Mercy Tree (Sturm)

Mercy Tree

For Music Monday today, I wanted to point out a song that’s been a blessing to me for my Christian walk: “Mercy Tree.” I’m familiar with Lacey Sturm’s rendition of it on the album “My Hope”. This song is a brief and straightforward proclamation of Christ’s death and resurrection – and the hope we have in this gospel. It’s also worth mentioning that as a teenager Lacey was a committed atheist. Her life was quite dark and full of pain to the point that she had planned to commit suicide. But God – through her grandma! – had other plans for her life. Long story short: now Lacey is sharing the hope of the gospel through music. Speaking of, here’s the song “Mercy Tree”:

On a hill called Calvary
Stands an endless mercy tree
Every broken weary soul
Find your rest and be made whole
Stripes of blood that stain its frame
Shed to wash away our shame
From the scars pure love released
Salvation by the mercy tree

In the spot between two thieves
Hung the blameless Prince of Peace
Bruised and battered, scarred and scorned
Sacred head pierced by our thorns
It is finished was His cry
The perfect lamb was crucified
His sacrifice, our victory
Our Savior chose the mercy tree

Hope went dark that violent day
The whole earth quaked at love’s display
Three days silent in the ground
This body born for heaven’s crown
On that bright and glorious day
When heaven opened up the grave
He’s alive and risen indeed!
Praise Him for the mercy tree!

Death has died, love has won
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Jesus Christ has overcome
He has risen from the dead

Death has died, love has won
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Jesus Christ has overcome
He has risen from the dead

One day soon, we’ll see His face
And every tear, He’ll wipe away
No more pain or suffering
Praise Him for the mercy tree

Death has died, love has won
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Jesus Christ has overcome
He has risen from the dead

Death has died, love has won
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Jesus Christ has overcome
He has risen from the dead

On a hill called Calvary
Stands an endless mercy tree

Amen!

(Lacey Sturm, “Mercy Tree”)

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

The Gospel is Sprinkled Throughout Scripture (Melanchthon)

Philip Melanchthon’s Loci Communes Theologici (Fundamental Theological Themes) was published early on in the Reformation – in 1521 when Melanchthon was only 24 years old. Melanchthon’s Loci is something of a summary of the main Christian themes in Scripture. Martin Luther hailed the Loci more than once and said it should be included in the canon of the church – that is, in the church’s essential theological books. To be sure, it is an excellent piece of Reformation literature that is well worth reading. Below is a section I ran across this morning which I thought was quite helpful:

 So far do I write on the promises [of God], all of which ought to be related to that first one which was made to Eve. It signified to Adam and Eve that sin, and death, the penalty of that sin, would at some time be abolished, namely, when the progeny of Eve should bruise the head of that serpent. For what do the head of the serpent and its cunning signify but the kingdom of sin and death?

If you should relate all promises to this one, you will see that the gospel is sprinkled throughout the whole of Scripture in a remarkable way; and the gospel is simply the preaching of grace or the forgiveness of sins through Christ. And yet as I said a little while ago, all promises, even those of temporal things, are testimonies of the goodwill or the mercy of God; he who trusts in them is righteous because he thinks well of God and has given praise to him for his kindness and goodness.

He who hears the threats and acknowledges the history does not yet believe every word of God; but he does who, in addition to the threats and the history, believes also the promises. It is not merely a matter of believing the history about Christ; this is what the godless do. What matters is to believe why he took on flesh, why he was crucified, and why he came back to life after his death; the reason, of course, is that he might justify as many as would believe on him. If you believe that these things have been done for your good and for the sake of saving you, you have a blessed belief.

Philip Melanchthon, Loci Communes “Justification and Faith” in Melanchthon and Bucer, p. 104-105.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

He Calls You So Graciously (Zwingli)

Huldreich (Ulrich) Zwingli, the Swiss Reformer, was born in 1484, the same year as the German Reformer, Martin Luther. Zwingli is often known today for his memorialist view of the Lord’s Supper. However, there’s a lot more to Zwingli’s labors and teaching than a certain view of the Supper. He did clearly preach the truths of Scripture and criticized the doctrinal and moral abuses of the church in his day. Below is one excellent example found in his published sermon called “The Clarity and Certainty of the Word.”

Illustration: A man is longing for his soul’s salvation, and he asks a Carthusian: Dear brother, what must I do to be saved? And the answer will undoubtedly be this: Enter our order, and you will assuredly be saved, for it is the most rigorous. But ask a Benedictine and he replies: It is worth noting that salvation is easiest in our order, for it is the most ancient. But if you ask a Dominican he will answer: In our order salvation is certain, for it was given from heaven by our Lady. And if you ask a Franciscan, he will say: Our order is the greatest and most famous of all; consider then whether you will find salvation more easily in any other. And if you ask the Pope he will say: It is easiest with an indulgence. And if you ask those of Compostella they will say: If you come here to St. James you will never be lost and you will never be poor.

You see, they all show you some different way, and they all contend fiercely that their way is the right one. But the seeking soul cries out: Alas! whom shall I follow? They all argue so persuasively that I am at a loss what to do. And finally it can only run to God and earnestly pray to him, saying: Oh God, show me which order or which way is the most certain. You fool, you go to God simply that he may distinguish between men, and you do not ask him to show you that way of salvation which is pleasing to him and which he himself regards as sure and certain. Note that you are merely asking God to confirm something which men have told you.

But why do you not say: Oh God, they all disagree amongst themselves; but you are the only, unconcealed good; show me the way of salvation? And the Gospel gives us a sure message, or answer, or assurance. Christ stands before you with open arms, inviting you and saying (Matt. 11): “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” O glad news, which brings with it its own light, so that we know and believe that it is true, as we have fully shown above. For the one who says it is a light of the world. He is the way, the truth and the light. In his Word we can never go astray. We can never be deluded or confounded or destroyed in his Word. If you think there can be no assurance or certainty for the soul, listen to the certainty of the Word of God. The soul can be instructed and enlightened – note the clarity – so that it perceives that its whole salvation and righteousness, or justification, is enclosed in Jesus Christ, and it has therefore the sure comfort that when he himself invites and calls you so graciously he will never cast you out. 

Ulrich Zwingli, “The Clarity and Certainty of the Word”, in Zwingli and Bullinger, (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1953) p.83-83.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54002

If That Is Not Darkness…! (Luther)

As most of us know quite well, one biblical way to think about the Lord is that he’s our loving, kind, patient, and good shepherd (Ps. 23, John 10, etc.). He loves us, his sheep, so much that he laid down his life for us. Having the Lord Jesus as our shepherd is a source of amazing comfort in the Christian life.

As Martin Luther lectured on Psalm 23:1 he very clearly pointed out these comforting realities of having Christ as our shepherd. At one point in the lecture he applied the teaching by explaining how many in his day viewed Jesus not as a loving shepherd but as a stern and strict judge. The following quote is a good summary of how the recovery of the gospel was a central part of the Reformation:

From these words we can also see clearly how shamefully we have been led astray under the papacy. It did not depict Christ in so friendly a fashion as did the dear Prophets, Apostles, and Christ Himself, but portrayed Him so horribly that we were more afraid of Him than of Moses and thought that the teaching of Moses was much easier and more friendly than the teaching of Christ. Therefore we knew Christ only as an angry judge, whose anger we had to reconcile with our good works and holy life and whose grace we had to obtaion through the merit and intercession of the dear saints. That is a shameful lie that not only deceives poor consciences miserably but also profanes God’s grace to the extreme, denies Christ’s death, resurrection, ascension into heaven, etc. together with all His inexpressible blessings, blasphemes and damns His holy Gospel, destroys faith, and sets up in its place nothing but horror, lies, and error.

If that is not darkness then I do not know what darkness is. Up to now no one was able to notice it, but everyone considered it the pure truth. To the present day our papists wish to have it preserved as right and hence shed much innocent blood. Dear friend, if we can feed and rule ourselves, protect ourselves against error, gain grace and forgiveness of sins through our own merit, resist the devil and all misfortune, conquer sin and death – then all Scripture must be a lie when it testifies of us that we are lost, scattered, wounded, weak, and defenseless sheep. Then we do not need a Christ either as a shepherd who would seek, gather, and direct us, bind up our wounds, watch over us, and strengthen us against the devil. Then He has also given His life for us in vain. For as long as we can do and gain al these things through our own powers and piety, we do not need the help of Christ at all.

Martin Luther, Psalm 23, Luther’s Works, volume 12, page 156.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

Hymn: Of A Rebel Made A Son (Newton)

The Works of John Newton (4 Volume Set)  Although this hymn by John Newton might have a few titles, one line in it would be my choice for a title: “…Of a rebel made a son.”  Whatever it is called, here’s Newton’s wonderful hymn that exalts the grace and love of Christ.  Say it out loud!

Saved by blood, I live to tell
What the love of Christ hath done;
He redeemed my soul from hell,
Of a rebel made a son:
Oh I tremble still to think
How secure I lived in sin,
Sporting on destruction’s brink
Yet preserved from falling in.

In his own appointed hour,
To my heart the Savior spoke;
Touched me by his Spirit’s power;
And my dangerous slumber broke.
Then I saw and owned my guilt:
Soon my gracious Lord replied,
‘Fear not, I my blood have spilt,
Twas for such as thee I died.’

Shame and wonder, joy and love;
All at once possessed my heart,
Can I hope thy grace to prove
After acting such a part?
‘Thou hast greatly sinned,’ said he,
‘But I freely all forgive,
I myself thy debt have paid,
Now I bid thee rise and live!’

Come my fellow sinners try;
Jesus’ heart is full of love
Oh that you, as well as I,
May his wonderous mercy prove!
He has sent me to declare,
All is ready, all is free:
Why should any soul despair,
When he saved a wretch like me?

John Newton, “Hear What He Has Done For My Soul”, Book III, Hymn 54.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015