Tuesday Hymns: The 103rd Psalm

As I have mentioned before, we sing a Psalm from The Trinity Psalter every Sunday night at Reformed Presbyterian Church of Beaumont, Texas. For the last two weeks we have been singing The 103rd Psalm which was first found in similar form in The Scottish Psalter, and was revised in The Psalter published by The United Presbyterian Board of Publication in 1871. This basic version was included in The Psalter, 1912 and was revised again in 1994.

When I was a young man we often sang the first four lines as a “Scripture chorus,” but it is so much more beneficial to me, to be able to see the context of the entire Psalm as we worship the LORD of the Scriptures. This Psalm is not shy about declaring the reality of our sin, nor is it unclear about the forgiveness that can be found through the marvelous grace of Jehovah. This version is sung to the tune, Beecher (“Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”).

Bless the LORD, my soul; my whole heart
Ever bless His holy name.
Bless the LORD, my soul; forget not
All His mercies to proclaim.
Who forgives all thy transgressions,
Thy diseases all Who heals;
Who redeems thee from destruction,
Who with thee so kindly deals.

Who with love and mercy crowns thee,
Satisfies thy mouth with good,
So that even like the eagle
Thou art blessed with youth renewed.
In His righteousness Jehovah
Will deliver those distressed;
He will execute just judgment
In the cause of all oppressed.

He made known His ways to Moses,
And His acts to Isr’el’s race;
Tender, loving is Jehovah
Slow to anger, rich in grace.
He will not forever chide us
Nor will keep His anger still,
Has not dealt as we offended
Nor requited us our ill.

For as high as is the heaven,
Far above the earth below;
Ever great to them that fear Him
Is the mercy He will show.
Far as east from west is distant
He has put away our sin;
Like the pity of a father
Has Jehovah’s pity been.

For our frame He will remembers;
That we are but dust He knows;
As for man, like grass he rises;
As the flower in field he grows;
Over it the wind now passes;
In a moment it is gone;
In the place where once it flourished
It shall never more be known.

But Jehovah’s loving kindness
Unto them that fear His name
From eternity abideth
To eternity the same.
And His righteousness remaineth
To their children and their seed,
Who His covenant remember
And His precepts hear and heed.

In the heavens has Jehovah
Founded His eternal throne;
Over all is His dominion;
He is king and He alone.
Bless the LORD, all you His angels,
You on whom He strength conferred,
Who His orders are performing,
Who obey His every word.

Bless the LORD, all you His servants,
Hosts that know and do His will,
Who forever wait upon Him,
All His pleasure to fulfill.
Bless the LORD, all you His creatures,
All His works with one accord
In all parts of His dominion.
O my soul, bless thou the LORD.

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Mother’s Day, 2012

Mother’s Day is a little bit different around the Rankin house. To begin with, Dixie is not a Hallmark kind of gal (Guys, I know you are jealous) so holidays are normally not full of bells and whistles in Pine Ridge (her choice). Secondly, because Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are always on Sunday, our focus is on the Lord’s Day, God’s grace, and gathering with God’s people to worship Him. Nonetheless, I thought I would take a few minutes to ponder the mothers in my life.

My own mom has been in heaven since 1997, but truly was a blessing to me in many ways. She was all of those things we often mention about our moms: caring, self-sacrificing, nurturing, etc., and she did all those things even as she faced many health problems such as high blood pressure (which probably played a part in her only onset dementia). But I must say, the most important thing she did, was point me to Christ again and again as I grew up. Reading the Bible and prayer were a daily part of our lives growing up, and as I have often quipped, “I never had to ask, ‘Are we going to church Sunday?’ in my entire life, because there was never any doubt about that.” The Lord used her as part of His ordinary means to show me my need of a Savior at a very young age, and I will be eternally grateful for her part in my life in the new heavens and the new earth.

The mother of my oldest two children also has played a significant role in my life. Lydia and I were high school sweethearts who married young, and in some ways grew up together. We started our family while I was in seminary (I think that was part of the educational plan at Southwestern Seminary in Ft. Worth) and I left to be the pastor of my first church with two children. Together we tried to model what we had learned (Lydia also came from a Christian home) about raising our children to trust in Christ as their only hope at a young age. Our daughter, Leah, was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at eighteen months of age, which meant that we as a family were to battle this disease with all of our being, even as we trusted in Christ as the One who was Lord of all and in total control of all that came our way. And, when on Mother’s Day, 1989, Lydia and Leah were killed in an automobile accident (that may be another reason why Mother’s Day is a little different around our house), Josh (my oldest) and I had to learn anew what it really meant to trust in Christ as the Good Shepherd of His sheep. God was gracious, and although we did grieve deeply, we did not “grieve as those who have no hope” because we knew that through Christ, Lydia and Leah were then, “just men made perfect” to use the terms of the writer of the book of Hebrews.

While Josh and I were still in the midst of the grieving process, the Lord saw fit to bring Dixie into our lives. Dixie and I were married in June of 1990 and for Dixie it was “instant motherhood.” Most moms get to grow into their twelve year olds, but Dixie had to step right in “cold turkey.” But she was a gamer (as was Josh) and together we began to grow as a family [It may have helped that she had been a juvenile probation officer before we married]. When in the Lord’s will we adopted two boys we thought that our lives would turn into the normal lives that everyone else faced (Of course, there is no such thing as normal). We never dreamed that we would become the parents of two special needs children (One with autism, and the other with Tourette’s syndrome), but as the years have passed, I have seen Dixie face the challenges that come her way with a trust in God, and a deep and abiding love for me, and for those two boys.

So, while Mother’s Day is different around here, it doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate the wonderful mothers that God has placed in my life; for I have discovered that King Lemuel’s mother was correct when she said, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.” (Proverbs 31:30-31)

“Uncertainty”

Uncertainty can have many meanings. It can be used as a synonym for doubt, hesitancy, or indecision. Presently in our lives it has none of those meanings. For us uncertainty simply means “irresolution.” We spent most of the day yesterday at the emergency room at Texas Children’s Hospital with our seventeen year old who has been complaining of headaches, fatigue, and general body aches for several months. It seems as if we have seen every doctor within the continental United States and still have no answers.

Fortunately, they seemed to have ruled out many of the “scary things” such as lymphoma, leukemia, etc., but still haven’t given us a reason for why he feels the way he does. When one mixes in his autism spectrum disorder (ASD—and yes, we were a little concerned when the ER doctor asked us what ASD stood for, although to be fair he spent a great amount of time with us) which makes it difficult for him to describe to us exactly what he is experiencing, we end up with “uncertainty.”

It is definitely not “doubt” for we know that God wisely and powerfully preserves and governs all of his creatures, and all of their actions in a holy manner (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q#11), so we know that God is firmly in control of, and is working out His will for our good and His glory. And, it is not “hesitancy” or “indecision” because it seems as if we have talked to doctor after doctor, and had doctors run test after test. We have done our best to leave no stone unturned. Yet, we have “uncertainty.” We have “irresolution.”

Nevertheless, although we are uncertain of what Reed’s problem is, and we are uncertain about what his and our future holds, we are not uncertain about God’s presence, His knowledge of our situation, or His firm control on our lives. God is mightily at work in time and space on our behalf, and He is mightily at work in time and space for His eternal purposes. We have been “predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:11-12)

So, while I don’t deny our emotions of weariness, concern and grief, I pray that we will be able to continue to focus on God’s big picture: “the praise of His glory” in Christ, and our being “conformed to the image of His Son.” (Romans 8:29)

Tuesday Hymns: “Lord of the Sabbath, Hear Us Pray”

Philip Doddridge (1702-1751) was the youngest of twenty (yes, twenty) children to a man who dealt with “oils and pickles” in London, England. His grandfather had the Biblical and spiritual integrity to resign his pastorate when the Act of Uniformity was passed in 1662 and became a non-conformist minister.

Doddridge followed in his grandfather’s footsteps, becoming a non-conformist minister, educator, and author of books and hymns. He died of tuberculosis in 1751 in Lisbon, Portugal. This past Sunday night we closed our worship service with his beautiful hymn, “Lord of the Sabbath, Hear Us Pray,” which is our Tuesday Hymn for this week. The hymn speaks of the Christian Sabbath (the Lord’s Day); its blessing to man now, and its prophetic look at a future “nobler rest above.” It is sung to the tune, GERMANY.

Lord of the Sabbath, hear us pray,
In this Your house, on this Your day;
And own, as grateful sacrifice,
The songs which from Your temple rise.

Now met to pray and bless Your Name,
Whose mercies flow each day the same;
Whose kind compassions never cease,
We seek instruction, pardon, peace.

Your earthly Sabbaths, Lord, we love,
But there’s a nobler rest above;
To that our laboring souls aspire
With ardent hope and strong desire.

In Your blest kingdom we shall be
From every mortal trouble free;
No sighs shall mingle with the songs
Resounding from immortal tongues.

No rude alarms of raging foes;
No cares to break the long repose;
No midnight shade, no waning moon,
But sacred, high, eternal noon.

O long expected day, begin,
Dawn on these realms of woe and sin!
Break, morn of God, upon our eyes;
And let the world’s true Sun arise!

Who made Whom?

Mark Twain once said, “In the beginning God made man in His image. And man has been returning the favor ever since.” It is a dangerous thing for us to make God in our image. I, for one, do not need or want a God who is like I am. I am selfish, and I need a God who is gracious. I am a sinner, and I need a God who is righteous. I change constantly, and I need a God who is immutable. I am foolish, and I need a God who is omniscient. I am weak, and I need a God who is omnipotent. I tend to keep a record of people who have wronged me, and I need a God who will “be merciful toward [my] iniquities, and…will remember [my] sins no more.” (Heb. 8:12) My heart is “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” and I need a God who “cannot lie.”

If we want to know what God is like, it is best to stay away from the “God, to me, is…” crowd, and stick to the description of God given to us in His Word, the Bible. The God of the Bible is a God who must be worshiped “with reverence and awe, for [He] is a consuming fire,” (Heb. 12:28-29), yet, is also a God who invites us to “draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” through the finished work of Christ, the only Mediator between God and man.

Tuesday Hymns: “’Tis by Thy Strength the Mountains Stand”

Our affirmations of faith over the last few weeks at Reformed Presbyterian Church in Beaumont, Texas, have come from the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Last Sunday, we read Question #8: “How does God execute His decrees?” The answer: “God executes His decrees in the works of creation and providence.” Our God not only created this beautiful world in which we live (beautiful even in its fallen state), but He is also the One that sustains it. As it says about Christ in Colossians 1:15-18:

“15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones dominions or rulers or authorities- all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

Our Tuesday Hymn for this week is one of Isaac Watt’s lesser known hymns, “’Tis by Thy Strength the Mountains Stand.” It speaks of God’s sovereign control over all things. He is not a God who created the world then stepped back and shouted, “Good luck!” He is in control of every raindrop, breeze, temperature drop and rise, and, yes, even the hurricanes that we follow so closely here in Texas every summer are in His hands. He truly is God over all the earth! This hymn is usually sung to the tune, LAFAYETTE.

‘Tis by thy strength the mountains stand,
God of eternal power;
The sea grows calm at thy command,
And tempests cease to roar.

Thy morning light and ev’ning shade
Successive comforts bring;
Thy plenteous fruits make harvest glad,
Thy flowers adorn the spring.

Seasons and times, and moons and hours,
Heav’n, earth, and air, are thine;
When clouds distil in fruitful showers,
The Author is divine.

Those wand’ring cisterns in the sky,
Borne by the winds around
With wat’ry treasures well supply
The furrows of the ground.

The thirsty ridges drink their fill,
And ranks of corn appear;
Thy ways abound with blessings still,
Thy goodness crowns the year.