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Monthly Archives: February 2018

The Rock that Is Higher than I

The Rock that Is Higher than I

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The Scripture is rich with lithic pictures of God, depicting Him as “the Rock.” The Rock is not a pebble, not even a stone, but a great lithological edifice which dominates the horizon. It has roots that dig deep into the earth and a peak that stretches to the heavens. It was there when men arrived, and it will remain long after they are departed. The rains beat down on the Rock, the sun tries to scorch it; the earth quakes around it, and the rivers run past it – but the Rock cannot be moved. It even forms a kind of shelter for those around it: as the wind blows from the cold north, the south side of the Rock is protected by its sheer mass. When the noonday heat beats down upon a thirsty, cracked, and weary world – those who stay within the shade of the Rock are cooled by their nearness.

The Rock is a place of stability, a place that can support, sustain, and protect life – an oasis in the desert.

The harrowing storm assails us as we walk a difficult path. The storm cascades over our very soul. We can imagine that in the darkness of the storm, we would even fear being lost without a landmark. Where shall we look but to the Rock?

“The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies” (II Samuel 22:2-4).

Daylight has come with the morning, but with the noon the sun becomes oppressive. The land is dry, the way is dusty, and my tongue grows thick and sticks to my mouth. Where is relief but in the shadow of the Rock?

In times of trouble the Rock is there for me; so even in times of joy. Regardless of the situation, the Rock has become my unchanging companion, the visual compass by which I orientate myself.

“For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God? This God is my strong refuge and has made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights … The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be my God, the rock of my salvation, the God who gave me vengeance and brought down peoples under me, who brought me out from my enemies; you exalted me above those who rose against me; you delivered me from men of violence” (II Samuel 22:32-34, 47-49).

It’s not just God’s presence that is a lodestone for us, but it is his ineffable, unchanging qualities. He is Himself a monument to the great virtues! “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he” (Deuteronomy 32:4). “There is none holy like the LORD: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God” (I Samuel 2:2).

“…and the Rock was Christ” (I Corinthians 10:4b).

Photo: Levi Sisemore (hymnalcollector.com)
Christian Hymns, 1889
E.G. Sewell, R.M. McIntosh, Leonard Daugherty
Gospel Advocate Publishing Company

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Posted by on February 26, 2018 in Songs in the Night

 

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He Leadeth Me

He Leadeth Me

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In terms of tune, this is quite different what I grew up singing. Furthermore, it may strike some as unusual for a hymnal published by the gospel advocate in 1889 for an a capella-singing church to have a piano reduction in its pages. Oh, the interesting things we find when we look into our own history!

This tune was supplied by “Mrs. R.M. McIntosh.” Mr. Rigdon McCoy McIntosh is listed as one of the editors of this hymnal. McIntosh was not himself associated with the Churches of Christ, but was a Methodist. There was no one employed by the Gospel Advocate in the late 19th century who was capable of being the music editor for a hymnal of the scope. McIntosh was well-known as a Church musician and his involvement lent credibility to the project in addition to his expertise that will surely required.

Our focus is so often the destination yet this hymn calls our attention to the journey. It is enough that we are lead by Christ; we needn’t worry about the itinerary. The very thought of being under the leadership of Jesus brings comfort to the worshipper. These words were originally penned as a response to the 23rd Psalm, though themes of God’s leadership are vibrant in other passages as well.

Sometimes, even though I walk through the valley of death; sometimes, even though he leads me by still waters – he still leads. Regardless of the circumstance, the song reaffirms our trust in God that he will lead us THROUGH trouble, not AROUND trouble.

Although the author is said to have been channeling Psalm 23 as he wrote these words, I’ve always seen the Exodus story embedded within the poem. The children of Israel were led by God from the Red Sea forward. The Red Sea was a moment of great trouble for them as they saw Pharaoh and his army nearing closer and closer, revenge and recapture in their hearts. God parted the waters, moving them through their troubles, and on to safety on the other side. Faith would have had them move on with God, hand-in-hand, without murmuring or complaining. If you’re familiar with this moment in Israel’s history, you know that they failed miserably; they grumbled, murmured, and even wanted to go back to Egypt to die! But the faith of the singer speaks contentment, not because of the destination, nor because of the ease of the journey, but because of the one who leads us.

Finally, the singer stands on the verge of Jordan. This transitional moment in Israel’s history has fascinated poets for generations. Something about this moment has become a metaphor for passing from this life into the next. To cross over Jordan is to go into all of God’s promises, surely some anticipation of heaven is allowed within this picture. As Jesus neared the end of his life in John 17, he prayed to God and noted that he had brought glory to the father, having accomplished the work which God had assigned him. It is only by God’s grace, power, and infant wisdom that we shall become victorious in any lasting sense. Having overcome this life and the sin which so easily entangles, we peer into the great unknown; we look over into death and perhaps wonder if it is death that awaits us or life. The Christian knows of the many promises of God relating to eternal life. “Eternal life” is not just a discussion of duration and quantity, but is essentially a discussion of quality. The quality of life that this person anticipates is nothing less than the fullness of what he has experienced in this life being lead by the very hand of God. At this point in the relationship, even the cold and yet-unfamiliar wave of death’s waters will not dissuade the worshipper from moving forward into the great promises of God.

The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want, he leadeth me…

Photo: Levi Sisemore
Christian Hymns, 1889
E.G. Sewell, R.M. McIntosh, Leonard Daugherty
Gospel Advocate Publishing Company

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2018 in Songs in the Night

 

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What a Friend We Have in Jesus

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

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These words and this tune have been wedded together for generations of believers, bringing comfort and peace through reassurance that Jesus listens and the perspective that he can bear the burdens of our heart. This particular copy in the picture claims no ownership for the lyrics, but other sources tell us that they were written by Joseph Scriven. He wrote them as a private poem for his mother while she endured a time of great sorrow. These words were never intended to comfort anyone else, but words that are fitting to comfort a mother are surely deep enough to be a solace to the rest of us.

How many times have we looked to another source for comfort in distress? How many times have we overlooked Jesus, taking him for granted? Oh what peace we often forfeit and what needless pain we bear all because we’re too stubborn, or too forgetful, to carry it to Jesus in prayer.

Precious savior still our refuge – when has he ever stopped being our haven of safety? Sometimes it seems that we call out to the Lord just when we need him, as if we don’t need him all the time. You may be familiar with the popular Christian poem Footprints in the Sand (onlythebible.com/Poems/Footprints-in-the-Sand-Poem.html). I know what that poem intends to communicate, but I think the author misses the point when, at the climax of the poem, Jesus says that he carried the Christian in his times of greatest need. Friends, Jesus either always carries us or he doesn’t carry us at all! Romans 5 tells us that it is in the grace of God that we take our stand. There is no other place, nothing else solid, upon which to stand then the very grace of God.

This is a hymn which works equally well in the assembly of the saints is it does in private devotional time. Many times have I sung this to myself, to my inner self, reminding teaching, and reassuring my selfies timeless truths. In a town where I used to preach it was a gas station and convenience store called friends. They had a clever advertising line on the local radio station: “Who doesn’t need more Friends?” Well when Jesus is your friend you have what you need; when you don’t have Jesus, you lack the one relationship that will not only save you IN the future FROM your past but which will also save you IN your present from the pain, sorrow, faithlessness, poverty, and hardship that life sends our way.

Photo:
Christian Hymns, 1889
E.G. Sewell, R.M. McIntosh, Leonard Daugherty
Gospel Advocate Publishing Company

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2018 in Songs in the Night

 

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All Hail the Pow’r of Jesus’ Name

All Hail the Pow’r of Jesus’ Name

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“Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!'”

Notice the “forgotten” verse 3:
“Ye Gentile sinners, ne’er forget the wormwood and the gall;
Go, spread your trophies at His feet and crown Him Lord of all.”

God’s plan for eternity is to unite all people – all races, ethnicities, socio-economic groups, etc. – into one body, the church.

Let all of us, and heaven, too, “hail the power of Jesus’ name” and bow low before His throne!

“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility… This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel … so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord …”

#SongsInTheNight

Photo:
Christian Hymns, 1889
E.G. Sewell, R.M. McIntosh, Leonard Daugherty
Gospel Advocate Publishing Company

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2018 in Songs in the Night

 

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How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds

How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds

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From where do you draw inner strength and peace? What soothes your inward-man? What breaks the chains and heals the soul?

How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear!
It soothes our sorrows, heals our wounds, and drives away our fear.

It makes the wounded spirit whole and calms the troubled breast;
‘Tis manna to the hungry soul, and to the weary, rest.

Weak is the effort of my heart, and cold my warmest thought;
But when I see Thee as Thou art, I’ll praise Thee as I ought.

Till then I would your love proclaim with ev’ry fleeting breath;
and may the music of Thy name refresh my soul in death.

~ John Newton, 1774

Photo:
Christian Hymns, 1889
E.G. Sewell, R.M. McIntosh, Leonard Daugherty
Gospel Advocate Publishing Company

#SongsInTheNight

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2018 in Songs in the Night

 

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