"In the Garden" by Susan Scott 4/17/19

And after He had dismissed the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone. —Matthew 14:23

 One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to pray in His temple.—Psalm 27:4

The hymn "In The Garden" was a favorite of my grandfather "Pa" and my grandmother "Nannaw" often played it beautifully on their piano.  Pa was a godly man who cherished time alone with the Father, especially as he worked outside in his large garden in Lexington and later walked barefoot on the sandy beaches of Gulf Coast Florida.  His love for the Lord left a timeless impression on myself and my sister.

I love this song because it so perfectly describes my heart whenever I enter into God's presence during a private time of prayer.  He is always there to meet me and listen to me and love me, as only He can.  As the lyrics say, "He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own."  What can be better than that?  He, Almighty God, the Creator of all, calls me, a sinner saved by grace, "His own.”

The verse from Matthew teaches us that Jesus took Himself away to pray alone to His Father and we learn from other Scriptures that this was a normal pattern for Him. If Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, needed time alone with God, how much more do we need that time?

Through Jesus Christ, we have entered into a relationship with God and He invites us to come closer: to experience a deep, intimate relationship that is precious  and everlasting. I hope and pray that each of us will accept His invitation and set aside time to be alone with God, our Father.  He is waiting for you and for me.  I promise you will be amazed in His Presence and I believe you will find yourself confessing with the Psalmist in Psalm 27 that this is the One thing you desire above all, spending time alone with the Lord.

PRAYER: Lord God, thank you for loving me so much that You have made a way, through Your Son Jesus Christ, for me to come and pray at any time.  Amen. 

IN THE GARDEN
I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses;
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses.

Refrain:
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing;
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing. [Refrain]

I'd stay in the garden with Him
Tho' the night around me be falling;
But He bids me go; thro' the voice of woe,
His voice to me is calling. [Refrain]

--C. Austin Miles, 1913

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"O Jesus, I Have Promised" by Kevin Raybuck 4/10/19

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.— 1 Peter 2:21

I grew up in a small, country church with the tradition of new Christians attending classes during Lent. These lessons introduced us to the teaching of Jesus, a little bit of church history and open ended questions about the faith. The education given to us pre-teens was supplied by our pastor who was actually in charge of several churches.

Rev. Krupp was loved and respected by our congregations and was perhaps the only true monotone singer I have ever known. He valued hymnody and was a believer in robust singing. Our church had a reputation of strong hymn singing, likely due to trying to mask his vocal fervor.

When the instruction for our class came to an end it was time for us to be presented to the church and participate in our first communion. The hymn “O Jesus, I Have Promised,” was written for such an occasion. In fact, its original title, “O Jesus, We Have Promised” speaks to the corporate dedication of an assembly of new Christians. This hymn is filled with sensory language:

O let me feel Thee near me

O let me hear Thee speaking

O let me see Thy foot prints

Rev. Krupp came from Pennsylvania Dutch country. It was he who introduced me to shoofly pie. I think if he would have been an editor for our hymnal, he would have found a way to work the smell and taste of shoofly pie into this text to round it out. Today, I am thankful my wife makes Derby pie! However, as this hymn endures, it invites me in to renew my commitment to the sometimes abstract activity of serving Christ Jesus. It invites me to contribute my own perceptions in His service.

I feel that challenge again. Perhaps you do as well.

PRAYER:
Lord, help me to make real the promise formed during our Lenten classes to follow you.  

O JESUS, I HAVE PROMISED 
O Jesus, I have promised to serve thee to the end;
be thou forever near me, my Master and my Friend;
I shall not fear the battle if thou art by my side,
nor wander from the pathway if thou wilt be my guide.

O Jesus, thou hast promised to all who follow thee,
that where thou art in glory there shall thy servant be;
and, Jesus, I have promised to serve thee to the end;
O give me grace to follow, my Master and my Friend.

O let me feel thee near me! The world is ever near;
I see the sights that dazzle, the tempting sounds I hear:
my foes are ever near me, around me and within;
but Jesus, draw thou nearer, and shield my soul from sin.

O let me hear thee speaking in accents clear and still,
above the storms of passion, the murmurs of self-will.
O speak to reassure me, to hasten or control;
O speak and make me listen, thou guardian of my soul.
John Ernest Bode, 1869

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"Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" by Dalen Jackson 4/3/19

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.— Philippians 2:5

“Oh soul, are you weary and troubled?” the hymn asks.  Who isn’t these days?  I read the newspaper every morning, then periodically glance at news reports from various media as the day goes on. I see violence, neglect, tragedy, and evil play out on dozens of stages, near and far.  And then there are my own struggles from day to day as well.  Too often, the balance between my attention to all these troubles—mine and those of this world—and the time I spend in prayer and meditation on God’s grace is badly askew.  Lent brings a reminder of the need for me to “Turn [my] eyes upon Jesus.”

This Jesus I look to offers not just a warm feeling, but a call to follow him in “a world that is dying.”  Not just a comfortable assurance of “life everlasting,” but a summons to take up the cross.  Clarence Jordan was a Baptist minister whose courageous stand for racial justice led to trumped-up charges against him in south Georgia early in the civil rights era.  He went to his brother, a Baptist deacon and lawyer, and said, “Bob, we’ve got to have some help.”  His brother answered, “I’ll give you all the advice you want, but I cannot accept the case.”  “Bob,” Clarence asked, “Aren’t you a Christian?” “Well, yes.” “Don’t you follow Jesus?”  “Well, yes, up to a point.” “Would that point, by any means, be the cross?”  “Yeah, up to the cross.”  Clarence said, “Bob, I admire your frankness, but I seriously question your discipleship.”  According to one account, Clarence then suggested, “I think we need to go back to that church we joined [as boys] and you need to tell them that you are an admirer of Jesus, not a follower of Jesus.”

PRAYER:
Lord, turn my eyes to you.  Give me the courage, and the grace, and the imagination to be a follower of you, and not just an admirer.  Amen. 

TURN YOUR EYES UPON JESUS
O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
O’er us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conqu’rors we are!

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!
--Helen H. Lemmel, 1918

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"Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated" by Jan Hill 3/27/19

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. —Matthew 6:19-21

We were on a study leave from the Philippines, living temporarily in Glendale, California. I came home from an errand at noon, picked up the mail and was surprised to find our front door open. I thought my husband must have come home unexpectedly from graduate school in nearby Pasadena. I went through the house calling his name but no answer. I returned to the front door and noticed a broken glass panel. We had been robbed! I frantically took a hurried inventory of missing items: Les’s photography bag full of expensive equipment, the family violin, jewelry and money among other things. At least the robber left before I came home. I breathed a prayer of thanks.

I called the police who instructed me not to touch anything. I sat down and went through the mail. My eye caught a hymn in a Christian magazine. Stanza three read, Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold…

You surely took it, Lord, I muttered.

God spoke to my heart, “Pray that your lost articles be returned to you.”

“That’s impossible, Lord,” I argued. But later I reflected, all things are possible with God. I meekly prayed that all of our lost possessions would be recovered. The police arrived and dusted my newly scrubbed woodwork for fingerprints, asked a few questions and left.

The phone rang. “Your stolen goods have been recovered,” the police stated. “You will have to testify in court to reclaim them.” I rejoiced, and recounted my ordeal to my children and husband as they came home that afternoon. We thanked God for his provision. Later I read the rest of stanza three in the hymn. Take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise.

In this season of Lent we remember how evil men robbed Jesus of his life but God did the impossible act of restoring it to him.

 PRAYER:
Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold; Take my moments and my days, may they flow in ceaseless praise.

 TAKE MY LIFE AND LET IT BE CONSECRATED
Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in endless praise.

Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of thy love.
Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for thee.

Take my voice and let me sing always, only, for my King.
Take my lips and let them be filled with messages from thee.

Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use every power as thou shalt choose.

Take my will and make it thine; it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart it is thine own; it shall be thy royal throne.

Take my love; my Lord, I pour at thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for thee. 
--
Frances R. Havergal, 1874.

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"Fairest Lord Jesus" by Joye Smith 3/20/19

The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, a spring whose waters never fail. —Isaiah 58:11

Growing up in what was proclaimed by the locals to be the “Nursery Capitol of the World” provided opportunities to develop a love of nature and to refine personal gardening skills. The title might bit of an exaggeration, nevertheless, the warm basin of rich, dark, loamy soil resting in the protection of the surrounding rolling hills in Warren County, Tennessee appears to be a spot chosen for plant life to flourish and grow.

However, it wasn’t until my adulthood that God began to speak to me in the garden with simple lessons of planting, watering, growing. There were also times of struggle when I learned what it meant to be pruned. Now, after many seasons of listening, learning and trusting, I can reflect and see His hand written on every leaf, petal, and plant in the gardens that I have cared for and called my own.

In those fragrant and colorful places, there were messages of faith that pointed me to Jesus, “beautiful Savior, Son of God and Son of man - the ruler of all nature.” He is able satisfy my need and to strengthen me. He is worthy to be praised. His sacrifice is overwhelming.

 PRAYER:
Holy Father, show me your majesty in creation, guide me, strengthen me, point me to Jesus and allow me to drink the water - until I can become the spring. Amen

 FAIREST LORD JESUS
Fairest Lord Jesus, ruler of all nature,
O thou of God and man the Son,
Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor,
thou, my soul's glory, joy, and crown.

Fair are the meadows, fairer still the woodlands,
robed in the blooming garb of spring:
Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer
who makes the woeful heart to sing.

Fair is the sunshine, fairer still the moonlight,
and all the twinkling starry host:
Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer
than all the angels heaven can boast.

Beautiful Savior! Lord of all the nations!
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor, praise, adoration,
now and forevermore be thine.

 --Anonymous 17th century German hymn

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"Give Me Jesus" by Niki Hays 3/13/19

In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord. —I Samuel 1:10

Each time I read Hannah’s story, I am moved by her desperation. I cringe as I feel her pain and grief, evidenced by her persistent, desperate pleas to the Lord for a child. Maybe because her plight is personal for me, I recognize the season she is experiencing.  I see Hannah. I see her longing for answers this world cannot answer. I see her overwhelming desire met with continuing disappointment. I see her anguish as her relentless prayers to God have left her with no voice to voice them. And I see her need for intervention. She was in a lonely place, in a crowded room. She was desperate.

I have been desperate. 

I have been at a point where earthly wisdom could not provide the answers I was seeking. The point where no amount of encouragement from others helped soothe my pain. I have been in a dark, lonely place crying out in desperation for intervention.

Maybe you, too, find this place familiar. An unexpected death. A loss. A season of grief. Heartache. A diagnosis. Divorce. A crisis of faith.

If you haven’t experienced pain like Hannah, you will. This side of heaven has no immunity to sorrow and grief. Darkness will find each one of us, as it found Jesus in the desert and on the cross. And there are many lessons to learn in the valleys of life, indeed much deeper spiritual growth occurs there. An intimacy with the Lord is birthed or renewed, one refined by fire of sorts. God, in His infinite wisdom and grace, works through the ashes to draw us closer to Him. So, ultimately we get exactly what we need—more of Him.

PRAYER:
Lord, may we all be desperate for more of you, both in seasons of joy and seasons of grief.  

GIVE ME JESUS 
In the morning, when I rise, in the morning, when I rise,
in the morning, when I rise, give me Jesus.

(Refrain)

Give me Jesus. Give me Jesus.
You may have all this world, give me Jesus.

Dark midnight was my cry, dark midnight was my cry,
dark midnight was my cry, give me Jesus.

Oh, when I come to die, oh, when I come to die,
oh, when I come to die, give me Jesus.

--Traditional African-American Spiritual

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"Holy, Holy, Holy" by Hank Ellington 3/6/19

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called;  one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:4-6

I remember well, Easter Sunday of 1957 when the worshippers of Beechmont Baptist Church on South Third Street in Louisville, opened the new Baptist Hymnal for the first time. We sang Hymn #1, “Holy, Holy, Holy”. If I’m not mistaken, that great and glorious hymn has been the first hymn in all later editions of the Baptist Hymnal and is first in the weighty Celebrating Grace Hymnal that we now use at Calvary.

The majestic words of this powerful hymn have spoken with clarity and with power for almost 200 years. As we look this Lenten season to the cross of Calvary and to the hope of Resurrection, the words of the third verse, which have always spoken to my heart, come to mind, “only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee, perfect in power, in love, and purity”.

In a world that seems to be full of “gods” clamoring for our attention and our loyalty, there is but One who is worthy, the perfect Lamb of God, the Christ. Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty.

As a nine year old Baptist boy, this great hymn introduced me to the reality of the Trinity – God in three persons – a hallmark of Baptist belief that has shaped my life and I hope yours as well.

PRAYER:
Lord God, Grant us the courage and the wisdom to lift high the Cross, to proclaim the loving sacrifice of Jesus, to celebrate the presence and power of the Spirit, and to worship the Great God of Creation.
Amen.

 HOLY, HOLY, HOLY

 Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
who wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.

Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide thee,
though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see,
only thou art holy; there is none beside thee
perfect in pow'r, in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy name in earth and sky and sea.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!
--Reginald Heber, 1826

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