All the Time .

Blind Faith (No. 22, 2017)
Weekly Devotional for June 1, 2017
All the Time …

“My Lord is near me all the time.” That is one of the central
affirmations of my faith firmly planted in me by Christian music I sang
during my teenage years. The words are the concluding lines – repeated twice
for emphasis – of the hymn by that title. I remember learning the hymn with
100+ other students in the Spring Hill Singers, the youth choir of Spring
Hill Baptist Church, Mobile, Alabama. One choral element that struck me was
the serene, uplifting sense conveyed as the soprano and alto voices sang the
third stanza: “When refreshing showers cool the earth and sweep across the
sea, then his rainbow shines within my heart, his nearness comforts me.” The
bass part that I sang helped me to connect with confidence in the loving,
caring power of God. The simple assurance of the hymn has come to my mind
countless times across the years from the time I first learned it. As I have
passed through both dark, thunder-shaken experiences filled with foreboding
and fear and as I have reveled in times full of hope and joy, the title
affirmation has been a welcome watchword: “My Lord is near me all the time.”

Most hymnals in use currently include the hymn. In case you have
not sung it in worship in awhile, here are the complete lyrics:

In the lightning flash across the sky his mighty power I see
And I know if he can reign on high, his light can shine on me. (Chorus)
When the thunder shakes the mighty hills and trembles every tree
Then I know a God so great and strong can surely harbor me. (Chorus)
When refreshing showers cool the earth and sweep across the sea
Then his rainbow shines within my heart, his nearness comforts me.
(Chorus) I’ve seen it in the lightning, heard it in the thunder, and felt it
in the rain.
My Lord is near me all the time, my Lord is near me all the time.
(My Lord Is Near Me All the Time, Barbara F. Gaultney, 1960)

Two settings of the hymn appealed to me as I searched online for
performances of it. A marvelously solid, encouraging version features Cliff
Barrows conducting the Victor Singers recording favorite hymns of Billy
Graham in 1966 – about the time I first learned the song. You can play the
recording from this link:

Associating the hymn with the gospel of Jesus Christ preached by Billy
Graham at the height of his ministry in those days adds to my sense of
security in its faithful message.

A second rendition of the hymn is a solo performance by Terry Warren. The
Christian singer and actor was an All-American linebacker with the Florida
State University Seminoles, drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 1987. A back
injury in rookie training camp, however, ended his pro football career.
Encouraged by fellow Seminole football alumnus Burt Reynolds, Warren pursued
acting and singing. He appeared on-screen with his mentor and secured
several notable roles, including the lead in Les Miserables on Broadway.
Around 2002 he began to experience severe clinical depression. His marriage
ended in divorce. He fell in love again, but lost his fiancé` to cancer.
Warren rededicated his lift to faith in Jesus Christ in 2007. He developed a
ministry of singing, speaking, and preaching that placed him before
audiences world-wide.

Terry Warren sang in a worship service at Judson Baptist Church in Nashville
in 2008, where he told about a harrowing event that brought the hymn, “My
Lord Is Near Me All the Time,” to a prominent place in his ministry. He was
returning to his home in Nashville after having sung in a nearby church. He
says that he was hurrying back to catch a basketball game on TV, but not
speeding. A tire on his SUV ran off the edge of the pavement and blew out.
The vehicle careened across a ditch and went about 10 feet airborne. It
flipped three times and came to rest after hitting a tree. Warren had not
buckled his seatbelt, but he was able to crawl out of the sunroof of his
SUV. Paramedics took him to a hospital emergency room where he was x-rayed
and thoroughly checked out. He arrived home around 1:00 AM, shaken but with
no broken bones. He showered to wash away shattered glass that covered his
body. Warren said that he walked outside and looked up into the sky.
Lightening was flashing from towering thunderheads, and rumbling choruses of
thunder echoed from the rolling hills. He breathed a prayer of thanks to God
for his life being spared. Then he remembered a hymn he had learned as a boy
at church. He went inside and arranged his setting of “My Lord Is near Me
all the Time.” Terry Warren died suddenly in May, 2015. You can hear him
sing his arrangement of the hymn by clicking this link:

Terry Warren knew by deep personal faith that in both the giddy heights of
Broadway and Hollywood stardom and in the depths of clinical depression,
crushed dreams of pro football, and personal tragedy, “My Lord is near me
all the time.”

The words of one of my favorite psalms expressed similar faith thousands of
years ago. The psalm still rings true today:

LORD, you have examined me and know all about me.
{2} You know when I sit down and when I get up. You know my thoughts before
I think them. {3} You know where I go and where I lie down. You know
thoroughly everything I do.
{4} LORD, even before I say a word, you already know it.
{5} You are all around me–in front and in back– and have put your hand on
{6} Your knowledge is amazing to me; it is more than I can understand.
{7} Where can I go to get away from your Spirit? Where can I run from you?
{8} If I go up to the heavens, you are there. If I lie down in the grave,
you are there.
{9} If I rise with the sun in the east and settle in the west beyond the
{10} even there you would guide me. With your right hand you would hold me.
{11} I could say, “The darkness will hide me. Let the light around me turn
into night.”
{12} But even the darkness is not dark to you. The night is as light as the
day; darkness and light are the same to you. (Psalms 139:1-12 NCV)

Paul preached that assurance to early inquiring minds in Athens. He told
them, “God wanted them to look for him and perhaps search all around for him
and find him, though he is not far from any of us: {28} ‘We live in him. We
walk in him. We are in him.'” (Acts 17:27-28a NCV) Wherever we are, whatever
our circumstances might be, however dim or bright our faith may shine, God
is right there with us … all the time!

· J. Edward Culpepper

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