The Richest Crown

Notre Dame Burning

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
 Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
 Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
By: Isaac Watts, 1674-1748

Listen as you read.  This is a nice instrumental version.

As I write, the world is still abuzz about the tragic blaze at Notre Dame in Paris.  Amidst the coverage I heard that an important relic had been saved, the Crown of Thorns of our Savior.  I hate to admit, I did not even realize what is believed to be His crown was actually among the treasures at Notre Dame.  It is of note that this encased and gilded crown was a topic of interest among all the great pieces on repository there.

Crown of Thorns: Notre Dame

It makes sense though, since after all, this is the richest crown, that of greatest value, in all of history.  Although the thorns have been removed and can be found at various places around the globe, this is purported to be the crown Christ wore when He offered His life to pay the penalty for our sins.  That endows it with a value that simply can not be measured.

Rich, Beyond Measure

Undoubtedly, there have been countless times over the course of history when sorrow and love were mingled together in an expression of love and self sacrifice.  But none comes close to Calvary.

What a beautiful turn of phrases between the second and third lines of this stanza.  From sorrow and love to love and sorrow.  It is way more than just a clever modified repeating of the same two words.  It is a call for all who seethe beauty of the first, to embrace the extravagance of the last.

The other interesting thing to note is the linguistic device employed in the first two lines as contrasted with the second two lines.  It begins with an emphatic declaration, and concludes with a rhetorical question, the latter making the stronger statement by virtue of having asked a question merely for effect, since no answer is even expected, or necessary.  Just to be crystal clear, no thorns, or frankly any other material, ever composed a crown as rich as this one.

Thorny Crown: An Oxymoron

But How?

The first thing to consider is the apparent oxymoron, or contradiction of incongruous words.  How can any crown made of thorns be valuable since the mere use of thorns in any crown implies a terrible pain for the wearer, which seems to be designed for the antithesis of the honor a crown is normally meant to convey?  That is kind of the whole point though.

His executioners meant to humiliate Jesus since the claim of His kingship had been a crucial accusation about Jesus from the Jews before Pilate.  So much so that Pilate had a sign posted above Christ on the cross which read, “The King of the Jews” to which the chief priests objected asking it to be changed to “This man said, I am the King of the Jews”.  Pilate’s reply?

“What I have written I have written”. (John 19:17-22)

This is a fascinating series of events because Jesus never claimed to be a King, but He also never denied the claim. (John 18:33-40)   The Jews had drummed this up to strengthen their case against Him, and make it a Roman matter punishable by death.  After pressing Jesus on this point, Pilate seems to have posted this more to mock their claim than make the statement itself, having found no fault in Jesus and literally washing his hands of the whole matter.

The True King, Condemned to Die

All the same, he condemned Jesus to die.

King of Kings

What was meant to mock Him, became a symbol of His extraordinary kingship, one marked by self-sacrifice, unlike most.

And what kind of King would allow this happen?  One whose Kingdom was not of this world.  Jesus clearly stated that in John 18, but then when pressed by Pilate regarding his authority to crucify Him Jesus offered possibly the most powerful response in this discourse.

Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”  John 19:11

A higher purpose was unfolding, one set in motion by the Highest Authority, God Almighty.  One set in motion for the purpose of both declaring and making available the love of God, by paying the penalty sin required.  In order to redeem us, that expression of love was mingled with great sorrow.

Love and Sorrow

So what for us starts out as sorrow but causes great love, for God starts out as love and causes great sorrow.  We see His sacrifice and share tears with those first disciples, then we are overwhelmed by a rush of love as we realize what He has accomplished.  The Father commanded His sacrifice and the Son obeyed out of love, then both experienced an inexpressible sorrow as they were separated for a time by what Christ accomplished when He became sin for us.

Again to be crystal clear, at no other point in history did, or will, such love and sorrow meet.

Jesus, thank You for the remarkable expression of love and sorrow Your crucifixion was, and is.  Across 2,000 years we still find our breath taken away when we rightly survey and truly see Your sacrifice on that cross.  This Easter, help us to see these things deeply and clearly, and pour out the praise due Your name.   In Jesus name.   Amen.

Sober Thinking!

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Subscribers AND Free Members enjoy this podcast! Everyone else, the transcript below.

Podcast 4.3 Transcript

Welcome to Thursday Thoughts at Resonant 7, where we reflect on the reality of God and resolve to let it resound in our lives, repeatedly. Let’s think about this.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,

Hebrews 12:2a ESV

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame,

When you look at our Savior crucified on the cross, what do you see?  Many look at the cross but fail to truly see the founder and perfecter of our faith.  Jesus, thank You for seeing the joy on the other side of self-denial. Help me to do the same.

 Sorrow and love flow mingled down!

John 3:16 ESV

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

God so loved the world that He gave.  That’s what love is, giving. The fact that He gave His only Son is mind-boggling.  The sorrow both Father and Son must have felt is unfathomable, but so is the love demonstrated.  Thank You Father for allowing your love to mingle with sorrow, for our good.

Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,

Ephesians 5:2 ESV

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

It was the love of Christ that led Him through the sorrow of giving Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God.  Jesus joined the Father’s sorrow with His own. Thank You Jesus for modeling other-centered love in the most profound way possible, the Anointed One becoming sin for us.

 Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

John 19:5 ESV

So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!”

I love rhetorical questions.  Is there a more powerful linguistic tool? I think not.  To be clear, no thorns ever composed a crown so rich as this one, for it became the one the God Man wore as He willingly laid down His life.  Hallelujah!

Take a few moments to talk to Jesus about what has come to your mind, or just listen to what He is saying to you, then I will read our text once more.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
 Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
 Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Take the mindfulness of God’s presence cultivated in these last few minutes into the next ones and beyond.  Until next time, be Resonant.

Exchanging Worthless For Worthy

His blood

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
 Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
 I sacrifice them to His blood.

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
By: Isaac Watts, 1674-1748

Listen as you read.  This is a nice instrumental version.

Boasting seems to be a more emotional response while sacrificing is much more deliberate and thoughtful.  We did some adjusting with regard to boasting in the last Tunings.  So for these Thoughts we will press into the latter portion of this stanza.

Worthless

Ultimately this final section on the second stanza is a continued response to what Christ has done.  We began by surveying the cross and making choices about our gains and pride, before moving on to other things we might boast about other than Christ.  Now we conclude these considerations with a look at the vanity of things that sometimes attract our affections.

So many things that we can invest our time, energy and resources into are useless, meaningless, worthless.  Watts here qualifies these things as vain.  One way to think of these things, things that are vain, is that they produce no result.  Think, “My efforts to find my lost keys were in vain.”  They produced no results.  Make a mental note of that for we shall return to it.

Useful, But At Times Used for the Useless

The interesting thing about these vain things is that they still charm us, giving us pleasure or enjoyment, even though they are useless.  Can you think of some things in your life you could describe that like?  Maybe there is a struggle you are having with a sin that seems charming, but is vain.  It promises pleasure, but just leaves you feeling guilty.  Maybe there are addictions which promise enjoyment but just leave you unfulfilled,  convicted, or both.  Maybe they are more innocuous, like something that just innocently eats away at your discretionary time or energy, with little or no benefit.

Like our mobile phones at times.  Now before you think this is a tirade on the device you may be using to read this spiritual tool, let me be clear, it is not.  I only wish to use them as an example of something that is very useful, which can be used for very useless purposes.  I thought about sharing a title of one of several games I have downloaded and played on my phone, but I did not want to add to your list of vain things, so I refrained.

Worthless.  We are all guilty of engaging in pursuits that are vain.  Instead we should consider laying them down, or sacrificing them in exchange for something that is worthy, and useful.  What is more worthy or useful than the blood of Christ?

Worthy

The contrast of the vain things I pursue and the effective blood of Jesus is very ingenious.  First because it is simply a great illustration of two extremes. Second because it causes us to see each of those things and make a decision about them.

We do not need to offer any sacrifices.  Christ did this once for all.

Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.  Hebrews 7:27

Asking for help to identify vanity

I can make the deliberate choice to sacrifice things that produce no results to the most productive thing in human history.  This is a remarkable thought, a beautiful invitation, a powerful declaration.  But it is also a choice.

The only way we can effectively do that is if we also make it an honest prayer.  Start by asking the Holy Spirit to reveal any vain things that are charming you. Then ask Him to help you give them up, sacrificing them to, or in response to His sacrifice, His blood.

Then do it again tomorrow.

Holy Spirit, hear my prayer.  Reveal to me any and all vain things in my life that are charming me and drawing off energy and resources I could use for Christ and His glory.  Help me to lay them down, that I may grow in my appreciation for the sacrifice of my Savior.  Teach me how to identify vanity in my daily living.   In Jesus name.   Amen.

Joyful Thinking!

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Subscribers AND Free Members enjoy this podcast! Everyone else, the transcript below.

Podcast 4.2 Transcript

Welcome to Thursday Thoughts at Resonant 7, where we reflect on the reality of God and resolve to let it resound in our lives, repeatedly. Let’s think about this.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,

Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

And yet there are too many times when we do, boast that is.  I know this verse is speaking specifically of taking any credit for our salvation, but we must be careful to maintain a humble view of ourselves which makes grace all the more needful and valuable in our minds.  Ask God to help you maintain that.

Save in the death of Christ my God!

Galatians 6:14 ESV

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Watts was asking for the empowering to boast in Christ, to the exclusion of all other things.  He phrased this exclusivity as being forbidden to boast in anything but Christ. Ask the Spirit to help you practice that discipline.  

All the vain things that charm me most,

Psalm 119:37 ESV

Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.

Vain is an uncommon word today, but the prospect of being allured by worthless things is not.  The Psalmist is asking for help in turning his eyes from worthless things, like the hymn writer asked for help in refraining from boasting.  Echo that prayer.

 I sacrifice them to His blood.

Hebrews 9:22 ESV

Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

His blood covers our vain pursuits, our ridiculous boasts.  Those useless things are covered by His efficacious, useful blood.  No sacrifice from us is needful to accomplish salvation, but in response to His, ask Him to help you lay down these empty things.

Take a few moments to talk to Jesus about what has come to your mind, or just listen to what He is saying to you, then I will read our text once more.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
 Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
 I sacrifice them to His blood.

Take the mindfulness of God’s presence cultivated in these last few minutes into the next ones and beyond.  Until next time, be Resonant.

Paradox: Seeing Gains as Losses

When I survey the wondrous cross
  On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
  And pour contempt on all my pride.

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
By: Isaac Watts, 1674-1748

Listen as you read.  This is a nice instrumental version.

Having surveyed the cross a bit in Tuesday’s Tuning, inviting our heart to come back to a place of wonder, now turn your mind to the discipline of embracing the implications of the cross for your daily living in these Thursday Thoughts.

The Prince of Glory

A quick search of several different translations turned up zero occurrences of this name for Jesus.  While the King James refers to God as the “Lord of glory” in I Corinthians 2:8, nowhere is the phrase “Prince of glory” found in Scripture.  I find that interesting because it is such an apt name for Christ.

When you think of Jesus, what is your first thought of Him?  Healing the sick?  Feeding the thousands?  Walking on water?  Maybe even suffering on the cross?  Is it something like this image?  I must confess, it is not my first thought, yet what a powerful default mental image to conjure.  I suppose there are times in exuberant worship I have thought of Jesus like this, but not often enough.

What a beautiful image to create with his words to contrast the treatment He deserved with the treatment He received.  I want to come back to this image in my mind so as to cultivate a loftier view of Jesus in the days ahead.  I am thankful to Watts for using it, and maybe even creating it, but am far more thankful to Jesus for being it, yet humbling Himself to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Though I want to imagine Jesus like this more often, I do not want to lose another way of viewing Him that I often return to, which allows me to rightly see so many other things.

Backdrop of the Cross

Though the wonder and grandeur of the person of Jesus Christ and His unparalleled work on the cross  are remarkable in and of themselves, I think it is imperative that we also learn to see all of life through another lens.

“I always view my circumstances against the backdrop of the cross, where God demonstrated once and for all His deep love for me.”  Henry Blackaby, Experiencing God

For years I have returned to this practice to help contextualize things I have faced.  What Blackaby is encouraging here is the development of the ability or discipline to see everything, or better yet, interpret everything in light of the reality of the cross of Jesus Christ.  The cross changed the course of human history so it certainly has implications on the circumstances of my life.

Gains as Losses

The Christian Life is full of paradoxes.

  • die to live
  • give to receive
  • love your enemies
  • gains as losses

When I see the cross accurately for what it represents, the love of God on full display, I am left with little choice but to consider my “richest gains” as loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ.  But how do I do that practically?

When something is valuable to you, you treat it as such.  You protect it.  Defend it.  Spend time just thinking about it.  When we esteem to0 highly any of our gains, things we have earned or maybe simply been given, things can get out of balance.  It is not long before other things of value in our lives suffer from our inability to maintain a healthy perspective.

Ridiculous example.  Netflix and sleep.  Many of us have shows we like to watch.  Sometimes we stay up later than we should to enjoy another episode.  We let our desire to be entertained outweigh other things of value, namely in our example, sleep.  Yes, I have been guilty of this in case you are wondering.  I know it is a silly example, but hopefully it illustrates the danger, and the opportunity.

What gains, or things of value, might it profit you to consider as loss?  Maybe it’s another Netflix episode.  Maybe is something far more valuable.  Nothing compares with what you will actually gain by considering those things rightly.  Oh for the ability to survey the cross like that. Holy Spirit, help us.

Jesus, thank You laying down Your life on the cross.  It is wonderful indeed, and I know that full well.  But I long to know it more.  Help me to think rightly of the gains in my life, and to even consider them as losses, if that means I will now You more. In Jesus name.   Amen.

Joyful Thinking!

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Subscribers enjoy this podcast! Everyone else, the transcript below.

Podcast 4.1 Transcript

Welcome to Thursday Thoughts at Resonant 7, where we reflect on the reality of God and resolve to let it resound in our lives, repeatedly. Let’s think about this.

When I survey the wondrous cross

1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

How wondrous to see the cross of Jesus Christ for what it truly is, a symbol of His love for us.  Once it was folly to you, but now the power of God. Thank Jesus for giving you eyes of faith to not only see, but rightly appraise the value of His cross.

 On which the Prince of glory died,

Philippians 2:6-8 ESV

though he was in the form of God, 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. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus had to condescend so far just to become like us, because He was after all the Prince of glory.  But His humbling did not stop there. The Ever-Living God died for us. Our minds can barely conceive the wonder of His love.  Thank Him for dying for you.

My richest gain I count but loss,

Philippians 3:8 ESV

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

So whatever was to my profit or gain I consider as loss that I may know Christ.  Ask Him to help you rightly value your accomplishments, and His.

 And pour contempt on all my pride.

Proverbs 11:2 ESV

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.

Oh that we would routinely see our pride with scorn, as opposed to defending it.  Pride is disgraceful, but never more clearly than when juxtaposed with the humility of Christ.  Ask the Holy Spirit to help you acknowledge and deal with your pride.

Take a few moments to talk to Jesus about what has come to your mind, or listen to what He is saying to you, then I will read our text once more.

When I survey the wondrous cross
  On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
  And pour contempt on all my pride.

Take the mindfulness of God’s presence cultivated in these last few minutes into the next ones and beyond.  Until next time, be Resonant.

Who, and Where, Are the Saints of God?

Glory, Praise and Love

Glory to God, and praise and love,
Be ever, ever given;
By saints below and saints above,
The Church in earth and heaven.

O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing
By: Charles Wesley, 1707-1788

Listen as you read.  This is a nice instrumental version.

The first two lines of this stanza instruct “what” must be done and “when”.  We examined those in our last Tuning, which you can find here.  The final two lines tell us “who” should be doing it and “where”.  Let’s think about this.

God’s Saints are the Church His Body

In some measure we might look at the first two lines as the qualifiers of who the saints actually are.  Those who eternally give God glory, praise and love are His saints.  But we should also consider what the Bible has to say about who the saints of God are.

There are many passages that speak of the saints in both the Old and New Testaments, and though our context here does not provide time to do an exhaustive study, let’s look at one from near the end of the book.

Revelation 14:12 Christian Standard Bible (CSB)

“…the saints, who keep God’s commands and their faith in Jesus.”

So there are at least two characteristics.

  1. Faith in Jesus
  2. Obedience

There are many who would give intellectual ascent to having some trust in Jesus but have no evidence of working that out in their daily living.

The Church on Earth

Saints Below

Giving God glory, praise and honor. This is our work now. Not going to church as the image might imply, but being the Church, the hands and feet of Jesus to one another and the world around us.

When you think of the Church, not your church or a church, but THE Church, what comes to mind?  Corporate gatherings like this one?  People offering songs of praise to God?  I would imagine it includes those things, but hopefully it is a lot more.

I am part of a missions movement that has kept my eyes beyond my local body with some success over the years, but even still, I long to find ways to celebrate the incredible, beautiful, diverse yet unified body we are!  I want to continue to get a taste of what heaven is and will be like, even before I get there.

Singers Together

Diversity is a word that is thrown around a lot today, but in the last few months I have had a taste of it that stoked my desire for more.  The experience was an opportunity to bring some differing cultural expressions together in a way that esteemed them both.  The admiration and love that flowed from some music offering God praise was undoubtedly a small taste of what our God has in store for us when He gathers all the saints together around the throne.  I am humbled to have been a part of something so wonderful and can hardly wait to experience it again, even before I join the…

Saints Above

Giving God glory, praise and honor. This is currently the work of the saints of God who have gone before and will be our work eternally when we join them there.

When you think about the “saints above”, what comes to mind?  Think about for just a moment…

If your eyes tracked ahead at all you may have seen this image.  I tried to find a good artists’ rendering that captured my sense of what that might look like and none represented the incredible differences that will make up that throng around the throne.  They tended to be a single large group gathered around our Lord shrouded in clouds and brilliant glory.

While I could appreciate that concept, because we are indeed one in our Lord, the diversity that will be reflected within that unity was not rendered in anything I could find.  Instead I offer this image.

Though it would take a thousand to truly begin to scratch the surface of the efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice on the peoples of the earth, this one gives enough material for the question I will ask, and the exercise I want to offer.

Look at a few of those faces.  Identify a few that are different from you, whatever that means.  Question:  Is your concept of the saints above expansive enough to include that face?  Exercise:  Will you ask God to expand your capacity for the saints above to match His?  While I realize such an exercise could cause your mind to melt, I think it is a worthwhile one.  Why?  Because I believe it will enable you to give even more glory, praise and love to Him who not only gave a tongue to sing…but everyone one of them as well.

Let’s make the most of it, here and now, then and there!

 

Jesus, thank you for giving me a tongue to offer You glory and praise, and a life to offer You love.  Thank You for granting me the privilege of becoming one of the saints, redeemed by Your blood.  Stir my longing for that great worshipful throng, even as I enjoy the ones I come across here. Glory to Your Name.  Amen

Joyful Thinking!

Are these thoughts helping you to develop greater spiritual awareness?  Sign-up in the form to the right above to get updates of new tools to help you be Resonant.

Below is content available only to Subscribers.  Want to learn more about accessing all the additional material in the Subscriber Content Library, click here.  Or check out some samples at our Free Member Content Library.  We have lots of tools and lots of options designed to help you be Resonant!  Check them out today!!

Subscribers enjoy this podcast! Everyone else, the transcript below.

Podcast 3.5 Transcript

Welcome to Thursday Thoughts at Resonant 7, where we reflect on the reality of God and resolve to let it resound in our lives, repeatedly. Let’s think about this.

Glory to God, and praise and love,

Revelation 4:11 ESV

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

This view of the worship around God’s throne is an invitation for us to join that praise now, even as we prepare for it and long to join it in heaven one day.  He is worthy. Will you lift your voice and your life in praise today?

  Be ever, ever given;

Psalm 86:12 ESV

I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.

From Revelation and the end of time, back to the ancient worship book of the Hebrew people, the eternal call to worship resounds continually.  Forever and ever He is worthy of glory. Determine to continually find a way to be a part of the praise.

By saints below and saints above,

Psalm 30:4 ESV

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.

Not only is He worthy at all times, but also in all places.  Across all time and space the saints of God, those redeemed by their trust in Him, have been, are, and will be giving Him praise.  Thank Him that you get to be a part of that.

  The Church in earth and heaven.

1 Corinthians 1:2 ESV

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

What an incredible, beautiful, diverse, unified body we are!  Sanctified means set apart as holy. Not because of anything we have done, but solely because of what Jesus has done, we are the Church.  O, we have a thousand tongues, and far more, to sing our Great Redeemer’s praise! Hallelujah!

Take a few moments to talk to Jesus about what has come to your mind, or just listen to what He is saying to you, then I will read our text once more.

Glory to God, and praise and love,
Be ever, ever given;
By saints below and saints above,
The Church in earth and heaven.

Take the mindfulness of God’s presence cultivated in these last few minutes into the next ones and beyond.  Until next time, be Resonant.