Posted by: rcottrill | July 7, 2017

Father, in Thy Mysterious Presence

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Words: Samuel Johnson (b. Oct. 10, 1822; d. Feb. 19, 1882)
Music: Consolation, by Felix Mendelssohn (b. Feb. 3, 1809; d. Nov. 4, 1847)

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Samuel Johnson was an American, not to be confused with Dr. Samuel Johnson, the famed English man of letters, who lived a century earlier.

The American man graduated from Harvard, and formed in Independent church in Lynn, Massachusetts, where he served for nearly two decades. Johnson was against slavery, a key issue of the time. But though he was theistic in doctrine, believing in the existence of a Creator God, his sympathies were more Unitarian, stopping short of an orthodox belief in the deity of Christ.

His writings certainly reveal the weakness of his theology at some points. Even so, some of things he wrote have broad appeal. In one hymn, he writes of the church of Christ:

One holy church, one army strong;
One steadfast, high intent;
One working band, one harvest song,
One King omnipotent.

That’s very good! And I can agree with that description of the spiritual body of Christ, as long as we are speaking of truly born again Christians. “There is one body and on Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling” (Eph. 4:4).

Last evening PBS presented an informative and disturbing documentary called Poisoned Water, about the tragic situation in Flint, Michigan. The water that’s been coming into homes for years is laced with threatening amounts of lead and other contaminants.

It was impossible to watch without a sickening sense of grief, especially for the many children affected. It was explained that lead masks itself as calcium when entering to body. It heads for the bones and, even more dangerously, enters the brain, where it hinders function in a significant way. Once present in the body, there is no known way to remove it. Those precious young lives will be adversely and permanently affected.

What is the cause of this disaster? What is the source of the problem? Leading from huge water mains running down the city streets are branching pipes to each home. These connecting pipes are made of lead. It is this lead that is coming into the water. But if lead pipes are the immediate problem, the actual source goes back to people in authority who failed to do their job. The documentary explained:

“Local officials changed the city’s water source to save money, but overlooked a critical treatment process. As the water pipes corroded, lead leached into the system.”

Then, when concerned citizens had their water tested, and found incredibly high levels of poison, the local government stonewalled, denying the accuracy of the test results, and withholding information that could have led to remedial action.

We can draw a spiritual parallel. What is the source of the moral pollution in our society–the fearful violence, moral perversity, corruption in governments, and the degraded and profane discourse, to name just a few things? In our case, though the devil does tempt us to sin (Eph. 6:11-12, 16), and does everything he can to bring us to ruin (I Pet. 5:8), the main problem is with us. We each are born with a sinful fallen nature, a nature passed on from our first parents in Eden. The Lord Jesus declares:

“From within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye [envy], blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mk. 7:21-23).

And the Apostle Paul adds his list, under the inspiration of the Spirit of God:

“The works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like.”

And James add this explanation: “Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (Jas. 1:14-15). The only remedy is found in the grace and power of God, claimed through faith for salvation through the work of Christ. And, after that, in ongoing faith-filled prayer, walking by faith (II Cor. 5:7), in the power of the Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 25).

Pastor and author Samuel Johnson wrote a short hymn about that, a prayer for spiritual strength. (The word “mysterious” is used to indicate there are things about God beyond our understanding.)

CH-1 Father, in Thy mysterious presence kneeling,
Fain would our souls feel all Thy kindling love;
For we are weak, and need some deep revealing
Of trust and strength and calmness from above.

CH-2) Lord, we have wandered forth through doubt and sorrow,
And Thou hast made each step an onward one;
And we will ever trust each unknown morrow;
Thou wilt sustain us till its work is done.

1) What is the greatest stumbling block to consistent Christian living?

2) The Lord has promised His children grace and mercy for the asking (Heb. 4:15-16). What do you especially need these things for today?

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal


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