Friday, June 28, 2013

Scenes of Grace 20

Fanny Crosby wrote thousands of hymn texts.  Thirty or so of those are still commonly sung and familiar.  Many have faded into obscurity.  While they had a good life, now they are “dead”.  One of those is “Eternity” and is aptly named because while it has faded from the common scene of life its eternal value remains.  As it is with songs, so it is with people.  “Eternity” is a good hymn for the scenes of grace found in Genesis 36.  It may seem to be a chapter with little value; it is after all simply a genealogy of Esau, but it has been mightily used by the grace of God.

 What happens in a genealogy is that people are born and they die.  Genealogies cut out all the drama of life and reduce it to the basic facts of human existence; we are born and we die.  I have a friend who is a nationally known Bible teacher.  He was saved after reading Genesis 36.  The stark reality of birth and death, names briefly mentioned and forgotten, struck him to his very heart.  We are mortal in the flesh but eternal in our spirit.  Where will that eternal spirit dwell after the flesh has gone? 

Fanny Crosby captured this stark truth in “Eternity”.  The first verse reads, “Deep and grand in tones sublime, hear the passing bells of time, ring the dirge of moments dead,
golden hours whose joys are fled - still those bells of time we hear, tolling, tolling: Hark! the word: Eternity!”  All those descendants of Esau had some golden hours, they were kings of Edom, but in Scripture they only get a verse to cover their entire existence – then, eternity.  Fanny continues to capture the passing of time in her second verse, “In the rosy morning fair,
In the sultry noonday glare, in the dewy evening bright, in the silent hush of night —
still those bells of time we hear, tolling, tolling, loud and clear: Eternity!”

But eternity where?  Therein is the grace of God.  We can know where our eternity will be if we have trusted that grace of God offered to us in His only begotten Son our Lord, Jesus Christ.  John wrote in his first epistle, “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son does not have life.”  Eternity with God in heaven is based on what we have done with His Son Jesus Christ.  Life is short, a mere verse, and then eternity.  God’s grace in Jesus Christ offers us eternity with Him.  Crosby concludes her hymn, “Precious word! if safe we stand on the Christian’s borderland trusting Him, whose loving smile lights and cheers us all the while — bells of time with joy we hear, tolling, tolling, sweet and clear: Eternity!”  Rejoice in God’s grace of eternal life and hope today. 
The Friday Benediction
Until Monday, my friends, may the good God envelop you with His grace; may you prove the common confession of faith, “I believe in the holy Christian church and in the fellowship of the saints”, and may you be enriched with joy and hope as you exercise that confession this weekend.  Amen
      You may also enjoy this inspirational devotional book, The Gospel According to Molly,
available here: 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Scenes of Grace 19

Benjamin Schmolk wrote a hymn with a great message “My Jesus, as Thou Wilt!”  The hymn is a rare gem and found in few hymnals.  It was written in German around the year 1700.  If you can’t find it in a hymnal on your shelf at home, look it up on The Cyber Hymnal.  It is a beautiful expression of the phrase in our Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done.”  When I think of the events surrounding Jacob’s life while dwelling in Padan Aram, the words to this hymn come to mind.

Schmolk wrote, “Into Thy hand of love I would my all resign.  Thro’ sorrow, or thro’ joy, conduct me as Thine own.”  I don’t think these words were sung so much by Jacob as by his wife Leah.  We all start life with hopes and dreams.  For Leah I am sure that they included a happy home with a caring husband.  Instead her own father used her as a means of deceit to get more work out of Jacob.  She was manipulated by her father and unloved by her husband.  Her chief rival was her own sister who was a pagan idolater.  However, in the midst of all this disappointment, we never find the character or faith of Leah to waver.  She steadfastly took care of her home, her family and her responsibilities with confident hope in God.  Genesis 29 through 35 should be labeled as Leah’s story.  In the end she prevails.  Her rival dies; her husband loves her and her son, not Rachel’s, becomes the announced heir and line of Christ.  It took years for this to play out.  Years fly by, but days and hours don’t.  During all those days and hours we can hear Leah singing the words of Schmolk’s great hymn.  Let us gracefully sing with her. 

My Jesus, as Thou wilt! Oh, may Thy will be mine! Into Thy hand of love I would my all resign; through sorrow, or through joy, conduct me as Thine own, and help me still to say, my Lord, Thy will be done!

My Jesus, as Thou wilt! If needy here and poor, give me Thy people’s bread, their portion rich and sure. The manna of Thy Word let my soul feed upon; and if all else should fail, my Lord, Thy will be done.

My Jesus, as Thou wilt! Though seen through many a tear, let not my star of hope grow dim or disappear; since Thou on earth hast wept, and sorrowed oft alone, if I must weep with Thee, my Lord, Thy will be done!

My Jesus, as Thou wilt! All shall be well for me; each changing future scene I gladly trust with Thee: straight to my home above I travel calmly on, and sing, in life or death, my Lord, Thy will be done!
         You may also enjoy this inspirational devotional book, The Gospel According to Molly,
available here: 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Scenes of Grace 18

Whether it is in the famous Negro Spiritual, “We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder”, a traditional English carol, “As Jacob with Travel Was Weary”, or in the famous English hymn, “Nearer, My God to Thee”, the scene of grace found in Genesis 28 has been made quite popular in Christian music.  There is something about the loneliness, the weariness, the pain that Jacob was in on that night long ago that resonates with everyone’s life.  We all find ourselves in one of those positions often in our lives.

Jacob’s trouble on this famous night was largely of his own making.  Sometimes our troubles come for the same reason.  Our loneliness and weariness with life may be the result of our sin nature by birth that has not yet been resolved at the cross of Christ.  Jesus said to the weary, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”  That is the call of salvation.  We are to abandon our self striving for salvation and accept His perfect gift of salvation.  That is grace and can be seen in this scene of grace with Jacob.  In the traditional English carol the chorus resounds with this gift of grace, “Alleluia to Jesus, who died on the tree, and has raised up a ladder of mercy for me, and has raised up a ladder of mercy for me.” 

Sometimes our loneliness and weariness come as a process of life.  The pressures push in on every side.  There seems to be no solace, no light at the end of the tunnel in our time of need.  But there is!  There is a ladder of light with angels ascending and descending.  God has not forgotten or forsaken His children.  There is rest in the comfort of access to heaven.  As Sarah Adams wrote in “Nearer, My God to Thee”, what God sends has been “in mercy given”.  In that dark hour the angels beckon us to look up.  God is there.  Hope, comfort and strength are not so far off as we think. 

Sarah concludes each verse of her hymn with these words, “Nearer, my God to Thee, nearer, my God to Thee, nearer to Thee.”  Jesus said, “Come unto me.”  We need to draw nearer to God.  We need to see that in His nearness are our joy, hope, strength and peace.  In His nearness we find and “feel” the reality of His grace.  “Alleluia . . . {He} has raised up a ladder of mercy for me.” 
You may also enjoy this inspirational devotional book, The Gospel According to Molly,
available here: 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Scenes of Grace 17

Julia Johnston wrote the beautiful hymn “Grace Greater Than Our Sin”.  Those five words echo across the pages of Scripture in response to the sinful deeds of men of faith.  In Hebrews 11 God calls Jacob a man of faith.  In Genesis 27 we see him more as a man of spiritual failure.  How are these opposites resolved?  It is done by our hymn title today.

Before his birth in Genesis 25, God had chosen Jacob over his older brother Esau.  That was an eternal and divine choice.  Jacob only needed to wait upon God to fulfill it.  To him were the promises and the covenant by the will of God.  By faith Rebekah could have waited for God to fulfill that promise.  By faith Jacob could have waited for God to fulfill that promise.  The word of God is sure and will stand.  By faith we are to believe it and trust Him to complete it.

But all too often that is not the way we live.  Jacob and Rebekah lost sight of their faith in God’s promises and sought to accomplish God’s goals by sinful human means.  First Jacob had Esau trade a bowl of soup for his birthright.  There was no love or care for his brother in that selfish act.  Then Rebekah and Jacob conspired to deceive Isaac to give Jacob the blessing.  There is a clear violation of the 9th commandment.  The sinful nature won out over faith.  Could such a thing succeed?

The wages of this sin caused Jacob to be an exile from his family for 20 years.  It cost Rebekah the joy of the fellowship of her favorite son for 20 years.  It cost a breach between the brothers, Jacob and Esau, which lasted for a thousand years. The stain of this compulsive sin was reenacted in the lives of Jacob’s own sons.  There were wages of this sin.  But God’s grace was not subdued.  God appeared to Jacob, guided Jacob, blessed Jacob and quickened Jacob into being a new man with a new name, Israel.  God’s grace was greater than Jacob’s sin.

The same is true throughout time.  The same is true for us today.  As Julia Johnston wrote it is “grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt”.  As she wrote in the second verse, “Sin and despair like the sea waves cold, threaten the soul with infinite loss”.  That was surely true of Jacob and all sinners for all time.  But there is more.  That despair should show us a “grace that is greater, yes grace untold” that “points to the refuge the mighty cross.”  If you have run ahead of God, or away from God, run back to His grace.  Run with simple confession to His marvelous Cross of grace.  Be restored in His grace today.  
You may also enjoy this inspirational devotional book, The Gospel According to Molly,
available here: 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Scenes of Grace 16

Edgar Stites wrote a truly uplifting hymn of promise “Beulah Land”.  His first stanza reads, “I’ve reached the land of corn and wine, and all its riches freely mine; here shines undimmed one blissful day, for all my night has passed away.”  Here Beulah Land refers to heaven, but the concept of the richness of the Promised Land cannot be forgotten.  God had told Moses that He would deliver the Children of Israel from the bondage of Egypt and take them to a land “flowing with milk and honey”.  Nearly 400 years before God gave this promise to Moses, Isaac was reaping the fields of plenty in the face of his enemies the Canaanites. 

This land of Canaan was to be the land of plenty where God would bring His people when the sins of the Canaanites had become “full”.  Until that time the descendants of Abraham were to dwell as sojourners in the land of promise.  While sojourning there we are told in Genesis 26 that Isaac reaped 100 fold of what he had sown in one year.  Sadly, charlatans within the Christian community have taught that every believer today is to reap similar prosperity if they just follow prescribed practices or are “living right” with God.  The truth is close but in an entirely different direction. God told Paul that His grace was sufficient for all Paul needed.   

There is truly a harvest in this life with Christ, but it is not promised as a physical harvest of prosperity.  It is promised as the real blessings of His grace day by day.  We spent 26 days alphabetizing just a small sample of these blessings.  Jesus said that in this world we would have tribulation, but to be of good cheer as He has overcome the world.  Good cheer is a reaped blessing of grace.  The author of Hebrews says to be content with such things as we have for He has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”  Contentment and the assurance of God’s presence and care are great crops to reap of the grace of God. 

And still there is heaven to come.  Paul said that if in this life only we have hope in Christ we are to be pitied.  But there is more to come.  Edgar Stites proclaims, “O Beulah Land, sweet Beulah Land, as on thy highest mount I stand, I look away across the sea where mansions are prepared for me, and view the shining glory shore, my heaven, my home forever more.”  We have the fullness of the abundance of God’s grace in this world, and that is wonderful.  But, we also have heaven to come.  That is abundant grace upon abundant grace. 
You may also enjoy this inspirational devotional book, The Gospel According to Molly,
available here: 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Scenes of Grace 15

Isaac and Rebekah had been married for 20 years and still they had no children.  While some people today assert that children are a burden or an inconvenience, this has never been the attitude of God nor was it the attitude of Isaac and Rebekah.  In Genesis 25 we find Isaac pleading with God that He would open Rebekah’s womb.  In grace God gave them twins. 

William Williams, the great Welsh evangelist, wrote the hymn “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah”.  This hymn asks for God’s guidance for the “pilgrim in this barren land”.  Isaac was certainly a pilgrim.  The land wasn’t his and he was often reminded of it.  The hymn goes on to say, “I am weak, but Thou art mighty; hold me with Thy powerful hand.”  Isaac could not open Rebehak’s womb.  Isaac could not fulfill the promises that God had made to Abraham and that Abraham had repeated to him.  Isaac could not, but God could. 

It is the grace of God in our lives that He does the things that He can and that we cannot.  Even when we don’t know what we need or how to pray for it, God in His grace does both for us.  Romans 8:26 gives us this promise.  We can’t make the rain fall and we can’t make the sun shine.  God can.  God, in His marvelous grace, is constantly doing every day the things that we can’t do.  He is doing the things that we can’t even think to ask being done.  For Isaac and Rebekah He opened the closed womb so that they would have the blessing of children and that He could accomplish all the purposes of His eternal promises.

Isaac believed that God both could and would work in His home.  William Williams goes on in his hymn to include this verse, “Care and doubting, gloom and sorrow, fear and shame are mine no more.  Faith knows naught of dark tomorrow, for my Savior goes before.”  Isaac walked in faith with God.  He didn’t know the details of God’s plan, but He knew the God of the plan.  That was enough for Him.  For all other matters of his life he rested in the loving grace of God.   With Isaac and William Williams we need to sing the final words of verse 3, “Songs of praises, songs of praises, I will ever give to Thee.  I will ever give to Thee.”  Let us live our lives as a song of praise to the power and care of His grace. 
The Friday Benediction
Until Monday, my friends, may the good God envelop you with His grace; may you prove the common confession of faith, “I believe in the holy Christian church and in the fellowship of the saints”, and may you be enriched with joy and hope as you exercise that confession this weekend.  Amen
     You may also enjoy this inspirational devotional book, The Gospel According to Molly,
available here: 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Scenes of Grace 14

“Rejoice! He said, for the wife of thy youth; rejoice and be glad with her. Be glad in your heart for the wife of thy youth, for I have given her to you My child, for I have given her to you.” As the last refrain of this song was sung I took my beloved’s hand and said, “I do”.  The minister offered his final comments and benediction; I kissed my bride and Amazing Grace (see day one of Abundant Grace) and I walked back down the aisle as husband and wife. 

Nine months earlier I was living with my grandmother who had raised me.  She was failing and we both knew it.  I was facing a giant emptiness in my life.  Then one day in the early fall when I should have been somewhere else (at work) doing something else (working) I took a day off for a picnic with some friends.  That day I met Amazing Grace.  Four months later, a week after we had announced our engagement, my grandmother passed away. 

Now we are transported back to Genesis 23 and 24.  Sarah has died.  For some reason I have always felt that she was a lot closer to Isaac than Abraham had been.  Isaac now had that great void of emptiness that the death of a dear and close loved one can bring.  Abraham now decided that it is time to find a wife for his son.  The dutiful servant is sent to bring the bride back from a distant land to become Isaac’s bride.  God was gracious to the servant in so many ways that it would take days to describe.  He prayed and God answered his prayer immediately with just the right girl.  He praised God and, having obtained permission from her father, took her home with him for Isaac.  Isaac is out alone in the field when they arrived.  He turns and there is his Amazing Grace. 

It is the wonderful grace of God that He cares about all of us, our whole being.  He isn’t just concerned about our eternal soul.  He is concerned about us.  Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the words to the wedding song “Thou Gracious God, Whose Mercy Lends”.  The first verse reads, “Thou gracious God, whose mercy lends the light of home, the smile of friends.”  God’s grace cares about us.  As the soloist finished the lines of our wedding hymn, which I wrote for my Amazing Grace, “For I have given her to you, My child, for I have given her to you,” I beheld the grace of God, not in intangibles, but in the tangible presence of my bride.  Isaac did the same.  Genesis 24:66 records, “Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent; and he took Rebekah and she became his wife, and he loved her.  So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.”

   You may also enjoy this inspirational devotional book, The Gospel According to Molly,

available here: 


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Scenes of Grace 13

One of the most commonly used invitation hymns is “I Surrender All” by Judson Van DeVenter.  Those are easy words to sing but hard words to live.  What does it mean when we sing the chorus, “I surrender all, I surrender all.  All to Thee my blessed Savior, I surrender all”?  What part of our lives or our own particular character do we plan to hold back as those words stream from our lips?  Abraham seemed truly able to sing the song and we can take some lessons in living grace from him.

God had called Abraham from his home and family.  He had told him to move to a land where he would sojourn for the rest of his life but not own any of it.  He was a great and powerful man.  His servants were able to defeat a confederation of four Mesopotamian kings.  His riches and livestock surpassed that of those around him.  He was the kind of man who could demand things and expect to be heard.  In many churches today he could be the controlling faction all by himself.  But, he had surrendered all to God and we never see him exercising the great power and influence that he possessed. 

One scene stands out today as we look at Genesis 23.  His beloved wife of many decades, Sarah, had died.  He needed a place to bury her.  She died in the land that God had promised to give to Abraham’s descendants forever.  Abraham could have taken his powerful forces and demanded a place of honor for the burial site.  He could have said, “It is already mine, after all!”  I have seen it done in many churches and heard of it being done in many more.  But that is not what Abraham did. 

He had truly surrendered his life and will to that of God.  The land was his, but he did not grasp it.  He did not demand his right to the land.  Here a quick look at Philippians 2:5-8 would be beneficial.  He could have taken it by force, but he didn’t do so.  Here a quick look at Matthew 26:53 would be beneficial.  What he did was offered to buy it at a fair price and would not take it for free.  Here a look at the temptation of Christ would be beneficial. 

Abraham knew that his life was in God’s hands.  He knew that he was called to follow God in the difficult and easy parts of life.  He surrendered to the will of God in both areas.  In this he demonstrated the great grace of God for others to see God and have a chance to glorify Him.  That is what it is supposed to mean when we sing, “All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give.” When we really do that we can demonstrate the glorious grace of God to the world. The grace of the life of Christ, the life surrendered to Him, was the life of Abraham’s example.
    You may also enjoy this inspirational devotional book, The Gospel According to Molly,
available here: 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Scenes of Grace 12

John Newton, author of “Amazing Grace” also wrote many other hymns.  Along with his friend William Cowper they wrote an entire hymnal, “The Olney Hymnal”, so named after Olney, England where it was written.  Another great hymn from John Newton is “He Died for Me”.  In Genesis chapter 22 we find just such a substitutionary death illustrated for us.

Abraham and Sarah now had a boy of their own.  He wasn’t just a little lad anymore.  He was a young man.  Then one day God called upon Abraham with a very strange and scary demand, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love . . . and offer him as a burnt offering.”  Hagar and her son had been sent away.  By God’s divine record keeping Abraham had only one son that counted, Isaac.  He was the son of promise.  He was to be the heir of all the promises that God had given to Abraham.  He was Abraham and Sarah’s pride and joy and hope for their own future.  Now God said to Abraham, “Take this boy and offer him as a sacrifice.”

God had a plan that Abraham did not know about.  That is true for us all.  We can’t see tomorrow.  We have a hard time handling all the demands of today without getting behind with interruptions and side issues.  But God had a plan.  It was a plan of grace. 

Abraham obeyed God and took Isaac to the appointed spot and tied him up and laid him on the altar.  As he was raising the knife to slay his son God intervened.  “No, Abraham, you do not need to kill Isaac.  Look behind you, Abraham.”  There, caught by its horns in a thicket was a ram.  Abraham untied Isaac and then took the ram and put it on the altar in Isaac’s place.  The ram died for Isaac.  The ram is a picture of Jesus Christ dying for us.  The child of promise, who is a picture of Jesus Christ, was figuratively raised from the dead.  The substitute ram, also a picture of Jesus Christ, died in his place. 

Now we can consider the title of John Newton’s great hymn “He Died for Me”.  We were supposed to die for our sins.  Instead God provided a substitute, His own sinless Son, to die for us.  The fifth stanza of his hymn concludes with Jesus saying to the audience at the cross, “This blood is for thy ransom paid.  I die that you may live.”  Then Newton concludes the whole with a chorus that captures the amazing grace of God’s gift to us.  “Oh, can it be, upon a tree the Savior died for me?  My soul is thrilled; my heart is filled, to think He died for me.” 
   You may also enjoy this inspirational devotional book, The Gospel According to Molly,
available here: 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Scenes of Grace 11

Genesis 19, the scene of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, is one of those scenes of grace that many overlook.  They see it just as a scene of judgment, but it was much more.  Abraham had pleaded with God for the righteous to be spared the searing judgment of His wrath.  God was gracious to Abraham and acceded to his petition.  Lot, who the New Testament describes as a righteous man, was saved from the destruction that befell all the unjust in those two prominent cities.  God was gracious to Lot even though he lived among and was clearly tarnished by the sins around him. 

Eliza Morris has written a mostly forgotten hymn that covers both the grace shown to Abraham and the grace shown to Lot.  Her hymn is titled “God of Pity, God of Grace”.  She begins by asking God to hear our prayers as Abraham entreated God for the righteous who yet dwelled in Sodom.  This verse reads, “God of pity, God of grace, when we humbly seek Thy face, bend from Heav’n, Thy dwelling place; hear, forgive, and save.”  Her second verse picks up the theme and in the last two lines says, “Pleading at Thy mercy seat, look from Heav’n and save.”  The God of pity and grace did indeed hear the prayer of Abraham and in His marvelous pity and grace answered his prayer. 

As if seeing the whole scenario of Genesis 18 and 19 before her as she wrote, Eliza now turns to Lot.  In verse 4 of this extraordinarily beautiful hymn she writes, “Should we wander from Thy fold, and our love to Thee grow cold, with a pitying eye behold; Lord, forgive and save.”  Eliza knew that Lot was not alone in making bad choices.  We all do and we all need to fall on our Father’s loving grace to restore our pure fellowship with Him. 

Psalm 103:13 says, “Like as a father pities his children, so the LORD pities them that fear him.”  The publican stood in the temple and said, “Lord, be merciful to me a sinner.”  Paul wrote, “By grace you have been saved through faith.”  He also wrote, “Grace be unto you and peace.”  Eliza has captured in her hymn all these expressions of hope for the child of God.  Rejoice in His grace, mercy, pity and peace today. 

        You may also enjoy this inspirational devotional book, The Gospel According to Molly,

available here: 


Friday, June 14, 2013

Scenes of Grace 10

The book of Proverbs says that “a cheerful heart is like good medicine.”  Years ago I saw an old movie about a man who wanted to be a “serious film maker”.  He wanted to catch the drama of life, the dark underside, that he thought shaped the fabric of society.  Then he got in trouble and ended up in jail.  While there the jail had a movie night for the prisoners.  The movie was a series of cartoons.  Having been in jail he saw the dark underside of life and found it most unfulfilling as a topic.  Then when he saw everyone who was so hard pressed in the jail having a great time of relief and laughter at the cartoon movie night, he discovered that he had been looking in the wrong place for what drove society.  There was enough sorrow.  Laughter, a cheerful heart, was indeed good medicine.

Abraham and Sarah had been married for many years.  He was 99 and she was 89.  They had no children of their own.  That had been a great sorrow to them both.  Then one day Jesus came visiting.  He was one of the three men in Genesis 18.  He came with a great message of joy for them both.  In one year they would have their own son.  Sarah sat in the tent and laughed at the very thought of such an impossibility.  God then told her that she would call her son Isaac, which in Hebrew means “laughter”.  Every time she looked at her son she could think of how great God’s grace was to give her a son even in spite of her doubt.  She could laugh every day.  God gave her a cheerful heart.

Anna Russell wrote a beautiful praise hymn which isn’t sung much anymore titled “Wonderful, Wonderful Jesus”.  She talks about dreary days and long nights such as Abraham and Sarah must have endured.  God’s promise to them had included a child, but a child had not come.  Then one day Jesus stopped by and everything changed.  With Jesus all the promises of God are yea and amen.  Jesus said, “Next year you will have a son.”  And they did.  Anna Russell’s hymn of praise lifts our heart in adoration to the grandness of Jesus with this chorus, “Wonderful, wonderful Jesus! In the heart He implanteth a song; a song of deliverance, of courage, of strength – in the heart He implanteth a song.”  Let the promises of the grace of God fulfilled in Christ Jesus our Lord implant a song in your heart today. 
The Friday Benediction
Until Monday, my friends, may the good God envelop you with His grace; may you prove the common confession of faith, “I believe in the holy Christian church and in the fellowship of the saints”, and may you be enriched with joy and hope as you exercise that confession this weekend.  Amen
         You may also enjoy this inspirational devotional book, The Gospel According to Molly,
available here: 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Scenes of Grace 9

In Genesis 15 we have a marvelous scene of grace where God speaks with Abraham.  Abraham has concerns.  God doesn’t chide his concerns.  God gives Him more promises and clearer promises.  The Mighty God of the universe even makes an everlasting covenant with this man who has worries and openly discusses them with Him.  That is grace.  The upshot was that Abraham “believed in the Lord and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”  As Paul would say later in Romans 4, Abraham was saved by faith.  Now Abraham took that faith and with it stood firmly on the promises of God.

R. Kelso Carter wrote the uplifting hymn “Standing on the Promises”.  God’s promise to Abraham was an everlasting covenant.  That covenant pointed to and included our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  He is the fulfillment of God’s promise that the promised Seed would come and bring hope and righteousness to mankind.  Abraham and his true descendants stood firmly on the sure hope of those promises of the sure and certain God.  Christ came into this world and those of the faith of Abraham embraced their long awaited Savior.  They had waited 2000 years for the promise to be fulfilled. 

During those millennia there had been many difficult days.  There had been slavery in Egypt and abuse by neighboring nations.  There had been discipline by their Holy God who was seeking to bring many sons to glory.  There was exile and deprivation.  In it all there were the sure and precious promises of God.  We have waited 2000 years since the Ascension of Christ for His promised return.  There has been persecution, war, famine, terrors by day and by night for His precious bride the Church.  But His promises are still true.  His coming is still certain.  We can, with Abraham, stand on the promises. 

R. Kelso Carter says in his second stanza, “Standing on the promises that cannot fail, when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail.  By the living Word of God I shall prevail, standing on the promises of God.”  Abraham didn’t see all the promises that God made to him be fulfilled in his lifetime.  Still he pressed on in faith as should we.  We can sing together with Abraham the chorus of this great hymn, “Standing, standing, standing on the promises of God my Savior; standing, standing, I’m standing on the promises of God.”  By His abundant grace we stand on these promises. 
You may also enjoy this inspirational devotional book, The Gospel According to Molly,
available here: 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Scenes of Grace 8

Throughout Genesis 12 to 25 we see many scenes of grace in the life of Abraham.  These are scenes that show triumphant faith at work in bringing about miracles.  There are also other scenes of grace that cast a darker shadow over Abraham. Even in them are reflected the brighter rays of God’s abiding grace toward him.  The first account of Abraham, as given in chapter 12, reveals this darker side of his life. God said to him, “Get out of your country, and from your family and from your father’s house.”  In Abraham’s life there are a lot of scenes of parting. 

Frank Graeff wrote a beautiful hymn of comfort “Does Jesus Care?”  He chronicles many scenes of life that leave us anywhere on the spectrum from upset to devastated.  The question he poses in each instance is “Does Jesus Care?”  Think of the partings suffered by Abraham.  In Genesis 12 he left his father’s family, his home for 75 years.  In chapter 13 he separates from his nephew Lot.  In chapter 16 he is separated from the surrogate mother of his first child for the first time.  In chapter 21 he is separated from her again along with her son, his first child.  In chapter 23 he is separated from his wife Sarah to whom he had been married for over 50 years.  That is a lot of parting. 

Frank Graeff asks this question in verse 4 of his hymn, “Does Jesus care when I’ve said good-bye to the dearest on earth to me; when my sad heart aches ‘til it nearly breaks, is it ought to Him does He see?”  Triumphantly he responds in the chorus, “O yes, He cares! I know He cares! His heart is touched with my grief.  When the days are weary, the long nights dreary, I know my Savior cares.”  Jesus, the source of all comfort left the glory of His eternal home for the dusty roads of ancient Israel.  He suffered the loss of many of His followers who found His words hard to digest.  He was betrayed by an intimate friend and denied by another.  In the Old Testament He is called the “man of sorrows.” 

Does this Jesus know how we feel?  Yes, He does!  Can He comfort us in every pain and sorrow?  Yes, He can!  It is His marvelous grace that carries us through our darkest hour.  It is the sureness of His grace that enables us to face the future with hope and not despair.  In the scenes of our life that do not seem to have any light, there is always the light of His grace.  “O yes, He cares! I know He cares!”  Rejoice in the caring grace of Christ in each hour of need.
     You may also enjoy this inspirational devotional book, The Gospel According to Molly,
available here: 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Scenes of Grace 7

The grace of God that calls us to be His own is also the grace of God that leads us in His particular way.  God called Abraham by grace while he was an idolater in Ur.  God called him to go where God would show Him, not where God told him in advance.  Abraham trusted the God of grace and followed.  Thomas Olivers in his great hymn “The God of Abraham Praise” reminds us that the God who both called and led Abraham will still lead us today. 

At my dad’s funeral I intertwined the majestic and hopeful words of this hymn with my sermon.  My dad died of Alzheimer’s disease.  He hardly knew anything at the time he died.  If he remembered the name of God he could not say it.  Verse 4 of this hymn declares, however, that by His great grace God remembers us and His promises to us.  “He by Himself has sworn; I on His oath depend, I shall, on eagle wings up borne to Heav’n ascend. I shall behold His face; I shall His power adore, and sing the wonders of His grace forevermore.”

We all are called to follow God to the end He has chosen for us.  For some, like my dad, that somewhere might be the emptiness of Alzheimer’s.  It might be a land of vacant mind and vague memories.  It might be the utter loneliness of being in a land where you don’t even know yourself.  But God knows.  God has led.  God will keep.  The end of Abraham’s journey was as much in the care and grace of God as the beginning.  All the mighty deeds along the way; all the practice of faith in times of trial; all the triumphant victories of God displayed before our eyes can fade into a blank of nothingness, but God has not done so.  He is still the God who led us out from the darkness of sin into His brilliant light of hope.  That light still shines.  Those promises still hold. The God of Abraham is still leading and caring until our earthly end.  Then the great God of Abraham, in the marvelous revelation of His grace, will reveal to us the Promised Land. 

We are not forsaken.  We are remembered by our God. We are remembered by the God who called Abraham.  Sing these words of Thomas Olivers with great hope. “The God of Abraham praise, whose all sufficient grace shall guide me all my happy days, in all my ways.
He calls a worm His friend, He calls Himself my God! And He shall save me to the end, thro’ Jesus’ blood.”
     You may also enjoy this inspirational devotional book, The Gospel According to Molly,
available here: 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Scenes of Grace 6

Eliza Hewitt, the prolific American hymnist (she wrote over 1700 hymns) penned a hymn little known or used anymore, “A Rainbow on the Cloud”.  The chorus goes, “There’s a rainbow on the cloud for you; there’s a promise that is sure and true; yes, the storm will pass away; there will dawn a brighter day—there’s a rainbow on the cloud for you.”  With these words we find the grace of God given to Noah after he came off the ark.  God gave a promise and a sign for that promise.  God gave the rainbow. 

The rainbow was a covenantal sign that God would never again flood the earth.  But it is also a sign that can be taken as a visual promise from God.  God was concerned enough about man and man’s fears and weaknesses to make a grand promise to us.  God makes many grand promises and God keeps them all.  When we see the rainbow in the clouds we can know that God is above the clouds of our life.  He is over us in His protective care.  He does not prevent the rain or the storm, but He is behind every cloud with His wonderful promises.

In the storms of life we might often be tempted to believe that God has somehow turned His back from us, even if it is just for a moment.  But God’s promise is to the contrary.  He has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”  That means that He won’t leave us for even a moment.  We need to look up in our times of distress and see the rainbow in the clouds.  We need to make it a very special reality for our lives that God has given a constant sign of His grace. 

By grace He saved Noah and in grace He gave Him a symbol of His care.  That symbol He placed in the heavens so that we might look up to Him in every storm that comes our way.  Today we have another great symbol of His grace.  We have the cross.  As we behold the cross our eyes are drawn upward to heaven.  From there we know that we receive His constant grace and care for all our life.   We can gladly sing with Eliza Hewitt the final stanza of her hymn, “There’s a rainbow on the cloud! tho’ your soul is sorrow-bowed, lift your voice to praise the Lord today; there’s a rainbow ’round the throne; In its glory we will own that He led us in His perfect way.”  The way of grace is full of hope and promise.  Claim it today.
         You may also enjoy this inspirational devotional book, The Gospel According to Molly,
available here: 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Scenes of Grace 5

A great hymn of assurance, “A Shelter in the Time of Storm”, is given to us by Vernon Charlesworth.  Picture Noah and his family singing this hymn during the 40 days and nights of the deluge.  Verse three of the hymn begins, “The raging storms may round us beat”.  Think of being in that ark when outside all was dark except for the streaks of lightning.  The thunder beat a steady bass drum of dread.  Rain cascaded on the roof of the pitching vessel while the winds howled out God’s fury against the wickedness of man.  Inside that fragile retreat of the ark sat the surviving members of the human race along with all the animals to repopulate the earth. In this picture we find a great scene of grace.

We have two cats and a dog at our house.  Cleaning up after them helps me understand why our landfills are so full.  Noah had two of everything and at least seven of all clean animals. Every farmer knows how much work it is to clean the stables and barns.  There were only eight people on the ark to take care of the vast needs.  How did they do it?  They did it by grace.  God had to have done something miraculous to make it possible.  He had given them a great load to bear and His grace must have intervened to make them succeed in bearing it.  The ark was their means of safety.  God would care for them in it. 

The cross is our means of safety.  Jesus asks us to bear that cross.  It is a weight that we cannot bear on our own.  It is too heavy for us.  Jesus said that He would bear it with us.  His word tells us that His grace is sufficient for us in doing His will.  We could not survive the storms of this life bearing the cross of Jesus Christ without grace.  God’s grace preserved Noah and his family.  The miracle of His grace superseded the impossibility of their position.  Today it is the same.  God’s preserving grace carries us every day.  His manifest grace overcomes what cannot be done by human means.   

Knowing and understanding this great grace helps us confidently sing, “The Lord’s our Rock, in Him we hide – a shelter in the time of storm; secure whatever ill betide – a shelter in the time of storm.”  Praise the Rock today.  Thank Him for His great preserving grace.
The Friday Benediction
Until Monday, my friends, may the good God envelop you with His grace; may you prove the common confession of faith, “I believe in the holy Christian church and in the fellowship of the saints”, and may you be enriched with joy and hope as you exercise that confession this weekend.  Amen
     You may also enjoy this inspirational devotional book, The Gospel According to Molly,
available here: