The Fiery Furnace

 

Turning Up the Heat

Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Daniel 3:13-18

 

We are all familiar with this story. It reads like juvenile fiction: a group of three teenaged friends who refuse to compromise their principles, even with the means of their death blazing before them.

But let’s try to suspend our preconceived associations and look more closely at the story. The three friends had been trapped, ratted out by some of the other members of the Wise Men Guild (specifically named as “astrologers” in v.8). They were summoned and stood in front of the throne of the king, and issued an ultimatum: Bow down or perish!

At this moment, the hornist, flautist, zitherist, lyrist, harpist, piper, and all the other musicians on the worship team are looking at their drummer, waiting for him to click in a tempo to start their next tune. But before two clicks are completed, the three lads interrupt the service to make an important pronouncement. They will not bow down. They will not serve a false god. They will not worship an image of gold.

This story encourages us to be faithful to what is true, no matter what the cost. But listen to their words. They are not claiming certain victory. There is an element of resignation in their voices. In fact, an alternate reading of the original Aramaic in verse 17 says “If the God we serve is able to deliver us, then he will deliver us from the blazing furnace.”

“Even if he does not”? What sort of faith is that? Obviously these young men had never read The Power of Positive Thinking. These were not charismatic believers. They had not heard of the “word of faith,” the “name-it-and-clam-it” theology of health and wealth and wish-fulfillment. No, they freely acknowledged that they may be broiled to a crisp in the furnace and permanently silenced.

Why were they so blasé about their imminent, horrific, sizzling fate? Did they lack faith? If we interpret the Scriptural narratives as providing examples for us to emulate, what ought we to emulate here?

Let us hear what the three friends are saying. “We may or may not have a miraculous experience here,” they said. “We may not see something spectacular. But we will be true to the revealed Word. We will not willfully violate the First and Second of the Ten Commandments.” Their commitment was to remain true to God because of what He had already revealed to them, and not to a possible future experience.

Nice group, but where’s your zitherist?

In the 21st-century church, when we hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, we know that worship service is underway. We react in anticipation. Our songs reflect our expectations: “Send your Spirit,” we plead. “Fill this place with your grace.” “Come into this room.” We are a needy people. We express our neediness in our pleading songs. We long for some sort of unique or special experience to transform us now.

I apologize for harping (pun intended) on the same point as the previous post, but this is heavy on my heart right now. I believe our worship music reflects precisely where we have lost a key lesson of the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Instead of declaring our faith in the God who has already redeemed us and blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3), instead of standing on the promises, instead of singing “How Firm A Foundation,” we ask for more.

I would encourage Christian worshipers to learn the New Testament truths about what Christ has already accomplished on our behalf, and so worship God with gratitude and humility. I would encourage Christian worship leaders to think carefully about the implied messaging of the music used in a service. And I would encourage Christian songwriters to work harder to avoid the easy clichés and patter of contemporary worship music, and to think carefully about lyrical content and its congruence to Biblical theology.

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Ask For More

The Adequacy of the Blessing

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness…” 2 Peter 1:3

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”  Ephesians 1:3

Some time ago, I found myself in an unusual financial dilemma. Things were tight in those days, and the bank account hovered near zero. The next paycheck, thanks to a holiday extending the weekend, was still four days away. A grim weekend loomed, with no disposable capital.

But wait! In the afternoon mail on the last day before the long weekend, a check arrived. The amount was significant enough to transform a dismal soup-and-macaroni weekend into something much more.

But alas, the banks would not open for four more days. I had the money in hand (sort of); it belonged tome fully. But it was in a form that was inaccessible to me. Accordingly, I was forced to live like a pauper through the weekend until I could both deposit the check and receive the regular paycheck. I ate soup and macaroni from the pantry, when (by rights) I could have been dining out at fine restaurants.

Sadly, I view this as an apt metaphor for the lives of many Christian believers, my sisters and brothers in the faith. Lacking adequate teaching about the abundant blessings that already belong to them, they live as paupers, eking out a meager Christian life without joy or contentment. They hold in their hands a check worth thousands of dollars, yet they plead with God to give them something more, something new, something shiny.

Why do I suspect this is true? Two reasons: First, from teaching adult Christian-education classes, I am painfully aware that Christians are not only unaware of the blessings that are theirs in Christ, but (amazingly) actively hostile to teaching about them. They will deny what God has done on their behalf, and insist on a “skin-for-skin” spirituality that sees God as a stingy dispenser of blessings to those who earn them in some manner. They deny grace, and desire a system of law and duty.

Second, I can hear it in the songs that are sung. As a musician, worship leader, and songwriter (shameless plug here) I try to keep abreast of the newest developments in Christian worship music. We seem to have entered a period where the main element in our worship lyrics, the chief concept we wish to express, is not gratitude or praise. We instead come to God to present a petition, a plea to send a new experience our way.

The Song of Pleading

This in itself would not be bad, except that this pleading tone seems to dominate our worship times. By repeatedly leading the the assembled church in expressing their need for new experiences, we as worship leaders are reinforcing the notion that the congregation’s current Christian experience is inadequate. It lacks something. We too rarely sing songs that simply declare New Testament truths about our identity, our redemption, or the blessings we already possess. Our Christian experience may in fact be inadequate — but the answer is not to beg for some new revelation or blessing. The answer is to learn to appreciate the rock-solid truths of the New Testament, and own them. The answer is to marinate in these truths until they affect our thinking, our emotional states, our sense of self.

The first-century heresy of Gnosticism, though not explicitly defined by the New Testament writings, apparently derived some of its appeal from the susceptibility of Christians to this kind of approach: “You need more; they haven’t told you everything; there’s something greater out there if you will reach out for it.” To this kind of thinking the apostle John wrote forcefully that believers should stand on what they a.ready know. “Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard”  (1 John‬ ‭2:7‬). John is the consummate conservative, urging his flock to stay true to what has already been revealed, and not to seek out new experiences and revelations.

My admonition to you, Christian believer, is to study the truth of the New Testament. Be wary of teachings (sometimes coming in the form of songs) urging you to yearn for a new experience, or implying that you have missed out. You already have “every spiritual blessing in Christ”! Read the rest of Ephesians chapter 1, and take those truths to heart.

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My Lord My Life My All

Watchman Nee (1903-1972).

Watchman Nee (1903-1972).

Here is the finished version of the hymn mentioned in an earlier post. Words are an adaptation of several sentences from Watchman Nee, as collected in the book “Gleanings in the Fields of Boaz.” The melody is limited to the five tones of the pentatonic scale, a subtle tribute to Pastor Nee’s people and their music.
My Lord My Life My All (Nee)_Page_1
My Lord My Life My All (Nee)_Page_2

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The Abolition of the Gospel

A speech to Progressives

We on the port side have enjoyed some victories. Let us raise a glass.

Oh, I know, some of you view these recent regressive legislative actions as a setback. The so-called “religious freedom” laws passed in Indiana and Arkansas can be perceived as a blow to our cause. But these are only temporary battles, small losses on the way to stupendous wins.

Look how quickly our allies have come to our rescue! Look how swiftly the voices and fists of Progress have risen up and embarrassed the backward Christians! All of our forces – the media, academia, labor, politicians – are in full readiness, to be marshaled against the enemy. We are in exciting times.

I urge you, comrades, to keep your eyes on the prize! While it is indeed gratifying to put the squeeze on recalcitrant Christian bakers and florists, and watch them squirm and die, remember the goal – the abolition of the gospel. Imagine a bright future, free of calls to “repent”!

How do we reach this wondrous tomorrow, friends? Remember that the task before us is to clear the public space of this pernicious evil, this awful notion that people can change what they are born to be. We must purge from the public mind the stupid and unbearable phrase “born again” – as if human organisms could actually become new persons through some mere affirmation! We must scour out every last vestige of sexual repression and Victorian modesty, anything that impinges upon our liberty. That is our objective. A bright future of unhindered moral and sexual autonomy awaits us, if we remain steadfast.

As you know, our next target, the big game now coming into the cross-hairs, is these large churches with nice buildings. As a matter of strategy I would recommend we target evangelical churches first, rather than Catholic ones. (Catholics, we find, tend to muster tremendous popular support when directly attacked, due to their deeper roots.) Visit the largest evangelical church in your municipality. Listen to a few messages first, to get a flavor for the odious and obnoxious anti-gay agenda they are relentlessly promoting. Talk to some of the people, to get a sense of the hatred and anger oozing from them. Then, make a few phone calls. Inquire as to the facility’s availability for an upcoming nuptial ceremony. After some time, mention casually that the ceremony is for a same-sex couple. Inevitably, the church representative will offer an awkward silence, then politely decline. This is your moment. End the call. Reach out to your media contacts. It’s “go time.” Arrive at the church with a TV cameraman or reporter along (trust me, they’re down with the struggle, all of them), and get the pastor’s refusal on record. Then, sit back and enjoy the backlash. Politicians will rally to your side. The media will give your cause hours and hours of free PR, and always sympathetic. One of their greatest skills is their ability to make your opponents look foolish. Let them do that. The pastor and his minions will try to rationalize. They will insist on making a distinction between their unwillingness to perform a ceremony and their feelings toward the people requesting it. They will try (pathetically) to separate what they call “the sin” and “the sinner.” You do not need to respond to this. The press (true allies, but largely thickheaded) will be unable to parse such fine distinctions, so you can be confident that none of it will filter through to hoi polloi.

In this battle, often our best allies are the liberal churches. They are the useful idiots in our cause, because they radiate an aura of credibility and friendly compromise. Find a pastor of such a church, a kindly old man or woman who is articulate. There is no better person to put in front of the TV cameras. It is like deadly neurotoxin to an evangelical.

If all goes well (and we fully expect it will), our friends in the government will respond to media pressure (I hesitate to say “popular pressure,” because our numbers are so few, but luckily the media kaleidoscopically increases our apparent numbers and influence). They will do what we ask: revoke tax-exempt status of churches that refuse to submit. Revoke their license to perform marriages under the State. Confiscate their property. Seize their assets.

“Shut them up and shut them down” is our motto.

This will take time. The battle will rage, but the momentum is with us. Stand firm. Use your Phrasebook. “Hate” turns out to be a very useful word. Concede nothing. Victory is certain. Pretty soon, that pastor and his benighted, backward, mouth-breathing followers will be out on the street and you (as a bonus) will have that nice building! And one more pesky, annoying voice screeching “repent” will be thankfully silenced.

So I say, stay the course. Be confident. History is on our side. Together we shall have victory.

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Why I Am Not a ‘Red-Letter Christian’

There is a movement among modern church, a group of people who identify themselves as “Red-Letter Christians,” The name comes from the common practice of Bible publishers to set off the words of Jesus in a red typeface.

WORDS OF CHRIST IN RED

WORDS OF CHRIST IN RED

I do not use a “red-letter” Bible, and I do not recommend it for others. My understanding of the inspiration of Scripture (and I think I am not alone in this) is that it extends to ALL the Biblical authors, not merely those writers who were transcribing the words of Jesus. That is, Romans 8:1 (“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”) is equally inspired as John 3:3 (“You must be born again,” words attributed by John to Jesus himself).

But my objection to the “red-letter” phenomenon is deeper than this. I believe the greatest danger facing the church today is the lack of emphasis on grace, and the attendant legalism and rules-based discipleship that emerges where grace is poorly understood.

The enthusiasm for this “red-letter” style of discipleship exacerbates this problem.

By emphasizing the teaching of Christ above the rest of the New Testament, these believers think they are standing strong for Jesus. But, as Martin Luther reminds us, the chief division in the Bible is not between Old and New Testaments, but between Law and Gospel. There is some Gospel in the Old Testament, but mostly Law. The four “gospels,” despite the name, are a mixture of Law and Gospel (as we shall see shortly). The Epistles are almost entirely free of Law. The Epistles speak to our current situation as Christians more directly than does the Old Testament or the gospels. This is because they are directed at an audience that is a mostly-Gentile body of redeemed believers.

The Law of the Old Testament never applied to Gentiles; it was a set of moral and civil and ceremonial regulations directed at a specific people (the Israelites) for a specific time (up to the coming of their Messiah). Its chief value to us is as a means of understanding something of the holiness and majesty and sovereignty of God. It is a useful instrument in the hands of the apologist and the evangelist, who can show by the Law that human beings fall short of the glory of God and are in desperate need of redemption.

But for those of us who already have placed our faith in Jesus the Messiah, the Law has finished its job. We may “cheerfully ignore it,” as Luther suggests. This is how the two irreconcilable verses are reconciled:

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,  by setting aside [or ‘abolishing’] in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations.

Ephesians 2:14-15

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven…”

Matthew 5:17-19

For the New Testament believer, living in the age after the Cross, the Law has been set aside, abolished. It no longer has any claim upon him. Its work is done, as Paul says:

Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

Galatians 3:23-25

What about the Matthew passage, you ask? Think of the circumstances prevailing at the time of the Sermon on the Mount:

  1. The crowd was close to 100% Jewish.
  2. The Cross was still in the future.
  3. The listeners were under obligation to the Law.

The Gospels describe a large number of situations where Jesus brought not Gospel, but Law to his hearers. Consider, for example, this very poor evangelism episode:

Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

Matthew 19:16

This is what’s called a Huge Opening. Evangelicals are trained for this very moment, to have a ready answer for the one who asks about eternal things. Surely, if ever, this was the moment to whip out the Four Spiritual Laws, or the Bridge of Life, and escort this willing fellow straight into the Kingdom! Hallelujah, what a Savior! Another soul won for the Lord!

But what does Jesus say to him? This will be disappointing to any Campus Crusader or Navigator:

Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

Sorry, Jesus. You’ve done it all wrong. That can NOT be the right way to win this man. “Keep the commandments”? Seriously? You give him more Law? More of what he’s already found to be insufficient? Are you trying to drive him away?

It is a strange response, viewed from our perspective as post-Cross Gentile believers. We have to approach this text as it is given to us, and ask honestly why Jesus gave this answer on this particular day.

Remember that in the remainder of the story, the man first claims to have perfectly kept the Commandments (the 613 mitzvahs of the Torah) since he was a boy (according to the Luka account); presumably, since he made his bar mitzvah at about age 13. From that day he became a “bar mitzvah,” a son of the commandment. Surely Jesus knew this answer was coming; his whole ministry he had been dealing with people who claimed moral perfection on the basis of their understanding of the Law (the Sermon on the Mount was a strong slap to such self-righteous thinking). This fellow was not to be dissuaded from his yeshiva training. He was righteous, according to everything he knew, so why did he still feel this lack of something?

Jesus has no reassurance to give him, Instead he loads him up with an extra commandment:

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

The result? The man “went away sad.” Again I ask you, is this any way to do street evangelism?

Now, the point is to come to this realization: The “gospels” – the four books recounting the life and ministry of Jesus, where all the “red letters” are – contain many stories in which the Gospel is absent, episodes that one would have to classify as pure Law. Jesus’ command to this man was made in recognition of his status as a Jewish man under the Law. The Law had not yet completed its work in him; perhaps (due to his own stubbornness, and not any fault in the Word of God; cf Isaiah 55:10-11) it never did. This is not to say that Jesus came to preach the Law to everyone; he clearly did not. But the words that we find in the “red letters” are often words of Law, which have no immediate bearing on our lives as post-Cross believers.

I am not a “red-letter Christian,” not because I reject the words of Jesus (far from it; they are the source of the Gospel!), but because I stand on the grace of God as expressed in the Epistles, especially the letters of the Apostle Paul. Those writings, more than anything else, have changed my life and brought me into a truer understanding of the riches of God’s grace.

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The American Fortress

The American Fortress House.

The American Fortress House.

Modern American architecture reflects our priorities as people:

  • Minimal front porch. Nobody spends time in the front of the house, where they might be seen. The big “porch” is the elaborate multi-level deck, on the back of the house, away from people, overlooking a backyard completely surrounded by fencing and trees.
  • Electric garage door, with no external handle. It’s like a drawbridge. You have to know the secret password to give to the castle guards in order for them to let you in.
  • No sidewalk (typically). Most suburban neighborhoods are designed solely for automobile travel, humans riding in fully-enclosed protective hermetically-sealed  glass carriages.

This American cultural phenomenon, the fortress home, made a strong impression on me after my return from eighteen months in India. In India things are, well, different. (Not always better, just different.) You can’t avoid other people. The whole landscape is other people. I suppose some very rich Indians might build and inhabit fortress-style homes, and maybe in two hundred years that will be the trend there also.

One of my favorite parables speaks to this:

Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.

Luke 14:31-32

We all have our personal fortresses. Americans are probably more prone to this mentality than most other people. Whether it is a physical home arranged so as to repel intruders, or a psyche constructed to keep others at a distance, we all build these fortresses, these little kingdoms of our own devising. But God is coming, invading the life of every human being. We fancy ourselves to be safe in our fortresses, insulated from harm and the elements. We find ourselves to be self-sufficient, content, having laid up goods for ourselves.

The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.

Luke 12:16-21

This is the American fortress-dweller, self-satisfied and fat. But God is coming, invading the life of every human being. The invasion cannot be avoided or postponed or prevented. It can, however, be resisted. Like the king in the first parable, we are all faced with a simple choice when confronted with the  overwhelming invasion force of God:

  1. Resist. Fight to the death. Defend the fortress.
  2. Surrender. Accept His terms.

Jesus coyly says “and if not,” suggesting to his hearers the wisdom of the king who carefully considers the situation and concludes (correctly) that resistance is a foolish strategy that will be the end of him and his kingdom.

God is coming, invading the life of every human being. Our pathetic little kingdoms – our pride and self-centeredness, the miniature decorated universes in which we portray ourselves as kings – are about to be uprooted by a greater force. We can try to preserve our kingdoms by fighting to the death, a strategy which will end with our own destruction and the certain end of our kingdoms.

Much better then, to accept the terms of peace: Reconciliation to God, a full surrender to Him, trusting thereafter in His benevolence. In the end, we survive, and we will enjoy a life of peace and safety and freedom in a far larger and more wondrous kingdom than the one we were once so reluctant to leave behind.

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No Pleasure in Understanding

“A fool finds no pleasure in understanding, but delights in airing his own opinions.”  Proverbs 18:2

For many years I have found the reassurance of conviction in this verse from the Proverbs. At times I know I have been far too quick to express my own thoughts. Hypocrite that I am, I commonly disparage this trait in others as “having a transponder stuck in SEND mode,” because the person who airs his or her own opinions is unable to hear the opinions of others.

And now it strikes me that I have always ignored the first half of the verse. I have viewed this verse (perhaps rightly) as motivation to shut up, but have I used it to inspire a sense of “pleasure in understanding”?

The verse strictly describes a “fool” as one who 1) “finds no pleasure in understanding” and 2) “delights in airing his own opinions.” The description given to us has to do with “pleasure” and “delight” – the things that inspire and titillate a person. So how does one describe the “anti-fool”? Would it no be the exact opposite of these two propositions? Would be be equivalent to say the following:

“A wise person delights in understanding; he takes no pleasure in airing his own opinions.”

Looking at it this way reveals something that was hidden (maybe to me only) before: What is the exact opposite of a person who delights to air his own opinions? Is it someone who simply keeps quiet? No, it is (according to this proverb at least) a person who finds pleasure in understanding. That means that he not only refrains from speaking when he could, but he listens to the opinions of others. He delights in hearing them speak, even if he disagrees, because exposure to a wide range of contrary opinions is the most intellectually healthy environment for personal development. It fosters understanding. And we want to be people who take pleasure, who delight in understanding.

The path of understanding, then, does not lie in isolation from the ideas of those who think differently. It lies in the difficult, thorny, humbling way of listening to the opinions of those with whom we may disagree. The process requires us to consider how their thoughts and values led them to the opinions they express, and causes us to reflect on, and perhaps modify, our own ideas.

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Our Redeemer

Last musical post for now, I promise.

This is the result of a three-day frenzy of creative activity in August 2012:

  • Wednesday, 29-Aug: wrote the song.
  • Thursday, 30-Aug: Recorded all the tracks (8).
  • Friday, 31-Aug: Recorded the video.

 

(Please, no snarky comments about my drumming technique. And surely the decision to attempt the high note near the end might best be re-considered. It’s a demo. The point is the song, not the performance.)

Here are the lyrics:

OUR REDEEMER

Lyrics and music copyright 2012 Scott P Shafer. All rights reserved.

We sing our song to You
We belong to You, our Redeemer!
Lord, You have made us one
In your blessed Son, our Redeemer!

We glorify, we magnify
We lift Your mighty name on high!
On high!

We lift our voice to you,
We rejoice in You, our Redeemer!
We worship You alone,
Dance before your throne, our Redeemer!

We glorify, we magnify
We lift Your mighty name on high!
On high!

Na na na na, na na na na, our Redeemer!

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Redeemer King (Hymn)

Here is yet another hymn, “Redeemer King.” (Don’t worry; pretty soon I will have used them all up, and I will have to move on to posting other things.)

Redeemer King (hymn)

Lyrics (as text):

1. I sing to You, the Crucified
For my offense You bled and died
Endured the cross, despised its shame
That I might bear Your holy name.

2. You drank the cup Your Father gave
You knew the path led to the grave
You bore the cross to Calvary,
And suffered there, and died for me.

3. No devil’s scheme, no mortal man
Can turn aside Your perfect plan
No mountain height, no depth of sea
Can separate Your love from me.

4. So let the world deride and scorn,
My hope is sure, my vict’ry won *
I stand with You, Redeemer King
Through endless days Your praise to sing.

* Alternate lyric: “My hope is sure; I am reborn!”

possible verse between 2 & 3:

And though your truth the world denies,

I to the hills lift up my eyes

You are my Lord, my Sun and Shield

My Source of light, the truth revealed.

 

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Conspectu Domini (Another Hymn)

As long as I have some momentum, might as well keep on posting in the same vein. Here is another hymn I composed a few years back:

Psalm 116 Hymn

(Note: Astute readers may have noticed, as I just did, that the meter “8.8.8.8.8.8” is totally wrong; it should be “11.10.11.10.11.10”. I’ll fix that.)

The lyrics, as text, are below. It is a paraphrase of Psalm 116. I am thinking that Verse 4 would be used only for memorial services.

1. I love you, Lord, who hears my supplication,
You answered me when difficulties came.
In my distress and fearful tribulation,
I turned to You and called upon Your Name.
All-gracious Lord, the bringer of salvation,
You saved my soul and took away my shame.

2. My soul finds rest in You who are all-giving,
You make me stand and wipe away my tears.
You fill my mouth with anthems of thanksgiving,
For You have stilled and quieted my fears.
I long to walk with You among the living,
To see Your face throughout the endless years.

3. Lord, You deserve all praise and adoration,
Your grace abounds; how shall I now repay?
I shall rejoice among Your congregation,
And laud the goodness of Your righteous ways.
I will lift up a song of celebration,
Fulfill my vows, and serve You all my days.

4. O gracious Lord, how blessed are Your people!
Their passing on is precious in Your sight.
They fly to You on mighty wings of eagles,
Their youth restored, to walk with You in white,
To gain the kingdom of the just and peaceful,
Never again to fear the dark of night.

 


PSALM 116

I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy.
Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
I suffered distress and anguish.
Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!”

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful.
The Lord preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.
For you have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling;
I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.

I believed, even when I spoke: “I am greatly afflicted”;
I said in my alarm, “All mankind are liars.”

What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord,
I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.

O Lord, I am your servant;
I am your servant, the son of your maidservant.
You have loosed my bonds.
I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord!

 

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