My Song

Jesus is the song, the song that God has been singing since the beginning of creation, the song that God gave to the world.

The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. Exodus 15:2 (ESV) 

This is part of what is known as “The Song of Moses and Miriam.” The Israelites sang it after they had been rescued from the pursuing Egyptians who wanted to re-enslave them. They sang it to celebrate their deliverance after they had walked through the sea on dry sand, but the waters had closed over their enemies. And, I just realized that this song is repeated three times in the Bible. It is recorded here in Exodus, in Isaiah 12:2 and in Psalm 118:14. Wonderfully, it appears in both Isaiah and Psalms in chapters prophesying the Messiah.  

But what captured my attention here is the phrase “my song.” That God is my strength and salvation I understand. But how is He my song? Charles Spurgeon explained it this way: 

… “The Lord is my song” that is to say, the Lord is the giver of our songs; he breathes the music into the hearts of his people; he is the creator of their joy. The Lord is also the subject of their songs: they sing of him and of all that he does on their behalf. The Lord is, moreover, the object of their song: they sing unto the Lord. Their praise is meant for him alone. They do not make melody for human ears, but unto the Lord. “The Lord is my song.” Then I ought always to sing; and if I sing my loudest, I can never reach the height of this great argument, nor come to the end of it. This song never changes. If I live by faith my song is always the same, for “the Lord is my song.” Our song unto God is God himself. He alone can express our intensest joy. O God, thou art my exceeding joy. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, thou art my hymn of everlasting delight.” from Jubilate, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, October 25, 1885 

Jesus is the song, the song that God has been singing since the beginning of creation, the song that God gave to the world, the song He commanded us to sing. Not the song of the world that we had been singing. This is the new song about a new hope, a new covenant, the new wine poured into new wine skins. Jesus is our Song. He is the song we sing in the desert place, pursued by our enemies, backed up against devouring impossibilities. 

The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation. 

The heart that has been changed by the gospel sings the praise of the Savior. For only in Jesus, we have been redeemed. We have been saved from our sins that have separated us from our God. We have been raised from our spiritual death to walk in the newness of eternal life. We have received and have been sealed by the Holy Spirit, the guarantee of future and final redemption. We have been called out of darkness and into his marvelous light to proclaim his praises. He is our new song.” — K. Jason French1 

But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress. Psalm 59:16 (ESV) 

By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. Psalm 42:8 (ESV) 

Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:6-8 

Let the trees of the forest sing, let them sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. 1 Chronicles 16:33 

Let the trees sing. Let us all sing, for He is our song. And, the Song has arrived. 

This is my story; 

This is my song. 

From the heights of heaven’s glory 

To the depths of earth’s despair, 

Came a love song in the darkness, 

Came a song beyond compare. 

And from the humble stable 

God sang His lullaby, 

A song of peace, as song of joy, 

The music of the sky. 

This shall be my alleluia; 

This shall be my highest praise. 

Let my every word and deed proclaim it; 

Let me sing it all my days. 

This shall be my benediction; 

This shall be my dying phrase. 

This shall be my alleluia; 

Jesus is my song of grace! 

From the golden streets of heaven, 

To the shores of Galilee, 

Came a love song for all people, 

The music of eternity. 

And from a wooden cross, 

God sang His song of grace, 

And filled the world with the sound of hope 

And everlasting praise. 

This shall be my alleluia; 

This shall be my highest praise. 

Let my every word and deed proclaim it; 

Let me sing it all my days. 

This shall be my benediction; 

This shall be my dying phrase. 

This shall be my alleluia; 

Jesus is my song of grace! 

— “Jesus Is My Song of Grace,” by Joseph Martin2 

1 God Put a Song in Your Heart  https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/god-put-a-song-in-your-heart  

2 Listen to this wonderful song here Jesus Is My Song of Grace 

Photo of trees by Jessica Dillon

Only Humans

“All of nature continually praises God. Only humans require reminders to do so.”

Sitting at my desk early this morning with the window open, I heard the sandhill cranes raucously lift up their croaking praise with a glorious sunrise. And then I read this quote and smiled: 

“All of nature continually praises God. Only humans require reminders to do so.”i 

Yes, only humans require reminders. And there are many, many reminders. 

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7 

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Hebrews 13:15 (ESV) 

Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:19-20 

 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Philippians 4:4 

OK, all us humans, here is our reminder for today. Let’s lift up our heads and hearts out of the dark pits of bitterness, doubt, depression and despair. He has come! He is here with us. He will never leave or abandon us. He has a plan and a Way through and forward.

Let us lift up our croaking praise with the cranes and rejoice. I will say it again: Rejoice! 

All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing the praises of your name. Psalm 66:4 

From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised. Psalm 113:3 

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD! Psalm 150:6 

iWilliam J. Petersen and Randy Petersen, One Year Book of Hymns 

Photo: Blast Off at Dawn by Mimi https://flic.kr/p/2n6Cfmz  

Fractured

Anxiety, as I’ve experienced lately, can become my default mode. But He cares for you. 

Cast all your anxiety (merimna) on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 

The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries (merimna) of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. Matthew 13:22 

Both of the above verses about worry or anxiety use the Greek word μέριμνα, transliterated merimna. J.D. Walt has this to say about this word: 

“The word is transliterated ‘merimna’ and sounds like it spells. It carries a meaning of dividing and fracturing a person’s being into parts. Anxiety, in a very literal sense, pulls us apart. It dis-integrates our very sense of self by attacking our core sense of security. 

So how do we deal with anxiety?  

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 

Is it as simple as telling God what we are anxious about? It sounds good, but all too often when we are anxious we tend to worry our prayers rather than casting our anxiety on God. Anxiety must actually be displaced within us. The little word, ‘because,’ tells us how this displacement works. It brings us to the four most important words in today’s text: 

He cares for you.  

Did you hear that? 

He cares for you.”

J.D. Walt https://seedbed.com/swing-thought-2/ 

Merimna means care, anxiety, “properly, a part, separated from the whole,” “worry (anxiety), dividing and fracturing a person’s being into parts.” It dawned on me that it is the opposite of the “all” I wrote about recently – loving God with all. When we let our hearts and minds be pulled apart by worry into parts it separates us from God. We need to cast it all unto God and love-worship Him with all. 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:36-37). 

The Greek word that Jesus used in quoting Deuteronomy 6:5, translated “all” three times in the verse, is holos (ὅλος). It is the root of the English term “whole.” It means whole, complete, entire, “properly, wholly, where all the parts are present and working as a whole – i.e. as the total, which is greater than the mere sum of the parts.” 

Worry, then, is the opposite of this “all.” Worry fractures me into parts separated from the whole. Loving the Lord with all – all the parts present and working as a whole – is the opposite of being fractured into parts by anxiety. Anxiety robs God of my all-love. It means I am reserving some of my love – worship – for that which I worry about. Do I really trust God whole-heartedly? Anxiety, as I’ve experienced lately, can become my default mode. But He cares for you.  

The Greek word translated “cares” above is meló (μέλει) and means to be an object of care. I love that! “To be an object of care.” As Louie Giglio says “you’re on Heaven’s radar.” Even when we can’t feel it or see it or hear it. Even when it seems we have been abandoned and forgotten. 

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 
Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care (meló) if we drown?” Mark 4:37-38 

“Don’t you care?”  

How many times have I asked this question, roiling in my anguish and doubt? But he said he cares for me, and has demonstrated that love.  

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares (meló) nothing for the sheep. John 10:11-13 

So not being fractured, but being whole, means following the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for me. As Henry Nouwen wrote, it means trusting in God’s love. 

“It’s a question here of trusting in God’s love. The Greek word for faith is pistis, which means, literally, ‘trust.’ Whenever Jesus says to people he has healed: ‘Your faith has saved you,’ he is saying that they have found new life because they have surrendered in complete trust to the love of God revealed in him.” — Henry J.M. Nouwen 

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. 1 John 4:16 (NLT) 

God wants me to be whole. I become whole following the Good Shepherd – trusting – loving with all, complete, entire, as one. Letting Him lead and guide me, bind up my wounds, rescue me, hold me close. Christ in me and I in Him, making it possible. His all, my all. 

Christ is all, and is in all. Colossians 3:11 

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:4-6 

The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. John 17:22-23 (ESV) 

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 

“Did you hear that? 

He cares for you.” 

Photo, Fractured, by Brett Jordan https://flic.kr/p/8f8EHy  

Praise, Shine, Flash Forth

Praise [shine, flash forth, celebrate, be clamorously foolish, glory in]  

the LORD [the one bringing into being, life-giver, giver of existence, creator, he who brings to pass, performer of his promises, he who causes to fall the rain and the lightning, destroyer of foes, the absolute and unchangeable one] 

all [altogether, the whole, any, howsoever, whatsoever, whosoever, every one of the] nations [peoples, Gentiles]!  

Extol [commend, glory in, praise, be still and free from care in, triumph in]  

Him [the calmer of the storm, the one who stills the waves, who carries our cares],  

all [altogether, the whole, any, howsoever, whatsoever, whosoever, every one of the] peoples [tribes, communities]! 

For great [strong, stronger, mighty, prevailing] is his steadfast love [favor, loving-kindness, good and kind deedliness,i merciful kindness, mercy, pity, abundant, plenteous, of great extent – preserver of life from death, quickener of spirit/heart life, redeemer from sin, keeper of covenant]   

toward [upon, above, over] us,  

and the faithfulness [firmness, truth, trustworthiness, reliability, sureness, stability, the truly, the verity, the Amen!] of the LORD  

endures forever [from everlasting antiquity to everlasting futurity, always, perpetual, permanent, of continuous existence, now and throughout eternity].  

Praise [shine, flash forth, celebrate, be clamorously foolish, glory in]  

the LORD [the one bringing into being, life-giver, giver of existence, creator, he who brings to pass, performer of his promises, he who causes to fall the rain and the lightning, destroyer of foes, the absolute and unchangeable one]!  Psalm 117:1-2 ii   

iLanguage falls apart, the keyboard disintegrates when trying to describe the chesed love of God! 

iiAll amplification from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, and NAS Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible with Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries 

 Photo by Reilly Images, LLC

The Subversive Act of Worship

Even before his death on the cross Jesus had chosen to be an outsider; he had already chosen disgrace.

So let us go out to him, outside the camp, and bear the disgrace he bore. For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come. Hebrews 13:13-14 (NLT)

For some reason I always read this verse, “let us go out with him,” as in “let us go with him carrying our cross.” And we are supposed to take up our cross daily (Luke 9:23). But this verse says, “let us go out to him.” And with that little change there is a different message, a different focus. Let us go out to where he is – outside the camp. He has always been outside the camp.

Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting which was outside the camp. Exodus 33:7 (NASB)

“Our permanent home,” mentioned in the above verse, is the place we meno. The Greek word meno means to stay, abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand. It is not this temporary world-camp where we are to abide. Meno is the word used in John 15.

Remain (meno) in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains (meno) in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5 (NIV)

This world is not our meno-home. Jesus is our meno-home, and where he is, there we are to be – plugged into the Vine. And Jesus is outside the camp because He chose the cross.

Under the old system, the high priest brought the blood of animals into the Holy Place as a sacrifice for sin, and the bodies of the animals were burned outside the camp. So also Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood. So let’s go out to him … Hebrews 13:11-13 (NLT)

To the people of Jesus’ day death on a cross was worse than a disgrace. Cicero said that it should not even be in the thoughts of a Roman citizen; it should not even be mentioned in connection with a citizen.[i] Yet, this is where Jesus willingly chose to go. Outside the city gates. Outside the temporary camp. Outside the culture of the day. Outside the religious systems. Outside the politics and governments of the day. Outside the traditions and popular beliefs. Outside of all the hopes and dreams for this life. James V. Brownson says it better than I can:

The cross collides with the values and assumptions that shape the world around us. It shocks us out of the status quo, out of the norms and assumptions that surround us, and calls us to an alternative vision … “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” The “foolishness” Paul is writing of here is not a certain theological axiom about the cross of Jesus; it is the blatant offensiveness of the cross, both to Jews and to Gentiles. The point of the divine foolishness is simply this: If God has raised from the dead someone who was crucified, if we worship someone who was crucified, we can no longer hold on to the common values of respectability that are characteristic of normal human society. All our assumptions about what constitutes right and wrong, about what is worthwhile, about what really matters – all that has to be revised and reversed, if you engage in the subversive act of worshiping someone who was crucified. In other words, if you are going to worship someone who was crucified, you have to undergo radical conversion.[ii]

Even before his death on the cross Jesus had chosen to be an outsider; he had already chosen disgrace. He had already chosen to be identified with the lowly and meek, the poor and unclean and diseased and despised. If we engage in the subversive act of worshiping our crucified Lord, we need to identify there too. Let us go out to him. Let us meno there.

 

For more on “meno” see The Art of Remaining Present

Image: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry the Cross, by Darren Barefoot https://www.flickr.com/search/?text=jesus%20cross

[i] Hengel, Martin Hengel. Crucifixion. 1977

[ii] Brownson, James V. Holiness and Hermeneutics. 1999.

Passing Through

What joy for those who can live [abide] in your house [dwelling place],

always [still, yet (!), again, continually, persistently] singing your praises [praising, celebrating, glorying, shining, flashing forth light]. Interlude [Selah]

What joy for [blessed are] those whose strength [boldness, security] comes from [is in] the Lord,

who have set their minds [hearts] on a pilgrimage [on the journey] to Jerusalem [place of worship].

When they walk through [pass through] the Valley of Weeping,

it will become [they will consider, regard, make it] a place of refreshing springs [fountains, source of satisfaction].

The autumn rains [the archer, the shooter of arrows] will clothe [cover, fill] it with blessings [pools, gifts, praise to God].  Psalm 84:4-6

 

Remember, you are just passing through this valley of weeping. Set your heart on the journey. Keep your eyes on the destination, on Jesus. Keep, always, continually persistently shooting your arrows of praise, shine forth your light. Make this sad place a source of blessing, refreshing, life – both for yourself and for others.

“ … the highway to Your city runs through my heart.” [i]

 

[i] From How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place by Ted Sandquist

The Best Gift

I don’t think Mary’s best gift was the expensive perfume. I think, to Jesus, the most precious gift was something else. As usual, Jesus went straight for the heart.

During supper, a woman came in with a beautiful jar of expensive perfume and poured it over his head. The disciples were indignant when they saw this. “What a waste of money,” they said, “She could have sold it for a fortune and given the money to the poor.” But Jesus replied, “Why berate her for doing such a good thing to me?” Matthew 26:7-10 (NLT)

John 12:3 identifies this woman as Mary, Lazarus’ sister. I can relate to how Mary felt. I have been berated for my gifts too. I have thought for months of what I could give someone that would be the best, most appreciated, gift possible, only to have it rejected. Only to have it repulsed, given back, put aside, shoved in a drawer. And I too have been shamed. This woman brought the very best, most precious, gift she owned, and the disciples berated her for it. I can only imagine that it would have been very intimidating and crushing – these were The Disciples after all, important men, the very ones chosen by Jesus. And they were shaming her for bringing this gift of her very best.

But I don’t think her very best gift was the expensive perfume. I think, to Jesus, the most precious gift was something else. As usual, Jesus went straight for the heart.

Jesus had been warning the disciples for a while what awaited him in Jerusalem. He came right out and said plainly he would be killed several times. He even told them he would rise again (Mark 8:31), and all he got for it was a rebuke from Peter. But Mary believed Jesus when he said he was going to be crucified. She came and offered Jesus her best – her faith and her trust that Jesus had a good plan, and if Jesus said he was going to die and rise again, he would die and rise again. She was the only one who “got it” and she responded in faith, empathy, and love. Like Abraham, who believed that God could raise Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:19), she proved her faith by her actions. Jesus confirmed, “she did it to prepare me for burial.” That must have been comforting to Jesus.

Jesus highly honored her trust, proclaiming, “I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” Others had worshipped Jesus. Others had loved him. But only about Mary does he say this. Manford George Gutzke gives a good explanation.

Do you realize that this is the only deed done to the Lord Jesus Christ personally that He ever asked anyone to repeat? Everything He taught, He did Himself. Every illustration He gave, He gave Himself, except this one. This one He presents to us because it is an example of what anyone can do to serve the Lord. When you think about the Gospel being preached you realize there is only one thing that Christ cannot illustrate Himself: that is, how a person should act toward Him. He can illustrate obedience, faithfulness and humility, but He could not illustrate a believer’s response to the Son of God.[i]

Yes! This is something we all can do – give Him our heart, our trust. And we will not be shamed if we do. I have a suspicion that this Mary was one of the women early at the tomb on the third day. It would make sense, because there are promises for people like this woman who put their faith and trust in Jesus.

As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Romans 9:33 (NIV)

As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts (to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place confidence) in him will never be put to shame.” Romans 10:11 (NIV)

And hope (expectation of good, confidence, faith) does not disappoint (dishonor, disgrace, shame) us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5:5 (NIV)

Our hope in Him does not shame us. The NetBible translators explain that “one is said to be put to shame who suffers a repulse, or whom some hope has deceived.” Jesus looked at this woman’s true gift of her heart, love, empathy, her trust, her hope, and did not put her to shame. He did not repulse her. He did not berate her. Just the opposite.

He will never shame you either. You may be berated by others, but your hope in Him will never deceive. Give Him your best and most precious gift.

[i] Plain Talk on Matthew. Zondervan Publishing House, 1966. p. 216.

Image in the Public Domain

%d bloggers like this: