Tuesday Hymns: “Alas, And Did My Saviour Bleed”

watts isaac

In Isaac Watt’s later years he once complained, “To see the dull indifference, the negligent and thoughtless air that sits upon the faces of a whole assembly, while the psalm is upon their lips, might even tempt a charitable observer to suspect the fervency of their inward religion.” Even in complaining about church members’ attitudes, Watt’s words flowed like a mountain stream. He has been called the “Father of English Hymnody” for good reason and his published hymns would be exhibit numbers 1-800. Our Tuesday Hymn of the Week, “Alas, And Did My Saviour Bleed,” is a good example of his inborn talent and his excellent theology. His understanding of the depth of man’s sin and the abundance of God’s mercy and grace is found in every verse.

As one who grew up in a tradition that sang, “At the Cross,” (which took the words of Watts, added a refrain, and sang it to a tune that sounded like it originated in a circus calliope…sorry, I just feel that way) I was thrilled to discover his words connected to a more appropriate tune in The Trinity Hymnal.

Alas! and did my Saviour bleed,
And did my Sovereign die!
Would he devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I!

Was it for crimes that I had done
He groaned upon the tree!
Amazing pity! grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!

Well might the sun in darkness hide,
And shut his glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker, died
For man the creature’s sin.

Thus might I hide my blushing face
While his dear cross appears;
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
And melt mine eyes in tears.

But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe;
Here, Lord, I give myself away,
‘Tis all that I can do.

PS—And, just for the record, I have no issue at all with the phrase, “For such a worm as I.”
;^)

 

 

 

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“Make It So!”

During our worship service this morning we had the formal installation of Nick Napier as our pastor at Reformed Presbyterian Church. He has been a vital part of our church life since our congregation extended a call to him back in February. Since that time he has been examined and approved by the Houston Metro Presbytery, moved his family halfway across the country, and has been on the field since April 23rd. Today made him, as he said on a Facebook post last night, “officially official.”

In our denomination (The Presbyterian Church in America), when a pastor is installed, promises are made both by the pastor and the congregation that, if kept, will make that pastor/congregation relationship a positive one. The questions asked of Pastor Nick (which were all answered in the affirmative, by the way) speak of his desire to have the right motives (“a desire to promote the glory of God and the good of the Church”), and the right actions (“discharge all the duties of a pastor to this congregation” and “maintain a deportment in all respects becoming a minister of the Gospel of Christ”). The full wording in our Book of Church Order is as follows:

  1. Are you now willing to take charge of this congregation as their pastor, agreeable to your declaration in accepting its call? 
  2. Do you conscientiously believe and declare, as far as you know your own heart, that, in taking upon you this charge, you are influenced by a sincere desire to promote the glory of God and the good of the Church?
  3. Do you solemnly promise that, by the assistance of the grace of God, you will endeavor faithfully to discharge all the duties of a pastor to this congregation, and will be careful to maintain a deportment in all respects becoming a minister of the Gospel of Christ, agreeable to your ordination engagements?

As I mentioned there were also questions asked of the congregation and promises made:

  1. Do you, the people of this congregation, continue to profess your readiness to receive Nick Napier, whom you have called to be your pastor?
  2. Do you promise to receive the word of truth from his mouth with meekness and love, and to submit to him in the due exercise of discipline?
  3. Do you promise to encourage him in his labors, and to assist his endeavors for your instruction and spiritual edification?
  4. Do you engage to continue to him while he is your pastor that competent worldly maintenance which you have promised, and to furnish him with whatever you may see needful for the honor of religion and for his comfort among you?

I had the privilege today of encouraging the congregation to follow the directions that Paul gave to the Philippian Church so many years ago:

“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

By God’s grace let us “Make It So.”

 

 

 

 

What I Miss (and Don’t Miss) about Attending General Assembly

coffin

I have now been “Honorably Retired” for two years (Every time I write that I think, “I love my denomination’s lingo”), so that means this is the third Presbyterian Church in America General Assembly in a row that I have not attended. There are things that I do NOT miss about this yearly adventure that was so much a part of my life during my time as a PCA Teaching Elder

I do NOT miss attending GA because of the need to travel across the country and live in a hotel for three days. My legs are too long to be comfortable on the flight, and one never knows who will be seated in the seat next to him for several hours. I still remember the college girl next to me who was on her way to work at a summer camp in New England who must have wanted to be a European because she decided to wear no deodorant on that particular day. At first I thought that I must have been the culprit of the odor hanging around aisle 23 until she stretched and I realized that I was the victim. Along with the travel, I must admit my curmudgeon-li-ness (yes, I know that is not a word) results in my not sleeping well in a hotel (although I often found myself dozing through the informational reports on Wednesday afternoon), so I knew that I would return home exhausted.

I do NOT miss attending GA because one never knows what you are going to get at the worship services. There seems to be some innate desire every year for the worship service to be more “creative” than the year before. I am still shaking my head at the year someone actually thought intinction was a good idea. [sigh]

I do NOT miss attending GA because being on the losing side of seemingly every vote gets old after a while. (Yes, I was on the winning side of the Federal Vision Study Committee vote several years ago but the PCA has found ways to ignore that result from the moment it happened.) I must admit one would think that I would be used to losing since the first fifteen years of my life as a pastor was spent going to Baptist General Convention of Texas Conventions where being a Biblical conservative meant: you’re a loser (except for the motion to adjourn, of course).

But, I DO miss attending GA because of the fellowship that I had with like-minded pastors from across the nation. It was the only time during the year that I saw most of them (unless I ran into them at a Banner of Truth Conference or the Reformation Worship Conference). It was always good to hear what was going right (and what was going wrong) as they sought to minister to God’s people in a fallen world in the particular place that God’s providence had placed them. I learned much from them and often it helped me to appreciate anew the people that I ministered to back home.

So, this year I will be checking Twitter to discover what is going on in Greensboro, but mainly I will be praying for God to be at work in the life of our denomination during this special week of the year.

Oh, and I almost forgot, I DO miss hearing David Coffin, the walking, talking, breathing Robert’s Rules of Order guy, correcting some parliamentary misdeed that has taken place on the floor (or, even more so, on the podium).
;^)

 

 

The “Hot-Tempered Man”

angry

I have been reading Sonia Purnell’s biography of Clementine Churchill entitled, “Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill.” It has been a fascinating look at the marriage of one of the most important leaders of the 20th century. She was one of the few people who could stand up to the overpowering personality, opinions, and bluster of Great Britain’s foremost statesman. One sentence in particular caught my eye: “Often it was only Clementine who would point to Winston’s faults; his lack of real empathy with others and tendency to bully meant that he often mistook silent acquiescence for positive support.”  One can get away with bullying in the political realm, and sometimes it can even prove beneficial at some level in the business realm, but one place that it doesn’t belong is in Christ’s Church.

My daily Bible reading today included the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Proverbs which contains the following truth, “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger pacifies contention.” In my thirty plus years of ministry I have seen the “hot-tempered man” leave countless broken people in his wake as he careens through the life of the church. Sometimes he is a pastor; sometimes he is an elder; sometimes he is a deacon; sometimes he is “Joe Church Member;” and sometimes he is not a man at all (the hot-tempered woman creates havoc, also); but whoever he (or she) is, destruction follows him the way the flying dust follows Pigpen in the Charlie Brown comic strip. And, often like Winston Churchill he mistakes “silent acquiescence for positive support.” Many church bullies aren’t even aware of the emotional bruises that they leave on those in which they come in contact.

So my plea, first of all, to church officers: Don’t ever let anger be the driving force in your life. I once knew a pastor who said that he was able to get more work done when he was angry, but I also knew that many of those around him were constantly walking on eggshells, being careful to not trigger one of his infamous outbursts. Secondly, I would ask church members to be prayerfully careful about whom they vote for when church officer elections are held. An angry church member can cause great harm, but an angry church leader can devastate the life of a local church.

And, last of all, as we live out our lives in this fallen world; always remember the guidance that the Apostle Paul gave to the church at Rome:

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. ‘But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17-21)

 

 

 

 

 

Dealing with Challenging People

explosive child

In Ross Greene’s book, “The Explosive Child,” he writes about using three baskets when communicating with kids who have special needs to lessen the possibility of an explosive situation occurring:

 Basket A:  The essential safety behaviors. Non-negotiables.

 Basket B:  The high-priority behaviors which are very important, but not worth a power struggle that will result in an explosive melt-down. Use as opportunity to teach compromise and negotiating skills.

 Basket C:  The behaviors which once seemed important, but are not really a top priority and certainly not worth a melt-down. Things that in the big picture don’t really matter.

Of course, it can be challenging to determine which basket applies to a given situation, but I have found that this approach has been very helpful to me in the world in which I live. I have found that it can be useful in dealing with “The Explosive Adult,” also.