Archive | November, 2011

Looking at Scripture: Ephesians 2:1-10

29 Nov

You were dead men: dwelling in sin and selfishness; living for the cares of this world alone; giving into the desires planted in your heart by the spirit of this earth. It was his presence, not God’s, that you felt coursing through you; the lord of the air whose mark is upon the sons of disobedience. But not just you, we too had once abandoned ourselves to the desires of the flesh. We too were natural children of wrath. But God, who is rich in mercy, through his great love brought us out of the realm of the dying; and raised us up to the realm of life in Christ. You have been saved by grace. You have been revived in Christ, so that you may show others the surpassing abundance of grace and kindness that God has given you. For the faith we share does not come from within, but is a gift from God. Our joy comes from nothing we have done, lest we get prideful, but it comes from Him. We are His handiwork, made in His image; called to model Christ and follow his teachings and pursue good works. [Reference: ESV, Lattimore]

We tend to dwell in the life. But we must acknowledge our death. For sin is the constant tug at the heart strings towards self involvement and fractured focus towards the desires of this world. So often we fail to see our disobedience. We stash our sin away, but our hearts and eyes give us away. The lord of the air is very aware of our actions, our dark thoughts, our callous words and behaviors. He feeds off of them. He rewards us for our disobedience. But we who proclaim Christ as savior must not get lost in the sinful sea. Our joy is in Christ who cleanses us of our sin. Our faith is in God, in Truth. In His handiwork we see how majestic are his ways. We must learn to recognize the child of God in the mirror and pursue the mind of Christ, by the Spirit, in order to be set free from our sin.

Lord, the tangle of my sin and my selfishness distract from my devotion to you. I get tangled up in the weeds and fail to bear the fruit you desire. I recognize the sons of disobedience because I was one of them. And I fall too easily back into their behaviors. I feel the lord of the air breathing down my neck and I run back towards my savior. Revive me oh Christ. Let my faith be the filter which keeps me from harm. Let my joy, my hope be in you. Help me to pursue your word, your way, your truth. Amen.


Looking at Song | O Store Gud (How Great Thou Art)

9 Nov

I love when a song has such a rich history–the telling of which sparks movies in the mind. Such is the case with “How Great Thou Art”(aka “O Store Gud” – “Oh Mighty God”).

Carl Gustav Boberg was walking home from an afternoon service at his church near Kronoback, Sweden when the peal of church bells suddenly gave way to a peaceful winter calm. He looked out over Monsteras Bay and the radiant sun filled him with momentary awe, only to be broken by the presence of a thundercloud stealing away the light and flashing it’s might across the sky as the storm it led came into full view. Once home he heard church bells ringing in the distance. Gazing out the window the glorious scenes of the day poured into his mind and he wrote this hymn which was first published in 1886 in Swedish.

In 1907 the song was translated from Swedish to German and popularized under the title “Du grober Gott.” (“O Mighty God”) A few years later, in 1912, the song made it’s way to Russia where it was called “Velikly Bog” (“Great God”). The first English translation appeared in 1925 under the title “Oh Mighty God”:

Oh Mighty God, when I behold the wonder
Of nature’s beauty, wrought by words of thinge,
And how thou leadest all from realms up yonder,
Sustaining life with love benign.

In 1931 a British missionary names Stuart Wesley Keene Hine head the Russian translation while in the Ukraine. He was the one who created the English paraphrase known as “How Great Thou Art.” He is also responsible for adding added the very powerful 3rd verse:

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

After World War II Hine’s wrote additional verses. One of which went like this:

O when I see ungrateful man defiling
Bounteous earth, God’s gifts so good and great;
In foolish pride, God’s holy Name reviling,
And yet, in grace, His wrath and judgment wait.

Hines’ final version was published in 1949. It was introduced in American in 1951.  It became a signature song in the Billy Graham crusades of the 1950s–popularized by George Beverly Shea.

In 1957 a version of the hymn was commissioned by Intervarsity which harkened back to the Boberg original.

The United Church of Christ released a revised version of the hymn in 1995, which uses the refrain:

My soul cries out in songs of praise to you.
O mighty God! O mighty God!

This hymn is one that has now been translated in a multitude of languages around the globe from Spanish to Swahili to Slovak and Vietnamese.

It is hard not to get caught up in ardent praise as you belt out:

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:
How great thou art, How great thou art.


[Sources: Trinity Hymnal; Wikipedia]

Looking at Scripture | Mark 3:20-27

9 Nov

Jesus had been out speaking to the multitudes. He and the twelve return by boat. Jesus heads back to the house where he is staying. He sits down to eat with friends. The towns people, hearing that Jesus is there, begin to fill up the house. He recounts stories of the day. Soon there are so many people in this house, that those who were eating can no longer raise their bread to their mouths. Jesus’ family hears of this gathering and squeezes their way into the house to take Jesus away. His brothers shout, “He’s out of his mind, people. Let us through so this crowd can be dispelled.” His kin were not the only ones who wanted to discredit Jesus. Scribes appeared in the house as well. “He is not out of his mind, rather he is possessed by a demon. By Beelzebub. For he who drives out demons could only be a demon himself.” Christ then stands, calms his family, and addresses the scribes in parables. “How is it that Satan can drive out Satan?” Then turning their conventional wisdom upon them he says, “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. AND (addressing his family members) if a house is divided against itself that house will not be able to stand. AND if Satan rises up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand but comes to an end.”

There is a lot going on in this passage. There’s a lot going on. Jesus returning. Hoping to finish out his day with a quiet meal and conversation with his friends. But what he gets instead is more of what he’s encountered already that day. People anxious to connect, to hear what he has to say, to be healed by his hands, to cast the demons out of their lives and experience life anew in Christ. And because of this they come in droves–filling up the place where he is. His family shows us. They think he’s nuts. And while Christ loves his family, his heavenly position and duty to God take precedence. Then we have scribes (always a pleasant bunch) who have come to chastise him. They seek to cast doubt into the hearts of the crowd. [Remember this was a house packed wall-to-wall with people by the time these guys arrive.] his family proclaims to the crowd that he’s loony. The scribes say he’s a demon. A servant of Satan. Jesus then rebukes the scribes and his family. And in so doing makes a little dig at the religious establishment. For just as Christians today are divided; certainly the Jews in Jesus own day were divided. Ultimately his goal was to rally the troops. To gather people in unity of purpose, belief and faith. That all would one day be ushered into the Kingdom of Heaven.

God help us to pay attention to Jesus’ words. His teaching, his parables, his warnings. Help us to listen to one another. To seek to build one another up in Christ and not tear down what you have built. Let us gather in your house, engage in lively discussion, and break bread together. Let us think before accusing our brothers. But also let us not forget that there is real evil in this world. We do have an enemy. He does not celebrate our progress or our unity. He’d rather have us fragmented. Accusing one another. Confusing our flock for his own. Lord, give us strength, wisdom, patience, kindness, discernment and right minds as we pursue your truth.