Tag Archives: savior

Luke 3 – Inaugurating His Ministry

As Luke moves on from his childhood account, he now jumps over an eighteen-year gap. Here Luke begins to lay out the inauguration of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Yet once again, it is not Jesus he starts with, but John the Baptist.

Just like in chapter 1, where Luke begins with the announcement that John would be born to lay the groundwork for the announcement and birth of Christ, here we find John moving into his ministry that is literally laying the foundation for the ministry of Jesus.

Interestingly, Luke appears to want to make it clear that there is no question of the historicity and accuracy of his account. He spends the first verse and half explaining exactly when these events occurred by referencing various leaders, both political and religious, over the region, including the Emporer.

John is the classic portrayal of a prophet, calling the people of Israel to repent and return to genuinely worshiping and honoring God. He wants us to clearly understand that this is itself a fulfillment of prophecy. Luke reminds us of the very words of Isaiah that had looked forward to this day.  In verses 4 – 6, he quotes directly from Isaiah when he writes that John is “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make ready the way of the Lord, Makes His paths straight. Every ravine will be filled, And every mountain and hill will be brought low; The crooked will become straight, And the rough roads smooth; And all flesh will see the salvation of God.’” (NASB)

John confronts the idea straight on that merely being part of the nation of Israel does not make one a child of God by using a rather unusual image. He says that God can raise up children from the stones if he wants and that trees that do not produce fruit will be cut down. His point is that it does not matter who your ancestors (parents and beyond) are, it is beholden on each of us to turn ourselves to God and follow him.

John then gives us a glimpse of what this true repentance looks like. It is not just something that can be kept inside, but it is demonstrated on the outside. He presents a series of images that those who are genuinely repentant will care for those in need. I am reminded of the word in James 1:27, “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” True repentance is a change of the heart, that can not help but be lived out in caring for the neediest.

To further make his point, John implemented the practice of baptism. This was not a new concept for the people of that time. Baptism served as a physical demonstration of one’s commitment to a particular teacher or teaching. John uses the practice to challenge people to make a public profession that they are genuinely repentant and want to turn back to God.

It is no wonder that many people thought John may well have been the promised messiah. He was shaking up the status quo, forcing people to re-evaluate what it meant to honor God. But John understood that it was not about him. This is a challenge that many of those in ministry find themselves facing. As people look to us for answers, and we find ourselves leading others, it is so easy to begin to think too highly of ourselves. Each of us should seek to maintain the humility of John who tells the people in verse 16 “As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” This strikes me as a precursor of what we find to be one of the last statements by John the Baptist, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

But everything was not all positive for John. Yes, many were repenting, but we are told that his call to repentance made some enemies. Most notably, Herod, the Tetrarch, or governor of Galilee. John had confronted him of his sin, to which Herod reacted by throwing Joh in prison. This marked the end of John’s ministry, but Luke first takes a step back in verses 21 – 22 to present us with the point of John’s ministry, to inaugurate the ministry of Jesus.

Luke tells us that Jesus himself was baptized by John. Now clearly, Jesus did not need to repent of anything, but rather his baptism identified himself with this new repentance that John had called people to. As such, Jesus now transitions to the lead role in this new teaching, and to solidify this, Luke tells of a unique aspect of Jesus’ baptism. In verse 22  we read, “the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” In case we have missed it to this point, Luke wants to make it clear to us by recording this public declaration. Jesus is the promised Messiah.

Luke finishes this chapter by recapping the genealogy of Jesus through his adopted earthly father of Joseph. The point is to lay out how Jesus fulfills the prophecy to be the messiah. Through this line, he is a descendant of David, giving him the legal right to be king. But this genealogy goes all the way back to Adam, showing that Jesus meets the original prophecy given after the fall in Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman. And between your seed and her Seed; He shall crush your head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.”.  Beyond this, taking the genealogy to Adam shows that Jesus is not just the savior of Israel, but of all people.

As I look at this passage, my take away is Luke’s emphasis that salvation was not simply for the children of Israel, but of the true Children of Abraham. And that the true children of Abraham are not defined by blood, but by faith. A faith that is not just in the heart, but demonstrated in the actions of life. This is the point of the words of the angel in chapter 2, “I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people.”

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!

Read more about “Christ The Lord Is Risen Today.

Read the full text of “Christ The Lord Is Risen Today.

Traditional Choral Arrangement

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.”

Read more about “Where You There?

Do This In Remembrance of Me

 

I am taking a brief aside from my hymn reflections to look at another aspect of worship. In this Lenten season we begin by looking at Christ as our example. We reflect on the fullness of His life. His struggles, His triumphs, His sorrows, His joys and most importantly His sacrifice. We look to Jesus as not only our Savior, but our example of living a life in service to the Father. We follow His lead in the examples He set, in the parables He told, in His teaching and in the commands he gave. I want to look specifically at something in this last category.

Communion, The Lord’s Supper, The Eucharist, The Bread and The Wine. What ever term you use for it, as Christians, we are called to partake of it. The words of Jesus echo down through the ages. “Do this in remembrance of me.” This is the command that Jesus gave us, a command with a deeper meaning. It is not like the slogan of Nike, “Just Do It.” which carries not reason or meaning other than enjoying yourself. This call has real meaning. There is a reason we are to partake. Jesus said, “Do this . . . in remembrance of me.”

We find the account of the Lords supper in Luke 22 and then find Paul recounting the events with further explanation in 1 Corinthians 11:23 – 32.

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.” “Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked. He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.” They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
Luke 22:7 – 20

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.
1 Corinthians 11:23 – 32

In Remembrance of Me

Now I realize that we could get caught up here in a debate on the substance of the Lord’s Supper, but the final conclusion will be that people hold many different position from Transubstantiation to Memorial. But from whichever belief you come, as believers we are to take part in The Lord’s Supper with remembrance of Christ.

We remember that He was born into this world in human flesh. John 1:14 tells us, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” This is of utmost importance, for the manger and the cross are intrinsically linked. Remove one and the other becomes meaningless. You can find more of this in the article, The Real Meaning of Christmas.

We remember that while he was born fully man, He was still fully God. John 1:1 tells us, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” He was Emanuel, God with us. Not a God who remained distant from us, but a God who dwelt among us. He walked among us that He might know us and we might know Him.

We remember that he faced the very temptation we face in this life. Temptations to meet physical desires, to meet the lust of the eyes and the desire to elevate our selves above God. Yet the scriptures tell us in Hebrews 4:15 that He was “tempted in every way, just as we are – yet He did not sin.”

We remember that he came to “give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) He paid the penalty for our sins when He hung upon the cross, His body broken, His blood shed so we might not know death.

We remember that He rose triumphant from the grave so that we need not fear death. He opened the door to eternal life. This is why 1 Corinthians 15:20 – 22 tells us, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”

We remember that Through Christ, we have become joint heirs with Him. We have become children of God. That we may stand before God not in trembling fear of judgement, boldly as children before a loving Father. So Hebrews 4:16 tells us, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

A Word of Warning

When we come before the Lord’s table our attitude should be one of remembrance and reflection. For while we remember Christ in all of these ways, we reflect on our lives. Have we remembered to give Christ the recognition He is due? Have we confessed the sin in our lives? Have we sought to live our lives Honoring Him? Have we surrendered our lives to follow Him?

These are the questions that we must ask of ourselves as we prepare to partake of the Lord’s Supper, for Paul has warned us in 1 Corinthians 11:28 – 29 that “Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.” When we fail to properly prepare for the Lord’s Supper and when we fail to remember the real reason that we partake of the Lord’s supper, we make it meaningless. We take the incredible sacrifice that the Lord has given and make a mockery of it. This is the judgement Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 11:29. For we have forgotten that Jesus gave everything for us.

So, as we go through this Lenten Season may we be reminded of this truth. May we prepare each day to come before the Lord’s Table. May we remember Jesus and what He has done for us. Let us truly partake of the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of Him.

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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