Welcome to Beyond the Strait Gate. Perhaps this is the first time you are visiting or perhaps you have come this way before. In either case, I hope you will know you are welcomed here and find, having come through ‘the gate’ something to encourage you this day; something to challenge your heart this day; something to meditate or as some say, “chew on” as the Lord allows it to open up your heart and mind to what He may have for you.
The following devotional is one that I prepared some years ago for ladies meeting at my church. February, being the month of the year that celebrates “LOVE”, I thought I would share it here with you also.
The “Music of Life”, as depicted in the title today, for me, is the music that speaks of God and Who He is. I’ve chosen three hymns to tell the story of God’s love for me, for you; another to tell the story of my love for Jesus; and another of the love that is due my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Thus, ‘Three On Love’.
I. O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go (by George Matheson)
The beginning lines of each of the stanzas from this hymn are these:
“O Love that wilt not let me go”…
“O Light that foll’west all my way”…
“O Joy that seekest me thru pain,”…
“O Cross that liftest up my head”…
What kind of LOVE is it God has for us? Can we possibly comprehend this kind of love? A love that takes hold on us, a love that is with us wherever He directs our path: lighting or showing us where it is He would have us to go; a love that is our companion and solace in joy as we pass through the difficult and sorrowful waters of life; the kind of love that died in my place for my sin…that I might be with Him in Eternity!
Jeremiah 31:3b says, “…Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.”
EVERLASTING LOVE! – What IS that??
According to the dictionary, Everlasting is enduring forever; eternal; timeless, infinite, permanent.
God’s promise then to us who are His Bride, His Beloved, His Own: God loves us with an infinite love that will endure forever, throughout eternity. His Everlasting Love will never die, wither, change its mind about us or forsake us.
God’s Love draws us, Jeremiah says, with “Loving-kindness”, that is, with a tender regard; with His mercy; with His favor.
To paraphrase Jeremiah 31:3b, Jeremiah is saying that God loves us with a love that is forever, that is eternal and timeless; a love that is permanent and infinite and with His tender mercy He draws us to Himself.
The very familiar John 3:16 tells us how God did this: God sent His Son, Jesus, to leave the Throne room of Heaven, to come down to earth as a baby born of a virgin, for one express purpose. Jesus, God the Son, came to die on a wooden cross, shedding His blood for your sin and mine. In God’s loving-kindness, in His Mercy, He draws us to Himself. As we accept His finished work at Calvary, we have His Everlasting Love and also, Everlasting Life. The last verse of this hymn says this:
“O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from Thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.”
God’s Love is a Love that will not let us go!
Having seen the Love of God, having been drawn to Him, having accepted Jesus as our Savior, we then respond to the Savior in kind: with all that we are, with all that we have been blessed with from Him, and daily, with all that is honoring to a Holy God. How do we love God?
This next hymn reads this way:
II. My Jesus, I Love Thee (by William R. Featherston)
“My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign;
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou:
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.”
This first stanza speaks of our loving God with the assurance that we are called by His name; that He is our Redeemer, our Savior and because we love Him, we are deliberately willing to leave, to forsake: the recklessness and foolhardiness of the life we once lived before coming face to face with our Savior.
Forsaking has the sense of deserting and never intending to return (in this case, to our sinful lifestyle again).
Continuing with this hymn we see why the hymn writer loves Jesus.
“I love Thee because Thou hast first loved me
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree;
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow:
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.”
There are no roses, no hearts and lace, no candy and flowers, depicted in this love for God. This is not a picture of an earthly love. This is a love that understands the tremendous love of the Savior for us: those for whom Jesus died. It is a love that understands what it cost the Savior to pardon us from sin’s penalty…to keep us from that everlasting fire awaiting those who have rejected The Savior. This is a love that not only understands the cost of shame, mockery, beatings borne by Jesus, but also doesn’t forget what it cost Jesus to give us Eternity with Him.
We need to guard our spiritual walk with Jesus. We need to examine our love to the Lord daily, lest we be like the churches rendered in Revelation. Let us not hear from God, as:
The church of Ephesus – “I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” – Revelation 2:4
Or like the church of Thyatira, let us not allow idols and false teachings to creep into our lives. – Revelation 2:20.
What do our eyes read and see? our ears hear? where do our feet frequent? well…you get the idea. Worldly diversions can intrinsically divert our attention, our love, our fore-frontal thinking away from Jesus and subtly, what seems to be without warning, we are down the wrong path. Our end could be like the church of Sardis.
The church of Sardis was a dead church. They bore the name of Christ, yet by their very works, they were dead. – Revelation 3:10.
In this hymn, each of the four verses ends by saying, “If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.”
NOW: this moment, immediately, and since we live moment by moment, as the Lord gives us breath, ‘now’ is ongoing and ever present. We are to love the Lord our God every moment of every day all the time. We are to occupy our hearts and minds with only Him and His ways. Perhaps we may think this humanly impossible.
Ephesians 5:18b says, “…be filled with the Spirit;” HOW?
Verse 19-21 says, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of the God.”
And, allowing the Holy Spirit to have access to our lives, and our being obedient to His leading, the music of our walk with the Lord continues to perpetuate itself for His glory. There is just no end to this unfathomable love for Christ. Our desire is to know how we can love Him more.
III. More Love To Thee, O Christ
Elizabeth Prentiss penned the words to this hymn. Some of you may recognize her name as the author of ‘Stepping Heavenward’ written in 1869. It is a story of a young woman’s spiritual growth, and I cannot help but wonder if Elizabeth may have been writing the story of her own life. Sharon James authored a biography about Elizabeth Prentiss telling of the difficulties Elizabeth experienced; things she later learned were furnishing her with the things she needed to serve the Lord as she interacted in the lives of others.
The following was taken found in the writings of the Christian History Institute, 1999-2006.
“Elizabeth was a frail woman who suffered intensely from chronic insomnia all her life. Few knew it. Despite her misery, and a “morbidly-sensitive, melancholy temperament,” the face the world saw was usually a radiant one for she strove hard to overcome the irritableness her illness engendered. She was described as a bright-eyed woman with a keen sense of humor.
For several months in her early twenties, she was in agony because of her conviction of her sinfulness and lack of concern for the things of Christ. She considered herself a hypocrite, although all of the evidence indicates otherwise. At that time she was a teacher, deeply concerned for the salvation of her pupils, many of whom she led to Christ. When this crisis was over, she moved into a deeper joy than she had previously experienced. Not long after this she wrote, “Sometimes my heart feels ready to break for the longing it has for a nearer approach to the Lord Jesus than I can obtain without these of words, and there is not a corner of the house which I can have to myself.”
In 1856 Elizabeth went through a time of serious illness. It was at this time she penned the hymn, “More Love to Thee, O Christ”. Her concern was not her own state nor wellbeing, but thoughts of her Savior.
“More love to Thee, O Christ, more love to Thee!
Hear Thou the prayer I make on bended knee;
This is my earnest plea, more love, O Christ, to Thee,
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!
Once earthly joy I craved, sought peace and rest
Now Thee alone I seek, Give what is best;
This all my prayer shall be, more love O Christ, to Thee,
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!”
Four years earlier, in 1852, her five year old son, Eddy, died. Dark days for Elizabeth, as it would be for any mother who loses a child. Her pain, ever present, Elizabeth turned her pain around toward the Savior, recognizing that her grief and heartbreak was her son’s joy. Eddy was with the Savior!
In the third stanza of this hymn, Elizabeth penned this:
“Let sorrow do its work, send grief or pain;
Sweet are Thy messengers, sweet their refrain,
When they can sing with me,
More love, O Christ, to Thee,
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!”
Elizabeth was dedicated to Christ and sought to live a life of joy. She is quoted as having said, “Much of my experience of life has cost me a great price and I wish to use it for strengthening and comforting other souls.”
Elizabeth saw Jesus only in every circumstance. She knew the secret of abiding in Christ and saw the things the Lord allowed to be placed on her ‘plate’ as from Him, accepting them with joy. She knew His Mercy allowed these circumstances and they drew her to love and serve the Lord the more.
Scripture tells us: “His Mercy endureth for ever.” I Chronicles 16:34; 41
“All the paths of the Lord are Mercy…” Psalm 25:10a
“…His Mercy is everlasting” Ps. 100:5a
The Lord’s “Mercy is on them that fear Him…” Luke 1:50a
Our response to our Merciful God is to love Him with all our strength, (Psalm 18:1).
Psalm 18:3a says, “the LORD…is worthy to be praised.”
His Love will not let us go…let us consider More Love to Him.
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