Tag Archives: Jesus

“Risen”: A Fresh and Moving Perspective on the Resurrection

I just came back from seeing the new movie, “Risen”.  I recommend it highly.

I have seen a lot of Bible-themed and faith-based movies over the years. Risen is something encouragingly different. You see, the problem with most bible-themed and faith-based movies is they fall short in at least one of the major category. Either the writing is transparent, the acting weak, the directing is misguided or the production is cheap. Risen is a clear difference, hitting on all four cylinders.

Joseph Fiennes solid portrayal in the lead is moving and draws viewers into a well-told story. The story is summed up with one statement. When asked, “What frightens you?” Clavius (Fiennes) responds, “Being wrong. Wagering eternity on it.” Yes, Clavius is a non-biblical/fictional figure, but he becomes the personification of each and every person who has faced the truth of the resurrection and said, it can’t be true. As he proceeds on behalf of the Roman empire in an attempt to prove the false claims, we are reminded of the words of Sherlock Holmes, in The Sign of the Four “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” This is where Clavius finds himself.

For those who are familiar with the account of Jesus resurrection, “Risen” provides a fresh perspective. For those who are not, they will find a compelling investigation as they see events through the eyes of a skeptic who must reconcile what he believes to be true with all the evidence that is laid before him.

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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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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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Read the full text of “O Sacred Head Now Wounded.

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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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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My Jesus, I Love Thee

My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I love Thee because Thou has first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree.
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

Words by William R. Featherston, 1864
Music by Adoniram J. Gordon, 1876

 


for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if only you would hear his voice
Psalm 95:7

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
John 15:13

We love Him because He first loved us.
1 John 4:19

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38 – 39


 

Deep down we are all the same. Yes, some of us prefer to be alone and some prefer to be around other people. Some of us prefer to be with people we know well and some prefer to continually meet new people. Some of us prefer to be with people like us and other prefer to spend time with people who are different. Yet despite all of these differences, deep down we are all want the same. We want somewhere to belong.

And so we search for a place. Some search in relationships with other people. Some search in drugs and alcohol. Some search in money. Some search in work. Some search in helping others. And while these, at least for a short time, seem to give us a sense of purpose, in the end, even the most well-meaning of them, leaves us feeling empty.

So we continue to seek somewhere to belong. Somewhere that we are accepted and wanted. Somewhere that we are loved. The love that we seek is found in Christ. It is in His presence that we can find the one place we are accepted and always belong. It is in response to this sense of belonging that William Featherston wrote his hymn, “My Jesus, I Love Thee.”

The hymn begins “My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine.” We are looking for a place to belong, it is found in Jesus. And this belonging has a flip side found in Psalm 95:7 where we read, “for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture.” We are His and He is ours. This is the ultimate level of belonging, to know that we belong to someone and we can reciprocate.

So when we know we have this level of belonging, we are willing to give everything in response. When we know that we have found belonging in Christ, we are willing to sacrifice all our selfishness. This is the declaration of the hymn, when it says “For Thee all the follies of sin I resign.”

So we share our love with Him. A love that does not always come so easily to us, but is the only possible response to the love that He has shown us first as the hymn continues, “I love Thee because Thou has first loved me.” Our love does not exist in a vacuum, it is the response to the love that He has shown us. This echoes the words of I John 4:19 which tells us, “We love Him because He first loved us.”

He loved us first, and with a love that is not simply words, but demonstrated in the most incredible of actions. It echoes Jesus words in John 15:13 were we read, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” As the hymn puts it,he “purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree.”

It is in this love that we find our purpose and meaning. It is a love that has no end. It is what leads Featherston to write, “I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death, And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow.” He is our love not just of this lifetime, but forever, just as His love can not separated from us. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38 – 39)

In Christ, we can find what our hearts desire. A place to belong which is engulfed in his love. So we respond by loving Him who has loved us first. When we begin to understand the love that God has extended to us we can join with others proclaiming, “If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.”

 

 

Read more about “My Jesus, I Love Thee.”