Jesus Is Alive

 As I write this, it's the day after Easter. He is risen. He is risen indeed! "On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you.'" ( John 20:19 ESV ) Can you imagine the startling nature of Jesus simply appearing to you? No wonder he said, "Peace be with you!" In his human body, bones, and flesh, he appeared to the disciples many times after the resurrection. On one such occasion, Mark records the Great Commission. "And he said to them, 'Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.'" ( Mark 16:15 ESV ) As we see in Acts, the apostles established the church on the foundation of their eyewitness accounts of Jesus's ministry, death and resurrection, and his appearances to them. As Tim Keller once said, "On one hand, the resurrection is a fact to be believed. On the

Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed

Isaac Watts was born into a non-conformist family in Southhampton, Hampshire, England. His father, a protestant preacher, read scripture and prayed for and with Isaac throughout his childhood. The oldest of nine children, he began his personal walk with Christ at the age of 15. By the time he was 16, he learned Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and French.  In the early days of the Protestant Reformation, it was considered a sin to sing anything that didn't directly come from scripture. The Psalms, via the metric Psalter, and some New Testament canticles were considered to be the only acceptable form of music in the worship service. For the first 150 years of Protestantism, they didn't even sing about Christ's death and resurrection.  Watts, in his early 20s, grew frustrated with church music and his dad wisely challenged him to do something about it. He did. Isaac Watts is considered the Godfather of English Hymnody, having written more than 700 hymns.  The statement and question stru

Awake My Heart With Gladness

In Catholic circles, this coming Sunday is referred to as Passion Sunday. It precedes Palm Sunday by one week, signaling the coming end of Lent and helping to focus the church on the work of the Cross. You might ask, “I’m not Catholic so why are we talking about what the Catholics do?” Well, I’m not Catholic either. But I do believe that as we approach Holy Week, it is good to prepare our hearts for this very special church season and focused time of remembrance. This hymn, written by German clergyman Paul Gerhardt in the mid-1600s gives us language to do just that.  “The cross is the suffering love of God bearing the guilt of man’s sin, which alone is able to melt the sinner’s heart and bring him to repentance for salvation.” Billy Graham.  As we prepare for worship on Sunday morning, let us apply the work of the Cross to our hearts, and awaken "with gladness"! Awake, my heart, with gladness– see what today is done! Now, after gloo

10,000 Reasons

Released in 2012, this song by Matt Redman and Jonas Myrin came together quickly, beginning with the chorus. Myrin played some of what would become the chorus melodies and Redman became inspired, connecting it to Psalm 103. The song was written and completed in an hour according to Redman. Reflecting on the song, Redman says, “If you wake up one morning and you cannot think of a reason to bring God some kind of offering of thanks or praise, then you can be sure there’s something wrong at your end of the pipeline, and not his. We live beneath an unceasing flow of goodness, kindness, greatness, and holiness, and every day, we’re given reason after reason why Jesus is so completely and utterly worthy of our highest and best devotion.” Take time to read Psalm 103 now, and then reflect on the lyrics of the song. Chorus 1 Bless the Lord O my soul O my soul Worship His holy name Sing like never before O my soul I’ll worship Your holy name Verse 1 The sun comes up it’s a new day dawning It’s t

Jesus I My Cross Have Taken

Henry Francis Lyte’s father abandoned his family after sending Henry and his brother off to boarding school. Henry’s mother moved to London where she and his youngest sibling died. The headmaster at the school recognized Henry’s talent for writing poetry and took him in as well as paid his tuition. From there he would go on to Trinity University in Dublin, initially with an interest in medicine that he would quickly release for the pursuit of theology. The sudden passing of a clergyman friend of his a few years after university would further shape Lyte’s pathway through life. Becoming more concerned with the hearts of the people, he became more evangelistic in ministry. Lyte’s extensive literary knowledge, expertise in music, and his personal library, considered by some to be, at the time, one of the most extensive and valuable in West England, would not keep him from identifying and relating to the fishermen and their families that he ministered to in great numbers. This hymn was publ

There Is A Fountain

While living under the spiritual care of Rev. John Newton, William Cowper (pronounced Cooper) wrote “There Is A Fountain.” It was first published in 1772 and has since found its way into more than 2,440 hymnals, surpassing John Newton’s “Amazing Grace” by over 1,000 hymnal publishings in a similar time frame. Born to John and Ann Cowper, he descended from the British aristocracy. His father, John, was chaplain to King George II and nephew of the first Earl Cowper, and his mother, Ann’s bloodline can be traced back to King Henry III. Sadly, his mother passed when he was just 6 years old, and he was sent off to boarding school soon after. This tragedy would become the catalyst for a life-long battle with deep, destructive depression. Despite a very promising legal and political career path, roughly 26 years after his mother’s passing, his mental illness drove him to a failed suicide attempt that would then land him in an asylum for 18 months. That time would set about a spiritual renewal

Near The Cross

“Near The Cross” was written by none other than hymn-writing royal, “Fanny Crosby.” Published in 1869, it is one of over 8,000 gospel songs she would write in her lifetime. Crosby is known for her unique hymn-writing ability, painting vivid word pictures despite being blind since she was 6 weeks old. This ability is supported by her incredible capacity for memory. By age 10, she was memorizing five chapters of the Bible each week. Five years later, she had committed to memory the Pentateuch, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, many of the Psalms, and all four Gospels. At this time, she enrolled in the New York Institute for the Blind, where she studied for 8 years. Following that, she became a teacher of English grammar, rhetoric, and history. Since Braille had just been developed, Crosby never used the system. Instead, she would dictate to various transcribers. One of them, an assistant teacher at the time, would later become known as President Grover Cleveland. This, however, wasn’t her first