Bible Verse: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Galatians 6:14

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 2:8-9

Despite battling health challenges for most of his life, or perhaps because of them, writer Isaac Watts would go on to pen some of the most prolific songs and hymns ever sung.

Considered by many as the father of English hymns, Watts is attributed with the immortal Joy to the World, and When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, as well as many volumes and essays on theology and psychology.

Growing up, Watts was dissatisfied with the state of singing in church, which would often take the form of a leader singing the first line, followed by the congregation in a slow, monotonous cycle.

After making his concerns known, it is believed his father responded, “Give us something better.” Watts surprised everyone by doing just that.

For the next two years, he wrote one new hymn every Sunday, including O God, Our Help in Ages Past and I Sing the Mighty Power of God.

In 1707, however, Watts branched out from pulling from the Psalms for inspiration and dug into his own feelings to write the more reflective, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.

While its personal nature was somewhat controversial at the time, the song would become well-loved and is credited as having an impact on theologian Matthew Arnold who called it the greatest hymn in the English language.

Watts’ story is a good reminder for all of us that when worship becomes stale or rote, we need to return to our first love. Return to the scene, walk up the slope of Golgotha and reflect again on the love of Christ and His sacrifice, one that demands your soul, your life, your all.

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.

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.

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?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

— Steven Sukkau, Promise Keepers Canada


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