My Soul, there is a country Afar beyond the stars, Where stands a winged sentry All skillful in the wars; There, above noise and danger Sweet Peace sits, crown’d with smiles, And One born in a manger Commands the beauteous files. He is thy gracious friend And (O my Soul awake!) Did in pure love descend, To die here for thy sake. If thou canst get but thither, There grows the flow’r of peace, The rose that cannot wither, Thy fortress, and thy ease. Leave then thy foolish ranges, For none can thee secure, But One, who never changes, Thy God, thy life, thy cure.
It is a beauteous evening, calm and free, The holy time is quiet as a Nun Breathless with adoration; the broad sun Is sinking down in its tranquility; The gentleness of heaven broods o’er the Sea; Listen! the mighty Being is awake, And doth with his eternal motion make A sound like thunder—everlastingly. Dear child! dear Girl! that walkest with me here, If thou appear untouched by solemn thought, Thy nature is not therefore less divine: Thou liest in Abraham’s bosom all the year; And worshipp’st at the Temple’s inner shrine, God being with thee when we know it not.
One of the main things which sent the first disciples out into the world with the message of salvation was the conviction embodied in the first Christian creed: Jesus is Lord!
It’s found in Acts 2 in one of the first sermons ever preached…let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, who you crucified, both Lord and Christ.
For those first disciples, this Lordship of Jesus was at the heart of everything.
For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.2 Corinthians 4:5
Belief and theology can get very complicated. The Church of England has 39 Articles of Belief, the Salvation Army has 11 Doctrines. The early church had just three words: Jesus is Lord!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.Philippians 2:9-11
Of course, it was only after the Resurrection that Jesus was called LORD as the highest title for him. When the word was used in the gospels, its meaning was nearer to ‘Sir’ or ‘Master’, it was only later that Jesus was distinctively and characteristically called ‘The Lord’.
There are so many names for Jesus, ‘Saviour’ being especially associated with Good Friday, and ‘Lord’ with Easter Sunday. Saviour and Lord are both important. Just like Good Friday and Easter, they go together. Accepting Jesus as Saviour implies crowning him as Lord.
We accept Jesus as Saviour on Good Friday and crown him as Lord on Easter Sunday. The two go together. On this Easter Sunday, let’s humbly bow before him and crown him Lord of all.
This devotional post follows on from last Sunday’s post. You might like to read it before continuing this post, it can be found by clicking here. Although I use a photo of food again, temptations are much deeper than just craving chocolate.
Lent is traditionally a time of fasting, but spiritually it might better be considered a time to feast. A time to feed our souls by reflecting on the events leading up to Good Friday and Easter.
Jesus resisted temptation with exactly the same resources that are available to us: namely the Word of God, prayer, self-discipline, obedience and faith. This comes as a great encouragement to us.
This wilderness experience of Jesus has much to teach us, more than might be immediately apparent, especially as the account can only have come to us from Jesus himself. He clearly wanted us to know about it.
The first thing we learn is that it’s not a sin to be tempted. Temptation isn’t the same thing as sin. If Jesus was tempted, it follows that we’re not immune. So the moment the inappropriate thought comes into our head we have a choice to accept or reject it, to act on it or dismiss it. Jesus was at his weakest, the time when temptations often come, yet he was prepared.
Temptations often come to us when we are at our weakest, and they can sometimes take us by surprise. As Christians, temptations are bound to come, we should expect them and be prepared for them.
And the nearer we are to God, the closer our walk with him, the more likely we are to be tempted. C. S. Lewis wrote: There is a silly idea about that good people don’t know what temptation means.
The second thing to learn is that temptation often comes after a spiritual high point. This was the case with Jesus. He’d just been baptised in the River Jordan, been owned by a voice from heaven, and experienced perfect communion with his heavenly Father.
After being especially aware of God’s presence in our lives is often the time when we are thrown into a wilderness experience: when doubts, fears and temptations can come flooding in. What was true for Jesus is true for us.
The third thing to learn is that it’s not the Spirit who tempts. The Spirit led Jesus into the desert, but it wasn’t the Spirit who tempted. God may allow us to be tempted, but he never tempts. The fact that Jesus was tempted alerts us to the fact that it can serve a useful purpose.
Someone has said that our character is not usually developed by drifting along in the calm waters of tranquillity.
Speaking of trials and temptations, Peter writes: These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.1 Peter 1:7
Our trials and temptations are God’s opportunities. Opportunities to be filled with the same Holy Spirit that descended on Jesus. The dove that made him gentle also made him strong.
In conclusion, Jesus was tempted to turn from the way of the cross, but he was victorious for us. His Kingdom was established and his mission fulfilled. This is perfectly expressed in Song 74 of the Salvation Army Songbook, based on Philippians 2:5-11 that I’ve written about recently.
At the name of Jesus Every knee shall bow, Every tongue confess him King of Glory now; ’Tis the Father’s pleasure We should call him Lord, Who from the beginning Was the mighty Word.
At his voice creation Sprang at once to sight, All the angel faces, All the hosts of light, Thrones and dominations, Stars upon their way, All the heavenly orders In their great array.
Humbled for a season, To receive a name From the lips of sinners Unto whom he came, Faithfully he bore it Spotless to the last, Brought it back victorious When from death he passed.
Bore it up triumphant With its human light, Through all ranks of creatures To the central height, To the throne of Godhead, To the Father’s breast; Filled it with the glory Of that perfect rest.
In your hearts enthrone him; There let him subdue All that is not holy, All that is not true; Crown him as your captain In temptation’s hour; Let his will enfold you In its light and power.
Isaiah 46 contains two sharply contrasting pictures; the first is of people carrying their god, the second one is of God carrying his people.
Isaiah can’t help smiling when he sees the shallow religion of the nations around Israel, what a miserable thing it must be to have a god who is a burden, who has to be carried from place to place. So he draws a humorous picture of a glittering god that looks great, but needs half a dozen men to carry it, a useless burden that weighs them down.
The second picture is of God our Heavenly Father, who carries his people from before birth, through life and past death into eternity.
These two pictures represent two types of religion. On the one hand, one that has to be carried, that’s a burden, that’s a duty, that weighs us down and wears us out. On the other hand, one that worships a God who upholds with his powerful arms, one that carries us, lifts us, lightens our spirits and fills us with peace and joy.
I know which religion I prefer! Unfortunately, there are some Christians who choose the heavy, burdensome religion. Is it any wonder people reject it?
The disciples who met the Risen Jesus on the Emmaus Road recognised him when he broke bread. Their spirits were lifted: Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?Luke 24:32
Come, blessed Jesus, come; Break bread again for me; Lord open Thou my eyes that I Thy living self may see. Then joy shall fill my heart, My strength be all renewed To witness of Thy death and life, By Thine own power endued.
As we open ourselves up to God our Heavenly Father, and as we come humbly into his presence, he lifts us up and fills us with his nature.
Let’s not be content with a religion of strain and struggle, fear and duty, heavy hearts and clouded faces, when we can have a faith that carries our burdens, lightens our spirits and fills us with love, joy and peace.
True faith is attractive, it draws others to Christ. May we never turn antone away because our religion is joyless, judgemental and narrow. See: 1 John 5:3-4
Jesus condemned the religious leaders of his day because of the heavy loads they put on the people. See: Matthew 23:1-4
How refreshing, then, are the words of Jesus: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.Matthew 11:28-30
May that be real in our lives, and may we share it with those around us, as we recognise the true nature of God our Heavenly Father.
I read this poem the other day and, apart from the general ideas it conveys, I feel it’s especially appropriate in the current situation of coronavirus pandemic lockdown. Many of us are finding it difficult working from home (or in restricted circumstances) and are not as productive as we normally would be. But if we ‘have lived for today’ as best we can, we can truly say ‘I have had my hour’.
Happy the man, and happy he alone,
He who can call today his own:
He who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.
Be fair or foul or rain or shine
The joys I have possessed, in spite of fate, are mine.
Not Heaven itself upon the past has power,
But what has been, has been, and I have had my hour.
Most glorious Lord of Lyfe! that, on this day,
Didst make Thy triumph over death and sin;
And, having harrowd hell, didst bring away
Captivity thence captive, us to win:
This joyous day, deare Lord, with joy begin;
And grant that we, for whom thou diddest dye,
Being with Thy deare blood clene washt from sin,
May live for ever in felicity!
And that Thy love we weighing worthily,
May likewise love Thee for the same againe;
And for Thy sake, that all lyke deare didst buy,
With love may one another entertayne!
So let us love, deare Love, lyke as we ought,
—Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.
Prayer: O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.