Tag Archives: Lord

Again I Say Rejoice

Rejoice, the Lord is King! Your Lord and King adore;
Mortals give thanks and sing, and triumph evermore;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

Jesus, the Savior, reigns, the God of truth and love;
When He had purged our stains He took His seat above;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

His kingdom cannot fail, He rules o’er earth and Heav’n,
The keys of death and hell are to our Jesus giv’n;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

He sits at God’s right hand till all His foes submit,
And bow to His command, and fall beneath His feet:
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

He all His foes shall quell, shall all our sins destroy,
And every bosom swell with pure seraphic joy;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice,
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

Rejoice in glorious hope! Jesus the Judge shall come,
And take His servants up to their eternal home.
We soon shall hear th’archangel’s voice;
The trump of God shall sound, rejoice!

Words by Charles Wesley, 1744
Music by John Darwall, 1770

 


The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice! Let the farthest coastlands be glad.
Dark clouds surround him. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire spreads ahead of him and burns up all his foes.
His lightning flashes out across the world. The earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his righteousness; every nation sees his glory.
Psalm 97:1 – 6

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Philippians 4:4

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
Romans 5:1 – 2

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16


 

Everybody loves a celebration.  Some are looking for a huge blow-out, while others simply want a little recognition. My birthday is coming up in a few weeks, which of course seems like a good reason to celebrate. Now are we going to have a big party? Probably not.  But people will wish me Happy Birthday and I will appreciate the recognition.  Some may not consider this celebrating, but however you define celebration, it is a time of excitement and rejoicing.  This is the theme of Charles Wesley, “Rejoice The Lord Is King.”

The title and first lines sums up the whole point of the hymn, “Rejoice the Lord is King.” That is to say, we need to be filled with excitement at the realization that the Lord is King.  A message that draws our minds to Psalm 97:1 where we read, “The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice!”

The Lord as King is a theme that is found through out scripture. But we as Americans have a unique challenge in understanding what that really means.  You see, for Charles Wesley in 18th century England, the idea of a King was in the front of his mind.  He lived in a Monarchy where the King was the final power and authority, but for us, the concept of a King is very foreign to our minds. We live in a land where no one person holds that level of power.  So we must ask ourselves, what does it mean to say, “The Lord is King.”

For one thing, a king is a ruler for life. A reminder that God is not simply in a position of authority here and there. It is authority that spans from the time before creation and on through eternity. Beyond this, a king  is usually revered as the sovereign leader of his nation. So God is the sovereign ruler of all He has created. From this world and beyond, He is ruler. And more specifically, He is the absolute ruler over his people.

The Lord is King, the sovereign ruler over all creation. This could be a terrifying reality, but our God is not a malevolent ruler, but a God who cares for His creation. This is why Wesley writes that we are to rejoice.  And then, in an echo of Philippians 4:4, he writes, “Lift up your heart, lift up your voice; Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!”

The hymn concludes that our rejoicing in not simply that the Lord is King. We also “Rejoice in glorious hope! Jesus the Judge shall come, And take His servants up to their eternal home.” This is the hope that Paul wrote of in Romans 5:1 – 2 where he states that, “since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.” We have peace with God and can come before the throne of our glorious King. We need not fear Him, for by grace we have been justified through faith in Jesus.

No, we need not fear God, rather we can rejoice that He cares for us.  We can rejoice that He has opened the door for us to know Him.  We can rejoice that He has provided the way to eternal life. (John 3:16) We can rejoice that He is King.  When this joy wells within us, we can not help but Lift up our hearts and voices declaring, “Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!”

 

 

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Thou Art The Potter

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

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

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

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

Words by Adelaide Pollard, 1907
Music by George Stebbins, 1907

 


Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.
Isaiah 64:8

But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God?“Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?
Romans 9:20 – 21

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:23 – 24

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Psalm 51:7


 

Do you remember those early art classes from when you were a kid? You know, the one where you got to try everything for the first time.  I remember painting pictures, building sculptures and molding bowls out of clay.  I look back at those  bowls I made from clay, and honestly, I am not sure I would want to actually use it.  I now have kids of my own and each them has done likewise.  I have developed an appreciation of how special each of these unique items is.  But when I walk through a museum and see what such items can be when entrusted to the hands of a master, I am amazed.  This same clay that in the hands of a novice a poor excuse for a bowl, in the hands of the master is a work of art.  In the hymn, “Have Thine Own Way” we find the theme of the master’s handiwork presented.

The hymn begins, “Have Thine own way Lord, have Thine own way.” This flies in the face of what the world tells us.  We are told that we need to have it our way.  It’s all about what we want. And we as Christians are not exempt from such thinking.  I once read a list entitled, “Hymns We Really Sing.”  In this case, all too often the hymn we really sing is “Have My Own way Lord, Have My Own Way.”

But Pollard refocuses us to look where we should be looking. It is not our way that matters in the end, but God’s. To make this point she draws on an image found in scripture itself. She writes, “Thou art the Potter, I am the clay. Mold me and make me after Thy will.” Just as the potter forms and manipulates the clay into the form it must take to accomplish its purpose, we to must be willing to allow God to mold and form us. This image is found in Isaiah 64:8 and is further developed in Romans 9:20 – 21 where we read, “But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? ‘Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?”

God has a purpose for each of us.  Yes it is true, that one person’s purpose may not seem as spectacular as another’s, but each has a purpose no less or more important than the next. Be it the world famous evangalist or the custodian who picks up that garbage, each is of equal importance to the mission in God’s eyes.

The hymn cries out to God that he would use us to accomplish His mission.  But the next line realizes, that even if this is the desire of our hearts there are things within us that we allow to get in the way.  Some of these things we know right away such as our creature comforts, and our desire to be liked.  But some of them, we do not so readily notice in ourselves. Things like a fear of letting go of those we know and love to move forward.  Sometime, it is that secret sin that we have held onto so long, that we have forgotten it is even there.  It is to these things the hymn refers when it says, “Search me and try me, Master, today!”

It is not an easy thing to do, to ask God to search us.  But this is exactly the cry of David in Psalm 139:23 – 24 when he writes, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  David understood what each of us must as well.  If our true desire is to be used of God, then we need to let Him bring to light in our lives all those things that may be standing in the way.  Only when we know what we are holding onto, will we be able to let go of them.

It is when we have seen these things that we can lay them in God’s hands and allow Him to clean us.  It is in this light that Pollard continues, “Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now, As in Thy presence humbly I bow.”  Only when we are willing to hear God’s voice and respond to those things in our lives that he reveals, can we truly become clean and be whiter than snow.  This echoes the message of Psalm 51:7 where we read, “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”

Only when we allow God to clean us can we live up to our potential use in His plan.  Only when our heart cries out “Wounded and weary, help me, I pray! . . . Touch me and heal me, Savior divine.” will we find strength to stand and to move forward.

God has a purpose for each and every one of us.  For some, it is to stand before the world, for other it is to support behind the scenes.  Whatever the call is on each of our lives, we must trust Him to be in control.  We must yield to His authority in all matters.  We must allow Him to cleanse and heal us.  We must allow Him to mold us to the shape he desires. To this end and purpose, we join together in calling for God to “Fill with Thy Spirit ’till all shall see Christ only, always, living in me.”

 

 

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Silent Night, Holy Night

Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and Child.
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night,
Shepherds quake at the sight;
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born!

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light;
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

Silent night, holy night
Wondrous star, lend thy light;
With the angels let us sing,
Alleluia to our King;
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born!

Words by Josef Mohr, ca 1817
Music by Franz Gruber, 1820

 


Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Isaiah 7:14

In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.
Psalm 4:8

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.
1 John 1:5

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.
Ephesians 1:7

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
Luke 1:29 – 33


 

I don’t know if your cupboard is like ours, but the dishes we have are used regularly. Some of the dishes may have a few chips, but you know that comes from regular us. Now we do have some special dishes. You know what I am talking about, the “fine china.” Those dishes that only come out for extremely special occasions, whatever those may be. This is not really that unusual. Whether it is dishes, clothes, or anything people often have the everyday items and then those that are set apart for something special. This is the definition of the New Testament Greek word “hagios” which we translate in English as holy.

Now while this word has become a commonly used word in the everyday language, it true meaning is often missed. But in the case of the Christmas hymn, “Silent Night, Holy Night” its true meaning shines through. Holy – To be set apart by or for God.

Josef Mohr begins by setting the tone of a quite and peaceful evening with the words “Silent night, holy night, All is calm, all is bright.” With this as the background he begins to paint for us a picture. He writes, “Round yon virgin mother and Child. Holy Infant, so tender and mild.” A reminder that Jesus was the fulfillment of a prophecy given by Isaiah in Chapter 7, verse 14 where he writes, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

The first verse ends with the words, “sleep in heavenly peace.” Now while this at first glance may seem to be a reference to the Christ child sleeping. However, when we look closer it in light of Psalm 4:8 which reads, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.” it seems rather to refer to the city and the peace that has descended on upon the world with Christ presence.

The hymn continues by recounting the events of Luke 2:8 – 14 which reads, “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’”

He is the Messiah, the Lord. It is this theme that Mohr continues with when he writes, “Son of God, love’s pure light.” He is the Messiah, the Lord and He is the light and “in him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)

The light shines forth and Mohr uses the imagery to transition to a new idea. For the lawn comes with the dawn, and he writes, “Radiant beams from Thy holy face, With the dawn of redeeming grace.” Jesus came to extend the grace of God to all people. This is why Ephesians 1:7 says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” This is why Jesus came, and his birth is but the beginning, the “dawn of redeeming grace.” From the moment he was born, he was there for this purpose. From the moment he was born he was the Son of God (Luke 1:32) So the Mohr wrote, “Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,”

This night was indeed set apart for special time in all history. It was truly a Holy night, for on this night God came to earth to redeem the world. For this reason, those who come to know the peace that can be found in Jesus alone join together with the proclamation, “Christ the Savior is born!”

 

 

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For that Child . . . Is our Lord in Heav’n

Once in royal David’s city
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her Baby
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little Child.

He came down to earth from Heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall;
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Savior holy.

And, through all His wondrous childhood,
He would honor and obey,
Love and watch the lowly maiden,
In whose gentle arms He lay:
Christian children all must be
Mild, obedient, good as He.

For He is our childhood’s pattern;
Day by day, like us He grew;
He was little, weak and helpless,
Tears and smiles like us He knew;
And He feeleth for our sadness,
And He shareth in our gladness.

And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love,
For that Child so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in Heav’n above,
And He leads His children on
To the place where He is gone.

Not in that poor lowly stable,
With the oxen standing by,
We shall see Him; but in Heaven,
Set at God’s right hand on high;
Where like stars His children crowned
All in white shall wait around.

Words by Cecil F. Alexander, 1848
Music by Henry J. Gauntlett, 1849

 


And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
John 17:5

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
Philippians 2:6 – 7

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.
Hebrews 4:15

They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.
Revelation 22:4

“This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. “Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. “For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: ‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND
Acts 2:32 – 34


 

We all have those people we admire. People who have made an impression on us for some reason. It might be a parent. Perhaps it is a teacher who went out of their way to help their students. Sometimes it’s someone we have not met but we look up to them as an example such as historical figures or famous people who we see as an example of what we can do or be.

Now stop and think about the fact that these people were once children. They were born into this world just like each of us. From their birth the potential was in them, but no one could have seen what they would do, who they would become. In a nit unfamiliar way the Savior was born into this world and grew just as each of us. He entered into this world as an infant child. This is the theme of “Once In Royal David’s City.”

In her hymn Cecil Alexander reminds us that Jesus began his life in this world like each of us, through birth. The reality of the matter is that he was born in a more humble circumstance that most any of us. Born in a stable and laid in a manger for his bed.

Before going any further though, Alexander reminds us that while Jesus was born into this world, he existed before. She writes, “He came down to earth from Heaven, Who is God and Lord of all.” This Jesus who was laid in the manger, is God who existed before the world began. (John 17:5) Yet he came to dwell among us (John 1:14) that we might know Him.

Yet, though he was God he set aside what was rightfully his and was born a baby. (Philippians 2:6 – 7) The hymn then proceeds to remind us that Jesus experienced life in the same way we do. “Day by day, like us He grew; He was little, weak and helpless, Tears and smiles like us He knew; And He feeleth for our sadness, And He shareth in our gladness.” Jesus, God who existed before the world, experienced all the joys, sorrows and temptations that we know. As a result he know our struggles. Hebrews 4:15 tells us, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.”

When we turn to Him as our High Priest. When we put our faith and trust in him, we can find confidence in knowing that we will one day see His face. (Revelation 22:4) “Not in that poor lowly stable, With the oxen standing by, We shall see Him; but in Heaven, Set at God’s right hand on high.”

 

 

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We Gather Together

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!

We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be.
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!

Words and Music by Adrianus Valerius, 1597

 


For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.
Matthew 18:20

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
Hebrews 10:25

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved 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 8:37 – 39


 

Among my most cherished memories from growing up are family gatherings. Be it Thanksgiving, Christmas, a wedding or whatever, there are few times in my life that stand-up in comparison.

Now I don’t come from the largest family I know, but on the other hand, I certainly don’t come from a small one either. I remember getting together at my Grandparents house for Thanksgiving. We would have two full size tables set, when it came time to eat we would gather around, cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, grandparents and sometimes second and third cousins, great aunts, great uncles, even great grandparents. Yes, we were a very close family and still are. To this day, my closest and dearest friends are family.

The added gift to our family is that we were believers. As a result the ties that bound us together went beyond blood, and into our very spirit. As we would gather around the table, my grandfather would lead us in prayer. While he was a simple man, his prayers stand out as some of the most heartfelt I have ever heard. Genuine, moving and from the heart.

So he would pray thanking God for our being together. Thanking Him for the blessings he had bestowed on us. And praying that God would continue to bless us. This is the theme found in Adrianus Valerius’s hymn/prayer, “We Gather Together.”

The first line we see is, “We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing.” Valerius reminds us that we have been called to gather together, for this is where we will see the power of God manifested. Jesus told us in Matthew 20:18 “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” In addition, the writer of Hebrews instructs us in 10:25 to “not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another.” Gathering together is foundational to what it means to be a believer.

But as we come together, we each come from our own unique struggles. This prayer now turns to remind us that God will not leave us. It reads, “The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing. Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.” Alone, we begin to feel worn down with attacks that may come, but as we gather together we are refreshed and reminded that God is there with us. We can therefore cease from distressing for He is, “Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining.”

But not only is God with us, in Him we can know victory. Valerius calls Him, “Thou Leader Triumphant.” Our “Leader Triumphant” then shares that victory with us so that we are, as Paul says, “More than conquerors.” (Romans 8:37)

God has called us together to worship Him, to refresh our souls and to build up one another. Let us not forsake coming together, rather may we join our hearts as one, praying for His blessings, thanking Him that He will not leave us and declaring His praise to all who will hear. And so we pray, Lord “Thy name be ever praised.”

 

 

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Fairest Lord Jesus

Fairest Lord Jesus, Ruler of all nature,
O Thou of God and man the Son,
Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor,
Thou, my soul’s glory, joy and crown.

Fair are the meadows, fairer still the woodlands,
Robed in the blooming garb of spring;
Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer,
Who makes the woeful heart to sing.

Fair is the sunshine,
Fairer still the moonlight,
And all the twinkling starry host;
Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer
Than all the angels heaven can boast.

All fairest beauty, heavenly and earthly,
Wondrously, Jesus, is found in Thee;
None can be nearer, fairer or dearer,
Than Thou, my Savior, art to me.

Beautiful Savior! Lord of all the nations!
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor, praise, adoration,
Now and forever more be Thine.

Words by German Jesuit Order, 17th Century
Music by Silesian Folk Song

 


Your eyes will see the king in his beauty and view a land that stretches afar.
Isaiah 33:17

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.
Psalm 27:4

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Colossians 1:15 – 17

“This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb:
I am the Lord, the Maker of all things, who stretches out the heavens, who spreads out the earth by myself.
Isaiah 44:24

yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live
1 Corinthians 8:6

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.
1 John 4:15

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.
Luke 19:10

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance.
Psalm 33:12

You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.
Revelation 4:11


 

I was raised on a small Iowa farm. Although I have spent most of the last 26 years living in the suburbs of Chicago, deep down, I still long to be home in Iowa. One of the most beautiful scenes in the world to me a farm with wide open spaces and fields green with crops.

Now this is my definition of a beautiful scene, but each of us have different things we would list. For some it is a mountain range. For some a long sea-shore. And for some, it is the hustle and bustle of a city street. The list could go on.

Whatever the scene, for each of us, it can mean the world to cast our eyes upon it. But as beautiful as these scenes can be, they are nothing compared to casting our eyes upon our Savior. This is the theme of the hymn, “Fairest Lord Jesus.” This hymn, originally written by German Jesuit monks, has one thought that it presents. That the fairest thing of all, is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. All other things, when compared with him fade to nothing.

The hymn reads, “Fair are the meadows, fairer still the woodlands” yet in response declares, “Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer.” It goes on to say, “Fair is the sunshine, Fairer still the moonlight, And all the twinkling starry host.” Yet again, the response is that “Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer Than all the angels heaven can boast.”

No matter how much we may love the things of this earth. No matter how much we may love the beauty of all of God’s creation. They are nothing when compared with Christ himself.

Our hearts desire to see the beauty of our savior is not something new to us, nor something that was new to the authors of the hymn. No, we are not alone in seeking to see the beauty of God. David writes in Psalm 27:4, “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”

When we seek to look upon the beauty of our Lord and Savior, everything else will begin to seem less important. It is Jesus who our hearts desire to look upon. When we look upon Jesus, we see God revealed. (Colossians 1:15)

Jesus is the very Son of God (1 John 4:15)and the very Son of Man (Luke 19:10) It is Him that we seek to follow. It is Him we hope to see. When we come to see Him truly in this light, we can join with others in the words, “Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor, Thou, my soul’s glory, joy and crown.”

 

 

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Ponder Anew

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near;
Join me in glad adoration.

Praise to the Lord, who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen how all thy longings have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?

Praise to the Lord, who hath fearfully, wondrously, made thee;
Health hath vouchsafed and, when heedlessly falling, hath stayed thee.
What need or grief ever hath failed of relief?
Wings of His mercy did shade thee.

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriend thee.

Praise to the Lord, who, when tempests their warfare are waging,
Who, when the elements madly around thee are raging,
Biddeth them cease, turneth their fury to peace,
Whirlwinds and waters assuaging.

Praise to the Lord, who, when darkness of sin is abounding,
Who, when the godless do triumph, all virtue confounding,
Sheddeth His light, chaseth the horrors of night,
Saints with His mercy surrounding.

Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him.
Let the Amen sound from His people again,
Gladly for aye we adore Him.

Words by Joachim Neander, 1680
Music by Unknown, 1665

 


Praise the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.
Psalm 150

“And you shall again obey the LORD, and observe all His commandments which I command you today. “Then the LORD your God will prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hand,
Deuteronomy 30:8 – 9

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Psalm 23:6

Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you
Luke 12:24 – 28


 

When we look at the world today compared to 200 years ago, we have some pretty amazing things.  We have computers that not only allow us to process and save information, but connect us with the rest of the world.  We have telephones that not only connect our homes and offices, but that we carry with us everywhere.  And with the simple flip of a switch, we illuminate the night.

Yes, we have amazing developments but we seem to simply take them for granted. But imagine the thought processes of those who brought these things to life.  Where would we be without people like Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell or Charles Babbage.  These people thought beyond what was, to what could be. When we stop to consider the impact they have had on the world, it is staggering.

But if these people, as well as others, could have this impact on the world, how much more has the very Creator of the Universe had on each and every one of us.  As I look at the words of  Joachim Neander’s hymn, “Praise To The Lord, The Almighty” I can not help but ponder these thoughts.

He begins his hymn with a call for each of us to join together in praise and worship of God.  He calls, “All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near; Join me in glad adoration.” This call is a theme that we hear in Psalm 150 where we read,

“Praise the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.”

 He goes on to reflect on many of the things God has done.  Our minds are drawn to the realities that God reigns over all, that he shelters and sustains us, that he provides for our needs.  We see that God “will prosper us abundantly in all the work of our hands.” (Deuteronomy 30:9) We are reminded that His “goodness and love will follow us all the days of our lives.” (Psalm 23:6)

Unfortunately, these are all things we can so easily take for granted.  They are things we can simply fail to reflect on and consider.

This draws us to what seems a pivotal point in the hymn.  Neander calls us to, “Ponder anew, what the Almighty can do, If with His love he befriend thee.”  You see, when we stop to consider the magnitude of what God has done in this world, we can not help but be amazed. When we genuinely “ponder anew” what He has done for us personally we must sing our praises to Him.  But if this is not enough, we need to consider what is beyond our comprehension.  We reflect on the reality that the Almighty Creator of the Universe calls us friends.  (John 15:15)  That he cares personally for us.  This is why Jesus reminds us, in Luke 12:28 that if God can so beautifully clothe “the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you.”

Yes God can and will care for His people, as he always has.  The God who sustains the world, can sustain each and every one of us.  When we stop and “ponder anew” this truth, our voices are drawn to join with all of God’s people when we declare, “Let the Amen sound from His people again, Gladly for aye we adore Him.”

 

 

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Draw Me Nearer Blessed Lord

I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice,
And it told Thy love to me;
But I long to rise in the arms of faith
And be closer drawn to Thee.
Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord,
To the cross where Thou hast died.
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord,
To Thy precious, bleeding side.

Consecrate me now to Thy service, Lord,
By the power of grace divine;
Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope,
And my will be lost in Thine.
Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord,
To the cross where Thou hast died.
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord,
To Thy precious, bleeding side.

O the pure delight of a single hour
That before Thy throne I spend,
When I kneel in prayer, and with Thee, my God
I commune as friend with friend!
Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord,
To the cross where Thou hast died.
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord,
To Thy precious, bleeding side.

There are depths of love that I cannot know
Till I cross the narrow sea;
There are heights of joy that I may not reach
Till I rest in peace with Thee.
Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord,
To the cross where Thou hast died.
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord,
To Thy precious, bleeding side.

Words by Fanny Crosby, 1875
Music by W. Howard Doane, 1875

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.
James 4:7 – 8

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:1 – 2

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

let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings Hebrews 10:22


From the time we are young children, even before we can remember, our biggest comfort is found in being near to our parents. We’ve all seen it. A child is put to sleep but the minute they wake up and realize that they are alone they begin to cry. It is when a parent comes and picks them up that they begin to stop crying. It is the comfort they find from not being alone, from being drawn near to one who cares about them.

As we grow older we become more comfortable with separation, but we still have the tie that binds us to others. We still find comfort in knowing that those who care are near, even if we strain to keep a certain distance.

Even when we are grown and on our own things still remain the same. We may have lived on our own for years. We may be married and have our own children. But when something goes wrong, it is often to that same comfort to which we once again return. We draw near to those who love us.

In her hymn, “I Am Thine, O Lord” Fanny Crosby focuses on this basic desire within all of us, this desire to be drawn near to the one who cares for us.

She writes, “I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice, And it told Thy love to me; But I long to rise in the arms of faith And be closer drawn to Thee.” God has called to us and those who have responded to the call have become part of His family. They are His. This is, however, only a beginning because knowing something and living something are two different things. That is, we know that we belong to God, but our greatest desire is to be held in His arms.

This is the place of comfort and safety that we all desire. James writes in chapter 4 verses 7 – 8 that if you, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.” When we begin to feel alone and distanced we can find the peace that comes only in God’s arms by drawing near to Him.

Our response to this peace we are drawn to is to serve Him. Crosby calls to God to “Consecrate me now to Thy service, Lord, By the power of grace divine; Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope, And my will be lost in Thine.”

You see, if it is the nearness of God that we truly seek, then how much more near can we be than to live in His will. Paul writes in Romans 12:1 – 2, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

When we draw near to God, we will be anchored in the steadfast hope that comes from Him. We are able to submit to Him. We are able to “present our bodies as a living sacrifice” so that we are able to “test and approve what God’s will is.” In Hebrews 6:19 we read, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast.”

So, “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings.” (Hebrews 10:22) It is only then that we will truly understand the blessing of drawing near to God. It is then that we can sing the words, “O the pure delight of a single hour That before Thy throne I spend, When I kneel in prayer, and with Thee, my God
I commune as friend with friend!”

Read more about “I Am Thine, O Lord.”

Be Thou My Vision

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

Words by Dallan Forgaill, 8th Century (though some date it to the 6th Century)
Music by Irish Folk Melody

 


“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.”
Deuteronomy 6:4 – 9

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.
Proverbs 3:5 – 7

We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority.
1 Thessalonians 2:6


 

What does it take to become good at something?  Well there’s repetition.  We’ve all heard the old saying, “practice makes perfect.”  That is actually half-true, my high school band teacher used to correct it to be “perfect practice makes perfect.”  After all, if you practice the wrong thing, then you your simply going to get better at doing it wrong. In either case, what we see is that repetition allows us to make thing more automatic.

So maybe the key to getting better at something is to understand the theory behind what you are doing?  If you want to become better at basketball, simply randomly throwing the ball toward the basket may allow you to make it part of the time, but when you start to understand the arch of the ball and the angles off the back board, then you can begin to see how every movement impacts the shot. Armed with this knowledge, you will begin to modify your movements to improve your shots.

So repetition plays a role in getting better at something and understanding the theory behind the activity can help improve your performance.  I can think of a third means of getting better and that is necessity.  Think about learning a new language.  You can study the theory behind a language.  How does it work? What are the rules? And you can memorize the words through repetition.  But it you want to learn to speak a language naturally, then immersion is the way to go.  When you are dropped in a situation that the only way to communicate is to learn the language, then you are driven out of necessity to learn it.

Repetition, theory and necessity, these three things are key to becoming better at something.  To simplify it, I am left with one word, focus.  You see when I have a singular focus, then everything I do begins to be centered around what I want to improve in.  Singular focus begins to give us purpose and direction in all that we do.  This is the clear message behind the ancient prayer we know as “Be Thou My Vision.”

Forgaill writes, “Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart; Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art. Thou my best Thought, by day or by night, Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.”  Look at that again, “By day or by night, waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.”  As we hear these words we are reminded of the Shema, a central prayer of Judaism found in Deuteronomy 6:4 – 9.  Verse 6 – 9 read, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.” Our focus is to be on God at all times, in all that we do.

When we can place our focus on God we begin to realize that others things are not important.  Forgaill writes, “Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise, Thou mine Inheritance, now and always: Thou and Thou only, first in my heart, High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.”  A truth that the Apostle Paul understood.  In 1 Thessalonians 2:6 he writes, “We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else.”  If our focus is on God, then we are not distracted by the opinions of others.  Our actions are not determined by a concern of what others will think, but what God has called us to.

When we have a singular focus on God and his will for our lives, then we will grow in our relationship with Him.  We will become more Christ like each day.  As we grow, we join in the conclusion of this hymn, “High King of Heaven, my victory won, May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun! Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.”

 

 

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Holy, Holy, Holy

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.

Holy, holy, holy! though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power, in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All Thy works shall praise Thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

Words by Reginald Heber, 1826
Music by John Dykes, 1861

 


. . . At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. . . Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. . . Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.

In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:

“‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.”

Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”
Revelation 4:1 – 11

. . . I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphim: each one had six wings; with two they covered their face, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they did fly.

And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. . .

Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.

Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away, and your sin removed.
Isaiah 6:1 – 7


 

I remember visiting my grandparents house when I was young. We would go there for Thanksgiving, Christmas, sometimes Easter as well as other times. One of the things that was always a given was a big meal. For the holidays there was always a big meal, but even if we were there only for the weekend, we would always have a big Sunday dinner.

Now my grandmother had a china cabinet (though I don’t remember it having china) that the dishes were kept in. We would pull out the dishes and set the table. For big family get togethers we would set a second table. Sometimes we stretched the dishes to the limit, using everything available in the cabinet.

But these were not the only dishes my grandmother had. Hanging on the wall in the dining room she had a collection of tea cups. These, however, were special. She had collected the. and they were never used. After my grandmother passed away these cups were distributed to family. I have one, and I as well do not use it, it sits on a shelf as a reminder of my grandmother each time I see it. It is set apart.

“Set apart” This is the meaning of he word Holy, and so is the theme of Reginald Heber’s hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Heber begins his hymn with the words, “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!” These words may be familiar to many. In Revelation 4:8 the angels around the throne declares, “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.” They are echoing the words of the angels around the throne in Isaiah 6:3 where they declare, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.”

Think about, the angels themselves, who are in the very presence of God cannot help but declare that God is set apart. He is above and beyond all of creation. He is Holy. But they do not simply declare Him holy, but do it three-fold. The three-fold formula is a declaration that God is not simply holy, but perfectly holy. And so over and over again, in his hymn, Heber proclaims that God is perfectly holy.

How humbling and frightening this can be. I mean if the seraphim and cherubim who are in God’s very presence bow before Him declaring his holiness and the twenty-four elders of Revelation 4:10 fall down and cast their crowns before Him, what can I do. As Heber puts it, “Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see.”

So when I find myself coming before the Lord, I am with Isaiah who says, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5) What am I to do?

There is hope. For Isaiah the angel touched his lips with a coal from from the altar of God and he is told, “this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away, and your sin removed.” But what of us?

Our hope is in Jesus Christ. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” (1 Peter 3:18) Because of this, if we “declare with our mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead, we will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) As a result, we need not fear standing before God, but we may “come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace “ (Hebrews 4:16)

Yes, we who have believed in Christ. We who have been baptized “ in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” ( Matthew 28:19) into Christ death and resurrection (Romans 6:3) need not fear being in the presence of a perfectly holy God. Instead we may join with that great chorus of voices testifying, “Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty! God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!”

 

 

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