Tuesday Hymns: “Abide with Me”

Henry Francis Lyte was a Scottish Anglican vicar who lived from June 1, 1793 until November 20, 1847. His life was filled with bad health (persistent lung issues) and changing theological views (ranging from being an unconverted vicar, to evangelical pastor, to leaning toward Anglo-Catholicism at the end of his life). He was also a hymn writer and three weeks before his death from tuberculosis completed our “Tuesday Hymn” for this week, Abide with Me.”

The hymn is Lyte’s prayer as he faces the end of his life. In it one sees the difficulties faced as disease begins to takes its toll on a body and soul: “darkness deepens,” “comforts flee,” “change and decay,” “ills,” and “bitterness.” However, through it all one finds that God if faithful. He is the “Help of the helpless,” and the One who “changest not.”

I am not sure why this hymn caught my eye. Maybe it is because my years are beginning to add up. Maybe it is because I see people who I care about battling debilitating diseases. Maybe it is because of the fact that I notice more and more often former classmates listed in the obituaries when I go online in the morning. For whatever reason I am grateful that I can say “Amen” to Lyte’s final plea that “Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee: In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.”

Abide with me: fast falls the eventide:
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide:
When other helpers fail, and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need thy presence ev’ry passing hour;
What but thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who like thyself my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me.

I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless:
Ills have no weight and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if thou abide with me.

Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes:
Shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies:
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee:
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

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A Much Needed Sabbath

My life can be somewhat complicated to say the least. I’m the Associate Pastor at a growing church. I have two teenage sons with mental health issues (one of which stayed up all night and all of the next day this past week). And, to top it off, I experienced my first colonoscopy this past Friday (at age 59). The preparation for the above mentioned procedure was anything but pleasant, although it was not near the torture that I expected it to be.

Gratefully, I only had one small polyp (which the doctor did not seem concerned with) and hopefully this is something I will not have to do again for a while (I am rooting for 10 years), although I won’t know that for sure until I see the doctor in a couple of weeks. I am writing all of this, not to talk about insurance, (although it seems as if all of my waking hours have been on hold with BlueCross BlueShield since October), nor the excellent care I received at the Medical Center of Southeast Texas (although the nurses and anesthetists all look like they were barely out of high school), but about the joys of worshiping our Lord on His day.

I really needed this one day in seven to be reminded of God’s grace, of His care for me and my family, of the great grace which He has poured out on me through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and that life is about more than the issues that this fallen world thrusts upon me. God knows how much mankind needs a Sabbath. Thus, when we gather with God’s people on His day, and read His Word, and preach His Word, and sing His Word, and pray His Word, and affirm His Word, it nourishes our souls just as much as a juicy steak nourishes our physical bodies.

Never, ever take the Lord’s Day for granted. He has given it to you for His glory and for your good. As the writer of Hebrews warned: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25) As tired as I am after a long day with God’s people, it is a good tired; a fulfilled tired; and a blessed tired.