Christianity 201

March 25, 2018

Amazing Love!

Yesterday and today we’re reintroducing you to Canadian Presbyterian pastor Jeff Loach who writes at Passionately His. Both of these are great to share with someone who has not yet crossed the line of faith. Click the title below to read this on his blog.

My Chains Fell Off

Most of us, from time to time, get a song stuck in our heads.  I don’t know about you, but for me, this is an almost daily occurrence, and sometimes, it persists beyond the day.  Since Tuesday evening this week, I have had the same song in my head.  So today, I thought I’d put it in your head, too!

It is a hymn, a piece of poetry put to music, that dates back to the 1730s.  The accompanying tune is called SAGINA, which is the name of a spring plant common in the Roman Empire; it can also mean “nourishment”.  It was written in 1825.  But the text and the tune were not put together popularly until well into the twentieth century.

The text was written by the great Methodist leader Charles Wesley (1707-1788).  No one knows for sure, but it is thought that this text came to him at the point of his conversion.

Wesley had been trained for ministry and had attempted to serve in ministry, failing miserably as a missionary (alongside his brother, John) in the new-found colony of Georgia, now part of the United States.  It was only following his return to Britain that he experienced new birth, at which time he is thought to have written these words:

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night:
Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray;
I woke; the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

These lyrics certainly allude to the story of the earthquake that occurred when Paul and Silas were in prison:  All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!” (Acts 16.26b, NLT).

But Wesley had experienced this in his own heart, too.

The good news is that any of us can have the same experience.  By God’s grace, our chains can fall off, too.  If you feel as though your spirit is lying in some sort of prison – enslaved to sin, locked in old ways, tied down by guilt – then Jesus longs to free you.

If you’ve not been set free from sin, think of what song might come from your mouth when your chains fall off!

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
    and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
    out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
    and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
    They will put their trust in the Lord.
 (Psalm 40.1-3, NLT)

May 1, 2014

God Our Refuge and Protector

When Charles Wesley wrote the song which follows in 1740, most of the imagery is of God as protector, keeper, sustainer, and protector of both body and soul. But following the British tradition, the first line of the song becomes the title, and so we are left thinking that this is a song of God’s love for us. If so, we’re in for a surprise because in the middle verse, God seems absent.

In every way, this song exhibits a pattern found in the Psalms, and if they wish to write anything of substance, or anything that reflects the heart of God, composers of worship material today would do well to know the Psalter intimately before setting out to write.

Jesus, lover of my soul,
Let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll,
While the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide,
Till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide;
Oh, receive my soul at last.

Other refuge have I none,
Hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone,
Still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed,
All my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head
With the shadow of Thy wing.

Wilt Thou not regard my call?
Wilt Thou not accept my prayer?
Lo! I sink, I faint, I fall—
Lo! on Thee I cast my care.
Reach me out Thy gracious hand!
While I of Thy strength receive,
Hoping against hope I stand,
Dying, and behold, I live.

Thou, O Christ, art all I want,
More than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint,
Heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy Name,
Source of all true righteousness;
Thou art evermore the same,
Thou art full of truth and grace.

Plenteous grace with Thee is found,
Grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound;
Make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art,
Freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart;
Rise to all eternity.

The song resolves in the final verses, but there is criticism today that many of our worship services attempt to “tie everything up with a bow” at the end. We like the wrap up that is a happy ending, which leaves many people exiting the sanctuary thinking that perhaps, theirs is the only life which is stuck in the third verse.

Each of the verses in this song follows a progression; and if you own a Bible with cross-references, you know it’s also possible to imagine a hymnbook or chorus book that would be cross-referenced as well.

The first verse is suggestive of I John 4:19 KJV:

We love him, because he first loved us.

but even this text is talking about the character trait of love that is implanted in us through Christ’s love for us, and only the KJV makes God the object of that love.

The second verse reminds me of John 6:68 NIV:

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

However, the third verse is more reminiscent of Job 5:7 NLT:

People are born for trouble as readily as sparks fly up from a fire.

Job had to have felt that God was distant at that point; though he himself, from what we see from the trying of his character would have said distant and not absent. There is a difference.

Homework: Your task now is to take the 4th and 5th verses and decide what scripture passage these evoke. Leave your answer in the comments.