Category Archives: Holiday

BreakPoint: The Story behind the Navy Hymn In Honor of Veterans Day 2017

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I’m John Stonestreet. On this day before Veterans Day, Eric Metaxas tells us the back story to one of the great hymns.

Eric Metaxas: It’s one of the most famous hymns in Christendom: “Eternal Father Strong to Save.” It’s often called “the Navy hymn” because it’s sung at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.  But how many of us know the story behind this moving hymn?

The hymn’s author was an Anglican churchman named William Whiting, who was born in England in 1825. As a child, Whiting dodged in and out of the waves as they crashed along England’s shoreline. But years later, on a journey by sea, Whiting learned the true and terrifying power of those waves. A powerful storm blew in, so violent that the crew lost control of the vessel. During these desperate hours, as the waves roared over the decks, Whiting’s faith in God helped him to stay calm. When the storm subsided, the ship, badly damaged, limped back to port.

The experience had a galvanizing effect on Whiting. As one hymn historian put it, “Whiting was changed by this experience. He respected the power of the ocean nearly as much as he respected the God who made it and controls it.”

The memory of this voyage allowed Whiting to provide comfort to one of the boys he taught at a training school in Winchester.

One day, a young man confided that he was about to embark on a journey to America—a voyage fraught with danger at that time. The boy was filled with dread at the thought of the ordeal to come. A sympathetic Whiting described his own frightening experience, and he and the other boys prayed for the terrified student. And then Whiting told him, “Before you depart, I will give you something to anchor your faith.”

Whiting, an experienced poet, put pen to paper, writing a poem reminding the boys of God’s power even over the mighty oceans. It begins:

“Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave.”
Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea!

Scholars believe Whiting was inspired in part by Psalm 107, which describes God’s deliverance from a great storm on the sea: In verses 28 and 29, we read: “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble [and] he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.”

This thought is of course echoed in the New Testament, when Jesus and his disciples are caught in a sudden storm on the Sea of Galilee; Jesus “rebuked the wind and calmed the sea.” (Mark 4:39)

In 1861, Whiting’s poem was set to music by the Rev. John Dykes. The hymn became enormously popular; British, French, and American sailors all adopted it. Winston Churchill loved it, and the hymn was performed at the funerals of Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and Richard Nixon.

Over the years, those who love the hymn and the men and women it honors have written additional stanzas—verses that ask for God’s protection over Marines, Seabees, submariners, flyers, the Coast Guard and Navy SEALS. They ask God to remember the needs of wounded warriors, asking: “By power of thy breath restore, the ill and those with wounds of war.” Touchingly, one newer stanza asks God’s protection for the families of those who serve, asking, “Oh Father, hear us when we pray, for those we love so far away.”

Veterans Day is a reminder that we should be praying regularly for those who put themselves in harm’s way for our sake, for their families, and for those who suffer the after effects of combat.

And as we sing the Navy hymn, as many of us will on Sundays around Veterans’ Day, its words should also recall to our minds the fact that none of us will escape the storms and tempests of life. Its verses offer comfort and help us “anchor our faith,” as William Whiting put it, when the winds and waves of our own lives threaten to capsize us.

 

(This commentary originally aired November 11, 2015.)
 
 

The Story behind the Navy Hymn: In Honor of Veterans Day 2017
Read all the stanzas of “Eternal Father Strong to Save” and listen to the hymn performed by the Navy Sea Chanters by clicking on the links below. And especially today, please pray for our nation’s veterans.

Resources

Description of the Navy hymn “Eternal Father Strong to Save”
website

“Eternal Father Strong to Save”
Sung by the U.S. Navy Band’s Sea Chanters

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Three Reasons You Should Go Trick or Treating Halloween can be a time to be on mission and build relationships that will deepen throughout the year.

This holiday has sparked quite a bit of controversy in Christian circles over the years. Halloween, as most know, has a mix of origin stories, some of them Christian, some pagan, and some occult. Its dark history certainly should concern us as believers and factor into our decision regarding how we and our families plan to engage in the festivities on the night of October 31st.

And it’s just that—your family’s decision. My family does not promote holiday myths (as in, our kids did not believe in Santa Claus), but we do participate in trick or treating.

Let me explain why.

To Trick or Not

Many believers feel that they can faithfully don their creative costumes and pumpkin-shaped candy buckets without violating the tenants of their Christian beliefs. Others feel that this holiday’s emphasis on all things spooky and scary, coupled with its complex past, should motivate us to steer clear of any Halloween related events.

For me, the question we really have to answer here is this: As Christians, what does it look like to engage culture in a Christ-like manner?

Paul tells us in Romans 12:2 to never conform to the pattern of this world, because we serve a God who frees us from all its burdens and baggage. But, interestingly enough, Jesus—during a prayer to his Heavenly Father in John 17—acknowledges that “they” (the disciples) are “not of the world” but also adds that he isn’t asking the Father to “take them out of the world.”

So, it looks like even amidst this earth’s real dangers and difficulties, Jesus still wants us here. Furthermore, he doesn’t just ask us to sit around lazily waiting in anticipation for his second coming, but instead gives us a Great Commission: to make disciples of every tongue, tribe, and nation.

When it comes to Halloween, trying to live in the tension between our earthly bodies and heavenly homes can be difficult. Some believers will feel compelled to bring their faith to bear amidst all the Reese’s and Gummy Bears, while others might decide to abstain from the festivities altogether.

Right now, I want to make the case for the latter decision. I am going to argue that Christians not only can but should put on their costumes, pass out candy, and greet guests at the door each time Halloween rolls around.

Here are three reasons you should plan on trick-or-treating tomorrow.

First, this is likely the only time all year when neighbors will flock from near and far, ring your doorbell, and want to have face-to-face interaction with you.

When guests arrive at your porch, take time to let the conversation go past celebratory exclamations of ‘trick or treat.’ Remember their names, take down their numbers, and convey your interest in being a part of their lives. This night is a once-a-year opportunity to do something so simple, yet so critical: get to know your neighbors.

We are planning a bonfire for our kids’ friends even while we pass out candy to the neighbors.

 

Of course, you can meet your neighbors any time—but on this day, they are coming to your door.

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A Mom Looks at Halloween from a Christian Perspective

Sue Bohlin takes at hard look at Halloween celebrations, applying a biblical worldview. As Christians, we cannot shield our children from this popular cultural event, but Sue provides some ideas on bringing a Christian perspective to this time of year.

A number of articles are available advising Christians to have nothing to do with Halloween. And I do agree that Christians have no business celebrating a holiday that glorifies something that delights the enemy of our souls. And potentially opens us up to demonic harrassment, to boot!

But if we’ve got kids, especially kids in public school or who hang around other kids in the neighborhood, it’s entirely possible that parents can feel pressured to do something about Halloween. After all, it’s pretty hard to hide under a rock for the whole month of October. A number of houses on our street are more decorated for Halloween than for Christmas!

It seems that the costume manufacturers have really cranked up production of all sorts of costumes to a degree we’ve never seen before. Gone are the days of burning a cork to blacken a face, put on some thrift-shop oversized clothes and dressing up as a hobo. (There’s probably some politically-correct term for “hobo” these days anyway. . .)

Is there anything intrinsically wrong with dressing up in a costume and getting a bunch of candy from consenting adults? I don’t think so; hey, the Bible tells us that God instructed the children of Israel to ask their neighbors for silver and gold their last night in Egypt in a VERY early version of “Trick or Treat” (Exodus 11:2). But we can cooperate with the forces of darkness, however unwittingly, by participating unwisely in Halloween festivities.

 

It is essential to exercise discernment in how we handle Halloween. If you can get away with ignoring it, wonderful! That would be the best solution. But you may find yourself in a place where you want to provide some way for your kids to have fun in a Halloween-immersed culture without compromising on our Christian values and beliefs. For instance, your child’s school may invite all the students to dress up in a costume on October 31. I know a number of Christian schools that do this. May I make these suggestions:

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Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur

Today is the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. For Christians, it’s a reminder that repentance is more than an event. It’s a lifestyle.

Among the most striking images in Christianity is that of God the Judge, presiding in a courtroom where each of us will stand trial for everything we’ve done while in the body. For most Christians today, it’s an image of something far in the future—an eschatological moment following the resurrection and preceding the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

That’s all true, of course. These are distinct, future events. We confess every time we recite the creed. But the reality of a coming judgment can sometimes obscure the fact that God is even now the Judge of all the earth, and we—guilty of offenses against Him—must seek and acknowledge His forgiveness regularly.

That’s an area where we could learn something from our Jewish friends, who recently marked Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, and who celebrate Yom Kippur—the Day of Atonement—beginning this evening.

Writing at the Wall Street Journal, Orthodox rabbi and theologian Jonathan Sacks reflects on the meaning of these High Holy Days, which are rooted in the commands of Leviticus 23.

The ten days of repentance following Rosh Hashanah, explains Rabbi Sacks, are the “holy of holies” on the Jewish calendar. They open with a blast on the shofar—a ceremonial ram’s horn—announcing that God’s court is in session. Faithful Jews use this time to reflect how God judges each according to his or her life, and inscribes their fate in the Book of Life.

It all culminates on Yom Kippur, when the repentant recite alphabetical litanies of prayers, “throwing themselves on the mercy” of the Judge. Many Jews spend all day in services, refraining from work and pleasures until the shofar blows once more, marking the adjournment of God’s court. It’s a time of “cautious hope,” writes Rabbi Sacks. “We have admitted the worst about ourselves and survived.”

This concept of a merciful God who is our judge is the unique contribution of the Hebrews—a transition in history “from fate to faith.” For ancient polytheists, the gods were cruel and capricious, often more interested in making mortals suffer than in forgiving them. The best one could hope for was to appease the fickle deities.

The God of the Jews, however, was different. Not only did He readily forgive His worshipers for their offense, but He was actively fighting for them. He loved them, because they were each created in His image, bearing moral responsibility and freedom like His own. More important still, the Israelites were his covenant people.

This unique idea of a righteous, forgiving God also changed the way the people of Israel thought about their own moral standing. Unlike the pagans, who saw their problems as primarily external, or “out there” in nature or with their enemies, Jews came to understand mankind’s problems are chiefly internal, or “in here” because of their moral guilt.

“The key fact about us, according to the Bible,” write Sacks, “is that uniquely in an otherwise law-governed universe, we are able to break the law—a power that we too often relish exercising.”

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are beautiful reminders that God forgives those who repent of their sins.

But Christians believe that the ultimate picture of God’s forgiveness is found in the Person of Jesus Christ, who is both the agent and the means of God’s mercy—the Priest and the sacrificial Lamb. Christ atoned for our sins not simply by dismissing them, but by taking them on Himself along with their due penalty.

His work is once for all, the just for the unjust, and He calls us as His followers intentionally and regularly to remember that the Judge forgives, and that we ought turn from our sins in regular repentance, especially when we gather around the communion table.

 

God’s court is in session, the Book of Life is open, and so let’s throw ourselves on the mercy of the Judge who has entrusted all judgement to Jesus, who sacrificed Himself once for all (Heb 7:27).

Once upon a time believers outlawed Christmas ( they were right, and they were wrong

Listen to a radio sermon.

Something’s to ponder before you let off your fireworks off

Who MEMORIAL Day is for, and who the holiday is not for

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A Good Friday spanking ( Bible thought for kids ) 

Folks every so often I have decided I am going to post a Bible commentary that is mainly for children, and or young people. I thought Good Friday would be a good day to start doing that. I hope if you are a parent, or have young people in your life you will share these thoughts with them.Even us adults may learn from these thoughts. So don’t skip them, because you are not young, or don’t have young lads around you.Below is today’s Bible thought for kids.
( Listen to the Bible thought here, or read it below. )

   Hi boys, and girls: You may think Good Friday has nothing to do with you.

I’m Uncle Billy with a thought on the Bible.

Guess what Good Friday is for everyone adults, children, and teens.

     What happened on Good Friday? We will get to that in a second.

          When I was kid there was a Disney movie called Tom Swayer. If you have never seen it ask your parents about it, or ask their permission to get the DVD, or watch it on You Tube.

    In part of the movie the kid Tom, and a girl named Becky Thatcher are writing notes on their slates to each other,while the teacher’s back is turned. 

      Then Becky drops her slate. The teacher turns around,and demands to know who the slate belong to. Tom jumps up and says it is his slate.

    The teacher tells Tommy to go to the front of the room. The teacher then takes a switch, which is a whip,and spanks Tom good.

   What Tom Swayer did makes me think of what Jesus did by going to the cross for us. Jesus was sinless. Yet he took your punishment, and my punishment. We deserved to be punished because all of us are sinners. We deserve to go to hell, which is where our sins are sending us. Yet God loved us so much that he had Jesus go to the cross. Because a Holy God demands punishment for sin. Boys, and girls when you do something wrong your parents might give you some kind of punishment.Just like your parents have rules, God has rules on how to go to heaven. 

   Romans 5:8 tells us that the Lord loved us so much that Christ died for us while we were yet sinners.

   If you have never turned away from sin, and trusted in what Jesus did for you, I encourage you to do that. Going to church, or doing a lot of good works won’t get you into heaven, or make you right with God. It is changing your mind about sin, and trusting in what Jesus did for you.

Jesus not only died for our sins, but God the father proved Jesus was God, by raising his son from the dead. Which we will celebrate this Sunday. A day most folks call Easter. I prefer to call it resurrection Sunday. 

That is a thought on the Bible.

Until next time,

I’m Uncle Billy 
All Rights Reserved, 2017

This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Billy or read more commentary on https://billydteacher.wordpress.com/.

Was Franklin Graham Right to Call for a Disney Boycott?

Read the column.

Some words from the man Saint Patrick,thanks to Cal Thomas:

“God, my God, omnipotent King, I humbly adore thee. Thou art King of kings, Lord of lords. Thou art the Judge of every age. Thou art the Redeemer of souls. Thou art the Liberator of those who believe. Thou art the Hope of those who toil. Thou art the Comforter of those in sorrow. Thou art the Way to those who wander. Thou art Master to the nations. Thou art the Creator of all creatures. Thou art the Lover of all good.”
  ON A DAY WHEN PEOPLE ARE DRINKING GREEN BEER AND THE CHICAGO RIVER IS TURNED GREEN, THE WORDS OF THE REAL PATRICK ARE WORTH CONSIDERING.

( Read the rest of this Cal Thomas  commentary or listen to the audio of it. )