Posts Tagged ‘what a friend we have in jesus’

Distributing Tracts at the “Empty Shoes Memorial”

September 21, 2019

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There is a worldwide phenomenon now concerning “empty shoes memorials.” Budapest, for example, has a very moving memorial of old pairs of shoes made out of cast iron, in memory of Jewish victims who had been shot into the River Danube in the years 1944-1945. Recently I witnessed another “empty shoe” memorial locally; this time with real shoes in my own locality to mark “World Suicide Prevention Day.”
I was wandering out of the car park with my own troubled thoughts, after dropping someone to the hospital, when I heard the singing and witnessed the shoes, which had been placed there for the event. Then I remembered the tracts in my possession and I felt the Lord urging me to give them out to those standing watching the event.
I had completely forgotten, but as it happened this day (September 10th 2019) also marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of hymn writer Joseph Scriven who wrote “What a Friend we have in Jesus.” When this thought dawned on me, I suddenly knew what I must do, because these leaflets were the ones I’d made out to commemorate the Scriven anniversary.

I felt fearful; the temptation was there to keep my leaflets to myself and walk on up the street about my business. After all, wasn’t I more a “one-to one” person and who would read them anyway and wasn’t this too sensitive an event for the distribution of Christian literature? Then I felt deeply convicted because I knew that the Lord wanted me to do this; although alone, I knew that He was with me and would give me the courage.
Taking the opportunity I approached the first lady with a smile and she accepted the leaflet gratefully and thanked me. Somehow, it has been my experience that the first one takes most courage – like plunging into cold sea up to your neck for the first time! Then another, and another – only one person refused for some reason and no one threw their leaflet down, as has happened before.

This was a solemn occasion and the people gathered looked sad – some were even noticeably distressed I thought; most likely they had known someone who had been in the situation which was being marked. How the Lord loved those gathered here and wanted to reach them with the knowledge of His salvation!
I couldn’t help but think of two lovely old hymns, when remembering this recent incident. The first verse of Isaac Watts well known hymn came to mind…

“I’m not ashamed to own my Lord,
Or to defend His cause;
Maintain the glory of His cross,
And honour all His laws.”

Flora Kirkland (a less well known hymn writer) wrote numerous hymns. I quote the first verse of the following hymn which also come to mind…

“Out in the darkness,
Shadow’d by sin
Souls are in bondage,
Souls we would win.
How can we win them?
How show the way?
Love never faileth,
Love is the way.”

The first hymn speaks of shame but the Lord’s people should never be ashamed for Jesus said: “For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9v26)
The second hymn speaks of love – and perfect love surely casts out fear. Praise God, we go in the strength of the Lord, for if we go in our own strength we are defeated before we even begin any outreach at all.
“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8v10) The chorus of Isaac Watt’s hymn expresses this joy beautifully…

“At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart roll’d away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day.”

If we know Him as Saviour we want above all to see sorrowful souls who are without hope and soon to face eternity, come to have the joy that we experience in the knowledge of sins forgiven and burdens “rolled away.” We want them too, to hear those words which are uttered to all the Lord’s faithful servants… “Well done, thou good and faithful servant…” (Matthew 25v21)

His will is for His people to seize opportunities as they arise – and there are so many opportunities in these days. May these words of the final verse of Isaac Watt’s hymn encourage those who name His Name and are faithful in this era of “a great falling away” to “weary not in well doing…”

“Then will He own His servant’s name,
Before His Father’s face;
And, in the new Jerusalem,
Appoint my soul a place.”

Bicentenary Celebration of the Birth of Joseph Scriven – Author of “What a Friend we have in Jesus”

August 28, 2019

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On 10th September next it will be 200 years since the birth of hymn writer Joseph Medlicott Scriven (1819-1886) and I hope to use the occasion to distribute tracts, based on the title of his beautiful hymn. On Saturday 14th September free hourly bus tours of sites connected with the hymn writer will take place in Banbridge, County Down and these can be booked through the Visitor Information centre in the town. I have a lovely early memory of discovering Corbett Lake; near Banbridge and pictured in the old photograph above, it reminds me that Joseph Scriven’s formative years were spent in this area. Joseph did write other hymns and poetry but I believe that “What a Friend we have in Jesus” is sung universally and has been translated into multiple languages.
I have one very personal and poignant memory of the singing of this hymn. One hot Sabbath summer morning far away on the Greek island of Crete, I was feeling downcast as we tried to find an International Evangelical church in a certain town there. Then somewhere on that street, carried on the warm breeze I heard the sweet strains of music and singing in my own language… “What a Friend we have in Jesus…” In that instant I felt the singing of that familiar hymn and the beautiful name “Jesus” touching my very soul and it brought tears to my eyes; I felt the Lord’s Presence very strongly at that moment.
Indeed the singing of the hymn has touched many a troubled heart over the centuries. Little did Joseph Scriven know when he sat down in his little room to pen a few comforting words to his mother who was going through a time of great sorrow, that in years to come those words would touch hearts all across the world. When a Christian neighbour (who helped Joseph in his later years) discovered the manuscript, he asked him who had written these beautiful words, to which Joseph replied… “I wrote it. The Lord and I did it between us.”
Life’s journey, along with happy times, inevitably also brings trials, temptations, grief and trouble but praise God, Jesus our Saviour is a certain Refuge for all who put their trust in Him. Not everyone wants to know about our sorrows but there is “a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18v24) Unlike earthly friends and acquaintances who may indeed “despise, forsake thee,” this Friend is faithful, loving and caring throughout life’s most troubled and sorrowful moments – and He is but a prayer away.
The Bible tells us that “there is One God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1Timothy 2v5) Do you know this Friend today? He gave His life for you, so that you may have abundant life now – and eternal life in His Presence in the next.
“For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14v11&12) It is better, surely, to repent of your sin now and ask Him into your heart, while on this side of eternity – than to face Him as Judge on that Day when the small and great stand before Him.
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 7v21) His will is that you repent, commit your life to Him today, obey His Word and trust Him for all your tomorrows.
What a Friend you will have in Him as Saviour – a Friend and Confidant who will all “your sorrows share,” and a Friend who will “take and shield thee” throughout life. Only in His arms will you find the great “solace” for which you seek.

What a Friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear!
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged:
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness:
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Saviour, still our refuge:
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee
Thou wilt find a solace there.