Listening to Lent: Near the Cross

Jesus, keep me near the cross,
There a precious fountain
Free to all, a healing stream
Flows from Calvary’s mountain.


In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever;
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.

Near the cross, a trembling soul,
Love and mercy found me;
There the bright and morning star
Sheds its beams around me.


Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day,
With its shadows o’er me.


Near the cross I’ll watch and wait
Hoping, trusting ever,
Till I reach the golden strand,
Just beyond the river.


 (Words by Fanny Crosby)


I’m sure some of you don’t consider this a traditional Easter hymn. You might wonder where the resurrection story is located. While rising on the third day isn’t specifically mentioned, the “healing stream” from “Calvary’s mountain” is certainly there, as is the resurrection hope of my “raptured soul” finding “rest beyond the river.”

This hymn usually gets stuck in my head in the days and weeks following Easter and I don’t mind one bit. I need it! Even though we might not sing it at the Chapel, I force it into my head one way or another. I need this to be my daily prayer all year long – my constant cry to the Lord as I stumble through each day. The words redirect me to where and how I should be traveling through this life.

When I get up in the morning,

Jesus, keep me near the cross.

When I need forgiveness,

There a precious fountain.

When I stumble and sin and fall,

There is a healing stream.

When I’m feeling lost,

Help me walk from day to day.

When I’m feeling tired and worn,

There is rest beyond the river.


Jesus, keep me near the cross!
~Nicole Moore


Listening Through Lent: When the Morning Comes

When the morning comes on the farthest hill
I will sing His name, I will praise Him, still.
When dark trials come and my heart is filled
With the weight of doubt, I will praise Him, still.

For the Lord, our God, He is strong to save
From the arms of death, from the deepest grave,
And He gave us life in His perfect will,
And by His good grace, I will praise Him, still.

When the morning comes on the farthest hill
I will sing His name, I will praise Him, still.
When dark trials come and my heart is filled
With the weight of doubt, I will praise Him, still.

For the Lord, our God, He is strong to save
From the arms of death, from the deepest grave,
For the Lord, our God, He is strong to save
From the arms of death, from the deepest grave,
And He gave us life in His perfect will,
And by His good grace, I will praise Him, still.
~Fernando Ortega


Especially when we are hungry,

He is there, waiting to hold us fast,
to rescue us from the brink
and carry us home.
~Emily Gibson


Listening Through Lent: Amazing Grace

I would like to give you two pen pictures. The date is 1735. An English sea captain takes his eleven-year-old boy with him to sea. Seven years of a sailor’s life, and then a vacation on shore, where he meets a girl of fourteen years, whose charms delay him till his ship sails leaving him behind.

Three years more of life on the sea, and he is home again, a deserter, in irons, degraded and flogged. He is now an infidel now, a profligate, profane, licentious wretch.

Off to the sea again, and as the ship passes a small palm-covered island off the African coast he leaves her, and enters the service of an English slave-dealer. Here he gives himself up to every form of wickedness with perfect abandon. He has scarcely clothes to cover him, and he is content to keep himself from starving with bits of food given him by the slaves.

“Had you seen me then,” he writes, “go pensive and solitary in the dead of the night, to wash my own shirt, upon the rocks, and afterward put it on wet, that it might dry upon my back while I slept: had you see me so poor a figure that, when a boat’s crew came to the island, shame often constrained me to hide myself in the woods, from the sight of strangers; especially had you known that my conduct, principles, and heart were still darker than my outward condition:” and so he writes on, of himself.

One day a ship goes sailing by, and he signals her, hoping to trade such things as he can offer for supplies. At first the captain declines to stop, but at last rounds to, and our vagabond goes aboard. Now leave this picture as it is, and let me tell you that in far away England, the father has heard of his boy’s whereabouts and condition and has commissioned the captain of a ship to try to find and bring him back. And the girl for whose sake he let his ship go away and leave him, sends messages of friendship.

The captain has searched faithfully but without success for the wanderer, and has started onward on his voyage, and this is the very ship, and the man he has sought in vain stands on her deck. The captain tells him that his father has sent for him to come home, but he declines to go; and then he lies to him and tells him he has fallen heir to a fortune, and he wavers, and then he tells him that Mary Catlett wants him to come back, and he consents to go. And this finishes the first of the pictures I am trying to draw.

And now for the second picture I must take you to a little English village called Olney, where a curate of the Church of England is endearing himself to the people of his flock by his faithful preaching, as he gathers them together on the Sabbath, and by the hearty sympathy with which he enters into all of the affairs of their lives. He writes for them to read the story of his life, and tells them of his wanderings from home, and country, and God, and how he was at last brought back to God, and country and home. And he writes hymns for them to sing in their church, and their prayer meetings, and their homes. And in his sermons, and his books, and his hymns, he never tires of telling how God has lifted him up out of the horrible pit and miry clay.

And these two pictures are of the same person. The first, as he was transformed by the spirit of evil until nearly all likeness of humanity was lost, and the second, as he was transformed again by the Spirit of God into some likeness to Christ.

~Harry Rodenberger and Retha Rodenberger McAfee (Harry’s sister)

“Stories of The Great Hymns of the Church” – Silas H. Paine

Rev. John Newton, 1725-1807 

Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost,
but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!

Thru many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace hath bro’t me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we first begun.



Listening Through Lent: A Clean Heart

The Bible makes it clear that sin is not just a superficial problem; it is a matter of the heart.  Jesus himself said, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil…”

Unfortunately, when we look carefully into our hearts, we inevitably find not just the good we hoped for, but an abundance of evil – sinful motives, sinful desires, deceit, and the love of things God hates.  What the ancient prophet Jeremiah said, still rings true, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked.”

And not only do we find what is unseemly in our hearts, but after repeated efforts at self-reform, we learn that while we might clean up our behavior to look more respectable, we are powerless to change our hearts.  It’s like the Bible says, we can no more change our hearts than the leopard can rid itself of its spots.

So, like King David, after discovering he was capable of greater evil than he had ever dreamed, we too are cast upon the mercy of God.  He alone can change us where we most need changing. That’s what God promised to do when the Messiah came:  “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit; I will remove your heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my ways.”

During this season of Lent, it’s appropriate that we join David in his prayer, which we know as Psalm 51 – a prayer set to a simple tune that we might sing it:

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence, O Lord,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of your salvation,
and renew a right spirit within me.

~Pastor Bert Hitchcock


Listening Through Lent: Have Mercy

Starting today, Ash Wednesday, various Wiser Lake Chapel folks will be sharing a favorite hymn, its lyrics, a short devotional and an online version, to observe the season of Lent.  Please join us in “listening through Lent” to what our God wants us to hear.


Holy God
Holy and Mighty
Holy Immortal One
Have mercy, have mercy on us.

Holy God
Holy and mighty,
Holy Immortal One
Have mercy, have mercy on us.

Holy God
Holy and mighty
Holy Immortal One
Have mercy, have mercy, have mercy,
Have mercy, have mercy on us.
~Fernando Ortego “Trisagion”


On this day,
We begin the dusty journey
into the darkest ash heap
of our souls, confronting
our limitations,
our temptations,
our inability to think of ourselves second,
our acknowledgement that salvation
comes from no work of our own.

Have mercy on our heads bowed low,
listening to what you have to teach us.
~E Gibson


Christmas 2015: Jesus as Zeal

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness, from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this”
Isaiah 9: 6-7, NASB

Zeal, a noun, is defined as intense, high-wrought emotion that compels to action.

What is your first thought when you hear the word zeal? Is it these verses written by Isaiah, God-breathed by the Holy Spirit? Or, perhaps, it is the fact that our Lord is a zealous God, as well as a jealous God. (Exodus 20: 1 – 6)? Or do you think, “My zeal for my Lord is exactly what I want it to be?”

Although “Zeal,” is not a name, per se, that is ascribed to Jesus, it is an inherent characteristic, that is vigorously expressed on certain occasions. A similar reference is found in Isaiah 37: 32, concerning God’s destruction of 185,000 Assyrians, in protecting Jerusalem, as he had spoken to Isaiah: “The zeal of the Lord of hosts shall perform this.”

God spoke through Ezekiel, explaining His planned judgment against Jerusalem, “Thus My anger will be spent, and I will satisfy My wrath on them, and I shall be appeased. Then they will know that I, the Lord, have spoken in My zeal, when I have spent My wrath on them” (Ezekiel 5: 13, NASB).

Certainly Jesus’ cleansing of the temple, was a demonstration of zeal (Luke 19: 45 – 46).

But His greatest zeal was demonstrated in obedience to His Father on Calvary’s cross, where He paid with His life the cost of atonement for our sins (Philippians 2: 5 – 8).

The Messianic prophecy in Isaiah 9: 6 – 7, is yet future. In His first Advent, Jesus came as the “Suffering Servant” described in Isaiah 52: 13 – 53: 12. When He said, from the cross, “It is finished,” He had completed His Father’s will for the redemption of sinful mankind. Then He stepped from the tomb, having conquered death. Returning to the Father, Jesus established the way into the eternal presence of God.

Jesus’ promised return (Acts 1: 9 – 11) still holds mystery, but will take place as explained in Matthew 24: 1 – 51; Revelation 19 – 22, and other passages. I believe the Isaiah 9: 6 – 7 prophecy pertains to the kingdom which Christ shall finally establish, and over which He will reign for all eternity as King of kings and Lord of lords.

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace –
Jesus, on David’s throne, there’ll be no end to His government’s increase.
He will establish and uphold it, with justice and righteousness forever assured.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this, as promised by God’s word.

– Pastor Neil G. Thompson