Category Archives: Songs

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (13): Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

Although they say that seeing is believing, believing isn’t always based on seeing, particularly when we’re wrestling with mysterious things like love and wind. There are both visible and invisible realities, and to fully grasp life, we have to explore the abstract and intangible as well as the physically accessible . . . the black holes in the universe—and in our hearts.

Nicodemus was a religious leader among the Jews who was trying to understand the mind and mission of the masterful new teacher in town. Nicodemus had heard about Jesus and recognized that there was more to him than met his eyes. Who was he really? What were his political intentions? Jesus healed people of physical and spiritual ailments, but unlike modern healers, who could only cure some people, Jesus healed everyone, even those who had been blind and lame from birth. No one before (or since) had been able to heal every single person who came to him for help. Jesus was unique throughout time and history.  But, Jesus was complicated, and many of area rabbis felt wary of him. Nicodemus wasn’t really on a midnight mission to understand healing. (Even though he needed spiritual healing, Nicodemus was blind to his need.) Instead, his mission was to understand what the kingdom of God was all about, and if Jesus was planning to usher it in. Jesus knew this, so rather than wasting time discussing his credentials as a healer, Jesus answered the unspoken question in Nicodemus’s heart: How do I become a part of the kingdom of God?

As a scholar, Nicodemus doubtless knew the prophecy from Daniel 2:44, “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.” Nicodemus may have heard Jesus’ proclamation at the beginning of his public ministry: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Perhaps Nicodemus was even present when the curious crowd heard Jesus’ famous sermon on the Mount of Olives: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

What was this kingdom of God? Do you know? If you could be a part of God’s kingdom, would you want to be? I think Nicodemus wanted to be, although probably he was expecting a literal, physical kingdom that would replace the oppressive rule of Rome, because he didn’t understand what Jesus said. As in so many conversations recorded, Jesus was answering questions before Nicodemus could ask them—proving over and over (as He does for us at times) that He sees into that abstract, intangible, black hole in our hearts. Before Nicodemus had a chance to ask, Jesus answered: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

Okay, so where do I go with that? I have no clue what this teacher is talking about! I’m way too old to be born into this world as a baby again . . . so is it too late for me?

I’m talking about spiritual rebirth, not physical. This isn’t something you can see. Spiritual rebirth is like the wind: You can see the results of it, but you can’t see it. Like the wind fluttering in the breeze, so we can understand that the Spirit of God is moving by the way it makes our hearts flutter. God’s heavenly Spirit enlivens our spirits from a sleepless death, so we wake up to the fact that we have been denying His existence and have lived our lives without His love and care! We are overwhelmed by His glory and goodness, and it causes us to grieve over all the years we’ve wasted and the great loss of living without His amazing embrace! We cry out to Him to forgive us for being so blind and dumb. We’re struck blind by His radiant glory and fall at his feet, begging for mercy and healing so that we can see again. He heals us, and we can see again, but it’s with new eyes. A new heart that beats with a pacemaker implanted by God’s own Spirit. New lungs that breathe heavenly air. New lips that only want to sing his praises. New life that feels so much passion for our ineffable God that we want to shout to the world that He is the divine healer who alone is worthy of all honor, and glory, and praise, and worship. We are born again into the kingdom of God. We have become His child. He is our Father. We have a new family with numberless brothers and sisters from ages past to the present and into the future! It’s all too wonderful to explain . . . but we cry out like a baby bursting from the womb!    Okay, so I kind of understand . . . a little. Take it back. I still don’t get it. I like what I hear, but just how can this happen?

And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. Well, do you remember what happened in the wilderness when Moses was leading the people? They were all grumbling and complaining against God, so God sent  swarms of poisonous snakes that started biting and killing everybody. The people had no cure for their loved ones who were bitten, and in terror for their own lives as well, some of them ran to Moses, begging for help. Moses prayed to God, and God told Moses to make a brass serpent and put it up high in the air on a pole. All the people had to do was look up at the snake on the pole, and if they believed enough to be willing to look, they would live! That doesn’t make sense, but it worked. Remember? You’re not going to completely understand this until after I am lifted up on a cross and die, but this is all you have to do to be born again: Repent of your sins and believe. I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish, so look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth! Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. Believeth thou this?

Ye Must Be Born Again
(—William T. Sleeper, 1881, Public Domain)

A ruler once came to Jesus by night
To ask Him the way of salvation and light;
The Master made answer in words true and plain,
“Ye must be born again.

Ye must be born again,
Ye must be born again;
I verily, verily say unto thee,
Ye must be born again.”

2. Ye children of men, attend to the word
So solemnly uttered by Jesus the Lord;
And let not this message to you be in vain,
“Ye must be born again.

3. O ye who would enter that glorious rest,
And sing with the ransomed the song of the blest,
The life everlasting if ye would obtain,
“Ye must be born again.

4. A dear one in heaven thy heart yearns to see,
At the beautiful gate may be watching for thee,
Then list to the note of this solemn refrain,
“Ye must be born again.

Ye must be born again,
Ye must be born again;
I verily, verily say unto thee,
Ye must be born again.”

                      Text for Today’s Meditation: John 3:1-22
 “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).

The Making of Maracas…and Joyful Noises!

Have you ever wondered where maracas come from, our how they’re made?  Or, why they seem to be such an integral part of Latin music? I brought my first set home from Mexico nearly 50 years ago, and they’ve been an integral part of our family making “joyful noises” ever since, charming the children and grand kids from youngest years because they are like giant rattles!Without even thinking about it, I’ve taken them for granted and subconsciously assumed they were carved from wood or made from plastic. It wasn’t until we were in the tropical rain forests of Costa Rica last January
that I learned the story of maracas. Maracas are really made out of the fruit of the Crescentia tree (calabash tree), and they are common throughout southern Mexico, Central, and South America.Crescentia trees can grow in the tropical wild up to 35 feet tall
(although this one, at the Hotel Villa Lapas, is a young garden cultivar).The fruits, known as calabashes, are full of soft, pulpy material which is used for treating respiratory problems, but the hard, thin shells have several uses: as scoops, containers, and happiest of all—as musical instruments!Typically, a wooden handle is inserted into the base of the mature, dried calabash, and the seeds are left inside to rattle!I’m always inspired both by the creativity of God and the ingenuity of man.It makes me stop to ponder:
*What am I really made out of?
*Are there even more ways that I can creatively serve God and man?Thank you, Lord, for ripening us, plucking us, plugging up the holes in our lives, painting us, and allowing us to become instruments of service and joyful praise!I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).

With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the Lord,
the King
” (Psalm 98:6 . . . and don’t forget the maracas!)

 

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (9): Follow Me . . . Ignorant Enthusiasm

If you think we’ve already discussed Jesus’ command, “Follow Me,” you’re right. The first two times I read through the New Testament looking for all the places where Jesus gave people unequivocal imperatives, I counted over 400, so it was tempting to discuss the command to follow him only once. However, each instance has unique circumstances, and Jesus calls men to follow him more times than he urges people to do almost anything else, so I think each account deserves attention. The eighth time we read of Jesus commanding someone to do something, it is when he interacts with Philip, and the story is found only in John’s Gospel  (which I’ve listed at the bottom of this post if you’d like to read it now). In this instance, Philip immediately responds by sharing what he thinks he knows with Nathanael. He identifies (correctly) that Jesus is the prophet about whom Moses wrote (see Deuteronomy 18:15: “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken”).

Further, Philip (incorrectly) states that Jesus is from “Nazareth” and “the son of Joseph.” The first descriptor is partially true; the second is false! Jesus was originally from Bethlehem (although he was living in Nazareth when Nathanael met him), but he was not the son of Joseph. Jesus was conceived by the Virgin Mary overshadowed by God’s Holy Spirit in a once-in-the-universe miracle to produce a sinless offspring who was fully human and fully divine (Matthew 1:20). The Gospel of Luke explains that he was born into the family of Joseph but was not truly his son: “And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli” (Luke 3:23). Because of my own experiences as a new believer, I am charmed by this account, because Philip was so enthusiastic but clearly not well taught as yet! However, that didn’t stop him from instinctively becoming a “fisher of men!”Nathanael, who was a devout and clearly well educated Israelite, questioned Philip’s accuracy based on his knowledge that the ruler of the Jews was to come from Bethlehem, not Nazareth: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). Philip didn’t know all the answers, but he had discovered the One who is the answer, so he urged Nathanael to come and see for himself!

Nathanael came, and in two simple sentences Jesus proved his omniscience. Jesus acknowledged Nathanael as without guile (deceit), which is an introductory volley no mortal could honestly lob over the net on first meeting (but was obviously true, because Nathanael knew in his heart that Jesus was correct), and then Jesus divulged that he had actually been able to see Nathanael  when he was out of eye sight, under a fig tree, before Philip had ever gone to get him! So, Jesus knew Nathanael “inside” and “outside.” If he wasn’t The Prophet, he was definitely a prophet of God, and he had Nathanael’s attention!The unique beauty of this story is that what Philip did was blessed by God, even though he didn’t yet have all his facts straight! Philip became one of the twelve Apostles and was with Jesus throughout his ministry, even sharing The Last Supper with him. He was able to lead Nathanael to Jesus—not because Philip knew all the answers, but because he urged Nathanael to come and see for himself, and Nathanael also became a follower. (We know this because  he was with the disciples at the end of John’s Gospel.) Furthermore, Nathanael was the first to acknowledge Jesus for who he really was: “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel” (John 1:49).

Dearly beloved, if Jesus is your Savior and Lord, you don’t have to wait a minute to share him with others! Tell them as much as you know, but realize that what you say may be true, only half true, or even (unintentionally) false, like what  Philip told Nathanael! The important thing is to get your friends to come and see for themselves! Bring them to Jesus; put a Bible in their hands; invite them to church. Urge them to pray to Jesus. Jesus can draw them to himself. All we have to do is testify to what little we know (or think we know)! As Jesus taught: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32).

Come and See
(—Lenny LeBlanc)
“Come and see the glory of the Lord
Come behold the Lamb
Come and know the mercy of the King
Bowing down before him.
“Come and give thanks unto the Lord
Come behold the Lamb.
Come and sing the praises of the King
Bowing down before him
“For He is Lord above the heavens,
Lord of all the earth
Lord of all the angels,
Worthy to be served.
Allelujah!”
(For an inspiring rendition by the composer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIn4WG_v9m8)

The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me.44 Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.45 Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.46 And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! 48 Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.50 Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these.51 And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man” (John 1:43-51).

Thanksgiving Through Time

Although we think of Thanksgiving as a day to thank God for life and abundant sustenance, the abundance is only true for some of us, and  what we think of as the first “Thanksgiving,” celebrated by the Pilgrims back in 1621, was actually a very stressful occasion when 90 Indians showed up uninvited to attend the festivities of the 53 surviving Puritans who had managed to last through the first year of life in the new world. The festivities lasted three days and had a frightening impact on the precious stores of corn and staples that the Pilgrims were depending on to help them survive the upcoming winter. Nevertheless, as an act of goodwill and faith, the Pilgrims shared what they had, played games with the Indians, accepted the 5 deer that the Indians brought to add to the feasts, and stopped worrying about survival long enough to embrace the Indians and rejoice together in God’s care. Such was the faith and hospitality of our forefathers, and such was the forbearance and goodwill of the Native Americans, who could easily have killed all the  Pilgrims that day had they wanted to!  My earnest prayer is that every person who reads this has enough to eat today, although I read frightening statistics on those who suffer. In Grand Rapids, anybody can get a good, hot Thanksgiving dinner at Mel Trotter Rescue Mission or Guiding Light Mission down town. I remember about fifteen years ago (when our kids were younger and we had a family band) providing music for Mel Trotter’s free dinner. Over 2,000 turkey dinners were served at the DeVos Convention Center. I’m not sure how many cities are that organized and charitable, but I pray that today people will reach out in faith and hope to embrace those around them who are spiritually and physically needy. God will  provide if we faithfully follow his leading, even during scary times, like the very first Thanksgiving!  By the way, I recently finished listening to a fascinating book by Nathaniel Philbrick called Mayflower, which was among the finalists for a Pulitzer Prize. If you’re interested in American history, this carefully documented account traces the journey of the Puritans, detailing the perils and conflicts that began before their cramped crossing of the Atlantic crammed into the 4-foot-high middle deck of the Mayflower . . . and all the way through the terribly destructive King Philip’s War (1675-1678). Although studying history dispels any illusions of universal peace and goodwill among any nation or tribe, it does have the effect of making me even more appreciative of the relative peace and security in America and around the world today. Despite the terrible accounts of persecution, murder, and war, the entire world is slowly becoming statistically less aggressive and murderous, with fewer violent deaths per capita than earlier times in history (according to the studies of psychologist Steven Pinker). In reflecting on the “why” of this, it occurred to me that it may be the result of the Kingdom of God coming to earth in the person of Christ, who is the Prince of Peace, and the calming effect of true believers (not all those who pose as Christians but are really wolves in sheep’s clothing and destructive) who are “salt and light” in the world. Just one thought, but a happy one! Well, throughout American history—and world history—we have innumerable reasons to be thankful, so I just want to say, “Thank you, Father!”

This is My Father’s World
(—Maltbie Babcock, 1901)

This is my father’s world
And to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres…
This is my father’s world
Oh, let me never forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong
God is the ruler yet.
This is my father’s world
Why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is king, let the heavens ring
God reigns, let the earth be glad.

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.’ 16 And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying,’We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign'” (Revelation 11:15-17).

 

Tommy Walker: Pursuing the Way of Peace

When you’re in L.A., there are many outstanding churches you might want to visit on a Sunday morning, but when we were there last week with our oldest son’s family, Alan’s first choice was to visit Christian Assembly, where Tommy Walker is the worship leader. Over the course of his career, Tommy has composed 85+ songs, recorded 25 albums, and has 247 recordings listed on Song Select. His works include many songs that our family band played over the years, such as He Knows My Name, That’s Why We Praise Him, Joy, Joy, Joy, and Sweet, Sweet Presence of Jesus.
Tommy is an outstanding musician and has worked with national leaders like Franklin Graham, Rick Warren, and Promise Keepers, but what Alan loves best is not Tommy’s great giftedness, but his amazing humility. Although he’s been offered deals by recording companies and publishers, he has intentionally pursued a more quiet path with his wife Robin, continuing his ministry as the worship leader at the same church for twenty-eight years, where his four children have grown up. His ambition is to glorify God, not himself, and that won’t catapult you into Hollywood fame and fortune. However, I believe Tommy Walker is spiritually rich, and he’s definitely famous in the eyes of those of us who’ve been blessed by his ministry!
       By the way, the message (by Pastor Tom Hughs) was also excellent. He’s working through a series called Anxious for Nothing http://cachurch.com/sermons/october-20-21-weekend-services/ and last week offered this advice for keeping CALM in the midst of crisis:
C: Celebrate God’s goodness and blessings
A: Ask God for help
L: Leave your concerns with God
M: Meditate on God and his Word
      Are you anxious today? If you’ve got a few minutes, please allow yourself to be calmed by Tommy Walker singing “When I Don’t Know What to Do.”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMXEwwhF6pg

“Lord I surrender all
To Your strong and faithful hand
In everything I will give thanks to You
I’ll just trust Your perfect plan

When I don’t know what to do
I’ll lift my hands
When I don’t know what to say
I’ll speak Your praise
When I don’t know where to go
I’ll run to Your throne
When I don’t know what to think
I’ll stand on Your truth
When I don’t know what to do

Lord I surrender all
Though I’ll never understand
All the mysteries around me
I’ll just trust Your perfect plan

Bridge

As I bow my knee
Send Your perfect peace
Send Your perfect peace Lord
As I lift my hands
Let Your healing come
Let Your healing come to me”

“Strong Christians are not strong people, they just know where to run.” —Tommy Walker

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

P.S.—I didn’t think of this when I first wrote the article, but studying Tommy Walker’s life makes me believe he has had to resist Satan’s temptations to “bow down and worship” him. (See Meditating on the Commands of Christ 2). I’ve never had to give up fame or fortune (because I’ve never had either), but Tommy seems to have avoided a lot of the common traps that ruin the lives of many gifted people!

Rise Up, My Love (307): How to Access the Song of Solomon Study Sequentially

Studying the Song of Solomon has been one of the highlights of my life, but it’s finally come to an end (at least for now). This post will serve as the final “bookend” on my blog, but it will be the first post that comes up for anyone who scrolls down the right-hand side of Summer Setting’s home page and clicks on the “Rise Up, My Love” tab. Therefore, for anyone who would like to read the posts beginning at the beginning rather starting at the end, I wanted to let you know that you can access the entries sequentially on my home page by typing into the window box that has the word “Search” next to it in the upper right-hand area of the page. For example, if you type in: Rise Up, My Love (1) and then hit “Search,” it will bring up the first post, which was written exactly six years years ago, on October 7, 2012. Here’s the link:

https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2012/10/07/rise-up-my-love-meditations-on-the-song-of-solomon-1/

If you have any thoughts or questions to share, I’d love to have you post them in the comment box below. May God bless you in your journey toward finding, knowing, loving, and surrendering to the God of the Universe, who loves you, and me, and all of us, more than we will ever comprehend!

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen” (Jude 24-25).

Rise Up, My Love (305): Pictures of Jesus as a Deer

Song of Solomon 8:14 “Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe, or to a young hart…” What are the roe and the young hart like? The NIV translates these animals as “deer and gazelle.” Earlier in this book we discussed the Middle Eastern cousins to the North American members of the deer family with which we are so familiar. What are their outstanding characteristics?

These two animals are only mentioned a half a dozen times outside of The Song of Solomon, but in each instance the context offers valuable insight. In Deuteronomy 12 we learn that the Israelites loved the delicious meat of the hart and roe, and two chapters later we learn that these prized creatures were among the clean animals that could be eaten. In 2 Samuel 2:18 we learn that the wild roe was “light of foot”—a fast and graceful runner, and in Proverbs 6:5 we learn that the roe was quick to deliver itself “from the hand of the hunter.” Psalm 42:1 reveals that one whose heart is like God’s own heart will pant after God “as the hart panteth after the water brooks.” Isaiah 35:6 describes the lame man who is healed as leaping for joy “as an hart.”

What can we learn from these word pictures that will help us understand the bride’s request? She longs for Christ to be quick and fleet-footed like the roe in escaping the hunter and coming to her. Although this book was written a thousand years before Christ came to earth, we can now see that he did indeed escape from the hand of the evil one who hunted his soul. Jesus rose victoriously over the grave and is now sitting at the Father’s right hand in heaven, awaiting the Father’s bidding to make haste and come again to gather us unto himself!

Jesus proved that his soul exceeded the hart’s passion for water when he suffered the agonies of death and hell for love of us, his bride. Near the beginning of the Song of Solomon the bride says that her husband is indeed “like a roe or a young hart” (2:9). “Behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills” (2:8). What beautiful pictures the Scripture paints of the husband returning brilliantly, passionately, and joyfully to join his wife again!  All this, and yet there is more to be learned about Christ in the bride’s simile about the deer. It is hunting season in Michigan today (or at least it was when I wrote this years ago!). There is no more prized game in this state than the wonderful taste of flash-fried, fresh venison. (No, you don’t have to simmer it for hours to make it tender; overcooking is what makes it tough in the first place.)  One of the men in our “care group” (a group of families from our assembly who met weekly for Bible study, prayer, support, and accountability when I was writing this) shot an eleven-point buck while bow hunting. This friend is in the ministry overseeing a Christian “growth center” for young people who have finished a rehabilitation program and are now trying to find jobs and reintegrate into society, so you can bet that deer will be a great blessing to the folks struggling to make ends meet there. (By the way, I was later treated to some venison stew for my birthday…so I was one of the beneficiaries as well!)  “Be thou like to a roe…” Picture Christ as that great eleven-point stag…whose life was forfeited so that others could be sustained. Surely the bride did not have in mind that her husband would give his life for her, but he did. Jesus fulfilled her request in a most unexpected way. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). Like the desirable “clean,” innocent deer, our Lord Jesus Christ gave up his life so that spiritually we could “take, eat; this is my body..this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:26-28). Jesus sacrificed himself so that he could impart to us his own eternal life and through a great divine mystery make us “bone of his bones and flesh of His flesh.”

As the Deer
(—Martin J. Nystrom, 1984)

As the deer panteth for the water
So my soul longs after You
You alone are my hearts desire
And I long to worship You.

You alone are my strength, my shield
To You alone may my spirit yield
You alone are my hearts desire
And I long to worship You.

I want you more than gold or silver
Only You can satisfy
You alone are the real joy giver
And the apple of my eye.

You alone are my strength, my shield
To You alone may my spirit yield
You alone are my hearts desire
And I long to worship You.

You’re my friend and You’re my brother
Even though you are a King
I love You more than any other
So much more than anything.

You alone are my strength, my shield
To You alone may my spirit yield
You alone are my hearts desire
And I long to worship You.

As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God” (Psalm 42:1).

(The first and last photos of deer are from my home, but the middle three are used by permission by my friends Dennis and Frances and their son Amos. Thank you, dear friends, for being willing to share!!)