Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Jesus what a Friend for Sinners

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

I find great comfort and encouragement in the notion that Jesus is my friend – even though I am a sinner, He loves me and forgives me and is a constant presence in my life. As this hymn says, friends (earthly friends) can fail – but Jesus makes me whole.

I love this hymn because it so plainly states who Jesus is and what He does for us. He is our friend, our strength, our help, our guide, and our keeper. Even when we fail, He wins the victory for us.

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. I Cor. 15:57

John reminds us that we have victory that has overcome the world!– think about that next time you are tempted, tried and sometimes failing.

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith. I John 5:4

Jesus is indeed our Comforter. He has promised that we will face suffering, but Paul reminds us that we also have comfort – abundant comfort through Him.

For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. II Cor 1:5

I often find comfort in the Word. The Bible is overflowing with God’s promises that bring comfort and encouragement. I relate to King David:

This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your word has revived me. Psalm 119:50

Another way we are comforted is through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in each of us once we proclaim Jesus as our Savior. The Holy Spirit is our comforter and our guide. Jesus promised this:

“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” John 16:13

Jesus is truly my all in all. As this hymn says, MORE than all in Him I find. I rejoice and thank God that He provided Jesus to die for my sins, forgive me, and be my friend. I am His, and He is mine.

Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners
J. Wilbur Chapman

Jesus! what a Friend for sinners!
Jesus! Lover of my soul;
Friends may fail me, foes assail me,
He, my Savior, makes me whole.

Hallelujah! what a Savior!
Hallelujah! what a Friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving,
He is with me to the end.

Jesus! what a Strength in weakness!
Let me hide myself in Him.
Tempted, tried, and sometimes failing,
He, my Strength, my victory wins.

Jesus! what a Help in sorrow!
While the billows over me roll,
Even when my heart is breaking,
He, my Comfort, helps my soul.

Jesus! what a Guide and Keeper!
While the tempest still is high,
Storms about me, night overtakes me,
He, my Pilot, hears my cry.

Jesus! I do now receive Him,
More than all in Him I find.
He hath granted me forgiveness,
I am His, and He is mine.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Did You Think to Pray?

Pray without ceasing. I Thess. 5:17

Did You Think to Pray?
Words by Mary A. Kidder

Ere you left your room this morning,
Did you think to pray?
In the name of Christ our Savior,
Did you sue for loving favor,
As a shield today?

O how praying rests the weary!
Prayer will change the night to day;
So when life seems dark and dreary,
Don’t forget to pray.

When you met with great temptation,
Did you think to pray?
By His dying love and merit,
Did you claim the Holy Spirit
As your guide and stay?

When your heart was filled with anger,
Did you think to pray?
Did you plead for grace, my brother,
That you might forgive another
Who had crossed your way?

When sore trials came upon you,
Did you think to pray?
When your soul was bowed in sorrow,
Balm of Gilead did you borrow
At the gates of day?

As children of God, we have a wonderful privilege – we can go to God directly in prayer, with praise and petition. We also have the promise that Jesus lives to intercede for us (Romans 8, Hebrews 7:25) when we don’t have the words to pray.

Prayer should be a regular and natural part of our life. But as sinful humans, we don’t always commit ourselves to prayer as we should. This hymn reminds us to pray, because prayer makes a difference.

So many times I have caught myself in the midst of worry and have thought, “why am I spending time stewing over this? I should just be praying!” I love how the refrain states it: “O how praying rests the weary.” I know that I often find rest after releasing my burden and giving it to the Lord. That’s what He promises us:

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

I have found this promise to be true in my life: God has sustained me in a miraculous way when I have cast my burdens on Him. He doesn’t want us to bear them alone. He wants to bear our burden, and encourages us to bring them to Him.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 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 11:28-30

In addition to finding relief from trials and burdens, this hymn covers many different reasons for praying: to find strength for the day ahead, to be able to resist the temptor’s power, to be guided by the Holy Spirit, to plead for grace and the ability to forgive another. God wants to hear from us in all our situations. And though we may not get the answer right away, we are to keep on praying.

I love this parable that Jesus shared with his followers about prayer:

Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, "In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, 'Give me legal protection from my opponent.' For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, 'Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.'" And the Lord said, "Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" Luke 18:1-8

Our earnest prayer is pleasing to God, and He will not delay long over us! Thanks be to God for the beautiful gift of prayer.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Forgiveness: Christ is your Example

Our pastor preached on this passage about forgiveness yesterday, and I saw the story differently than I ever have before.

Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.' And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, 'Pay back what you owe.' So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you.' But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. Then summoning him, his lord said to him, 'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?' And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:21-35

The slave owes his master 10,000 talents. In today’s money, that is more than 8 BILLION dollars. There is no chance that a person could ever repay a debt that huge. Thus, the gravity of this lesson. The master demands the slave and his family to be sold in order to pay what he owes, but the slave begs for an extension. And so the master has compassion and forgives the debt. Totally forgives it! Doesn’t require a payment plan, but totally forgives it!

Are you following the metaphor here? We were slaves to a master, sin, until Christ forgave our debt by taking our place on the cross. We could never hope to repay God for the debt of our sin – it’s much more than 10,000 talents, or 8 billion dollars’ worth. There is no possible way we could ever earn enough to repay him. But God has compassion on us, releases us from our sin, and forgives us.

So what is our response? Well, don’t use the slave in this story as your example! In our story here, the slave went to his fellow slave who owed him only 100 denarii, a small fraction of what he himself owed before he was forgiven. When the fellow slave couldn’t pay, even after asking for the same extension, the first slave refused, and threw him into prison!

And then note the master’s rebuke: Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you? Think about this in light of people in your life who need your mercy and forgiveness. Christ forgave us our debt, one which we could never, ever, in a million years repay ourselves. When others offend us, it is not even close to what we did to send Christ to the cross. It is the least we can do to offer forgiveness to others since we have been forgiven by God.

As I share these thoughts on the story in Matthew 18, I realize that sometimes, forgiveness is easier said than done. We like to hold on to past hurts, grievances and offenses. So pray. Ask God for the power to release your pain and hurt and allow you to grant forgiveness to those in your life who need it. From past experience, I can say that once you forgive, you will be free.

This hymn was just recently written (1990) and beautifully captures the spirit of this parable told by Jesus.

Remember Christ and be ready to forgive.

Remember Christ, Our Savior
Words by Robert E. Smith

Remember Christ, our Savior
Who paid the debts you owed
To God the Heavenly Father
And to you mercy showed.
When others sin against you
Be ready to forgive.
Since you have been forgiven
With them in peace now live.

Go first to find your brother,
Your sister or your friend.
Do not reveal to others
The hurt you need to mend.
Confront in humble spirit
The one whose sin caused pain
That he might seek forgiveness
And you a friend regain.

When bitter anger tempts you
To nurse your broken heart
With brooding thoughts of hatred
And vows of vengeance start.
Pray to the Lord of Pardon
For power to release
Each selfish act against you
That rage might in you cease.

O Father, Son, and Spirit,
O Patient Trinity,
Who lifts from us sin’s burden
And from its debt sets free.
Grant us the will to pardon
All those who us offend
That we might enter heaven
With them when ages end.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Amid the Thronging Worshippers

“I will declare Thy Name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee.” Psalm 22:22

Sunday is my favorite day of the week. It is a day when schedules are relaxed, agendas are short and rest and rejuvenation are the priorities. Much more than that, though, it is a day when we gather with other believers to worship our Lord and Savior.

There’s something about being with the “throng of worshippers.” It’s so different than when I worship in my kitchen, my car, or at my piano. Hearing the chorus of voices raised in praise is an experience I savor. Even more so, it makes me anxious for the day we will all be together in heaven, praising and worshipping in God’s presence.

And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, "Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy; for ALL THE NATIONS WILL COME AND WORSHIP BEFORE YOU, FOR YOUR RIGHTEOUS ACTS HAVE BEEN REVEALED." Rev. 15:3-4

Praising together. To me, that’s the beauty of the Lord’s Day.

Amid the Thronging Worshippers
Author unknown, paraphrase of Psalm 22

Amid the thronging worshippers
Jehovah will I bless,
Before my brethren, gathered there,
His Name I will confess.
Come, praise Him, ye that fear the Lord,
Ye children of His grace,
With reverence sound His glories forth
And bow before His face.

The burden of the sorrowful
The Lord will not despise;
He has not turned from those that mourn,
He hearkens to their cries.
His goodness makes me join the throng
Where saints His praise proclaim,
And there will I fulfill my vows
’Mid those who fear His Name.

He feeds with good the humble soul
And satisfies the meek,
And they shall live and praise the Lord
Who for His mercy seek.
The ends of all the earth take thought,
The nations seek the Lord;
They worship Him, the King of kings,
In earth and Heav’n adored.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

He Giveth More Grace

He gives a greater grace…James 4:6

He Giveth More Grace
Words by Annie J. Flint

He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials he multiplies peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Isaiah 40:29

I don’t want to muddy up this post with a lot of my own personal thoughts, because I think this hymn and the accompanying scriptures stand very well on their own. (I guess that could be said of everything I write, but I’m feeling particularly compelled today to just let you meditate on these words.)

I am prompted to share this hymn today after reading a selection in Streams in the Desert last night. It spoke to me where I am, and I can’t stop thinking about it. The writer commented that in seeing this verse on wall hanging, he was struck with the verb “IS.”

And He has said to me, "My grace IS sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." II Cor. 12:9

God’s grace IS sufficient. Not will be, not can be, not if. It IS.

Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

Saturday, August 4, 2007

God is Working His Purpose Out

God is Working His Purpose Out
Words by Arthur Ainger

God is working His purpose out
As year succeeds to year;
God is working his purpose out,
And the time is drawing near;
Nearer and nearer draws the time,
The time that shall surely be,
When the earth shall be filled
With the glory of God
As the waters cover the sea.

From utmost east to utmost west,
Where’er man’s foot hath trod,
By the mouth of many messengers
Goes forth the voice of God:
“Give ear to Me, ye continents,
Ye isles, give ear to Me,”
That the earth may be filled
With the glory of God
As the waters cover the sea.

What can we do to work God’s work,
To prosper and increase
The brotherhood of all mankind,
The reign of the Prince of Peace?
What can we do to hasten the time,
The time that shall surely be,
When the earth shall be filled
With the glory of God
As the waters cover the sea.

March we forth in the strength of God,
With the banner of Christ unfurled,
That the light of the glorious Gospel of truth
May shine throughout the world;
Fight we the fight with sorrow and sin
To set their captives free,
That the earth may be filled
With the glory of God
As the waters cover the sea.

All we can do is nothing worth
Unless God blesses the deed;
Vainly we hope for the harvest-tide
Till God gives life to the seed;
Yet near and nearer draws the time,
The time that shall surely be,
When the earth shall be filled
With the glory of God
As the waters cover the sea.

I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. Job 42:2

In Job’s dialogue with God, he acknowledges that no purpose of His can be thwarted. God’s ways are higher than our ways – He is God and we are not. He reminds us of this many times in the Old Testament through His dealings with His people.

See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life I have wounded and it is I who heal, And there is no one who can deliver from My hand. Deut. 32:9

God is indeed working His purpose out – in our individual lives as well as in the earth as a whole.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28

Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, 'My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.' Isaiah 46:9-10

And what is His purpose? This hymn tells us that God is working His purpose out so that one day, the earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea. I cannot even begin to comment on how God will work that purpose out – but we know He will. Three separate times in His word He says

I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance. Isaiah 45:23


For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11

This hymn makes it clear that we, as Christians, have a distinct role to play in bringing closer the day that every knee will bow and the earth will be filled with the glory of God: we fight the fight with sorrow and sin to set the captives free, but note that we don’t do it on our own power: we march forth in the strength of God. God promises us this strength and Peter reminds us that He supplies the strength we need.

'Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.' Isaiah 41:10

Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. I Peter 4:11

I look forward to the day when God’s purpose will be worked out – He already knows what it will look like, and how it will happen. The rest of us need to trust Him and let His light shine through us, because one day

The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. Habakkuk 2:14