The Gift of Gifts

Merry Christmas! In honor of the birth of Jesus, here is a wonderful prayer from a book that has become one of my favorites, The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett.

O source of all good,
What shall I render to thee for the gift of gifts,
  thine own dear Son, begotten, not created,
  my Redeemer, proxy, surety, substitute,
  his self-emptying incomprehensible,
  his infinity of love beyond the heart's grasp.
Herein is wonder of wonders:
  he came below to raise me above,
  was born like me that I might become like him.
Herein is love;
 when I cannot rise to him he draws near on
  wings of grace,
 to raise me to himself.
Herein is power;
 when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart
 he united them in indissoluble unity,
  the uncreated and the created.
Herein is wisdom;
 when I was undone, with no will to return to him,
 and no intellect to devise recovery,
 he came, God-incarnate, to save me
  to the uttermost
 as man to die my death,
 to shed satisfying blood on my behalf,
 to work out a perfect righteousness for me.
O God, take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds,
  and enlarge my mind;
 let me hear good tidings of great joy,
  and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore,
  my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose,
  my eyes uplifted to a reconciled Father;
 place me with ox, ass, camel, goat,
  to look with them upon my Redeemer's face,
  and in him account myself delivered from sin;
 let me with Simeon clasp the new-born child
  to my heart,
 embrace him with undying faith,
 exulting that he is mine and I am his.
In him thou hast given me so much
  that heaven can give no more.

– Puritan prayer, from The Valley of Vision

Merry Christmas!

jan-hus-quote

When I first read Jan Hus’s words about the birth of Christ (above), I was struck anew with how incredible it is that the God of the universe would become a human baby to bring us eternal life!

The truths about eternity are tightly woven into our faith now, but it wasn’t always this way. I’ve been taking a seminary class on Job, who lived before God had revealed these truths.  People knew God is just, but since they didn’t know there is life after death, they believed God always punishes evildoers in this life. So when overwhelming calamity hit Job, even his closest friends assumed it was because he had sinned.  In one of my class journal entries, I wrote this:

…I can understand why Job’s friends cling so tightly to their beliefs, because seeing the world as it really is (the way Job does) is utterly disheartening if you believe that this life is all there is. Job is right: the wicked often prosper and the innocent often suffer, and there is little evidence on earth for the justice we so long for in our hearts. Without heaven & hell, all that’s left is hopelessness.

Jesus Christ was born to give a hopeless world the hope of eternal life! Though we have all done evil in the sight of God, Jesus took on Himself the punishment our sins deserved. When we trust in Him as our substitute and savior, we can live forever in the presence of God!

I love training musicians and other creative artists to communicate the hope of eternal life in Christ, and I’m encouraged every time I hear how God uses them. A summer project student wrote this:

Sunday we had 2 concerts. Our first one was at the Indiana Women’s State Prison. This concert was amazing. There were 11 women who accepted Christ and many of them came up to talk to us afterwards. It was very moving to see how willing these women were to hear us and hear about Christ. Then our final concert was at our bass player, Brad’s church in Anderson. It was for a back to school youth group gathering. We had 13 people come to Christ! It was incredible. God amazed us beyond words that day.

You have had a part in bringing eternal life to those 11 women and 13 teens, and to all who come to Christ through Keynote. Your prayers and gifts have made this ministry possible, and I am grateful to you for it – and to the Lord for leading you to partner with me!

Wesley Covenant Prayer

A week or so ago, I saw this prayer on the blog of a fellow Campus Crusade staff member, and decided to do a web search for some information on it. I found that it’s an adaptation from a prayer by John Wesley (1703-1791), whose teachings are the foundation of the various Methodist and Wesleyan Holiness denominations. Over the years it has appeared in various forms in Methodist service books and hymnals. The version below is the one I saw quoted most often (including on wikipedia.org). It’s an incredibly powerful prayer of dedication to the Lord, which needs no further comment.

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
      thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen.

– John Wesley (1703-1791), Book of Offices of the British Methodist Church (1936)

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