Saturday Song: Now I Belong to Jesus

After reading this post from Desiring God, I felt inspired to play some old hymns that I haven’t sung or played for quite a while. I couldn’t help but smile fondly at the hymnal when I pulled it from my piano bag. I remember reading some of my first words out of a hymnal like this… but this one was mine.

Without looking, I can tell this book apart from its hymnal twin in my bag, just by the feel of the cover. I have been playing out of this little book for 20 years now. I know how each page falls open and where each dog-eared hymn is. The margins are full of my notes. It is full of the songs that helped raise me. It’s been my companion at funerals and weddings, at Christmas programs and my grandma’s living room. When I play the old hymns, I hear the voices who used to sing with me harmonizing with the notes – sweet echoes from the past.

As dear as this little hymnal and the memories are to me, the words in it remind me of a deeper affection. A longing that is universal: to belong. Not just to fit in to a temporary group or fragile social structure, but to belong securely, completely, forever.

Tonight the little hymnal reminded me that I belong to one who is more constant than the most faithful companion ever could be.

Jesus my Lord will love me forever, from him no pow’r of evil can sever; He gave his life to ransom my soul- now I belong to him!

Once I was lost in sin’s degradation, Jesus came down to bring me salvation; Lifted me up from sorrow and shame- now I belong to him!

Joy floods my soul, for Jesus has saved me, Freed me from sin that long had enslaved me; His precious blood he gave to redeem- now I belong to him!

Now I belong to Jesus, Jesus belongs to me. Not for the years of time alone, but for eternity.

…You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefather, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 1 Peter 18-19

Psalm 34:19-22

19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,

but the LORD delivers him out of them all.

20 He keeps all his bones;

not one of them is broken.

21 Affliction will slay the wicked,

and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.

22 The LORD redeems the life of his servants;

none of those who take refuge in him

will be condemned.

Verse 19 is similar to verse 17 in mentioning “the righteous” and the LORD’s deliverance.  The key difference in the verses is number.  In verse 17, the LORD “delivers them” and in verse 19, “the LORD delivers him”.  Verses 19-20 are clearly about one righteous man — the Messiah.  David looked forward to these promises being fulfilled.  I can look back and see that these prophecies were fulfilled in Christ.

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous” — Psalm 34:19

“Sure he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken; smitten by God, and afflicted.” Isaiah 53:4

“… and having scourge Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.” Matthew 27:26

“And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice… “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mark 15:34

But this is not the end, Psalm 34:19 continues,

“but the LORD delivers him out of them all.”

“Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;

he has put him to grief;

when his soul makes an offering for sin,

he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;

the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

Out of the anguish of his soul he shall

see and be satisfied;

by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,

make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.” Isaiah 53:10-11

“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead…” 1 Corinthians 15:20

A sign is given in Psalm 34:20

“He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.”

And fulfilled:

“But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.  But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.  He who saw it has borne witness — his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth — that you also may believe.  For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” John 19:34-36

While the Righteous One is delivered from his afflictions, affliction will slay the wicked (Psalm 34:21).  For them, there will be no deliverance, only condemnation.  For the Lord’s servants, however, are not condemned.  Instead, the same deliverance that was granted to the Righteous One is granted to the servants.  The afflictions and deliverance of the Righteous One enable the deliverance of the servants. Their only hope for deliverance, the very reason they can be called “righteous”, is that the Righteous One died, according to Scripture, in the manner described by prophecy, was raised according to Scripture, and grants to the servants his righteousness through faith.  As the Servant was persecuted, so can the servants expect persecution.  And as the Servant was delivered, so to are the servants promised deliverance.  It is no coincidence that this Psalm about fighting fear ends with a proclamation of the Gospel.  In every doubt, the believer turns to the Gospel for reminder of God’s grace and love — and to fuel faith for the fulfillment of every blessing in Christ.  The God who granted salvation in a person’s yesterday, cannot turn from him or her in their today, and will not in any tomorrow.  That is the peace the Gospel brings: sureness of God’s salvation, sureness of God’s faithfulness, sureness of the eternal nature of his love.

What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?  It is God who Justifies.  Who is to condemn?  Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  As it is written, “for your sake we are being killed all the day long;  we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor ruler, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:31-39

Psalm 34:17-18

When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears

and delivers them out of all their troubles.

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted

and saves the crushed in spirit.    Psalm 34:17-18

These verses lead me to ask myself, “Self, when do you cry for help? At night when fears and fatigue start their vicious attack?  In the morning when the start of a new day seems too much to bear?  In the afternoon or mid-morning when the crush of the everyday — the urgency — starts to make its many demands?  Whenever the time, it doesn’t matter, because “when the righteous cry” “the LORD hears and delivers.”  Look back on the last 24 hours.  Have you cried for help?  And were you delivered? Yes, Self, you know you have cried and you have been delivered. ”

To which my Self replies, “But being rid of fear is a reoccurring struggle, and being delivered from a certain fear one night doesn’t mean it won’t rear its ugly head the next night.  Great sorrow happening at once can make a person brokenhearted and crushed in spirit.  But, it does not always take an extreme event to produce that same result.  The daily drip of anxiety, the nagging of a certain fear, the inner voice that constantly condemns, day in and day out all lead to a crushed spirit as well.”

To which Self is answered, “But what does the Word of God say?  The LORD is near to you, O brokenhearted! The LORD is your salvation, O crushed in spirit! Hold that. Cherish that truth.  Use it to fight your fears.  Remember to cry out to the LORD God.  He is your sure salvation.”

Dear Lord,

It’s three in the morning and I’ve been robbed of sleep.  I hear fears and what-ifs come rushing at me. 

I feel my anxiety rise to meet them.

My body is so tired.  I toss and turn; I cover my head, but my wakeful mind is the host to these voices of fear —

and I can’t shut them out.

Oh, give me grace and deliverance from these enemies.

Drive out anxiety and fill me with trust in you!

Drive out my fears and fill me with reminders of your mercy!

I am a child of little faith, so hold me close and fill up my lack.

Remind me of your promises.

Let me rest in your peace,

and let me sleep again.

Blessed be God,

because he has not rejected my prayer

or removed his steadfast love from me!   Psalm 66:20

Saturday Song: Your Name Alone Can Save

This past week was my first week of summer vacation, and the first of a series of road trips.  Last week came to a total of 16 hours of driving and next week will be about 20.  So, I made a 4-disk driving soundtrack.  This Saturday’s Song, Your Name Alone Can Save, by Sovereign Grace, is my favorite one on the soundtrack.  Hope you enjoy!

Click here for a link to the song.

A Day of Remembering: Good Friday

There are many days set aside on the U.S. calendar as days of remembering.  We remember to give thanks in November.  We remember our independence.  We remember 9/11.  We remember to honor our Veterans.  We remember our Grandparents.  We remember our parents.  On our personal calendars, we remember our birthdays and the birthdays of those close to us.  We remember anniversaries: of weddings, of first dates, of adoptions, of fires, of tornadoes, of hurricanes, of earthquakes.  We remember the days the ones we loved died.

Even though we have these special days set aside to remember, I doubt any of us forgets these events the other days of the year.  Every day, I remember that I have a wonderful mom and dad.  I remember to give thanks (most days).  I remember that I live in a free country.  Whenever I see something Grandma would have liked, I remember that Death says I can’t show her anymore.  Tears sometimes flow because one of the deepest loves of my life has been taken from me.  Joy wipes the tears away because I remember that I will get to see her again.

Today is a day of remembering on the Christian calendar: Good Friday, the day of remember Christ’s death.  It is one of those days that we have set aside, although not a day should go by that Christians do not remember what Christ has done for us.  Nor is Good Friday the only day that we remember Christ’s death.  Every time we celebrate communion, we do it in remembrance of Christ’s death and resurrection… and Christians will continue to do so until he returns.

So, why this day set aside?  As with other history-changing and life-changing events, this day is set apart to remember something that we remember the rest of the year as well.

Good Friday services are more solemn than Easter or Christmas services — and even sorrowful — but grief does not reign.  I would argue that wonder and thanksgiving reign over sorrow on Good Friday. (Just as there would be no occasion to celebrate Christmas if there were not Good Friday and Easter, if there were no Easter, Good Friday would be the gravest and most hopeless of all holidays… but I’ll talk about that later).

Sorrow is appropriate for Good Friday, just as sorrow is appropriate when we remember our sin, and as sorrow is appropriate when remembering a horrific crime against another person.  Good Friday’s sorrow is because we remember that Christ, fully God and fully man, after a lifetime of loving, serving, teaching, patiently guiding, and healing was taken by a mob and endured unimaginable beatings from trained soldiers, was run through trials by political and religious leaders that mocked justice and religion, and was left to die, naked, bleeding, cursed and mocked on an expertly devised instrument of fatal torture.  That was just the physical side.  On the spiritual side, he bore sin… and with that, separation from God — something that I cannot even begin to imagine.

And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” — Mark 15:33-34

Christ is sinless.  The sin He bore was not His.  The sin He bore was mine.

That’s where grief meets wonder.

That’s how we can call this Friday “Good”.

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. — Romans 5:7-8

Then wonder grows.  The mob that took Jesus and crucified him did not do it because Christ was powerless.

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. — Colossians 1:16-17

“He’s speaking it all into being: the soldiers, the priests, the thieves, the friends, the mothers, the brothers, the mob, the wooden beams, the spikes, the thorns, the ground beneath him, and the dark clouds gathering above. If he ceases to speak they will all cease to be. But he wills that they remain. So the soldiers live on, and the hammers come crashing down.” Rick Gamache, A Crucifixion Narrative

Wonder then meets with more wonder.

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. — John 19 :30

…he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. — Hebrews 9:12

Christ’s death is enough to secure my forgiveness before God.  Christ’s death did not start a process that I complete by feeling enough remorse over my own sin.  I don’t earn forgiveness because I feel enough shame or by inflicting punishment on myself.  I’m forgiven only based on the merits of Christ’s death for my sin.  The only appeal I can make for forgiveness is God’s own promise that He forgives those who trust in Christ’s work alone.

In the temple, at God’s command, there was a curtain separating the Most Holy Place from the Holy Place.  God’s presence dwelled in the Most Holy Place.  If anyone went in to God’s holy presence, he or she would die because of their unholiness.  Even the high priest only went in the Most Holy Place at the appointed time once a year to offer a sacrifice for the people.  The curtain was torn from top to bottom at the moment Christ died.

And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. — Mark 15:37-38

For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. — Hebrews 9:24-28

Now, through Christ’s death, the unholy can dare approach the Holy to seek forgiveness of sin.

Grief does not reign, but there was grief.  Christ knew that in talking to his disciples.  But He also knew that the grief that reigned in their hearts as they watched him die would be replaced by joy that could never be taken from them.

Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. — John 16:19-22

And so even while we remember the blood, the suffering, and the horror of Christ’s death — and remember that it was our sins that He bore, and for our sins that He died — we wonder at love that would sacrifice so much for people who are so undeserving.  And our hearts rejoice, because we remember that Easter followed.  And we persevere in hope because we know that Christ will come again, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrow, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned — every one — to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. — Isaiah 53:3-6

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. — 1 John 1:9