Monday, June 23, 2008

Fading Joys, Heavenly Longings

Today, I begin comments on various hymns I enjoy both for their depth of thought and musical beauty. First up is one by Jane C. Bonar:

Fade, Fade each Earthly Joy

(To here the hymn, click on the title.)

Fade, fade, each earthly joy, Jesus is mine!
Break every tender tie, Jesus is mine!

Dark is the wilderness, Earth has no resting place,
Jesus alone can bless, Jesus is mine!

Tempt not my soul away, Jesus is mine!
Here would I ever stay, Jesus is mine!
Perishing things of clay, born but for one brief day,
Pass from my heart away, Jesus is mine!

Farewell, ye dreams of night, Jesus is mine!
Lost in this dawning bright, Jesus is mine!
All that my soul has tried left but a dismal void;
Jesus has satisfied, Jesus is mine!

Farewell, mortality, Jesus is mine!
Welcome, eternity, Jesus is mine!
Welcome, oh, loved and blest, welcome sweet scenes of rest,
Welcome, my Savior’s breast, Jesus is mine!

Yesterday we sang this hymn at church, which sparked a discussion on whether it is about a recent convert or an older saint. In many ways it is both. The first verse tells of breaking ties and how dark is the world to the Christian. This can be a new believer rejoicing in his new-found life, or an old saint looking back over his life, ready to break the earthly ties and go to meet his Lord.

Verses 2-4 are clearer in showing the thoughts of an elderly saint longing to leave this body of flesh behind and move on the higher and better things.

I see this hymn as a sort of New Testament version of Ecclesiastes. In that Old Testament book, the aged Solomon looks back with regret on how he ruined his life with sinful pursuits, that all he did was vanity and waste. This hymn is more of a aged or dying saint looking back on the earthly life, not with regret, but joy that his godly life is leading him to a heavenly eternity. And, like Paul the Apostle in Philippians 1, he cannot wait any longer to “absent from the body and be present with the Lord.”

Monday, June 16, 2008

Flood of 2008

We are in the midst of a flood here in NE Missouri. The mighty Mississippi is over its banks almost to the level of the great Flood of ’93.

I am reminded of another great flood. Genesis records the greatest flood ever, one that enveloped the whole world. God sent it because the hearts of men had become wicked. “
Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). So He sent a flood and wiped out all but Noah and his family.

We all know that story. It is one every child hears. But it is a sad story. Think of all the destruction and misery suffered by those not in the ark. Imagine not having any way of escape as the waters rise. Think of watching the ark float away while clinging to the last piece of wood, floating helplessly to death. And yet, all those around Noah had opportunity to be on the ark. He preached for many years while building the ark, warning men to repent of their evil ways. But men laughed at him.

So, what about this year? Once more we are being warned to flee God’s wrath. He promised never to destroy the whole earth with water again. This surging of the waters reminds us that God is still God, and nothing we do can change the fact that man is evil and has no intent of serving anyone but himself. I watch the news and see all the labor going into the sandbagging, and have even helped out in the protecting of property. Some of it is no no avail.

But repentance from sin is never a waste. God’s wrath is abated when we turn away from our sin and look to Him, just as the flood waters are turned away by the levies and sandbags. “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD” (Gen. 6:8). We can be carried to safety by the ark if we are right with God. The ark is Jesus. Repent and be saved.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The marketplace in the temple

“Stop making my Father’s house a house of merchandise” John 2:16 (NASB).

So said Jesus when he cleansed the temple of the sellers and money changers. Many today do not realize that were Jesus to enter some modern places of worship, he might do the same thing. I have been to a few large churches and am disturbed by what I see: shops selling books, CDs and other material in the building; or even coffee shops imitating Starbuck’s on Sunday mornings. Another disturbing trend is selling tickets to concerts that take place in a church building. That is what auditoriums and sporting arenas are for. Keep the marketplace out!

(I realize musicians need to earn their living, but why don’t they trust the Lord they claim to serve for their income, rather than using worldly methods of promotion?)