Gaither Homecoming: Stories Behind Popular Hymns, Day 6

Today’s reading is drawn from Matthew 28:19-20.

I Love to Tell the Story

Arabella Katherine Hankey was a woman who truly did love to tell the story of the gospel. While she was a teenager, Kate (as she was called by those who knew her) and her father, a wealthy London banker, became involved in a missions-focused group called the Clapham Sect, which was led by William Wilberforce. Kate began telling the story by teaching Sunday school for girls in her neighborhood. Soon, she was writing poems and tracts and organizing and leading Bible studies for factory girls, and eventually she went all the way to South Africa as a nurse, continuing to tell the story of Jesus’ love. At thirty, she herself was seriously ill, but she never stopped telling the story. Kate made good use of her time recovering in bed—a whole year—by writing an impressive two-part poem. The first part, entitled “The Story Wanted,” was later adapted into the well-loved children’s hymn, “Tell Me the Old, Old Story.” The second part of Hankey’s poem, entitled “The Story Told,” became the popular gospel song, “I Love to Tell the Story.” Nearly 150 years ago, Kate obeyed Jesus’ last instruction to His apostles to tell His story to the world, and she still does even today.

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Standing Strong


Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Hebrews 10:32

Our Open Doors colleague, Ron Boyd-MacMillan, shares the following insight from his teaching, “Why I Need to Encounter the Persecuted Church.”

Every pastor and Bible teacher works hard to understand the meaning of the scriptures. They learn biblical languages, look up concordances, and consult commentaries, all in the hope of shedding more light on the key questions of interpretation:

1. Who wrote this text and what did they mean by it?

2. Who initially read this text and what did they make of it?

All good interpretation begins with the tools that answer these two primary questions. We are taught that these tools lie in the realm of scholarship, and most pastors take to their studies and their libraries accordingly. But there is another vitally overlooked tool that gives a key to the meaning of the scriptures. The persecuted church of today represents the closest we can come to the original writers and readers of the scriptures. You see, most of the Bible was written by persecuted people for persecuted people. By interacting with them, we gain unique insights into the original meaning of the scriptures. We really need their help because what is obvious to a persecuted, biblical Christian is no longer obvious to us. We inhabit a completely different universe. We need the persecuted to remind us of what life was like for the original New Testament community. The persecuted enable us in some small way to recover the “original eyes” of the first writers and readers of scripture, and that can impact interpretation.

I remember a dear pastor from the West preaching about Jesus stilling the storm (Mark 4:35-41). His whole talk was on how Jesus could still the storms raging in our lives. He named storms like loneliness, misunderstanding, humiliation, persecution even. And he said, “Jesus can deliver you from every one of these storms, just like he did the disciples of old.”

He was about to go on when an old man stood up. He was from a Middle Eastern country and had seen much suffering. He said gently and respectfully, “My dear brother, if you had been persecuted you would know the primary meaning of this passage. The point of this story is not that Jesus takes the storm away, but that there is no need to fear the storm if Jesus is in the boat.” Everyone stared at him in silence. He added, “This passage is given to us for our comfort in the face of terrible storms, to know that Jesus is in the boat with us so that the storm will do us no harm.” So that persecuted Christian—because he was persecuted—knew the meaning of the passage better than the preacher, because he was one for whom the passage was written.

RESPONSE: Today I will read my Bible through the eyes and perspective of the persecuted.

PRAYER: Lord, may Your Word come alive as I interpret it with the help of the persecuted church.

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Jesus Can Handle Our Emotions, Day 6

Today’s reading is drawn from 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.

In Luke 7:36–50, a sinful woman entered the home of a Pharisee to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears and dry them with her hair. Her story shows that Jesus is truly comfortable with female emotions. He accepted her public and lavish response to his love and mercy, even rebuking the man who objected to her rather shocking display.

Our mourning and grieving after a loved one dies is an emotionally draining experience. Grief and guilt mix in confusing ways. We may experience anger, shame, deep sorrow, even a disturbingly numb response. And we seldom feel safe sharing those feelings with others. It’s comforting to know that Jesus understands the strongest emotions we experience as we pour out our heartbreak and pain. He comforts us as no one else can (see 2 Corinthians 1:3–4).

Sometimes when we express our deepest feelings to friends, they feel uncomfortable and can offer no comfort. This leaves us feeling embarrassed, which only adds to our distress over our loss.

Learning to trust Jesus with our very deepest emotions before sharing them with others is a healthy outlet. A daily time of devotion—listening to him as we read the Word and sharing our cares and concerns with him in prayer—strengthens us emotionally. Many people find that writing about their experiences helps ease the emotional sting. Journaling our prayers is one way to work through our grief.

Putting structure on the way we process our deepest emotions in the aftermath of a painful loss helps us learn to “live by faith,” as the Bible puts it in 2 Corinthians 5:7, rather than running from faith to one emotional crisis after another, or sinking from faith to depression and despair. As we gain emotional stability, we can then offer comfort to others by sharing “the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:4).

Direct your very deepest emotions to the One who gave his life for you and, as God’s Word promises, you will not only receive comforting rest from intense emotions, but you will become a comforting presence to others as well.

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