Category Archives: Hymns

He Lives!

I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today;
I know that He is living, whatever men may say.
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him, He’s always near.
He lives, He lives! Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart!

In all the world around me I see His loving care;
And tho’ my heart grows weary, I never will despair.
I know that He is leading thro’ all the stormy blast;
The day of His appearing will come at last.
He lives, He lives! Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart!

Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian, lift up your voice and sing
Eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ, the King!
The Hope of all who seek Him, the Help of all who find,
None other is so loving, so good and kind. [Refrain]
He lives, He lives! Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart!

Words and Music by Alfred H. Ackley, 1933

 


But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.
I Corinthians 15:12 – 21


 

There are lots of things that we learn over the years. After all, we spend at least 13 or the first 18 years of our lives in school. We read books, we learn facts, we study and we test our knowledge. Yes,at the end of the time we know a lot. (In fact as most of us have observed, 18 year olds often seem to think they know everything.) But as much as we have learned there is so much more that we do not know. Book knowledge only gets us so far, but real knowledge comes from experience. There are somethings that can really only be known through experience. It is this knowledge that runs through Alfred Ackley’s, “I Serve A Risen Savior.”

The hymn declares that “I know that He is living, whatever men may say.” This is the challenge that so many of us face. The world around us questions, “How can you know that Jesus is alive?” A valid question, after all just because we read something is a book, does not make it true. Yes, the book in question is the Bible, the inspired Word of God which we believe as an act of faith, but there is something more than simple faith to knowing the Jesus lives.

So the hymn continues, “I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer, And just the time I need Him, He’s always near.” Those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ have experienced something that goes beyond words. They have been forgiven, renewed and restored. They have experienced the very presence of God in the mercy he has poured out. They have felt His presence in those darkest moments, when they felt all alone and forgotten. Christ was there, saying “Come to me.”

And so the hymn continues to build on the truth of knowing Jesus as we read, “In all the world around me I see His loving care.” We live in an amazing world. A world that sits in a tedious balance, a balance that necessary for the very existence of life. And while all experience tells us that things eventually wind done and fall apart, this world remains. It maintains this balance. This is the very hand of God, holding the world together. We can see it all around us.

It continues, “And tho’ my heart grows weary, I never will despair. I know that He is leading thro’ all the stormy blast; The day of His appearing will come at last.” It is because of this knowledge that we can have true hope. (I Corinthians 15:12 – 21) Not simply wishful thinking, but a confidence in what the future holds. This is the hope about which Ackley speaks when he writes,”The Hope of all who seek Him, the Help of all who find.”

Why can we say that we know? It is simple in that if we believe in Jesus Christ, all will begin to come clear. Yet it is challenging, in seeing past the business of our lives to look and listen for Him.

Yes, He live and wants to be part of our lives, if we will put our faith in Him. When we do, we can join with the final truth of the chorus as we declare, “You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart!”

 

 

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Christ The Lord Is Risen Today!

Christ, the Lord, is risen today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth, reply, Alleluia!

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Lo! the Sun’s eclipse is over, Alleluia!
Lo! He sets in blood no more, Alleluia!

Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

Hail, the Lord of earth and Heaven, Alleluia!
Praise to Thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Hail, the resurrection, thou, Alleluia!

Words by Charles Wesley, 1739
Music by unknown composer, ca. 1708

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook 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 was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them,“Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
Matthew 28:1 – 10

“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:55 – 57

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
1 John 3:2


The old saying is that bad news travel quickly. Of this, I have little doubt. Life experience has confirmed it. But if bad news travels quickly what happens with Good News? Well, there is good news that simply is nice to know and there is good news that you can not keep to yourself. It is this latter good news which is declared in Charles Wesley’s, “Christ The Lord Is Risen Today.”

The account of that Sunday Morning gives us the greatest good news ever. In Matthew 28:1 – 6 we are told:

“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook 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 was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.”

He is risen! What more joyous message could you imagine. These people who saw their friend and Savior die on the cross, had now received the news that He was no longer dead, that he had risen.

Upon receiving such incredible news what would you do? Imagine to be the first to hear the words that He was alive. This message that the angels shared was followed with instructions. In Matthew 28:6 – 7 we read “Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’”

Go and tell! This is the instruction given to the first to hear the truth. But need it be said. If you were to learn that one you loved with all your heart was actually alive, would you wait for instruction or would you want everyone to know right away. This is the message declared in the hymn when it reads, “Christ, the Lord, is risen today.” He is alive and I want the world to know!

The hymn continues, “Sons of men and angels say, . . . Raise your joys and triumphs high, . . . Sing, ye heavens, and earth, reply.” Jesus is alive! Let the news echo throughout all the earth. All creation join in with celebration.

The hymn declares, “Lives again our glorious King, . . . Where, O death, is now thy sting? . . . Once He died our souls to save, . . . Where thy victory, O grave?” Jesus death on the cross, was but a step in the plan of salvation. It paid to penalty that we owed, but was not the end. His resurrection showed him victorious not only over sin, but death itself. This is why Paul writes in I Corinthians 15:55 – 57, “’O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Not only do we celebrate that He is alive, but that through Jesus death and resurrection we to share in the victory. This is why the hymn continues, “Love’s redeeming work is done, . . . Fought the fight, the battle won.” Jesus has won. In Him alone the work is done. Nothing we could do, would prove victorious, yet we may share in His victory when we accept his gift of salvation through His work.

Yes, He is Risen, and there is no greater news that could fill this earth. In Him we claim the victory that He has won. We know that we shall be “made like him.” (1 John 3:2) So we join in with the voices of those who came before and those who will come knowing that in Him all is “Ours the cross, the grave, the skies.”

He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

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Traditional Choral Arrangement

O Sacred Head Now Wounded

O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
O sacred Head, what glory, what bliss till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call Thee mine.

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.

Words by Bernard of Clairvaux, 1153
Music by Hans L.Hassler, 1601

And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and put a purple robe on Him; and they began to come up to Him and say, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and to give Him slaps in the face.
John 19:2 – 3

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:4 – 6

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
2 Corinthians 9:15


History is full of what we call dark hours. In American History the civil war is considered by many the darkest time in American history. During the war an estimated 620,000 people lost their lives. Perhaps the darkest time was July 1 – 3, 1863, The Battle of Gettysburg. Neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother, in the bloodiest battle ever fought on United States soil. Over 46,000 Americans lost their lives.

Since then there have been other, the stock market crash of 1929 saw 23,000 people committing suicide in one year. The December 11, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor saw 2,500 people lose their lives. The September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon saw 2,996 people lose their lives.

Yes we have known dark days. Days when all seems lost. Days when we can see no hope. But as dark as these are, none compares to the darkest day in all history. The day Jesus Christ, God incarnate, died on the cross. And not a simple death, but one of humiliation and suffering. It is a reflection on these events that we find in Bernard of Clairvaux’s “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.”

The hymn begins,”O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down, Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown.” As we look back at the events, so long ago, we can not help but be moved. Jesus had entered Jerusalem welcomed by the people as a long awaited King. They had praised him and followed with anxious anticipation of His ascension to the throne.

But things had not gone as the people had expected. Jesus had not challenged the Roman rule, but the leaders of Israel themselves. He had caused a turmoil in the temple as He challenged the practices that had become so accepted.

But all had changed. He was betrayed by one of his closest friends. He was arrest and tried for blasphemy, claiming to be equal with God. He had been beaten beyond recognition. The people who once had greeted him with such exhilaration now mocked him openly. The soldiers who took him away “twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and put a purple robe on Him; and they began to come up to Him and say, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and to give Him slaps in the face.” (John 19:2 – 3) And finally, he was taken away and crucified.

Yet we remember these events. Every year we set aside time to specifically look at these events. Why would we do this? Why would we want to remember? The answer is found as we continue through the hymn, “What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain; Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.” That is why we remember. He did it for us. Jesus, the very Son of God, willingly went through this for us. It was a punishment that we deserved, for we had turned our back on God. We had failed to live up to His Holiness, yet Jesus took the punishment that we might not. Isaiah had prophesied these events in chapter 53:4 – 6 where we read, “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

He suffered for us, and we need only accept the gift he has given. For when we accept it, all the punishment we deserve is transferred to Him. When we understand this, our response is as the hymn says, “Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place; Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.”

The hymn then addresses a profound question that comes from the acceptance of what He has done. It continues, “What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend, For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?” How do you say thank you for something so wonderful, for something so impossible, for something that can not be put into words. A gift that Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 9:15 as “indescribable.” The answer is not in words, but in every aspect of our lives. How do we thank Him? By living our lives for him.
Jesus suffering is something beyond our understanding. How God could take on flesh and allow Himself to be beaten and killed. That He would do that for us. Our response can not be less than that found in the words of the hymn, “O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be, Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.”

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Where You There?

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?

Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?

Were you there when the stone was rolled away?
Were you there when the stone was rolled away?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble
Were you there when the stone was rolled away?

Were you there when He rose up from the grave?
Were you there when He rose up from the grave?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when He rose up from the grave?

Words and Music are a Traditional Negro Spiritual

It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: the king of the jews.

They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”

Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said. With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.
Mark 15:25 – 37

So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
John 20:25

Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
John 19:40 – 42

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” Then they remembered his words.
Luke 24:1 – 8

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
I Corinthians 15:57


There are those songs that have come down through the ages. Songs that speak to our very souls. They come from a place of struggle and sorrow. They embody the deepest cries of our heart, those cries that we often can not even put into words. In America, we trace many of these songs back to some of the darkest days in our history. The days of slavery, when the cry of the heart was to be released from the oppression of this world. These songs place us in the events they describe. They transport us to a new place, a place that separates us from our situation and brings us to a place of hope. This is the case with the old Negro Spiritual, “Where you there?”

The the first verse starts our mind meditating on the events of that Friday two thousand years ago. “Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” So our minds begin a journey, looking back to that day. What must it have been like to stand there and see the events of Mark 15:25 – 37.

“It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: the king of the jews.

They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”

Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said. With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.”

Imagine to have spent all those years with him. To have become friends and to have come to believe that he was the promised messiah, only to seemingly have it all ripped away. Imagine witnessing him dying the death of a criminal. The words of the verse continue with what is all to true. “Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.” We shake and tremble at the loss of the one we loved so dear.

The next verse now begins to go deeper into the crucifixion. We read, “Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree? Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?” This is the nature of the crucifixion. Perhaps the most brutal form of execution ever devised by man. To be nailed to a tree, arms stretched wide. Nails through your hands and your feet. (John 20:25) To have to lift your body’s weight to breath, causing the tearing of flesh in the your hands. Every breath excruciating until you finally give up your last breath. This is what was witnessed by those who were present at the crucifixion.

The hymn continues, “Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb? Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?” There he was, their Lord and Savior. The man they had followed, waiting to see God’s power revealed, dead on a cross. So they lowered him from the cross and laid him in a tomb. There he laid, motionless with no life remaining. John 19:40 – 42 tells us that “Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.” Once they were finished, the tomb was closed with a stone across the entrance and He was left there.

But this is not the end. This is not where the story closes. The next verses ask the question “Were you there when the stone was rolled away? Were you there when the stone was rolled away?” The stone had been placed to close the grave. It was a visual evidence that there was no life inside. It was a place that none would go. Yet we discover it has been rolled away. Luke 24:1 – 3 tells us that, “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb.” Why would the stone be rolled away? Why would someone want to enter a grave?

But we learn that someone did not enter the grave, but left the grave. Luke 24:4 – 8 reads “but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” Then they remembered his words.” He had risen. He was alive. So the hymn turns to asking not a question of sorrow, but a question of joy. “Were you there when He rose up from the dead? Were you there when He rose up from the dead?”

Our savior and messiah is not dead in a grave, but alive. He has conquered death and now He stands as our mean to the Father. When we stop to truly consider the message of the cross and the grave, we need not sorrow, but find joy that if our Savior has conquered death, we need not fear it. In Him we to can have victory. (I Corinthians 15:57) When we are filled with the awe that comes from knowing what he has gone through on our behalf, that he died and rose again, we for a whole new reason declare, “Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.”

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Old Rugged Cross

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I’ll share.
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

Words and Music by George Bennard, 1913

So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.
John 19:17 – 18

he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Philippians 2:8

For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
Romans 5:10

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Mark 10:45

And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Hebrews 10:10

Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
Romans 8:17

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Galatians 6:14


When I was very young, before I can even remember, I was given a little blue teddy bear. It is something that, to my memory, I always had. I called him Boo Bear. (The attempt of a small child to say Blue.) A name he retained even after I had learned to say it properly. I kept him with me all the time. He was one of those things that was so loved that he eventually lost most of his fur. At one point, when I was a little older, I stitched new eyes on him, though I honestly do not remember his original eyes.

It has been a long time since I was a small child. But even today, if look on the top shelf of bookshelf, there he sits. Something that I cherish. Despite the wear and tear that is evident when you look at him, he is still something special. I know I am not alone in cherishing something so dear from my childhood. But imagine having this same cherished connection with something that is despised by everyone. Something that represents torture, suffering, shame and even death. How could someone have such cherished thoughts of something like this. Yet as Christians, we find ourselves right there. The most brutal form of execution devised by man is cherished by those whom it has touched. This is the message of George Bennard’s “Old Rugged Cross.”

The hymn begins, “On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross, The emblem of suffering and shame; And I love that old cross where the dearest and best For a world of lost sinners was slain.” It is a poetic description of the events some two thousand years ago. The events described in John 19. As we look at verses 17 – 18 we read, “So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.” They crucified him. This was the very purpose of the cross. Something we so easily forget today as we see people wear it for jewelry or when we look upon the beautifully designed cross hanging at the front of the church.

We don’t stop to remember that this cross was perhaps the ugliest thing imaginable to the eyes of the people of that day. It was used for the execution of criminals. Philippians 2:8 tells us that he “died a criminal’s death on a cross.” So how can we cherish this thing? How can it be so dear to our hearts?

The hymn continues, “O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world, Has a wondrous attraction for me.” And it does have an attraction that is great, an attraction that pulls us to the one who died upon it. For as Romans 5:10 tells us, “. . . while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son. . . ” You see, it is not the cross itself, but was accomplished upon that cross that draws us to it. “For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above To bear it to dark Calvary.” Christ himself, came to earth ”to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

Yes, “’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died, To pardon and sanctify me.” It is in his death that I find forgiveness. It is through his blood that I am sanctified and made holy. Hebrews 10:10 tells us, “. . . we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ. . .”

So this cross, which should be despised, becomes cherished. It is not something we run from, but it becomes the representation of what we hold most dear. This is why Bennard writes, “To the old rugged cross I will ever be true; Its shame and reproach gladly bear, Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away, Where His glory forever I’ll share.” This is what we are told in Romans 8:17 where we read, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Through His death and resurrection, we receive new life and will dwell with him forever.

So the cross, for all its dark and loathsome meaning, has become our sign of hope. Hope as we look forward to the day that we will receive the crown of glory that He has promised to all who believe. It is in the cross alone that we can boast of our salvation. (Galatians 6:14) So it this hope that we hold on to and join with others declaring “I will cling to the old rugged cross, And exchange it some day for a crown.”

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Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed?

Alas! and did my Savior bleed?
And did my Sov’reign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?

Was it for crimes that I have done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! Grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!

Well might the sun in darkenss hide
And shut its glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker, died
For man the creature’s sin.

Thus might I hide my blushing face
While His dear cross appears;
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
And melt mine eyes to tears.

But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give myself away –
‘Tis all that I can do!

Words by Isaac Watts, 1707
Music by Hugh Wilson, 1800

 


But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
Romans 4:25

When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said,“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”
The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
Luke 23:33 – 49

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
Ephesians 2:8 – 9


 

Have you ever stopped to consider all the things that have been done directly and indirectly for you. Things that have made you who you are.  Consider the sacrifices that have been made.  Perhaps your parents worked hours of over time to ensure you had food on your table and clothes to wear.  There are the men and women who have given their very lives to defend the people of our nation.  So much we have is because of the sacrifices of others.  But how often do you stop to consider the magnitude of the greatest sacrifice ever given on your behalf. This is the message found in the lines of Isaac Watts, “Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed?”

The hymn begins with the words, “Alas! and did my Savior bleed? And did my Sov’reign die?”  What profound questions? My Savior, the one who came to forgive my sins, the one who came to give me new life, shed His blood for me.  But He is not simply my Savior, He is my Sovereign. This is God Himself who died. He gave up His very life for me.

The hymn continues, “Would He devote that sacred head For such a worm as I?” Why would the God of all creation willingly give up his life for me? I am nothing.  Some updated versions of the hymn read, “for a sinner such as I” but I think that Watts so recognized our lowly state when compared with a righteous and Holy God, that he wrote, “For such a worm as I.”  A worm, the lowliest of creatures.  A creature that lives below the ground. A creature that when it comes above the ground is squashed beneath our feet.  This is us. The statement is not that we are worthless, but that when compared with God, we are nothing and yet God loved us so much that He gave His very life for us.  A message that Paul shares with us in Roman 5:8 where we read “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Why would God do this? Watts continues his pondering by saying, “Was it for crimes that I have done He groaned upon the tree?” It was my actions that put Him there.  It was to save me from the punishment I deserved that He chose to take my place. Romans 4:25 tells us, “He was delivered over to death for our sins . . .” That he would willingly give His life in my place is beyond words.  Watts attempts to cover this act when he wrote, “Amazing pity! Grace unknown! And love beyond degree!”

Watts continues “Well might the sun in darkness hide And shut its glories in, When Christ, the mighty Maker, died
For man the creature’s sin.” His words draw us back to that Friday as Christ died on the cross.  In Luke 23 we read, “It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last.”

When we stop to consider what Christ has done. When we begin to fully comprehend the magnitude of His sacrifice  we are left speechless. Watts puts it this way, “Thus might I hide my blushing face While His dear cross appears; Dissolve my heart in thankfulness, And melt mine eyes to tears.” When I stop to consider His gift to me I am driven to my knees with praise and I am driven to tears with gratitude.

But is this enough?  It still seems so shallow.  It seems my response can not meet the gift.  The final verse of the hymn reads  “But drops of grief can ne’er repay The debt of love I owe.” The debt that has been paid, I could never repay. He brought me from death to life.  In Him I will know eternity in His presence. And yet I need not give anything, for that is the nature of the gift.  It is free. We are reminded of this in Ephesians 2:8 – 9 which reads, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

So I respond to His gift. I respond to His love. I respond to His sacrifice with these words, “Here, Lord, I give myself away – ‘Tis all that I can do!”

 

 

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This is the more commonly known version with the refrain “At The Cross, At The Cross . . .” Music and refrain by Ralph Hudson, 1885.

 

 

Praise Him! Praise Him!

Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessèd Redeemer!
Sing, O Earth, His wonderful love proclaim!
Hail Him! hail Him! highest archangels in glory;
Strength and honor give to His holy Name!
Like a shepherd, Jesus will guard His children,
In His arms He carries them all day long:

Praise Him! Praise Him!
Tell of His excellent greatness.
Praise Him! Praise Him!
Ever in joyful song!

Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessèd Redeemer!
For our sins He suffered, and bled, and died.
He our Rock, our hope of eternal salvation,
Hail Him! hail Him! Jesus the Crucified.
Sound His praises! Jesus who bore our sorrows,
Love unbounded, wonderful, deep and strong.

Praise Him! Praise Him!
Tell of His excellent greatness.
Praise Him! Praise Him!
Ever in joyful song!

Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessèd Redeemer!
Heav’nly portals loud with hosannas ring!
Jesus, Savior, reigneth forever and ever.
Crown Him! Crown Him! Prophet, and Priest, and King!
Christ is coming! over the world victorious,
Pow’r and glory unto the Lord belong.

Praise Him! Praise Him!
Tell of His excellent greatness.
Praise Him! Praise Him!
Ever in joyful song!

Words by Fanny Crosby, 1869
Music by Chester G. Allen,

 


Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.
Psalm 29:2

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts.
Psalm 96:8

Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!
Psalm 150:5 – 6

Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights! Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts! Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all stars of light!
Psalm 138:1 – 3

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:57


 

“Let me tell you about this amazing person I just met. He can do anything. From the first time I met I him I was astounded at the places he had been and the things he had done. I can’t imagine anyone having done more things in this world. And despite all of this, he is quite likely the nicest person I have ever met. . . “

This may seem a bit over the top, but have you ever met someone who so impressed you, that you had to tell everyone about them. You simply were driven to sing his praises. This is the driving force behind Fanny Crosby’s, “Praise Him, Praise Him.”

In the hymn we see that it is Jesus of whom we are driven to sing praises. A message that echoes the message of scripture. Over and over again, we are told to praise God. In Psalm 29:2 we are told to “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.” In Psalm 96:8 we read “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts.” And again in Psalm 150:5 – 6 we are told to “Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!”

It is clear that we are instructed in scripture to sing our praises of and to God. This call then goes beyond us to all of creation. Crosby reminds us of this when she writes, “Hail Him! Hail Him! Highest archangels in glory.” This echoes the words of Psalm 138:2, “Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts!”

So Crosby reminds us that we are called to “Praise Him.” But she does not simply leave it at that. Rather she drives home the truth that He is worthy of the praise we give. She writes “For our sins He suffered, and bled, and died. He our Rock, our hope of eternal salvation, Hail Him! Hail Him! Jesus the Crucified. Sound His praises! Jesus who bore our sorrows, Love unbounded, wonderful, deep and strong.”

This is the God we are called to praise. And when we stop to realize who He is, when we stop to see what He has done, praising Him is not something we need to be told to do, it is something we feel compelled to do. Crosby gives us an amazing list of why to praise Him, but it is far from exhaustive. So when we find our focus on all of these reasons, to give Him praise is the least we can do in response.

And the hymn does not stop there. Not only are we called to praise Him because of who He is, not only are we called to praise Him because of what He has done, but Crosby reminds us that we are called to praise Him because of what He is yet to do. The hymn continues, “Jesus, Savior, reigneth forever and ever; Crown Him! Crown Him! Prophet, and Priest, and King! Christ is coming! over the world victorious.”

As we look to the future we can know the end. He is the prophet, priest, and king. He will reign forever and ever for He is victorious over the world. If this is not enough, he provides us with the way to victory as well. Despite the troubles we face in this world, when we put our faith in Him we will know the victory over this world that is found only in Him. A victory of which Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:57 when he writes, “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Yes, scripture instructs us to praise Him. But when we begin to sing His praise and to realize what we have to praise Him for, we can not keep it to ourselves. We will want everyone to know of Him. So we go out to the world to “Tell of His excellent greatness.”

 

 

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