It was an EF5 multiple-vortex on that Sunday afternoon, one year ago on May 22. In excess of one mile wide, the late-May tornado tore up Joplin, Missouri, and points beyond. One hundred sixty people died. Many more were injured.
At two point two billion dollars, it is expected to be the largest insurance payout in Missouri history, that twister that came down hard in the southwest corner of the show-me state. It will be remembered as the costliest tornado in US history and it was the first F5 tornado to hit the state since one struck Kansas City in 1957. People tried to hide after the sirens sounded, but not everyone could get away. Captain Jason Poff of the Salvation Army stuffed thirteen people into two closets at a home Bible study, only to come out to a demolished home. He says it’s one thing to talk about Jesus, it’s another to experience Christ in the middle of a storm.
Haven is ministry with an amazing heritage stretching back to the first broadcast in 1934. Part of our legacy is The Haven Quartet. A few years ago I asked them to record some familiar worship songs, but they were never released ... until now. As my thank you for your gift to Haven Ministries I would like to send you the CD Near the Cross - some of the last songs recorded by The Haven Quartet.
Near the Cross – Haven – Near the Cross
Hearing that story of the tornado suddenly swooping in on Joplin, of life suddenly changing while you’re making tacos for your bible study – it reminds us all over again that Jesus is our victory. Life has it’s battles but the cross of Jesus flies over our head like a victory banner, and it says – “This one is forgiven, this one is mine, this one I am taking home with me to be with me forever.”
No matter what the battles we find ourselves in – and life can very often seem like one battle after another, some of them long and grinding, some of them out of the blue, but whatever the battle, Jesus is our victory. His love is a banner over our head that says the battle has been won. It’s a declaration that all is well with us no matter what happens because our sins are forgiven, because Jesus is with us, because we belong to him, and he has won the victory over death itself.
This week on Haven . . . we’re featuring , , , and one of the beautiful victorious songs on that album was originally written by Fanny Crosby -- “Near the Cross.” Fanny Crosby knew what it was like to have the banner of the cross flying over her head. She was born blind. She lived her whole life in darkness but she saw the banner of love flying over her life and she poured it out in the lyrics she wrote. By the end of her career she’d written almost 9,000 hymns all of them rejoicing in the cross of Jesus and the love of her savior.
Jesus keep me near the cross. The cross is his banner of his love flying over our lives -- it’s a battle won over sin, it’s a triumph over death, it’s a guarantee that God is for us and “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
Let me narrow it down to three things. Three things the cross means. Three ways the cross is a banner over our lives:
1. The cross is a banner of victory.
2. The cross is a banner of ownership.
3. The cross is a banner of love.
If we get those three and if we live our lives with the cross as our banner in those three ways -- then everything is going to be different – we’re going to be different, life is going to be different.
1. The cross is a banner of victory. It means there’s no longer a banner of shame and guilt and death flying over our head because Jesus won the battle.
Do you walk around like you have a banner of shame over you? Do you always remember how you’ve failed and does it undermine your confidence in God’s love? Even for believers I think this is a very common thing and what we need is what Fanny Crosby was talking about – we need to live near the cross. We need to keep on taking in what the cross actually means.
The cross means our disgrace has been removed. God took that banner of shame away from us and nailed to over the head of Jesus and now it’s gone. Our guilt has been taken away – Jesus took it away on the cross.
Do you see your life as an unknown number of years between birth and death? If you’re a believer in Jesus you’re thinking too small. Death no longer has the victory. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul writes a long passionate chapter about the resurrection. There were people saying there was no resurrection – that Jesus hadn’t actually been raised from the dead. Paul not only absolutely affirms the truth of his resurrection – he actually saw the risen Lord – but he then goes on to explain what it means that Jesus was resurrected. It means death no longer has the victory. It means the grave is no longer the end of it all. You don’t have to number your days like a miser numbering his gold --- you have days forever and ever that will never run out.
Paul says, “the sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law.” But Jesus conquered it all on the cross and now death has no sting. The grave has no victory. And the resurrection of Jesus proves it. It guarantees that we will live eternally with the Lord beyond death in a resurrected body in a recreated heaven and earth. And that knowledge puts everything in a different light.
Our lives have a banner of victory flying over them. The cross is emblazoned on it. It says: Jesus has conquered shame and guilt and death.
The cross has military overtones – it was a great battle won by a great hero -- think bagpipes or bugles. All of us should be bowed down in shame by our sin but because of the cross we can hold up our heads – we can march boldly into life, serving the Lord with full hearts and giving him all the glory, with the cross like a banner over our heads, putting joy and courage into our hearts.
2. The cross is a banner of ownership. It means there’s no banner of “self” flying over our head. The cross says, “This one belongs to Jesus”.
Do you have a “me” banner flying over your head? I do a lot of the time. What we need – all of us – it to get a clear fix on what the cross tells us about ourselves. The cross has torn our banner of self to shreds. Every self-exalting, I-am-righteous, boasting in ourselves, ‘it’s all about me’ flag has to come down if we’re going to hoist the banner of the cross.
Paul understood this. He hated the self-righteous flag he’d been marching under before he met Jesus. The cross was engraved on his heart. With every ounce of passion in his soul he solemnly commits himself to boasting only in the cross – never in himself, “May I never boast except in the cross of Christ by which I have been crucified to the world and the world to me.” For Paul it was like a battle cry – Give Jesus all the glory! Fly his flag!
That’s what Fanny Crosby was talking about in her lyrics: “in the cross, in the cross, be my glory ever.”
The cross itself demands this of us – the very fact that Jesus gave his life for us means that the banner of self must be lowered every day, sometimes several times a day. It demands that we hoist the banner of the cross and say – this is my glory, this is the one I serve. This is who I am – I am one who has been claimed by this cross, body and soul. This is what my life is all about – this cross, this Jesus who died for me – I am his. Jesus keep me near the cross, let it define my life.
I really think this is the great divide of the human heart.
What is our banner? What banner are we living under?
Is it a banner that has our name on it? Are we waving the banner that says, “Me.” Are we boasting in ourselves and claiming credit for our own successes or are we boasting in the Lord and rejoicing in him and giving him all the glory?
SONG – Breathe` – Haven – Near the Cross
The difference is like the continental divide – our lives will flow in two completely different directions depending on which banner we have over us and they’ll end up in two completely different places.
I used to live near the continental divide –– you wouldn’t know it except the forest service has put up a stone marker. If a rain drop falls on the west side of that spot, it eventually ends up in the Pacific Ocean. If it falls on the east side, it ends up in the Atlantic ocean.
If our banner says, “me” eventually it’s going to unfold a little further and we’re going to read the rest of the word. You know what it’ll say? It’ll say, “me-aningless.” If we live for ourselves life will always turn out to be meaningless. We’ll end up with a terrible realization that everything we thought was so important and so great, everything we celebrated about ourselves, all our accomplishments, all our victories – they were all meaningless.
But if the cross is our banner – then it will only get better. Our lives will have meaning. Everything we do for the Lord will be established for eternity. And we’ll end up in presence of the Lord – rejoicing in him for all eternity. Jesus keep me near the cross.
Everyone who makes his cross their banner and flies the flag of his glory – will one day get to share his glory. We’ll be seated at the banquet table with the Jesus. Not a single one of us will be forgotten. Each of our names will be written in the book of life.
Which brings me to the third thing the cross tells us. It tells us we’re loved.
3. The cross is a banner of love. Jesus wrote this banner with his death. It says, “This is the one I love.”
Song of Songs 2:4 says, “He has taken me into the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love.” That love is fierce and nothing can separate us from it. Jesus told us to abide in this love of his. He wants us to fly the banner of his love over our lives, to let it fill our lives with a sense of great sweetness and great security. He wants his love to be with us when we’re hiding from tornadoes in the closet, when we’re living every day in the darkness of blindness, he wants it to fill our hearts and tell us we’re not alone, we’re not forgotten, -- that we’re profoundly and deeply loved, loved so much that the One who loves us died to have us for himself.
When you and I are ushered into the banquet hall of the King at the wedding feast of the lamb there’s going to be a great banner unfurled over our heads for everyone to read and it’s going to say:
“This is the one I love.”
SONG – Breathe – Haven – Near the Cross
Near the Cross Instrumental David Baroni
You may not realize this about Haven, but since our first broadcast in 1934 there was a singing group that was part of our ministry. The Haven Quartet, whose music you just heard, disbanded a few years ago, but before they did I asked them to record some familiar worship songs ... songs that would be easy people to sing along with and that would focus hearts and minds on the cross of Christ. Unfortunately, these recordings were never released ... until today. Near the Cross is a new release of some of the last songs recorded by the Haven Quartet. I'd like you to have this CD as my thank you for your gift to support the ongoing ministry of Haven Today.
Near the Cross
For a gift of any amount
Near the Cross by the Haven Quartet is a brand new album of worship packed with fourteen previously unreleased songs from one of the greatest Christian vocal groups ever. True to the sound and musical integrity for which they became...
[Get It Now]