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Thursday, April 23, 2015
The Rest Of The Story:
"Guiding Unto Death"
Note: The last two days we have examined a "rest of the story" element in two internationally published events; the beheadings of Coptic Christians in Libya this last February and a hijacked airliner from nearly 20 years ago. Both shared an interesting detail that was not immediately known. We believe there are many "rest of the stories;" some we hear about later on this side and many others we will hear about on the other side. Today we have one more, not based upon events known internationally but rather a folksy story about a hymn many of us enjoyed since our childhood.
Note: Due to early start and long chaplaincy day a podcast was not prepared for this message.
"For this God is our God forever and ever: He will be our guide even unto death" (Psalm 48:14).
Tommy Carpenter is a friend from Arkansas we became acquainted with through Daily Encouragement about ten years ago. He is a veteran minister of the Gospel and missionary. We have been blessed to have him as a guest in our home several times and years ago he preached in the little country church where I served for several years as an interim pastor. He told a moving story that we'll share in today's message that he refers to is as "The rest of the story":
Back in the early 1900's singing schools were fairly common in the U.S., having had their origin in American History as early as the 1700's. New systems of music notation, including shape notes, were developed by singing school teachers as an aid in learning to sing by sight without musical instrumentation.
Tommy's Uncle Carl was hosting songwriter Eugene M. Bartlett, the very popular songwriter and leader of a singing school, in his home in rural Arkansas in 1939. One morning Bartlett showed Carl the music and lyrics for a brand new song he had just written.
"I heard an old, old story, how a Savior came from glory…" He then went on to share the entire song that we now know as "Victory In Jesus". Of course the song has become one of the most beloved hymns of the church and is found in most hymnbooks.
Eugene Bartlett died in 1941, at 55 years of age, just two years after he wrote this song. But his wife, Joan Bartlett, lived many more years, in fact renewing the copyright in 1967.
When her time of death came the family and preacher gathered around her bedside. They looked on rather helplessly as she was in the final throes of death, her body ravaged and completely unresponsive.
Expecting to see her draw her final breath they were stunned by her sudden arousal as she broke into song:
I heard an old, old story, how a Savior came from glory,
How He gave His life on Calvary to save a wretch like me;
I heard about His groaning, of His precious blood's atoning,
Then I repented of my sins and won the victory.
O victory in Jesus…
At first her voice was very weak, but as she continued to sing the words became clearer and her voice grew stronger. She then sang the second verse:
I heard about His healing, of His cleansing pow'r revealing.
How He made the lame to walk again and caused the blind to see;
And then I cried, "Dear Jesus, Come and heal my broken spirit,"
And somehow Jesus came and brought to me the victory.
O victory in Jesus…
Immediately after singing this verse and the chorus she died! The preacher, at a loss for words said, "I reckon she's singing the third verse up yonder." *
What a way to go! And what a memorable demonstration of God's presence and guidance even unto death.
Psalm 48 begins with the phrase, "Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised…" This Psalm is written by a group of singers known as the "Sons of Korah". Most likely these were temple singers who lived during the period of the divided kingdom.
This Psalm extols God for His greatness, His deliverance, His unfailing love and other divine attributes. It includes a virtual Google Earth-like tour around the wall of the Holy City. "Walk about Zion, go around her, count her towers, consider well her ramparts, view her citadels, that you may tell of them to the next generation" (12,13).
But the Psalm ends with our daily text which empowers us as we transmit the life-changing message of God's truths to our own generation. Let us examine it today, consider its relevance, and receive its assurance:
"For this God is our God forever and ever." This is our great eternal God! This God is our "Maker, Defender, Redeemer and Friend." Consider His great acts throughout history. Consider the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, of Moses, Joshua, Samuel and David; the God of Ruth, Esther, Mary, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Daniel; the God of Peter, Stephen and Paul. Martin Luther, John Wesley, D.L. Moody, Jim Elliot, Billy Graham, and other contemporaries who stood the tests and finished or are finishing well. The God of so many not recorded in history books, who have stood firm throughout the long history of the church.
In your own life consider those who have walked faithfully with God and impacted your own life. Some are now with Christ; others still labor here below. Let us together with one heart and one voice declare, "This God is our God forever and ever! He will be our guide even unto death."
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, when we consider the saints throughout history and the marvelous saving power portrayed in their lives we're encouraged by their bold example and their consistent enduring walk with You. We recognize these "greats" of the past and those in our own generation who are faithful and powerful examples. They do not build their own kingdom or take credit for their accomplishments. Instead they recognize that it is God alone who deserves our truest praise, no matter our own personal sacrifice. We gratefully declare to ourselves and to others, "This God is our God! He will be forever and ever! He will be our guide even unto death."
*Interestingly the third verse of "Victory in Jesus" talks about "I heard about a mansion He has built for me in glory.......and some sweet day I'll sing up there the song of victory." How fitting that the third verse would not be sung by Joan Bartlett on her death bed down here below, but she would "sing up there the song of victory!", the precise lyrics that were written she would personally experience, from earth's viewpoint!
Another "rest of the story"
Tommy and his wife Nelma last visited our home in October 2011 when they returned from a Mission Conference. Only a few days later Nelma and her grandson, Buck, entered into heaven via car accident. We're so glad we took this photo as it was her last one. What a very difficult time it was for Tommy and Buck's parents, for the whole Carpenter family and for all those they had ministered to over the years in their pastoral and missionary role. A couple years later God brought a godly woman named Jane into Tommy's life and they entered into marriage. Tommy in his "retirement" years serves at the Belize Bible Institute as professor.
Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
"Victory in Jesus" Video David Ring includes great overcoming testimony
"Victory in Jesus" Video Shane and Shane with Bethany Dillon A nice bluegrass version
"Victory In Jesus" Video Travis Cottrell
"Victory In Jesus" Video Prestonwood Choir & Orchestra (Big church sound)
"On The Other Side" Video Dailey and Vincent
Brooksyne's further research on singing schools from an online encyclopedia:
Singing schools were often taught by traveling singing masters who would stay in a location for a few weeks and teach a singing school. A singing school would be a large social event for a town; sometimes nearly everyone in the town would attend and people would come for miles. Many young men and women saw singing schools as important to their courtship traditions. Sometimes the entire life of a town would be put on hold as everyone came out to singing school. In this way, singing schools resembled tent revivals.
Laura Ingalls Wilder related attending a singing school as a young lady in These Happy Golden Years, one of the Little House books. Her husband, Almanzo Wilder, courted her there.
One common tradition was the "singing school picture" taken of the teacher and students on the last day of school. Many old black and white photographs exist as records of these events from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; genealogical researchers often find these records useful. The pictures were often taken in front of a blackboard with the name of the teacher and date of the school. Some of these pictures show small classes, while others record very large schools.
Singing schools underwent many changes as cities grew and the population moved away from an agrarian lifestyle. One of the most notable changes was the length of schools; athebrews619elpishope one time it was common for schools to last four weeks. This was shortened over time, and today most of the larger singing schools last for two weeks, though the Gospel Singers of America School of Gospel Music still lasts for three weeks.
Singing schools began to hold less interest for the general public as time went on and could rarely get attendance from an entire town. Instead, schools were attended by interested students from a much larger region. In the case of Sacred Harp singing schools, students usually attended because of their interest in the Sacred Harp singing tradition; in other schools, students attended because of an interest in vocal church music, especially for those churches that maintain an all a capella music tradition.
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