"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.

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, 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.

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

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


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.

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.


 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

Read more Hymns for the Journey (click here)

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