then throw Satan into a pit and lock him them up for a thousand years. Satan will be released from the pit at the end of the thousand years to deceive the nations.  There will have one final battle, and God will destroy the rogue nations with fire.  Satan will be thrown in the lake of fire with the Antichrist and the False Prophet. Sin and evil will be conquered for all time. 

People enjoy action hero movies because they represent the eternal battle of good versus evil, and good almost always wins in the movies.  But when Christ returns at the Second Coming, it won’t be an action hero movie – it will be the real deal.  Will you be with the armies coming back with Christ, or will you be trembling on Earth when you see Him in the sky?  Don't wait too long to make that decision!

That's all for now! Thanks for reading! See you next time!