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Hallelujah!

“They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings- and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.”
Revelation 17:14

“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.’” Revelation 19:6

“The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.’” Revelation 11:15

 

I admit, there have been times when singing or playing the Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus has been less than exciting for me. Oh, I know it’s a tremendous musical work and contains wonderful profound truths. But for me as a musician, it can be one of those pieces we might consider overplayed or cliché. After all, the Hallelujah Chorus is played or sung at weddings and funerals all over the world, and sung frequently by most every choir. Even the words of the Hallelujah Chorus are repetitive – the alto line alone sings a four-note motive “Hal-le-lu-jah” 36 times!

 

But if I open my heart to beauty of these words, how could hearing all those Hallelujahs be anything less than meaningful worship? For our Lord God Almighty reigns… It’s easy for me to imagine angels surrounding Jesus in heaven singing it with such joy, Hallelujah! Praise God, the King of Kings, for he reigns forever and ever.

 

Our sin makes it so easy to let these wonderful words of these passages and the Hallelujah Chorus become commonplace and redundant, meaningless at times. We hear these truths so often – in sermons at church, worship songs on the radio and in discussions with family and friends. May we always be open to the Lord, so his song will fill our hearts and our response can be nothing short of Hallelujah…over and over again.
~Bethany Hilt

 

 

The True King

Why do the nations rage,
And the people plot a vain thing?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us break Their bonds in pieces
And cast away Their cords from us.

9 You shall break them with a rod of iron;
You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
Psalm 2: 1-3, 9

For when one man sinned, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. So it has always been, whether one person or entire nations and/or their rulers. The whole of human history has been a story of obedience or rebellion to God’s rule in their lives. Over and over we are given stories of good kings and rebellious kings in the Old Testament. They believed God and obeyed and lived and prospered or they rebelled and died. Nothing has changed, we still have nations and rulers today.

Every king or ruler of any nation should consider the entire 38th chapter of Job to see if he measures up to its standard of rule and power:

 “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
    or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been shown to you?
    Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
18 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
    Tell me, if you know all this.

Finding themselves far short they should throw themselves on God’s mercies and ask for wisdom and humility to rule with the authority given to them by Him.

If any king uses his power to enjoy the oppression of his people, grasping for power of life or death; then like Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, Napoleon, Genghis Khan and countless others, “Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”

And after that comes judgement.

What is the desire of a king? What does he desire to hear? He will live a life and give himself two choices in the end: “Well done, good and faithful servant,” or, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”?

In either scenario all kings and nations will bow to the True King.
“The King’s under the law, for it’s the law makes him a king…For this is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there’s hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad years) to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land.”

-The Chronicles of Narnia, The Horse and His Boy, by C. S. Lewis

Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter now into your Master’s rest.
~Chris Lovegren

Did They Not Hear?

Did they not hear? Of course they did:
“Their voice has gone out into all the earth,
   their words to the ends of the world.” 
Romans 10:18

Of course we did.

But we are listening-impaired, choosing what to hear and what to ignore.

The sound of salvation has gone out into all the land,
resonating and echoing in each human ear,
ready to settle in each human heart.

But we clap our hands over our ears as if deaf.

The words are plainspoken for all to understand yet we fail to discern.
We poke holes, fuss over meaning, walk away from their call.

Did they not hear?

Of course we did.
~Emily Gibson

How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”
Isaiah 52: 7a

 
A traveller’s foot would not normally be considered a thing of beauty. Even modern socks and shoes do not protect feet from grime or wear as we walk in a world as rough, hard, and dirty as it is fallen. When I used to do long distance backpacking, my feet would first blister and bleed, and then develop layered callouses in thick pads. Yuck. Ugly. But things can take on a beauty not directly related to the way they look. A pair of blue jeans long past mending that we have developed a relationship with. A chipped bowl that is your first choice when you are baking rather than the equally usable new bowl next to it. When I think of the places these feet have taken me, I am dazzled by their design and durability, and that makes them beautiful to me. To be beautiful to others, there has to be something more. There has to be a qualifying attribute. When we dedicate our selves to delivering the Good News we become beautiful. Our feet, our hands, our lips, even our back sides that allow us drive to someplace/someone, and then allow us to sit patiently and tell the Good News – all become beautiful because of what they are doing, not because of the way they look.
~Brian Vander Haak
I assigned the same verses to two people without realizing it, so here is reflection #2 on these verses from Brian:
Lift up your heads, you gates;
    be lifted up, you ancient doors,
    that the King of glory may come in.
8 Who is this King of glory?
    The Lord strong and mighty,
    the Lord mighty in battle.
9 Lift up your heads, you gates;
    lift them up, you ancient doors,
    that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is he, this King of glory?
    The Lord Almighty—
    he is the King of glory.
Psalm 24: 7 – 10 (NIV)
In Japan there are historic gates everywhere. We visited a castle this past week and the gates were as impressive as the high, carefully constructed stone walls, deep moat, and layered towers. Gates are designed to keep out anyone and anything undesirable. Gates can be massive, and they are cleverly designed to allow access yet protect what lies inside them. You often see a smaller door built into the large gate, or in another part of the wall nearby.
Throughout Japan the ancient doors referenced in this passage, the ones that are keeping the King of glory out, are everywhere. They are physically present, but they also exist in the cultural context. The gates on the hearts and minds of too many are massive and cleverly designed. Our lives in Japan are a prayerful effort to get these gates to lift their heads and allow the King of glory in. To find a door, whether it is the main gate, a back door, anything that might be opened. We are weak and our efforts against these intimidating gates seemingly futile, but fortunately, before we despair, verse 8 reassures us that God is strong and mighty. The battle will be His.
~Brian Vander Haak

Lift Up Your Heads!

Lift up your heads, O you gates
Psalm 24:7-10

Lift up your heads, O you gates!
And be lifted up, you everlasting doors!
And the King of glory shall come in.
 Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
The Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O you gates!
Lift up, you everlasting doors!
And the King of glory shall come in.
 Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts,
He is the King of glory.

 

When I was twelve I read The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien for the first time (and not the last). Anyone who knows me well knows that this trilogy is my favorite piece of “modern” literature. I think I love it because of the heroic deeds accomplished by humble characters. Aragorn, the true king, refuses to enter the city until victory has been accomplished. He comes first as a healer and then later to triumphantly be crowned king.

“Then Faramir stood up and spoke in a clear voice: ‘Men of Gondor, hear now the Steward of this Realm! Behold! One has come to claim the kingship again at last. Here is Aragorn son of Arathorn, chieftain of the Dúnedain of Arnor, Captain of the Host of the West, bearer of the Star of the North, wielder of the Sword Reforged, victorious in battle, whose hands bring healing, the Elfstone, Elessar of the line of Valandil, Isildur’s son, Elendil’s son of Númenor. Shall he be king and enter into the City and dwell there?’
…… And all the host and all the people cried yea with one voice…”

I took the liberty of rewriting this scene for when our True King returns. He came to us first as a tiny baby and a humble healer. One day he will ride into the city as Victor of our hearts.

Then a clear voice rang out: “People of the earth, behold! One has come to claim the kingship again at last. Here is the Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Most High God, Ruler of God’s Creation, the Morning Star, Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Author and Perfecter of our Faith, the Redeemer, the Refiner, our Refuge and our Rock, Seed of Abraham, Root of David, Holy One of Israel, the Way, the Truth, and the Light of the World, King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Lift up your heads, O you gates! Lift up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory!”

And all the earth bowed and every tongue confessed that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father!
~Leslie Drury

 

Never Abandoned

“I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
You have made known to me the path of life;
You will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
Psalm 16:7-11 NIV

Over at Whatcom Community College, it’s finals week. The busyness and pressure of numerous grade-determining tests packed into a single week tends to drive out thoughts of all else. It can easily become a good representation of the saying “too much of a good thing”; washing out every other good thing in its path.

When we allow the “good things” of life to drown out our praising, our listening and our rejoicing, our thankfulness and our joy dwindles. And while this seemingly-relentless studying lasts only seven days, it has not yet failed to remind me of this:

Taking the time to remember the Lord, no matter how bogged down with doing “good things” we may be, is extremely important.
To remember to hear his counsel; even in the night.
To set Him always before all that we do.
To recall that we will never be abandoned, not even in our dying.
To recollect every good thing we have been given in He whose presence alone can fill us with joy.
I hope and pray to do as David did with his psalms. To keep my Lord at the forefront of my mind, no matter where I find myself, no matter how many things must be done. To rejoice in the God who instructs us in our living, never leaving our side (not even in the middle of a math exam!), and whose eternal promise is that even in death we will never find loneliness.
~Abbey Drury (age 17)

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