Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What A Friend We Have In Jesus
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What A Friend We Have In Jesus


What a friend we have in Jesus,

all our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry

everything to God in prayer!

O what peace we often forfeit,

O what needless pain we bear,

all because we do not carry

everything to God in prayer.

  1. This is a song we enjoy singing

  2. It brings a smile to our lips as we sing it.

  3. But it was not written by a man was particularly happy

  4. Rather, it was written by a man never quite found his way.

Trans: Our story begins in 1819 with the birth of Joseph Scriven in Dublin, Ireland, to wealthy parents.

  1. His faith was influenced by the Plymouth Brethren community and it built a wall between him and his parents.

  2. Twenty years later he was engaged to be married. But the wedding would never take place – the night before his fiancĂ©e accidentally drowned.

  3. Joseph never quite recovered from that loss. With the loss of his love and the estrangement he felt with his family, Joseph chose to move to Canada – in fact he moved to a small town due north of Medina, NY, Port Hope, Ontario.

  4. In Port Hope, Joseph Scriven was known for living an eccentric life. He devoted all his extra time in being a friend and helper to others. He often gave away his clothing and possessions to those in need. He would work without pay for anyone in need. He was known as the “Good Samaritan of Port Hope”.

  5. In 1887, Scriven heard that his mother was ill. He wrote the poem for her, never intending it to be published.

  6. Five years later Scriven himself was sick. A friend called on him and found a copy sitting on the table near his bed. When Scriven was asked who wrote it, he replied, “The Lord and I did it together.”

  7. The details of how the song made its way to a Sunday School Song book in Richmond, VA, is not known. But it was in Richmond that Ira D. Sankey and Phili P Bliss (author of It Is Well With My Soul) wanted to add it to a hymnal they were editing. But something was wrong – the music they had didn't catch the heart like the hymns they really loved.

  8. But at about the same time a composer by the name of Charles C. Converse submitted a hymn that they had decided to add to their hymnal – but the Scriven's words were a better match and Sankey and Bliss decided to add Scriven's words to Converse's music. Years later Sankey said that “the last hymn that went into the book became one of the first in favor.”

  9. Thus, the hymn “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” has local roots. Joseph Scriven is buried in a cemetary four miles North of Port Hope. Near Lake Ontario beside the highway running north from Port North stand a monument with the words from this hymn. In addition, an epitaph to Scriven is included. “Four Miles North in Pengelly's Cemetary lies the Philanthropist and Author of the great masterpiece written at Port Hope, 1857.”

  10. The local connection is even stronger. Charles C. Converse, the composer of the music that we sing, is said to be buried in Canandaigua, NY.1

Read: John 15:13-16


T.S. Christ calls us friends and then begins to tell us what that means. John 15:13-16 gives us five pictures of friendship.

  1. Friendship is demonstrated by CHRIST

    1. Christ defines the love of a friend as one who is willing to lay down his life. And that is what Christ does – within the next 24 hours, he will be laying down his life. His disciples do not know it, they do not understand it – but Jesus knows it.

(Ill.) Jon Courson tells the story of John Knox. Knox was an active leader in the Protestant Reformation and is considered the founder of the Presbyterian Church. You may have heard that an entire nation was revived when John Knox prayed, “Lord, give me Scotland, or I die.” But what many people don’t know is what Knox wrote concerning the answer to that prayer. The Lord responded in his heart, saying, “First die, then I’ll give you Scotland.”

“Make this relationship work, or I’m going to die,” we pray.

“Die first,” the Lord says.

Lay down your life for your wife, your neighbor, your friend. That is not only the proof of your love, but the pathway to love, because love is not some feeling you hope returns, not some kind of elusive mystical emotion. It’s the decision to die to your dreams, your desires, your needs, and your wants and instead lay down your life for your friend, your husband, your neighbor, or your kids.2

  1. The obvious corollary is this: Friendship is demonstrated by SACRIFICE.

    1. You know, Jesus did gave His life for me. You know why? Because I am His friend.

    2. You know what – Jesus gave His life for you. You know why? Because you are His friend.

    3. You realize how amazing that is – The One who was present at the creation of the world, gave His life for you. The One who holds the world together, gave His life for you. The One who loves you more than you love yourself, gave His life for you.

    4. Jesus made the sacrifice so that we could live.

  2. Friendship is demonstrated by OBEDIENCE

    1. Christ demonstrated His love for us by the sacrifice He made.

    2. But how do we demonstrate our love for Him? By obedience

(Ill.) A doctor gives us orders – and we follow them. Now sometimes that is hard. You see, when our friends want us to break those rules – eat more than we should, get dessert, forget to exercise. We know how important those rules are to our physical health. But God give us instructions for our spiritual health. The instructions that God gives are like a doctors orders. We can choose to ignore them, but when we do, we know that our lives will be in line with what God wants for us.3

    1. As God's friends we will want to be obedient to Him.

  1. Our friendship to Christ is demonstrated by our fruit.

    1. Take a look at Jesus' words in v. 16: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you. I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain

    2. Whenever I see see the word “fruit” I am reminded of Galations 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.

(Ill.) But this fruit is different than the stuff we buy in the store. The stuff we buy in the store will eventually go bad. I will turn brown, or grow mold, or dry out. It looses it potency.

    1. But the fruit of the spirit is designed to always be there. The only way it looses its potency, the only way it no longer is part of our lives is when live away from the source. Live close to Jesus, you will bear the fruit.

  1. Our friendship to Christ is demonstrated by our prayer

    1. As I began to look at today's message I struggled between focusing on our friendship with Christ and prayer. Six times in this hymn we are reminded of the power of prayer.

    2. But you know what, friendship with Christ means we pray.

    3. Look again at verse 16: You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.

    4. Friendship with Christ means we can pray, friendship with Christ means we do pray. Friendship with Christ means we can expect to see our prayers answered.

Are we weak and heavy laden,

Cumbered with a load of care?

Precious Savior, still our refuge;

Take it to the Lord in prayer:

Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?

Take it to the Lord in prayer;

In His arms He’ll take and shield thee;

Thou wilt find a solace there.


1Osbeck, K. W. (1982). 101 hymn stories. Includes music and index. (275). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications.



Smith, J. S. and Carlson, B. (1997). Great Christian Hymn Writers. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

2Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson's Application Commentary (566). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

3AMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

Monday, April 07, 2008

How Great Thou Art
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How Great Thou Art

Read: Luke 19:29-40

Intro.: It was no ordinary Sunday – the disciples knew that.

  1. It was the day after the Jewish sabbath and now they had been sent to find a young donkey for Jesus to ride

  2. In fact Jesus had told them what to say if they were questioned; tell them, “The Lord has need of it.”

  3. And when they had brought the colt to Jesus, they took their cloaks and put it on its back and set Jesus on it.

  4. And as they made their way down the Mount of Olives, the multitude of the disciples that were followers laid down their cloaks in from of the colt. Others laid down branches from the trees.

  5. There were some who went ahead of Jesus and his friends – and there was a group that followed behind.

  6. But where ever you walked that day you heard them: John 12: Hosanna! Blessed is the King of Israel! Matt 21: Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Luke 19: Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!

  7. It was no ordinary day. I suspect that if the hymn How Great Thou Art had been around, we would have heard it being sung that day as well.


Trans: For Swedish pastor Carl Boberg it was an ordinary day.

  1. It was the spring of 1886. He was visiting a friend in the country and had gone out for a walk.

  2. But he, unexpectedly, found himself caught in a thunderstorm.

  3. And it was not a quiet storm – he described it later as being “awesome and violent” - but it ended quickly.

  4. And its path were clear, brilliant sunshine. As he continued his walk, he heard the calm sweet singing of birds in the trees.

  5. He could not go on – he fell to his knees to praise. He had been awed by God's extraordinary work that day. The adoration he felt led him to write a nine stanza poem.

  6. The Swedish church set his poem to the tune of an old folk tune.

  7. Quickly it was translated in German and Russian. It was not until 1925 that it was first translated into English by Rev. E. Gustav Johnson – a member of the Covenant Church a church with a decidedly Scandinavian heritage:

    O mighty God, when I behold the wonder Of nature’s beauty, wrought by words of thine, And how thou leadest all from realms up yonder, Sustaining earthly life with love benign, With rapture filled, my soul thy name would laud, O mighty God! O mighty God! (repeat)1

  8. Though this is still the version that is included in the Covenant Church's hymnal, it is not the version that we know and love.

  9. The translation that we are familiar with was written in 1933 by Rev. S. K. Hine. He was a missionary to Russia and heard the Russian translation. S. K. Hine then wrote the original English words that were eventually made famous by George Beverly Shea in Billy Graham's famous London Crusade:2

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder, Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made; I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed. Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee, How great Thou art, How great Thou art. (repeat)3

T.S. Praise is a universal response to God's grace and power. Whether it be from a pastor in a field in 1886 or from us living in 2008.

  1. David expressed praise – Psalms 145:3 (HCSB) Yahweh is great and is highly praised; His greatness is unsearchable.

    1. Unless we use the name of Jesus, we don't normally give God a name.

    2. But in the OT, God had a name – the most common name is YHWH. Tradition tells us that it was never pronounced out loud and if seen scripture it was replaced by the title – Adonai. YHWH is considered God's personal name.

    3. The roots of the word come from “To be” - God tells Moses the he is to be called “I am who I am” - which has the same roots as the name YHWH.

    4. So David is ready to praise the Great I AM – His greatness is “unsearchable”

(Ill.) John Jay was the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Using his words, “God is great, and therefore He will be sought: He is good, and therefore He will be found.”4

(Ill.) Sometimes it takes courage to acknowledge God's greatness. In 1717 when France’s Louis XIV died, his body lay in a golden coffin. He had called himself the “Sun King,” and his court was the most magnificent in Europe. To dramatize his greatness, he had given orders that during his funeral the cathedral would be only dimly lighted with only a special candle set above the coffin. As thousands waited in hushed silence, Bishop Massilon began to speak. Then slowly reaching down, he snuffed out the candle, saying, “Only God is great!”5

(Appl.) My prayer for you today is that you can recognize that only God is great. I am not great (no surprise there), but neither are you. Only God is great. May we agree with David, Yahweh is great and is highly praised; His greatness is unsearchable.”

  1. Paul expressed praise - 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (HCSB) For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will always be with the Lord.

    1. Rev. Boberg reminded us of God's greatness in the present.

    2. David reminded of God's greatness in the past.

    3. Paul aims our view to the future.

    4. Somehow that seems strange – after all, I wouldn't think of coming up to you and saying, “Thank you for mowing my lawn” - at least not until you had done it.

    5. But Paul knows that God is control of the future.

(Ill.) Most of you know the difficulty Sandra has had at work these past three months. During most of that time I have had two pieces of advice.

“What are you supposed to do?” “My best.”

“Who are you supposed to trust?” “God.”

We were reminded of that this last week in Georgia. We began each day at 7:15 with gathering together for Communion before breakfast. On the first day we were led to the Lord's table by Dr. Winston O. R. Worrell. Wesley was guided in the early days of his faith by the Moravians – and we chose to use the Moravian Daily Texts to be the focus of our communion each morning. On Tuesday morning, the first morning of our conference, we were reminded by the texts to “trust God, trust God, trust God, trust God.” Sandra and I both heard my voice echo through Rev. Worrell's that morning. But catch this, the very nature of trusting God, is to believe that he will be there in the future just as much as has been in the past and is in the present. I, like Sandra, and like you, must remember to “trust God, trust God, trust God, trust God.”

Conclusion: We, with generations before us, can sing -

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

When Christ shall come,
with shout of acclamation,
And take me home,
what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim:
"My God, how great Thou art!"

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!



2Osbeck, K. W. (1982). 101 hymn stories. Includes music and index. (99). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications.

3Osbeck, K. W. (1990). Amazing grace : 366 inspiring hymn stories for daily devotions. Includes indexes. (141). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications.

4Federer, W. J. (2001). Great Quotations : A Collection of Passages, Phrases, and Quotations Influencing Early and Modern World History Referenced according to their Sources in Literature, Memoirs, Letters, Governmental Documents, Speeches, Charters, Court Decisions and Constitutions. St. Louis, MO: AmeriSearch.

5Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson's complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (635). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.