Rise Up, My Love (300): Feasting on the Bread of Heaven

Song of Solomon 8:14 Well, last week’s meditation was quite an aside. I hope you didn’t mind. Let’s go back to our last verse and savor just two words: “My beloved.” First, Jesus is ours: He belongs to us. Second, Jesus is our beloved: He is the one with whom we are entwined forever in a love relationship. “My beloved.” He is mine. He is yours! He belongs to each of us uniquely and individually, and we all belong to him and to each other in the universe’s grandest and most glorious, mysterious corporation…a corporation which offers incredible benefits, perfect job security, dividends “above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20), and a pension plan that will provide for us through all eternity. How do you like that for a package? “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation” (Psalm 68:19).

Why is he beloved? To begin with, “We love him because he first loved us” (I John 4:19). He’s beloved because he loves us. Also, we love him because we know that his love will last forever. Nothing ever “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:38-39). Other loves of this world come and go. Some passions seem intense but fade to nothing, and even the greatest loves of earth are at times fickle and frail. Not so the love of God! “I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee” (Jeremiah 31:3).  We love him because the expression of his love through his mercies is fresh and new each morning. Look at Exodus 6:7, “In the morning, then ye shall see the glory of the Lord.” Do you know what the children of Israel saw? They saw manna…the perfect bread sent down fresh from God’s kitchen. Did you know that “manna” means “What is it?” In John 6:51 Jesus explained what it is, and what he is: ”I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever.” Jesus is our manna…our living Bread and our living Word (Matthew 4:4).  He is our Morning Glory…the one who satisfies us early. (As a flower lover, the idea of him being my Morning Glory is my own “pet” name with a double meaning, but isn’t it a sweet thought?) Are you feasting on the warm, fresh, inviting, living Word and being filled afresh with his glory morning by morning? The children of Israel got to the point where they complained bitterly about having to eat manna in the wilderness. “Our soul loatheth this light bread” (Numbers 21:5). They grew tired of perfection. Have you?

I’ve had children who struggled with continuing the practice of a daily morning devotional time because it became “routine and boring.” I beg you, never quit!! Forty years ago my Sunday school teacher used to encourage me as a high schooler with her own view on the Scripture. “Feeding on the Bible is like taking medicine when you’re you’re young. It’s like eating shredded wheat when you’re mature. But, it’s like savoring peaches and cream when you get old.” I think I’ve gotten old…how about you? May he ever be our Morning Glory, and may our waking thoughts each day be to praise him for the glorious beauty of his love and holiness!

Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
(—William Williams, 1745)

Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah,
[or Guide me, O Thou great Redeemer…]
Pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but Thou art mighty;
Hold me with Thy powerful hand.
Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven,
Feed me till I want no more;
Feed me till I want no more.

Open now the crystal fountain,
Whence the healing stream doth flow;
Let the fire and cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through.
Strong Deliverer, strong Deliverer,
Be Thou still my Strength and Shield;
Be Thou still my Strength and Shield.

Lord, I trust Thy mighty power,
Wondrous are Thy works of old;
Thou deliver’st Thine from thralldom,
Who for naught themselves had sold:
Thou didst conquer, Thou didst conquer,
Sin, and Satan and the grave,
Sin, and Satan and the grave.

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of deaths, and hell’s destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan’s side.
Songs of praises, songs of praises,
I will ever give to Thee;
I will ever give to Thee.

Musing on my habitation,
Musing on my heav’nly home,
Fills my soul with holy longings:
Come, my Jesus, quickly come;
Vanity is all I see;
Lord, I long to be with Thee!
Lord, I long to be with Thee!

P.S.—Although this is an ancient song, I noticed that it was sung in Eng­lish at the fun­er­al of Di­a­na, Prin­cess of Wales, in West­min­ster Ab­bey, Lon­don, Sep­tem­ber 6, 1997. So, both the song, and the Bread of Heaven about whom the song was written, continue to feed our souls. Truly, feeding on the Word of God provides eternal nourishment, because Jesus is the Bread of Life sent down from heaven (John 6:48), and in him is life eternal (John 17:2-3)!

New Records Set in Super Bowl 2017: It Ain’t Over ’til It’s Over!

tom-brady-wiki-by-jeffrey-beallSuper Bowl LI set nearly 25 new records and tied another 7, making it the most startling and exciting in Super Bowl history! A sampling of the firsts included:

* First Super Bowl ever to go into overtime

*Tom Brady appeared in 7 Super Bowls, the most by any one player

*Bill Belichick won his 5th Super Bowl, the most games won by a head coach

*Tom Brady won his 5th Super Bowl (at age 39 no less), the most games won by any quarterback

*Most points scored: New England’s James White set two new records for a running back, 20 points and 14 receptions

*Tom Brady set a record for most receptions completed: 43

*Tom Brady also set a new record for most yards in Super Bowl history: 466

*New England Patriot’s set a new record for the largest deficit to overcome: 25 points (biggest before that had been just 10 points)

*Patriots set a new record for offensive plays: 93

*Tom Brady set a new record for most passes attempted: 63

super-bowl-51Talk about an exciting game!! Did you watch the Super Bowl? I didn’t.  Alan watched until near the end of the fourth quarter when Tevin Coleman received the six-yard pass that left the score at 28 for the Atlanta Falcons to only 3 for the New England Patriots. In all of Super Bowl history, no team had been able to recover and win with stats like that, so Alan didn’t want to stay up just to watch the bitter end. Fine by me. I was getting sleepy anyway, and I didn’t know one team from another.

Imagine our surprise the next morning when we heard that the Patriots made an unbelievable comeback, tied the score at 28:28 by the end of the game, and then went on to win 34:28 in overtime. As the beloved catcher for the the New York Yankees, Yogi Berra used to say, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” And, he should know, because he had a lot of exciting comebacks over the years after his games looked lost. He was a fighter! Did you know that Yogi’s record of winning 10 World Series Baseball Championships and being an 18-time All Star hasn’t been broken in the 45 years since he retired? Talk about never giving up. Super inspiring!1953_bowman_yogi_berra-wiki

To me, this Super Bowl is also super inspiring! Are you struggling with something? Feeling discouraged and overwhelmed, like you’ll never be able to climb out of the hole you’re in? Your life and my life ain’t over ’til they’re over. Let’s keep fighting and never give up! Recovery from the “largest deficit in history” may seem impossible, but don’t give up and fall asleep! Victory is possible, whether it’s financial, moral, physical, emotional, spiritual, or whatever! By the way, if you’re over your head and need help, God is here; He loves you; He’s available! Just ask! It probably won’t be easy, and it probably won’t be pretty, but it’s possible. Know it. Do it!

superbowlliA bruised reed he will not break,  and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory (Matthew 12:20, ESV).

The Lord appeared to him from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you” (Jeremiah 31:3, ESV).

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known” (Jeremiah 33:3, ESV).

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ
(1 Corinthians 15:57, ESV).

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4, ESV).

 

Beauty and the Beast and the Nutcracker—Two Wonderful Tales

grand-rapid-ballet-company-programThis holiday season, Alan, Joel, and I have attended the musical, Beauty and the Beast, at Civic Theater and the ballet, The Nutcracker, at DeVos Hall. Both will be playing again this coming weekend, and if you live in the area (or probably any area where they’re being performed), I can recommend them as really delightful. gr-ballerina-jumpingOne thing that strikes me about plays and ballet is that even though the words and music usually remain constant, a new creative interpretation for the sets and choreography, and a different set of actors playing the roles, makes each year’s experience fresh and unique. tale-as-old-as-time-from-beauty-and-the-beastDid you know that “Beauty and the Beast” type tales exist from 4,000 years ago? Truly, the story of love transforming us from beast to beauty is a “tale as old as time.” clara-and-the-nutcracker-gr-balletIn The Nutcracker, little Clara dances with her heroic prince only in visions of the night, but in Beauty and the Beast (as the story goes), being genuinely loved by someone is what breaks the curse of our ugly selfishness and transforms us into something beautiful…not just in our dreams, but in the reality of our lives. winter-setting-in-disneys-beauty-and-the-beastDo you have a love that brings the best out of you and makes you into a better person? Whether or not you have a human love with whom you share such an inspirational relationship, there is Someone who loves you with an everlasting love. Jesus Christ, whose birth is celebrated this Christmas season, came to earth as “Immanuel” (“God with us). He was born, lived, and died in our place for our sins. Faith in Christ as our Savior is what transforms our hearts from the icy cold of selfishness to the irresistible warmth of true love. beauty-and-the-beast-love-story-disneyCan you feel the love tonight? If not, I pray you’ll open yourself up to living out a creative, new version of Beauty and the Beast where you and Christ are the protagonists. ballerinas-en-pointe-gr-ballet-coEver want to participate in a musical or a ballet? Here’s you big chance…no auditions necessary! God the Father as already invited you, and He is the best when it comes to artistic direction and set design! Also, the Holy Spirit is the best ever choreographer. Let Christ transform your life into a story of beauty and grace.

nutcrackers-available-at-meijerThe Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying,
Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love:
therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee
” (Jeremiah 31:3)point-shoes-gr-balletAnd let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us:
and establish thou the work of our hands upon us;
yea, the work of our hands establish thou it
” (Psalm 90:17).

(As no photos are allowed during professional performances, I took photos of The Nutcracker from our program and found pictures of Beauty and the Beast on line. If anyone is offended, please let me know and I’ll remove them.)