Before The Throne of God Above


before the throneHere are the lyrics of this hymn, with biblical references cited:

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea. (Heb 4:15-16)
A great High Priest whose Name is Love (Heb 4:14)
Who ever lives and pleads for me. (Heb 7:25)
My name is graven on His hands, (Isa 49:16)
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart. (Rom 8:34)

When Satan tempts me to despair (Luke 22:31-32)
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there (Acts 7:55-56)
Who made an end of all my sin. (Col 2:13-14)
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me. (Rom 3:24-26)

Behold Him there the risen Lamb, (Rev 5:6)
My perfect spotless righteousness, (1 Cor 1:30; 1 Peter 1:18-19)
The great unchangeable I AM, (Heb 13:8; John 8:58)
The King of glory and of grace,
One in Himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased by His blood, (Acts 20:28)
My life is hid with Christ on high, (Col 3:3)
With Christ my Savior and my God! (Tit 2:13)

This hymn draws heavily from Scripture for its pictures and language. It is a hymn which finds its theme in the perfect security which believers find in Christ, Who intercedes for them “before the throne of God above.”

Enid and I have turned into hymnologists by default. We both love the truths that are so well arranged in these hymns. As a result we have written about histories behind several hymns on the Hymns Alive and Timeless Hymns Facebook pages including the Hymns Alive blog. Recently one of the readers asked us why we love hymns. Well, this is what we have to say about our love of hymns as a couple.

The best hymns whether they are ancient or modern are a coming together of theological truth and artistic beauty.  They also are very uplifting for congregational singing.  For us, we want to leave church with the truths that we just proclaimed in song to still be ringing in our hearts and spilling over our lips throughout the week.  That is sometimes hard to do with some modern praise songs that are more performance driven. We also find that hymns also connect us to our rich Christian heritage and help to fight what C. S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery” (believing that whatever is newest is best).  “A Mighty Fortress” was written in 1527 by Martin Luther.  The Church has been singing this hymn for almost 500 years and unless Christ returns will sing it for 500 more at least!

One of the most exciting developments in recent years is the movement of not only reviving these classic hymns but of Christian artist writing new ones. Today we want to share some background information about one modern hymn. The hymn is “Before The Throne of God Above”. The text was written by Charitie Lees Bancroft and the tune by Vikki Cook. In the past one week, this has emerged as favorite for us. The hymn reflects a deep-hearted trust in Jesus as our Righteousness and only, yet sure, Hope of Heaven! Every time our church sings this hymn, we are filled both with joyful confidence in Christ as well as a humble recognition of our unworthiness and sin. This hymn points the soul to Christ with such clarity and force that few songs truly compare with it, in our opinion. What greater reason do we need to fully treasure and cling to Christ than the glorious truths contained in this song?

The Story Behind this Hymn

The hymn was originally written by Charitie Lees Smith Bancroft in 1863. But the hymn has recently been publicized by Vikki Cook, who wrote an alternate melody for it. Vikki’s husband was Sovereign Grace Ministries’ producer and director of music publishing, Steve Cook.

The author, Charitie Lees Smith, was born in 1841 in the vicinity of Dublin, Ireland (so the Gettys are not the first writers of great Irish hymns!)  . She was the daughter of a minister of the Church of Ireland. Not much is known about her life, but it appears that she was widowed twice: although she married Arthur Bancroft in 1869, she died under the name Charitie de Cheney in California in 1923. Charitie published her poetry in leaflet form as early as 1860, and a number of her collected works were eventually published as Within the Veil in 1867. “Before the Throne” was written in 1863 under the title “The Advocate.” So if you look closely at the text to this hymn, you realize that it powerfully reminds us that Jesus is our advocate before the Father. That makes sense as to why the original title was advocate. The text includes a multitude of scriptural allusions and images that assure us of the ministry of our “great high priest whose name is love.”

A couple of comments about the text of the hymn.

There are many strong teachings from this hymn, however, the opening phrases to the second stanza is most striking.   Who among us has not felt the accusatory voice of Satan when we are aware of our sin?   While the convicting voice of the Holy Spirit would lead us to repentance and the assurance of forgiveness, the accuser’s voice desires only to discourage us and lead us into a paralyzing sense of hopelessness.   We desperately need the reminder that God really does “look on Him and pardon me.”

And that would seem to be the theme of the entire text–that we have an advocate who not only pleads our case, but also accepts the penalty for our crime.   The truths are so timeless, and the tune so singable. We are confident that over time, as we continue to sing this powerful hymn, the assurance it provides will be woven into the fabric of their faith as it has been in ours.

Finally in our research about this hymn, we found the words of Paul Washer befitting as a summary. This is what Paul Washer had to say about the song:

“I’ve heard this song many times. How can you sing that song? Look at it. “Before the throne of God above I have a strong and perfect plea” If it weren’t for Christ you would have no plea at all. You would have no word at all. There would be no good word spoken for you. The only one that would stand there would be the accuser, and the charge would be guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty – and you would have no defense whatsoever, you would have no defense! But look what this says, “Before the throne of God”, not before the throne of some inferior prince or some little mayor of a small town, but before the very throne of Almighty God who rules the universe: “I have a strong and perfect plea” – and who is that? “A great high priest”! But not a great high priest like a cold administrator or a CEO. No! I have a great high priest whose name is Love who suffered everything I have suffered, who has walked my way except without sin, someone who understands everything that has ever happened to me, everything that has ever been wrong with me.

And yet he stands there. Why? Because the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13 that love endures. When there is absolutely no reason to hope in me, when there is absolutely no reason to believe me, when I failed so many times I cannot even begin to count, it says, “Love remains”. When every other characteristic and virtue walks out the door, love stands there, and that is who He is. “A great high priest whose name is Love who ever lives and pleads for me”. There are people who are on this earth who would not have one good word to speak about me. But here, the very Son of God, thrice Holy: Holy, Holy, Holy, He stands and pleads for me. There is a real sense in which, for example, sometimes when I am praying and I ask God to save a man, I can’t say “O God look at that man and save him for his own merit and worth”, because he has none! When I prayed for you, I cannot stand up here before the throne of God and say, “O God, save these people because they are so deserving”, because there is not one who is deserving. And I can’t even say, “O God, do it for me!”, because who am I? But I can say, “O God, look to your right hand, and look in the face of the one who never did anything but give you pleasure, and do it for him. Do it for him”. Next he says, “a great high priest whose name is love who ever lives and pleads for me. My name is graven on His hands. My name is written on His heart.” Carved into His hands, not with a scalpel that causes pain, scalpels are sharp because the sharper the knife, the less the pain. They are carved into His hands with nails. My name is written there. My name. It is not just that he has the name of the people of God there. It is not just a name of a multitude elect there. It is the name of each one of us. That is what is so wonderful.

You know, so many of you, like myself, you would have to say that there are many circles I don’t run in, and there are many circles I can’t run in. I simply cannot run in those circles. It’s impossible. I’m shut out. I’m not smart enough, I’m not rich enough, I’m just not good enough. I’ll never be written on their banisters. My picture will never be hung from their walls. There are so many places where I cannot go in. But here I stand. And the person of Christ before the very throne of God, and my name is not simply written in a book of life, it is carved into the hands of the One whose name is life. There is a tremendous difference.

You see, you don’t have a principle vouching for you. You don’t have a certain amount of brownies points before the throne of God that will enable you to just about get in. But you have the perfect life of the risen son of God standing there on your behalf. If God be for us, who can be against us? It always makes me so angry sometimes when I hear the way that verse is preached. You know, we say, “the devil is coming against us” or “people are against us” or “circumstances” or “health problems” and “if God be for us, who can be against us”, well that applies there, but that is just the very beginning.

That’s the foothills of the Himalayas of the meaning of that text. My dear friend, if Christ be for us, then we can stand fully accepted before the throne of God, fully accepted. And then look what it says: “My name is graven on His hands. My name is written on His heart”.

You know some people say the great sign that you have faith is if you can raise the dead. But I would like to say that the greatest sign of faith for us when we stand in front of the mirror of God’s Word, and we see our failures, and we see our wrongs and we see our blemishes and we see our spots and we see our leprosy, and what requires the greatest faith is believing that God loves us exactly the way he says He does. That’s the greatest sign of faith.

Why? Because you have never and will never ever see love like that. Not in any place is there an example of the love of God towards you, if you are in Christ Jesus. There is no example. God cannot in his omnipotence look outside of himself and point to a mother’s love, or a fathers love or the love of a person for another person and say, “behold! This love is like my love”. It is not even the beginning of His love. And so, our names are not only written on His hands externally, but our names are written on His heart. Upon His heart. Ooh how we wish that we could sing this song every night. It is the most precious word to us. Everything that is wrong with us becomes right through the truth that is in that hymn.

/// Taken from Sermon, “What is Your Ambition in Life?” by Paul Washer
Video Here:

Finally, this verse hits it home:
“These are they which follow the Lamb… they are without fault before the throne of God.” Revelation 14:4-6

Here are some links to a few different versions of the song:

 

 

Renew Them In Our Day


By Martin Ball – From the album “Come to the Throne” – Hosanna Music

hab-3-v-2Lord, I’ve heard of Your fame
Lord, I’ve heard of Your glorious ways
And I pray now, renew them in our day!
Lord, we’re seeking Your face
Lord, we stand in awe of Your ways
And we pray now, renew them in our day!
As we pray, as we seek Your face
As we pray, and by faith we see Your

Chorus
Glory cover the heavens, Your praises fill the earth
Your splendor, like the sunrise,
Reveal Your power o’er the world
You stand and the nations tremble,
You speak and mountains crumble
For You are the Lord eternal
We stand in awe of Your ways!
As we pray… renew them in our day!

Revival is one of those words thrown around by Christians, but usually in reference to all those outside the church that need Jesus. However, the word “revival” means a RE-awakening, a RE-vitalization. It is for us who were once alive, once awake, but are no longer. Revival begins with a personal choice… Revival begins with us.

Enid and I have been crying out to our Lord for true revival in our day, in our lives and in our home. Our hearts cry out for revival. Habakkuk lived at a time (around 600 BC) when justice was being perverted and strife abounded. He had heard about what the Lord had done in the past. Now his prayer was, “O Lord, revive your work in the midst of the years (i.e. right now)”. In our time make them known. As the Good News Bible puts it, “Now do again in our times the great deeds you used to do”. This has been our cry, that the Lord would renew His great works in our lives. “Revive your work, O Lord! Do it again, Lord!” Revival always requires a divine element and a human element, “a sigh of desperation followed by a ‘suddenly’ of God.” Let’s join together in prayer and worship as we ask God to breathe new life into our lives, our families, our nation, our city and the Churches.

He Looked Beyond My fault and Saw my Need


He lokked beyondBy Dottie Rambo(March 2, 1934 – May 11, 2008)

Amazing Grace shall always be my song of praise
For it was grace that bought my liberty
I do not know just how He came to love me so
He looked beyond my faults and saw my need
 

(Chorus)
I shall forever lift mine eyes to Calvary
To view the cross where Jesus died for me
How marvellous the grace that caught my falling soul
He looked beyond my faults and saw my need

If not for grace, my soul would be a drifting ship
With no safe harbor from the angry waves
But Calvary’s cross shines brightly through the darkest storm
And just in time, His mercy rescues me!

This is classic song was penned by the late Dottie Rambo around 1970. The second stanza is an addition made by David Phelps. The words ‘he looked beyond my fault and saw my need” came so strong to me today and for the rest of the day, I have mused over these words. These words pierced my heart as I sung them over and over again. I drove to places with my daughter Gloria in the car till she asked, “Dad, you seem to really like this song, are there no other songs on that CD?” I guess I had never really thought about grace being described like this. How God extended grace to me by looking beyond my faults and seeing my need – my need for a Savior, my need for forgiveness, my need for love, my need for Him.

If this is the kind of grace that God extends to me, would it not also be right to say that this is the kind of grace that I should be extending to my wife, my children and my friends and everyone.

Grace that looks beyond mistakes and sees one in need of love and attention. Grace that looks beyond the harsh words – and sees someone in need of care. God’s grace is absolutely nothing less than awesome! As true believers we need to stop every day and thank God for His grace that kept us when we were wallowing in the depths of sin and were lost and undone in all of the wrong places! Everyone needs salvation! True believers are all sinners who are saved by grace! Just as God looked beyond our faults and saw our needs, He requires us to look beyond others’ faults and to see their need for salvation! (1 Samuel 16:7), But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees: for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart”. As true believers, we are to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading when He places lost people in our pathway with whom we are to share the gospel from God’s Word! At times there can be lost people observing us, and we are unaware of their lost condition. We ought always to share the love of Jesus through our actions! Sometimes He uses us to plant the seed, and at other times He uses us to water the seed! Sometimes God leads you into so much trouble and evil so that when you return you can praise him from your heart without any personal righteousness. But be careful the big brothers may not join in your welcome party. (Romans 8:28), And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Some background story about this song

Dottie Rambo (March 2, 1934 – May 11, 2008) was an American gospel singer and songwriter. She was a Grammy and multiple Dove Award-winning artist. In the year 1970, Dottie began writing a song about the grace of God, but was unable to finish it. When her older brother was hospitalized with cancer and told that he had only weeks to live, Dottie sat by his bedside and ministered to him. Within a few days, she persuaded him to marry the woman who had borne him five children. Dottie read the Bible to him and prayed with him. So Dottie would often pray and read the Bible to her brother Eddie by his bedside. She would persuade him to give his heart to Jesus Christ. One day, after singing at a concert, she returned to ask: “Have you given your life to Jesus since I’ve been gone?” Eddie who at the time was 37, stared at her with sad eyes. “After the wicked life I’ve lived, the Lord won’t raise a person like me,” he muttered. He reminded her of his time in jail and his addiction to drugs and alcohol.

Eddie felt that the way he had lived there was no way God would take him in. The memory of his addiction to drugs and his time in jail was just too much for God to forgive, so he thought. Dottie however, reminded her brother Eddie of how the Lord left the 99 sheep and went after that one lost sheep. She continued to pray for his salvation. It was after that visit that she finished composing the song, “He Looked Beyond My Fault and Saw My Need.”

Dottie had previously started writing a song about the grace of God but was unable to finish it. Now she finally finished the song. One day after singing at a concert in Ohio, she felt persuaded that Eddie gave his heart to the Lord. She visited him and he said he gave his heart to the Lord. He was very weak at his bedside and died shortly thereafter. She sang the song at his funeral and has been sung countless times thereafter.

Beyond the inspiration of the words, there is an interesting story regarding the tune of He looked beyond my fault and saw my need. Jimmie Davis who was the governor of Louisiana at the time and a southern gospel singer herself, had attended a concert in which he heard the Happy Goodmans perform. He heard them sing one of Dottie’s songs entitled, “There’s Nothing My God Can’t Do.” He enquired about the authorship of the song and the Goodmans told her Dottie Rambo wrote it. Davis contacted Rambo and he arranged for Dottie and her family to meet the governor at the mansion in Louisiana. He had Dottie to perform and as a result he offered her a publishing contract of $3000, which was more money than Dottie had ever made. Over the course of time, Davis had requested that Rambo compose a song to the tune of “Danny Boy”, which was widely considered an Irish national anthem written by Frederick Weatherly in 1910. When Dottie finished the song, “He Looked Beyond My Fault and Saw My Need”, she set it to the Irish tune of “Danny Boy”, a Londonderry Air song.

Throughout the ’60s and ’70s, Dottie Rambo, her husband Buck, and their daughter Reba, made up The Singing Rambos, one of the most successful southern gospel trios of all time. As the group’s main songwriter, Dottie was prolific. Today, hardly any modern hymnal fails to include one or more of her 2,500 songs. Dottie’s best-known song, by far, is the inspirational “He Looked Beyond My Fault and Saw My Need.” Over the years, Dottie’s song has touched countless lives of millions of people. If it wasn’t for God’s grace, imagine where we would be today. We would be in hell.

 

 

The Anchor Holds


Written by Lawrence Chewning performed by Ray Boltz

 

I have journeyed
Through the long dark night
Out on the open sea
By faith alone
Sight unknown
And yet His eyes were watching me

CHORUS
The anchor holds
Though the ship is battered
The anchor holds
Though the sails are torn
I have fallen on my knees
As I faced the raging seas
The anchor holds
In spite of the storm

I’ve had visions
I’ve had dreams
I’ve even held them in my hand
But I never knew
They would slip right through
Like they were only grains of sand

CHORUS

I have been young
But I am older now
And there has been beauty these eyes have seen
But it was in the night
Through the storms of my life
Oh that’s where God proved His love to me

28 years on today and the anchor holds. He has shown the light around me and this is a trustworthy saying that Christ came to save sinners of whom I am the worst. Thank God for grace, I am what I am. For twenty and eight years, the Lord has done me nothing but good. I am happy today to reflect on my journey to the kingdom.

 

As I think of my journey this far, the words of this song are on my lips and here is a brief story behind this song.

 

This song has been popularized by Ray Bolz but was written by Lawrence Chewining and here is the inspiring background. The story behind the writing of this song begins in 1992 when Lawrence and his wife experienced what they called their year of sorrows.

Lawrence’s father died that year, and as a family they were facing health problems. Lawrence had come to a point of burnout from being in pastoral ministry for 19 years, and the church that he had helped plant was entering the first phases of what became a devastating split. Lawrence who was a pastor was also re-evaluating the focus of his calling. He was weary and discouraged.

Then, in the summer of ’92, Lawrence’s wife experienced her third miscarriage. They wept as they held the tiny 14-week fetus of their son in their hands. It truly felt as if their visions and dreams had “slipped right through like they were only grains of sand”. It seemed as if the best years were over.

That year, Lawrence was given a sabbatical from pastoring for six months. During that time, his wife and him grieved and prayed. Pastor Lawrence also began to play the piano again for hours at a time, alone with God. During this time of sadness and uncertainty, the Holy Spirit gave him a song which he entitled “The Anchor Holds”. As he would sing it, he began to experience God’s comfort, encouragement and hope. Eventually, fresh vision came and Lawrence entered a new phase of the calling on his life.

In the spring of 1993, Lawrence’s old friend Ray Boltz heard about the song during a time of sharing together after one of his concerts in Maine. A few months later, Ray called Lawrence and expressed interest in possibly recording it. Lawrence immediately sent the song to him “in the rough” and told him that he was free to adapt it for his purposes. Ray reworked some of the lyrics, shortened it a bit, and added a musical bridge and recorded it for his “Allegiance” project. It was released for national airplay in November 1994.

The response to this song has truly been overwhelming. “I am so grateful that God can take our broken pieces and make something of value out of them. I am also thankful Ray Boltz who saw the potential of this song and utilized it for God’s glory” said Lawrence in his testimony.

 

As I look back on my own walk with the Lord the last 28years, I find myself singing the same words. The anchor holds. This indeed for me is from a heart that has known what it really meant to be saved; to be delivered from peril by the hand of God. Like the Psalmist I express my praise and gratitude to God. While there is much to digest in Psalm 116, I have chosen for today to focus on a question raised in verse 12. “What shall I render unto Jehovah for all His benefits toward me?” Indeed we have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. (Heb 6:19). My anchor holds is a comforting truth, in any difficulty. However, the greater the storm, the more you appreciate an anchor that is completely steadfast. Perhaps that is why I’ve made it to date.

Thank you for all who have upheld me and my family in prayer over the years. Much thanks to Enid for walking the valleys and mountains with me. The anchor holds, though the ship is battered.

For that reason I will echo Psalm 116 as my tribute to the Lord. “I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the LORD; O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul. Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful. The LORD preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me. Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee. For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living. I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted: I said in my haste, All men are liars. What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. O LORD, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds. I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people, In the courts of the LORD’S house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye the LORD.”
(Psalms 116:1-19, KJV

Lessons from the Big Brother in Luke 15.


Rock at the bottomThis coming week marks  28 years since I started for the kingdom. I started my journey in fresh childlike trust and I believed that the Lord’s way was best. I would read in His word how He mothered the bird and grieve when it fell from its nest. Many times I felt His delight when I chose to do right and I prayed I would not make Him sad. I would meet my lord the cool of the day and fellowship of the brethren. What a pure sweet communion we had.

However, as I have journeyed, the road I have traveled has sometimes been steep, through wild jagged places of life. Sometimes I’ve stumbled and fallen so hard that the stones cut my soul like a knife. But the staff of my Shepherd would reach out for me. And lift me to cool pastures green With oil of the spirit anointing my wounds. There I’d rest by the clear healing stream.

Sometimes my God has led me through troubled waters, not to drown me, but to cleanse me. Oh but now more than ever, I cherish the cross. More than ever I sit at His feet. All the miles of my journey have proved my Lord true and He is so precious to me.

As I reflect on my years of my journey to the kingdom, I am reminded that others may be going through what I have experienced this far and I ask. Is love’s old sweet story too good to be true? Do you find all this hard to believe? Has the cruel world we live in so battered your heart that the hurt child inside you can’t grieve? I can’t say I blame you I’ve been where you are
But all I can say is, “It’s true.” You’re wanted, you’re precious, and you’re the love of his heart. And the old rugged cross was for you. (Adapted from Bill Gaither).

During this journey, I have learnt a few more lessons which I now share. This lesson is about the story of the prodigal son in Luke chapter 15. Not so much about the younger son who we usually concentrate on, but the older brother. I want to share my experiences about the Big brothers and sisters in our lives. Have I not met many along the way? An early reading of the Prodigal’s story this morning prompted me to quietly whisper to myself, “I am so glad the Prodigal encountered his father first when he returned home, rather than his brother.”

I know, as do you, that had he encountered his older brother first, the Prodigal would have never made it home. His brother would have rejected him and turned him back to the ‘far country.’

I know this intuitively and also empirically. I have been the Prodigal myself and oh how my big brothers have refused to join in my welcome party that the Lord has set for me. Some big brothers have rejected my testimony arguing with my dad and directly with me that I am not welcome and quote all verses to prove am a sinner and going to hell. This conduct is no less egregious. I also made the long, arduous journey home to God. And since then, I have met many others with similar stories.

Though we all rejoice at the remarkable grace that God and many of His children extended to us, eventually, we each confess encounters with the spirit of the elder brother. And we each confess that the journey back to God was made so much harder because of the hurtful behavior of Christian brothers (and sisters).

I can understand because I sometimes also think humanly speaking that the older brother was rational. In an ‘eye-for-eye’ world, in a ‘if-you-hurt-me-I-will-hurt-you’ world, the angry rejection by the older brother made sense. After all, the Prodigal did so much wrong. This is Rational.

It was also rational for the older brother to believe that he had earned his own place in the family by good behavior and that the Prodigal should no longer be in the family because of his poor behavior. The concept of earning your way IN has merit and makes sense.

It must have seemed irrational to the older brother for the Father to call the Prodigal, “son” and throw a feast for him. It must have seemed irrational to discover that good behavior, after all, is NOT what “earns” a place in the family.

It must have been confusing for the older brother to learn that belonging to the family is a gift of grace, is the prerogative of the Father and that His love doesn’t diminish when hurt and doesn’t increase when pleased. He loves at all times.

The older brother obviously didn’t have a clue what his Father’s heart was like; how gracious, forgiving and loving.

I would suggest that though the Prodigal traveled far from the Father’s house, the older brother traveled far from the Father’s heart.

It’s insightful to see the lavish love poured over the returning Prodigal. But don’t miss the Father’s love for the older brother. Realizing that His oldest son was not at the ‘Welcome Home’ celebration, the Father went to retrieve his first-born. He wanted him included in the feast and festivities, too.

God has been lavish in His love toward me – a former Prodigal. And there are some who refuse to join me in the joy of my home-coming. Some in the Christian family, avoid me in public, shun me from their activities, and don’t celebrate my return. With such “siblings,” I must keep my heart pure. I must show the mercy I wish I had been shown. I must sincerely want them to experience God’s festivities, too, in the way I had hoped they’d want to include me.

We are quick to conclude that Jesus’ story in Luke 15 is about the behavior of the Prodigal. That misses the point. It’s really a story about the behavior and heart of the older brother.

Seeing Ourselves in the Parable
There’s a good reason this short story pulls at the heartstrings of so many hearers. We recognize ourselves in it. The parable reminds us of the most painful aspects of the human condition, and those who take an honest look will recognize themselves.

For believers, the Prodigal Son is a humbling reminder of who we are and how much we owe to divine grace. For those who are conscious of their own guilt but are still unrepentant, the Prodigal’s life is a searing reminder of the wages of sin, the duty of the sinner to repent, and the goodness of God that accompanies authentic repentance.

For sinners coming to repentance, the father’s eager welcome and costly generosity are reminders that God’s grace and goodness are inexhaustible.

For heedless unbelievers (especially those like the scribes and Pharisees, who use external righteousness as a mask for unrighteous hearts), the elder brother is a reminder that neither a show of religion nor the pretense of respectability is a valid substitute for redemption.

For all of us, the elder brother’s attitude is a powerful warning, showing how easily and how subtly unbelief can masquerade as faithfulness.

Regardless of which of those categories you fall into, my prayer for you as you listen to God and search your heart. If you are a believer, may you bask in the Father’s joy over the salvation of the lost. May you gain a new appreciation for the beauty and the glory of God’s plan of redemption. And may you also be encouraged and better equipped to participate in the work of spreading the gospel.

Out of my bondage sorrow and night, Jesus I come to Thee.

 

My Toungue will be a pen of a ready Writer


By Ronnie Wilson

I hear the sound of rustling in the leaves of the trees,
The Spirit of the Lord has come down on the earth.
The Church that seemed in slumber has now risen from its knees
And dry bones are responding with the fruits of new birth.
Oh this is now a time for declaration,
The word will go to all men everywhere;
The Church is here for healing of the nations,
Behold the day of Jesus drawing near.

My tongue will be the pen of a ready writer,
And what the Father gives to me I’ll sing;
I only want to be His breath,
I only want to glorify the King.

And all around the world the body waits expectantly,
The promise of the Father is now ready to fall.
The watchmen on the tower all exhort us to prepare
And the church responds – a people who will answer the call.
And this is not a phase which is passing,
It’s the start of an age that is to come.
And where is the wise man and the scoffer?
Before the face of Jesus they are dumb.

A body now prepared by God and ready for war,
The prompting of the Spirit is our word of command.
We rise, a mighty army, at the bidding of the Lord,
The devils see and fear, for their time is at hand.
And children of the Lord hear our commission
That we should love and serve our God as one,
The Spirit won’t be hindered by division
In the perfect work that Jesus has begun.

 

In 1986, I attended a Scripture Union camp in a small town of Zambia called Kafue. It was a memorable camp for me that I still reminisce over. One of the songs that I learned at that camp was My tongue will be the pen of a ready writer”. The chorus of this song was pulled from Psalm 45.  I remember us enjoying the song.

God is still working on me – 45 Years on


Working on meA recent comment about being a man of many talents, reminded me of a conversation I had with an aunty 23 years ago. I was then 22 and she had asked me what I wanted to do with my life. My reply was that I wanted to be a jack of all trades. To which she replied, “And a master of none!”

This quote is poignant at this time in my life. On Friday, 18th July, I turn 45. I find that the older I am, the quicker each year seems to go. And every year around my birthday, I spend a bit of time reflecting on my life. What have I done? What am I doing? What has God called me to do and perhaps more importantly, what has God called me to be. It’s a time of honest appraisal. A time of reflecting on the good, the bad and the ugly. A time of reflecting on my strengths and weaknesses. My passions, friendships, relationships, and family.

As I turn 45, I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.  For some reason this seems like a more significant birthday to me than 30 or 40 was. Enid put up a nice surprise for me on my 40th but I have not given much thought about it than now.  I know some of my thoughts are a result of a few colleagues dying in their 40s and 50s. A few months ago I lost my buddy in a road accident. He was so dear to me and lived to be a true friend. Apart from the fact that  I was born on 18th July and he,  (although a year older than me), was born on the 20th of July and remembered my birthday every single year and called to say hi even after many months of silence. Ray Munsaka went to be with the Lord this year and for the first time since 1984, I am celebrating my birthday without him. The LORD Knows better! He surely was going to try and be the first to say happy birthday struggling to beat Enid  who is constantly by my side to  say so. The other legend Nelson Mandela whom I always celebrated my birthday with has lived a full 95 years and is gone back to our maker. With all this, I am left pondering – the Lord is still working on me.

At my core, I’m profoundly happy with my existence on this planet.   I’m married to an amazing person who I’ve shared my best and my worst. My direct family is healthy and very functional.   I’ve structured my life so that I get to spend most of my time on really interesting things – my family and serving God.  I get to work with fascinating entrepreneurs on long term projects that I care about almost as much as they do.  Finally, I live in what I think is one of the best towns in Africa and spend plenty of time in several great cities in the world, Lusaka, Bulawayo and Nairobi.

As my birthday nears, I am reminded that, another special season of grace and favor has come to our family. In March this year another season of mercy and love was with us when we celebrated the turning of Enid to 40. It was a special celebration of the birthday of a great woman in my life.

For 45 years now, God has continued working on me to make me what I ought to be. It took Him just a week to make the moon and stars, the sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars. How loving and patient He must be, He’s still working on me. It has been an extraordinary 45 years of being in the potter’s hand. Through it all, I have learned to trust in Jesus, I have learned to trust in God. It is not because the truth is too difficulty to see that in our lives we make mistakes, but we make mistakes because the easiest and most comfortable thing by our nature is to seek insight where it accords with our emotions – especially selfish ones. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. I am a sign and evidence of total depravity. Thank God for grace that will pardon and cleanse within. Where could I be if Jesus didn’t love me.

I have posted previously that I have had many different jobs over the years. Many more than the average person in my age bracket would have experienced. And in this regard, I did indeed become a jack of all trades. There are some jobs that I tried to do, that I absolutely failed. There are others that I was okey at. And there were others, that I nailed it. I can confidently say that those jobs that I nailed, I was good at it. But, I can’t say that I mastered any of them. For to say that would mean that I had no room to improve and nothing more to learn about that job. It would also mean that I had arrived at the top. It would mean that I had become the master!

As I look forward to what the Lord has in store for me in the coming years, I want to remind myself that I am the master of none. For we only have one master! And that is our majestic God. Our king and our friend. We only have one master and therefore we are to never be a master over any. We only have one Lord, and therefore I cannot Lord it over any. Christianity is a great leveling field. For in Christ we have no nationalities, no gender, and no social class distinctions. All are one in him. Our Lord calls us to serve him, by serving others.

No matter what I am called to do. Whether it be to preach. To write. To teach. To encourage another. To pray for someone. To counsel or sit with another and hear their story. To share the Good news that we have in Christ Jesus. I am to do it within the framework of serving the other. For its only through doing this, that indeed we will truly become the master of none!

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