Lenten Reflection: For God, the Just, is Satisfied

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by Chris Lovegren

 

Before the Throne of God Above

The hymn, It is Well with My Soul, touches the theme of the saving work of Christ with the line,

 …”My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more…”

Wait, what? What are WE supposed to do to be saved? Where is the checklist?

The answer is glorious almost beyond words, (Acts 16) “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”

Paul explains later in Ephesians 2:  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

The Bible tells us many, many times that it has been and remains impossible to save ourselves, that only God Himself can accomplish such a task. He only asks that we believe that and act on it with gratitude and obedience. And thus there is faith: belief, gratitude and obedience.

He ultimately accomplished salvation by taking on human flesh as the Man, Jesus of Nazareth; living the perfect life and obediently giving Himself as a (Pastor Bert Hitchcock) “God-sized sacrifice for a creation-sized sin.” Jesus did so and God was satisfied with the sacrifice and then placed the righteousness of Christ upon us with the down payment of the Holy Spirit.

We. Did. Nothing.

A similar line to It Is Well appears in Before the Throne of God Above and I can’t ever finish singing this line without choking up:

“Because the sinless Savior died,

my sinful soul is counted free:

For God, The Just, is satisfied

to look on Him and pardon me…”

 

Stand in awe.

I think that is just about a perfect summary of God’s saving work for the human race.

 

Quite a lovely rendition of the song is on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pb7bBhtQvo

 

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Lenten Reflection: Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross

by Nicole Moore

 

Jesus, keep me near the cross.

This is my favorite phrase to take with me after Lent is over and Easter has been put away for another year. It’s my constant cry and personal prayer that I not wander.

 

Jesus, keep me near the cross
Where you died for me
Where you forgave my sins
Where you redeemed me.

While seasons change
While loved ones leave
While days pass me by
Jesus, keep me near the cross.

As I go to work everyday
As I cook dinner in the evenings
As I do mounds of laundry on a Saturday
Jesus, keep me near the cross.

When I struggle with relationships
When I am overcome with sadness
When temptation surrounds me
Jesus, keep me near the cross

Keep me thinking of you
Keep me focused on you
Keep me doing what is pleasing to you
Jesus, keep me near the cross.

-Nicole Moore

 

Lenten Reflection: As the Deer Pants for Water

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by Brian Vander Haak
Taipai, Taiwan

 

One of the most moving experiences in my teaching career happened early on. My first job involved teaching 7th graders in Washington DC. The next year I had the same students back for 8th grade. At 8th grade graduation the students sang As the Deer based on Psalm 42, and I exclaimed to another staff person that it was my favorite song. She replied, “I know. That’s why they chose it.”

After they sang it I asked a student how they knew it was my favorite song, and he said they remembered a devotional I had done all the way back in the Fall of their 7th grade year. Happy sigh, even thinking about it all these years later.

Unlike many of the dogs we have owned, who panted often and without provocation, deer panting seems like a bigger deal to me. Deer pant when they are very thirsty, stressed from the heat, or after running from a predator. These are intense situations. A fitting image for an intense Psalm. Here the Psalmist is mourning while at the same time berating himself for having a downcast soul, but he keeps coming back with the answer: put your hope in God. A God who directs His love by day, and at night wraps us in His song (vs 8).
Contrary to what I had hoped, the stresses in my life have not diminished as I have aged, and being content has alluded me, so I have done my share of panting. But I delight that I can remind my soul that there is something far better to long for, and I rest in the assurance from this Psalm that His song is with us right here.

Lenten Reflection: From Lofty Mountain Grandeur

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by Vic and Sandy Kiel

 

When we were asked to reply to this question, two hymns immediately came to mind, The Old Rugged Cross and How Great Thou Art. But if pressed I would have to choose How Great Thou Art. It is a hymn that we have grown up with and know well. And still it is a hymn that affects me profoundly to this day. But now the challenge is ‘what is my favorite line’ from the hymn? Unfortunately, I will not be able to select just one line, so if you will allow me, let me attempt to express what this song means to me by verse.

When on a crystal-clear morning I see the snow glistening to the distant mountain tops, the radiant sun, the evergreen tree needles glistening with the morning dew, the tulips opening to the warming season, the ripples on the lake, verses one and two talk to my head and heart how magnificent the universe is and How Great Thou Art.

Verses three and four are my favorites. The awesomeness that God sent his Son to take away my sin and the joy it will be to go home makes my soul sing How Great Thou Art.

  1. Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
    Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
    I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
    Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
  2. When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
    And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
    When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
    And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.
  3. And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
    Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
    That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
    He bled and died to take away my sin.
  4. When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
    And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
    Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
    And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”

Refrain:
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

 

While we enjoy singing this hymn and hearing it sung by numerous artists we have recently been really touched by Susan Boyles’ version. Included in this version is a very poignant reading of Psalm 8

  1. LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. 
  2. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. 
  3. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 
  4. What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? 
  5. You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. 
  6. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: 
  7. All flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, 
  8. The birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. 
  9. LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

 

How Great Thou Art…Amen

 

Lenten Reflection: All Now Mysterious Shall Be Bright At Last

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by Jan Lovegren

Be Still My Soul by Charles Wesley

Years ago I was going through a big change. We had sold our house and moved in with my husband’s parents. They needed help, and we were waiting for our new house to be finished. Several of my friends had moved away and we were ‘long distance’, an impossibly expensive way to talk to my friends. My husband was working long hours, our daughter was in Iowa at college and our son was in high school.
I was the loneliest I had ever been. Now was the time to seek God. It turned out I was led to this hymn. I would walk and learn of my wonderful God who loves me and died for me so I could live forever with him!
This verse became so meaningful to me:
“Be still my soul:
your God will undertake to guide the future as he  has the past.
Your hope, your 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”.

This verse as well as the other verses of this hymn began in me the deep understanding that I could be still. I no longer had to cover up my pain of loneliness and sadness by running after things in this world.

Be still and know that I am God. He is a God who has my future and past in his hand. As I pondered this I came to understand all the times God had rescued and protected me. He was there watching over me!

I can trust him even with so many mysteries and unknowns. For one day I will see clearly. I learned that this Jesus who died on the cross for me is not only my close confidant but God himself who stilled the storm while his friends sat terrified in a boat ready to sink into the sea. Being still in your pain of loneliness and fear is the best place to meet our God.

He finally had my attention so he could lavish his love and understanding through the bible and the wonderful hymns of old. They were written by people just like us. The lonely, fearful, or those of us who are looking for love in all the wrong places.

Be still my soul, he is here, he loves us and he is God.

Lenten Reflection: I Lay in Dust Life’s Glory Dead

by Pastor Bert Hitchcock
From the last stanza of “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go”:
O Cross that liftest up my head, 
I dare not ask to hide from Thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead, 
and from the ground there blossoms red,
life that shall endless be.
This wonderful hymn was written in 1882 by George Matheson, the blind, Scottish Pastor of St. Bernard’s Parish Church in Edinburgh.  He later claimed that writing this song scarcely took him five minutes, but it is worthy of so much more reflection by us who now sing it.  For, this hymn walks us through the process of our sanctification.
It begins with a call to rest in the “love that will not let us go” – to rest in it when we are weary, and to respond by giving our lives back to the One who loved us more than we will ever love him.  Many believe that in these lines, Matheson was contrasting the love of the Lord, with that of the girl whose love did let him go, when she found out he was going blind.
The second stanza may also make reference to his blindness (“my flickering torch”) which made him so dependant on the One who is the Light of the World – the One who fills our darkness with His own clear view of all things.
In the third stanza, Matheson acknowledges that the pain never goes away.  But like a rainbow appearing in the midst of the storm, that pain is accompanied by hope for a glorious, tearless, sunny day.
O but it is the fourth stanza that most powerfully speaks of our experience in Christ. Here we contemplate the cross, but it is not just the cross on which Jesus died; this is the cross which signifies our own death – as in, “take up your cross and follow me.”  We are often inclined to follow Jesus on some level, for he is a worthy role model.  But the thought of dying – worse yet, of willingly laying down our own life in order to follow him – is repugnant to us.  It feels like we’re burying everything glorious about our life in a grave – like we are lying on the ground with our very life-blood soaking into the dirt.
Why would we ever pay such a price to follow Jesus?  And no mistake, this dying to self is the price which the Lord demands.  Well, Matheson reminds us why: for “from the ground thee blossoms red, life that shall endless be.”  In other words, our dying to self is but the entrance into eternal, resurrection life.  From that puddle of blood, new life springs up eternal.
This may have taken Matheson only five minutes to write, but it takes us a lifetime to learn to live it out.

Lenten Reflection: Christ is the Truth

by Nick Laninga

Jesus said unto him, “I am the Way, the TRUTH, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by Me.”
John 14:6.

Thirty years ago I prepared a devotional from Memoir and Remains of Robert Murrey M’Cheyne  for the start of a new school year at Bellingham Christian. The Topic was “Christ is the truth”. I thought it may serve us well after our last Sunday School session.

The whole Bible and the whole of experience, bear witness and by nature we are ignorant of the truth. No doubt there are many truths which an unconverted man does know. He may know the truths of mathematics and arithmetic, he may know many of the common everyday truths; but still it cannot be said that an unconverted man knows THE TRUTH, for Christ is the truth.

Christ may be called the keystone of the arch of truth. Take away the keystone of an arch, and the whole becomes a heap of rubbish. The very same truths  may be there; but they are fallen,—–without coherence, without order, without end.

Christ may be called the SUN of the system of truth. Take away the sun out of our system, and every planet would rush into confusion. The very same planets would be there; but their conflicting forces would draw them hither and thither orb dashing against orb in endless perplexity. Just so take Christ away, and the whole system of truth rushes into confusion.

The same truths may be in the mind, but all conflicting and jarring in inextricable mazes, for the paths of the wicked is as darkness; they know not at what they stumble. But let Christ be revealed to an unconverted soul—-let it not be merely a man speaking about Christ unto him, but let the Spirit of God reveal Him,—and there is revealed, not a truth but THE TRUTH. You put the keystone into the arch of truth; you restore the sun to the center of the system. All truth becomes serviceable in that mind.

Now he knows the truth with regard to himself. Did the Son of God really leave the bosom of the Father to bear wrath in our stead? Did the Lord Jesus become a servant, that He might obey the will of God instead sinners? Then I must be without any righteousness, a child of disobedience.

Again knowing Christ, he knows the truth with regard to God. Did God freely give up His own Son to death for us all? Then, if I believe in Jesus, there is no condemnation to me. God is my Father, and God is love.

“My friends, have you seen Christ, who is truth?  Has He been revealed to you, not by flesh and blood, but by the Spirit of our God? Then you know how true it is that” in Him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”
COLOSSIANS 2:3.

That He is the ALPHA and OMEGA the beginning and ending of all knowledge. But if you have not seen Christ, then you know nothing yet as you ought to know; all your knowledge is like a bridge without a key-stone—like a system without a sun. What good will it do you in hell that you knew all the sciences in the world, all the events of history and all the busy politics of your little day?  Do you not know that your very knowledge will be turned into an instrument of torture in hell? Oh, how you will wish in that day that you had read your newspaper less and your Bible more, that with all your getting, you had got understanding—that, with all your knowledge, you had known the Savior. Who to know is LIFE EVERLASTING. The Way, TheTRUTH, & The Life.”

What an awesome responsibility is ours. Yet what an adequate resource we have in Christ. As we lead our youth in TRUTH pray always for the Holy Spirit to open their hearts to see Christ who is TRUTH and everything will fall into pleasant lines. How important to have the blessing of Christian education that seeks to link God to home, school and to the heart of every individual that attends our school. Our prayers continue for you all.
~Nick & Diana Laninga

I like these verses from “ LOVED WITH EVERLASTING LOVE”

Vrs.2 Heav’n above is deeper blue, earth around is sweeter green, that which glows in every hue Christ-less eyes have never seen.  Birds in song his glories show, flowers with richer beauties shine since I know, as now I know, I am His and He is mine.

Vrs.3 Taste the goodness of the Lord; welcomed home to His embrace, all His love as blood out-poured seals the pardon of His Grace. Can I doubt His love for me when I trace that love’s design? BY THE CROSS OF CALVARY I am His and He is mine.
George w. Robinson/James Mountain

When one sees Christ, who is the Truth, that makes all the difference.

Have a reflective season of Lent!!!