Redeeming Love

A song has been playing in my head throughout the week.  It’s not a new song.  It was written in 1800 by a brilliant man, but one who was often given to bouts of deep depression.  The man was William Cowper.  The song is “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood.”  Here are the words most commonly sung:

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there may I, though vile as he wash all my sins away.

Dear dying Lamb, thy precious blood shall never lose its power;
Till all the ransomed church of God are saved, to sin no more.

For since by faith I saw the stream thy flowing wounds supply;
Redeeming love has been my theme and shall be till I die.

These words have been sung using a variety of tunes.  I am personally enjoying the version by City Hymns.  But it is the power of these words that grips my mind and stirs my soul, for the song speaks of a redemption that comes by the shed blood of Jesus Christ and the cleansing I have received because of it.

“Redeeming love has been my theme and shall be till I die.”  What is the theme of your life? What is that truth that holds your life together and gives it meaning? There is no greater theme or more solid truth than the redeeming love of God shown in the person and work of His Son Jesus Christ.

What It’s All About

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At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.  The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!  And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.  The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them. Luke 2:1-20, NLT

A Dying Preacher

An old preacher was dying. He sent a message for his doctor and his lawyer, both church members, to come to his home. When they arrived, they were ushered up to his bedroom. As they entered the room the preacher held out his hands and motioned for them to sit, one on each side of his bed. The preacher grasped their hands, sighed contentedly, smiled and stared at the ceiling. For a time, no one said anything. Both the doctor and lawyer were touched and flattered that the preacher would ask them to be with him during his final moments. They were also puzzled; the preacher had never given them any indication that he particularly liked either of them. They both remembered his many long, uncomfortable sermons about greed, covetousness and avaricious behavior that made them squirm in their seats.

Finally, the doctor said, “Preacher, why did you ask us to come?” The old preacher mustered up his strength, then said weakly, “Jesus died between two thieves; and that’s how I want to go.”

Nearing the end of our lives gives us perspective. We are able to see what is truly important and what only appears to be important. We won’t be trying to make a point in our final moments; instead we will want to know we’ve made a difference. We will want to know our lives mattered.

We build our legacy day-by-day in the big and small things that make up our lives. Our legacy is formed in our relationships. If you eulogy were written today, would you be pleased with what it said? If not, begin today to change your legacy. You only get this one life; make it matter!

You be Jesus!

A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin, 5, and Ryan, 3. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, “Let my brother have the first pancake. I can wait.” Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, “Ryan, you be Jesus.”

Jesus instructs us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. This is a lovely sentiment, but it can be a challenge to put into practice. Very often, we want our needs and wants to be met first. If I take the time, effort, and resources to meet your needs, I might not have enough for what I need or want. What a dilemma you’ve given us, Jesus!

In the end, it all boils down to who is Lord. If Jesus is Lord, then we will want to lovingly obey His call. If we are Lord, then we can do what we please. The Apostle Paul makes it clear how we are to treat one another. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

Is Heaven Overrated?

In the Los Angeles Times, Joel Stein wrote, “Heaven is totally overrated. It seems boring. Clouds, listening to people play the harp. It should be somewhere you can’t wait to go, like a luxury hotel. Maybe blue skies and soft music were enough to keep people in line in the 17th century, but Heaven has to step it up a bit. They’re basically getting by because they only have to be better than Hell.”

Heaven is not overrated.  If anything, it is underrated, misunderstood, and unappreciated.  The notion that the inhabitants of heaven will spend endless days floating on clouds and playing harps is not biblical – not in the slightest!  And to prefer a stay at the Ritz to the majesty of heaven is woefully short-sighted and shows a complete ignorance of God’s revealed truth.

Take some time to read Revelation 21 and 22.  You will find God pulling back the curtain to allow the Apostle John to get a glimpse of the glories that await all followers of Jesus Christ.  It is a place that is beautiful beyond compare.  A sea of crystal, streets of transparent gold, and a new Jerusalem that is half the size of the moon – that’s beyond our ability to fully integrate into our thinking!

There is no way that with finite minds we can grasp the fullness of what an eternity with God in heaven will be like.  The greatest poet cannot capture its grandeur.  The greatest artist cannot paint its beauty.  Paul was right – “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Eternity is not clouds and harp music.  It is not endless rounds of under-par golf or endless days of catching fish.  As we open the pages of Scripture and allow God to show us what awaits His children, none of us will walk away thinking heaven is overrated; in fact, it may ignite within us a burning desire to want to spend our forever in that place!

Ready to Go to Heaven?

I remember hearing the story of a preacher conducting revival services in a large country church.  As he began to wind down his message, he asked the congregation, “How many of you want to go to heaven?”  Every hand in the place went up … except for one boy sitting on the front row of the balcony.

Thinking he may not have understood, the preacher asked again, “Now, how many of you want to go to heaven?”  Once again, every hand went up save for the boy in the balcony.  “Son,” he asked, “don’t you want to go to heaven like the rest of the people here?”

The boy replied, “Well, yes sir, but I thought you were gettin’ up a load to go right now.”

Many people claim to want to go to heaven, but few would are ready to go today.  Why is that? For some people it is because of the people they would leave behind.  For others it is because of things left undone.  And, of course, there are many who aren’t sure that heaven will be their final home.

Truthfully, none of us knows exactly when we will breathe our last.  This means we should cherish every relationship and make the most of them.  It means we should do all that we are able to do the very best of our ability while we’re here.  And it means that we should prepare ourselves for eternity.

Seeing Jesus … at Walmart

I hesitate to be overly critical of the spiritual insights or encounters that others have.  I realize that God has spoken through a burning bush and a donkey, so who am I to limit His options? Yet when I read about the engaged couple in Anderson, South Carolina who found an image of Jesus on their Walmart receipt, well, pardon me for having an ounce or two of skepticism.

It’s not that Jesus can’t be found at Walmart.  He’s there in every believer who works there, shops there, or just goes there to hang out on a Friday night.  It’s just that I’m not sure what Jesus’ supposed image on a Walmart receipt communicates.  Was He trying to say He’s blessing their marriage? Was He telling them they got a great deal? Or perhaps that they spent too much? Was He trying to say something about materialism in South Carolina? Or was Jesus giving them a way to pay for their wedding by selling the receipt on eBay?  Who knows?

So here we are with an image that could have some resemblance to Jesus, Santa, or Charles Manson for that matter.  We see something we want to see and make it mean what we want it to mean.  And that’s just the point! Jesus spoke so clearly about who He was and why He came.  He said things like, “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).  And “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies…” (John 11:25).  That is crystal clear.  He doesn’t leave us guessing.

If the Walmart receipt can be used to draw that soon-to-be-married couple into a deeper relationship with Jesus, then I’m glad for it.  But instead of looking at Walmart receipts, pieces of toast, or sweat stains on baseball caps, perhaps we would do better to open God’s Word and ask Jesus to speak to us clearly.