Monday, December 22, 2008

See, Amid the Winter's Snow

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Philippians 2:5-8

In just a few days, we will celebrate the coming of the Lamb who had been promised to His people for many, many years. The way He came was a surprise to many. Amid the winter’s snow, He was born in a barn, and placed in a feeding trough. Those waiting for their Messiah would have never expected it. But God had the perfect plan.

God sent a baby – Jesus – who loved those in the world so tenderly that He was willing to become human and leave the bliss of heaven in exchange for a brief human life in this world of sin.

Jesus is the answer to this world of sin. His work on the cross paid the price for all sin, for all time. This was God’s plan, and Jesus submitted to the Father’s will. Jesus, being fully God, obeyed His Father and submitted to His will in taking the form of a servant and being obedient even to death on a cross. The final verse of this hymn is my prayer: Holy child, teach us to resemble Thee, in Thy sweet humility.

In this season, may we seek after Him, humble ourselves, and commit ourselves anew to obedience to God.

See Amid the Winter’s Snow
Words by Edward Caswall

See amid the winter’s snow,
Born for us on earth below,
See, the gentle Lamb appears,
Promised from eternal years.

Hail that ever blessed morn,
Hail redemption’s happy dawn,
Sing through all Jerusalem:
Christ is born in Bethlehem.

Lo, within a manger lies
He Who built the starry skies;
He Who, throned in height sublime,
Sits amid the cherubim.

Say, you holy shepherds, say,
Tell your joyful news today.
Why have you now left your sheep
On the lonely mountain steep?

“As we watched at dead of night,
Lo, we saw a wondrous light;
Angels singing ‘Peace on earth’
Told us of the Savior’s birth.”

Sacred Infant, all divine,
What a tender love was Thine,
Thus to come from highest bliss
Down to such a world as this.

Teach, O teach us, holy Child,
By Thy face so meek and mild,
Teach us to resemble Thee,
In Thy sweet humility.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

All Praise to Thee, Eternal Lord

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. II Corinthians 8:9

This Christmas hymn written by Martin Luther beautifully contrasts Jesus’ deity and humanity. I find the words of this hymn especially poignant as we contemplate the God of the Universe becoming a man of flesh and dwelling among us; fully God and fully man.

Jesus chose a manger for His throne.

And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

This is the same Jesus through whom the world was created.

He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. John 1:10

A manger became the throne for the One who owns the world and everything in it.

The earth is the LORD'S, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it. Psalm 24:1

Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. I Chronicles 29:11

Jesus entered the world just like every other human does; as a baby. The One whom the heavens bowed before became a helpless infant. He entered the world in the darkness of night to bring light to the world that was dark because of sin. He came

to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me. Acts 26:18

Jesus did all this because of His love for us!

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16

What is our response? To sing our thanks in ceaseless praise.

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, that my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever. Psalm 30:11-12

All Praise to Thee, Eternal Lord
Words by Martin Luther

All praise to Thee, Eternal Lord,
Clothed in a garb of flesh and blood;
Choosing a manger for Thy throne,
While worlds on worlds are Thine alone.

Once did the skies before Thee bow;
A virgin’s arms contain Thee now,
While angels, who in Thee rejoice,
Now listen for Thine infant voice.

A little Child, Thou art our Guest,
That weary ones in Thee may rest;
Forlorn and lowly is Thy birth;
That we may rise to Heaven from earth.

Thou comest in the darksome night
To make us children of the light;
To make us, in the realms divine,
Like Thine own angels round Thee shine.

All this for us Thy love hath done;
By this to Thee our love is won;
For this we tune our cheerful lays,
And sing our thanks in ceaseless praise.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Send the Light

There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. John 1:9

As we look forward to Christ’s second advent, we must think about what we can do to hasten His coming. We don’t know exactly when it will be, but we do know what Jesus taught about what must happen before He comes again.

As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will mislead many. You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:3-14

Did you catch it? Here it is again:

This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 2:14

Jesus will not come again until the gospel has been preached in the whole world. So what are we doing to hasten His coming? Peter instructs us that we should be both looking for and hastening that day.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! II Peter 3:10-12

George Ladd, in A Motive for Mission, implores all Christians to accomplish our mission of taking Christ’s name into all the world, so that Christ will return and establish His kingdom in glory. He says,

"Christ has not returned, therefore the task is not done. When it is done, Christ will come. Our responsibility is not to insist on defining the terms of our task; our responsibility is to complete it. So long as Christ does not return, our work is not done. Let us get busy and complete our mission… Do you love the Lord’s appearing? Then you will bend every effort to take the gospel into all the world."

Not all of us are called to go to foreign nations to preach the gospel. Those of us who don’t go have two important roles: provide and pray. Most of us can financially support those who do go to preach the gospel in every nation. All of us can fast and pray. We must pray for those who are preaching the Word in far off, or close by lands, and we must pray for God’s kingdom to come.

In less than two weeks we will celebrate the light that came into the world to enlighten every man. That light must be sent out: to every tribe and nation, that they might know God who became flesh, who came that we might no longer walk in darkness. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life. John 8:12

Send the Light
Words by Charles H. Gabriel

There’s a call comes ringing over the restless wave,
“Send the light! Send the light!”
There are souls to rescue there are souls to save,
Send the light! Send the light!

Send the light, the blessed Gospel light;
Let it shine from shore to shore!
Send the light, the blessed Gospel light;
Let it shine forevermore!

We have heard the Macedonian call today,
“Send the light! Send the light!”
And a golden offering at the cross we lay,
Send the light! Send the light!

Let us pray that grace may everywhere abound,
“Send the light! Send the light!”
And a Christlike spirit everywhere be found,
Send the light! Send the light!

Let us not grow weary in the work of love,
“Send the light! Send the light!”
Let us gather jewels for a crown above,
Send the light! Send the light!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Little Children, Advent Bids You

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the period of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. As we wait to celebrate His first coming, we also look forward to when He will come again to take us home with Him.

Although we don’t know exactly when, we can be assured that He is coming back for us for Jesus said so while He was here on Earth.

In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. John 14:2-3

The Scriptures tell us that we won’t know when that will be – it could be night or day, soon or later.

Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.
I Thessalonians 5:1-2

We know that He is coming, but we don't know the day or time. Jesus taught that it is our responsibility to be ready! Jesus told this parable in Matthew 25. We must be on the alert, and ready for His return.

Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep.

But at midnight there was a shout, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the prudent, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the prudent answered, 'No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.'

And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. Later the other virgins also came, saying, 'Lord, lord, open up for us.' But he answered, 'Truly I say to you, I do not know you.'

Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour. Matthew 25:1-13

When we go to our heavenly home, we can look forward to falling before Him and singing His praises, loving Him, serving Him and adoring Him. I know I look forward to that day!

And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, "Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever Amen." Revelation 7:11-12

Little Children, Advent Bids You
Words by Esther Wiglesworth

Little children, Advent bids you
Meet your Lord upon His way;
Watch, for now the night is waning,
Soon will dawn the endless day.

Little children, Jesus bids you
Daily pray, “Thy kingdom come”;
Watch, and wait for His appearing,
Till He come to take you home.

Little children, He anoints you
With His spirit from above;
See then that your lamps be burning
With the fire of faith and love.

Little children, when we think not
We shall hear the awful cry,
“Go ye forth to meet the Bridegroom;
Haste, for Jesus draweth nigh.”

Little children, they shall meet Him,
Faithful children of the light;
They whose lamps are trimmed and burning,
And their garments pure and white.

O how blest to fall before Him,
O how blest His praise to sing.
Love Him, serve Him, and adore Him,
In the city of our King.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Now Thank we All our God

… be thankful. Colossians 3:15

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I know I have much to be thankful for, the greatest of which is a Savior who loves and sustains me. Although tomorrow is a day set aside to be thankful, as Christians, is it our calling to be thankful in all things. There is no shortage of scriptures exhorting us to give thanks to God.

…always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father... Ephesians 5:20

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. Colossians 3:17

In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. I Thessalonians 5:18

In everything give thanks. Everything. In plenty, in want, in happiness, in sorrow, in sickness, in health, in suffering, in joy. Give thanks.

The author of this hymn, a pastor in Saxony, knew about giving thanks in all things. This hymn was written during the Thirty Years’ War, circa 1636. His city was surrounded by the Swedish army, and plague and famine were rampant. At one point, he was conducting 50 funerals each day. When the Swedish demanded a huge ransom, Pastor Rinkart left the safety of the city walls to plead with them for mercy. The Swed­ish command­er, im­pressed by the pastor’s faith and cour­age, low­ered his de­mands. Soon af­ter­ward, the war end­ed.

It is a test­a­ment to Pastor Rinkart’s faith that, af­ter such mis­e­ry, he was able to write a hymn of abid­ing trust and gra­ti­tude to­ward God.

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

Happy Thanksgiving! May you join with the angels in saying

"Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen." Revelation 7:12

Now Thank we All our God
Words by Martin Rinkart

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

O Worship the King

Come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Psalm 95:6-7

When you are in the midst of suffering, when you are mistreated and in pain, the best way to react is by getting your eyes off your situation, and focusing on Christ.

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. Colossians 3:1-2

This is not easy. But it is necessary. We are to be looking to Jesus as our example, and turning to Him for grace and strength.

I find the quickest way to get my eyes off myself and onto Jesus is by worshiping Him. While we are living here on earth, we have countless opportunities every day to focus on God and give Him glory through worship. And we look forward to the day when we will be with Him in heaven, and our days and nights will consist of endless worship. He is worthy!

And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, "Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created." Revelation 4:9-11

O Worship the King
Words by William Kethe

O worship the King, all glorious above,
O gratefully sing His power and His love;
Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days,
Pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise.

O tell of His might, O sing of His grace,
Whose robe is the light, whose canopy space,
His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form,
And dark is His path on the wings of the storm.

The earth with its store of wonders untold,
Almighty, Thy power hath founded of old;
Established it fast by a changeless decree,
And round it hath cast, like a mantle, the sea.

Thy bountiful care, what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;
It streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
And sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.

Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
In Thee do we trust, nor find Thee to fail;
Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end,
Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.

O measureless might! Ineffable love!
While angels delight to worship Thee above,
The humbler creation, though feeble their lays,
With true adoration shall all sing Thy praise.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Grace, Enough for Me

And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. " Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. II Corinthians 12:19

When the Savior leads you through trials and suffering, you must remember that you have a place to run to – the throne of grace.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 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 4:14-16

When you run to the throne of grace and appropriate His grace in your time of need, you are a shining example of the reality of God’s grace and His sufficiency. When others see you go through a trial and yet trust God’s purposes, they see the reality of Christ!

Your trials are not without purpose!

And they will not destroy you. They can become your platform for the reality of Christ and His all-sufficient grace.

Paul is a great example of this – God used his sufferings to spread His grace to others.

For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you…For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God. II Cor. 4:11-12, 15

God’s grace takes us through our suffering. Because of that, we can say with Paul,

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.
II Cor. 4:7-10

God’s grace saves us, sustains us, and is sufficient in every need and every trial. His grace is enough for me.

Grace, Enough for me
Words by Edwin Excell

In looking through my tears one day,
I saw Mount Calvary;
Beneath the cross there flowed a stream
Of grace, enough for me.

Grace is flowing from Calvary,
Grace as fathomless as the sea,
Grace for time and eternity,
Grace, enough for me.

While standing there, my trembling heart,
Once full of agony,
Could scarce believe the sight I saw
Of grace, enough for me.

When I beheld my every sin
Nailed to the cruel tree,
I felt a flood go through my soul
Of grace, enough for me.

When I am safe within the veil,
My portion there will be,
To sing through all the years to come
Of grace, enough for me.

Friday, November 7, 2008

All the Way My Savior Leads Me

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. II Corinthians 2:14

I’ve been singing this song in my head a lot lately. I find such comfort in the fact that whatever befalls me, I know that my Savior has led me there, and has a purpose for it in my life. If you are walking through the water, flood or fire, you can be assured that it is He who leads you.

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 43:2-3

He leads us in paths of righteousness in order to bring glory to Himself. If you are His child, He is using this path to refine you, and make you into the image of His son so that He will receive the glory and praise.

He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Psalm 23:3

If he is guiding you a down a path that is full of trials and suffering, you can be assured that it is temporary and limited to this lifetime.

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
I Peter 1:6-7

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Romans 8:18

As God leads us along, may we have the same attitude as Paul - being willing to suffer the loss of all things for His name, and desiring to identify with Christ through His suffering.

More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, 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 faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:8-11

All the Way My Savior Leads Me
Words by Fanny Crosby

All the way my Savior leads me;
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.

All the way my Savior leads me,
Cheers each winding path I tread;
Gives me grace for every trial,
Feeds me with the living Bread.
Though my weary steps may falter,
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see;
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see.

All the way my Savior leads me
O the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father’s house above.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day
This my song through endless ages—
Jesus led me all the way;
This my song through endless ages—
Jesus led me all the way.

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Mighty Fortress is our God

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! II Cor. 9:15

Today is Reformation Day, the commemoration of the day in 1517 that Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses at the doors of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany to debate the doctrine and practice of indulgences. This was not an act of defiance as is sometimes thought. Luther was simply taking advantage of location: since the Castle Church faced Wittenberg's main thoroughfare, the church door functioned as a public bulletin board and was therefore the logical place for posting important notices.

This posting of the Theses was an initial attempt to bring reform to the Catholic Church. Many were troubled by what they saw as false doctrines and malpractices within the Church, particularly involving the teaching and sale of indulgences. This corruption was seen by many at the time as systemic, even reaching the position of the Pope.

An indulgence, in Roman Catholic theology, is the full or partial remission of temporal punishment due for sins which have already been forgiven. The indulgence is granted by the church after the sinner has confessed and received absolution. The belief is that indulgences draw on the storehouse of merit acquired by Jesus' sacrifice and the virtues and penances of the saints. They are granted for specific good works and prayers.

Luther knew, from reading God’s Word, that people didn’t need to buy forgiveness from the church – it was already granted to us from God through Jesus Christ’s work on the cross. And it is not a result of good works and prayers, but rather is God’s free gift to us!

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Paul makes it clear that it’s nothing we can do – it is not of ourselves. More good works and more prayers won’t “buy” us more grace. It’s God’s gift to those who believe. We have all sinned, but we are justified as a gift by His grace, and not by the works of the Law.

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. Romans 3:21-28

Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. Galatians 2:16

I am so thankful that I don't have to earn, or buy, forgiveness and grace. As a child of the King, I am granted it daily. For that, I praise Him.

*Although this hymn's content is not about work vs grace, it is the traditional Reformation hymn so I wanted to include it today.

A Mighty Fortress is Our God
Words by Martin Luther

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Jesus Shall Reign

Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.” Revelation 19:6

Like many, I have been caught up in the frenzy surrounding the upcoming election. Largely because of what I wrote about last week, I feel the outcome of this election is more important than any other in my lifetime. The stakes are high. And I find myself getting all worked up and worried about it time and again. I was so encouraged to be reminded of these important truths as I listened to a radio program.

On November 5, God will still own the whole earth.

No election will ever put Jesus back in the grave.

No election results will ever impede the day of Christ’s coming again.

We can be sure that God reigns over the whole world yesterday, tomorrow, tomorrow, through the coming weeks, months, years, and FOREVER.

The LORD shall reign forever and ever. Exodus 15:18

Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever." Revelation 11:15

Jesus Shall Reign
Words by Isaac Watts

Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
Does his successive journeys run;
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.

To Him shall endless prayer be made,
And praises throng to crown His head;
His Name like sweet perfume shall rise
With every morning sacrifice.

People and realms of every tongue
Dwell on His love with sweetest song;
And infant voices shall proclaim
Their early blessings on His Name.

Blessings abound wherever He reigns;
The prisoner leaps to lose his chains;
The weary find eternal rest,
And all the sons of want are blessed.

Where He displays His healing power,
Death and the curse are known no more:
In Him the tribes of Adam boast
More blessings than their father lost.

Let every creature rise and bring
Peculiar honors to our King;
Angels descend with songs again,
And earth repeat the loud amen!

Great God, whose universal sway
The known and unknown worlds obey,
Now give the kingdom to Thy Son,
Extend His power, exalt His throne.

The scepter well becomes His hands;
All Heav’n submits to His commands;
His justice shall avenge the poor,
And pride and rage prevail no more.

With power He vindicates the just,
And treads th’oppressor in the dust:
His worship and His fear shall last
Till hours, and years, and time be past.

As rain on meadows newly mown,
So shall He send his influence down:
His grace on fainting souls distills,
Like heav’nly dew on thirsty hills.

The saints shall flourish in His days,
Dressed in the robes of joy and praise;
Peace, like a river, from His throne
Shall flow to nations yet unknown.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Christ the Lord is King

The LORD is King forever and ever; nations have perished from His land. Psalm 10:16

Sometimes I am so disappointed and downright disgusted with what is happening in our world. I hardly ever watch the news anymore, and when I do, I end up wishing I wasn’t. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that most people in our country, and across the world, have forsaken the Word of the Lord. Many people have stopped living by any moral code, much less the Biblical standard, and they have devised a new moral code, based on their own feelings or what they think is right. It reminds me of what was happening in the book of Judges:

In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes. Judges 17:6

Have you ever read Judges? It is fascinating. And it is clear what “what was right” was different for each person and led to much disaster. After all,

The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9

The people of Israel wanted their own human King – the other nations had them, and they wanted to be like them. But God wanted to be Israel’s king, and Israel just didn’t get it.

I see so many parallels in our world today – although we have government rulers on a regional, state and national level, God is still our King. Many in our world don’t live in a way that honors, or even acknowledges, God as King. But He is still King. He has established standards for us, and when we do what is right in our own eyes, we invariably go against those standards. In other words, we sin.

As believers in Christ, we are set free from our slavery to sin. However, we live in a world full of people who I believe to be increasingly enslaved in their immorality, selfishness and disregard for Christ. Let us pray that these people would repent and proclaim Christ as King in their lives.

…if My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
II Chron. 7:14

Christ the Lord is King
Words by Fanny Crosby

Shout for joy, ye holy throng,
Christ the Lord is King;
Angel harps, the sound prolong,
Christ the Lord is King.

Bear the news from pole to pole,
Spread the truth from sea to sea,
Lo! the Prince of life and glory
King of Heav’n and earth shall be.

Shout for joy, ye nations all,
Christ the Lord is King;
Crowns before His throne shall fall,
Christ the Lord is King.

He Who rent the boasting grave,
Christ the Lord is King;
He Who lives the lost to save,
Christ the Lord is King.

Shout for joy, ye realms of night,
Christ the Lord is King;
Hail the beams of Gospel light,
Christ the Lord is King.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

What a Wonderful Savior

Last night began the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement. Yom Kippur is the most solemn and important of Jewish holidays, a time set aside for fasting and prayer, in order to seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God and against each other.

Especially during this time of year, when I see the throngs of people in my neighborhood making their annual pilgrimage to the temple, I am so thankful I have a Savior who has made atonement for me! Praise God for His miraculous gift that sent Jesus to atone for my sins and set me free!

The Law was given by God to show people their sin. God knew that we, as sinners, would never be able to live up to the requirements of the Law. Especially since breaking one law meant breaking the WHOLE LAW!

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. James 2:10

God's grace sent Jesus to the cross on my behalf.

He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. I Peter 2:24

I should have died in my sins, but Jesus took my place. He took my sins, and the sins of the whole world, on His body, and died a substitutionary death to save me - save me from a life in slavery to sin, and the wrath of God.

Our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin... Romans 6:6

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. Romans 5:9

And there's more! Jesus through His work has reconciled us to God.

Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. II Cor. 5:18-19

And made us overcomers!

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

Truly, He is a wonderful Savior.

What A Wonderful Savior
Words by Elisha A. Hoffman

Christ has for sin atonement made
What a wonderful Savior!
We are redeemed, the price is paid
What a wonderful Savior!

What a wonderful Savior is Jesus, my Jesus!
What a wonderful Savior is Jesus, my Lord!

I praise Him for the cleansing blood
What a wonderful Savior!
That reconciled my soul to God
What a wonderful Savior!

He cleansed my heart from all its sin
What a wonderful Savior!
And now He reigns and rules therein
What a wonderful Savior!

He walks beside me in the way:
What a wonderful Savior!
And keeps me faithful day by day;
What a wonderful Savior!

He gives me overcoming power
What a wonderful Savior!
And triumph in each trying hour
What a wonderful Savior!

To Him I’ve given all my heart:
What a wonderful Savior!
The world shall never share a part:
What a wonderful Savior!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

I Know Whom I have Believed

Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.
John 20:30-31

Just as it’s difficult to fully grasp the extent of God’s love as I recently wrote about, it can be difficult to come to terms with why God chose us and chose to save us, how the Spirit moves, what God has planned for us while we live here on Earth, and what it will be like when Jesus comes again. This hymn illustrates all of those points, and also comes to a reassuring conclusion at the end of each verse: I know whom I have believed.

If you have put your belief and faith in Christ, and follow Him as your Lord and Savior, you know you have been chosen by Him and adopted and redeemed as His child.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:3-6

Believing in God’s word will bring peace to your heart as the second verse of this hymn tells us. When we follow His word, we come to know the truth that sets us free. God uses His word to work in us when we believe.

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." John 8:31-32

For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe. I Thess. 2:13

Before Jesus left the earth to return to heaven, He promised that God would send another Helper – the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, reveals Jesus to us, and brings us to faith in God. As this hymnwriter says, I know not how He moves. I don’t know either, but I know He does, and for that I am thankful.

The Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. I Cor. 2:10-11

Another thing we don’t know is what God has in mind for us with our days here on the Earth. We don’t know what good or ill is reserved for us, but we know that He knows, and has already planned our days; He even planned them before we were born!

Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written. The days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. Psalm 139:16

Jesus has told us He will come again to bring us to our eternal home with Him.

If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. John 14:3

I cannot tell when that will be, but we know that He will keep His promise. He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him until that day. I look forward to that day!

I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. II Tim. 1:12

I Know Whom I Have Believed
Words by Daniel Whittle

I know not why God’s wondrous grace
To me He hath made known,
Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love
Redeemed me for His own.

But I know Whom I have believed,
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.

I know not how this saving faith
To me He did impart,
Nor how believing in His Word
Wrought peace within my heart.

I know not how the Spirit moves,
Convincing us of sin,
Revealing Jesus through the Word,
Creating faith in Him.

I know not what of good or ill
May be reserved for me,
Of weary ways or golden days,
Before His face I see.

I know not when my Lord may come,
At night or noonday fair,
Nor if I walk the vale with Him,
Or meet Him in the air.

Friday, August 22, 2008

I Stand Amazed

And I pray that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19

It’s almost too much for me to think about how much God loves me. It’s a depth of love that I can not comprehend. A love that sent His own son to die in my place. I truly stand amazed. Further, He loves me as I am – a sinner, unclean – it is in this state that He gave up His Son for me.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

And then I think about Jesus in the Garden – praying that this cup would be taken from him – but ultimately praying that God’s will, not Jesus’ be done. Jesus loved me so much that He obeyed His Father and went to the cross.

Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Phil. 2:8

He took my sin, my shame, my burdens – and He put them on Himself. I was supposed to die in my sin, but He died so that I could live.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

Because of His gift, I will see His face when I enter heaven, and will sing His praise through the ages. Indeed, it is, and will forever be MY JOY to sing of His love for me.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39

I Stand Amazed
Words by Charles Gabriel

I stand amazed in the presence
Of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how He could love me,
A sinner, condemned, unclean.


How marvelous! How wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
How marvelous! How wonderful!
Is my Savior’s love for me!

For me it was in the garden
He prayed: “Not My will, but Thine.”
He had no tears for His own griefs,
But sweat drops of blood for mine.

He took my sins and my sorrows,
He made them His very own;
He bore the burden to Calvary,
And suffered and died alone.

When with the ransomed in glory
His face I at last shall see,
’Twill be my joy through the ages
To sing of His love for me.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Nothing but the Blood

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. Ephesians 1:7

Nothing but the blood of Jesus. This hymnwriter wanted to be sure we understood without a doubt – so he repeated this line twice in every verse of this hymn. It bears repeating, for it is vital for us to comprehend that it is Jesus’ atoning work on our behalf, His blood shed for us, which saves us, makes us whole, and guarantees our eternal home with Him.

It is Jesus’ blood, shed for us on the cross, which saves us. He redeemed us by paying the price for our sin. Before Christ, God’s people would offer sacrifices of unblemished animals to atone for their sin. And they did this year after year, as a reminder of their sinful state.

But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Hebrews 10:3-4

However, these sacrifices never fully cleansed them from their sin – that’s why Jesus came – to be the substitution for our sin once and for all, to shed His blood so we could be forgiven.

And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
Hebrews 9:22

God used His own son to pay our penalty. He didn’t “buy” our forgiveness with money or anything else – His own son shed blood so that we could be redeemed.

You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. I Peter 1:18-19

Nothing else can atone for our sin. It doesn’t matter how hard we work or how nice we are; only Jesus’ blood can save us – it is not possible for us to save ourselves.

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel… II Timothy 1:8-10

He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:5-7

His blood not only saves us, but it gives us hope of eternal life. We will reach our eternal home because of the promise guaranteed to us by the blood of Jesus.

Glory, Glory, this I sing! All my praise for this I bring – nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Nothing But the Blood
Words by Robert Lowry

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

For my pardon, this I see,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
For my cleansing this my plea,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Nothing can for sin atone,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
Naught of good that I have done,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

This is all my hope and peace,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
This is all my righteousness,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Now by this I’ll overcome—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus,
Now by this I’ll reach my home—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Glory! Glory! This I sing—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus,
All my praise for this I bring—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Shelter in the Time of Storm

O taste and see that the LORD is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! Psalm 34:8

I had a very vivid dream last night in which I was in the middle of a tornado. I was at a camp, hunkered down under a table in the dining hall, when a huge tree crashed through the window. In my dream, I actually saw the tree come flying through the air and then torpedo through the building. (I said it was vivid!) In any case, I woke up singing this old hymn and have been thinking about it all day.

As this hymn says, in Jesus Christ we can be secure no matter what we’re facing. He is a Rock in our weary land, our shelter in our stormy times. Indeed, the prophet Isaiah foretold that Jesus was coming for that reason: to be a refuge and a shelter from the storm.

Behold, a king will reign righteously and princes will rule justly. Each will be like a refuge from the wind and a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry country, like the shade of a huge rock in a parched land. Isaiah 32:1-2

When you’re safe in a shelter, you don’t leave in the middle of a storm. Although the storm rages around you, you’re safe there, and you want to stay. When you dwell in the shelter of the Lord, you abide in His shadow. His shadow means His care and protection.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, "My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!" For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence.
Psalm 91:1-3

This hymn was said to be a favorite song of the fishermen on the north coast of England, who were often heard singing it as they approached their harbors in the time of storm. Whatever you are facing today, whether your storms are from the weather, from relationships, or from circumstances, you can be sure that Jesus will be your Rock in this weary land. Run to Him, and let Him be your shelter today.

But let all who take refuge in You be glad, let them ever sing for joy; and may You shelter them, that those who love Your name may exult in You. Psalm 5:11

A Shelter in the Time of Storm
Vernon J. Charlesworth

The Lord’s our Rock, in Him we hide,
A Shelter in the time of storm;
Secure whatever ill betide,
A Shelter in the time of storm.


Oh, Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,
A weary land, a weary land;
Oh, Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

A shade by day, defense by night,
A Shelter in the time of storm;
No fears alarm, no foes afright,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

The raging storms may round us beat,
A Shelter in the time of storm
We’ll never leave our safe retreat,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

O Rock divine, O Refuge dear,
A Shelter in the time of storm;
Be Thou our Helper ever near,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

It is Well with my Soul

I’m sure many of you know the story of Horatio Spafford, the writer of this hymn. He wrote these words after two great tragedies in his life. The first was the great Chicago Fire of October 1871, which ru¬ined him financially (he had been a wealthy businessman). Shortly after, Spafford sent his wife and four daughters ahead of him for a family vacation, while he finished up business at home. While crossing the Atlantic, all four of his daughters died in a collision with another ship. Spafford’s wife Anna survived. Several weeks later, as Spafford’s own ship passed near the spot where his daughters died, the Holy Spirit inspired these words.

I’ve often wondered how someone who has just gone through all of that could possibly write “It is well with my soul.” Sometimes I’ve been unable to even sing the words sincerely. I was thinking about this last night as I sang this to myself, sincerely this time. I’m sure it was the Spirit of God who prompted me to realize this important truth: it can be well with my soul when I am confident that our Sovereign God is in control. Only then, whatever my lot, can I say “It is well with my soul.”

The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all. Psalm 103:19

It is well with my soul because I know my God is on His throne, and He is not wringing His hands over whatever is happening here on Earth. He is in full control, and anything that happens to His children has been “filtered through His fingers of love,” as Kay Arthur says. He has a purpose and a plan for whatever challenges and trials he sends our way. And we can be confident in our eternal hope regardless of what grief or pain crosses our path in our earthly life.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Romans 8:18

It is Well with my Soul
Words by Horatio Spafford

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, 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.

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!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But, Lord, ‘tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh trump of the angel! Oh voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of 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.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

To God be the Glory

Damaris Carbaugh was singing this as I drove to work today. (She wasn't in the car with me, just on the radio!) Singing along to this great hymn was a wonderful way to start the day. God certainly is worthy of all the glory and praise that we have to offer. He has done great things!

To God be the Glory
Words by Fanny Crosby

To God be the glory, great things He has done;

God thunders with His voice wondrously, doing great things which we cannot comprehend. Job 37:5

For Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the heavens,You who have done great things; O God, who is like You? Psalm 71:19

So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. I John 4:10

Who yielded His life an atonement for sin,

Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:8

Walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
Ephesians 5:2

And opened the life gate that all may go in.

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:13-14

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:19-20

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the earth hear His voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father, through Jesus the Son,
And give Him the glory, great things He has done.

O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. Ephesians 1:7

To every believer the promise of God;

From the descendants of this man [David], according to promise, God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, after John had proclaimed before His coming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. Acts 13:23-24

The vilest offender who truly believes,
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.

Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.
Acts 10:43

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the earth hear His voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father, through Jesus the Son,
And give Him the glory, great things He has done.

Great things He has taught us, great things He has done,

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. I Cor. 2:12-13

But the man from whom the demons had gone out was begging Him that he might accompany Him; but He sent him away, saying, "Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you." So he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him. Luke 8:38-39

And great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son;

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. I Peter 1:6-9

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Phil. 4:4

But purer, and higher, and greater will be
Our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see.

But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. Romans 6:22

In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. John 14:2-3

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. I Thess. 4:16-17

And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, "To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever." Rev. 5:13

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the earth hear His voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father, through Jesus the Son,
And give Him the glory, great things He has done.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Jesus Calls Us

On the way to work yesterday I heard Steve Green singing “The Mission.” I’ve been thinking about the opening phrase in the chorus:

To love the Lord our God is the heartbeat of our mission

What does it mean to love the Lord our God? How do we show that we love Him? How do others know that we love Him?

Jesus tells us in His upper room discourse in the gospel of John. In John 14 He tells the disciples several times that love is shown through obedience.

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. John 14:15

There is great benefit in keeping His commandments and abiding by His word.

He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him. John 14:21

Jesus teaches that those who love Him keep His commandments – and as a result, the Father will love us, Jesus will love us, and Jesus will disclose Himself to us!

But, wait! It gets even better.

Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. John 14:23

The Father and Jesus will make their abode with us, when we keep His word. The Greek word for abode is monē and means staying, abiding, dwelling, a residence. So when we love Jesus by keeping His word, He and the Father will make their residence with us!

I think the most powerful indication of obedience as an indicator of love comes a few verses later in John.

But so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. John 14:31

Jesus says that He does as the Father commands Him, so that the world may know that He loves the Father. His obedience to the Father shows the world that He loves Him.

And how much did He love Him? His obedience took Him to the cross for our sins.

Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:8

As this hymn so eloquently says, Jesus calls us. He asks us to follow, and to love Him more than the world which we are prone to worship. He asks us to love Him more than other things around us, more than we love other people around us. We must give our hearts in full obedience to Him. By our obedience, we show that we love Him best of all.

Jesus Calls Us
Words by Cecil F. Alexander

Jesus calls us over the tumult
Of our life’s wild, restless, sea;
Day by day His sweet voice soundeth,
Saying, “Christian, follow Me!”

Jesus calls us from the worship
Of the vain world’s golden store,
From each idol that would keep us,
Saying, “Christian, love Me more!”

In our joys and in our sorrows,
Days of toil and hours of ease,
Still He calls, in cares and pleasures,
“Christian, love Me more than these!”

Jesus calls us! By Thy mercies,
Savior may we hear Thy call,
Give our hearts to Thine obedience,
Serve and love Thee best of all.

Monday, June 16, 2008

How Blest are They Who Hear God's Word

If you ever need a picture of how sin looks, and how we look when we are disobedient to God, just take a few moments, or days, and observe young children. It is so fascinating to me to watch them as they hear what their parents say, then defiantly do the opposite thing. Of course, they are surprised when they are punished! As I watched this happen over and over again, I was struck by how similar I am to them: not necessarily in disobedience to my earthly parents but in relation to my Heavenly Father.

How many times have I defiantly done the opposite thing when I know what God’s word says? Or like these children, obey partially or after some delay, which in my book, and God’s, is still disobedience. Just as our parents have rules for our protection, God has provided His word for our protection. He has called us to obedience of His commands. When we immerse ourselves in His word, we will be protected as His word takes root in our hearts and we are open to the Spirit guiding and directing us.

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. Psalm 1:1-2

As this hymn reminds us, it’s not enough to just hear God’s word, we must keep and heed what it says.

Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the LORD your God gives you for all time.
Deut. 4:39-40

Father, Your word is a treasure; guide me as I gather wisdom and meditate on your commands. I long to obey you: fully, the first time. Show me where I am not obedient that I might confess my sin and change my behavior. Amen.

How Blest are They who Hear God’s Word
Words by Johan N. Brun

How blest are they who hear God’s Word
And keep and heed what they have heard!
They wisdom daily gather;
Their light shines brighter day by day,
And while they tread life’s weary way,
They have the oil of gladness
To soothe their pain and sadness.

God’s Word a treasure is to me,
Through sorrow’s night my sun shall be,
The shield of faith in battle.
The Father’s hand hath written there
My title as His child and heir,
“The kingdom’s thine forever.”
That promise faileth never.

Today I was my Savior’s guest,
My soul was here so richly blest,
The Bread of Life receiving.
Oh, may thereby my faith prevail,
So that its fruits shall never fail
Till my account is given
Before the throne in Heaven!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I Surrender All

And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Luke 9:23

I’ve been studying what it means to surrender. As Christians, we are called to surrender to God’s will – to die to ourselves and to live for Christ and fulfill His purposes for us. We may not know what those purposes are, and we often do not see the “big picture” until God reveals it to us; but regardless, we are called to live in submission to Him, in every part of our lives.

This sounds agreeable enough when read, said, or even typed. Of course I want to submit to God; of course I want to surrender myself to the Creator of the Universe who paid the price for my sin and made it possible for me to be reconciled to Him, and to be able to approach the throne of grace. Yes, I surrender!

But do I???

Do I let God have His way, or do I repeatedly get mine?

Do I try to fix things myself, or do I rely wholly on His work in my life?

While singing a similar song in church last week, I was watching the sign language interpreters. “I surrender all to you” is the chorus. At the word surrender, their arms flew up over their heads as if to open their whole bodies up to God’s use, or to take their hands “off the wheel.” Am I willing to open up my whole self, to take my hands off the wheel, to let God use me, change me, mold me and make me?

Or do I only “partly” surrender?

There’s an old story about how we, as sinful humans, should really change the words to some of the hymns we sing. This hymn is often a target. It would be more accurate for the words to be “I surrender some.” I know I am guilty of this as much as anyone, probably more so. I should sing “I surrender some.” Maybe not even some. Maybe it would be more accurate for me to sing “I surrender what’s easy to surrender.”

Surrender my desire to listen to un-edifying rock music? No problem. Surrender my desire to eat candy? Harder. Surrender my desire to nag and belittle? Harder yet. Surrender my desire to be in control? Hardest.

We are called to give all of ourselves. To surrender every part: not only our physical bodies for God’s use, but our attitudes, habits, desires, long term plans, hopes and dreams. This is what it means to present ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. Romans 12:1 NASB

I like this translation: we give ourselves to God because of all He has done for us.

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. Romans 12:1 NLT

As the King James version translates, this sacrifice is our reasonable service.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. Romans 12:1 KJV

It’s reasonable service to the Sovereign God who knows what’s best for us and who saved us through the blood of His son. As Isaac Watts so eloquently wrote,

Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.

Dear Father, I pray that I would live my life in submission to Your will. I pray that I would willingly surrender my desires for Yours. Show me Your way and Your will and bend my heart to match Yours. Show me where I have not been willing to surrender, and give me grace to trust You more. Amen.

I Surrender All
Words by Judson W. Van DeVenter

All to Jesus, I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken;
Take me, Jesus, take me now.

All to Jesus, I surrender;
Make me, Savior, wholly Thine;
Let me feel the Holy Spirit,
Truly know that Thou art mine.

All to Jesus, I surrender;
Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power;
Let Thy blessing fall on me.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Now I feel the sacred flame.
O the joy of full salvation!
Glory, glory, to His Name!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Have Thine Own Way, Lord!

The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD saying, "Arise and go down to the potter's house, and there I will announce My words to you."

Then I went down to the potter's house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make.

Then the word of the LORD came to me saying, "Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?" declares the LORD. "Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel. At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it; if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it. Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it; if it does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it.
Jeremiah 18:1-10

The sermon on Sunday, based on this text, really spoke to my heart about the Potter and the clay. God is the Potter. He is Sovereign, in control of everything in our lives, from the mundane to the extraordinary. And He uses both extremes to mold us and shape us and make us into the vessels that He has intended, ultimately into the image of His own Son.

Here’s the thing about clay: the clay doesn’t decide what it’s going to be. The clay isn’t the one who gets to choose to be a bowl or a pitcher or a vase or a goblet, or even a doorstop! The clay has no power to make itself into any of those things. It is the Potter who chooses and the Potter who does the making. As Jeremiah saw at the potter’s house, the potter made the clay into a vessel as it pleased the potter to make.

God is the one who chooses how to make and re-make us after His will, into a vessel as it pleases Him to make. As the clay, we are to be yielded and still, awaiting the Potter’s work, and not trying on our own to become the vessel we think we should be.

I don’t write this from a great, vast experience of being yielded and still, awaiting the Potter’s work. I am the first to admit that I think I know what I should be and I will try to get there myself. Submission is difficult. In the process of trying to “make” myself, I have probably done more harm than if I would have waited patiently on the Potter to do His work.

After watching a brief video of a real-life potter make and re-make the clay into one vessel and then another and then another before settling on the final one, I have a new appreciation for the work of the Potter in my life, and a new resolve to be yielded and still to His work. It is only in His strength and by His grace that I will be able to be in complete submission. It is my prayer, as this hymn says, that through His work in my life, all would see Christ only, always, living in me.

Have Thine Own Way, Lord!
Words by Adelaide Pollard

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Search me and try me, Master, today!
Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,
As in Thy presence humbly I bow.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Wounded and weary, help me, I pray!
Power, all power, surely is Thine!
Touch me and heal me, Savior divine.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway!
Fill with Thy Spirit ’till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Power of the Holy Ghost

"But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” John 16:7

Today is Pentecost, the day we remember the Holy Spirit being given to believers. It is certainly something we should celebrate – as believers we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.

In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit wasn’t part of the everyday lives of those who believed in God. He only came to a specific person at a specific time for a specific reason. When His work was done, He left the scene.

Then Jesus came, and He promised that when He went away, He would send us a Helper.

“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

The Holy Spirit does not speak on His own initiative, but hears from God, and then speaks. And if you have confessed your sin and accepted Christ as your Savior, you have the Holy Spirit as your guide. The Spirit is given at the moment of salvation, and He guides us into all truth. We can be assured that He will not depart from us.

He has incredible power – power to heal our heart, remove the dross of sin, and transform us into the image of God’s son, Jesus. If we have open ears, and a receiving heart, we can hear the Holy Spirit speak to us.

The Power of the Holy Ghost
Words by Fanny Crosby

Come, Spirit, come in mighty power,
As on the blessèd day of old
When fell the pentecostal shower
That gathered thousands to the fold.

Nothing but the power of the Holy Ghost
Can sanctify and keep through a Savior’s love,
And light within our souls the flame
That burns on the altar of Heav’n above.

O for a mighty rushing wind
To fill this consecrated place,
That sinners lost might seek and find
The gate of hope, the door of grace.

O for a power that heals the heart,
That takes away the dross of sin,
That we may, like the world, depart,
And let the King of Glory in.

Dear Savior, from Thy throne on high
Now grant the power for which we call,
Till shouts of rapture fill the sky,
And Thou, O Lord, art all in all.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

How Sure the Scriptures Are

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

In studying the gospel of John, I have become increasingly thankful that we have the word of God in written form. We have a record of Jesus’ time here on Earth, and the things He said and taught. The Bible is more than that, though. Although as Christians we tend to focus on the New Testament, the Old Testament is equally important. The Old Testament shows us time and time again how God kept His covenant with His people and it points to the coming of Jesus – the ultimate gift that reconciles us to God.

We can be assured that the Scriptures are God’s infallible Word: Jesus himself used the Scriptures to teach and show how the prophecy about Him was being fulfilled.

Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
Luke 24:27

Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” Luke 27:44-48

Paul had a very dramatic conversion experience. Paul previously spoke against Jesus, and then God met him on the road to Damascus. Most of us know “the rest of the story.” The dramatic change in Paul shocked those who knew him.

Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, "He is the Son of God." All those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, "Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?" But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ.Acts 9:19-22

How did he prove it? By teaching from the Scriptures.

Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ." Acts 17:1-3

Even early in his ministry, Paul knew the value of the Scriptures and their importance in pointing to the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. He reminded the Romans of this great truth:

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

The Scriptures do provide everlasting hope: God kept His promise. And He still keeps His promises today. His word is clear, as this hymn reminds us, so let us hear and do His will.

How Sure the Scriptures Are
Words by Christopher Idle

How sure the Scriptures are! God’ vital, urgent word,
As true as steel and far more sharp than any sword!
So deep and fine, at His control they pierce where soul and spirit join.

They test each human thought, refining like a fire;
They measure what we ought to do and to desire:
For God knows all – exposed it lies before His eyes to whom we call.

Let those who hear His voice confronting them today,
Reject the tempting choice of doubting or delay:
For God speaks still – His word is clear, so let us hear and do His will.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Hail the Day that Sees Him Rise

So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. Mark 16:19

Yesterday, May 1, was the Day of Ascension – the day we remember Jesus being taken up into heaven to take His place at the right hand of the Father. After His resurrection, Jesus spent 40 days with His apostles and then went back to His Father.

The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.

Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, "Which," He said, "you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."

And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven." Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away.
Acts 1:1-12

This Jesus will come AGAIN in just the same way as you watched Him go into heaven! We look forward to that day in anticipation!

Hail the Day that Sees Him Rise
Words by Charles Wesley

Hail the day that sees Him rise, Alleluia!
To His throne above the skies, Alleluia!
Christ, awhile to mortals given, Alleluia!
Reascends His native heaven, Alleluia!

There the glorious triumph waits, Alleluia!
Lift your heads, eternal gates, Alleluia!
Christ hath conquered death and sin, Alleluia!
Take the King of glory in, Alleluia!

Circled round with angel powers, Alleluia!
Their triumphant Lord, and ours, Alleluia!
Conqueror over death and sin, Alleluia!
“Take the King of glory in! Alleluia!”

Him though highest Heav’n receives, Alleluia!
Still He loves the earth He leaves, Alleluia!
Though returning to His throne, Alleluia!
Still He calls mankind His own, Alleluia!

See! He lifts His hands above, Alleluia!
See! He shows the prints of love, Alleluia!
Hark! His gracious lips bestow, Alleluia!
Blessings on His church below, Alleluia!

Still for us His death He pleads, Alleluia!
Prevalent He intercedes, Alleluia!
Near Himself prepares our place, Alleluia!
Harbinger of human race, Alleluia!

Master, (will we ever say), Alleluia!
Taken from our head to day, Alleluia!
See Thy faithful servants, see, Alleluia!
Ever gazing up to Thee, Alleluia!

Grant, though parted from our sight, Alleluia!
Far above yon azure height, Alleluia!
Grant our hearts may thither rise, Alleluia!
Seeking Thee beyond the skies, Alleluia!

Ever upward let us move, Alleluia!
Wafted on the wings of love, Alleluia!
Looking when our Lord shall come, Alleluia!
Longing, gasping after home, Alleluia!

There we shall with Thee remain, Alleluia!
Partners of Thy endless reign, Alleluia!
There Thy face unclouded see, Alleluia!
Find our heaven of heavens in Thee, Alleluia!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Glory of the Spring How Sweet!

For behold, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers have already appeared in the land; the time has arrived for pruning the vines, and the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land. Song of Solomon 2:11-12

Spring has (finally) sprung in my neighborhood, and it is a sweet reminder of God’s faithfulness through the seasons, and His beauty in creation. I love watching the trees bud and then flower, the tulips and daffodils pop up out of the earth. The sun shines, the grass is green, and the birds sing.

Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders which You have done, and Your thoughts toward us; there is none to compare with You. If I would declare and speak of them, they would be too numerous to count.
Psalm 40:5

Our God delights in delighting us with the beauty of changing seasons. His wonders are too numerous to count. As I walk around my neighborhood, I am amazed by His creativity in nature. And I am thankful that He chose to bless us with an incredible variety of plants, flowers, animals and weather!

I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. I will be glad and exult in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High. Psalm 9:1-2

My prayer is the same as this writer’s. After observing the wonders of God, of nature, of His grace, I ask that God would work wonders in me, and renew my heart. Just as we see evidence of new life in nature, I want the new life, strength and joy I have through Jesus to spring up within me for all the world to see.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

But as for me, I would seek God, and I would place my cause before God; Who does great and unsearchable things, wonders without number. Job 5:8-9

The Glory of the Spring How Sweet!
Words by Thomas H. Gill

The glory of the spring how sweet!
The new-born life how glad!
What joy the happy earth to greet
In new, bright raiment clad!

Divine Redeemer, Thee I bless;
I greet Thy going forth;
I love Thee in the loveliness
Of Thy renewed earth.

But O these wonders of Thy grace,
These nobler works of Thine,
These marvels sweeter far to trace,
These new births more divine:

This new-born glow of faith so strong,
This bloom of love so fair,
This new-born ecstasy of song,
And fragrancy of prayer!

Creator Spirit, work in me
These wonders sweet of Thine;
Divine Redeemer, graciously
Renew this heart of mine.

Still let new life and strength upspring,
Still let new joy be given;
And grant the glad new song to ring
Through the new earth and Heaven.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

All People that on Earth do Dwell (Old 100th)

I thought it was appropriate for my 100th post to be a meditation on the Old 100th. Old 100th is actually the name of the tune for All People that on Earth do Dwell, as the words for that hymn are based on Psalm 100. This same tune is also used for the Doxology. Interestingly, what we call the Doxology:

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all people here below,
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts,
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost

is actually the last verse from another hymn, Awake My Soul, and With the Sun.

Psalm 100 exhorts us to praise the Lord because He is good and His lovingkindness is everlasting. Take a few minutes today to reflect on the Lord's goodness in your life. Meditate on the examples of His lovingkindness. Reflect and thank Him for the many ways He has shown Himself faithful to you, and faithful through the generations. To Him be praise and glory evermore!

Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth.
Serve the LORD with gladness;
Come before Him with joyful singing.
Know that the LORD Himself is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise,
Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
For the LORD is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 100

All People that on Earth do Dwell
All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.
Him serve with fear, His praise forth tell;
Come ye before Him and rejoice.

The Lord, ye know, is God indeed;
Without our aid He did us make;
We are His folk, He doth us feed,
And for His sheep He doth us take.

O enter then His gates with praise;
Approach with joy His courts unto;
Praise, laud, and bless His Name always,
For it is seemly so to do.

For why? the Lord our God is good;
His mercy is for ever sure;
His truth at all times firmly stood,
And shall from age to age endure.

To Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
The God Whom Heaven and earth adore,
From men and from the angel host
Be praise and glory evermore.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Come, Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

Come, Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain
Words by John of Damascus
Translated from Greek to English by John M. Neale

Come, ye faithful, raise the strain of triumphant gladness;
God hath brought forth Israel into joy from sadness;
Loosed from Pharaoh’s bitter yoke Jacob’s sons and daughters,
Led them with unmoistened foot through the Red Sea waters.

’Tis the spring of souls today; Christ has burst His prison,
And from three days’ sleep in death as a sun hath risen;
All the winter of our sins, long and dark, is flying
From His light, to Whom we give laud and praise undying.

Now the queen of seasons, bright with the day of splendor,
With the royal feast of feasts, comes its joy to render;
Comes to glad Jerusalem, who with true affection
Welcomes in unwearied strains Jesus’ resurrection.

Neither might the gates of death, nor the tomb’s dark portal,
Nor the watchers, nor the seal hold Thee as a mortal;
But today amidst the twelve Thou didst stand, bestowing
That Thy peace which evermore passeth human knowing.

“Alleluia!” now we cry to our King immortal,
Who, triumphant, burst the bars of the tomb’s dark portal;
“Alleluia!” with the Son, God the Father praising,
“Alleluia!” yet again to the Spirit raising.

I first heard this hymn when we visited Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. Our dear friends were ministering there, and I can still hear the sound of the pipe organ playing this beautiful and thought-provoking hymn.

The message of this hymn centers around Jesus’ resurrection. But it is different than traditional Easter hymns in that it hearkens back to the delivery of Israel from Egypt. God’s chosen people had been enslaved for 400 years to Pharoah. God loosed them from the “bitter yoke” that held them, and brought them many years later into the land He had prepared for them, the land He had promised them. They were slaves to Pharoah. God set them free.

“Blessed be the LORD who delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of Pharaoh, and who delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians.” Exodus 18:10

Now fast forward thousands of years. Humanity is enslaved to sin. Even the most religious people are bound to so many laws that it’s not humanly possible to keep them all. The people could not work hard enough to save themselves. They were slaves of the devil. But God saved us once and for all through the death and resurrection of His son, who took our sin upon Himself and became the sacrifice. God set us free.

She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. Matthew 1:21

God is indeed our great deliverer.

Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. Romans 7:4-6