Category Archives: Worship

CHRISTMAS DAY: “The Joy That Christmas Brings”

Joy Has Dawned[1]

Following a night of confrontation with the spirits in Charles Dickens’ classic tale, A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge experienced a joyous Christmas morning.

“Running to the window, he opened it and put out his head. No fog, no mist; clear, bright, jovial, stirring, cold; cold, piping for the blood to dance to; golden sunlight; heavenly sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells. Oh, glorious! Glorious!
‘What’s today?’ cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy in Sunday clothes who perhaps had loitered in to look about him.
‘Eh?’ returned the boy with all his might and wonder.
‘What’s today, my fine fellow?’ said Scrooge.
‘Today!’ replied the boy. ‘Why, Christmas Day.’”[
2]

Scrooge was a changed man after his night of struggle. He felt he had a new lease on life. His outlook on life was changed. He experienced joy.

Joy is found throughout the Christmas story. It was promised to Zechariah that the birth of his son John the Baptist, the one who would introduce Jesus to the world, would bring “. . . joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth . . .” (Luke 1:13 NRSV). His wife Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, felt that the child in her womb “leaped for joy” (Luke 1:44) when Mary came to visit her. The angelic messenger told the shepherds that he was bringing them “. . . good news of great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10 NRSV), and after they had found and worshiped the infant Jesus, the shepherds returned to their flocks “. . . glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen . . .” (Luke 2:20 NRSV). Even the Magi who came later to visit the newborn King were “overwhelmed with joy” when the star led them to find Jesus (Matthew 2:10).

The apostle John wrote that the message of the coming of Jesus to the world was a message that brings joy in the telling.

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life – this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us – we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. (1 John 1:1-4 NRSV)

What is it about the message of Jesus – the message of Christmas – that brings us joy? Timothy Keller writes that “. . . the joy that Christmas brings, the assurance of God’s love and care, is like a subterranean river of joy, a fountain of mirth, that will always reinvigorate you no matter the circumstances of your life.”[3] You and I can know a deep and lasting joy when we come to know Jesus and receive the new life He came to bring.

Keith and Kristyn Getty are modern hymn writers who are giving the church many new songs that are musically beautiful and theologically faithful to Scripture. Their song, “Joy Has Dawned,” is a wonderful retelling of the Christmas story, and affirmation of the joy we know when the message of Christmas truly fills our hearts.

Joy has dawned upon the world, promised from creation –
God’s salvation now unfurled, hope for every nation.
Not with fanfares from above, not with scenes of glory,
But a humble gift of love – Jesus born of Mary.

Sounds of wonder fill the sky with the songs of angels
As the mighty Prince of life shelters in a stable.
Hands that set each star in place, shaped the earth in darkness,
Cling now to a mother’s breast, vulnerable and helpless.

Shepherds bow before the Lamb, gazing at the glory;
Gifts of men from distant lands prophesy the story.
Gold – a King is born today, incense – God is with us,
Myrrh – His death will make a way, and by His blood He’ll win us.

Son of Adam, Son of heaven, given as a ransom;
Reconciling God and man, Christ, our mighty champion!
What a Savior! What a Friend! What a glorious mystery!
Once a babe in Bethlehem, now the Lord of history.

The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 12:6 NRSV). Jesus was born. He lived and died in our place for our sins. Jesus rose from the dead and is reigning as King in heaven today. By his Holy Spirit He is present in the world today and within everyone who receives Him as Savior and Lord. May the message of Christ and the presence of Christ give you great joy this Christmas day and every day.

Follow this link to hear the Gettys and their band present this wonderful new Christmas hymn.


[1] WORDS AND MUSIC: Keith Getty and Stuart Townsend. ©2005 Thankyou Music. https://youtu.be/ibe5zRch8bU

[2] Charles Dickens, A CHRISTMAS CAROL, (Colorado Springs, CO: Focus on the Family Publishing, 1997), p. 88.

[3] Timothy Keller, HIDDEN CHRISTMAS (New York: Viking / Penguin Random House, 2016), pp. 137-138.

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SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT: Looking and Longing

Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus[1]

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6 NKJV

The season of holidays that begins with Thanksgiving and continues through Advent, Christmas, and the New Year is filled with moments of anticipating an arrival; like the one sung about in the traditional children’s holiday song written in 1844 by Lydia Maria Child:

Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go.
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifted snow.
Over the river and through the woods to Grandfather’s house away!
We would not stop for doll or top for ‘tis Thanksgiving Day.

Gathering with our families for a special celebration can be a joyful time, and the anticipation creates a longing and desire for it. If we have such great anticipation for the “advent” of special people in our lives, imagine the longing and yearning of the ancient Hebrews for the advent of their promised Messiah to fulfill the promises God had made to them for centuries through patriarchs and prophets. An overarching theme of the Bible is that the Lord Jesus Christ was the Messiah that Israel looked for. Charles Wesley, in his hymn Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus, combined the truth of Jesus as the Messiah with the yearning of Israel for Him to come.

Come, Thou long-expected Jesus, born to set Thy people free.
From our fears and sins release us; let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver, born a child, and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever, now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit, raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Jesus was born through the miracle of the incarnation – God the Son becoming a human being.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 NKJV)

Jesus was born to bring hope to his people.

. . . we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2 NKJV)

Jesus was born to set us free from fear of God’s judgment because of our sin. As Pastor Rich Villodas writes, “The good news, simply stated, is the recognition that Jesus is Lord over all things and invites us to a life free from the shackles of bondage.”[2]

. . . He Himself likewise shared in [flesh and blood], that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Hebrews 2:14-15 NKJV)

Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords, whose Kingdom comes now in the hearts of all who believe in Him but will one day come in its visible fullness on earth.

. . . The Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful. (Revelation 17:4 NKJV)

Jesus satisfies the deepest yearnings and desires of everyone everywhere. As Augustine wrote in his Confessions, “You have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”[3]

The ancient Israelites looked faithfully for their Messiah’s advent for centuries. Even so should followers of Jesus faithfully look for his return – his second advent. “One of the earliest recorded prayers of the Church is the Aramaic word Maranatha, which literally means, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20). The Latin word adventus means the same thing: ‘come.’  Advent is a season of waiting and wanting, looking and longing, inviting Christ to come once more into our lives and into our world.”[4]

Thank you, Father, for loving us so much that You sent Your Son to save us. Maranatha! May Jesus be born again amongst us this Christmas.
Thank you, Jesus, that You came before, and You are coming again in glory. Maranatha! We long for You to return and make all things new.
Thank you, Holy Spirit, for filling our lives. Maranatha! May the Lord Jesus Christ be born again in us today.[5]

Sing along with the worship band Lexington Road’s presentation of this hymn by clicking on this link – https://youtu.be/p8E9G763Ibs


[1] WORDS: Charles Wesley. TUNE: Rowland H. Prichard. https://youtu.be/p8E9G763Ibs

[2] Rich Villodas, “The Deeply Formed Life,” (Waterbook / Random House Publishers, 2020), p. 211.

[3] https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/media/articles/ourheartisrestlessuntilitrestsinyou/

[4] LECTIO 365 devotional for November 28, 2021. www.24-7prayer.com

[5] LECTIO 365 devotional for November 28, 2021. www.24-7prayer.com

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FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT: Pondering the Incomprehensible

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent[1]

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:35 NKJV)

The doctrine of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ is foundational to Christianity. Jesus Christ, God the Son, became a human being, going through the normal process of nine months in a woman’s womb.  After He was “conceived by the Holy Spirit,” He was “born of the virgin Mary,” as the Apostle’s Creed puts it. A hymn from the first century describes it this way:

Though he was in the form of God, [he] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:6-7 ESV)

What must have the reaction of the hosts of heaven been in the moment that the young woman Mary was impregnated with God the Son by the Holy Spirit? What do we think today when we ponder the wondrous mystery of God in flesh? It is impossible to understand that which is beyond understanding – Almighty God taking on a human body – but how do we respond to such a great and incomprehensible truth?  Scripture offers counsel here.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. (Psalm 62:5 ESV)
Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10 ESV)

Silence. Stillness. Worship. Good and appropriate responses as we ponder the incarnation.  Gerard Moultrie used words from the fifth century Liturgy of St. James to craft a hymn that calls us – and all “mortal flesh” – to worship as we ponder the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and with fear and trembling stand;\
Ponder nothing earthly minded, for with blessing in his hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth, our full homage to demand.

The apostle Paul wrote that “. . . being found in human form, he [Jesus] humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8 ESV).  Jesus took on human flesh for the purpose of giving his body as a sin offering on our behalf. As God provided manna from heaven for the wandering Old Testament Israelites, so the sacrifice of Christ’s body on the cross provides the heavenly “food” of forgiveness of sins and salvation by grace through faith in Jesus.

King of kings, yet born of Mary, as of old on earth he stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture, in the body and the blood,
He will give to all the faithful his own self for heavenly food.

“I am the light of the world,” Jesus said. “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12 ESV).  He who was the Creator and the essence of light and life came to show us the way out of the darkness of sin. The psalmist knew this to be true: “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light” (Psalm 36:9 ESV)

Rank on rank the host of heaven spreads it vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth from the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish as the darkness clears away.

Heaven was filled with the praises of God before Jesus was born on earth, “. . . when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7 ESV). He enjoys such praise today as our glorified King and Lord. It should then be our joy to join the heavenly chorus in praising and giving thanks to God for Jesus.

At his feet, the six-winged seraph; cherubim, with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence, as with ceaseless voice they cry,
“Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, Lord Most High!”

Follow this link to enjoy Fernando Ortega’s recording of this hymn. A beautiful choral and congregational rendition can be enjoyed by following this link.


[1] Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence. Words from the Liturgy of St. James, 5th century. Adapted by Gerard Moultrie, 1864. Set to the tune PICARDY (French melody, 17th century), arranged by Ralph Vaughn Williams, 1906 in TRINITY HYMNAL. Suwanee, Georgia: Great Commission Publications, 2006, #193. https://youtu.be/DVJ4tlC0q_g

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Forget Not

O Bless the Lord, My Soul[1]

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
Who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
Who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.
Psalm 103:1-5, 7 ESV

God is good! His blessings to his people are beyond counting. His faithfulness to his people is without lapse. God is aware of the smallest need of his people. Nothing is beyond his notice. Needless to say then, God is deserving of – and is owed – the loving adoration and praise of his people. 

In the psalms, another way of saying “praise the Lord” is “bless the Lord.” This is the call of the psalmist in Psalm 103: “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” (v. 1 ESV). Commentator J. A. Motyer writes that “when the Lord ‘blesses’ us, he reviews our needs and responds to them; when we ‘bless’ the Lord, we review his excellencies and respond to them.”[2]  Isaac Watts wrote a resounding call to praise – O Bless the Lord, My Soul – based on the “excellencies” of God mentioned in the first seven verses of Psalm 103.  Watts first joins with the psalmist in drawing on his mind and emotions to inform his speech in giving praise to God.

O bless the Lord, my soul; let all within me join
And aid my tongue to bless his name, whose favors are divine.

In view of the immeasurable nature of God’s favors toward his people, how terrible it is to forget; to fail to take notice or acknowledge or thank God for his blessings.  This was the great sin of Israel that led to all other sins: “But they soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel” (Psalm 106:13 ESV). But let’s not be judgmental of others because we are guilty of doing the same thing. So, this admonition from Watts.

O bless the Lord, my soul, nor let his mercies lie
Forgotten in unthankfulness, and without praises die.

What are these blessings that the psalmist and Isaac Watts commend to our consideration? Well, can there be any greater blessing than the forgiveness of sin? Any greater healing than the cleansing of the soul? Dare we fail to give thanks to God for his concern for our bodies as our Great Physician?

‘Tis he forgives your sins, ‘tis he relieves your pain,
‘Tis he that heals your sicknesses and makes you young again.

The gifts and blessings of God are an expression of his great love for us. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV). Even the psalmist, centuries before Christ, knew that it is God alone who can deliver from the power of death and hell and the grave.

He crowns your life with love when ransomed from the grave;
He that redeemed my soul from hell has sovereign power to save.

God’s blessings are not just for our eternal welfare, but he also cares for our temporal needs. The psalmist writes that God “satisfies us with good” so that our “youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (v. 5 ESV). The New Revised Standard Version translation of v. 5 adds “as long as you live,” and the New English Bible renders that phrase “in the prime of life.” An eagle in flight with its majestic plumage and vigorous appearance is a symbol of strength. God faithfully blesses his people all of their lives.  God’s blessing restores health and hope to his struggling saints.

He fills the poor with good; he gives the sufferers rest.
The Lord has judgments for the proud and just for the oppressed.

Rest. Justice. Protection. Forgiveness. Deliverance. Healing. Restoration. Divine providence. And these barely scratch the surface of the good blessings of God. God’s ancient people Israel saw God at work as they were led by Moses out of bondage in Egypt into the land God promised to them. Moses was the great deliverer and lawgiver of Israel, but all that he was and did pointed to the future when the True Deliverer and Fulfiller of the law would come. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17 ESV).

His wondrous works and ways he made by Moses known,
But sent the world his truth and grace by his beloved Son.

Let us not be neglectful. Let us not forget “all his benefits.” Let us make the call of the psalmist our daily cry: “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” (v. 1 ESV).


[1] TEXT: Isaac Watts (1709), from Psalm 103. TUNE: ST. MICHAEL from Genevan Psalter (1543).

[2] Motyer, J. A. (1994). The Psalms. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 552). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

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Delighting in the Greatness of God

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness . . . (1 Chronicles 16:29 ESV)

In his book “Providence,” John Piper tackles the question of why it is good that God desires to receive praise from his creation, while the same desire in human beings would be considered egotistical.

He first answers the question qualitatively. He writes that God’s “. . . glory is of infinite value. It is infinitely beautiful. Therefore, God, in all his glory, will prove to be more satisfying than anything or anyone else.”[1] Then to illustrate, Piper tells how C. S. Lewis discovered that “. . . all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise . . . we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.”[2]  So, the call to “ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name” (1 Chronicles 16:29) is a call to enjoy the perfections of God and to freely express that enjoyment.

Walter Chalmers Smith has given us a beautiful means of expressing our enjoyment and praise of God with his hymn Immortal, Invisible. This hymn guides us to particularly praise God for four attributes which belong to God alone – or as the theologians describe them, God’s incommunicable attributes. First is God’s attribute of being eternal.

Immortal, invisible, God only wise;
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes;
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days;
Almighty, victorious – Thy great name we praise.

“God has no beginning or end and is in no way bound by time, although he sees events and acts in his world in time . . . Those who trust the God of eternity can know peace, rest, and comfort in the busyness of life and despite impending death, for God keeps them in safety and joy forever.”[3]  Therefore, the psalmist writes:

Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (Psalm 90:2 ESV)

The second stanza of Smith’s hymn speaks of God as being independent.

Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light;
Nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might.
Thy justice, like mountains high soaring above;
Thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.

“God does not need us or the rest of creation for anything, yet we and the rest of creation can glorify him and bring him joy. God never experiences need, so serving God should never be motivated by the thought that he needs us. He is the provider in everything.”[4] As the apostle Paul noted when addressing the people of Athens:

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. (Acts 17:24-25 ESV)

Paul’s words lead us to the third stanza of the hymn, which gives praise to God as the unchangeable giver of life to all.

To all, life Thou givest – to both great and small.
In all life, Thou livest – the true Life of all.
Thy wisdom so boundless, Thy mercy so free;
Eternal Thy goodness, for naught changeth Thee.

God is immutable. “He is unchanging in his being, perfections, purposes, and promises . . . God can always be trusted because he always keeps his word and is never capricious or moody.”[5]  He says through the prophet Malachi:

For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. (Malachi 3:6 ESV)

And this eternal, independent, and immutable God is omnipresent. He is everywhere at once, receiving the adoration of angelic beings and the praise of his people on earth, which is celebrated in the hymn’s final stanza.

Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight.
All praise we would render – O help us to see
‘Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee.

“God is present everywhere with his whole being. God can be sought anywhere regardless of place. Believers should never feel lonely, and the wicked should never feel safe.”[6] As God says through Jeremiah:

Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him, declares the LORD? Do I not fill heaven and earth? (Jeremiah 23:23-24 ESV)

Immortal. Invisible. Eternal. Independent. Immutable. Omnipresent. Just. Good. Loving. The Essence and Giver of life. The list could go on and on. Hymns like this one from Walter Chalmers Smith, and the words that fill holy Scripture, keep us mindful of how God’s glory is of infinite value and beauty. May our enjoyment of the beauties of God lead us to daily – moment by moment – “ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name.”

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T. M. Moore, the Principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, and Rusty Rabon host THE AILBE PODCAST which you can find on The Fellowship of Ailbe website here.

Rusty Rabon also hosts a Zoom book reading program called READING GREAT BOOKS five nights each week (Thursdays through Mondays). The Zoom link and current book information are available here on The Fellowship of Ailbe website. And if you are interested in other devotional writings by Rusty Rabon, click here  You can follow Rusty Rabon at www.rustyrabon.com, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rusty.raabon.9/, and on Twitter at https://mobile.twitter.com/RustyRabon.

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[1] Piper, John. Providence. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Publishers, 2020, p. 53.
[2] Piper, Ibid., p. 54.
[3] ESV Study Bible
[4] ESV Study Bible
[5] ESV Study Bible
[6] ESV Study Bible

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Our Highest Goal

“. . . that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:10 NKJV)

It is always good to get started “on the right foot.”  Whether it is a project, a job, or a relationship, it is good when things begin well.  The prospects for a successful venture seem good when they get started in the right way.  But it is also important to finish well.  No matter the way something begins in our lives, the goal is that when we reach the end, we can know that it was “well done.”

King Solomon started well.  We read in 1 Kings 3 that as Solomon began his reign as king of Israel, succeeding his father David, Solomon “. . . loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David . . . Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings . . .” (3:3-4 NKJV).  When God asked him what he desired from the Lord, he did not ask for things that would make him look good in the eyes of the kings of the surrounding nations (like wealth and riches), but rather he asked God for “. . . an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil” (1 Kings 3:9 NKJV).  A good beginning to his reign as king.  Had he lived and reigned during the New Testament era, he might have prayed in words like those written by Thomas Chisholm in his Gospel hymn, I Want to Be Like Jesus.

I have one deep, supreme desire – that I may be like Jesus.
To this I fervently aspire – that I may be like Jesus.
I want my heart His throne to be, so that a watching world may see
His likeness shining forth in me.  I want to be like Jesus.

We don’t know a lot about Jesus’ earthly life except for the approximately thirty-six months of his ministry.  The Scriptures record just thirty-six months – a short three years – during which Jesus declared by word and example that “the time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe the Gospel” (Mark 1:15 NKJV).

He spent His life in doing good; I want to be like Jesus.
In lowly paths of service trod; I want to be like Jesus.
He sympathized with hearts distress, He spoke the words that cheered and blessed,
He welcomed sinners to His breast.  I want to be like Jesus.

“He spent His life in doing good.”  That sounds like something I would like written on my tombstone.  Think of all that Jesus did in those three years of ministry.  He healed the sick.  He raised the dead.  As Thomas Chisholm wrote, “He sympathized with hearts distressed; He spoke the words that cheered and blessed.”  But most of all, “He welcomed sinners to His breast.”  Jesus came to “. . . seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10 NKJV).  He lived to do the will of his heavenly Father, which ultimately led Him to the cross.

A holy, harmless life He led; I want to be like Jesus.
The Father’s will – His drink and bread; I want to be like Jesus.
And when at last He comes to die, “Forgive them, Father,” was His cry
For those who taunt and crucify.  I want to be like Jesus.

What are your goals in life?  What do you want your “life message” to be?  Have you gotten off to a good start, or is your life a story of brokenness and strife?  Of sin and failure?  No matter how you have begun, you can finish well.  Solomon started strong, but over the course of his life he drifted from his love for the Lord and finished his life a broken and compromised man.  You and I do not have to finish that way. As you day by day – moment by moment – yield the control of your life to the Lord, His Spirit will fill you and empower you “. . . that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:10 NKJV)

O perfect life of Christ, my Lord!  I want to be like Jesus.
My recompense and my reward – that I may be like Jesus.
His Spirit fill my hungering soul, His power all my life control.
My deepest prayer, my highest goal – that I may be like Jesus.

Enjoy an arrangement of this hymn by David and Steven Au at this link:

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To subscribe and receive A SONG TO THE LORD in your email, just follow this link: https://www.ailbe.org/resources/community   And if you are interested in other devotional writings by Rusty Rabon, click here. T. M. Moore and Rusty Rabon host THE AILBE PODCAST which you can find on The Fellowship of Ailbe website here. Rusty also hosts a Zoom book reading program called READING GREAT BOOKS five nights each week (Thursdays through Mondays).  The Zoom link and current book information are available here on The Fellowship of Ailbe website.

You can follow Rusty at his website – www.rustyrabon.com – and you can contact him at rustyrabon@gmail.com

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To God All Praise and Glory

All Praise to God, Who Reigns Above[1]

It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High . . .” (Psalm 92:1 NRSV)

It is not uncommon to hear the phrase “Praise the Lord!” uttered by Christians or in a Christian context.  We say, “Praise the Lord!” when we are emotionally blessed in a worship service.  We say, “Praise the Lord!” when some unexpected material blessing comes our way.  We say, “Praise the Lord!” when we feel especially close to the Lord in a time of prayer or worship.  These are good reasons to praise our God, but there are more.  Yes, God deserves our praise for His loving actions for us, but even more He deserves our praise for Who He is in his character and attributes.  Johann Schutz captured some of these prompts for praise in his hymn, “All Praise to God, Who Reigns Above.”

All praise to God who reigns above, the God of all creation,

The God of wonders, power and love, the God of our salvation!

With healing balm my soul he fills, the God who every sorrow stills.

To God all praise and glory!

What God’s almighty power hath made his gracious mercy keepeth;

By morning dawn or evening shade his watchful eye ne’er sleepeth;

Within the kingdom of his might, lo, all is just, and all is right.

To God all praise and glory!

I cried to him in time of need: “Lord God, O heart my calling!”

For death he gave me life indeed and kept my feet from falling.

For this my thanks shall endless be; O thank him, thank our God with me.

To God all praise and glory!

The Lord forsaketh not his flock, his chosen generation;

He is their refuge and their rock, their peace, and their salvation.

As with a mother’s tender hand he leads his own, his chosen band.

To God all praise and glory!

Who is this God who is deserving of our highest praise?   He is the God of creation.  He is the God whose great love is seen in His gift of salvation.  He is the Healer of souls and the Comforter of sorrows.  He is the God whose mercy keeps us secure.  He is the God of perfect justice and righteousness.  He is the faithful God who never leaves nor forsakes His own.

And what does our God do that deserves our highest praise?  He calms our fears and brings peace to our storm-filled lives.  He hears our every cry, picking us up when life has knocked us down.  He is our refuge in trouble and our rock when circumstances toss us around. “He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13 NRSV).

With each stanza – with each statement of who God is or what He has done – Schutz repeats his call to praise.  Let us join the chorus of saints of all time – the “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) – in lifting our hearts and voices to answer the call of Johann Schutz: “To God all praise and glory!”

Follow this YouTube link for a video that you can use as an accompaniment to your singing this hymn.


[1] Schutz, Johann J. THE TRINITY HYMNAL, Hymn 4. Suwanee, Ga: Great Commission Publications, 2006

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Lord’s Day Praise and Supplication

Almighty Father,

Your children are here before you this morning.

Some of us are rejoicing. We’re coming off of weeks that have seen good success in our work, or blessing in our finances, or happiness in our relationships.

But some of us are hurting. We haven’t had success in our work, our finances are near collapse, and our relationships with our children or spouse is a mess.

Father, as well, some of us are grieving. Our hearts still hurt so badly over the loss of a loved one that we don’t know how we’re going to make it into the next hour.

But we’re here Lord – here before you – here crying out to you in our joy or in our pain – because you are the only source of blessing, and you are the only source of help and hope.

Father, thank you for Jesus.  He revealed you to us.  He died to ransom us from bondage and slavery to sin.  His resurrection from the grave gives us our hope of salvation – both now and for eternity – and hope that the pain of today will one day give way to eternal and endless joy.

We thank you, too, for the gift of your Holy Spirit to teach us all that we need to know about you – to equip us to love and worship and serve you – and to sustain and strengthen us when our faith grows weak and almost fails.

Father, the heavens above and the earth below shout the glory of your wonderful works.
There is no place on earth where the language of creation does not give you praise, so that only those who have hardened their hearts will refuse to believe this evidence and turn their hearts away from you.

Thank you for the wonderful rain and the glory of the thunder that you sent to us yesterday.

Thank you for the gift of music – this great and mysterious means by which we express our hearts to you, and which also inspires and encourages us to know and love and serve you more.

Thank you for the songs of the birds this spring – reminding us that as you provide for them, you will also provide for our every need.

Thank you for the beauty of leaves and flowers – of fruit on trees and vegetables coming up from the ground – reminding us that resurrection life is a reality – that you raise what is dead and dormant to life and abundance.

Thank you for a night of restful sleep, renewing the strength in our bodies to wake up this morning, and to go about our tasks each day.

Thank you for the provision you have made for food and clothing and shelter.
You have blessed us abundantly, and in our abundance, we pray for our brothers and sisters around us – and around the world – who have needs that have yet to be met.
Open our hearts, Father, and let us be your hands and feet in serving and providing for our brothers and sisters.

We thank you as well, loving Lord, for minds that can think and choose and worship and pray.  We thank you for the gift of conscience that is used by the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin and lead us into righteous living.

We ask that you keep our fears and trials and worldly concerns from distracting us from our calling to be your witnesses – your ambassadors – your “missionaries” in our personal mission fields.

Help us to represent you well – to be faithful witnesses to your grace and mercy and love and power – to faithfully reflect the image of your glory that you have placed within us by your Spirit.

And may we represent you well.  May others get a true picture of who you are and what you are like by the love and unity that they see among us.

Open our hearts to love and worship and receive you afresh this day.  Shine the light of your presence on us and illumine our minds.  Strengthen and empower us through our worship together today so that we might lift high the name of Jesus Christ in all we do and say.

And it is for his glory that we offer this prayer.

Amen!

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A Prayer Thanking God for Coming at Just the Right Time

Alleluia!  Alleluia! We praise you, Lord!

Blessed Savior, our Redeemer!
You are the Savior of the world, Lord Jesus!
You came to us at just the right time – when the course of world empires intersected the path of divine ancestry – it was just then that you were born a human baby!

Alleluia!  Alleluia!  We praise you, Lord!

King of kings, Lord of lords – the one to whom every knee will bow one day in humble, adoring worship.
You are the highest name of all –

Alleluia!  Alleluia!  We praise you, Lord![1]

Because you have come to us, Lord Jesus, now all is well – all is well.
We rejoice because in your coming darkness fell – darkness fell as the glorious light of the Son of God began to shine on earth.

Alleluia!  Alleluia!  We praise you, Lord!

And because you continue to come to us moment by moment through the Holy Spirit –Because you have promised your unfailing presence –
Because we experience your deep, deep love –
Because you daily cover us with amazing grace and mercy –
All is well – all is well.

No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin
Where meek souls will receive Him still the dear Christ enters in.

There is no longer a barrier between us and you –
Peace has replaced adversity –
Peace has replaced animosity –
Peace between people is now possible –
Peace on earth, good will to men.

And now it is our turn –
We must pick up the mantle of the shepherds –
We must go and tell –
We must lift our voices and cry out –
“Christ has come!”
Hope is come – Life is given – deliverance from bondage is possible –
All through the one whose first cries came from a manger.[2]

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel

 Emmanuel, Emmanuel, His name is called Emmanuel . . .
God with us, revealed in us, His name is called Emmanuel

 We know you are with us –
Now may you truly be revealed in us –
And through us –
May the beauty of Jesus be seen by all who see us

Because you are worthy to receive all honor and praise –
You do all things well –
You have made all things well –

Alleluia!  Alleluia!  For this we praise and thank you, Lord Jesus!

Amen!

[1] A Christmas Alleluia. (C) 2015 sixstepsrecords/Sparrow Records
[2] Michael W. Smith / Wayne Kirkpatrick – All Is Well lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, Capitol Christian Music Group

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THE LIGHT OF LIFE

John 1:4-5 ESV
In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

This day has brought a thousand burdened thoughts,
Of goals unmet and actions all for naught;
Of aspirations not to be achieved,
Of love’s embrace desired but not received.

The world is dark around with pain and fright,
Though midday, still it seems the dead of night;
Nurture not returned and love grows cold,
A sheep without a shepherd or a fold.

Is there a light that drives darkness away?
Can midnight in my soul be turned to day?
There is a Light that conquers all that’s wrong;
It’s in this light I seek to find a home.

True light is found despite our toil and tears,
True light will overcome all doubts and fears;
True light is Life that shows the way to live;
True Life is One who came His life to give.

My heart desires to live bathed in this light,
From which my inner turmoil will take flight;
So, to the place of solace I will go
Where beams of holy comfort can be known.

This comfort comes from lingering in prayer
And giving to the Light-source all my care;
The altar opens to the throne of God,
His Life gives light and lifts the way I trod.

So, what about those thousand thoughts of pain?
Can dwelling on them beget any gain?
No!  Dwell instead upon the holy Light,
To feel and know God’s love and grace and might.

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