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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

What a Beautiful Name!

        “What a beautiful Name it is…What a wonderful Name it is…What a powerful Name it is…The Name of Jesus…”  These lyrics penned in 2015, touch our hearts with its truth, describing who Jesus Is – from the beginning of time.  Recently, I located a link to over 100 names of Jesus given in the scriptures.   
         In today’s business world, we often think of resumes declaring our worthiness to be hired.  The Word of God gives us the greatness of Jesus in descriptive terms now and forevermore.  These titles of Jesus will never change.  He is the beloved Son of God, the Bread of Life, the Chief Shepherd, the Almighty, the Alpha and Omega, the Author and The Finisher of our Faith.  These are just the only six of the descriptions of Jesus written in God’s Word. 
         Who is this Jesus to me?  Who is Jesus to you? When I consider His Great Love as He paid for my sins on the cross, I am overwhelmed with joy at His great gift.  How easily we turn our backs on the truth. We forget our purpose on earth, why we were created.  We are consumed by the world’s goal of seeking our potential without Jesus.  We often do not understand we were created to praise and glorify our Jesus with our lives each day.   
         The ‘here and now’ will pass away. This life is simply a journey, preparing us for the glory of eternity with God and His Son Jesus, living holy and forgiven lives in the process of this journey. 
         The life of Jesus did not begin in the manger as a babe, in Bethlehem (Luke 2).  John 1:1-4 declares - In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.
         Since I can remember, I learned verses and songs about the love of Jesus, and how God sent Him to earth in the form of a baby. God and Jesus knew the purpose of His coming. Jesus would be reviled and die on the cross in payment for our sins. Yet Jesus came.  Why?  There is not greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends…John 15:13.  Jesus is our friend.  He made a way for us to enjoy the inheritance waiting for us in the presence of God.  We can only imagine this love inheritance… I Corinthians 2:9 - “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”  
         Each time a new day dawns, we know it is the work of Jesus and we are seeing His Glory in the heavens.  His faithfulness, truth and love continue. Each morning when we open our eyes we realize the new dawn is a celebration of the faithfulness of Jesus and His love for us. 
         How would you begin to write a song about Jesus to tell of His Glory and Presence and Power?  Where would you look for thoughts and words to tell the story of Jesus?  Brook Ligertwood and Ben Fielding didn’t write this song in fifteen minutes as so many other composers did, instead, they studied Scriptures gathering inspiration.  Praying and worshiping in God’s Word, they contemplated the scripture from Colossians 1:26-28 -  …the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.  
         There are not words in any language to adequately describe the beautiful name of Jesus. The exclamation point of this praise song is captured with these lyrics: 
         Death could not hold You, (Romans 6:9).
         The veil tore before You, (Matthew 27:51).
         You silence the boast of sin and grave,
         The Heavens are roaring, (Revelation 19:1).
         The praise of your glory, for You are raised to life again,
         You have no rival, You have no equal,
         Now and forever, God, You Reign. 
         Yours is the Kingdom, Yours is the Glory, (Matthew 6).
         Yours is the name above all names. (Philippians 2:9).
         How can we know Jesus and love Him with all that is in us?  It is when we recognize without Jesus, we are nothing. We see Jesus as He is when we follow his pathway as witnesses as He healed the lame and the blind, and set captives free.  Jesus changed water into wine and stilled storms.  His life continues with loving, giving, and changing hearts.  When we come to the end of ourselves without hope – there is Jesus – saying, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  Matthew 11:28-29
         Beautiful reminds us of the tenderness of His Love and the sweetness of His presence.  Wonderful expresses our gratitude for salvation and the depths of His sacrifice. Powerful is an affirmation of His supremacy ad Sovereignty, and to remember His great Power in every situation in life and know He answers prayer. His Name is Jesus!
         The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven. This shows that the Son is far greater than the angels, just as the name God gave him is greater than their names. Hebrews 1:3-4
         Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. Colossians 1:15-16



Tuesday, July 18, 2017

In The Garden

         In the garden that our Lord God planted God placed Adam after He breathed life into him.  Adam lived in a garden like no other. Its grandeur cannot be duplicated by an artist or by wondrous words of an author.  Genesis 2:8 simply says - Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden in the east, and there he placed the man he had made. 
         God, the Magnificent, the Infinite, the Eternal, the Faithful, the Creator, planted a garden, no man except Adam would see.  Genesis 2 describes the rivers in Eden for watering the Garden, and the towering trees.  In verse 19, God gives Adam a job.  So the Lord God formed from the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would call them, and the man chose a name for each one.  
         What is a garden to you?  What is a garden to God?  A garden is a backdrop of God’s peace in our souls. Each of us, at one time or another love to watch rivers flow, growing plants, towering trees, and even more delightful, our children. As a teenager, gardening was drudgery for me.  So many weeds grew, threatening to choke out the produce.  It is a picture of how the world threatens to choke out the fruit that believing in Jesus brings into our lives. 
         In today’s culture we are taught to go to the grocery store and purchase the foods we would have grown, a generation or two back in time.  This is a photo of my Dad intently hoeing and my Grandma Suderman bent over tending to the backyard garden. 
         In my childhood, we were taught to plant, harvest and preserve the food we would eat.  When I asked my Mother why she gardened, she explained to me that every spring her fingers itched to be ‘in the dirt’.  She loved to grow beautiful flowers to bring to the ‘old people’ she visited, until she was past 80 years old.  I remember the Siemens Cellar in Watonga, with shelves lined with jars of canned home grown vegetables and fruit.
         What is in a garden?  What makes growing things such a gift to our souls?  It is the peace of God!  Long ago when the people of Israel were taken captive, God sent a message to His People, through Jeremiah the prophet.  Jeremiah sent a letter here to Babylon, predicting that our captivity will be a long one. He said, ‘Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce.  Jeremiah 29:28.
         How often while gardening, we become tired, hot, and wipe the sweat from our eyes, looking up?  And for a moment we drink in the silence and the grandeur of the heavens and we are still.  The words reverberate in our hearts and minds,  “Be still, and know that I am God!  I will be honored by every nation.  I will be honored throughout the world.” Psalm 46:10.
         How were the lyrics of the hymn, In the Garden, written? It was 1912, in a windowless basement room, Austin Miles reached for his Bible. It fell open to John 20.  It is the description of Mary Magdalene searching for Jesus.  She went to the entrance of the tomb and saw the stone had been rolled away and the tomb empty.  She found Simon Peter, and announced, “They took the Lord’s body away, and we don’t know where it could be!”  She looked in the tomb and saw two white-robed angels who asked why she cried.  “They took away my Lord and I don’t know where they have taken Him.”  She saw a gardener standing near by and asked, “Sir, tell me where you have put Jesus and I will go get Him.”  It is then the gardener said one word, “Mary”, and she knew, “Rabboni!” She had seen Jesus and ran to tell the disciples she had seen The Savior -- alive.       
         Is this just a story to you?   Can you put yourself in the place of Mary Magdalene, frantically searching and then rejoicing because she had found Jesus? Reading the Bible comes alive when we read more than the words but our hearts are present knowing the joy Mary Magdalene felt when she found Jesus. It is the same joy every believer experiences when they find Jesus.
         This is what Austin Miles saw in his heart as he read these words…he was in the garden at the tomb with Mary frantically searching for Jesus, and penning the words in joy and thankfulness with Mary Magdalene.
     I come to the garden alone, While the dew is still on the roses; and the voice I hear, falling on my ear, The Son of God discloses.  And He walks with me, and He talks with me.  And He tells me I am His own.  And the joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known….
         Mother (Anna Siemens) wrote these words…in a poem called Garden Serenity…I cannot rightly call it toil. When sprigs are planted into soil. Although I water, mulch, and hoe. God’s elements will make them grow. The plants, the sun, and even weeds -  Fulfill my very basic needs; For when I kneel upon the sod. I have such lovely talks with God.
         After Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, Genesis 3:8 gives us a piercing question to ponder.  Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”  He continues to ask today, “Where are you?”
     But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread your protection over them, that all who love your name may be filled with joy.  Psalm 5:11.
     For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty Savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears.  He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Zephaniah 3:17.
     For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11.

      The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley I will not be afraid for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. Psalm 23:1-4.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

In The Sweet By and By

The lyrical tenor of my Grandfather Gerhard Suderman poured from the small red disc recording of his favorite song, In the Sweet By and By.  As I listen, memories of the lessons he taught me of harmony and melody and strict rhythm not only in music but also in life.  My mother remembers her Papa’s music in her book, The Lines are Fallen. She recalls Papa’s hand on her shoulder beating the rhythm to the steady “Eins, Zwei, Drei, Vier,” 1-2-3-4 count. Her rhythm became flawless. The testimony of his faith in Christ Jesus was nestled in the singing of hymns, and leading the church choir as a sacrifice of love. 
         Grandpa shunned the frivolous things of life.  He was a farmer in central Kansas. He took care of his family and his dear wife Anna and their children. Yet he traded a horse and a cow for a new Kimball piano… and his two daughters were given piano lessons, the others were given voice lessons. Mom recounts her dream to play for her Papa’s church choir.  This was denied until she became sixteen years old.
         I always wondered what he saw and knew in his heart as he sang his favorite song, “There’s a land that is fairer than day, And by faith we can see it afar. For the Father waits over the way, To prepare us a dwelling place there. In the sweet by and by, We shall meet on that beautiful shore.”  
         On Grandpa and Grandma’s fiftieth wedding anniversary, I was chosen to sing a song for a small program.  Mom taught me Green Pastures by Helen Taylor. I rehearsed prior to the program with Grandpa sitting in a rocking chair near by.  The lyrics contained these words, “Beside the green pastures, I’ll rest me today. My Father’s green pastures, how peaceful are they, with fresh grasses springing so cool to my tread. And kind spreading branches, And kind spreading branches a shade overhead, Sweet hour of refreshment dear season of rest, No fear can disturb me, no trouble molest; This quiet and calm shall my spirit restore Until I go forth on my journey once more…. My Father’s green pastures shall comfort my soul.”
         As the last note of music faded, I almost didn’t hear Grandpa say,  That is where I want to be!”  It wasn’t long after, when Grandpa was given his prayerful desire and laid to rest beside the green pastures. 
         Some moments are memorable for a lifetime, and this is one.  Grandpa was In the Sweet By and By. When I considered all the songs and arias he knew and loved, I wondered, why he loved this simple hymn?  He loved music by Beethoven, Hayden, Stainer and Mozart.  He purchased an Edison victrola with records by John Charles Thomas, Madam Schuman-Heinke, and other great singers of that era.
         He ended each day with the same hymn in German…with his family.  Mom translated the song and included it in her family story….Wearied now, I seek my rest. Close my eyes in slumber blest; Father, let Thy loving eye, O’er me like a cover lie…(“Mude bin ich, geh zur Ruh.” Jubeltone  (1894).
         The lyrics of the hymn, In the Sweet By and By, came through a chance conversation between Dr. Fillmore Bennett and noted composer J.P Webster who suffered from depression, and a nervous, sensitive nature.  In 1867,  Dr. Bennett noted that Webster was again not feeling well.  “What is wrong now, Webster?”
         Webster replied, “It is no matter, it will be all right by and by.”  Bennett had a flash of insight.  “The sweet by and by – would that not make a good hymn?”
         Without interest, Webster commented, “Maybe it would.” 
         Bennett turned to his desk and wrote three verses and handed it to Webster, who called for his violin.  His interest kindled, he began to play.  Within thirty minutes, the hymn my Grandpa Suderman loved for a lifetime, was sung for the first time.  Seven years later Grandpa was born in1874. in Pordenau, Russia, and came to this country as a small boy. 
         Another legacy my Grandfather gave me was the preciousness of God’s Word.  My teenage brothers and I sat impatiently at the breakfast table one school morning as Grandpa read from the scripture.  As he closed the Bible, his remark stays with me for years.  He commented, “I never noticed that truth before!”  I knew he had read his worn Bible often.  He gave me an insight that day – no matter how often we read His Word, there is always another treasure of wisdom to be found.
         He taught me when we are in harmony and attuned to our Father in Heaven, He comforts and guides our hearts for an eternity not for a moment but for an eternity. 
         Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine. The land you have given me is a pleasant land. What a wonderful inheritance!  Psalm 16:5-6.
         And we praise Him, We shall sing on that beautiful shore, The melodious songs of the blest; And our spirits shall sorrow no more, Not a sigh for the blessing of rest.

         Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. Psalm 27:14.
         God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection. Psalm 18:30.
         You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds, O God our Savior. You are the hope of everyone on earth, even those who sail on distant seas. You formed the mountains by your power and armed yourself with mighty strength. You quieted the raging oceans with their pounding waves and silenced the shouting of the nations. Those who live at the ends of the earth stand in awe of your wonders. From where the sun rises to where it sets, You inspire shouts of joy.  Psalm 67:5-8.