Monday, January 29, 2007

Abiding, Lessons from the Apostle John

In Abide with Me, the writer asks God to be with him in all life’s circumstances and situations. But abiding goes two ways! As Christians, we are called to abide with Christ, and the Apostle John has a lot to say about what it means to abide with Christ, and how we will look if we are abiding with, and in Christ. In addition to what John penned, he recorded much of what Jesus had to say about abiding.

"I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.”
John 14:16-17

Jesus promises His followers that when He leaves, they will get another helper – the Holy Spirit. And that we know Him because He abides in us! Paul reminds us in his first letter to the Corinthians that the Holy Spirit, whom we have from God, abides in us:

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? I Cor 6:19

John 15 gives us a beautiful picture of abiding – something that we can actually see in our minds, because we have seen vines and branches, and we can make the association.

"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” John 15:1-11

Look at the wonderful things we are promised if we are abiding in Him:
We will bear much fruit
We can ask what we wish and it will be done for us

Also look at what is required: IF you keep my commandments, [THEN] you will abide in My love.

John echoes this requirement in his writing in I John 3:24:

The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.

Earlier in the book (2:6), John reminds us of what it looks like to be a Christ follower – a daunting requirement and one that demands daily, hourly and even more frequent “checks” to see if we are actually walking the talk:

The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

The same manner as He walked! That’s a bit overwhelming. But it’s not impossible.

Since God is making me into the image of His own son through His refining work in my life, I will someday walk in the same manner as He walked. Until then, I work to attain that perfection and (try to) do as John instructs so that love can be perfected in me.

No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.
I John 4:12-17

No one has seen God at any time – but when we love one another, God abides in us. As Christians, we have the responsibility to love one another so that others will see God in us. In addition to loving each other, we are called to be light and to be different from the world. This takes many forms and can be accomplished many ways – but unfortunately, we find ourselves too

busy/preoccupied/selfish/scared/shy/comfortable/sinful (insert your reason here)

to show love to people who need it most, or to remove ourselves from situations that are too worldly. I don’t mean for this to become a soapbox, because I have plenty of growing to do on this topic as well. However, reading and studying I John has been a real wake up call for me. I am especially convicted by his many “if/then” statements.

If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet [then] walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 1:6

If anyone loves the world, [then] the love of the Father is not in him. 2:15

As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, [then] you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. 2:24

If you know that He is righteous, [then] you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him. 2:29

When I studied I John, I was struck by the frankness of his reason for writing, and his desire for his readers to be living a genuine, Christ-like life. In chapter 2, he makes it very clear:

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. 2:1

I challenge you to read I John, and prayerfully consider how you can abide more closely with Jesus.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Abide with Me

Henry Lyte wrote the words to this hymn as he was dying of tuberculosis. In fact, he died only three weeks after finishing this hymn. He knew, quite literally, how fast the eventide was falling on his life.

This hymn gives us a great picture of what it means to abide – for God to abide with us, and us to abide with Him. To abide means to remain faithful to; to be constant, steady and unchanging. That certainly describes God. Does it describe us?

When reading through the Gospels, it’s easy to see how many times Jesus helped the helpless – giving sight to the blind, making the lame walk, raising the dead. As I thought about this, I realized that we are the most helpless of all. We, as sinners, were helpless to save ourselves. So God sent His son to be our helper! He took our sins on Himself so that we would be forgiven and made clean, white as snow.

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5:3

It is so easy to become discouraged and depressed when we look around us – as the hymn writer says “change and decay in all around I see.” That the God of the Universe who doesn’t change, wants to abide with us, is really quite mind-boggling. Our hope is in the Lord who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

“For I, the LORD, do not change.” Malachi 3:6

I love verse three – not included in many hymnals – why not? Look at the beautiful picture we have here:

Not a brief glance, not a passing word,
but as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples Lord

The writer yearns to have God abide with him the way Jesus lived with the disciples –to be familiar, well-known. The author is saying “Jesus, come live with me the way you lived here on earth and interacted with the disciples – as a friend, humbly and patiently dwelling with us.”

Come not to sojourn – a sojourn is a temporary stay, a stop over – don’t just stop by, Jesus, but ABIDE.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

The next verse is another that’s usually not included in hymnals, maybe because it hits too close to home and people would be uncomfortable singing about their rebellious and perverse youth… but look at the great truth: “Thou hast not left me.” In the Old Testament, God assures Israel that He will never leave them nor forsake them. (Deuteronomy 31:6) Many generations later, these promises were remembered (I Kings 8:57). And in the New Testament, the writer of Hebrews reminds us of that promise (13:5). I find great assurance in knowing that He will never leave us.

The next verse is really my heart’s song: I need Thee every hour. Who, but the Lord, can be my guide? He’s the only One who knows what the future holds, and what His plans are for me.

'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’ Jeremiah 29:11

With God as our helper, we can triumph over any foe, human or otherwise. God is on our side, and we need not fear man, or what man can do to us.

In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me? Psalm 56:4

Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross has destroyed the power of death for those who believe in Him.

Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. Hebrews 2:14-15

In the final verse, we have a wonderful picture of what death will be like for those who put their faith in Jesus Christ: heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee! Our Lord and Savior will be waiting to welcome us to our eternal home! Doesn’t it make you want to shout “Hallelujah!”?

Dear Jesus, in life and death, in cloud and sunshine, be my comfort, my helper, and my guide, but most of all, abide with me.

Abide with Me
Words by Henry Lyte

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.

Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word;
But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.

Thou on my head in early youth didst smile;
And, though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee,
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, 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.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Monday, January 22, 2007

How Firm a Foundation

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
II Timothy 3:16-17

As Christians, those who put their faith in Jesus Christ, we are called to be different from the world – to live differently, to be holy as God is holy. How do we do this? And how do we know what to do? God has provided for us by leaving us His word, the Bible.

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4

In the first verse of this well-known hymn, we are reminded that God has laid the foundation for our faith in His excellent word. In subsequent verses, the hymn tells of the promises God has given us in the Scriptures.

Verse 2 is not included in the “standard” version of this hymn printed in many hymnals, but it gives us a wonderful picture of God’s provision for His children. He will give us strength for whatever our current situation demands.

Paul encourages the Philippians that my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (4:19) God will supply all your needs -including strength, God-given strength, to face each day and each situation.

This is a common theme for Paul. In letters to both the Ephesians and the Colossians, Paul prays that God would grant His people strength.
…that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man. Ephesians 3:16

For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. Colossians 1:9-12

In verse 3 we are reminded that God will not forsake us – he will help us and hold us in his omnipotent hand. Since I’ve written on that theme for many previous posts, we’ll move on to verses 4 and 5.

These verses remind us that life will not be easy – we will go through the deep waters and our pathways will lead to fiery trials. Notice the author’s writing of verse 4 – “When through the deep waters I call thee to go” - Sometimes we take ourselves through the deep waters, but oftentimes, God leads us there. Not because it’s fun, but rather, for our continuing sanctification. It’s in these deep waters that we draw near to God and cling to His promises. It's also through the deep waters that we are changed into the likeness of God’s son. The following passage reminds us that in these times, God is with us!

But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:1-3

Verse 5 is a picture of the Refiner’s fire. When silver is being refined, it must be held at a certain HOT temperature for a certain amount of time – and during the process, the dross, or the stuff that clouds up the silver – floats to the top and is taken out. The process of purifying is complete when the silversmith sees his own image reflected in the silver.

The silversmith has to be very careful to use the right amount of heat for the right amount of time, so that the silver is perfected. The silversmith must sit and watch, with his eyes fixed on the furnace, for if it goes too long, or gets too hot, the silver will be injured.

This is how God works in us – he uses the fiery trials of our life to refine us – to get rid of the dross, the junk – to make us more perfect and holy. Although it’s usually not pleasant, God knows how hot to make the fire, and how long to keep us in it, so that when we come out, we are more like Jesus and less like our sinful selves – and, since He has his eyes on us the whole time, we know that we will not be injured.

Verse 6 encourages us that when we are old, we will be able to prove his unchangeable love, and verse 7 gives us the assurance us that God will never leave us.

Micah 7:18 tells us that God delights in unchanging love, and the Bible is chock full of examples of His love for His people – love that did not change over time or was not dependent on circumstances. In fact, we know that He loved us so much, that He sent Jesus to die for us, so that we can have eternal life! We can rejoice knowing that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

It doesn’t matter what might happen or how we might be shaken – we can rest knowing The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8

How Firm a Foundation
Words by John Rippon

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

In every condition, in sickness, in health;
In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth;
At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

Even down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Rock of Ages, Cleft for ME

This is a hymn that many of us could sing by heart, at least the first verse. And again, this is a hymn we may have sung and not really paid close attention to the words: words that are rich with theology and personal application.

Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first man and of the other who was crucified with Him; but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. John 19:31-34

We are offered salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself on the cross. When we believe, by faith, that Jesus is God’s son and that He died on the cross in our place, we are saved: saved from our life of sin, and saved from God’s wrath.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. Romans 5:8-9

As the writer of Hebrews says, it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God (10:31).

We can be assured that we are spared God’s wrath because of Jesus’ atoning work.

But there’s more!

Jesus’ blood makes us pure! It washes away our sins, making us white as snow, taking away our guilt and shame, and replacing it with righteousness. Righteousness that we have ONLY because of Christ, for we know that we are not righteous on our own.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. II Cor 5:21

Not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faithPhil 3:9

Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself on the cross, the water and blood that poured from His side, is “of sin the double cure”! Hallelujah!

In the second verse we are reminded that there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation or to pay for our sins. It doesn’t matter how hard we work, how much zeal we have, or how much we cry!

“Thou must save and Thou alone.”

I am so thankful that it’s not about me and what I can do to atone for my sin – I could never do it!

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God… Ephesians 2:8

We are all sinful people, and our sin separates us from God. Unless we accept the gift of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins, and are washed by His cleansing blood, we will die. After our physical death, we will face eternal separation from God. The great news is that each one of us can be washed clean in the fountain and be forgiven for our sins. There is nothing we can offer God in exchange for this gift – we can only cling to His cross and receive His forgiveness, and enter into a restored relationship with Him.

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. Romans 5:10-11

For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. Colossians 1:19-20

Jesus, our Rock, who was cleft (this word literally means to divide by striking a blow) on the cross for us, offers us salvation, the only way to have a right relationship with God and an eternal home with Him.

If you haven’t accepted His gift, will you, in faith, accept it today?

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” John 14:6

Rock Of Ages
Words by Augustus M. Toplady

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.

Friday, January 12, 2007

I Must Tell Jesus

I love the LORD, because He hears my voice and my supplications.
Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.
Psalm 116: 1-2

It is amazing to think that the God of the Universe desires to hear from us. When we have trials, or concerns, He is there to listen and guide us through. He cares for us so deeply, and wants us to bring our burdens to Him. And what sweet relief it offers!

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

It is our privilege to be able to go to God directly. I’ve tried to deal with my burdens myself – and I bear the needless pain as the verse of What A Friend says – all because I have not carried everything to God in prayer! Lately, I have felt the Spirit urge me to pray, about things both major and minor in my mind, but equally important to God. When I start to worry about something, I have felt His urging: “Pray about it.”

Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken. Psalm 55:22

I Must Tell Jesus
Words and Music by Elisha Hoffman

I must tell Jesus all of my trials;
I cannot bear these burdens alone;
In my distress He kindly will help me;
He ever loves and cares for His own.

I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
I cannot bear my burdens alone;
I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.

I must tell Jesus all of my troubles;
He is a kind, compassionate friend;
If I but ask Him, He will deliver,
Make of my troubles quickly an end.

If I but ask Him! What encouragement. John also reminds us of the confidence we have as His children, and our assurance of a Father who hears us and answers.

This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him. I John 5:14-15

Tempted and tried, I need a great Savior;
One Who can help my burdens to bear;
I must tell Jesus, I must tell Jesus;
He all my cares and sorrows will share.

"Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Matthew 11:29-30

Jesus promises that when we come to Him and are yoked (joined) with Him, our burdens become light. He will Himself bear our burdens for us, and we can rest in Him. It took me a while to understand this concept, but now that I do, it brings great comfort! A yoke, when put on two animals, distributes the burden equally between the animals. Jesus tells us that His burden is light! So when ours is heavy, and we share it with him, it is distributed and our burden becomes light, because Jesus carries the heavy part!

O how the world to evil allures me!
O how my heart is tempted to sin!
I must tell Jesus, and He will help me
Over the world the victory to win.

Jesus can help us, because He has been there. He has been tempted “in all things as we are” according to Hebrews 4:15. And because of that, He can come to our aid when we are tempted! (Hebrews 2:18)

We can have victory, through Jesus, over the world and its evil temptations!
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
I Cor 15:56-57

"These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." John 16:33

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Be Still, Verses 4 & 5

I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. Psalm 104:33

In the final two stanzas of Be Still, we are reminded that our earthly trials are temporary and as a result, we are to praise Him! I know I look forward to the day when disappointment, grief and fear are gone and sorrow is forgotten. The hour IS hastening on – each hour we live, in fact, brings us closer to meeting our Lord and Maker. And so our response? Praise Him, Praise Him, and acknowledge Him in all your words and ways. The writer in the last verse seems to be saying that when we praise Him and acknowledge Him in all our ways, He will shine more brightly through the clouds of our life. I know this is true for me: praising God helps me see Him even in the midst of trials and tribulations.

O Lord, open my lips, that my mouth may declare Your praise. Psalm 51:15

When I am focused on God, His attributes and His power, I am not focused on my situation, disappointment or grief. I see Him shining most clearly when I am praising Him. I need to consistently work at having an attitude of praise and thanksgiving towards my Heavenly Father, believing while I am here on Earth that His way will be accomplished in my life, and that He will shine!

Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.
Hebrews 13:15

Verse 4:
Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Verse 5:
Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, believing, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Be Still, Verse 3

In verse 3 of Be Still, we are reminded that through our own hurt and grief, we can better know Jesus and His love for us. Hebrews 2:17 tells us that Jesus had to become like His brethren in all things so that He would be a merciful high priest.

Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

While Jesus was on Earth he displayed His humanity in many ways, even by displaying sorrow and grief. In John 11, Jesus is called to come and heal Lazarus who is sick. Jesus is friends with Lazarus, and his sisters, Mary and Martha, but He purposely waits two days before going to their village. As we know from this famous account, by the time He leaves, Lazarus is now dead and is buried. When Jesus gets to the village, Lazarus’ sisters are quite upset that He didn’t come earlier, because they know He could have healed him.

Jesus asks to be taken to the place where Lazarus was buried. When he gets there, he weeps, and the Jews say “see how He loved him.” His humanity was apparent to everyone there! He cried, no WEPT, over Lazarus' death! But they also asked “Couldn’t you have kept him from dying?” Then John tells us that Jesus was deeply moved within. Lazarus was his friend; he was truly grieved by his death. But Jesus had said earlier in this story, "This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it." (verse 4) Jesus brings Lazarus back to life, and many who witnessed came to believe in Him. (verse 45)

I find this story profound because Jesus clearly demonstrates His humanity and His deity. He weeps for Lazarus, and is deeply moved within, and He also displays His resurrection power in bringing Lazarus back to life.

Since Jesus became human in every way (except without sin), He can clearly identify with us when we grieve and are sorrowful. He has experienced it too! He knows what we’re going through, and He can come to our aid. Through His comfort, we will better know His heart, so we can become more like Him, our perfect example.

Verse 3:
Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Be Still, Verse 2

Writing about the verses of “Be Still, My Soul” leads to me think of more hymns that tell of the glorious truth of God’s providence and sovereignty in guiding us along in life. I couldn’t resist posting the words to this great German hymn:

If You Will Only Let God Guide You
Words and music by Georg Neumark

If you will only let God guide you,
And hope in Him through all your ways,
Whatever comes, He’ll stand beside you,
To bear you through the evil days;
Who trusts in God’s unchanging love
Builds on the Rock that cannot move.

Only be still, and wait His leisure
In cheerful hope, with heart content
To take whatever the Father’s pleasure
And all discerning love have sent;
Nor doubt our inmost wants are known
To Him Who chose us for His own.

Sing, pray, and swerve not from His ways,
But do your part in conscience true;
Trust His rich promises of grace,
So shall they be fulfilled in you;
God hears the call of those in need,
The souls that trust in Him indeed.

But now, back to Be Still, My Soul! I love how this verse ends: we can be still because the waves and winds know His voice – He ruled them even while He was here on earth.

When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, "Save us, Lord; we are perishing!" He said to them, "Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?" Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. The men were amazed, and said, "What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?" Matthew 8:23-27

God certainly has the power to calm the seas – the literal ones, and the stormy seas of our lives. However, He may not choose to do that. I am reminded of the song by Scott Krippayne sung by Steven Curtis Chapman:

Sometimes He calms the storm
With a whispered peace be still
He can settle any sea
But it doesn't mean He will
Sometimes He holds us close
And lets the wind and waves go wild
Sometimes He calms the storm
And other times He calms His child

The second verse of Be Still reminds us that God is in charge: that he has brought us thus far, and will continue to guide the future. When we are steadfast in Him, we will one day look back and see how His work unfolded in our lives.

Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. Hebrews 10:35-36

Verse 2:
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Be Still My Soul, Part I

You can see that there is a theme in my meditations for the New Year, if you hadn’t detected it already. The New Year provides a good opportunity to look back and see what the Lord has done, and look forward to a future directed by Him. I hope you can join me in saying “thus far the LORD has helped us.”

There is so much comfort in “Be Still my Soul.” In this hymn there are so many reminders of God’s faithfulness, sovereignty and love for His children. (I have so many things to say about this hymn, and it is so rich with truth, that I will be posting on it one verse at a time.)

This hymn also reminds us that we are to be still. For me, that’s very hard. Hard because I want to be in control of what’s going on in my life. Hard because I don’t like to wait. Hard because I can’t see the big picture.

I was reminded of this again last night when singing “Have Thine Own Way, Lord” – the first verse says

Mold me and make me, after Thy will
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

It hit me: we can only be molded and made after His will if we are still. A potter can’t work with clay that is jumping around, trying to become a pot on its own. (I know that clay can’t really do this, but it worked as an illustration for me!) I can only be molded by God if I am yielded to His work in my life. This means waiting, and being still.

The remarkable thing is, we can be sure that while we are being still, God is at work! At work to make us into the image of His Son, at work to change our hearts and align us with His will – and in every change, He will remain faithful! He is faithful in leading us through the thorns and to a joyful end, making us perfect and complete.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

Be Still My Soul
Words by Katharina A. von Schlegel

Verse 1:
Be still my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Supported in His Mighty Hand

Great God, We Sing Your Mighty Hand
Words by Philip Doddridge

Great God, we sing Your mighty hand
By which supported still we stand;
The opening year Your mercy shows,
That mercy crowns it ’til its close.

Lamentations 3:22-23
The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.

By day, by night, at home, abroad,
Still are we guarded by our God,
By His incessant bounty fed,
By His unerring counsel led.

The second verse reminds me of the Israelites in the dessert. God guarded them by day and by night, leading them to their new home in the Promised Land. He provided manna so they wouldn’t be hungry and made rocks burst forth with water so they wouldn’t be thirsty. Best of all, he provided the law (His unerring counsel) to lead them in the way of righteousness. Unfortunately, they didn’t obey. They were a grumbling group, complaining often, especially when they were sick of the manna and when they thought the “giants” in the Promised Land would overtake them. God provided even then! He gave them so much quail it was coming out of their nostrils! (Talk about incessant bounty!) And in His unerring counsel he punished those who lied about the inhabitants of the land, and led Joshua, Caleb, and those who obeyed and feared God into the Promised Land.

With grateful hearts the past we own;
The future, all to us unknown,
We to Thy guardian care commit,
And peaceful leave before Thy feet.

Can you leave the unknown future peacefully at His feet? Philippians 4:6-7 reminds us that peace is attainable even in the most distressing situations in our lives; we can have peace when we, in thanksgiving, make our requests known to God.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

In scenes exalted or depressed,
Thou art our joy, and Thou our rest;
Thy goodness all our hopes shall raise,
Adored through all our changing days.

Let's resolve to adore Him throughout our changing days, regardless of our situations and circumstances. God's great mighty hand is still moving in our world. He never changes, and we can rest in that assurance.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

My Times are in Thy Hand

As we start a new year, I find encouragement in this hymn that reminds us of God’s sovereignty in our lives. Too often I take my times into my own hands. God has the ultimate plan for my new year, my life and everything in it. How comforting to know that we can rest in His care.

My Times are in Thy Hand
Words by William F. Lloyd

My times are in Thy hand;
My God, I wish them there;
My life, my friends, my soul I leave
Entirely to Thy care.

Psalm 139:7-10
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me.

My times are in Thy hand;
Whatever they may be;
Pleasing or painful, dark or bright,
As best may seem to Thee.

My times are in Thy hand;
Why should I doubt or fear?
My Father’s hand will never cause
His child a needless tear.

Isaiah 43:1-3
But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

My times are in Thy hand,
Jesus, the crucified!
Those hands my cruel sins had pierced
Are now my guard and guide.

Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

My times are in Thy hand,
I’ll always trust in Thee;
And, after death, at Thy right hand
I shall forever be.

John 5:24
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

Head over to Sallie's to find more Carnival of Beauty entries for "The Beauty of the New Year."