Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Watts on Wednesday: Hymn 75-- All Beauties in My Beloved Shine

This hymn (written by Isaac Watts) captures my own feeble attempts to describe the beauty of the Lord Jesus and my love towards him. The first verse describes something I think people who look at me who don’t know Jesus often wonder--“Why should I love my Jesus so: ‘What are his charms,’ say they, ‘above The objects of a mortal love?’” Here is but a brief description, wonderfully articulated, of the nature of the object of my deepest affection--Jesus.

Hymn 75: All Beauties In My Beloved Shine (title mine)Sol. Song v. 9-16

The wond’ring world inquires to know
Why I should love my Jesus so:
“What are his charms,” say they, “above
The objects of a mortal love?”

Yes! my beloved, to my sight
Shows a sweet mixture, red and white:
All human beauties, all divine,
In my Beloved meet and shine.

White is his soul, from blemish free;
Red with the blood he shed for me;
The fairest of ten thousand fairs;
A sun amongst ten thousand stars.

His head the finest gold excels;
There wisdom in perfection dwells,
And glory like a crown adorns
Those temples once beset with thorns.

Compassion in his heart are found,
Hard by the signals of his wound:
His sacred side no more shall bear
The cruel scourge, the piercing spear.

His hands are fairer to behold
Than diamonds set in rings of gold;
Those heav’nly hands, that on the tree
Were nail’d, and torn, and bled for me!

Though once he bow’d his feeble knees,
Loaded with sins and agonies,
Now on the throne of his command
His legs like marble pillars stand.

His eyes are majesty and love,
The eagle temper’d with the dove;
No more shall trickling sorrow roll
Through those dear windows of his soul.

His mouth, that pour’d out long complaints,
Now smiles and cheers his fainting saints;
His countenance more graceful is
Than Lebanon with all its trees.

All over glorious is my Lord;
Must be beloved, and yet ador’d;
His worth if all the nations knew,
Sure the whole earth would love him too.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Watts on Wednesday: Hymn 37 -- Proclaim Unparalleled Love and Arm With Heavenly Zeal

In Ephesians 5:15-20, Paul exhorts the saints in Ephesus to be “making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Therein he gives them commands on ways in which one does waste the time, then gives positive examples of ways in which ought to use their hours in these evil, finite days. One of the major ways that Paul commands us to “redeem the time,” and work out our having been filled with the Spirit takes up the entirety of verse 19. Here he lists an expression of being filled with the Spirit as “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart,...”

Many of us, unfortunately, only engage in this activity of worshipping God on Sunday morning or Saturday evening. “The time,” Paul refers too is ALL the time--everyday. Therefore we ought to be engaged in the activity of worship on a daily basis, not just in the other forms of worship the Bible refers to (reading the Word, taking care of widows and orphans, preaching the gospel to the lost, prayer, etc.), but also as commanded here in Ephesians--singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart.

With that in mind I am going to try something new here. Every Wednesday I am going to post one of my favorite hymns from Isaac Watts. I have been including “The Psalms and Hymns of Isaac Watts” in my daily readings/worship time for awhile now and have found doing so to truly lift my heart in love for God. Here is one I read today that put a “perma-smile” on my face. Watts’s hymns are only numbered not titled, and this particular hymn comes in two parts. If I were to give the first part of this hymn a title it would be a rephrasing of the first line of the third verse--“Proclaim Unparalleled Love.” The second part of the the hymn I would make a separate hymn out of and would give it the title “Arm With Heavenly Zeal” which is taken from the second line of the second verse. The scripture references below each title are the same Watts has listed as his inspiration for the words of the hymn.

Read the lyrics slowly and be conscious of the presence of God as you do so, making them a song of praise to Him, even if your mind isn’t capable of generating a melody to go with the verses. Saying them out-loud is also a helpful way to really make the force of the lyrics come to life. I pray that you are as blessed by this practice as I have been, and that they cause you to see the diverse excellencies of God more clearly and so worship Him more appropriately and make “the best use of the time.”

Proclaim Unparalleled Love (Part I)
Phil. 2:8,9; Mark 15:20, 24, 29; Col 2:15

The mighty frame of glorious grace,
That bright monument of praise
That e’er the God of love design’d,
Employs and fills my lab’ring mind.

Begin, my soul, the heav’nly song,
A burden for an angel’s tongue:
When Gabriel sounds these awful things,
He tunes and summons all his strings.

Proclaim inimitable love:
Jesus, the Lord of worlds above,
Puts off the beams of bright array,
And veils the God in mortal clay!

What black reproach defil’d his name,
When with our sins he took our shame!
He whom adoring angels bless’d
Is made the impious rebel’s jest.

He that distributes crowns and thrones
Hangs on a tree, and bleeds, and groans!
The Prince of Life resigns his breath,
the King of Glory bows to death!

But see the wonders of his power,
He triumphs in his dying hour;
And while by Satan’s rage he fell,
He dash’d the rising hopes of hell.

Thus were the hosts of death subdued,
And sin was drown’d in Jesus blood;
Thus he arose, and reigns above,
And conquers sinners by his love.

Who shall fulfil this boundless song?
The theme surmounts an angel’s tongue:
How low, how vain are mortal airs,
When Gabriel’s nobler harp despairs!

Arm With Heavenly Zeal (Part II)
Matt 5:16

Do I believe what Jesus saith,
And think his gospel true?
Lord, make me bold to own my faith,
And practise virtue too.

Suppress my shame, subdue my fear,
Arm me with heav’nly zeal,
That I may make thy power appear,
And works of praise fulfil.

If men shall see my virtue shine,
And spread my name abroad,
Thine is the power, the praise is thine,
My Saviour and my God!

Thus when the saints in glory meet,
Their lips proclaim thy grace;
They cast their honours at thy feet,
And own their borrow’d rays.

Are we the soldiers of the cross?
The followers of the Lamb?
And shall we fear to own his cause,
Or blush to speak his name?

Now must we fight if we would reign
Increase our courage Lord!
We’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by thy word.

Thy saints in all this glorious war
Shall conquer, though they’re slain;
They see the triumph from afar,
And shall with Jesus reign.

When that illustrious day shall rise,
And all thy armies shine
In robes of vict’ry through the skies,
The glory shall be thine.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Do You Truly Love Jesus?

In his short, yet quite potent book “The True Christian’s Love to the Unseen Christ” Thomas Vincent asks the eternally vital question “How may we know whether we have true love to Jesus Christ?” As an answer to this question Vincent suggests four ways in which we prove the truth of our love to Jesus:

1) By your desires after Christ’s presence
2) By your prizing and frequenting those ways wherein Christ is found, and seeking Him therein
3) By your love of Christ’s image
4) By your obedience to Christ’s commandments

Much could be said about all four of these proofs of our love for Christ (as Vincent himself does), but one particular section stood out to me as being deserving of particular and immediate attention--3) By your love of Christ’s image. In this section the wise-hearted Puritan states that the medium wherein we primarily view the image of God is His Word. It seems apparent, then, that the other three proofs hang on this proof, as we neither learn about the promise and nature of Christ’s promise but by this Word, nor can we obey His commands unless we know them, which comes by reading His Word. And certainly the major way “wherein Christ is found, and seeking Him therein” that is to be prized and frequented is God’s Word.

Yet what is so large in God’s Word that it truly magnetizes our affections, pulling us with an irresistible and massive gravity? Is it not Christ, from beginning to end? Vincent says it in his own, well articulated and thorough Words:

“Do you love the image of Christ on His Word? As Caesar’s coin bore Caesar’s image and superscription, so the Word of the Scriptures, which is the Word of Christ, bears Christ’s image and superscription.

Do you love the Scriptures because of Christ’s image which is upon them?

Do you love the Word of doctrine in the Scriptures because of the image of Christ’s truth and wisdom upon it?

Do you love the Word of precepts in the Scriptures because of the image of Christ’s holiness upon it?

Do you love the Word of threatenings in the Scriptures because of the image of Christ’s righteousness upon it?

Do you love the Word of promises in the Scriptures because of the image of Christ’s goodness, grace, and love upon it?

You have Christ’s Words in your Bibles, and sometimes sounding in your ears, but does the Word of Christ dwell in your hearts? You receive Christ’s word in the light of it; do you receive His Word in the love of it?”

The image and presence of Christ is made manifest to our souls when we are born again (John 14:21), and from then on our souls see Him “face to face” as Moses did (Deut. 34:10) in some measure. At the same time it is by the Word of God that we come to see many of the infinite facets and the diverse excellencies of the one our souls have come to rest in. We know that we really love Jesus because the same Spirit that causes us to love His (Jesus’s) presence within us is the same Spirit that breathed out the Scriptures. The Spirit that first moved men to write is, in fact, Jesus Himself (Romans 8:9) and so we MUST love His Word as much as His presence.

The Word should cause us to love Jesus in us more, and Jesus in us should cause us to love His Word more till we are caught up in this endless cycle of love for our savior Jesus.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hymns of Hosannah

Here are a few hymns from Isaac Watts singing hosannah (please help, save) to Jesus our King:

Hymn 89

Hosannah to our conquering King!
The prince of darkness flies;
His troops run headlong down to hell,
Like lightening from the skies.

There bound in chains, the lions roar,
And fright the rescued sheep;
But heavy bars confine their power
And malice to the deep.

Hosannah to our conquering King!
All hail, incarnate love!
Ten thousand songs and glories wait
To crown they head above.

Thy victories and thy deathless fame
Through the wide world shall run,
And everlasting ages sing
The triumphs thou hast won.

Hymn 42

Hosannah to king David’s Son,
Who reigns on a superior throne;
We bless the Prince of heav’nly birth,
Who brings salvation down to earth.

Let ev’ry nation, ev’ry age,
In this delightful work engage;
Old men and babes in Sion sing
The growing glories of her King

Hymn 43

Hosannah to the Prince of grace;
Sion, behold thy King;
Proclaim the Son of David’s race,
and teach the babes to sing.

Hosannah to th’ incarnate Word,
Who from the Father came;
Ascribe salvation to the Lord,
With blessings on his name.

Hymn 44

Hosannah to the Son
of David and of God,
Who brought the news of pardon down
And bought it with his blood.

To Christ th’ anointed King
Of David’s ancient blood!
Behold, he comes to bring
Forgiving grace from God:

        Let old and young
        attend his way,
        And at his feet
        Their honours lay.

Glory to God on high,
Salvation to the Lamb
Let earth, and sea, and sky,
His wondrous love proclaim:

        Upon his head
        Shall honours rest,
        And ev’ry age
        Pronounce him bless’d.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Jesus Cast A Look On Me

Here are the lyrics to a beautiful hymn written by John Berridge I was listening to today from an excellent arrangement by Red Mountain Church on their album “Depth of Mercy”:

Jesus Cast a Look on Me

1. Jesus cast a look on me,
Give me sweet simplicity
Make me poor and keep me low,
Seeking only Thee to know

2. All that feeds my busy pride,
Cast it evermore aside
Bid my will to Thine submit,
Lay me humbly at Thy feet

3. Make me like a little child,
Of my strength and wisdom spoiled
Seeing only in Thy light,
Walking only in Thy might

4. Leaning on Thy loving breast,
Where a weary soul can rest
Feeling well the peace of God,
Flowing from His precious blood

5. In this posture let me live,
And hosannas daily give
In this temper let me die,
And hosannas ever cry!

Monday, April 11, 2011

As The Sun is Full of Light

I love the Holy Spirit. I believe the Holy Spirit is the most overlooked and misunderstood person of the Trinity. Some ignore him altogether whereas others portray him in the most horrible and fanatical way. Most, who are Christians, seem to have him relegated to this passive, inactive presence that supposedly exists within them from the moment they profess Jesus to be Lord, but then are completely unaware and oblivious to his presence from then on. How it is possible to have the Spirit of God--the Spirit of Christ--living IN you and not be aware of him is completely beyond me. I dare say it is impossible.

Though much more can be said about the beautiful, glorious Holy Spirit whom Jesus said would be better for us to have than for himself to stay; I have been reading this prayer/poem from “Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions” that says it all very well:

O Holy Spirit,
As the sun is full of light,
the ocean full of water
Heaven full of glory,
        So may my heart be full of thee.
Vain are all divine purposes of love
and the redemption wrought by Jesus
except thou work within,
        regenerating by thy power,
        giving me eyes to see Jesus,
        showing me the realities of the unseen world.
Give me thyself without measure,
as an unimpaired fountain,
as inexhaustible riches.
I bewail my coldness, poverty, emptiness,
        imperfect vision, languid service,
        prayerless praying, praiseless praise.
Suffer me not to grieve or resist thee.
Come as power,
to expel every rebel lust, to reign supreme and keep me thine;
Come as teacher,
leading me into all truth, filling me with all understanding;
Come as love,
that I may adore the Father, and love him as my all;
Come as joy,
to dwell in me, move in me, animate me;
Come as light,
illuminating the Scripture, moulding me in its laws;
Come as sanctifier,
body, soul and spirit wholly thine;
Come as helper,
with strength to bless and keep, directing my every step;
Come as beautifier,
bringing order out of confusion, loveliness out of chaos.
Magnify to me thy glory by being magnified in me,
and make me redolent of thy fragrance.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

No One Knows the Hour: Warnings Against Apocalyptic Predictions

“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”
(Mark 13:32-37 ESV)

Over countless centuries seemingly innumerable Christians have used verses such as “There will be wars and rumors of wars...” (Matthew 24:6 and Mark 13:7) as a basis for interpreting current events of their times to indicate that the end is at hand. In every generation of the Church there have been those who have looked at the evil around them and supposed that it has never been worse. They point to the so called “glory days” of the church, lost values, etc. and begin to extrapolate that their days are quite a bit more evil than the better, more obedient years that have gone before and begin to state that because of this the judgment of God is drawing close.

What is worse than this, however, are those who state, apart from all of these facts, that God has revealed to them dates and times regarding the end of the world. A quick google search with the terms “failed end time predictions” reveals a multitude of people who have stated dates and times of either the end of the world or major catastrophes. One such site lists over 200 people who have predicted the end of the world and/or major catastrophes who were wrong. Many of these “prophets” go on to justify their failed predictions by flipping the script and saying that they misinterpreted God and that He only meant that something else that happened that year was the real thing God meant would happen. If they don’t resort to trying to backtrack on their story to not look like fools, they just change their predicted date and continue in their delusions.

Here is one such story from the 1700’s during the Great Awakening when many people truly thought that, because of so many people being born again, that the end was coming and the millennium was being ushered in:

“They also began to make much use of visions and dreams, and in 1763 [George] Bell went so far as to prophesy the end of the world and to set the date: February 28 of that year. The prediction was given wide publicity, and when it failed, the fiasco--since it was some of [John] Wesley’s people who were involved--caused embarrassment to Wesley himself.”

A footnote to this section also states the following:

“Thomas Maxfield says that Wesley was especially embarrassed by Bell’s prophecy since he himself had made a similar mistake. In 1682 Edmund Halley had calculated (or so it was believed) that the comet he had discovered would return toward the earth in 1759. As that date approached there was great excitement and many speculated that the comet would strike the earth. Maxfield says that Wesley preached ‘...from one end of the land to the other’ on the forthcoming catastrophe and prophesied the comet’s effect as ‘...scorching and burning up all the Produce of the Earth, &c, &c. Then, lastly, executing its grand Commission on the Globe itself, causing the Stars to fall from Heaven...’”

Now it must be noted here that John Wesley, the great revival preacher, had a practice of casting lots to “confirm” a Word from the Lord. On several occasions Wesley erred deeply with this practice of confirming visions and such that he thought he was receiving from the Lord. There were many others at the time who were predicting the destruction of England because of England’s “slump into godlessness” from it’s former “godly state.” Again this is much in err, as England had never had a stable history wherein there was holiness about the land, but as in all ages and in all places the land was filled with evil as the church struggled to proclaim the gospel.

Such is the case, also, with the current state of America. There has never been a period in American history where one (who reads history enough) could point and say “those were the glory days.” Even the first Great Awakening under Whitefield was soon washed away shortly after his death. Knowledgeable of this long history of reformations not lasting, the deist Benjamin Franklin even writes to George Whitefield stating “O that some method could be found to make them lasting! He who discovers that, will, in my opinion, deserve more, ten thousand times, than the inventor of longitude.”

The point is that good times never last in the history of the Church. Even during the “good times” there is distinct and widespread evil so much so that whatever good had been accomplished, in a short period of time it is undone. So all that is to say that looking at our current times and stating “Surely these are the end times, look at how far we have fallen!” is a serious error and presumption and is no doubt caused by demonic deception.

Careless people who do not know the Word and have not studied it well have been drawn away by so called visions and messages from God throughout all of history and have declared various passages of Isaiah, Daniel, Revelation and etc. to be fulfilled by certain current events that were unfolding at the time. But God does not clearly mean one thing in His Word then contradict Himself by a word or vision from the Holy Spirit that breathed His Word!

In D.A. Carson’s indispensable book on biblical interpretation entitled “Exegetical Fallacies” he states:

“Critical exegesis [biblical interpretation, drawing out the meaning from the text as opposed to putting it in] is opposed to merely personal opinions, appeals to blind authority (the interpreters or anyone else’s), arbitrary interpretations, and speculative opinions. This is not to deny that spiritual things are spiritually discerned, or to argue that piety is irrelevant; it is to say rather that not even piety and the gift of the Holy Spirit guarantee infallible interpretations. When two equally godly [which I, Joe, would personally add must be judged according to a biblical definition of godly] interpreters emerge with mutually incompatible interpretations of a text, it must be obvious even to the most spiritual...that they cannot both be right.”

There are many today, such as Harold Camping who predicts the return of Christ on May 21st, that have determined through their own interpretive methods, using biblical “data” that come to conclusions that are completely contrary to others who perhaps use more comprehensive and logical methods. Camping uses one statement in the Bible such as “a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day” and built an entire system that led to his prediction of Christ’s return date. Other more serious scholars (as Camping has no formal training at all; an unfortunate trend among predictors of the end times) who have more knowledge of biblical symbols, metaphor, literary devices, etc. would state vehemently that Camping’s prediction is complete and utter nonsense.

But Camping falls within a different “camp” (pun intended) than many predictors of end-time events. Most “doomsdayer’s” claim some special revelation from God. Sometimes this involved stating that God told or showed them something (a vision, dream or “impression”) and other times this special revelation comes in the form of God supposedly revealing the meaning of a text that was previously unknown to generations of Christians. The most common place for such people to find special revelation from the Holy Spirit is in Revelation. The interpretations that people have claimed to have from the Holy Spirit about the diverse imagery of Revelation are innumerable. Most of these people never question whether or not their interpretations or prophecies are from the Spirit and (as Wesley would do) perceived they had some divine, unquestionable confirmation. Of course a well versed and cautious Christian would know that Satan is a master of deception, whom the Bible says poses as an angel of light and knows very well that Christians seek “confirmation” for “words from the Lord.” In a book entitled “Conversations with God” a man even claims to have actually seen and talked with God and received supposed confirmations for his visions, but what he says God told him is in complete contradiction to the infallible Word of God.

As a footnote to D.A. Carson’s above statement, where he says that two contradicting interpretations of a passage can’t be right, he tells this compelling story:

“Almost twenty years ago I rode in a car with a fellow believer who relayed to me what the Lord had “told” him that morning in his quiet time. He had been reading the KJV of Matthew and I perceived that not only had he misunderstood the archaic English, but also that the KJV at that place had unwittingly misrepresented the Greek text. I gently suggested there might be another way to understand the passage and summarized what I thought the passage was saying. The brother dismissed my view as impossible on the grounds that the Holy Spirit, who does not lie, had told him the truth on this matter. Being young and bold, I pressed on with my explanation of grammar, context, and translation, but was brushed off by a reference to 1 Cor. 2:10b-15: spiritual things must be spiritually discerned--which left little doubt about my status. Genuinely intrigued, I asked this brother what he would say if I put forward my interpretation, not on the basis of grammar and text, but on the basis that the Lord himself had given me the interpretation I was advancing. He was silent a long time, and then concluded, ‘I guess that would mean the Spirit says the Bible means different things to different people.”

It is a tricky and dangerous thing to say “Thus saith the Lord” and in my time among Pentecostal’s, Assemblies of God churches and other more “charismatic” churches I have heard many people put forth prophecies of all kinds that they said the Holy Spirit revealed to them and confirmed in such and such a way. Unfortunately, none of their predictions came to pass. Some of these predictions, in fact, were aimed straight at me and did not come to pass. In his book “Counterfeit Revival” Hank Hannegraff catalogues a plethora of such “revelations” and “confirmations” that never came to pass as well, some from very prominent televangelsists and others from normal, everyday people.

When these people are challenged, it is usually a pointless endeavor. They typically respond by being very sure of themselves, state that you are being used by the Devil to try to get them to disobey or doubt God, and can’t for one moment think they are being deceived because if they allow that they think God will punish them for their doubt. I have learned the best thing for these people is to let them be, let their predictions fail then be there for them after such a failure to try to show them where they were in error.

The Bible is serious about false prophets and yet tells us not to despise prophecy. In all cases it tells us to test things and to test it by the Word. Isaiah says “to the Word and to the testimony, if they do not speak accordingly to this word it is because they have no dawn” (Isaiah 8:20). In the following verses from Isaiah (21-22), and in Deuteronomy 18:20-22 and Ezekiel 13:1-9, 22 serious consequences are stated for uttering words on behalf of the Lord that do not come from the Lord. Those who think they are messengers from God should know these passages well and be filled with a great deal of reverential fear on account of them.

A wise Biblical teacher once said that we must interpret the unclear parts of Scripture in light of the clear parts. The Bible is very clear that we will not know the day or the hour on which Christ will return and thus anyone wishing to make predictions relating to the end times should keep their mind focused on the clear parts of the Bible--the proclamation of the gospel, making disciples of all men and calling all to repentance from around the world. Because we do not know the hour, we labor hard because we do not know when our Master will return. Those who have an unhealthy interest in end times or claim to have visions from God typically get so obsessed that they begin to neglect these clear commands of God in the Bible. Though they begin to call out “repent” they do not truly preach the gospel in its glorious entirety and typically never tell people how they need to be born again, but simply that they should stop doing overt sins like drinking, swearing, watching certain movies, etc. and confess Jesus is Lord and they will be saved from the wrath to come. This lulls people into a false acceptance of Christianity.

I do say with the beloved John, writer of Revelation, “Come Lord Jesus, come” but I think it is a serious, distracting error to state that one has word from the Lord that contradicts God’s clear word that no one will know when the end will come, not even the angels. I also think, from a biblical perspective and from experience, that any people who claim to have words from the Lord are typically being deceived by demons and Satan posing as an angel of light. I pray God will show them the deception they have fallen into once their false visions and predictions have failed them and that they will then come to a deeper knowledge of God’s infallible, clear and sealed Word that never fails--The Bible.