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The Blind Hymn Writer
• Susan Sundwall • Psalm 30, Ephesians 5:18–20, Psalm 96:1
"Praise the Lord!” the man yelled. “Here comes the authoress!” The man was Pastor D. L. Moody, a well-known teacher an evangelist, and he was introducing one of the most prolific hymn writers in the United States of America, Fanny Crosby. Her hymns had touched and inspired millions who attended his church revival meetings. She only found herself on stage because there was no other seating available, but Moody was delighted to have her there.
Fanny was born in Putnam County, New York, in 1820. In infancy she developed a bad cold, causing inflammation in her eyes. A doctor applied mustard plasters, which some thought caused damage, and Fanny lost her sight. At the New York Institution for the Blind, she became a teacher and wrote song lyrics and other poetry. In addition, she had the honor of becoming the first female voice heard publicly in the United States Senate Chamber in Washington, DC. She even read one of her poems there. How awesome is that?
In 1858, she married a fellow scholar, Alex Van Alstyne (who was also blind), and they had one child. But when their child died in infancy, Fanny was badly grieved. Her hymn “Safe in the Arms of Jesus” is believed to be the result of that grief. In the lyrics of this beautiful hymn, she expresses how wonderful it is to be close to Jesus, “Safe on His gentle breast / There by His love o’reshadowed / Sweetly my soul shall rest.” She also looks forward to the day Jesus will make all things new, when we will be “Free from the blight of sorrow / Free from my doubt and fears.” How many other suffering parents were comforted by that hymn?
Fanny wrote an astounding eight thousand hymns. She gave all credit for her gift of hymn writing to the Lord. She also worked relentlessly to serve people who were impoverished and living in the inner city, most of whom were immigrants. She was an amazing woman for whom things could have turned out so differently. Instead of despair, she chose to draw near to her Lord and Savior. The next time you hear “Blessed Assurance” or “Pass Me Not Oh Gentle Savior,” remember the woman who wrote them, Fanny Crosby. • Susan Sundwall
• No matter what your circumstances are, God has given you gifts that are important in His kingdom. What are some ways you can serve Jesus in your context?
• Have you ever experienced Jesus’s love and closeness through worship music and hymns?
Sing a new song to the Lord; let the whole earth sing to the Lord. Psalm 96:1 (CSB)
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A Picture of Grace
• Laura N. Sweet • John 5:1–15, Ephesians 2:12–13, Titus 3:3–8
In John 5:1-9, Jesus goes to Jerusalem, to a place called the pool of Bethesda. The author, John, who was probably with Jesus at the time, tells us there were “a great number of disabled people” (verse 3) at the pool of Bethesda. Some of these
people were blind, some couldn’t walk, and some were sick. All, apparently, were looking for some kind of miraculous healing by the waterside. John records that Jesus speaks to one man in particular—and heals him!
So why does Jesus choose to heal this man? He certainly isn’t well-connected. He tells Jesus that he has no one to help him into the pool—no friends, no family. He is not a special or “holy” man—in fact, Jesus warns him after he is healed: “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you” (verse 14). Really, we see no obvious reason why Jesus chooses this man for healing instead of others waiting at the pool of Bethesda.
And maybe that’s the point.
This man has nothing at all to recommend him as a “candidate” for grace. He is powerless, sinful, alone in the world and helpless to save himself. But Jesus comes along, finds this man in his misery, and graciously heals him. “At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked” (verse 9).
The ways God works are often mysterious to us, and we may never understand why Jesus healed this particular man on this particular day. But we can see a picture of God’s grace in this one man’s healing. He is like every lost sinner, and every last one of us. Ephesians 2:12 puts it this way: “You were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.”
Like the man sitting at the pool of Bethesda, we are all hopeless and helpless; there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. But God extends grace to us. He loves us, and He came to be with us. Jesus, God in flesh, brings healing to our brokenness. He died and rose from the dead because it was the only way to save us from our sins. If we’ve put our trust in Jesus, we are no longer separated from God. We are totally forgiven, and we get to look forward to the day Jesus will return and permanently heal all our brokenness. What a picture of grace! • Laura N. Sweet
• Have you ever felt like you didn’t deserve God’s help? How might John 5:1-15 speak into this?
...he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. Titus 3:5a (NIV)