Saturday, April 3, 2010

O Come and Mourn with Me

Yesterday was a day of remembrance for the death of Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Today is a day of remembering that death and mourning. As a thought on the crucifixion John Calvin wrote in this Institutes of the Christian Religion:
In order to remove our condemnation it was not enough for him to endure just any kind of death. To obtain our ransom, it was essential to choose a type of death in which he could deliver us, both by giving himself up to condemnation and also undertaking our expiation. If he had been mown down by assassins or killed in a rebellion, there could have been no satisfaction. But when he stands as a criminal at the bar and witnesses are brought to give evidence against him and the judge condemns him to death, we see him taking on the character of an offender. Here we must refer to two things which had been foretold by the prophets, and serve admirably to confirm our faith. When we read that Christ was led away from the judgment seat to execution, and was crucified between thieves, we have a fulfilment of the prophecy '[he] was numbered with the transgressors' (Isa. 53:12; Mark 15:20,27). Why did it have to be? So that he might bear the character of a sinner, not of a just or innocent person, in that he died on account of sin. On the other hand, we read that he was acquitted by the same lips that condemned him, because Pilate was forced to bear public testimony to his innocence. This reminds us of the Psalmist: 'I am forced to restore what I did not steal' (Ps. 69:4). So we see Christ taking on the character of a sinner and a criminal, while at the same time his innocence shines out, and it becomes obvious that he is suffering for another's crime and not his own. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, being ranked among criminals by the formal sentence of the judge, when he affirms that he can find no cause of death in him (John 18:38). Our acquittal lies in this: that the guilt which made us liable to punishment was transferred to the head of the Son of God. It is really important to remember that he has taken our place, so that we may not spend all our lives in trepidation and anxiety, as if the punishment we deserve, but which the Son of God took to himself, was still hanging over us.
O Come and Mourn with Me
by Frederick Faber (1849)

O come and mourn with me awhile;
And tarry here the cross beside;
O come, together let us mourn;
Jesus, our Lord, is crucified.

Have we no tears to shed for Him,
While soldiers scoff and foes deride?
Ah! look how patiently He hangs;
Jesus, our Lord, is crucified.

How fast His hands and feet are nailed;
His blessed tongue with thirst is tied,
His failing eyes are blind with blood:
Jesus, our Lord, is crucified.

His mother cannot reach His face;
She stands in helplessness beside;
Her heart is martyred with her Son’s:
Jesus, our Lord, is Crucified.

Seven times He spoke, seven words of love;
And all three hours His silence cried
For mercy on the souls of men;
Jesus, our Lord, is crucified.

Come, let us stand beneath the cross;
So may the blood from out His side
Fall gently on us drop by drop;
Jesus, our Lord, is crucified.

O break, O break, hard heart of mine!
Thy weak self-love and guilty pride
His Pilate and His Judas were:
Jesus, our Lord, is crucified.

A broken heart, a fount of tears,
Ask, and they will not be denied;
A broken heart love’s cradle is:
Jesus, our Lord, is crucified.

O love of God! O sin of man!
In this dread act Your strength is tried;
And victory remains with love;
For Thou our Lord, art crucified!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

"The Lord is King," a hymn by Josiah Conder

It's been a long time since I've posted anything, and it would not be fair to call this a "hymn of the week," but it is a gorgeous hymn proclaiming the sovereignty and power of the Lord of Glory, and I thought it was worth sharing.

The Lord is King
By: Josiah Conder

The Lord is King! lift up thy voice,
O earth; and all ye heav’ns, rejoice!
From world to world the joy shall ring,
“The Lord omnipotent is King.”

The Lord is King! who then shall dare
Resist His will, distrust His care,
Or murmur at His wise decrees,
Or doubt His royal promises?

The Lord is King! Child of the dust,
The Judge of all the earth is just;
Holy and true are all His ways;
Let every creature speak His praise.

O when His wisdom can mistake,
His might decay, His love forsake,
Then may His children cease to sing,
“The Lord omnipotent is King!”

Alike pervaded by His eye,
All parts of His dominion lie;
This world of ours, and worlds unseen,
And thin the boundary between.

He reigns! ye saints, exalt your strains;
Your God is King, your Father reigns;
And He is at the Father’s side,
The Man of love, the Crucified.

Come, make your wants, your burdens known;
He will present them at the throne;
And angel bands are waiting there
His messages of love to bear.

One Lord, one empire, all secures;
He reigns, and life and death are yours:
Through earth and Heav’n shall ring,
“The Lord omnipotent is King!”

Sunday, February 24, 2008

No Distinctions

We were all equally dead and we are now all equally alive. Sometimes what we see is that the outplaying of our being dead is greater than others and the outplaying of our being alive is greater than others.

A child is born into a Christian family and hears the gospel while growing up. He is reborn at an early age and grows up in the Spirit of the Lord for his whole life; he leads Bible studies, prays and studies everyday, witnesses to everyone he knows and meets, and later plants and pastors a church.

Down the road is a man who has served time in jail for murder, raped women, done drugs, sold drugs, curses everyday, and can’t get through the day without getting drunk first. This man is reborn through Christ Jesus, stops living the life he is living; he begins going to church, reading and studying Scripture, prays everyday, witnesses to everyone he knows and meets, and later plants and pastors a church.

Was the second man more dead than the first? Did the second man become more alive than the first? No. I cannot think of any instance where someone in a grave is more dead than the guy a plot over. We were all equally spiritually dead and we are all equally spiritually alive.

Now, from our perspective we see a greater change in actions from the second man than the first, but, the change in a person’s heart from dead to alive is the same. There is no in-between dead and alive… there is either dead or alive. You are either dead in sin or alive in Christ.

There is no such thing as a boring testimony. If you have bee reborn in the Spirit, then your spiritual self has gone from death to life: just as Christ died physically and rose from the dead to life physically, so have you been raised from the dead.

God takes dead people and makes them alive. Nothing we do or say can in any way affect our deadness or aliveness, only God can do this. This is why all the glory is God's and none of it is ours.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Thanksgiving Hymn

This is all reposted from the Indeliblog. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

In honor of Thanksgiving I thought I would post this background to a great Thanksgiving hymn “Now Thank We All Our God” by Martin Rinkart (A 17th century German hymnwriter). The following is from Catherine Winkworth’s “Christian SIngers Of Germnay.” She is the one who translated the hymn in the 19th century.

This classic hymn was written by a pastor (Martin Rinkart) who suffered greatly through the 30 Years War in Germany during which (through war and famine) 4/5 of the population of Germany died. He himself was in extreme poverty and when the pastors of his 2 neighboring towns died he ended up having to do the work of 3 pastors, burying 4,000 people in 1637 (50 per day!) - including his wife - when the plague hit. This was followed by a famine so severe that 30-40 people could be seen in streets fighting to the death over the corpse of a dead cat. And then right after this the Swedes invaded and demanded a ridiculous amount of money in tribute. The story goes that he went to intercede with the Swedish commander to reduce the tribute and the commander refused. At this point Rinkart turned to the crowd that was with him and said “Come my children, we can find no hearing, no mercy with men. Let us take refuge with God.” he then fell to his knees and prayed with such pathos that the commander reduced the tribute from $30,000 to $2,000. He wrote this hymn in 1644, 4 years before the Peace of Westphalia that ended the War in 1648.

Here is the text:

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessèd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

Friday, November 2, 2007

"A Mighty Fortress is Our God" -- Mikes Hymn o' the week for Friday, Nov. 1, 2007

In honor of the recently-passed Reformation Day, I present what many have called The Battle Hymn of the Reformation, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God," by Martin Luther (tr. by Frederic H. Hedge).

A Mighty Fortress is Our God
by Martin Luther

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.

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.

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.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through 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.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

"Here I Stand"

Four hundred-ninety years ago today, a revolution was launched in Wittenberg, Germany. It began quietly, as God chose a pious and somewhat belligerent Augustinian monk-turned-professor of theology -- Martin Luther -- who, on this day in 1517, pounded his "Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences" -- which later became known as the 95 Theses -- on the church door at Wittenberg. With every pound of his hammer he sent echoes through the Christian world, and he got noticed, and soon he found himself targeted as a “wild boar” to be hunted in the “vineyard” of the Church of Rome.

Luther did not set out to break away from the Church of Rome. He merely saw in the Church’s behavior what he believed Scripture proved to be error, and called on Rome to repent. His primary dispute was with the sale of plenary indulgences, which supposedly granted the buyer a free pass out of purgatory into the gates of Heaven; "when the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs,” goes the saying attributed to Johann Tetzel. The money Tetzel and others were collecting from the poor peasants was being used to facilitate the building of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. As an example of Luther’s style, his Thesis 86 asks, "Why does not the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build the basilica of St. Peter with his own money rather than with the money of poor believers?"

For all his well-documented faults, it seems that Luther understood the depth of his sin to a great degree. He was a pious monk who could find no solace in any of his rituals or confessions. In fact, it is said he wore his abbott out with confessions; he always felt he could have done things better. In fact, he wrote: “If ever a monk got to heaven by his sheer monkery, it was I. If it had kept on any longer, I should have killed myself with vigils, prayers, reading, and other work.” The analog to Paul is painfully obvious, as one is reminded of his words in Phillippians 3:

“If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

And Luther understood that this -- the resurrection from the dead unto glory -- was exactly what was at stake. He came to understand Paul’s words in Romans, that the “just shall live by faith,” meant that no one is saved by works or law-keeping. It is not the purchase of an indulgence that will allow one to stand before God at the final judgment, but instead the truths found in what are known as the “five solas” of the Reformation: eternal life given is only by the sovereign grace of God (sola gratia) to those to whom He has granted faith (sola fide) in Jesus (solus christus), as taught in Scripture alone (sola scriptura), to the glory of God(soli deo gloria). It was this convicting knowledge that allowed Luther, knowing he would very possibly die, to stand before Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor (who wanted Luther to recant, to go back on his writings), at the Diet of Worms in May of 1521, and say: “Unless I shall be convinced by the testimonies of the Scriptures or by clear reason ... I neither can nor will make any retraction, since it is neither safe nor honorable to act against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”

Today, my friends, I encourage you to remember the sacrifices made by Luther and others, as we commemorate the glorious return of the Gospel of Jesus Christ into Western Christendom. We simply cannot fathom how different our lives would be if God had not raised up people such as Luther, Calvin, and others like them. Our modern understanding of the Bible as the sole infallible guide for faith and practice can be traced directly back to the Protestant Reformation. Quite frankly put, if you are not a Roman Catholic, this is your heritage, and to ignore the teachers God has provided to teach his people throughout history is downright disrespectful.

If this topic interests you further, I’d encourage you to give the latest Radio Show a listen, as it covers this very topic: The Reformation Show.

I leave you today with the first two questions (and their answers) from the Heidelberg Catechism, a confession springing up out of the Reformation. In my mind, they capture some of the best, most important truths in all of Scripture.

Question 1. What is thy only comfort in life and death?
Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.
Question 2. How many things are necessary for thee to know, that thou, enjoying this comfort, mayest live and die happily?
Answer: Three; (a) the first, how great my sins and miseries are; (b) the second, how I may be delivered from all my sins and miseries; (c) the third, how I shall express my gratitude to God for such deliverance.

much thanks to christopher neiswonger for inspiring some of the phraseology above

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

"Who is This?" -- A hymn

I realize I have been extremely poor at blogging lately. The only excuse I can make is a decided lack of time. Even now, I should be studying for my topology exam on Friday night, but there is a hymn I want to share very badly, so I'll get right onto it.

The hymn is called "Who is This (So Weak and Helpless)?" and it is lyrically magnificent (I must also put a plug in for Sandra McCracken's performance of it on the Indelible Grace IV: Beams of Heaven's wonderful). This is one of the most profoundly Christological hymns that I can think of, and lays out quite clearly the idea of the infinite almighty God taking on human flesh, that the man "who hangeth dying while the rude world scoffs and scorns" is, in fact, "the God who ever liveth 'mid the shining ones on high"; the man "despised, rejected, mocked, insulted, beaten, bound" is our God, who "shall smite in righteous judgment all His foes beneath His throne." The way the first half of each verse describes a limitation of the human and the second half of the verse so clearly illustrates the way in which our God is so utterly perfect is one fantastic example of why I love hymns so much, and what deep theology we're NOT learning from much (though not all) of what is being written and sung today.

Who Is This (So Weak and Helpless)?
By William W. How

Who is this so weak and helpless, Child of lowly Hebrew maid,
Rudely in a stable sheltered, coldly in a manger laid?
’Tis the Lord of all creation, who this wondrous path hath trod;
He is God from everlasting, and to everlasting God.

Who is this, a Man of sorrows, walking sadly life’s hard way,
Homeless, weary, sighing, weeping, over sin and Satan’s sway?
’Tis our God, our glorious Savior, who above the starry sky
Now for us a place prepareth, where no tear can dim the eye.

Who is this? Behold Him shedding drops of blood upon the ground!
Who is this, despised, rejected, mocked, insulted, beaten, bound?
’Tis our God, who gifts and graces on His church now poureth down;
Who shall smite in righteous judgment all His foes beneath His throne.

Who is this that hangeth dying while the rude world scoffs and scorns,
Numbered with the malefactors, torn with nails, and crowned with thorns?
’Tis the God Who ever liveth, ’mid the shining ones on high,
In the glorious golden city, reigning everlastingly.

Friday, September 28, 2007

"O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing" -- Mike's Hymn o' the Week for Friday, September 28, 2007

I love how even old, familiar hymns sung in new ways or new contexts seem to feel brand-new again. Last night at the weekly meeting for Campus Crusade for Christ, our speaker spoke on 2 Samuel 9. I was as shocked as anyone to hear a speaker at CRU speak on an OT text. :) But it's a very beautiful story of David as king remembering his covenant with Jonathan and showing kindness to Jonathan's son, Mephibosheth, who was lame in both feet.

Anyway, our speaker closed by having us sing a few verses of this old hymn of Wesley's, the lyrics of which are printed below, and come courtesy of Seriously, that website rocks.

O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing
Words by Charles Wesley

O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace!

My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad
The honors of Thy name.

Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease;
’Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
’Tis life, and health, and peace.

He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.

He speaks, and, listening to His voice,
New life the dead receive,
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
The humble poor believe.

Hear Him, ye deaf; His praise, ye dumb,
Your loosened tongues employ;
Ye blind, behold your Savior come,
And leap, ye lame, for joy.

In Christ your Head, you then shall know,
Shall feel your sins forgiven;
Anticipate your heaven below,
And own that love is heaven.

Glory to God, and praise and love
Be ever, ever given,
By saints below and saints above,
The church in earth and heaven.

On this glad day the glorious Sun
Of Righteousness arose;
On my benighted soul He shone
And filled it with repose.

Sudden expired the legal strife,
’Twas then I ceased to grieve;
My second, real, living life
I then began to live.

Then with my heart I first believed,
Believed with faith divine,
Power with the Holy Ghost received
To call the Savior mine.

I felt my Lord’s atoning blood
Close to my soul applied;
Me, me He loved, the Son of God,
For me, for me He died!

I found and owned His promise true,
Ascertained of my part,
My pardon passed in heaven I knew
When written on my heart.

Look unto Him, ye nations, own
Your God, ye fallen race;
Look, and be saved through faith alone,
Be justified by grace.

See all your sins on Jesus laid:
The Lamb of God was slain,
His soul was once an offering made
For every soul of man.

Awake from guilty nature’s sleep,
And Christ shall give you light,
Cast all your sins into the deep,
And wash the Æthiop white.

Harlots and publicans and thieves
In holy triumph join!
Saved is the sinner that believes
From crimes as great as mine.

Murderers and all ye hellish crew
In holy triumph join!
Believe the Savior died for you;
For me the Savior died.

With me, your chief, ye then shall know,
Shall feel your sins forgiven;
Anticipate your heaven below,
And own that love is heaven.