Monthly Archives: April 2012

When I Survey

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!

All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

There are not many hymns that provide a first-hand account of the passion of the cross like this one. This hymn puts us at the foot of the cross; affording us a small, bitter taste of the powerful emotion of the crucifixion. And every emotion was present at the cross: sorrow, joy, hope, despair, contempt, relief, anguish, pride, humility, anger, love. It was a defining moment for mankind. Yet only Jesus recognized the significance of the event. He paid a great debt, a debt that was not his own, but his children’s – the same children who mocked, scorned and killed him.

Jesus knew he would rise again. He knew he did not have to die. Why bother? Why not use miraculous powers to stop the crucifixion. Why go through all of this human pain?

Jesus was born among us. He lived among us. And he died among us. He paid a price for us because he loved us. He wanted us to know that he understood and cared. Jesus’ pain was very real just as our pain is very real. Jesus’ death was very real just as our death is very real. But most importantly, Jesus’ resurrection was very real and his promise of eternal life with him is also very real.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;

A number of hymns have posed the question “How can I say thanks?” The point is: we can’t say thanks. If we had everything, all the possessions the world has to offer, and we gave it all to God as a sign of our thanks, it would still fall short of the gratitude we feel.

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

In the Garden

This song is one of my personal favorites:

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

Those lyrics have always hit home for me. While growing up in a church where I hold more bad than good ones, this song always hit home for me. I spent the majority of my afternoons walking through our family’s garden and orchard.

I often found myself asking the question…how could one see all of this and not believe that Someone greater created it? How? Then, I could hear God’s still small voice whispering within and all around me…He still captivates me this way.

Charles Austin Miles, a pharmacologist and photographer who made his greatest mark as a hymnist and writer of gospel songs, including this one. In March of 1912, he was in his darkroom waiting for some film to develop and while waiting, he read through the story of Jesus’ resurrection in John 20. He imagined himself in that garden with the empty tomb and visualized the wonder of seeing his risen Lord. It was out of that experience that this amazing hymn was written:

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.
Refrain

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice,
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.

I’d stay in the garden with Him
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling.

I’ve included the version sung by Christy Nockels, a woman who has been blessed with the voice of angels. Enjoy!

Then the disciples were glad were glad when they saw the Lord. John 20:20

 

Of the Father’s Love Begotten

This is My commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you. John 15:12

Epiphanycomes from a Greek word meaning “manifestation,” and it’s an important date on the Christian calendar. It speaks of God’s manifestation of Christ to the world, either at His presentation to Magi or at His baptism.

As early as the third century, January 6 was celebrated in the Easter church to commemorate Christ’s baptism. In the fourth century, the Western church began celebrating Epiphany to commemorate the day of the Magi’s visit. In the fifth century, Aurelius Prudentius gave the world this Latin hymn, “Of the Father’s Love Begotten,” which is often used on Epiphany. Sun to the medieval tun “Divinum Mysterium,” it’s one of Christianity’s most hauntingly beautiful hymns of wonder.

Of the Father’s love begotten, ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega, He is source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been ,and that future years shall see,
Evermore and evermore!

O ye heights of heaven adore Him; angel hosts, His praises sing;
Power , Dominions, bow before Him, and extol our God and King;
Let no tongue on earth be silent, every voice in concert ring,
Evermore and evermore!

Christ, to Thee with God the Father, and, O Holy Ghost, to Thee,
Hymn and chant and high thanksgiving, and unwearied praises be:
Honor, glory ,and dominion, and eternal victory,
Evermore and evermore!

Amazing Grace

Call it “therapeutic theology.”

Call it a “hymn.”

Whatever name you give it, it’s the richest truth of God, versified, emotionalized, set to music, and released in the mind and from the mouth.

Have you ever taken a moment to consider the words you sung growing up in what I like to call “old-school church”? I didn’t when I was a child. I just knew that I like to sing them…even though I’m now a firm believer that the writers often chose keys that most human beings can’t sing without squealing/squeaking. My own voice has cracked more often than not when I take a moment to get back to my roots.

Let’s take a moment to be thankful for ability to transpose.

Hymns go back to the time of Moses in the book of Exodus. They’re bursts of devotional richness with rhyme and rhythm. They clear our minds, soothe our nerves, verbalize our worship, summarize our faith, and sing our great Redeemer’s praise.

Now that I’ve grown, many of these songs haunt me still…their lyrics and the tune reaching into the deepest parts of my being. Perhaps they’ve had a similar effect on you. Then again, maybe not.

I encourage you as I step forward with these ponderings, thoughts, insights (whatever you want to call them) to think about them. Look them up. Listen to them. Draw your own conclusion while sifting them through God’s truth.

Many of my favorites and some not so favorite, have been re-written to fit our generation. I just pray that we never lose the old hymn.

Rediscovering the old hymnal can be soul-bolstering. It’s a spiritual journey into biblical truth, Christian history, and timeless worship. Even I can envision us singing these songs long into eternity.

I received a devotional on 366 timeless hymns as a birthday gift one year. I won’t be touching on all 366 hymns…just a few; starting with Amazing Grace (heard here).

Popular at funerals, sung during worship services (thanks to Chris Tomlin’s My Chains Are Gone version), and even used in film (here), this song has crossed eras and generations dating back to 1779 (written by John Newton). With a message that forgiveness and redemption are possible regardless of the sins people commit and that the soul can be delivered from despair through the mercy of God, it has become one of the most popular and most beloved hymns in the modern world.

Perhaps you’ll be surprised to learn thatAmazing Grace is a New Year’s hymn. I was:

On Friday morning, January 1, 1773, John Newton (former slave trader and infidel) preached a New Year’s message from 1 Chronicles 17:16-17 in his church at Olney, England. Newton opened his sermon, saying, “The Lord bestows many blessings upon His people, but unless He likewise gives them a thankful heart, they lose much of the comfort they might have.”

He told his church to look back at God’s goodness, look around at His promises, and look forward to future usefulness. In concluding, Newton introduced a poem he’d written for occasion:

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.

Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believed!

Through many danger, toils and snares,
I have already come;
Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below;
Will be forever mine.

That last verse was removed once, replaced with the following:

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be
as long as life endures.

When we’ve been here ten thousand years
bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
then when we’ve first begun.

In 2006, Chris Tomlin added that verse back in (story here), along with the following chorus (heard here):

My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing grace

Grace is the unmerited favor of God. As one writer puts it, “The very heart of the gospel is the supreme truth that God accepts us with no conditions whatever when we put our trust in the atoning sacrifice of His incarnate Son.” That’s why it has long been said that the best way to describe grace is by using the very letters that make up the word: G-R-A-C-E, God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.

So our faith teaches us that grace can only come from God. But did you know that grace has a unique purpose of its own? The Bible says that grace “teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” (Titus 2:11)

John Newton was no different from the rest of us which is why his song means so much to so many of us. It reminds us there is only one thing that distinguishes one sinner from another: Grace. And when you think about that, it really is amazing!

Up Next: Hymns

Happy Easter to all of my virtual friends (both local and far away)! I just wanted to take a moment to update on the installment of this blog. I’ll be writing about favorite and common hymns sporadically going forward.

I hope and pray that you all are all doing well! Blessings!

In Christ,
AJB

Week 57 – Part II: One Day He’s Coming, O Glorious Day!

One day the trumpet will sound for His coming
One day the skies with His glories will shine
Wonderful day, my beloved one bringing
My Savior Jesus is mine

Living He loved me, dying He saved me
And buried He carried my sins far away
Rising He justified freely forever
One day He’s coming, oh, glorious day, oh, glorious day
Glorious day, oh, glorious day

We celebrated the resurrection just yesterday. He’s conquered the grave – He is mighty to save! Now, imagine with me the following:

One day He’s coming…O glorious day!

“Your Kingdom come” – part of the model prayer.  Isn’t this the way a Christian should live each day his life?

You know – in the constant anticipation of Jesus’ Christ’s return… If we lived every day as though it might be the last one before His return, what a difference it would make – at least in my life! 

Throughout the Bible it is written that God is going to bring His kingdom here to earth. Whether you believe that the church is going to be taken up (raptured) before, during, or after a 7-year tribulation is probably not relevant. God is going to bring His kingdom to earth and Christ, the King of Kings will reign. 

Any day now, the clouds could open up and God’s Son could step out to call believers to join Him in the place He is preparing for us?

Are you ready? 

Jesus paid our debt.

If Jesus is not your Lord here on earth, one day your knee will bend before His throne, and you will be sent to hell to pay for your sins all by yourself – for the rest of eternity. My Jesus is a loving and caring Lord and He wants you to come to Him in faith.  He thought enough of us to make a way.  Ask Him, He’s waiting for you.

Think of that day – what a glorious day that will be!

Week 57 – Part I: Rising He Justified

One day the grave could conceal Him no longer
One day the stone rolled away from the door
Then He arose, over death He had conquered
Now He’s ascended, my Lord evermore

Death could not hold Him
The grave could not keep Him from rising again

Living He loved me, dying He saved me
And buried He carried my sins far away
Rising He justified freely forever
One day He’s coming, oh, glorious day, oh, glorious day
Glorious day

As we continue through the chorus of Glorious Day (found here), we come to the following line:

Rising He justified freely forever…

Rising, now that’s something. 

This act forever sets our Lord apart from all the “wannabees”.  You can run down the list –  Allah, Apollo, Atlas, Baal, Brahma, Buda, Gaia, Jupiter, Krishna, Osiris, Quetzalcoatl, Rama, Shiva, Si-Wang-Mu, Tyche, Thor, Vishnu, Venus, Xochiquetzal, Zeus or a thousand more “not quite’ gods.   

Jesus is the only one who ever came back to life after being dead!  This shows His power over death and sin.  He arose after three days in Joseph’s borrowed tomb. He again, set the example for us,  We, too will one day rise again to be with Him in heaven. 

Those who do not know Him and have not accepted His gift will be forever separated from Him. 

You can go to Israel and see a tomb, but there is no body there.  Today He sits at the right hand of the father.  He lived as a lowly servant but now He is highly exalted, interceding for us! 

He is risen! 

Praise Jesus for the empty tomb!

Jesus Christ – Risen Indeed

Although we study the passion of Jesus, His death on the cross, Easter is a celebration of His resurrection: God brought Jesus back from the dead, proving He’d broken the power of sin and death.

After Jesus died, they took His body down and put Him in the tomb, and a giant millstone was set in front of the cave. The religious leaders, worried that Jesus’ body might be stolen, asked for Roman guards to be posted in front of the tomb. They didn’t want Him coming out!

But of course, He did.

You know the story. But it’s important to remember that Easter is not some memorial to a nice, good religious teacher who lived 2,000 years ago. It’s a celebration of the fact that He is alive today!

I’m living proof—and so are the approximately 1 billion Christians who celebrate Easter. Jesus “was shown to be the Son of God when He was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:4 NLT).

Easter is the good news about God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who came as a human baby, born into King David’s royal family line. Four historical records say that after His resurrection He showed Himself to 500 people at one gathering.

Can you imagine witnessing His death and then seeing Him walking around Jerusalem three days later? What an amazing thing!

When Jesus was hanging on the cross, the skeptics and critics mocked Him and said, “If You’re the Son of God, why don’t You just pull yourself down from that cross? Why don’t You just come down and show that You’re really God?”

Jesus had something more spectacular planned. He said, “I’m going to let you bury Me for three days, then I’ll come back to life to prove that I am who I say I am.”

The Way, the Truth and the Life

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

There are many ways to follow and many ways to live one’s life. I’ve tried out many. I’ve tried the ways of selfishness, watching my own back, being as comfortable as possible, and serving myself as much as possible with indulgences and entertainment. I have tried the ways of promoting my reputation trying to gain the praise of man, which often involved wearing masks, lying and hypocrisy. These all left me feeling empty. These ways from the world all promised maximum happiness and pleasure, but, in reality they all resulted in isolation and numbness. They all led to death. The promises and ways for the world are all lies.

Only Jesus is the way. If a person is to truly follow God, they can only do so if they follow Jesus.

Jesus did not say He was “a way” to God; He did not say He “knew the way” to God; He did not say, “He had the way” to God; He did not say He was “the best way” to God. Jesus said, “I am the Way.”

There is no need to look for a way to find the Way. He is the one-way, the straightway, the narrow way, the uncluttered and unhindered way—without crooked places, U-turns, or dead-ends. Every other way is the broad way, the perilous way, and the rough way. All other ways lead in the wrong direction.

Jesus is the right way, the true way, and the only way to God. His way is the highway of holiness, the roadway of righteousness, and the pathway of peace. He is the way to everything good, right, just, and holy. His is the way to love and He is the way of love.

Because He is the Way, you can seek Him, receive Him, follow Him, walk with Him— full of faith, full of hope, full of joy, full of purpose, full of light.

Only Jesus is truth. He tells His followers that He is the source. Without Him, mankind would know nothing at all, and in coming to Him, His disciples arrive at truth itself. We can be confident in everything He says.  

Truth is not information that we must study and learn with our intellect, but Truth is a person that we must receive and know in our hearts by faith. It is not the knowledge of facts that sets us free, it is in knowing the Truth, the Lord Jesus Christ, that sets us free.

Jesus is truly the Truth, the eternal Truth, the absolute Truth. He is not relative truth or cultural truth that is only applicable for certain societies or certain periods of time.

Jesus did not say He “knew the truth;” He did not say He “had the truth;” He did not say He was “one of many truths” that will bring us to God. Jesus said, “I am the Truth.” In Him is no darkness, no deceit, no lie, no error, no exaggeration, no spin, no dishonesty, no pretense, and no pretend.

Jesus is not a half-truth, but the full Truth, the only Truth and nothing but the Truth. There is no need to look for a truth that will bring us to the Truth. Other “truths” will tickle our ears, or try to make us feel good about ourselves, but other “truths” will keep us in the darkness. Other “truths” are clouds of deception that keep us forever wandering, but never finding God or coming to the knowledge of the Truth.

Because Jesus is the Truth, He will speak the Truth—You can open your ears to Him and listen, you can open your heart to Him and trust, you can open your will to Him and surrender.

Only Jesus is Life. He leads to a true life that is full; abundantly full. When we follow Jesus’ way of sacrificial love, humbleness and servitude, we experience life. I thrive when I focus on being a part of His good work; when I allow Him to work through me. I love being useful to Him. I love forgetting about myself and losing myself for the sake of others. This is how we’re designed to live and it’s the way God has marked out for us. I’m so thankful for the multiple chances God gives in welcoming us back to Him.

Jesus is Life and the meaning of life. To live in Him is to be fully alive. His life is the good life, the abundant life, and the undefiled life. His life is deep like a well, mighty like an ocean, and flowing like a river. His life grows sweeter, richer, and dearer to the heart that knows Him and abides in Him. His life is not momentary or fleeting, but forever lasting.

Jesus did not say He “had the life;” He did not say He “knew the life;” He did not say He “will bring us to the life.” Jesus said, “I am the Life.” Jesus is the real life, the true life, the only life that is eternal life. There is no need to look for a life that will bring you to the Life. Jesus is the full life, complete life, abundant life. Other “life” will drain us, deplete us, and wear us down. Other “life” brings us death. Other “life” may help us cope or help us feel good for the moment, but no other life can bring God’s life to us.

To have Jesus is to have the Way, the Truth, and the Life. There is no need to add anything to Him or to take anything away. It is in Jesus alone that we have the Way, we know the Truth, and we possess the Life that brings us to the Father.

Our belief in the trustworthiness of the Bible rests on our confidence that Christ is Truth itself. Those denying the Bible’s reliability are really denying Christ Himself. If you have friends claiming to be Christians but denying the Bible’s truth, help them see that real commitment to Christ means real commitment to the Scripture’s veracity.

Week 56 – Part IV: Buried He Carried My Sins Far Away

Then Joseph . . . laid [the body] in a tomb . . . (v. 46)

There is something special about the old hymns. Many of them   carry a powerful message, a strong anointing, and a doorway into the praises of heaven—helping to carry our spirits to new heights of adoration and a deeper sense of the heart of God.

Today, I’d like to focus on the next line in the hymn One Day (Glorious Day by Casting Crowns). 

One day they led Him, up Calvary’s mountain
One day they nailed Him, to die on a tree
Suffering anguish, despised and rejected
Bearing our sins, my Redeemer is He

Living He loved me, dying He saved me
Buried He carried my sins far away
Rising He justified, freely forever
One day He’s coming…

Oh, Glorious Day!

Buried He carried my sins far away…

The Apostles’ Creed tells us that Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried. I understand the crucified and died part, but why on earth do I need to confess that Jesus was buried? The answer given by the Heidelberg Catechism is as simple as it is brief: “to make it clear that He was really dead.” Jesus Christ really died on Good Friday so that He, and in turn we, could be really raised.

They lowered His dead body from that rugged cross and carried it to a borrowed tomb.  Our Savior knew this day would come.  He also knew that by His death, our sins’ debt would be paid – in full.  Nothing ever again would have to be done to purchase my/our forever.  Our Believer’s Baptism symbolizes the death of that old way of life.  Our new lives should be full of grace and good works because that sin nature has been removed.  Yes, we are going to fall into sin from time to time but He carried those sins far away.  I know, for me, it hurts when I think of how my new sins must hurt my Lord.

What does His burial mean to you?