Thursday, October 30, 2014

THE GOD OF ALL COMFORT - Our dead savior abides with us still (a blogpost for a sermon to be preached on 11/2/2014)

"Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."  (Deut. 31:6)  "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."  (Heb. 13:5)

These promises of God have always given me great comfort.  Knowing that God is always with me has given me great strength.  I will never be left, forgotten, forsaken, cast aside, discarded, thrown away, etc.  God will always be with me.

Another promise of God was given by Jesus just before He left this earth.  He said, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Mt. 28:20)  This promise sounds very much like the other two, but I want to promote a little different twist on this verse.

Jesus was certainly reiterating the promise of God to his apostles.  He was assuring them that He would be with them forever.  Where God had not left Israel in Deuteronomy; Jesus had left the Twelve for 3 days.  He was separated from them by His death.  Jesus' words serve as a reminder that since He has conquered death, nothing will ever separate them again.

The words of Paul in Romans 8:31b-39:

 31b If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[j]
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 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.
I hold to that promise as well.  Nothing shall separate us.  Nothing.  My dead savior abides with me still.  Praise God for the resurrection of the Lamb!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

THE GOD OF ALL COMFORT - I Know My Redeemer Lives (a blogpost for a sermon to be preached on 11/2/2014)

My wife, Paula, loves music more than anyone I know (except maybe our 19 year old son, Caleb). She sings, writes, and knows the words to songs she has never heard before (that is really pretty freaky.  Just sayin').  She is always on the cutting edge of what is going on in Christian music.  Many years ago now, she came across Nicole C. Mullen's hit, My Redeemer Lives.  It has become one of her favorites as well as mine.  YouTube the song and get ready to be amazed.

My Redeemer Lives

Who taught the sun where to stand in the morning?
And who told the ocean you can only come this far?
And who showed the moon where to hide till evening?
Whose words alone can catch a falling star?

Well I know my Redeemer lives
I know my Redeemer lives
All of creation testifies
This life within me cries
I know my Redeemer lives

The very same God
That spins things in orbit
Runs to the weary, the worn and the weak
And the same gentle hands that hold me when I'm broken
They conquered death to bring me victory

Now I know, my Redeemer lives
I know my Redeemer lives
Let all creation testify
Let this life within me cry
I-I-I know
My Redeemer

He lives
To take away my shame
And He lives
Forever I'll proclaim
That the payment for my sins
Was the precious life He gave
And now He's alive and
There's an empty

And I know
My Redeemer lives
He lives
I know
My Redeemer lives
Let all creation testify
Let this life within me cry
I-I-I know my Redeemer

I know
My Redeemer lives
*I know my Redeemer lives*

*I know, That I know, that I know, that I know, that I know
He lives
*my redeemer lives*
*Because He lives I can face tomorrow
He lives
*I know, I know*
He lives
*I spoke with Him this morning!*
He lives
*The tomb is empty*
He lives
*He Lives! I'm going to tell everybody!!*

Monday, October 27, 2014

THE GOD OF ALL COMFORT - Abide with Me, My redeemer (a blogpost for a sermon to be preached on Nov. 2, 2014)

The hymn, Abide with Me, My Redeemer, is the basis for the sermon for this week.  It is unfamiliar to me as a hymn but the words have been mine for many years.  "Just stay with me God!"

Abide with me, fast falls the eventide, The darkness deepens, Lord with me abide 
When other helpers fail and comforts flee, Help of the helpless Lord, abide 

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless, Ills have no weight and tears no bitterness 
Where is death's sting? Where grave thy victory?, I triumph still if Thou abide 

I know that my Redeemer lives 

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes, Shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies 
Heav'n's morning breaks and earth's vain shadows flee, In life, in death, Oh Lord, abide 

I know that my Redeemer lives, And I will see Him with my eyes
Yet in death, I will see Him, In my flesh I will see God, Abide with me, abide with me

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

THE GOD OF ALL COMFORT - A Modern Culture v. A Mighty Fortress (a blogpost for a sermon to be preached on October 26, 2014)

With the winds of cultural relevance swirling around the church, I often wonder if the "called out" of God can withstand the turbulent storm.  Issues abound today demanding our consideration for cultural reflection.  We stand at a crossroads of relevance and revelation.

I can see the point of cultural relevance.  Relevance will give us an "in" within the greater cultural context.  Arguments like "How can we win them if we cannot understand them?" or "Why would they listen to us when we don't speak their language?"  I get it.  But . . .

If the divine revelation of God gives us insight into the will and desire of God, how can we set that aside.  Our appeal to culture is not as one who wants to transform culture by molding God's truths into neatly packaged and culturally relevant spheres.  We are messengers, not editors.

I feel like those of us who believe that God actually revealed His plan and will to us should just stand upon that solid rock.  Our God is a mighty fortress.  He can withstand the onslaught.  He is a bulwark never failing.  He will stand even when our arguments fall.  He will remain unchanged in the churning sea of modern culture.

A mighty fortress is our God . . .

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

THE GOD OF ALL COMFORT - A Mighty Fortress is Our God (a blogpost for a sermon to be preached on October 26, 2014)

1. A mighty fortress is our God, 
 a bulwark never failing; 
 our helper he amid the flood 
 of mortal ills prevailing.  
 For still our ancient foe 
 doth seek to work us woe; 
 his craft and power are great, 
 and armed with cruel hate, 
 on earth is not his equal.

2. Did we in our own strength confide, 
 our striving would be losing, 
 were not the right man on our side, 
 the man of God's own choosing.
 Dost ask who that may be?  
 Christ Jesus, it is he; 
 Lord Sabaoth, his name, 
 from age to age the same, 
 and he must win the battle.

3. And though this world, with devils filled, 
 should threaten to undo us, 
 we will not fear, for God hath willed 
 his truth to triumph through us.  
 The Prince of Darkness grim, 
 we tremble not for him; 
 his rage we can endure, 
 for lo, his doom is sure; 
 one little word shall fell him.

4. That word above all earthly powers, 
 no thanks to them, abideth; 
 the Spirit and the gifts are ours, 
 thru him who with us sideth.  
 Let goods and kindred go, 
 this mortal life also; 
 the body they may kill; 
 God's truth abideth still; 
 his kingdom is forever.

Words & Music: Martin Luther, 1529 (Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott); translated from German to English by Frederic H. Hedge, 1853. This song has been called the greatest hymn of the greatest man of the greatest period of German history and the Battle Hymn of the Reformation.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

THE GOD OF ALL COMFORT - Be Still, My Soul (A blogpost for a sermon to be preached on 10/19/2014)

This post finds my heart heavy with the loss of a dear friend, Keith Cook.  I had the great pleasure of being his pastor and the honor of baptizing him into Christ on February 2nd of this year.  He was a very simple man with simple ways that I would very much like to emulate.  

The hymn, Be Still, My Soul, carries the thought of my sermon for this weekend.  The 3rd and 4th verses combine to remind me of the personal gain we can find in personal loss and the hope of rejoining those who have departed.

Lord, give us all the strength to "be still and know."

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.

Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, believing, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

THE GOD OF ALL COMFORT - Be Thou My Vision (a blogpost for a sermon to be preached on October 12, 2014)

The way we look at something determines how we understand it.  I remember seeing a drawing of a beautiful young lady that transforms into an old hag when you turn the picture upside down.   This truth has definite application when we look at our own circumstances.  What we see and what God sees may be very different.  We need to look at things from a "God view" perspective.  That is the challenge of the hymn, Be Thou My Vision.   

This grand old Irish folk tune has always captivated my soul.  To think the lyrics could be as old as the 6th century.  I have included the "original" words so you can see them.  Search the song on the net and you can find many versions of Old Irish, Gaelic, and English. 

Original Old Irish Text

The original texts of the now-called "Be Thou My Vision" are in Old Irish similar still in style to Modern Irish.  You can listen to this song through this link, 
Rop tú mo baile, a Choimdiu cride:
ní ní nech aile acht Rí secht nime.
Rop tú mo scrútain i l-ló 's i n-aidche;
rop tú ad-chëar im chotlud caidche.
Rop tú mo labra, rop tú mo thuicsiu;
rop tussu dam-sa, rob misse duit-siu.
Rop tussu m'athair, rob mé do mac-su;
rop tussu lem-sa, rob misse lat-su.
Rop tú mo chathscíath, rop tú mo chlaideb;
rop tussu m'ordan, rop tussu m'airer.
Rop tú mo dítiu, rop tú mo daingen;
rop tú nom-thocba i n-áentaid n-aingel.
Rop tú cech maithius dom churp, dom anmain;
rop tú mo flaithius i n-nim 's i talmain.
Rop tussu t' áenur sainserc mo chride;
ní rop nech aile acht Airdrí nime.
Co talla forum, ré n-dul it láma,
mo chuit, mo chotlud, ar méit do gráda.
Rop tussu t' áenur m' urrann úais amra:
ní chuinngim daíne ná maíne marba.
Rop amlaid dínsiur cech sel, cech sáegul,
mar marb oc brénad, ar t' fégad t' áenur.
Do serc im anmain, do grád im chride,
tabair dam amlaid, a Rí secht nime.
Tabair dam amlaid, a Rí secht nime,
do serc im anmain, do grád im chride.
Go Ríg na n-uile rís íar m-búaid léire;
ro béo i flaith nime i n-gile gréine
A Athair inmain, cluinte mo núall-sa:
mithig (mo-núarán!) lasin trúagán trúag-sa.
A Chríst mo chride, cip ed dom-aire,
a Flaith na n-uile, rop tú mo baile.

English translation by Mary Byrne, 1905

Be thou my vision O Lord of my heart
None other is aught but the King of the seven heavens.
Be thou my meditation by day and night.
May it be thou that I behold even in my sleep.
Be thou my speech, be thou my understanding.
Be thou with me, be I with thee
Be thou my father, be I thy son.
Mayst thou be mine, may I be thine.
Be thou my battle-shield, be thou my sword.
Be thou my dignity, be thou my delight.
Be thou my shelter, be thou my stronghold.
Mayst thou raise me up to the company of the angels.
Be thou every good to my body and soul.
Be thou my kingdom in heaven and on earth.
Be thou solely chief love of my heart.
Let there be none other, O high King of Heaven.
Till I am able to pass into thy hands,
My treasure, my beloved through the greatness of thy love
Be thou alone my noble and wondrous estate.
I seek not men nor lifeless wealth.
Be thou the constant guardian of every possession and every life.
For our corrupt desires are dead at the mere sight of thee.
Thy love in my soul and in my heart --
Grant this to me, O King of the seven heavens.
O King of the seven heavens grant me this --
Thy love to be in my heart and in my soul.
With the King of all, with him after victory won by piety,
May I be in the kingdom of heaven O brightness of the son.
Beloved Father, hear, hear my lamentations.
Timely is the cry of woe of this miserable wretch.
O heart of my heart, whatever befall me,
O ruler of all, be thou my vision.

English version by Eleanor Hull, 1912

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
Be all else but naught to me, save that thou art;
Thou my best thought in the day and the night,
Both waking and sleeping, thy presence my light.
Be thou my wisdom, be thou my true word,
Be thou ever with me, and I with thee Lord;
Be thou my great Father, and I thy true son;
Be thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.
Be thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight;
Be thou my whole armour, be thou my true might;
Be thou my soul's shelter, be thou my strong tower:
O raise thou me heavenward, great Power of my power.
Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise:
Be thou mine inheritance now and always;
Be thou and thou only the first in my heart;
O Sovereign of Heaven, my treasure thou art.
High King of Heaven, thou Heaven's bright sun,
O grant me its joys after victory is won!;
Great heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be thou my vision, O Ruler of all.

English Methodist version, 1964

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, and I thy true son,
Thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.
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.