(pictures of people being blessed)
God Gives Us Blessings
The land which I do give them, even the children of Israel (Joshua 1:2).
God here speaks in the immediate present. It is not something He is going to do, but something He does do, this moment. So faith ever speaks. So God ever gives. So He is meeting you today, in the present moment. This is the test of faith. So long as you are waiting for a thing, hoping for it, looking for it, you are not believing. It may be hope, it may be earnest desire, but it is not faith; for “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The command in regard to believing prayer is the present tense. “When ye pray, believe that ye receive the things that ye desire, and ye shall have them.” Have we come to that moment? Have we met God in His everlasting NOW?
–Joshua, by Simpson
True faith counts on God, and believes before it sees. Naturally, we want some evidence that our petition is granted before we believe; but when we walk by faith we need no other evidence than God’s Word. He has spoken, and according to our faith it shall be done unto us. We shall see because we have believed, and this faith sustains us in the most trying places, when everything around us seems to contradict God’s Word.
The Psalmist says, “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of living” (Ps. 27:13). He did not see as yet the Lord’s answer to his prayers, but he believed to see; and this kept him from fainting.
If we have the faith that believes to see, it will keep us from growing discouraged. We shall “laugh at impossibilities,” we shall watch with delight to see how God is going to open up a path through the Red Sea when there is no human way out of our difficulty. It is just in such places of severe testing that our faith grows and strengthens.
Have you been waiting upon God, dear troubled one, during long nights and weary days, and have feared that you were forgotten? Nay, lift up your head, and begin to praise Him even now for the deliverance which is on its way to you.
–Life of Praise
Life, Death, God and Fear
That brings me to Fear. You see I am afraid of a lot of things—some of them involving a fear of a method of death but the main one just a fear of fear itself. For instance, I enjoy the process of flying and viewing all the earth below me, but even though I deeply doubt that the exact plane I’m on will plummet to earth, I am afraid all the time I’m flying, because I am afraid of the fear I would feel on the way down if that terrible thing were to happen.
While actually the abrupt jolting of my soul from my human body would be easier than the pain of a long, lingering illness, I just don’t want to face that particular fear—that knowing that the time for death is NOW.
I’m also afraid of roller coasters. I think if I took a ride on one it is likely that I would come back to the starting place all in one piece as thousands of people do every year, but I would be so afraid. So I don’t ride roller coasters.
The same goes for driving too fast. Who wants to risk life and limb to get there faster? I don’t want to see another car unexpectedly appear in front of me and know I am going to suffer the impact. That scares me.
What does not scare me is going home to be with God. I just want to go there by his gentle invitation; I don’t want to go crashing in heaven’s gate unexpectedly.
I don’t think God minds that I’m afraid of things that hold more elements of danger than day-to-day life usually engenders. I think he wants me to hold my life dear and submit my soul to him only when he gives me that quiet call.
I’m not ashamed of being afraid of taking chances with my life; I would be ashamed if I wasn’t. I would be ashamed to not hold the wonderful life God gave me in the esteem this great gift deserves.
The History of “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know” Song
The very first Christian song most children learn is “Jesus Loves Me.” If there were a best-seller hit list among the preschoolers, this very simple but precious song would have to be at the top of the charts. Yet few people know that “Jesus Loves Me” began life not as a song but as a part of one of 1860′s best-selling novels.
Anna Warner was well aware of the coming of the war between the states. She lived with her father and sister on Constitution Island. Their home was practically next door to the United States Military Academy at West Point, and from her front porch she constantly heard the rumors of war. Yet even in the face of uncertain times, every Sunday Anna taught Bible classes to the cadets. She realized that if the southern states made good on their threat to withdraw from the Union many of the boys she knew could be killed or wounded in the war that would follow. While it broke her heart to consider the dismal fate for those too young to have experienced the many blessings of life, she also fully comprehended the importance of leading each of them to Jesus now. With an urgency brought about by a nation on the brink of dividing, sharing Christ’s love became her mission in life.
Besides her teaching, the forty-year-old Anna also wrote. With her sister
Susan she had written several novels, using the pseudonym Amy Lothrop. In
1860 the sisters’ Say and Seal became the country’s best-selling work of
fiction. Written for the masses and the moment, not fueled by timeless
struggles or epic writing, the book would quickly pass from the public’s
fancy, lost with thousands of other period pieces of the time. Yet, thanks
to one very special scene on but a single page, the essence of the book and
of Anna’s faith would live for decades after Say and Seal and Anna herself
had been forgotten.
In one chapter a child lay dying. Nothing could be done to ease his pain or
give him a second chance at life. As his ultimate fate grew nearer, the
novel’s focal character, Mr. Linden, attempted to comfort the small boy.
Looking into the child’s eyes, he slowly recited a poem that began, “Jesus
loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
The words of the poem made the boy’s last moments of life much easier. These
simple lines also moved thousands of readers to tears. Hauntingly beautiful,
composed straight from Anna’s faithful heart, “Jesus Loves Me” quickly
sprang out of her book’s pages and became one of the most beloved poems of
the era. No one can even begin to calculate how many times it was said on
the battlefield, in the homes of children whose fathers were engaged in the
Civil War, from pulpits and in Sunday school classes, and even at the White
House itself. Ringing so clear and true, Anna’s sixteen short sentences had
touched the hearts of millions with verses meant only to calm the soul of a
dying fictional character.
One of the scores of readers who memorized the poem was William Bradbury. A
teacher of voice and organ, in 1854 Bradbury had formed a piano company with
Ferdinand Lighte and Henry Newton. Besides heading up his business, the
noted musician also continued a practice of setting his faith to music by
composing his own songs. By the beginning of the Civil War, Bradbury had
built his own music company to publish and distribute his works. It was
during the time when his music business was taking off that he first read
and fell in love with “Jesus Loves Me.”
Although an accomplished composer of what many think of as high-church
music–he had already lent his talents to such hymns as “Sweet Hour of
Prayer, …. He Leadeth Me,” and “On Christ the Solid Rock I
Stand”–Bradbury was moved in a much different fashion when he decided to
add a melody to Anna Warner’s poem. A lover of children’s voices, as well as
a proponent of music education in both school and church, Bradbury allowed
the child in his own heart to spring forth when writing the simple musical
notes for “Jesus Loves Me.” Then, to fully complete the work, he added the
Yes, Jesus loves me, Yes, Jesus loves me, Yes, Jesus loves me, The Bible
tells me so.
The marriage of Waner’s words and Bradbury’s music was one of the most
beautiful gospel efforts of all time. Yet the song “Jesus Loves Me” might
have been as quickly forgotten as the novel Say and Seal if Bradbury’s music
company hadn’t published it. Through the publisher’s established
distribution network, the new children’s song quickly worked its way across
the North and South. In the face of the most horrible fighting this nation
had ever known, both sides were singing about a Savior who died, yet had
risen and still watched over everyone with equal love and compassion. It was
an ironic message for a very ironic time.
Almost a hundred and forty years after this song was first published, few
know of the writings of Anna Warner or recognize the name of William
Bradbury. But even though the writer and the composer have been forgotten,
everyone knows their song. Children and adults of all races and even
millions outside the Christian faith can sing “Jesus Loves Me.” How many
millions have clung to this message on lonely nights or rocked babies to
sleep while singing this song is unknown. But what can be most assuredly
stated is that “Jesus Loves Me” is the foundation on which many children not
only first come to know Christian music but also come to know the love and
sacrifice of the Lord who inspired it. And this message is what keeps them
singing the gospel throughout their lives.
Norma Lee Liles
God’s Word: Embracing Us in Love
Matthew 18:1-14: Jesus instructs his followers about entering the Kingdom of heaven and about avoiding temptations to sin. Today’s reading concludes with the story of a shepherd who searches for a lost sheep to emphasize God’s vigilant love and care.
Today’s Scripture: Matthew 18:4
The greatest in the Kingdom of heaven is the one who humbles himself and becomes like this child.
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, asking, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?” 2 So Jesus called a child to come and stand in front of them, 3 and said, “I assure you that unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven. 4 The greatest in the Kingdom of heaven is the one who humbles himself and becomes like this child. 5 And whoever welcomes in my name one such child as this, welcomes me. 6 If anyone should cause one of these little ones to lose his faith in me, it would be better for that person to have a large millstone tied around his neck and be drowned in the deep sea. 7 How terrible for the world that there are things that make people lose their faith! Such things will always happen—but how terrible for the one who causes them! 8 If your hand or your foot makes you lose your faith, cut it off and throw it away! It is better for you to enter life without a hand or a foot than to keep both hands and both feet and be thrown into the eternal fire. 9 And if your eye makes you lose your faith, take it out and throw it away! It is better for you to enter life with only one eye than to keep both eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell. 10 See that you don’t despise any of these little ones. Their angels in heaven, I tell you, are always in the presence of my Father in heaven. 12 What do you think a man does who has one hundred sheep and one of them gets lost? He will leave the other ninety-nine grazing on the hillside and go and look for the lost sheep. 13 When he finds it, I tell you, he feels far happier over this one sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not get lost. 14 In just the same way your Father in heaven does not want any of these little ones to be lost.
Children were considered a gift from God because they cared for older parents and carried on the family name when the parents died. Yet children had little power and were to obey their parents completely. Jesus used children as an example to show that being powerful is not the way to get into God’s kingdom; what God wants is obedience. What is your understanding of Jesus’ words that we are to humble ourselves and become like a child (verse 4)?