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Words: John Willard Peterson (b. Nov. 1, 1921; d. Sept. 20, 2006)
Music: John Willard Peterson
Note: Hymn writer John Willard Peterson was the most prolific composer of sacred music in the latter half of the twentieth century. Many of those involved in choirs in evangelical churches, especially in the 60’s and 70’s can recall using some of Peterson’s music, especially his singable choir cantatas.
A movie was made of his life in 1976, called The Miracle Goes On (a title alluding to his gospel song It Took a Miracle). It not only told something of his life, but included a concert of some of his music. The story also came out in book form, and a vinyl recording.
Millions of dollars are spent each year in an attempt to make our homes as safe as possible. Fire alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, burglar alarms, security cameras, motion sensors on lighting, reinforced doors, weapons, locks, night watchmen, intimidating dog–with signs: “Guard Dog on Premises,” and a so-called safe room–all are part of the attempt to protect us and our property. But it’s still not enough to keep every destroyer from our doors.
As I write this, fire fighters are battling a raging wildfire in and around the town of Fort McMurray, Alberta. With the help of the military, many volunteers, and tonnes of equipment, the desperate work continues. More than eighty thousand people have been evacuated, and homes and businesses are being destroyed as billows of apocalyptic smoke rise heavenward, floating south all the way to the Gulf of Mexico and beyond.
With little rain in the forecast, and the area tinder dry, whether there will be anything left of the town when the fires are finally extinguished is an open question. Most evacuees fled with a few clothes and that’s all. Some already know their homes are gone. Others must wait to learn more, as it’s too dangerous to return while the fires are still burning. Already it’s being estimated that a rebuilding will eventually cost billions. And each individual and family has lost precious things that no insurance policy can replace.
For all who are involved, and for those watching from a distance, this disaster raises significant questions concerning our values. The late comedian George Carlin once said, “Home is where we put our stuff, while we’re out getting more stuff!” That can stand as a pretty good summary of materialism. But a fiery inferno engulfing our home can cause us to think hard about whether our “stuff” really counts for much.
Many times, as displaced residents of the city are interviewed, we hear them say something like this: “My family is safe. That’s the most important thing to me.” With those we love around us, the value of the accumulated things of this world diminishes greatly.
The Lord Jesus warned about putting too much stock in what’s impossible to secure completely. He said:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matt. 6:19-20).
To trust in Christ as our Saviour (Jn. 3:16), and have a heavenly home prepared for us by the Lord Himself (Jn. 14:2-3), a home safely beyond the moth and rust, thieves and fires of this world, that is a glorious assurance. To be a child of God, and joint-heir with Christ (Gal. 4:4-7) is to have an eternal inheritance that is immeasurable.
“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32).
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (I Pet. 1:3-4).
John Peterson wrote both words and music for a song speaking of the safety of our heavenly home.
1) O the blessed contemplation,
When with trouble here I sigh:
I’ve a home beyond the river,
That I’ll enter by and by.
I’ve a home beyond the river,
I’ve a mansion bright and fair;
I’ve a home beyond the river–
I will dwell with Jesus there.
4) Though the world is filled with sorrow,
And the teardrops often fall,
There will be but joy and gladness,
Safe inside the jasper wall.
Safe at home! What a blessed prospect for every believer!
1) What is your greatest concern when it comes to living in safety these days?
2) How do you quiet your soul when worries in these things assault you?