O, Jesus, Word made flesh to dwell among us,
How can I thank Thee for Thy Gift? What way
Can I in human frailty find to praise Thee best,
Who came the price for my dread sin to pay?
Thou wert despised, rejected for Thine Own,
A man of sorrows from Thy day of birth.
And grief, it was Thy closest of companions.
Who was there found to love Thee on this earth?
My sorrows Thou hast borne, though I, ashamed, turned from Thee.
For my transgressions Thou wert wounded sore.
My peace, it brought to Thee chastisement.
Thy stripes did heal me. Who could have loved me more?
I was a wandering sheep turned to his own way,
But Thou hast carried me within Thy arms.
To feed in pastures green beside still waters,
And here I rest, safe from all earthly harms.
My cup now overfloweth with Thy goodness!
What can I render to Thee in my thankfulness?
I’ll take this cup of Thy salvation, calling on Thee,
The greatness of this wondrous love confess
A vessel tossed among the towering waves;
A tender reed reviled by raging winds;
A blooming flower blighted by the frost;
A vapor vanquished as the sun ascends.
Oh, what am I, but weak and frail,
When sin’s dark Enemy assaults my mind,
And wickedness abounds on every side,
And even my own flesh desires my will to bind?
The good I will to do becomes a filthy rag
As soon as it has exited my tainted flesh;
The evil that I would not do, becomes instead my offering
Each day, with tears, and fears, and trembling afresh.
A wretched one I am! Who shall deliver me?
I cannot place my trust in one like me, with debt
To pay; I cannot dwell before the living God’s pure Purity
In these my garish garments, still by sin beset!
Thanks be to God that I can sing a song of victory
In Jesus Christ- true God, and truly man- Who died for me!
Would you like to be successful? Do you want to prosper? The culture around you calls and encourages you to be successful in the academic, athletic, physical, relational, social, and even spiritual aspects of your life. The self-help sections of our local bookstores are well-stocked with books to give direction, and a quick web search will yield many resources for obtaining the “right stuff” for success. If you stand in line to pay for groceries or other items, a multitude of magazine articles assaults your eyes in order to awaken your appetite for success in one area of life or another. An ever-increasing number of motivational speakers and programs are offered to those desirous of finding success in business, education, medicine, and many other areas. And on top of that, the mailbox of the average high school student in America is stuffed with options for obtaining a successful career at a variety of colleges and universities, each claiming statistics that support the success of students who have followed their programs to stunning success. Clearly, being known as “successful” is important—not only in American culture, but worldwide.
To be considered successful, one must have succeeded at doing or being something. But what is it to succeed at something? This word’s roots are in the classical Latin verb cedere, meaning “to go or to walk along”. Its prefix sub, which changes form slightly when added to the verb form, means “beneath or behind.” Together, the prefix and verb contain the meaning of either “following another” or of “climbing up”. We are familiar with the transitive form, used to refer to one who follows another in some position, thus “succeeding” them. From its intransitive form, however, comes the idea of having climbed up from beneath or ascended from below. By the 15th century, succeed had come to mean in its English form “to turn out well; to have a favorable result.” Later in the 16th century, as you may recall from your history lessons, England was becoming a world power, and a prosperous middle class was rising. It was during this time that the adjective successful was first being applied to people who had succeeded well at some endeavor, making a name and/or a fortune in a society previously ruled by the nobility.
The world in which we live defines success in various forms: achieving fame, fortune, academic renown, status, athletic prowess, artistic creativity, or any goal that he or she has chosen to pursue. The man or woman who is considered to be successful has supposedly gained something others desire to have or to be, and has met goals and objectives that define achieving it. Today, even the nominal church has embraced the cause of making people successful as Christians. A widely popular “gospel” promising prosperity to those who choose to follow Jesus Christ and tithe abundantly assures believers that they will reap hefty financial rewards. Known also as the “gospel of success”, this form of theology has attracted many followers in the United States.
But what has the word of God to say about success? Interestingly, the English word is used just one time in the King James Version of the Bible, in Joshua 1:8: “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein; for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.”
It is interesting to note that the Bible translators here translated the Hebrew word sakal as meaning “to be wise; to prosper; to do wisely” and “to have good success” in this verse. In other places in the Old Testament, sakal is translated “prosper”, which has a slightly different shade of meaning—a meaning that can also be related to growth: “to flourish, succeed, thrive” . The Latin root spero, “to hope for, expect, trust in, wait for” is the basis for the English word prosper, which with the prefix pro shows the idea of achieving what one has hoped for. The parallelism of the text in Joshua 1:8 is significant, therefore: “…then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success [italics mine].” Here prosperity and success are shown as being equivalent, and according to the Spirit-filled writer of the book of Joshua, both of these begin with speaking of and meditating upon and living according to the word of God—a very different kind of success than the kind of self-promotion the worldlings of our day are seeking and promoting.
While the world of our day measures success and prosperity by determining various goals and objectives for success in business and in education, in athletic competition and economic management, and lavishing praise upon those who achieve them, God’s children prosper by immersing themselves in God’s word, in finding their hope in the Savior of mankind, and their success from following him in order to receive a reward that far surpasses the heaped up treasures and tributes of this world. If you would be successful, open the word, and walk in its light, and you will “prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth (3 John 1:2).”
They are one of many small military units like them positioned around the earth, and like most of them, they number fewer than 350 strong. Youthful, energetic, and eager, most of them were already brought by their dedicated parents to training centers at the early age of about five or six years old. The purpose already then was that they might be further exercised in the art of a very specialized form of warfare, one requiring even small children to be prepared as early as possible.
Now that these children have entered their teens, they have been transferred, again by their parents, to a more specialized base in order to continue their training. Apprenticed to more seasoned soldiers, they become more knowledgeable in the areas of expertise that they will need for the ongoing battle with a most formidable enemy—an ancient foe most sly and swift and subtle.
There have been great sacrifices made by the parents of these children in order to obtain this quality of training for their offspring. Remarkably, parents like them have continued to make this sacrifice for generations already. While many scoff at the exorbitant amount they are willing to spend for their children’s battle-readiness, these parents consider their children to be of noble heritage, and their training as both a mandate from their King and crucial for their survival. Hence, the cost does not deter them from sending every one of their children who is capable of undergoing the rigorous exercise that this education requires, regardless of their own personal discomfort or inconvenience.
This particular regiment of young warriors, both male and female, calls themselves “The Company of the White Horse”. To all appearances, although they show their youthful vigor and energy well,
they are just average youth, much like those found among their fellow citizens upon earth: tall, medium, short in build; dark-haired, blonde, or red-haired. Some are athletic, while others are not so; some are academically inclined, while others struggle with books and learning. What distinguishes them from their peers, however, is not their physical stature or beauty or intellect or strength, but their awareness of their surroundings, of their enemy, and of their purpose in life.
They have obtained this very specialized knowledge not from a training manual, but from a personal letter directed to them by the King himself. It was given long ago, first in oral tradition, and then later written down and preserved for many, many generations by the King’s own command. So precious is it, and so unlike any other literary document on earth, that it is known simply as The Word.
The parents have seen to it that this volume has been present in the lives of their children since they were extremely small, and its priceless treasures measured out to them in small tidbits before they even had very many words of their own. Now as these children have come to years of discretion, they have begun more and more to grasp the truth about this marvelous gift given to their fathers long ago by the King himself: It is a sword meant for protection, for perseverance, for power It is the Sword of the Word of the King!
Besides the awful face of the King himself, that Sword of the Word is the only weapon that has proved effective in the warfare against the Enemy. If I speak as though that war for which they are daily in training has already begun, it is because this war has been no Thirty Years’ War or even a Hundred Years’ War, as violent and long-lasting as they were. It is not even a World War that this regiment faces together. The war that threatens them is cosmic in its scope—a war across time and space and the universe. Even more horribly, it is a war not against flesh and blood warriors like their human selves, creatures against whom they could possibly defend themselves with the right training in physical strength and advanced weaponry. No, it is a cosmic war involving powers and principalities, potentates, and the very Prince of the Powers of Darkness himself…
Sometimes they seem to understand this, these brave young soldiers in the Company of the White Horse. Their leaders are humbled by the very real presence of the King’s power evident in their young lives. They have seen evil about them in the depravity and destruction evident in their world, as men and women scorn their King and make their own rules. They understand, some of them, because the Evil One already lurks dangerously close to some of them. Often he has infiltrated their homes and caused danger and discontentment and despair through the rebellion of parents or siblings against the High King of Heaven. He has sent his helpers even into the sanctuaries to which they run on the first day of every week to refresh and restore their spirits, and caused doubt at the hands of his minions from the House of Hypocrisy, who pretend to worship in spirit with them, but in truth hate their King. And he even, even has access to their training centers, where he causes words of spite and cruelty and arrogance to replace THE WORD and flow freely from the mouths of those who were assumed to be their comrades in the fight against the Evil One. I tell you with grief that at times, this so-called friendly fire from fellow soldiers has wreaked more havoc and brought more casualties than a terrorist’s tote on a travel bus. How the Dark One must delight in that destruction!
Foolish soldiers there have been who fancy their words to hold more potency than the Word of the King, and thus try out their word-weaponry against their own comrades-at-arms, the True and Faithful Ones, whom they perceive to be weaker than they. Deceived, they have forgotten the warning that the real battle is not to the strong, nor is this race to the swift. Bringing the warning of The Word is the only way to remind them who their true Enemy is, and to turn them toward the Prince of the Powers of the Air with the Sword of The Word, which is all-powerful…
Despite the onslaughts of the enemy—his deceptions, his devastations, his attempts at disorder and chaos all around them-—they have The Word, and its light draws them to their King and to his Truthfulness and Trustworthiness, their bulwarks in the midst of danger.
Step into their camp, and behold these well-trained warriors of the beloved Company of the White Horse and their preparations for the great and final Battle of the Ages that draws ever nearer. Day by day they are learning together how to secure the belt of Truth around them, to cover their vulnerable hearts with the breastplate of Righteousness given them by the Crown Prince himself. Daily they practice the fastening of their firm sandals to their tender feet and stand firmly on the Gospel of Peace as their sure hope. Daily each defender grips the mighty shield of Faith given as a dart-deterrent, dons the Helmet of Salvation, and holds out a gauntleted hand to receive the Sword of the Word, that most vital weapon. They are one body, with one hope and one glory that they await.
Watch, as along with their leaders, they listen, listen carefully for the pounding of the White Horse’s hooves drawing near and nearer, for on it rides their victorious Lord, the Prince of Heaven and Earth, the One on whose robes and powerful thighs is written “ King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rev. 19:16), the one called “Faithful and True”. They await the seventh angelic voice from heaven trumpeting the victory that has already been assured through His triumph: “The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever”( Revelation 11: 15).
Meanwhile, to the wicked, the mighty Word gives only woes and warnings, but to the wise warrior, the Word whispers , “Fear not, little flock, for it is the Father’s pleasure to give you the kingdom “ (Luke 12:32).
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is” then, “for brethren to dwell in unity” (Ps. 133:1).
In response to Thad Lubbers’ article “Learned Passivity” (October 1993), I would like to express my disagreement with the assumption that the Church is responsible somehow for the “learned passivity” of its youthful, middle-aged, and elderly members.
To begin with, I am not certain throughout the article exactly what is meant by “the Church.” Is it the minister and the consistory, the entire body of believers, or both? If we must unlearn “learned passivity”, who is going to do the teaching? Is it the work of the minister, the consistory, elderly members, middle-aged members, peers or perhaps an appointed “Committee to Combat Passivity” to train members to be active members within the Church of Jesus Christ?
While I can wholeheartedly see that our love and care for one another within the Church is sadly lacking on many fronts, I have seen firsthand that the answer does not lie, either, in the Church having a plethora of classes to help the depressed, the divorced, the widowed, the addicted, etc., and involving her members in the busywork of organizing and running these classes. Making catechism classes “relevant” to today’s needs, i.e. dropping a little doctrine in favor of a “loving, caring, sharing” atmosphere isn’t the answer either. This leaves youthful members, perhaps, feeling good, but without a spiritual foundation to stand upon when the strong winds of life blow. I am deeply concerned, however, as a member of the Church and as the parent of three teenagers as well as three younger children, that the doctrines taught them by the Church as her mandate from Christ Himself do produce good fruits, within the home, within the Church, within the world. And that is wherein the responsibility lies, I believe – within those of us who are mature members of Christ’s Church, whether male or female, married or single, child-blessed or childless, rich or poor, strong or weak. We are examples to our young children and our young people. We model for them what being a living member of the Church of Jesus Christ is all about.
If our faith is grounded in the Word of God as taught to us from the pulpit from week to week, if we follow the example of Christ Himself as He walked among people on this earth, if we truly love one another for Christ’s sake, we will be busy people. “True religion and undefiled,” speaks the Holy Spirit in the epistle of James, “is to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” How much of our daily walk is concerned with just these two evidences of a true religion? What do we teach our children from infancy about our connection to others in Church and world? Is the overflowing thankfulness of our hearts for God’s wonderful grace, about which we hear from the pulpit weekly, such that it pours out upon others? Do we show that we love those whom Christ loves – the weak, the sick, the sinful, the rejected, the lonely, the despised ones – by our active outpouring within the Church? Or are we clique-bound, coldhearted, judgmental, passive, apathetic? Can the Church possibly undo the passivity learned within the home? I doubt it.
So, how to combat “learned passivity”? First of all, maintain the doctrines which Christ expounded from the synagogue pulpit. Teach us and our children, pastors, about the sovereign goodness of our God, the grace that chose us wretched, undeserving sinners to live as royalty in the palace of the King, the unconditional love of our Saviour, Who spared nothing of Himself for us, but gave up all the riches of His place in Heaven to become as one of us, that we might live with Him as brothers and sisters one day. Tell us of Abraham, of Moses, of Job, of David, of their spiritual struggles, of all the saints and prophets and priests and kings who have gone before us as examples of faith. Tell us of the glory that awaits us. Tell us all of it, with conviction in your words. And all of us who “have ears to hear”, who are the members by profession of His Church, let us teach at home, in school, and all the way to heaven those little ones and young people how to love one another in word and deed. We will answer one day – for ourselves and for them – that great question “Where were you when I was hungry, poor, blind, miserable, naked, in prison?” and receive that reward He promises to good and faithful or wicked and unprofitable ones.
If we “have Moses and the prophets” (i.e. doctrine) we know, as did the rich man who oppressed poor Lazarus, what to do for the Lazaruses around us. If we know what God has done for us – and we do know, those of us hearing Scripture expounded from week to week – then we are responsible for expressing our thankfulness to Him in the “new” way He has commanded – “that ye love one another.” The problem is not so much one of “learned passivity,” then, as it is of base ingratitude learned by example.
Thanks, Thad, for providing a springboard for discussion of an important – a crucially important – issue to God’s Church and us as members of it.
Shadows are lengthening in Judea’s hills
And olive branches quiver in a gentle breeze.
A host of weary travelers, following Caesar’s writ
Seeks out their fathers’ natal towns. Akin to these
A carpenter of Nazareth and his expectant wife,
Poor Galileans, searching Ephrath’s hills for Bethlehem. Of David’s line
They are- line grown as slender as the hopes of godly men
Who, after these long years still for a Saviour pine.
At last they near the outskirts of the tiny town.
Their steps, grown ponderous in the twilight gloom
Begin to quicken an anticipation of the place of rest.
They eagerly enquire within the town, but find no room.
Is there no room for her God’s angel has called blessed-
Who bears the very Son of God within her womb?
No- one by one innkeepers shrug and turn away
And citizens, their humble homes o’erflowing, echo, too, “No room.”
There is no room for Him descended from the realm of heaven.
The Word of earth’s creation finds no place on earth.
Man will not have Him, but He makes Himself a place-
A lowly cattle stall He chooses for His birth.
And there, where lowly ox and ass find refuge
The Christ-child enters in. A manger now
Becomes the cradle of a King. While kings and rulers
In palatial splendor slumber on this night, shepherds will bow.
The hearts of poor and meek and lowly men enlarging,
He there enters in. And as the world cries louder still “No Room!”
He’ll speak deliverance to the captive, heal the brokenhearted,
To the blind give vision, subjugate at last death and the tomb.
Room He has made, and room He ever will,
Wherever God has pleased that He with men should dwell.
And even now, as earth’s innkeepers crowd Him out,
He comes to us, abides with us: Immanuel.
Moved by Thy Spirit, Lord, O, how I hunger after righteousness!
I see the table that Thy grace has furnished me.
And drawing near in sweet communion with Thy saints,
Together lay the mountain of our sins beneath the Cross, take hold of Thee
And taste Thy goodness. What wondrous love is this, my God,
That Thou hast given Thy Son, for me, unworthy sinner that I am –
His body broken and His precious blood poured forth in agony
In that accursed death upon the cross. O perfect sacrificial Lamb!
By faith we cling to Thee and all salvation’s merits claim
Because of Thee; Flesh of Thy Flesh, Bone of Thy Bone
At one with Thee in Spirit. And as diversity of grains does form the loaf
And berries, mingled, flow into one wine, we take Thy Life to be our own.
So feed and nourish us as we partake, undoubting. Thou hast promised
That as surely as we taste and see this bread, this wine,
So surely Thou wilt satisfy our souls unto the everlasting life
That Thou has purchased with Thy flesh, Thy blood. For we are Thine.
Thy Creator, God, Who fashioned thee
And gave thee breath to praise Him endlessly
In the days of youth
That He is Wisdom, Light and Truth
Before thou find the days of youth have flown
And sorrowing, turn to reap what has been sown.
O Lord, make me to know the measure of my days.
My feebleness, my frailty. Thou dost know,
Who formed me from the dust. I am a tender flower,
Fresh and flourishing, with youth’s bright dew aglow;
Yet delicate am I. When winds of time pass o’er
The flower fades and fails and is no more.
So shall it be for me. O let me not forget
As now I bloom in youth’s bright hour that youth is vanity.
Its strength must fail, unless that strength be Thine.
Its joys must vanish all, unless their source is Thee.
And, knowing this, let me rejoice in life that Thou dost bless
With strength and joy and Covenant faithfulness.
Not ours, but His – the precious jewels of His Kingdom fair.
He owns them, loans them to us
For a little time to dwell with us on earth
That for their place with Him we might their hearts prepare.
Then, following our King’s command,
We cleanse and polish each most precious stone,
With tears and prayers for daily strength to ready them
Unto that day when they’ll appear
Before their Father’s throne.
Not ours, but His – someday they shall be found
As shining stars for Him in Heaven’s Holy Place,
As pure and brilliant jewels they shall shine –
The bright adornment of His glorious Crown.
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