Tag Archives: heaven

Stop and Think About a Hymn

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.

Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.

O to grace how great a debtor Daily
I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

Text by Robert Robertson
The hymn text is in the public domain.
Source: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/c/o/comethou.htm

  • Who does the hymn writer consider to be the “fount” from which blessing flows? What does he want?
  • Why is the hymn writer sorrowful? Do you feel sorrowful about the same things?
  • The word Ebenezer means “Stone of help.” How does that definition clarify the second half of the second verse?
  • What is the hymn writer’s image of Jesus in verse 3? How does the “precious blood” rescue him from danger? How would a Muslim Background Believer imprisoned for apostasy see Christ’s precious blood?
  • What goodness will have the effect of keeping the hymn writer from wandering away from his faith? What force will hold him close and seal him as belonging to God?
  • Where does the hymn writer long to go, and why? Do you have the same feeling? Why or why not?
  • What do you see as the most important theme in this hymn? Please share your answer in comments?

 

 

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Is That All There Is?

What if this world is not all there is?

Many years ago, a mournful song made the Top Ten list in my neighborhood. I remember little about it other than its doleful character and the repeated cry, “Is that all there is?” The person who sang it exuded despair, and I doubt anyone could hear it without feeling deep sadness. Over the years, as I have heard more and more people declare that God is my imaginary friend, I know that more and more people must be facing that dark moment when the question arises: “Is that all there is?”

Christians are often criticized for their focus on heaven. One frequent complaint is that Christians use heaven as an excuse not to care about this world. While the preponderance of evidence reveals that Christians exhibit leadership in caring for the weak, the hungry, the sick, the homeless and other people in profound need, there are still many people who claim that Christians only care for people in order to corral them into joining the church. Another complaint is that religious people make the ludicrous demand that people sacrifice present joy for some uncertain future.

Why do Christians care so much about heaven?

The answer lies in a fundamental truth for every follower of Christ. Jesus himself said, “If the world hates you, it is because it hated me first.” Jesus made it very clear that being a Christian is not a picnic, nor is it intended to be a picnic. It may have been the case in the fifties that a Christian in the US could expect little interference with his intention to obey Jesus in daily life, but a Christian in 2014 must expect and live through a great deal of resistance to his desire to be like Jesus. Even in the US, the pressure has increased beyond anything imaginable in 1952, and beyond US borders, it is very dangerous to be a Christian.

Heaven is a valuable and necessary part of Christian understanding. Why? If this life is all there is, a person is wise to make the best deal he can for comfort and peace. If there is no heaven, if this world is all there is, then why would a person refuse to recant his faith in Christ? Without heaven, Christ’s resurrection is nothing more than a dramatic resuscitation.

Think about it. The significance of Christ’s empty tomb is that there is something more to life than this world. Is that all there is? Christ’s resurrection says, “NO! There is much more.”

Christians around the world declare emphatically, “This world is not all there is,” when they stand firm like Meriam Ibrahim and declare, “I am Christian, and Christian I will remain,” even though the outcome may be death. In Nigeria, a Boko Haram militant brutally hacked a six-year-old boy with a machete before beheading him. The boy professed Christian faith and refused to recant. His parents were forced to watch the gruesome execution, and they, too, refused to recant. Would anyone be able to sustain faith in Christ through such horror if this world is all there is?

In Iran, Pastor Behnam Irani was arrested and held for eight years, mostly in solitary confinement. If he were willing to recant his faith and become a Muslim, he could be released. Because he refuses to do that, he has recently been charged with a new crime, “spreading corruption on earth,” a capital crime. If heaven does not exist, then he is insane for holding on to his faith in Christ. Why should he suffer solitary confinement, torture and ultimately death if there is no heaven? Why would he do it?

Secular thinkers are not persuaded. They actually are beginning to promulgate the notion that religious faith is a mental illness. To date, this proposal has not gained much traction outside of hardcore atheist conversations, but in the former USSR, the idea had a following.

The book of Revelation reminds us that heaven is not only real, but it is profoundly more than we can imagine. It is a present reality and a future hope. Today, it is where God is seated in the heavenly throne room where he reigns in ineffable light surrounded by a rainbow. At the end of time, Christ will marry his bride the church and come to live in the new earth, which is a humanly incomprehensible new and perfect world where there are no more tears.

Christ himself is our evidence, the hope to which we cling because of his resurrection. The resurrected Christ transcended time and space, and then he ascended to heaven from which he will come again to judge the living and the dead. The new world he sets up after that judgment will be beyond anything we can imagine. And that world will truly be all there is.

A Hymn for Meditation

Love Divine

‎1. Love Divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heav’n, to earth come down:
Fix in us thy humble dwelling,
All thy faithful mercies crown:
Jesus, thou art all compassion,
Pure, unbounded love thou art;
Visit us with thy salvation,
Enter ev’ry trembling heart.

‎2. Breathe, O breathe thy loving Spirit
Into ev’ry troubled breast;
Let us all in thee inherit,
Let us find the promised rest:
Take away the love of sinning;
Alpha and Omega be;
End of faith, as its Beginning,
Set our hearts at liberty.

‎3. Come, Almighty to deliver,
Let us all thy life receive;
Suddenly return, and never,
Never more thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
Serve thee as thy hosts above,
Pray, and praise thee, without ceasing,
Glory in thy perfect love.

‎4. Finish, then, thy new creation;
Pure and spotless let us be:
Let us see thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in thee;
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heav’n we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before thee,
Lost in wonder, love and praise.

By Charles Wesley 

  • This hymn extols the love we receive from God through Christ. How is this love different from your love for your spouse, your child, your parent, your best friend?
  • Verse 2 reminds us of 1 Corinthians 3:16. It uses the word “love” to speak of the “love” of sinning. How is the love of sinning removed? How do we receive God’s love, the beginning and end of our faith?
  • The hymnwriter says, “Suddenly return, and never, never more thy temples leave.” To what event is he referring? Where is the image of Christ’s return fleshed out with worshipers and hymns?
  • If we are cleansed, made righteous, and saved for eternity when we receive Christ, what remains to be finished as requested in the fourth verse? Where can we find the image of worshipers casting crowns before God?
  • The hymn calls us to an attitude of wonder, love and praise. Who is the object of our wonder, love and praise? What is the difference in the use of the word “salvation” in verse four and our use of the word “salvation” to describe what happens when we first receive Christ?

A Hymn for Meditation

O Living Bread From Heaven  

O living Bread from heaven,
How well you feed your guest!
The gifts that you have given
Have filled my heart with rest.

O wondrous food of blessing!
O cup that heals our woes!
My heart, this gift possessing,
In thankful song o’erflows.

Oh, grant me then, well-strengthened
With heavenly food, while here
My course on earth is lengthened,
To serve you, free from fear.

And bring me home to praise you
Where none can peace destroy,
Where I will ever raise you
Glad songs in endless joy.

  • Why does the hymnwriter speak to bread as if to a person?
  • What does it mean to me that this bread is living and that it came from heaven?
  • What sort of strength does this “heavenly food” impart?
  • The hymnwriter claims he can serve without fear. Does that mean that he will never be threatened when he serves God? What sort of fear is he free from?
  • What does it mean to you that in your life eternal, nobody can destroy your peace? Does anything in your daily life destroy your peace? What value is this promise to you right now?

A Hymn for Meditation

Precious Lord, Take My Hand

 Precious Lord, take my hand
lead me on, let me stand,

I am tired, I am weak, I am worn.
Through the storm, through the night,
Lead me on to the light,
Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.

When my way grows drear,
Precious Lord, linger near,
When my life is almost gone,
Hear my cry, hear my call,
Hold my hand lest I fall,
Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.

When the darkness appears
And the light draws near,
And the day is past and gone,
A
t the river I stand,
Guide my feet, hold my hand.
Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.
George N. Allen

 Questions for prayerful thought:

Why does the hymnwriter believe that the Lord will respond when he asks the Lord to take his hand?

 Do you think dying is scary? Does the hymnwriter think dying is scary? What worries the hymnwriter about the approach of death?
To what is the writer referring when he says, “the light draws near?”

Why does the writer speak of standing beside a river?

How does the writer relate the infinite and eternal realm of God to his own world in time and space?