What joy will greet us in that place

What joy will greet us in that place
When we with unveiled stare
See in our savior’s ageless face
Our glory mirrored there

What joy! when we, no longer slaves
To flesh and sin and death
Exchange this Egypt’s burning rays
For Canaan’s endless rest

What joy! when sorrows sting no more
What joy! when death has died
What joy! in every loss restored
In tears no longer cried

What joy! when we, the Bride of Christ
Made splendid by his love
Are clothed in festal, spotless white
And seated high above

What joy! to join with saints around
A sea of glass aflame
What joy! when praises loud resound
To glorify his name

What joy! to drink the waters deep
That from God’s temple flow
What joy! to eat from Eden’s tree
What joy! to fully know

We’ve pallid joy while yet we grieve
And toil and long on earth
Impatient waiting to receive
True joy from death — then birth

Lord, bring us safe to Zion’s shore
And grant to us at last
This joy that lives forevermore
What joy! that will not pass

© 2019 Josh Bishop

A revised version of this hymn will be published in a forthcoming hymnal by Cardiphonia Music. © 2019 Cardiphonia Music

Santa Wants Beer and Tobacco

I wrote this poem as a Christmas song to convince my kids that Santa would rather have beer and tobacco than cookies and milk. Just needs some music, is all.

—–

A cold Christmas Eve with a warm moonlit glow
A quiet night soft with the fresh-fallen snow
Inside, out of reach from the cold winter air
Santa’s stuffing the stockings with care

The kids left a glass and a plate piled high
But Santa just pulls on his beard with a sigh
It’s a been a long night, still there’s hours to go
And he’d rather have beer and tobacco

CHORUS
Oh, milk is okay if you don’t drive a sleigh
But a cold ale would warm Santa’s toes
And cookies are fine if you’re staying inside
But a corncob would thaw Santa’s nose

Rudolph got oats from the neighbor next door
And Santa’s already had cookies galore
The last thing he wants is an after-school snack
O, give Santa some beer and tobacco

CHORUS

His pipe can’t be packed full of ready-rubbed holly
And milk won’t make anyone’s cheeks red or jolly
Kids, put down the chocolate chip cookies this year
Please leave Santa tobacco and beer

CHORUS

Santa’s eyes never twinkle so bright as they do
When he’s half a bowl in while he’s sipping a brew
Eat the cookies yourself, kids, I promise I know
Santa really wants beer and tobacco

© 2018 Josh Bishop

Coram Deo (Before the Face of God)

Whatever good I aim to do,
Whatever evil I have done,
My honor small, my virtues few,
My sins and failures — every one —
Are lived before the face of God.
We live before the face of God.

Although it’s calm and comforting
To rest beneath God’s watchful care,
It’s still a rightly fright’ning thing
To bear in sin his wrathful stare.
We can’t escape the gaze of God.
We live before the face of God.

In this they both were glorified,
As there before the Father’s eyes
The righteous Son was crucified.
Look, you, with long-lamenting cries
And see the bloodied face of God.
See there the suff’ring face of God.

I cannot earn what Christ has done,
His sacrifice was gift for me.
Now sighting me God sees his son
And leaves my sins on Calvary.
All this is only grace from God.
We glorify this grace of God.

So when our given time has passed,
When soul and body come apart,
When at the end we breathe our last,
All those who lived in Christ take heart:
You’ll die before the face of God.
We’ll die before the face of God.

But joy will greet us with the dawn,
When, from the tomb as from our beds,
We wake to see that night has gone.
Then lifting from the grave our heads,
We’ll rise before the face of God.
We’ll rise to see the face of God.

There clothed in Christ, our sins washed white,
We’ll sing to him loud songs of praise.
To God all glory, pow’r, and might,
The King of Kings, Ancient of Days.
We’ll finally face the face of God.
All stand to praise this grace of God.

© 2019 Josh Bishop

This hymn will be published in a forthcoming hymnal by Cardiphonia Music.
© 2019 Cardiphonia Music

Lord’s Day, July 5, 1891

Adapted from a sermon by Charles Spurgeon

It is righteous, this pleasure in natural things:
In these star-speckled heavens – sky-scattered delights! –
In these meadows, pale garnished with daisies and kingcups;
In seas, where beasts creep from deeps darker than night’s
Vasty pitch; in these woods, sounding round as with wing
Beats swift minstrels mark time and, mid-carol, take flight.

They are madmen who marvel the mountains and say
Of their chisel-chipped peaks – here brushed light, there daubed dark –
“No, I see here no God,” though the Maker’s mark’s made
In pinched clay. There is something of him in this art.
Only look: Lift your eyes from that beauty-blind way
To rejoice – echo: “Good” – as God praised from the start.

O what gladness – what joy! – in the craft of his hands.
Hear our Christ in the hills – how he thundering raves!
Hear him whisper his hush at the sea’s pebbled strand,
Where his cadence sings soft in the sun-stippled waves.
When admiring these works of our Father we stand
All the nearer, among them, to him. If we say,

Then, that bulbs’ goblets gold, filled with sunlight in spring,
Speak of life newly waking from winter-wrapped rest –
How much more must the sight of a man new-born bring
News of goodness and grace? How much more should a breast
Choked with thorns, once – once withered with sin’s leeching sting –
Give us joy when revived by Christ’s cross-borne caress?

How much more than the buds of the silver-leafed birch
Bursting new should those walking, once-dead, now proclaim:
“Let this slum-become-temple, this whorehouse-turned-church –
This old life dawning new like the darkness turned day –
Spur your praise!” Though there’s joy to be found when we search
Shore and brake, glory’s more in creation remade.

© 2015 Josh Bishop

This poem was published by The Rabbit Room in August 2015.

Abraham, Isaac and Jack

I read novels to my oldest son, Jack, nearly every night. He’s 6. Our favorite stories are tales of imagination and high adventure—Narnia, The Hobbit, The Green Ember, Half Magic—but as good and beneficial as they are, I realized some time ago that the Bible was missing from our reading regimen. Not collections of Bible stories (we’ve been reading those for years), but the actual word of God.

I’m convinced that the Bible offers something that no other book can give: An encounter with the living Christ. So we bought Jack his own Bible in an easy-to-understand translation (NIRV) and started in Genesis 1 with plans to go straight through to the end. Little brother Ollie (age 2) listens in.

It’s been sporadic and slow-going, so far, but I think that’s okay. The point is that Jack will grow up in the habit of making time to read his Bible regularly, and he’ll see the priority Becca and I place on it. I’ve set a long-term goal: By the time Jack is 10, he’ll have read the entire Bible. Sure, there are some parts I’ll leave out this first go-round (Lot and his incestuous daughters, for example), but my philosophy, with very few exceptions, is: If it’s in there, I read it. Then we’ll talk about it.

This “most anything goes” approach has led to a lot of interesting conversations. Some are funny, like when Abraham died: “Abraham dies? He’s the main character!” and “He was 175 years old? If he had that many dollars, he’d have enough to buy the Smaug Lego set.” Some are difficult, like the covenant of circumcision or Sodom and Gomorrah. (You know, those.) Sometimes I don’t know what to say aside from, “Good question. I don’t know. Let’s find out together.”

Then there was the story where God tells Abraham to kill his son, Isaac—that story was trickier than most.

They reached the place God had told Abraham about. There Abraham built an altar. He arranged the wood on it. He tied up his son Isaac. He placed him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand. He took the knife to kill his son.
(Genesis 22.9–10)

Jack interrupted: “Wait, he’s going to kill him?”

“Well, God told him to offer his son as a sacrifice, but no, wait for the end—he’s not going to kill him.” (Spoiler.)

“What’s a sacrifice?”

“Remember I told you that the Bible says the punishment for sin is death? People used to make sacrifices so the animal’s death would pay the price of their own sin. The animal would die so they wouldn’t have to. But watch what God does here.”

I finished the story.

Abraham looked up. There in a bush he saw a ram. It was caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram. He sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.
(Genesis 22.13)

I tried to wrap it up: “This is a tough one, Jack. In fact, this is one of your mom’s least favorite stories in the whole Bible. And I almost agree, because without Jesus, this is a really horrible story. But we have Jesus. It’s not horrible, because part of the reason the whole thing happened is so that Israel would know who Jesus was when he came. God gave this story to his people as a gift.”

That confused him.

“Look,” I said. “A dad took his son onto a mountain to offer him as a sacrifice for sin. Can you think of another time a son went on a mountain and died for sins?”

“Jesus?”

“Yes, Jesus. Look at what happens: God gave Abraham the sheep to be used for the sacrifice to save Isaac; and later, God provided another lamb, Jesus, to be the sacrifice to save you and me. Did you know they call Jesus the Lamb of God? This is why: Jesus was the sacrifice for our sin, so we don’t have to kill a sheep like Abraham did. Does that make sense?”

“Sort of.”

(Good enough for me, so I kept going.)

“That’s why this story is actually good news. God saved Abraham’s son, but later on he gave his own son to save us—to save you and me. God never actually wanted Abraham to kill Isaac, he just wanted to show his people about Jesus. They knew this story so they could remember it when they saw what Jesus did.”

Jack was quiet and crawled into my lap and snuggled into me for a hug, not looking at me. He never gets like this.

“Are you okay?”

He nodded.

“Are you bothered?”

Another nod.

“Are you afraid that God will tell daddy to kill you?”

Another nod.

“No, God won’t tell me to kill you. I promise. I promise a thousand times over.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because God already killed Jesus. He took all of our sin and put it on Jesus, so we don’t need to have another sacrifice for any of our sin. Abraham was pointing forward to Jesus, but we get to point backward to Jesus. Jesus died so that you don’t have to. God doesn’t want me to sacrifice you, because God already sacrificed Jesus instead. So he’ll never, ever tell me to kill you.”

Another hug, a better one this time, then we ended with a short prayer:

Thank you, God, for providing the sacrifice for Abraham to save his son. And thank you for providing your own son, Jesus, as a sacrifice to save us—to save me and mom and Jack and Oliver. Thank you that we don’t have to pay for our sin with death because Jesus already did. Amen.

I don’t know that I got the answer right, but I think I did okay. And I hope that, if you have children of your own, this dialogue encourages you to pile on the couch or gather around the dinner table or sprawl on the bed with your kids. Open up God’s word and jump in with them. Tell them the story of God. All of it. It doesn’t matter that you get all the answers right, or that you have answers at all, or that you do a good job pronouncing all those names and places. What matters is that you read it to your children, confident that in those pages they’ll find Christ—and trust that God will do the rest.

—–

NOTE: I’m grateful to The Jesus Storybook Bible and the Gospel Transformation Bible for pointing the way on this one. If I got lost en route, the mistakes are my own; these two guide maps are excellent, and I highly recommend them.

Why My Boys Believe in Santa Claus

My favorite thing about Christmas is the waiting. It wasn’t always that way: When I was a kid, my favorite thing was opening my presents. (We didn’t do Santa, so the presents came from mom and dad.) As I grow older, though, I could sit with the waiting for what feels like forever—because I know for a certainty that the waiting will pay off. The seasonal anticipation builds to a climax that happened in history more than 2,000 years ago. Continue reading “Why My Boys Believe in Santa Claus”