Friday, September 18, 2015

"We turn from the world... to cast in our lot with the people of God."

Hymn: “The Master Hath Come” – Sarah Doudney (1841-1926)
Tune: ASH GROVE (Welsh Melody)

This hymn is all about Christ’s calling us to follow. It encourages us to follow under any and all circumstances: over mountains, through valleys, over dreary roads, through dangers and sorrows, doubts and temptations. In the end, we are reassured that it will be worth it when we rest in the light beside the still waters in the kingdom above.
This hymnline, however, is tucked away in the third (and usually final) stanza of Doudney’s hymn: “We turn from the world with its smiles and its scorning to cast in our lot with the people of God.”

This casting of one’s lot is a definitive decision. Although we may think of it as a roll of the dice, it is much less an act of leaving things to chance; in the case of such a spiritual commitment, it is quite the opposite.

To turn from the various faces of the world (smiles, snarls, etc.) to join “his own little band” of believers – this is what we promise as we sing this hymn. To relate this to sailing, we set our course in the opposite direction. We pull in all our resources and transfer them over in commitment to the church… the people of God – gathered and/or scattered.

I hate to use a poker analogy here, but we drag in all of the chips with which we have previously been taking chances, and invest those in the kingdom. Instead of casting our lot with those things which are temporary and not of the Spirit, we line ourselves up with the eternal life of the Spirit.

What happens in Vegas doesn’t really stay in Vegas; it’s a great slogan, but we all know better. However, what happens for the Kingdom stays with the Kingdom. It’s a much better place to cast your lot, don’t you think?

Hear This Hymn Played at the Organ

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

"Even when my heart is breaking, he, my comfort, helps my soul."

Hymn: “Jesus! What a Friend of Sinners” – J. Wilbur Chapman (1859-1918)
Typical Tune: HYRFYDOL

Try to wipe Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart” out of your mind for a minute, and let’s deal with the reality of heartbreak, a dilemma in which we have all found ourselves – maybe many times. It’s that feeling that someone has taken each end of your emotional center and wrenched it against itself to the point that it seems to be broken. Always we think it has been damaged beyond repair. Some heartbreak is everlasting. but thankfully, most of the time it is short-lived… even momentary. Either way, for the one who is experiencing the sprain, the feeling is deep and genuine.

Sometimes this injury comes of our own doing; sometimes it is from outside. There are times that we cannot identify the true source or the break, but we know it is happening.

Even then – EVEN THEN Christ is our comfort, helping us bounce back, reviving our soul.

Heartbreak is a difficult thing to discuss with our fellow human confidants. It seems we turn quickly to the One who hears and understands us inside-out. I admit that I have rarely experienced an anguish of this kind that Christ did not come to my aid. Having a little talk with Jesus usually makes it right… at least bearable. It may not repair the relationship or mend the situation… but we DO feel a certain peace or comfort, and we are rewarded with strength for today and bright hope for the next conflict.

Hymns can do so much more for us than songs written for country music clubs. And lines like this one can resonate in our ears just when we need to be reminded that our Christ whose heart was broken more than once can identify with our own despair… and be our comfort.

Even when my heart is breaking… ahhhh. 

Hallelujah, what a promise! Hallelujah, what a hope! Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Wayne Watson’s “Friend of a Broken Heart”… in case you’re having that kind of day!

Monday, September 14, 2015

"Thou my best thought by day or by night."

Hymn: “Be Thou My Vision” – Ancient Irish

I have a dish-towel hanging by my bed – yes, I know those are meant to be in the kitchen, but it has embroidered on it a wonderful Psalm verse: “I will sleep in peace, for you, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (4:8) Because of its location, it is the last thing I see before I go to sleep and the first thing I see every morning.

"The Thinker" - Rodin
Thinking on God is a very positive exercise. In fact, Philippians 4:8 says, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.” Those ‘whatsoevers’ that we learned as a childhood memory verse are worth revisiting today.

Thinking on such optimistic attributes of Christ… and of the Christian life… can keep us from thinking on the negative, downer kinds of words that so often invade our thinking.

Simply centering our thought processes on the person of Christ may be difficult because we try to picture One we have never seen. But centering our attention on his characteristics can make that a less complicated way to implement his life into ours on a daily basis – by day and by night.

The list goes way beyond the eight mentioned in Philippians 4:8, so we are not limited to those. In fact, the list goes on almost infinitely.

Today, let the best things about Christ be the center of your thinking… all day long and into the night until you sleep in peace, kept safe by the One on whom you have thought.

Hear This Sung by 4 Him

Thursday, September 10, 2015

"We will walk and worship ever."

Hymn: “Shall We Gather at the River” – Words & Music by Robert Lowry (1826-1899)

Although it is in the middle of a gospel song often used in conjunction with river baptisms, it is a text about our gathering at the heavenly river – the one that flows right by the throne of God – where the saints gather to join in the final, eternal worship of him who sits on that throne.

One of my favorite places to visit in the state of Texas is San Antonio. We welcomed the 21st Century in there on December 31, 1999... the night the technological system was to implode and the world was supposed to end. We’ve been there several times since we moved back to this part of the world. We enjoy the food, the history and the culture, but we LOVE the River Walk, especially when the weather is nice and it’s not all that crowded. It is made for peaceful, hand-holding strolls. When we can afford it, we stay in one of the hotels with balconies overlooking the canal; that way, we can step out the door and be on our happy way.

Walking is a good physical activity, but there’s something cathartic about placing one foot in front of the other with a rhythmic pattern that seems to free the heart and soul. For some reason, it’s even better when done along water… the beach, the lakeside, the mountain stream.

On the other side of eternity, we will have the privilege of being pedestrian in our worship… not because worship will be uninteresting or dull, but because we will accept our role as a holy pedestrian; even as we walk – in fact, in everything we do - our attention will be centered on the One with whom we will spend the rest of our days. For those of us whose main ‘button’ is worship, this is what we look most forward to.

Today can be a practice session for the nothing-but-worship life which we anticipate.

Hear an an unaccompanied singing of this hymn

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

"Mercy higher than the heavens, deeper than the deepest sea."

Hymn: “All That Thrills My Soul Is Jesus” – Words & Music Thoro Harris (1873-1955)

The more I talk to friends nearer my age, I realize how many of us grew up with an uncomfortable fear of an angry God. I never heard Jonathan Edwards preach, but I think his sermon must have still been reverberating throughout many churches in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. Many of us were guilted into many (if not most) of our spiritual decision-making. I’m not exactly sure why, but it seems to be a negative common denominator for my generation of evangelicals.

When I actually came face to face with the mercy of God as revealed and demonstrated through his Son, it was as if some bright light went off in my head/heart, and maybe for the first time, I got it. The cross-event took on a different meaning, my reason for being in the kingdom had a new significance, and my outlook on all of life shifted. My opinion on God was broadened, and so was my acceptance of other kingdom people.

This higher-than-the-heavens, deeper-than-the-deepest-sea mercy is worth more of our attention. We should never lose sight of THAT feature of God, because when we do, we are blinded to the real greatness of God. I’ve said before that mercy and grace are two of my favorite attributes of God, and here I am saying it again – partly for my own benefit – to keep me from falling back into my guilt-ridden judgmental old self.

When I “talk God” with my closest comrades in the faith, I am warmed by the fact that we share a better, positive common denominator: we share the height and depth of mercy – and from that commonality springs joy… and peace that passes human understanding.

We people of God should not be known for our anger, judgmentalism, narrowness, exclusiveness – but for our mercy and acceptance… like that of the Savior to whom we claim total allegiance. Then when we stand to sing hymnlines like this one, we will mean it!

Hear This Hymn Sung by Women’s Group

Originally Posted 10/18/2013

Hymnlines - Hemlines: Get it?! :)

Hymnlines - Hemlines: Get it?! :)