Monday, February 28, 2011


And Can It Be that I Should Gain
Text by Charles Wesley, 1739 (Acts 16:26)

And can it be that I should gain
an interest in the Savior's blood!
Died he for me? who caused his pain!
For me, who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

'Tis mystery all: th'Immortal dies!
Who can explore his strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries 
to sound the depths of love divine.
'Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
let angel minds inquire no more.

He left his Father's throne above
(so free, so infinite his grace!),
emptied himself of all but love,
and bled for Adam's helpless race.
'Tis mercy all, immense and free,
for O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
fast bound in sin and nature's night;
thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
my chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in him, is mine;
alive in him, my living Head,
and clothed in righteousness divine,
bold I approach th'eternal throne,
and claim the crown, through Christ my own.

When I was a kid, my dad took me to a few Promise Keeper conferences with some dudes from our church.  It was a bit weird for me at the time, with all the spontaneous crying and male-on-male hugging, but I heard a number of moving speakers, one of which said this:

"Doing something nice for someone anonymously is like taking a leak in your wetsuit: nobody knows what you're doing, but you feel warm all over."

Can't remember the guy's name.

The biggest guy in Methodist history was John Wesley, who was an Englishman and an Anglican.  Early in his life, he attended church faithfully and did all the right things as best he could.  He even became a minister.  But something was missing inside - there was no heart connection with the Christian faith for Wesley.

All this changed on a May evening in 1783, when Wesley was listening to a speaker read some of Luther's writings on faith, he said "I felt my heart strangely warmed."  All of the sudden, he found his heart alive and connected to God through a living, moving, vibrant faith.

John Wesley was a fantastic theologian, but his brother, Charles, does not get the credit he deserves for his theological aptitude.  This was a man who wrote over six thousand hymn texts, most filled with great theological and spiritual depth.

"And Can It Be" is one of his finest hymns, and it contains a bit of personal testimony.  In stanza 4, Charles uses another striking illustration of what happens to our hearts when  we come to faith in Christ.  All believers have lived this story, even if they don't realize it.  The moment your "heart was free," you came into the light.  The darkness you used to live in is gone.  This truth means an end to guilt and shame.  Instead of presenting ourselves to our old lusts and desires and habits and attitudes, living in worship of them, we are now free to present ourselves to Christ in each moment of our lives.

The "amazing love" of Christ has broken our chains and calls us to follow - and to follow with joy and vigor.  Can you imagine the impact that Bay Harbour could have in the world around them if everyone would respond to Christ's love in this way?  I pray that it would happen; that those of us who are bogged down, holding on to our old darkness, would throw our chains down and follow with all our hearts in worship and love.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


"If we are to offer ourselves up for as long as we have being; if this offering up is accomplished in spirit and according to truth; and if the condition in which this is to be done is one of continuing personal holiness, it follows logically that for the true Christian, all of life, not just fractions of it, is a continuum of action up action, faithfully and knowingly made into offering after offering.  Therefore, all things done, whatever they comprise - all work, all handiwork, all of everything - can only be one act of worship after another.  True worship is to love God so much that an offering is the only possible action, even though a world full of such actions can never suffice" - Harold Best
Worship is an offering.

It's a scarier offering than just giving our money away, though.  And it goes way beyond singing nice songs to Jesus at church once a week, even though that is an important act of worship.

This kind of offering costs us our life, more and more of it, until we are worshiping perfectly, with every moment and every action and every ounce of life in us.  

The first part of Romans 12 gives us the elements of true worship.  Check out the first verse.  "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this is true and proper worship" (NIV, my emphasis).  See the word "offer" right there?  We are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, day by day, moment by moment, for the glory of the one true and living God.  Some other translations use the work "present," but it describes the same action of giving yourself, over and over, for the use of the Kingdom.

Because we have the benefit of God's mercy, worship (or "offering") is the only thing we can do in response.  Nothing less will do.  Life then becomes "offering into offering," from thought to thought, word to word, action into action.  Every moment is offered up to our Creator and Redeemer. 
I don't know about you, but I'm not there yet.  Most days I'm not even close.

Sometimes it's helpful for me to think about it the other way.  If I'm not presenting myself to God, I'm presenting it to something else, which can be a relationship, career or any number of other things.  That's a sobering reminder.

One of my favorite professors, and Old Testament prof named Daniel Block, told me one time that "everyone worships."  That is true.  We either worship the one true and living God, or we worship a God-substitute.

Be proactive.  Follow hard after Christ.  Make your life a series of offerings to the living God.


Harold M. Best, Music Through the Eyes of Faith (San Francisco: Harpers, 1993), 149.