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

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Now the Green Blade Rises

Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you."

And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him.
Matthew 28:1-9

He is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia!

Now the Green Blade Rises
John M. C. Crum

Now the green blade rises from the buried grain,
Wheat that in the dark earth many years has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

In the grave they laid Him, Love Whom we had slain,
Thinking that He’d never wake to life again,
Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

Up He sprang at Easter, like the risen grain,
He that for three days in the grave had lain;
Up from the dead my risen Lord is seen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

When our hearts are saddened, grieving or in pain,
By Your touch You call us back to life again;
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

Friday, March 21, 2008

O Come and Mourn with Me

And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, "Father, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT." Having said this, He breathed His last. Luke 23:46

As Jesus rode into town on Palm Sunday, he knew what awaited Him near the end of the week. He knew that He had come to Earth to do His Father’s will, and that He must give His life in order to save ours.

God takes sin very seriously. It is a big deal. So big that God sacrificed His only son in order to pay for our sins once and for all. As a result of our sin, Jesus went to the cross and died in our place. We should have paid the price for our own sin. Instead, Jesus took our sin on Himself and became the sacrificial lamb.

My sin, your sin caused Jesus to die. He was crucified for us. That should cause us to mourn. Our hard hearts of sin were His Pilate and Judas. That should cause us to shed tears. On this Good Friday, meditate on your sin that sent Jesus to the cross and mourn with me, for Jesus, our Lord, is crucified.

O Come and Mourn with Me
Frederick W. Faber

O come and mourn with me awhile;
And tarry here the cross beside;
O come, together let us mourn;
Jesus, our Lord, is crucified.

Have we no tears to shed for Him,
While soldiers scoff and foes deride?
Ah! look how patiently He hangs;
Jesus, our Lord, is crucified.

How fast His hands and feet are nailed;
His blessed tongue with thirst is tied,
His failing eyes are blind with blood:
Jesus, our Lord, is crucified.

Seven times He spoke, seven words of love;
And all three hours His silence cried
For mercy on the souls of men;
Jesus, our Lord, is crucified.

Come, let us stand beneath the cross;
So may the blood from out His side
Fall gently on us drop by drop;
Jesus, our Lord, is crucified.

O break, O break, hard heart of mine!
Thy weak self-love and guilty pride
His Pilate and His Judas were:
Jesus, our Lord, is crucified.

A broken heart, a fount of tears,
Ask, and they will not be denied;
A broken heart love’s cradle is:
Jesus, our Lord, is crucified.

O love of God! O sin of man!
In this dread act Your strength is tried;
And victory remains with love;
For Thou our Lord, art crucified!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

All Glory, Laud and Honor

Today is Palm Sunday, the day we remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the day that marked the beginning of the last week of His life before He was crucified. As He came into the city, He rode the colt, as was prophesied in Zechariah.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zech. 9:9

The people responded to Him as their King, preparing way for Him with their coats and waving tree branches in worship.

Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!" Matt.21:8-9

I’m sure that many in the crowd did not know what was to come in the next few days, and that by the end of the week, their King would be dead and buried. I’m sure they didn’t see that their King was riding on to die.

As this hymn says, the people sang their praises to the King before His passion, and like them, we raise our melody to praise that same King, the one whose triumphant entry into Jerusalem was just the beginning of the week.

And what a week it was: the events of that week would bring freedom from sin and the promise of eternal life for those who believe Jesus is the Christ and profess Him as Savior and Lord.

All Glory, Laud and Honor
Words by Theodulph of Orleans
Translated from Latin to English by John M. Neale

All glory, laud and honor,
To Thee, Redeemer, King,
To Whom the lips of children
Made sweet hosannas ring.

Thou art the King of Israel,
Thou David’s royal Son,
Who in the Lord’s Name comest,
The King and Blessed One.

The company of angels
Are praising Thee on High,
And mortal men and all things
Created make reply.

The people of the Hebrews
With palms before Thee went;
Our prayer and praise and anthems
Before Thee we present.

To Thee, before Thy passion,
They sang their hymns of praise;
To Thee, now high exalted,
Our melody we raise.

Thou didst accept their praises;
Accept the prayers we bring,
Who in all good delightest,
Thou good and gracious King.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Chief of Sinners

It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am chief. I Tim. 1:15

Chief of Sinners
Words by William McComb

Chief of sinners though I be,
Jesus shed His blood for me;
Died that I might live on high,
Lives that I might never die;
As the branch is to the vine,
I am His, and He is mine.

O the height of Jesus’ love!
Higher than the Heaven above;
Deeper than the deepest sea,
Lasting as eternity;
Love that found me—wondrous thought!
Found me when I sought Him not!

Jesus only can impart
Balm to heal the smitten heart;
Peace that flows from sin forgiven,
Joy that lifts the soul to Heaven;
Faith and hope to walk with God
In the way that Enoch trod.

Chief of sinners though I be,
Christ is all in all to me;
All my wants to Him are known,
All my sorrows are His own;
Safe with Him from earthly strife,
He sustains the hidden life.

O my Savior, help afford
By Thy Spirit and Thy Word!
When my wayward heart would stray,
Keep me in the narrow way;
Grace in time of need supply
While I live and when I die.

As we approach holy week, I think it’s important to look closely at our sin and the atoning work of Jesus on our behalf. I believe that you will never fully understand or appreciate Christ’s death on the cross until you come to terms with the enormity of your sin, and the fact that it was your sin that caused Christ to die.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23

Even though each of us is the chief of sinners, Christ shed His blood for us, died so that we might live, and sacrificed Himself while we were still dead in our sin. He didn’t wait for us to be good enough (not to mention that we never could be), He died to save us while we were still sinners.

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

Christ’s love for us took Him to Calvary. That same love seeks us out and draws us to Himself that we might be saved and live eternally with Him.

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:44

Chief of sinners though I be, Christ is all in all to me. I pray that He is all in all to you, too, and that you will consider His work on the cross for your sin in a new way this Lenten season.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Wonderful Words of Life

Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God." John 6:68-69

In the Western world we are so privileged to have full and ready access to the Word of God in many forms and in many translations. We also have access to study tools such as dictionaries and commentaries that help us learn the Word and how to apply it to our lives. What would you do if you didn’t have access to God’s Word? I know that reading and studying the Bible has changed my life – and I am thankful that God has used it, and continues to, in order to change my heart and make me more into the likeness of His Son.

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

The Bible is God’s Word to us – He spoke through the prophets, then through His Son, and now through His Word. How fortunate we are to have it written down!

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

Wonderful Words of Life
Words by Phillip P. Bliss

Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life,
Let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words of life;
Words of life and beauty teach me faith and duty.

Beautiful words, wonderful words,
wonderful words of life,
Beautiful words, wonderful words,
wonderful words of life.

Christ, the blessed One, gives to all wonderful words of life;
Sinner, list to the loving call, wonderful words of life;
All so freely given, wooing us to heaven.

Sweetly echo the Gospel call, wonderful words of life;
Offer pardon and peace to all, wonderful words of life;
Jesus, only Savior, sanctify us forever.