Lenten Reflection: But Like A Child At Home

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By Dan Gibson

My Shepherd Will Supply My Need

Versification of Psalm 23 by Isaac Watts, 1674-1748, to tune of Resignation, a shape-note melody with an unknown composer, but collected as one of the pieces of church-sung music from southern Appalachia by William Walker and gathered into his Southern Harmony published in 1835.

The third and final verse of this song offers us Isaac Watts’s particular insight into the climax of this beautiful psalm of David, the shepherd-king.

“The sure provisions of my God attend me all my days;
O may your house be my abode and all my work be praise.
There would I find a settled rest, while others go and come—
no more a stranger or a guest, but like a child at home.”

As I age, I find my mind returning to my childhood home, with its redolent aromas of bread baking in the oven, the songs (whether hummed, sung, whistled, or played on the piano), the warmth, the peculiar cast of winter sunlight streaming through the western windows on a late afternoon, and the familiar people—Mom, Dad, brothers, sisters—gone now or re-moved to homes of their own.  Another memory is that of the frequent journey by car back to my grandparents’ home, a distance of about 80 miles, after we had moved away from that small village where my parents had grown up.  It was strangely comforting, traveling from one place we knew as home to another that was also home.  Which was better?  It was hard to say.  Yet both are now distant in the rear-view mirror, and even my current home, by far my longest residence yet, is but a way-station on the journey home.

In writing about my favorite musical setting of Psalm 23, Alfred V. Fedak says this:

“Isaac Watts (1674-1748) is rightfully considered the father of English hymnody. Psalm
23 is the best known and best loved of all the psalms. And RESIGNATION, a
nineteenth-century tune from southern Appalachia, is one of the most hauntingly
beautiful melodies ever composed. All three—poet, psalm, and music—unite in this
hymn to give us a new vision of the providence of God.” (Reformed Worship, June1990)

So here we have it: great hymn-writer, favorite psalm of many, hauntingly beautiful melody.  How do we sing such a song?

It’s for all of God’s children heading home, young and old, and we’re shown the way here in this glorious rendition (arr. by Mack Wilberg) provided by the Baylor University A Cappella Choir.

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Lenten Reflection: Jesus Loves Broken People

by anonymous Chapel member

 

JESUS LOVES BROKEN PEOPLE

Three songs come to mind as I reflect on Sunday’s message.

  • I WAS A WANDERING SHEEP. I did not love the fold: I did not love my Shepherd’s voice, I would not be controlled. I was a wayward child, I did not love my home; I did not love my Father’s voice, I loved afar to roam.
  • The Shepherd sought his sheep, the Father sought His child; they followed me o’er vale and hill, o’er deserts wastes and wild; they found me nigh to death, famished and faint and lone; they bound me with the bands of love, they saved the wandering one.
  • Jesus my Shepherd is; ‘twas he that loved my soul, ‘twas he that washed me in his blood, ‘twas he that made me whole; ‘twas he that sought the lost, that found the wandering sheep,’twas he that brought me to the fold, ‘tis he that still does keep.
  • I was a wandering sheep. I would not be controlled; but now I love my Shepherd’s voice, I love, I love the fold. I was a wayward child, I once preferred to roam; but now I love my Father’s voice, I love, I love his home. Horatius Bonar 1848

“THERE WERE NINETY AND NINE” by Elizabeth Clephane/ Ira Sankey 1868

Are you one of the broken? Listen! “ Softly and Tenderly Jesus is calling—COME HOME!

 

This is what the season of Lent is all about.

Lenten Reflection: And Can It Be?

snowybranch

by Lois Poppema

 

“And can it be that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?” (C. Wesley c1739)
“Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, save in the death of Christ my God”
(Isaac Watts c1720)

I think these songs prepare us during Lent even better than during Advent. Isaiah 59 was the key for me:

“Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save… But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear…. 4 No one calls for justice, nor does any plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies….7 Their feet rush into sin; and they are swift to shed innocent blood…. 8 The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths…. 9b We look for light, but there is darkness…. 11b We look for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us….our sins testify against us. 14b Truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. 15 Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. [Sounds like today!] The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice. 16 He saw that there was no one. He was appalled that there was no one to intervene, so His own arm worked salvation for Him.… “
John quoted Isaiah 53:1: “Lord, who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” as Jesus was about to go to the cross. (John 12:38)

Of course! The crucifixion is clearly described in Isaiah 53 – as in Psalm 22 (c1000 years BC). Isn’t Jesus the Arm of the LORD – the means of His accomplishing His will in our material dimension? In Matthew we learn that His name is to be Jesus – “Yahweh saves” – because He will save His people from their sins (1:21).

Isaiah cried, “O, that you would rend the Heavens and come down” (64:1). God had said “all mankind will know that I, the LORD, am your Savior, your Redeemer….” (Is. 49:26b), and He had already suggested how He would accomplish that: “The LORD will lay bare His holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God….See, My servant will …be raised and lifted up and highly exalted….” (Is.52:10 -13, continuing through chapter 53). Isaiah was impatient to see this happen!
Jesus became the Lamb of God whose blood was required to make atonement for His sheep and He became The Good Shepherd who laid down His life for His sheep. Is anything too hard for God? No! Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). The image of Jesus being the Arm of God reaching down to save us and to reconcile us to Himself has helped me to grasp His exclusive claim.

 

 

Lenten Reflection: From the Best Bliss

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by Bert Hitchcock
I love the last two lines from Jesus Thou Joy of Loving Hearts. Those two lines go like this:
“From the best bliss that earth imparts, 
   we turn un-filled to Thee again.”
It is no secret that American Christians live in the lap of luxury.  Oh, we are not all millionaires, but we tend to have most everything our hearts desire: comfortable homes, late-model cars, good food of every kind, expensive electronic gadgets, nice clothes, and more entertainment than we can find time to watch.  Most of the world would certainly think we enjoy “the best bliss that earth imparts.”
But it doesn’t take long for us to learn that these things don’t really satisfy our souls; we still feel hungry inside.  It’s as if the Lord was intentionally speaking to us, when Isaiah wrote:
“Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, 
  and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” 
So, what is it that will satisfy our souls?  Well, Jesus told us plainly, when he said,
“I am the Bread of Life; 
 whoever comes to me shall never hunger, 
 and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” 
In other words, we have a choice to make, again and again, as long as we live on this earth: Do we go on chasing after things which ultimately do not satisfy us?  Or, do we turn, admittedly unfilled, “from the best bliss that earth imparts, unfilled to Christ Jesus again?”
It sounds so easy and logical; so why is it such a daily struggle?   Well, to quote a line from another favorite song – this one by Rich Mullins:
“The stuff of earth competes for the allegiance
 I owe only to the Giver of all good things.”  
God, give us grace and wisdom to choose wisely.

Lenten Reflection: May We in Thy Mighty Keeping, All Peaceful Lie

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by Hosanna Lovegren
May we in thy mighty keeping, all peaceful lie 

Sometimes on Sunday evenings we will sing together one of the hymns from the “Evening” section of our hymnal. Set to quiet and humble melodies, they often reflect on the end of day, sleep, and our final rest in the Lord. There is a simplicity to these themes, addressing our weakness and our fears. We might like to have our doors locked at night, or to have a watchdog to alert us of any danger. Or maybe in spite of outer safety, we battle anxiety or fears that prey on us in the middle of the night. Maybe we have bad dreams or worse, nightmares. Or maybe we are afraid to die.

The evening hymns speak for us, and help us in our prayers. That is why I love them. We have a Father in whose mighty keeping we are always safe. “The Lord is your keeper…he never sleeps.”– Psalm 121.

Here is one of my favorites, number 405.

God, that madest earth and heaven, darkness and light,
who the day for toil hast given, for rest the night;
may thine angel guards defend us, slumber sweet thy mercy send us,
holy dreams and hopes attend us, this livelong night.
And when morn again shall call us to run life’s way,
may we still, what e’er befall us, thy will obey.
From the power of evil hide us, in the narrow pathway guide us,
nor thy smile be e’er denied us the livelong day.
Guard us waking, guard us sleeping; and when we die,
may we, in thy  mighty keeping, all peaceful lie:
when the last dread trump shall wake us, do  not thou, O God, forsake us,
but to reign in glory take us with thee on high.

Lenten Reflection: My Darkness Turns to Light

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by Albert Siebring

 

“O Lord My God, Most Earnestly” by George Stebbins 1878
I grew up singing this song in church. I feel that it must have been sung often as the words and tune are firmly stuck in my memory.
When I was in my late 20’s there would be times in my work week that a secular song would come to mind that was not upbuilding or God glorifying. Attempting to get that catchy tune out of my head, I would search for something to replace it, and this hymn would pop into my brain and I would sing it to myself. It never failed to help focus my mind away from the lyrics that had previously dominated my thinking. Curiously, a few hours later, I couldn’t recall any of the words or the title of that diverting hymn.
Recently I got out the​ old “blue” Psalter Hymnal and found listed inside the front cover a list of favorite songs, which included #111, which is Psalm 63 put to music.
This hymn continues to come to my mind when I find my thoughts to be empty, depressing or futile. When I’m yearning to have my thoughts directed back to God, the Holy Spirit brings this psalm and hymn to my mind and I am overcome with a sense of peace and comfort that God is my only comfort and He will rescue me from debilitating thoughts and fears.
1. O Lord, my God, most earnestly
My heart would seek Thy face,
Within Thy holy house once more
To see Thy glorious grace.
Apart from Thee I long and thirst,
And nought can satisfy;
I wander in a desert land
Where all the streams are dry.
2. The lovingkindness of my God
Is more than life to me;
So I will bless Thee while I live
And lift my prayer to Thee.
In Thee my soul is satisfied,
My darkness turns to light,
And joyful meditations fill
The watches of the night.
3. My Saviour, ‘neath Thy sheltering wings
My soul delights to dwell;
Still closer to Thy side I press,
For near Thee all is well.
My soul shall conquer every foe,
Upholden by Thy hand;
Thy people shall rejoice in God,
Thy saints in glory stand.

 

Lenten Reflection: It is Better Farther On

By Nick and Diana Laninga

All of us have passed through various trials, sickness, financial issues, family problems and death of loved ones. Often questions arise and doubts set in as we question God and His ways. I find comfort in God’s word and rest in Him. This verse from Psalm 73 has been a strong tower for me.

From Psalm 73.
“[1] In doubt and temptation I rest Lord in Thee, my hand is in Thy hand , Thou carest for me ; My soul with Thy counsel trough life Thou wilt guide, and afterward make me in glory abide.

[2] In glory Thou only my portion shalt be, on earth for none other I long but for Thee; My flesh and heart falter, but God is my stay, the strength of my spirit my portion for aye. Refrain: My God I will extol Thee and ever bless Thy Name; each day will I give thanks to Thee and all Thy praise proclaim.

John 14:1-4 “ Let not your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”

JESUS ! The way of the cross leads home.

  1. As we travel through the desert, storms beset us on our way; but beyond the River Jordan, lies a field of endless days
  2. Oh my brother are you weary of the roughness of the way? Does your strength begin to fail you and your vigor to decay?
  3. Jesus, Jesus will go with you, He will lead you to the throne, He who dyed His garments for you, and the winepress trod alone.

REFRAIN: Farther on still go farther, count the milestones one by one. Jesus will forsake you never. IT IS BETTER FARTHER ON.

  1. At my grave I’ll still be singing, though you weep for one that’s gone. Singing as we once did singing, IT IS BETTER FARTHER ON.

Take Heart He will love us forever!

The Laningas