A Mind Set on Christ

I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.
Job 19:25-26

I am not at a time or place in my life where I have felt the ability to engage in serious and lengthy fasting. I suppose no one has ever really felt that they were well-equipped to fast, to take up any sort of ascetic practice for that matter. Unless such practices are made into fads they are completely counter-intuitive and rebel against a nature that constantly seeks satisfaction. It seems odd and difficult to understand that we, as Christians, should feel the need to create ‘self chosen suffering’ when we live in a world where suffering is unavoidable. Why choose not to eat out of abundance while others cannot eat out of poverty?

Yet the Lenten season is a time set aside for the practice of fasting. It may be viewed as a time of solidarity with the poor and the weak of the world. God, however, scoffs at such half-hearted reasoning in Isaiah 58, calling out the two-facedness of His people’s pious practice. What then? Fasting is not the avenue through which we meet God. This mindset begins to strip Christ’s suffering of its meaning. Rather, the period of fasting is meant to reflect that which Christ’s suffering reveals to us: heartfelt vulnerability and vigorous trust. Job’s words of assurance could not have come apart from the recognition of who he is in relationship to God, a recognition viewed through the lens of his suffering.

Fasting, then, serves as this ultimate reminder of the ways in which we try to avoid true suffering. Fasting must become a time of preparation so that when life inevitably gives suffering, we approach with a mind set on Christ rather than comfort.

~ Ben Gibson

Forever and Ever

These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful. 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

There were great voices in heaven, saying,
“The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord,
and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.”
Revelation 11:15

We hear various portions of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah all year round, usually in a non-religious context, like a commercial or cartoon, using this beautiful work to celebrate something other than the everlasting kingdom of the Lord.  Handel would be shocked at how mundane the word “Hallelujah” has become largely because of the popularity of his work.  It has become the staple of flash mob venues at Christmas, in food courts, train stations and malls, simply because it is so well known.

But it is not at all well understood.  This is far from a paean to Christmas, and is not meant to represent the “heavenly host” praising Jesus’ birth.  It actually is a celebration of the Messiah conquering death itself.  This is a battle cry about the defeat of evil, not at all a lullaby to a new born baby.

And so it should be the rallying cry for the faithful.  It should be sung from the rafters of department stores and gymnasiums and the greatest cathedrals.  It is a marvelous song to sing at full tilt,  each part intersecting and playing with the voices of the other parts.  It cannot be sung without a smile, a shiver down the spine and quickening of the pulse.   Even if the tradition of standing for the Hallelujah Chorus was started because King George II needed to stand up to stretch his legs after the lengthy first two sections of the libretto, it is worthy ever after of our standing attention.

So too should we attend to the story of Handel’s creation of his Messiah in a mere 24 days.  He was depressed, destitute and desperate for the work.  When he finished writing “Hallelujah Chorus”, his assistant, who had tried shouting to rouse Handel from the room where he had sequestered himself, walked in to find Handel in tears.  When asked what was the matter, Handel held up the score to “Hallelujah” and said “I thought I saw the face of God.”

When we hear these words, read them and sing them, so do we.

Forever and ever.

Dashed and Broken

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

What possible use is a broken vessel?  Cracked, leaking, unsightly, unwanted, tossed aside.

Even so, that is exactly what we are asked to be, and what we are.  Broken in order we be made whole, not by any effort of our own.
The world rages at faith, does everything possible to dash it to pieces, crush it, grind it to dust and cast it away.

Our only hope is to fall on the Rock so as to be broken in Him, not by the angry world.

Only the Potter will make us new.

To the Ends of the World

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

You, reading this, especially those of you who believe in the name of Christ and his power to break the bondage of sin; you are proof that these words are true. The word of God and the message of his mercy in Christ has surely come “to the ends of the earth”, for it has come to rest with you.  (It would seem God has no trouble with publicity—even the heavens speak a good word that is louder than sound.)

And that Word has not finished moving yet.  It is still making itself known, achieving the purpose for which it was sent (Is. 55:11).

You who have heard this word may be familiar with it, may have heard repeatedly, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.”  You have been set free, adopted, grafted in. This belief is familiar; this language is not strange to you.

Oh, but do not let yourself forget this! God’s kindness to us is twofold: not only did he choose to speak that Word, he has taken pains to relay it to the farthest edges of the world, even to you and me.

~ Breanna Siebring

Beautiful Feet

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace
Isaiah 52: 7a

Feet are not the most beautiful part of the human body, but as image bearers, we must remember that even feet–calloused, crooked toed,  deformed nails, blisters, warts and all–reflect God.  They bear the load, travel the miles, climb the mountains, and allow a voice to be heard beyond the backyard.

His footprints on earthly  soil are proof of His having been present.   His dirty feet are proof that He is taking some of that earthly soil back with Him.

Feet were worthy of His cleansing touch.  If so for the lowly homely foot, so much more our hearts.

Open the Door

Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is he, this King of glory?
The LORD God Almighty—
he is the King of glory.
Psalm 24:7,10

We  regularly check the closed doors in our lives, all locked and sealed, to help us feel safe and secure.  Those doors keep us in and others out. The time has come to open up.  He is knocking, asking to be allowed in.  It is time to break the seal and open wide.

A closed heart no longer beats.

You Will Not Abandon

…because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one
see decay.
Psalm 16:10

I realized quickly after leaving college that I would no longer be equipped with easy means of evaluating success and failure. The learning curve of dealing with the ambiguities of the day-to-day is immense… assessment is what I know and what I have come to trust to provide me with value and meaning. To take that step out into the realm of uncertainty requires boldness, trust, and a willingness to embrace confusion.

Throughout his psalms, David often acknowledges and grapples with the uncertainty of life as king and as God’s servant. He did not have the luxury of knowing he had made a right decision; he, however, continued to root himself in a deeper and truer certainty. God would provide. David makes the ridiculous claim here that those faithful to God would never see decay. No justification existed for such a statement… every man before David, king or poor, had been given over to the grave. Death seemed the one knowable fact in a life full of confusion.

Thus, in speaking with utmost trust and submission (escape from death was something David could never bring about), David spoke prophetically of the Messiah. A life of continual assessment and accomplishment leaves no room for prophecy. Only where submission to and trust in God are required can we as Christians speak with the utter dependency that leads us to the prophetic. Lent calls us back to this dependency, leading to a submission that leaves us open to speaking prophetic truths in a confused world.

~ Ben Gibson