All posts by tom

It is well with my soul

Horatio SpaffordHoratio Spafford was a well known and well to do lawyer, real estate investor, and church elder in 1860s Chicago, he was also good friends with famed preacher D.L. Moody. In 1870 him and his wife lost their only son to scarlet fever, he was four at the time. One year later in 1871 every one of his properties he had invested in along Lake Michigan in Chicago were destroyed by the “Great Chicago Fire”

After all of the stress of losing a son, and then losing all of his investments he decided to take his wife and four daughters to Europe to join his good friend D.L. Moody in sharing the Gospel. Not having planes back then they had to take a boat. They traveled from Chicago to New York to board a boat, the “Ville de Havre.” 

The family was ready to go, but, at the last minute a real estate deal that Horatio was involved in had to be handled. This forced him to return to Chicago. So, to avoid ruining the family vacation, he sent on his wife and four daughters ahead saying he would catch up with them soon.Nine days later, in Chicago, Horatio received a telegram from his wife who was now in Wales. The telegram read, “saved alone.”

spafford - telegram 1

On November 2nd, 1873 the “Ville de Havre” had collided with the “Lochearn”, an English boat. It took the boat only 12 minutes to sink, killing 226 of it’s passengers including Horatio and Anna’s four daughters. Anna Spafford had stood bravely on the deck, with her daughters Annie, Maggie, Bessie and Tanetta clinging desperately to her. Her last memory had been of her baby being torn violently from her arms by the force of the waters. Anna was only saved from the fate of her daughters by a plank which floated beneath her unconscious body and propped her up.

Ville de HavreWhen the survivors of the wreck had been rescued, Mrs. Spafford’s first reaction was one of complete despair. Then she heard a voice speak to her, “You were spared for a purpose.” And she immediately recalled the words of a friend, “It’s easy to be grateful and good when you have so much, but take care that you are not a fair-weather friend to God.”

Upon hearing the news Horatio immediately boarded a boat out of New York to meet his wife in Europe. Upon reaching the place where the “Ville de Havre” had sunk the captain called him to the deck. A careful reckoning has been made”, he said, “and I believe we are now passing the place where the de Havre was wrecked. The water is three miles deep.”

Upon visiting the place where his daughter’s had met their watery death Horatio wrote a poem. A poem that we now know as the classic hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul.” He based the poem loosely off of a passage in 2nd Kings chapter 4. A story of a woman who had lost her only son.

In the midst of great sorrow, terrible agony, and the loss of all of his children and riches Horatio wrote this beautiful and classic hymn:

<Audio from Together for the Gospel men singing this hymn. (YouTube)>

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,It is well
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Horatio’s hope wasn’t with the present, he looked past the pain and anguish he must have felt and instead trusted that the God He trusted in, the God who’s grace He was originally going to Europe to preach, would hold him and give him peace.

After this tragedy the Spaffords had three more children, one boy, Horatio Goertner, Bertha Herges, and Grace. Again, Horatio would lose his only son to illness. Horatio Goertner died of pneumonia at the age of 4. After the loss of his son Horatio and family moved to Jerusalem where they would live doing philanthropic work until Horatio died of Malaria in 1888.


I wrote this a few years ago, but a Twitter discussion reminded me of it. Enjoy!


Today, I, Jesus bar Abbas (more commonly known as Barabbas, as to not be confused with another man by the name of Jesus), was supposed to be crucified.

You see, I was what many would refer to as a terrorist. I didn’t mean to start as a terrorist however. I saw the evils that the Roman rulers had inflicted upon my people, and I had to resist. I considered myself a freedom fighter. My group and I started out by killing select Roman government leaders and officials. When the Romans reacted by killing my people, that is the Jews, the Pharisees turned against my group of revolutionaries. They were turning in my men, and I had to do something! We only had a small group to begin with, and I couldn’t lose more, we couldn’t fight off the Romans with what we had, let alone losing more men! So, at that point we killed a few of the Pharisees who were turning in my men. I didn’t want to kill my own people, but, I thought I was left without a choice.

After losing a few of my better men either because of their death to Roman soldiers, crucifixion by the Roman government, or for them leaving over their “moral issues” I had to recruit more men. These new men didn’t hold to the same high standards as we had held to in the past. So, my group now consisted of the rag tags of society. Now not only did we kill Romans, but we often robbed Jews as well. Some of them would fight back, and we’d have to kill them. Some of the men even took to raping of the Roman women, and on a few occasion even the Jewish women.

On one occasion we set out to rob a guy, one of those temple workers, and it turned out to be the son of Caiaphas, the high priest! The priests had mostly left us alone, seemingly in ways even supporting our cause, until this happened. We didn’t know who he was when we set out to rob him, but he fought back and I killed him in the struggle. We didn’t realize who it was until after I had killed him. This infuriated Caiaphas. He then used his influence with Governor Pilate to have my men attacked by a legion of Roman soldiers. That was the end of my failed revolution. They came upon us with amazing force horribly outnumbering us, we never stood a chance. They did take a few of us alive, the leadership that is. It seems killing us wasn’t enough for them, we had to be put through the brutality of the cross. The cross is far worse than anything I had ever done to anyone I had killed. The thought of facing it sickened me.

I was tried and found guilty, rightfully so. I sat in prison for two months just waiting for that horrible day to come.

When the appointed time for my crucifixion came, there was a man, Jesus of Nazareth, who claimed to be the “King of the Jews.” He even claimed to be God! He was to be executed on the same day as I.

He didn’t seem to be an “insurrectionist” as I was, he didn’t even look capable of violence. I had heard that when he was captured he didn’t even try to fight back. I had heard rumors, even in prison, that this man could heal people and that he was one of the rabbinic teachers, and a few even said he was the Son of God. If he were the son of God why did he let himself get captured? He mustn’t be that spectacular to get himself captured. He did have quite the following though.

That day was Passover, and the Roman government had always allowed the Jews to set one prisoner free just prior to his execution. I knew it wouldn’t be me, I was hated. I had killed so many people, mostly Roman, but many Jewish as well. And Caiaphas, the high priest, would see to it that I wasn’t even given a chance to be set free. It would certainly be this “Jesus” that they would set free, he was harmless. They would just beat him a bit, and set him free. He wouldn’t have to crucified like I would be.

When it was time for the people to choose who they would set free I heard a large crowd, much bigger than any other time I had had ever seen. They were chanting “Crucify him!” over and over again. At about this time some of the soldiers brought me out from the prison and to where the governor was speaking in front of the crowd.

The man they were chanting about was this Jesus of Nazareth. It seemed to me that he was innocent of all crimes but they wanted him dead for some reason. And that’s when Pilate had the soldiers present me in front of the crowd. He gave the people the choice between setting me free, or setting this Jesus free.

I knew what the answer would be, there is no way they would let me go after all that I had done. But it did seem that Pilate really wanted to let him go. When he presented us I knew what the choice would be. I would be taken to die, while the Nazarene would be set free.

But, to my surprise they kept shouting “crucify him! crucify him!”.

Then Pilate got the crowd to quiet down he asked them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”

I’ll never forget what happened next, the priests got the crowd chanting my name, Barabbas. They were going to set me free and crucify the Nazarene. Pilate asked them again, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And again the crowd yelled my name.

With that Pilate signaled for the soldiers to release me. I immediately ran off into the crowd, and kept on going until I couldn’t see the crowd anymore not wanting Pilate to change his mind. As I was running I heard him shout “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” The crowds response sickened me, “Let him be crucified.” As I was running that’s all I heard from them.

The Jesus, the Nazarene, the one they say is “King of the Jews” never did argue or fight back from what I saw and have heard. He just took it, he didn’t argue at his trial, and he didn’t argue when the people chose to set me free. When they chose me to be set free he made eye contact with me, and it looked like for a second he was happy. As if he was happy to see me set free, pardoned of all of my crimes. It’s as if he wanted to die so I could be set free.

Later on I met with some of his followers, they have some wild claims. They claim that even during his crucifixion he was forgiving people for what they were doing to him. Most people when they are being crucified will try to get what little revenge they can, they’ll cuss at, spit, and even pee, on the people below them. Jesus didn’t do this, he forgave the people! How could he do this? How could he die on the cross that was meant for me and forgive the people who were doing it to him? This man was innocent, and he died for the crimes I was guilty of, the crimes that I should have been crucified for.

The other claim his followers make is that 3 days later his tomb was empty, and that he walked, talked, and ate with them after. He eventually went to Heaven, and is said to be coming back again some day. I now look forward to that day, when I can finally thank him for saving me from the punishment that I deserved and giving his life for mine.

My Dream

Since I haven’t posted anything lately, and I’m waiting for my truck to warm up, I thought I would share the dream I had this morning. It is rare that I remember my dreams at all, and even more rare that I post them. Enjoy!

I was in a church, playing an acoustic guitar, along with at least one other person who was leading worship. The worship leader was in front of the congregation, and I for some reason was off to the side of them in a doorway facing toward them.

I don’t remember the first song, but the next song was “Wanted Dead or Alive.” I stopped playing at that point, and saw a little girl sitting with her family tell her mother that this song wasn’t about Jesus. The mother tried to reassure her and said that it was okay, though agreeing with her.

That is when I yelled at the worship leader, “What does this song have to do with Jesus?!” I was ignored. As I looked toward the congregation again it was an empty room. I ran to the pastor’s office, which was in the back of that long room with cubicle style walls making an office for him. I then yelled at him, “What the hell is this?” (Yes, my language could be better in my dream, sorry about that. Though, if this really happened I would probably still say that.)

I don’t remember if the pastor gave me any response, other than looking up at me as I yelled over his cubicle wall.

And that is when I woke up, with my heart beating fast.

The Conviction to Lead by Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr.

Book Cover: The Conviction to Lead by Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr.I don’t expect this will be something I’ll do often, as my book reviews tend to go on my other, less personal, blog. However, the author of the book, Dr. Mohler, gave me an autographed pre-release copy of the book. So, with that in mind, I will be posting my review here first, and then at my other blog in a day or so.

Leadership is a genre I tend to stay away from. Typically, I would expect leadership books to be shallow, self-centered, and a waste of time. Even more so in the genre of leadership books that are written by Christians, as most leadership has a secular business model in mind, rather than leadership within the Church or a Christian organization. So, what do you do when a man you highly respect writes a book on leadership, gives you a free copy and autographs it? You read it, learn from it, and review it, of course.

Dr. Mohler set out to make his leadership book different from others in the genre, not only to be different, but to change the way we view leadership. He wants to change things, so we view leadership as “leading with belief and conviction.”

This book is written with the concern that far too much of what passes for leadership today is mere management. Without convictions you might be able to manage, but you cannot really lead.

He focuses mostly on convictions, where they come from, what they must be, and where they lead us. Without convictions, leadership is merely management. From there, Mohler talks about the characteristics one must develop if they want to lead well. Some of those characteristics being keeping up with the happenings in the world and communicating to the world. He includes some practical tips as on how to do this, how to read, what to read, etc. along with deeper aspects, such as developing character, and how to speak with passion and conviction. The book ends talking about time, patience, endurance, death, and legacy. Without patience, one won’t endure, and their convictions will die with them, rather than leaving a legacy that shapes the organization for years to come.

Despite not being a genre I have much interest in, I enjoyed the book. It is broken into 25 small chapters, each one covering a particular topic. The format makes for a quick read, and should make it easy to go back and reread portions as a reminder to reinforce what one has learned.

Another aspect I enjoyed was when Dr. Mohler shared stories of how he learned to lead, and his leadership experiences at Southern Seminary.

From what I’ve seen, many leadership books are from questionable pastors who’s beliefs are soft, often times it is questionable if these self proclaimed leaders are even believers. Although knowledgeable about business leadership, they don’t seem to live a life that reflects the teachings of our Lord and Savior, much less lead those around them in a biblical manner.

It is one thing to write a book about leadership, it is another to be a successful Christian leader who is shaping our world today, and then document how he got there and how he leads. Dr. Mohler, is a credible source, known for his convictions, and with the experience that comes from leading one of the biggest and most influential seminaries in the nation. With this reputation, his book which documents how he leads, and why it works, is a must read.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking to pastor a church or to run a Christian or other charitable organization. I’m not in any of those categories, but I did enjoy the book, and I feel I did learn from it. I’m also grateful to Southern Seminary and Dr. Mohler for giving me the book, autographing it,  and more importantly, for their work in spreading the Gospel and doing so in a clear manner, out of their deep-rooted conviction and love.

* – To clarify, I was given the book in a drawing at the potential student lunch, it was not given to me in exchange for me reviewing it, or for giving a positive review.

My mostly chapter by chapter commentary on GoodReads

Other books I’ve posted on GoodReads

On the Public Reading of Scripture

If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

(1 Timothy 4:6-16 ESV)


In the highlighted phrase above it is clear that Paul is talking about reading Scripture allowed publicly in the congregation. Something all churches should do, and something that seems to be rare now-a-days.

I want to take a different approach to the idea above though, on the individual Christian reading Scripture publicly. As I haven’t been working for the last four months, and even before I lost my job, I would go to a restaurant to eat and read the Bible. While I hadn’t done so in an attempt to evangelize, but only because it is comfortable and convenient, I have found it does have some interesting results.

I am approached by believers who tell me how good it is that I am reading the Bible, and in public, as if that was a challenge in America? And, more so, I am approached by people who aren’t Christians, who seem to show an interest in hearing what I have to say. And, on occasion, I see people who are offended by me reading the Bible silently to myself. Those are the fun ones!

It has brought about interesting conversations, with some hearing the Gospel, some being convicted that they aren’t reading the Bible, and some asking for a recommendation to a good church. It clearly isn’t a substitute for one-on-one evangelism, but it does open the door for conversations where the Gospel can be shared, it is convenient (we are all reading the Bible daily anyway, right?), and it gives an excuse to sit in a restaurant and sip a glass of tea.

Do you read the Bible in public? Have you had any interesting conversations because of it?

On the Proper Reading of Books

In high school, and college, by God’s grace and my laziness, I didn’t really have to study. I only took notes if the teacher required we take notes, and even then often didn’t.

As a consequence of my laziness, I didn’t learn how to study, or how to take notes well. Also, since then new tools that can be used for note-taking were developed, that is the smart phone and tablet.

I learned a bit when I got saved and started reading the Bible. Not so much the note taking, but reading for a purpose other than for entertainment or facts. Learning proper hermeneutics, by God’s grace, came shortly thereafter. Very thankful for this one!

What I haven’t learned yet is how to take notes while reading a book. I’m sure I could just start taking notes, but I want my notes to be useful in the future.

So, with that in mind, I ask you, how do you take notes on what you read? In my current situation, I’m reading a book that is a little over 1,000 pages, is likely to be very deep, and I will probably want to be able to recall and locate sections or quotes quickly.

How do you take notes? Suggested methods? Tools? Paste the whole book in to Evernote  and hope their search works well?

The Perfection of Beauty

Beauty is sold in exchange for a “dime”
Nothing to attract us to You, yet we worship Your creation as fine
Captivated by it’s forbidden fruit

Pleasing our senses, so we suppress the truth
And eat the lie
Media’s fig leaf deadening our soul and mind
Sin blinding us to You
The only objective Beauty that’s truly absolute
Hidden in the symmetry of Your goodness, glory and truth
Each attribute working harmoniously
Justice with patience, wrath with graciousness
Omnipotence with humility, long-suffering with faithfulness
Each a note to a sweet melody
The ultimate hymn entitled “God’s Beauty”
Immutable, no change

Because “dimes” get lost daydreaming in dark gutters
Unable to hear the call to wake up
They, the noose, dripping honeysuckle
Lips pasted on with Mac makeup
If they truly beheld Your beauty
You’d make magazines and Mattel go bankrupt
You sent Your Beloved to be lifted up
On a beautiful, seemingly ugly cross
The visible image of Your hiddenness
Only You are beautiful and yet invisible
True beauty is spiritual

Therefore, sanctify our worldly minds
Your complexion is unappealing to lustful eyes
Besides, apart from new birth in Christ
Sinners beholding Your Holy beauty would die
Therefore, beauty residing in the eye of the beholder is a lie
It is found in the Beautiful One- The Most High
– Shai Linne – The Perfection of Beauty

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. – Exodus 34:6-8 ESV

Why our country is going down the drain

Why our Country is Going Down The Drain

Nothing original from me, though I do think I have a financial related post in the works, we shall find out sometime Monday. I’m going to save at least 5% on my power bills, maybe more. And, yes, I do plan to write about finances on here, among a few other things. Posting my occasional photography attempts, my playing games with tech, my faith, and whatever else comes to mind that doesn’t fit with the theme of my other blog. (Which, I may reveal… maybe.)

Until then, enjoy the video.