A HYMN FOR TODAY — Through The Night of Doubt and Sorrow

Through the night of doubt and sorrow
Onward goes the pilgrim band,
Singing songs of expectation,
Marching to the promised land.
Clear before us through the darkness
Gleams and burns the guiding light;
Brother clasps the hand of brother,
Stepping fearless through the night.

One the light of God’s own presence,
O’er His ransomed people shed,
Chasing far the gloom and terror,
Bright’ning all the path we tread;
One the object of our journey,
One the faith which never tires,
One the earnest looking forward,
One the hope our God inspires.

One the strain that lips of thousands
Lift as from the heart of one;
One the conflict, one the peril
One the march in God begun,
One the gladness of rejoicing
On the far eternal shore,
Where the one almighty Father
Reigns in love for evermore.

Onward, therefore, pilgrim brothers,
Onward, with the cross our aid!
Bear its shame, and fight its battle,
Till we rest beneath its shade.
Soon shall come the great awaking,
Soon the rending of the tomb;
Then the scatt’ring of all shadows,
And the end of toil and gloom. – Bernhardt S. Ingemann, 1859                                                                                                                   trans. Sabine Baring-Gould, 1867                                                                                                                                       Tune: HOLLINGSWORTH – Matthew L. Harber, 2010                                                                                          #689 in Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, 2012

His Excellent Word: How Firm A Foundation

His Excellent Word: How Firm A Foundation

New Blog by by Matt Bassford

SW: I have heard from fairly reliable sources that this was Robert E. Lee’s favorite hymn, sung in the camp revivals of the Confederate army. At the conclusion of Lee’s high church Episcopal funeral service, a common soldier began singing this hymn, soon joined by other of “Lee’s Miserables” who sang the entire hymn, acapella, from memory.

I thought it would be appropriate to make the first hymn-related post on this blog the hymn from which the blog title is taken.

Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.” 
— 2 Timothy 2:19 (NASB)
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?
“Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
“For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
“I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
“Upheld by My gracious, omnipotent hand.”
“When through the deep waters I cause thee to go,
“The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow,
“For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
“And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.”
“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
“My grace all-sufficient shall be thy supply.
“The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
“Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.”
“E’en down to old age all My people shall prove
“My sov’reign, eternal, unchangeable love;
“And when graying hairs shall their temples adorn,
“Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.”
“The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
“I will not, I will not desert to His foes;
“That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
“I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”from Rippon’s Selection of Hymns, 1787, alt.
this version from Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, 2012
Read more at http://hisexcellentword.blogspot.com

iPads in the Pulpit – Bible Design Blog

iPads in the Pulpit – Bible Design Blog

iPads in the Pulpit

Posted by  on Thursday, August 22, 2013


[A previous post] “got a lot of people thinking, which is to say, it got them riled up.”

An iPad in the pulpit, Barrett contends, sends a different message than a physical Bible to the congregation, because people associate the iPad with media consumption. The physical book we now think of as the text, whereas we still distinguish between the e-reader, a technological device for consuming the text, and the text itself. When the pastor flashes his iPad, we see the device, not the Bible.

…. “many culture critics [argue] that the use of e-books contributes to the problem of illiteracy. The way we experience the text via a Bible app leaves us with less of a sense of the big picture, how the whole book fits together. And because the virtual text is disembodied, its symbolism seems at odds with Christian theological values: “as physical beings who gather together as an assembly in a tangible place,” isn’t it strange to replace the physical book with a multi-use e-reader? Might not the physicality of baptism and the Lord’s Supper be set in uncomfortable relief when the proclamation of the Word loses its physical touchstone? Not to mention, the use of e-readers removes the physical proclamation inherent in carrying a physical Bible into the world. People see your printed Bible and react to it very differently than they do to your iPad.

Open The iPad Mini has lower resolution than the Clarion, but higher opacity. It’s slimmer, too.  ….

The convenience of Bible apps is a good thing.

Thanks to smartphone Bible apps, people have access to the text at times and in places they ordinarily wouldn’t. Most of us don’t carry printed Bibles everywhere we go. I can’t count the number of times prior to the advent of smartphones that I wanted to check a quotation, look up a cross reference, or simply read but couldn’t thanks to the fact that I didn’t have a physical copy of the Bible near to hand. Those days are pretty much over. Because the technology is still relatively new, people who don’t ordinarily take an interest in the Bible seem to get excited about it …

But e-readers are not an unqualified good.

My hope for e-books is not that they’ll go away, but that in the future they will get better, eventually surpassing physical books. They have a long way to go, however….

The downside I see with the use of Bible apps is not the software itself, but the larger context of the media consumption device — not the e-books, in other words, but the e-readers. When sermons bored me as a kid, I found myself flipping through the color maps in the back of the Bible. If you bore me while I’m holding my iPad, I have more sophisticated means of distraction at my fingertips.

I use the ESV Study Bible app in church from time to time, mainly because I appreciate the notes but don’t have a special load-bearing harness required for carrying the printed edition. (I exaggerate, but the thing is heavy.) While I’m not one of those people who forgets to switch his phone to silent mode –– my phone lives in silent mode –– I can’t seem to open it without a flood of notifications spilling across the screen. I’ll admit I’ve found myself glancing at incoming e-mails when I was supposed to be following along with a reading.

We give ourselves far too much credit when it comes to multi-tasking. The people in my life who rely uncritically on screens tend to be the most scattered and disengaged, the most shallow. (Sometimes I’m one of them.) This is not because such outcomes are inevitable with the switch to screens. It’s just that they’re harder to avoid, requiring more discipline. Still, some context is helpful. I’ve done a lot of Bible reading in church that had nothing to do with the sermon simply because I was more interested in the text than I was in the sermon….

There’s a larger question: screens in worship. And e-readers aren’t the worst offender.

Our anxiety about small screens in worship seems belated, mainly because the battle seems to have been fought and lost some time ago. For many evangelicals, at least, the idea of worshipping without screens is rather scandalous. Hymnals are remembered as something akin to a medieval torture device. Ditching them in favor of the then-new projection screen is supposed to have liberated worship. Instead of looking down, we could look up. Instead of each worshipper absorbed in a private world, ours eyes could be fixed on the same object.

To be frank, if I could give every pastor in the world an iPad in exchange for pulling down the projection screens, I would do it in a heartbeat. My tolerance for misspelled, unpunctuated lyrics projected onto sentimental backdrops ran out long ago. The conversion of our churches into something resembling a mid-tier sports bar is more than a subtle shift, and the messages it sends are not subtle, either. For every instance of the technology being used well, there must be a thousand examples of it used poorly. In my mind the experiment has failed, only most of us are too deep in to back out now.

Perhaps that knowledge is what makes some of us want to push back against the enthusiasm of early adopters. Once a medium is embraced uncritically and goes mainstream, people come to expect its use. So what if it’s used badly –– that badness has become the new norm. Some people prefer it, just as they prefer other inferior experiences to which they’ve grown accustomed.

To the extent that the rise of the new screens prompts us to go back and examine the question of screens as a whole, I welcome the scrutiny. It seems to me that Bible apps in worship have a lot of potential, but if we adopt them in the same spirit with which we have adopted projection screens, the results will be similar: a flawed norm whose ubiquity tends to mitigate against necessary course corrections. …

Paper as a technology should not be sold short.

One footnote is in order, since this is a site dedicated to the physical form of the Bible. Don’t sell paper short too quickly, as if its the technology equivalent of the Ottoman Empire on the eve of the First World War. While I’m a lover of obsolete technology, my thing for print isn’t an expression of that fondness.

Before there was a digital revolution, there was a desktop printing revolution which made print a more viable and flexible technology than ever, putting the tools of the book into the hands of the people of the Book like never before….. Paper is still the best technology for a lot of applications, and there’s no reason why churches can’t be places where print is done well…My point is, people who feel defensive about printing often do so out of an anxiety that printed books can’t defend themselves. Like the arts, they need some kind of subsidy to survive. I’m not sure that’s the case. All print needs, really, is for people who’ve overcome their uncritical love of screens to recognize that, for all their potential, screens aren’t the solution to every problem. Sometimes paper is better technology. The ideal future would be one in which we use the print where print works best and e-books and apps where they work best without letting the means of delivery or transmission loom larger than the message itself.


Read more at http://www.bibledesignblog.com/2013/08/ipads-in-the-pulpit.html

At 100, poem ‘Chicago’ still fierce, fresh

At 100, Carl Sandburg’s Poem ‘Chicago’ still fierce,  fresh


Steve Johnson — Tribune reporter  — February 19, 2014



For its issue of March 1914, Harriet Monroe’s Poetry magazine accepted Carl Sandburg’s “Chicago” and seven of his other poems about the city.

A family that had been struggling was on its way to prosperity. A literary career that would see popular adulation and critical scorn and an astonishing amount and range of work was born.

And a city — in the first five lines of the work of an obscure socialist poet in a 2-year-old magazine founded by a Chicago Tribune art critic — had found its enduring descriptors:

“Hog Butcher for the World,

Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,

Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;

Stormy, husky, brawling,

City of the Big Shoulders:”

“The poem was absolutely revolutionary when it first came out,” says Bill Savage, who teaches the poem as a distinguished senior lecturer in English at Northwestern University.

“I make a joke about how it’s a Chicago literary union regulation: You have to start with this poem,” Savage says.

Reading “Chicago” now, says the poet Robert Polito, president of the Poetry Foundation, which publishes Poetry Magazine, reminds him of the old joke about “Hamlet”:  Great plot, great characters, but the dialogue is filled with cliches. They are cliches, of course, not because Shakespeare was weak-minded or lazy, but because he was original enough, and accurate enough, to invent phrases that would endure. Ditto for the “clichés” in Sandburg’s “Chicago.”

“They have a kind of omnipresence that makes it a little bit difficult for us to think and feel our way back to how original and daring this was,” Polito says. “You show something like ‘Citizen Kane’ to a group of young students. The techniques of that film have been imitated so many times, they don’t see what was startling about it. That’s a little bit true here. It’s a little bit hard for us a hundred years later to recapture. It’s almost as if it’s a combination of the Book of Genesis and the national anthem for Chicago. It’s the founding myth and the celebratory lyric.”

Or, as Savage says about the poem, “It created a groove that has become a rut.”


Sandburg was the son of Swedish immigrants, born in Galesburg in western Illinois. By the time he made his way to Chicago in the early 1900s, he had been many things, including a hobo, a traveling salesman (of stereoscopes), a public orator and a socialist organizer in Wisconsin.

The Chicago Poems published in Poetry established him as a writer of originality, muscular voice and an unrelenting concern for common people. His first poetry book, “Chicago Poems,” came out two years later.


He was a guitar player and singer, too, and he published “The American Songbag,” a herculean compilation of some 250 American folk songs, words and music, that he had gathered in his travels. The collection remains in print and has proved invaluable to scholars and folk singers.

In “The Day Carl Sandburg Died,” the 2012 documentary for PBS’ “American Masters,” Pete Seeger says the “Songbag” was a touchstone for the likes of him and Woody Guthrie. Bob Dylan’s website links to it, and a young Dylan, on a road trip in 1964, made sure to visit Sandburg at his North Carolina home, Polito says.

And as a day job, he wrote scores of movie reviews for the Chicago Daily News. Here is Sandburg on “Metropolis” in July 1927: “While everybody praises German movies when they are shown on this continent, nobody goes to see them.”

Sandburg in the 1920s also began a career as the precursor to Robert Caro, our era’s meticulous biographer of Lyndon Johnson. Originally conceived as a book for children, Sandburg’s biography of Abraham Lincoln, much of it composed on a typewriter set on an orange crate outside of the Elmhurst home, would grow in ambition and length.

By the time he was done, it had reached six volumes and earned him a Pulitzer Prize for history.


Read more at:


Reading the Blogs # 3

Reading the Blogs # 3

While you’re at it, check out Ferrell’s “Visualizing Isaiah” series on his blog!

Ferrell's Travel Blog

Michael J. Kruger (canon fodder) has written a review of each episode of the History Channel’s Bible Secrets Revealed. He says the series has reminded him of two critical truths:

1. Our popular culture is prone to distort and misrepresent the teachings of the Bible. I was struck again by how sensationalistic and misleading popular-level programming can actually be when it comes to the Bible.  Although this series had some good moments, as a whole I was disappointed to see the History Channel offer the standard Da Vinci Code-style approach to the Bible.

2. The church must be equipped to respond to these sorts of critiques.  Given the high-profile nature of the History Channel (and similar style programming), the average person we are trying to reach is going to be exposed to this type of material.  And we need to be ready to offer some…

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What’s on Your Mind? (Acts 2.12-16)

What’s on Your Mind? (Acts 2.12-16).

What’s on Your Mind? (Acts 2.12-16)

Posted by Carl O. Peterson on February 7, 2014 in Acts

They were all amazed, and were perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” Others, mocking, said, “They are filled with new wine.”

But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and spoke out to them, “You men of Judea, and all you who dwell at Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to my words. For these aren’t drunken, as you suppose, seeing it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what has been spoken through the prophet Joel:

It may seem peculiar to think that the first gospel sermon (after the cross) began with a defense of the apostles’ sobriety. After all, what sermon have you ever heard that began with the words, “These men aren’t drunk”? But if we think about it, this was exactly where this sermon had to begin.

In the search for an explanation of what they were hearing, the some in the crowd came to the conclusion that the apostles were drunk. It’s difficult to imagine how they would have come to this conclusion. (Since when did an uneducated drunk speak perfectly in a language they had never studied? They usually have enough problems with their native language) Indeed, Peter could have stepped forward and begun speaking, but he would not have been as effective.

The reality is that Peter had to deal with this crowd where they were, regardless of how ridiculous that position may have seemed. If Peter ignored the accusation, that lingering question was going to be in this crowd’s mind. Considering what Peter was about to say, that would have been a problem. He was about to proclaim a risen Jesus as Lord and Christ. If the crowd thought that Peter was drunk while saying this, would they have taken him seriously? Probably not.

Thus, the first thing Peter did was give an explanation why the men could not have been drunk. Simply put, it was too early to have been drinking (third hour of the day = 9:00 am). But Peter did not stop there. It was not enough to declare their explanation invalid; he had to give them a reasonable explanation for the speaking in tongues. He did so by taking them back to the prophet Joel and pointing out what they were seeing was the fulfillment of significant prophecy. Once he had established the meaning of what they were seeing, he could proceed to declare to them Jesus of Nazareth.

This is an important point for us. When we try to reach people with the gospel, there could be barriers to them listening to our message. They may have preconceptions about us that cause them not to listen to a word we say. There may be questions about whether God’s word is even worth listening to. To the extent practical and possible, we’re going to have to deal with those issues so that the hearer can listen to the gospel message unhindered. It is intellectually dishonest for us to ignore the things that are stumbling blocks for them, preach the message, and then blame their hardness of heart for not being receptive to the word.


Follow the link to read more of Carl Peterson’s blog. It is important to note that while Peter did not address the issue of sobriety in detail in the first sermon (at least not from what is revealed), he does address it specifically in comments to Christians living in a pagan culture — see 1 Peter 4:1-6, especially the concluding phrase, “this is why the gospel was preached” — ESV).