I Will Sing of My Redeemer

Phillip Paul Bliss, born in 1838, was an itinerant music teacher and hymn writer. He wrote several famous hymns including, “Almost Persuaded,” “Wonderful Words of Life,” and, “Let the Lower Lights Be Burning.”

Bliss and his wife were traveling east near Ashtabula, Ohio on the night of  December 29, 1876 when the train trestle on which they were riding collapsed and fell into a deep ravine. Somehow, Bliss survived the wreck and went back to the train to find his wife, who had been killed. Their bodies were never recovered. But, inside his case was a hymn he had just written entitled, “I Will Sing of My Redeemer.” The first verse of the hymn is:

“I will sing of my Redeemer and his wondrous love to me;

On the cruel cross he suffered, from the curse to set me free.”

It is such a simple lyric, but it encloses such a powerful scriptural thought. The apostle Paul wrote, “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, the just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, the man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith,” (Galatians 3:10-14 KJV).

Let us concern ourselves principally with verses 10 and 14. “For as many as are under the works of the law are under the curse,” Paul wrote. Under the law of Moses, man must obey every command God gave or suffer the sentence: death. Because I could not keep the whole law, I offended God by violating it (James 2:10-11). Therefore, the curse of eternal punishment was suspended over my neck.

But, Paul wrote, “Christ hath redeemed us from (out from under) the curse of the law, being made a curse for us…”

My Greek teacher was Ben Gore. An expert in linguistics, he was also a missionary to one of the African nations for years. He used to tell us the people he taught didn’t have a word for redemption, but instead had the word picture of “one who places the chain on his neck.” If a relative was in chains about to be taken in slavery, it was customary for one to go to the line of prospective slaves, take the chain off the relative’s neck and sit down and put it on their neck.

Jesus allowed the punishment I deserved to fall on him, the only one ever to be innocent of any sin. “On the cruel cross he suffered, from the curse to set me free,” Bliss wrote.

I tell you now this powerful thought — only two lines — makes me want to sing of my Redeemer. “With his blood, he purchased me. On the cross, he sealed my pardon. Paid the debt, and made me free.”

The True Tragedy

A USA TODAY article about former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez said that he “had played in a Super Bowl and signed a $40 million contract extension before his 24th birthday. His future was one of endless possibilities,” The article went on to say, “the tight end sits in jail, now a convicted murderer; let his downward spiral be a cautionary tale.”

There is more sadness to this “cautionary tale.” If Aaron Hernandez never obeys the gospel through faith, repentance, confession and baptism for the remission of sins, there is a much more unnecessary wasted aspect waiting: there is the possibility that his soul may be lost.

Sometimes the truly important escapes the world’s notice. What is a greater tragedy? Is it that Hernandez will never wear another NFL uniform or catch a pass in a professional football game, or is it that Hernandez may die an unrepentant sinner?

It is just as Jesus said, “Life is more than food and the body than clothing,” (Luke 12:23 NASB). There is more to life than how much money a person makes or how well one excels in sport.

God Needs More than “Oops”

Getting a corrected paper back from a teacher was a difficult thing for me in school.

Teachers always used that super visible red ink that can be seen from across state lines when they returned your paper. Oh, and when they put a number or a letter grade on it in that same red ink, it was always visible in the top half of the paper where everybody could see it. Somehow an “F” always looked much bigger and much redder than an “A.”

My usual method of dealing with a paper with a poor grade was to keep it on the desk under other papers so no one could ever see. And, talking about the poor grade to classmates involved gross minimizing the faux pas. “I goofed,” I’d say. Or, “Oh, well, can’t win them all,” or “Oops,” was how I could soothe my troubled conscience.

So, it should not be surprising that many children grow up (as I did) using the same methods in dealing with all kinds of humiliations, including sin.

People rationalize and try to escape the humiliation and pain of sin, just as I was willing to take several steps to minimize my faults and shortcomings as I was growing up.

Folks try to hide sin. This response reaches all the way back to the Old Testament. At the time Israel fought and destroyed Jericho in Joshua 6, God commanded Israel not to take treasures of the city, but to dedicate them to him. A man named Achan, however, stole some valuables and hid them in his home. When Israel faced the next enemy, Ai, they were defeated because Israel had sinned against God (Joshua 7:1).

Not only had Achan stolen the things God commanded dedicated to his glory, but also he hid the items, and, he hoped, the sin, from Israel and God.

We humans need to understand that when we sin, we do more than, “goof,” or “make a mistake,” or “mess up.” Those are all terms people use to minimize what is really happening. What happens when we sin against God is that we have violated God’s will and word.

After King David committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband Uriah in an attempt to hide a pregnancy, he found out how serious his offenses against God were. We know this from Psalm chapter 51 because it is in this chapter that David takes responsibility for what he had done.

“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, I have sinned and done what is evil in your sight, So that you are justified when you speak and blameless when you judge,” (Psalm 51:3-4 NASB). I highlighted the nouns and pronouns in that passage to demonstrate the emphasis I believe David was using to demonstrate his guilt and remorse for his sin.

Before I can ever be forgiven of my sins, I must possess a broken heart. I must take responsibility for my actions. If I try to minimize my sin and belittle the consequences, God will not be satisfied with my treatment of it as if it was a mathematical or grammatical error in school.

David wrote, “MY sin is ever before ME!” His adultery and murder had become a heavy weight around his neck that he felt and saw every day of his life. The burden of what he had done had become too difficult for him to bear. What he did was HIS responsibility.

What God demands is truth in our insides (Psalm 51:6). “Everybody makes mistakes” is true, but it is very far from the kind of broken heart God wants from us when we sin against him.


Pay Attention, Please

A friend recently wrote about someone who had forgotten the subject of the sermon they both heard.

He wrote a very good comment about it, which I will not copy here. There is a difference between hearing and listening.

Everyone on this planet, whose ears function within normal limits, hears things every day. Dogs bark. There are traffic noises. People converse in the market. We don’t pay attention to that.

Science tells us we rarely watch or listen very closely. That is why magicians can fool us with illusions.

My own observation has shown me that most people can hear a sermon, but they often do not really listen.

Yes, I know there are preachers who make watching cars rust more interesting. This, though, is not the reason why many sermons are not heard.

The fault lies with us.

Listening carefully requires effort. Many people have never trained their minds to listen. They hear the sermon, but their minds are being used for other purposes. We may catch a word or two, but we’re not following closely enough.

A woman who attends our congregation told me something interesting about how she listens to a sermon.

“I make close notes on the sermons I hear,” she told me. “I take a notebook and a pen to services and I make notes, or even write down the outline I hear.”

This is a really good suggestion because it puts into practice something many already know. Writing what we hear helps reinforce the ideas heard into memory. People in college take notes (now, with a computer) so what they hear is composed into understandable language. I still believe in handwriting notes because I find writing things down reinforces learning what I hear and helps me get things more clearly into my mind.

Remember when your eighth-grade English teacher screamed at you to pay attention in class? I surely do. What Mrs. Neff was trying to do was to encourage me to listen to what she was saying, write it down, and think about it.

Now, some people won’t do this kind of thing in church because it requires effort and concentration. Oh my! That’s exactly what listening is!

Prayer to the God Who Sees

John Henson:

A very needed prayer here from Michael Summers. Please read.

Originally posted on Call for Fire Seminar:

“So she [Hagar] called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing’ for she said, ‘Truly here I have seen him who looks after me” (Genesis 16:13).

Many women and men in our world experience physical and emotional abuse in places where they should feel safe. Like Hagar, many flee and sometimes find themselves in situations that are equally or more dangerous.  Sadly, sometimes we fail to “see” those who suffer. We fail to protect. We may deny their abuse. We need to be more like the God we worship, the God who sees and who looks after the outcast.

God who sees,

Help us to see. Open our eyes to injustice that enrages you and causes you to reach for your armor, asking why no man or woman has stepped into the breach to fight for your cause. We pray that we…

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Vessels of Honor

“I’ll never attend that church, again,” some people say. “There are too many hypocrites in it.”

If we thinkjars about this for a moment, we may come to understand that since the church is composed of human beings, there will always be imperfection. Should we, then, condemn the church and refuse to attend its services because it is filled with imperfect humans? Now, that idea is just not sensible.

The Apostle Paul wrote the young preacher, “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work, (2 Timothy 2:20-21 NKJV).

A commentator on this passage wrote, “A good person does not regard goodness as an entitlement to special honor.” Instead, a good person keeps on preparing to do more for the Master, not less.

You see, it is always possible that someone may see in our example of greater service a way to repent of shortcoming and become “a vessel of honor.”

So, let’s all seek greater service for the Master and help bring along those who haven’t quite understood what is truly important, yet. Maybe they will!