Devotional


We are on the Lord’s side, servants of the King,
No more hesitation, all to Him we bring;
Jesus Christ our Saviour has us in His care,
In His perfect Kingdom risen life we’ll share.

Eagerly obeying, proud to bear His name,
Time is past for sorrow, ended is our shame;
Jesus our redeemer makes our spirits bright,
Leads us out of darkness into glorious light.

Children of one Father, by one Spirit led,
No more fear or doubting, all is done and said.
Jesus our Messiah sends us now to go
into all creation, His great love to show.

So, our worship ended, service we begin,
To our duty going, confident in Him:
Jesus is God with us, first and last is He,
And we will be with Him for eternity.

Suggested tune: Camberwell (Michael Brierly, 1960)

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From all my lame defeats and oh! much more
From all the victories that I seemed to score;
From cleverness shot forth on Thy behalf
At which, while angels weep, the audience laugh;
From all my proofs of Thy divinity,
Thou, who wouldst give no sign, deliver me.

Thoughts are but coins. Let me not trust, instead
of Thee, their thin-worn image of Thy head.
From all my thoughts,
even from my thoughts of Thee,
O thou fair Silence, fall, and set me free.
Lord of the narrow gate and the needle’s eye,
Take from me all my trumpery lest I die.

C.S. Lewis, Poems (1964). For a thoughtful discussion, click here

Stand and waitThey who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.—Isaiah 40.31.

I looked it up, and ‘wait for the Lord’ means exactly that: wait while nothing happens. This is a sort of apology for lack of activity recently. Just haven’t had much to say that’s worth more than muttering under my breath, and I’m waiting patiently till my strength is renewed. Like my brother in Christ John Milton:

God’s state ‘is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed, And post o’er land and ocean without rest; They also serve who only stand and wait.’

Billy GrahamNovember 7 was Billy Graham’s 95th birthday, and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, whose CEO is his son Franklin, used the occasion for a sort of mini-crusade, which had two main components. One was a 30 minute video production called The Cross, which was a mixture of comments from Graham concerning the spiritual state of America in 2013 with scenes from the other, a similar production called Defining Moments. The latter was a mixture of video of Graham preaching during his active years with comments by three converts about their former and current lives. On that date I happened to be on the Wheaton College campus, where Graham earned a graduate degree and founded the Billy Graham Center, and I thought I’d watch them there. For some reason they weren’t showing The Cross, but their showing of Defining Moments allowed us to see it there and be back at our digs in time to watch The Cross on Fox News.

Defining Moments was a video narrative that interwove three stories of conversion featuring what today are ‘ordinary people’—a young white female, a young black male, both drug addicts, and an illusionist whose stage career was cut short by cancer, punctuated by video montages that included scenes of Billy Graham preaching, mostly from the 1980s, I’d guess. The video narratives were pretty predictable, I’m afraid, and I found it hard to cope with the ‘mockumentary’ approach to such seriously broken lives as these seemed to have once been, but Graham’s preaching, after not having seen it for many years, hit me with all the power for which it was famous. I left the Barrows Auditorium hungry for more.

The Cross was publicised as ‘A Long-Awaited Broadcast From Billy Graham To Our Nation’, but it turned out to be less than that. It used the video footage of two of the subjects of Defining Moments, but punctuated them with footage of the 95-year old Graham speaking from his arm-chair. The passion of his preaching years had been replaced by a great peace, and I suspect that if he had spoken about the source of his peace, his words would have had the same impact as his words about the source of his salvation did during his preaching career. Instead he made a few comments on the need for a spiritual awakening in contemporary America, but was never given time to develop his thoughts into a message for the nation, and I think the production will soon be forgotten.

Much of Graham’s greatest preaching is on film, though, and if the BGEA really wants to get America thinking about its spiritual state, the best thing it could do would be to rent every cinema in the nation for six or seven Sunday nights in a row and show one of the surviving films. I think they’d be surprised at the attendance, as well as at the continuing effectiveness of his preaching style. His comments about American society in the 1950s and 60s seem as relevant today as then, except that Communism has been replaced by Terrorism as the perceived threat to our safety. Most people under thirty will have never seen anyone like him, and his plain statement of the truth found in the pages of the Bible, in simple words from a heart overflowing with passion for Christ, is bound to have an impact that neither the slick productions nor the smooth evangelists of today can match. Check out this one, or this, or this, and see for yourself.

Unfinished churchOne of the sights to see in Bermuda is the unfinished church in St George’s, the most westerly of the island’s nine parishes, and it is a good illustration of Jesus’s parable about building a tower without first counting the cost. The cost the builders should have reckoned beforehand, however, doesn’t appear to have been financial.

The parish church in St George, which today is called St Peter’s, is a fine low church along Virginia lines, in continuous use since 1612 (although enlarged a couple of times), with box pews, a three-decker pulpit in the center of the east wall, the original communion table off to one side and so on. By the middle of the 19th century, it had become pretty dilapidated, and there appears to have been general agreement that replacement rather than restoration was in order. A distinctly Gothic building was begun not far away, but as it went up disagreements emerged over how it was to be arranged inside—pulpit placement, altar versus table, where to put the table and so on. Why there wasn’t a disagreement about the Gothic style is the big puzzle; while one piece of literature in the church talked about theological differences, I suspect it was more a matter of ‘the way we’ve always done it’, which made the inside of the church crucial while the outside didn’t particularly matter. Anyway, these differences so divided the congregation that the new church was never finished, and it still sits there half finished, a popular place for weddings for the locals and a site to visit for the tourists. The money already given for the new church was given to Hamilton parish church, which had recently suffered a serious fire, and the people of St Peter’s raised more to repair and restore the church as they had known it. The rightness of this decision was demonstrated, for some, when a hurricane ripped off what would have become the roof of the new church, yet left the flowers in the grass outside untouched. The unfinished church is now a tourist attraction—a ready-made ruin, as it were.

‘Which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it?’ Jesus asked. In the 19th as in the 21st century, money is often easier to come by than consensus…

Bosch, Carrying the CrossA Wheaton student comments on Bosch’s Carrying the Cross—‘outdoes many textual commentaries on Hieronymus Bosch’. Check it out here. Comment there rather than here, or best of all there and here…

Psalm 30

I will extol you, O my Lord,
For you have drawn me up.
You have not let my foes rejoice
Because of my demise.
My God, I cried to you for help,
And you restored my health.
From Sheol you brought up my soul,
My life from darkest pit.

Sing praises to the Lord, his saints,
His holy name give thanks.
His anger for a moment lasts,
But favor all lifelong.
Our tears may tarry for the night,
But joy comes with the dawn.
I said in my prosperity,
“I shall not e’er be moved.”

O Lord, by your great favor, you
Have made my mount stand strong;
But when you hid your face, dismay
Encompassed me about.
I cried to you, O Lord, I cried,
For mercy did I plead:
“What profit is there in my death,
If to the grave I go?

Will dust praise you? Oh! will it tell
Of your great faithfulness?
Hear, O my Lord, be merciful!
O Lord, my helper be!”
My mourning you have turned to dance;
My sackcloth, robes of joy.
My glory sings your praises, Lord:
“Thanks be to God, for e’er!”

Metrical setting by Lenny Anderson, vicar of St Francis-in-the-Fields, Somerset PA, where it will be sung this Sunday. Written for Ellacombe (Hymnal 210) but will work to any CMD tune.

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