Tuesday, October 29, 2013

New Communion Hymn

I have been struggling a few days to write a hymn based on Luke 5:27-39. But the Lord was gracious through my reading to give me the words for a hymn, which I think would be good as preparation for communion or during communion.

Come, O Jesus, Great Our Need

Suggested tune: INNOCENTS (http://www.opc.org/hymn.html?hymn_id=56).  Meter: 7777.  Based on Luke 5:27-39.  Words: William Weber, 2013. (after sermon, Lord’s Supper, table fellowship)

v. 1
Come, O Jesus, great our need,
we have sinned in word and deed.
Come Physician of the soul,
only You can make us whole.

v. 2
You are gracious, good and kind,
pleased with sinners to recline.
Though our sin within is great,
new desire in us create.

v. 3
Jesus, cleanse and wash within,
grant forgiveness of our sin;
clothe us with Your righteousness,
then we will be truly blessed.

v. 4
Bridegroom who makes all things new,
blessed are those who live in You.
Waiting for the wedding feast,
blessed are those who then will eat.

v. 5
But a foretaste of that meal,
now You give to bless and heal.
Jesus’ body, Jesus’ blood,
holy cure from God above.

v. 6
Sinners welcome all to come,
leave your sin and to Him run.
See His loving arms spread wide,
on the cross the Crucified.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Why Do We Go To Church?

“Going to church is not primarily about me or even about us, but about God. I go to church not first of all to benefit myself (though that is a very important secondary effect) but to worship the Lord.” –David VanDrunen

While I almost always agree with Dr. VanDrunen, I have to disagree with the above statement. We go to church to meet with Jesus Christ to hear his teaching and to receive his forgiveness and life by eating his body and drinking his blood by faith. We go to church, first of all, to receive from Christ, not to give anything to Him. The first and primary reason for gathering together is to meet with Christ, who is among us as One who serves. 

The problem with VanDrunen's statement is that it takes away the glory that accrues to the Lord in serving us before we serve Him. It fails to take into account the Lord's sufficiency and our weakness; the indicative of the gospel that comes before the imperative of the law; Christ’s coming to us as gift, before he is an example. As David, and through David our Lord, said of himself often in the Psalms: I am poor and needy. We must always approach our Lord as those who are poor and needy.

After we have received the Lord grace and life, then we are in a position to give our bodies and hearts to Him as an act of worship, and this is a worship that exceeds the divine service to include all of life (Romans 12:1).

If we recovered the truth that we only see by faith, namely, that Jesus is present with us powerfully in Word and meal to teach about the kingdom and give us his kingdom, how it would change our desire to go to church!

A Misunderstood Saying of Jesus: John 14:2-3

In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14:2-3)

The assumption invariably made about these words is that they refer to the distant future when Jesus returns again.  But I wonder if they are better understood as Jesus' coming to us via the Holy Spirit.

Jesus prepared a place for us in the Father's house through his death for sin and his resurrection from the dead.  He comes to us by his Holy Spirit, so that we might dwell in Him.  There would be little comfort for the disciples  in these words of Jesus on the eve of his crucifixion if he was referring to the distant future and his second coming.  But there is much comfort for the first disciples, and us, if we now dwell with Jesus because our lives are hidden with him above (Col. 3:1-3).  Jesus is not the god of the deists, far away and removed from us.  Instead, he has come to us via the Holy Spirit and taken us to himself, so that we dwell with him above. This He accomplishes by the Spirit, who dwells both in us and in heaven, and is thus able to lift us to our Lord above.

Context also points to the notion that Jesus is referring to His coming via the Holy Spirit.  Later in John 14, Jesus says this:

"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you."

Jesus is promising the disciples immediate help.  He is promising the disciples that they will not be left alone as orphans.  After his death, he will come to them in the resurrection in "a little while."  After his resurrection, He gave them the gift of the Spirit.  We now live because Jesus lives, because we are in him and he is in us by the Holy Spirit.

The close connection between Jesus and the Spirit is seen in verse 17 of John 14, when our Lord says of the Spirit, "
You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you."  Jesus dwelt with the disciples when he was on earth, but after his death and resurrection, Jesus would not just be with them but in them. Having Jesus in us is better than having Jesus' physical presence with us, for if he is in us he can pour his faith and love and his affections into us.

Thus, the promise Jesus is making his disciples in John 14:2-3, John 14:18 and John 12:26 is that he is not an absentee Lord and Savior, but he is with us in an intimate way.  He dwells in us and we dwell in him, though he is in heaven and we are on earth, and this happens through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
 

Will Jesus come again to judge the living and the dead?  Yes, but this is not what is taught in these particular verses.  Rather, we are being taught that Jesus' presence is a present reality among us now, even though he is in heaven and we are on earth.  Our Lord's promise in John 12:26 is true, "If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also." Even though we are on earth and Jesus is in heaven, nevertheless, we his servants, dwell where he is.  By the Holy Spirit, he is in us and we are in Him.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Devotional Series through Luke: Luke 1:5-25 (part 1)


Luke 1:5-25

            
[5] In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. [6] And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. [7] But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
            [8] Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, [9] according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. [10] And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. [11] And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. [12] And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. [13] But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. [14] And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, [15] for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. [16] And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, [17] and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
            [18] And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” [19] And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. [20] And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” [21] And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. [22] And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. [23] And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
            [24] After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, [25] “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

Devotion

Luke’s Gospel begins in the temple and ends in the temple.  It begins with a priest, Zechariah, who is ministering in the temple.  But when he comes out of the temple to bless the people, he is unable to utter any words.  A mute priest is worthless in pronouncing God’s blessing.

Jesus is the true Priest, who offered a perfect sacrifice on the cross.  Though his voice was also silenced for a time, he was raised on the third day as a sign that his Father was pleased with the sacrifice he offered.  Therefore, at the end of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is able to give a priestly blessing to his people: “Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:50-51).  The disciples returned to Jerusalem, where they “were continually in the temple blessing God” (Luke 24:53).

Jesus’ blessing brings worship and great joy.  Three times in verse 14, Gabriel mentions joy.  This joy flows from the gospel Gabriel spoke (v. 19), and God accomplished through his Son.  The fact that Gabriel speaks the gospel to Zechariah is a hint of what Jesus is going to accomplish by his coming, for the last time Gabriel appeared in Scripture was Daniel 9.  At that time, Gabriel spoke these words: “Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place” (Daniel 9:24).  Luke has included his own 70 weeks by carefully noting time in the infancy narrative of Jesus.  It was during the six month (180 days) of Elizabeth’s pregnancy that Gabriel came to Mary (v. 26).  Mary’s pregnancy was then nine months (270 days).  Jesus’ presentation in the temple (Luke 2: 22) took place according to the Law of Moses on the fortieth day after the birth.  Adding the numbers up, then, 180+270+40=490 or 70x7 or 70 weeks. 

Luke and the Holy Spirit would have us see that with the coming of John, and more importantly, the One for whom John prepared the way, the new era of salvation has come.  Jesus came to atone for our sins and bring in an everlasting kingdom.  To know his forgiveness and to be a member of his kingdom will surely make us worshipers and bring us joy!

Praise the Lord Who Came to Save
To the tune: ST. GEORGE (http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/UMH/694). Meter: 7777D.  Based on Luke 1:5-25.  Words: William Weber, 2011. (after sermon)
v. 1
Praise the Lord who came to save,
John was sent His way to pave.
John would come prepare the way,
herald of the awesome day.
God unto His temple came,[2]
glory, power were displayed.
Died for sins and then was raised,
Jesus worthy to be praised.
v. 2
Zechariah came to serve,
in the temple incense burned.
Then an angel from the Lord,
told him that his prayers were heard.
’Lizabeth with barren womb,
in her body life would bloom.
By His might she would conceive,
from the Lord a son receive.

v. 3
Zechariah full of doubt,
knew his body was worn out.
We are old, how can this be?
News from God did not believe.
Do not doubt what God can do,
by His power life renews.
What He says will come to be,
blessed are those who will believe.

v. 4
Praise the Lord for His good plan,
God the Son became a man.
God’s beloved sent to save,
died our death and then was raised.
Do not ask, how can this be,
own the bless-ed Mystery.
Scripture promises fulfilled,
God has done all that He willed.

v. 5
Father, in our barren hearts,
life and power please impart.
Form Your Son within our souls,
by Your Spirit make us whole.
We, Your gospel would receive,
joyful news we would believe.
Unbelief we do confess,
give us faith that makes us blest.

[1] Justification refers not only to forgiveness of sins, but also to the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.  God declares those who believe in his Son to be forgiven and righteous.
[2] See Malachi 3:1

Hymn of Epiclesis

Hymn of Epiclesis:

Pour, O Father, Send, Lord Jesus

Suggested tune: UPP, MIN TUNGA (http://www.opc.org/hymn.html?hymn_id=599).  Words: William Weber, 2013. (epiclesis, invocation)

v. 1
Pour, O Father, send, Lord Jesus,
give the Spirit from above.
We are poor and we are needy,
join us to Your life and love.
Love between the Son, the Father,
knowing this we have enough.

v. 2
May we know our blessed vocation,
by the Spirit who gives birth.
We are born above, O Father,
born to spread Your fame on earth.
Give the faith and love of Jesus,
so to spread Your matchless worth.

v. 3
Jesus, breathe the promised Spirit,
take away our heart of stone.
Make us feel Your heart’s affections,
to us make the Father known.
May we feel Your warm compassion,
love that at the cross was shown.

v. 4
Spirit of our suff’ring Savior,
lead to love and lowliness.
May we seek the good of others,
put away our selfishness;
in our ways, the cross our pattern,
and our Savior’s selflessness.
                                                                    

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Devotional Series through Luke: Luke 1:1-4 part 2




Luke 1:1-4

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

Devotion and Hymn

Albert Moehler writes, “We are narrative creatures, and God made us this way. . . . We cannot even tell each other who we are without telling a story, nor should we try.”  Luke is going to tell us “a narrative about things that have been accomplished (or fulfilled) among us.”  This narrative, Luke tells, is about Jesus: who he is and what he has done.

This narrative will include us as we journey with Jesus through the pages of Luke, for like all good stories there must be some trouble, problem, or difficulty to resolve, and in this story we are the trouble! We are the sinners Jesus came to rescue.  God the Father sent His Son into the world to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).  Whether we know it or not, feel it or not, believe it or not, all human being are involved in the story Luke is going to tell, for the human race is sick and needs a physician, lost and needs to be found, sinful and needs forgiveness.

Luke did not invent this story.  Rather, he received it from those who were “eyewitnesses” of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and later became “ministers of the word,” as we see in the book of Acts, Luke’s second volume.  The Christian faith is unique among the world’s religions because it is grounded in historical events.  These events are the perfect life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.  Take away the historicity of these events, and the Christian faith is eviscerated.  It vanishes and becomes worthless.  Our salvation is gone if the eyewitness testimony to this narrative is untrue.

The world around us tries to catechize us into its narratives, whether stories of evolution, political utopia, technological progress, or various idolatries.  Luke would have us be catechized (the word taught in verse 4 is the Greek word catecheo) and learn the story of Jesus Christ, whose gospel was confirmed by the fulfilled prophecy of the Old Testament and the eyewitness testimony of the apostles, who heard his teaching and saw his miracles, including the greatest miracle of all, his resurrection from the dead.

O Father, Heal Our Souls

To the tune: ST. THOMAS (
http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/UMH/732).  Based on Luke 1:1-4.  Words: William Weber, 2011. (Illumination, After Sermon)

v. 1
O Father, heal our souls,
as we approach Your book,
the story of our Lord and Christ,
to Him for life we look.

v. 2
A testimony sure,
we have of Jesus’ life,
from witnesses who heard the Lord,
and saw Him with their eyes.

v. 3
Diseases harm our souls,
our faith is often weak,
but all who look to Jesus Christ
will find the health they seek.

v. 4
O Father, hear our prayer,
to know Your only Son,
the truth of who He really is,
and all that He has done.

v. 5
O Father, make us know,
that we are loved in Christ.
For we are His and He is ours,
we share His love and life.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Devotional Series through Luke: Luke 1:1-4 (part 1)

Luke 1:1-4
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.



Devotion:

At two key times in my life, the heavenly Father has used Luke’s Gospel to create and strengthen faith in His Son.  The first time came as a young man in my early twenties.  I was struggling with doubts about the Christian faith I learned in my youth.  The lusts of my heart, the licentiousness of the world, and my own sinful behavior, clouded my mind, so that I doubted even God’s existence.  But, thankfully, I was miserable, and my misery drove me to pick up the Book and read.  I bought a self-study booklet and began to read and study Luke’s Gospel.  Then, a remarkable thing occurred.  As I neared the end of my study, I realized I believed!  I believed Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, and that He had died and risen for the forgiveness of my sins.

About thirty years later, I began another trek through Luke’s Gospel.  This time my goal was to write hymns based on each passage of Luke’s Gospel.  Again, it happened as I was nearing the end of my journey through Luke.  Without expecting it, and almost imperceptively, I realized I had a new and deeper understanding of Jesus’ person and work, his love for me, and an assurance of the presence of the risen Lord Jesus with me and I with Him.

My experience with Luke’s Gospel should not be surprising.  Luke’s purpose in writing is to give “certainty” or assurance about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus (v. 4).  In other words, Luke wrote to create and strengthen faith.  Luke, who was a close companion of the apostle Paul, probably heard Paul say many times, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).  The triune God can do marvelous things in your life as you read, meditate, chew, and digest the Gospel of Luke.  May He do it in your life for His glory and your joy and blessing.

O Father, Heal Our Souls

To the tune: ST. THOMAS (http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/UMH/732).  Based on Luke 1:1-4.  Words: William Weber, 2011. (Illumination, After Sermon)

v. 1
O Father, heal our souls,
as we approach Your book,
the story of our Lord and Christ,
to Him for life we look.

v. 2
A testimony sure,
we have of Jesus’ life,
from witnesses who heard the Lord,
and saw Him with their eyes.

v. 3
Diseases harm our souls,
our faith is often weak,
but all who look to Jesus Christ
will find the health they seek.

v. 4
O Father, hear our prayer,
to know Your only Son,
the truth of who He really is,
and all that He has done.

v. 5
O Father, make us know,
that we are loved in Christ.
For we are His and He is ours,
we share His love and life.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

A New Hymn Based on the Person and Work of Jesus

Praise to Jesus Christ Our Teacher
                 
Suggested tune: UPP, MIN TUNGA (http://www.opc.org/hymn.html?hymn_id=599).  Meter: 878787.  Based on Luke 5:16-27.  Words: William Weber, 2013. (After sermon, praise, person and work of Jesus)

v. 1
Praise to Jesus Christ our teacher,
gives to us the words of life.
He enlightens through His teaching;
He transforms our worldly minds.
Let us humbly come and listen,
and our hearts to Him incline.

v. 2
Praise to Jesus Christ our healer,
His the pow’r to make us well.
Sin will take us far from Jesus,
takes its victims down to hell.
Jesus, send Your Spirit to us,
that in You our hearts may dwell.

v. 3
Praise to Jesus Christ most holy,
God the Son becomes a man.
Though eternal with the Father,
with Him when the world began,
in His kindness shares our nature,
this the Father’s gracious plan.

v. 4
Praise to Jesus Christ our Savior,
comes to earth for us to die.
Sin could only be forgiven,
through a bloody sacrifice.
But in love the Son was given,
so that with Him we might rise.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A New Hymn about God's Love

Praise the Father for His Love

Suggested tune: DIX (http://www.opc.org/hymn.html?hymn_id=58). Meter: 777777.  Based on Luke 5:12-16.  Words: William Weber, 2013.
(After sermon, after confession and assurance, service conclusion, God’s love)

v. 1
Praise the Father for His love,
sends His Son from heav’n above.
Jesus shows God’s willingness,
to restore us and to bless.
For a fallen race unclean,
Christ our Lord came to redeem.

v. 2
Jesus, holy, undefiled,
in Him no deceit or guile.
Yet He wills to take our sin,
our uncleanness laid on Him.
In His love our judgment takes,
cleansing for His people makes.

v. 3
Who can doubt this wondrous love
of the Father and the Son?
See the Judge our judgment takes,
freely bears sin’s awful weight.
Praise this love beyond compare,
that the cross to us declares.

v. 4
Jesus willing to forgive,
His desire that we live.
Why, O sinner, will you die?
Jesus’ heart is open wide.
Trust the One who for you died,
in His love be satisfied.

v. 5
To your Lord you now belong,
with His blessed and happy throng.
Let your Husband make you glad;
don’t be downcast, don’t be sad.
He is yours and you are His,
in His love find wedded bliss.             

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