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

 

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Search for a Comforter

Your rebuke has broken my heart;
and I am full of heaviness:
and I looked for some to take pity,
but there was none; and for comforters,
but I found none. Psalm 69:20
 

As humans, we all have, and all will experience moments that bring us face to face with our sinful condition.  Perhaps we will have done something that directly hurts others; perhaps we will have committed a sin in our hearts, invisible to others, but plain to God.  Perhaps we will have failed to live up to our own personal standards of thought, word or deed.

These are uncomfortable moments, as they remind us how weak and desperate we really are.  Such moments can be incredibly isolating: we strain under the weight of our burden and want nothing more than for our friends or family to justify us, somehow.  We long to hear that we were right in our wrongdoing; we long to hear that we were the victim and not the perpetrator; we long to hear that we are still loved regardless of what we have done.
The facts:
-Sin can only ever be called sin.  To call sin anything else is to negate the Holiness and Goodness of God.
-Sin’s grip is vice-like, but “the devil made me do it” is a lame excuse.
AND…
-We are loved, regardless of our sin, and beyond our human reckoning.
We cannot hope to find the assurance of this infinite and unconditional love with our friends and family.  After all, they struggle under the weight of sin just as we do, and their love can no more cover our sins than our love can cover theirs.
Ah, but we need not lose hope!
In Jesus Christ, we find true justification: not the type that dismisses our sins as trivial, but the type that carries them to the cross that we might be made blameless.
In Jesus Christ, we find true freedom: sin’s arm is broken and our hearts are prepared for the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.
In Jesus Christ, we find unconditional love: a love whose heights exceed the depths of our wickedness.
David’s despairing search for a comforter in this passage can be discouraging to read out of context, but through the lens of Christ, we become aware of an amazing truth:
It is in these uncomfortable moments of heaviness, weighed down by our sin, that we can truly appreciate the vastness of God’s love for us.
When we are tempted to despair at our own brokenness, let us instead rejoice at the boundless love of our Savior!
~Nate Gibson

To Redeem Us All

The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown,
Of all trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown

[Refrain:]
O, the rising of the sun,
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.

The holly bears a blossom,
As white as lily flow’r,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ,
To be our dear Saviour

The holly bears a berry,
As red as any blood,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ,
To do poor sinners good

The holly bears a prickle,
As sharp as any thorn,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ,
On Christmas Day in the morn

The holly bears a bark,
As bitter as the gall,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ,
For to redeem us all

The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown,
Of all trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown
~18th century traditional carol

 

19 For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? 20 Indeed, you are our glory and joy.
1 Thessalonians 2: 19-20

We, the children of God–
created white as the blossom,
blood red as the berry,
sharp as the prickly edge,
bitter as the bark –
we, redeemed and glorified,
are the crown of thorns and joy He wears.

~Emily Gibson

Sound the Chorus!

WHO CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN TO EARTH?
by James McGranahan

One of my fondest memories growing up was singing from the “LET YOUTH PRAISE HIM” song book from L.C school days where this song came right after the Christmas section. As a family we have sung this song often as we gathered around the dinner table at Christmas. In my research I discovered this song was not well known and what made it more intriguing to me was the asterisk in the margin declaring it was a song that was “suitable” for primary students. Well I beg to differ as I believe that the Holy Spirit reveals truth to us in ways that we can understand. There is no theological hairsplitting here! The author of this song is no stranger to many of us, more about him later.

  1. Who came down from heaven to earth?   Jesus Christ, our Savior,

Came a child of lowly birth?                         Jesus Christ, our Savior. [chorus]

  1. Who was lifted on the cross?                        Jesus Christ, our Savior,

There to bear all pain and loss?                  Jesus Christ, our Savior. [chorus]

  1. Who hath promised to forgive?                   Jesus Christ, our Savior,

Who hath said, “believe and live”?               Jesus Christ, our Savior. [chorus]

  1. Who is now enthroned above?                    Jesus Christ, our Savior,

Whom should we obey and love?                 Jesus Christ, our Savior. [chorus]

  1. Who again from heaven shall come?           Jesus Christ, our Savior,

Take to glory all His own?                               Jesus Christ, our Savior. [chorus]

CHORUS!

Sound the chorus load and clear; He has brought salvation near;

None so precious, none so dear,   JESUS CHRIST OUR SAVIOR.

Do take notice how all the lines pose a Question. What an opportunity to talk to others and your children about these questions!

The following is not comprehensive so please include your own scripture texts.

John 3:13-15. “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. [see song VERSES 1,2&3]

John 3: 16-17. “FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON THAT WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM SHOULD NOT PERISH BUT HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved.” [see song VERSES 2&3.]

John 6: 38-40. “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day. “[see song VERSES 1,3 & 5.]

Romans 6: 22-23. “But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and in the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [see song VERSE 4]

Acts 1:11b.”This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” [ see song VERSE 5]

The final promise. “ TAKE TO GLORY ALL HIS OWN! [see song VERSE 5 ]

Revelation 21: 3-4. “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Revelation 21:22, 22:3-5. “ But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” And He showed me a pure river of water of life. Clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there ; They need no lamp nor light of sun, for the Lord gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever. Verse 20 MARANATHA!!!

This Chorus should be shouted! Psalm 105: 1b. Our commission “Make known His deeds among the People” Jesus Christ our savior!! Acts 4:10b-11-12”that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone. Nor is there found salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Have a blessed Christmas from the Nick Laninga’s

by Nick Laninga

P.S. For more on James McGranahan come to the Wiser Lake Chapel’s Christmas evening of Carols Christmas eve at 7:P.M.

 

 

 

Our Burden Bearer

Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming, as men of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright, amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.

Isaiah ’twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind;
With Mary we behold it, the Virgin Mother kind.
To show God’s love aright, she bore to us a Savior,
When half spent was the night.

The shepherds heard the story proclaimed by angels bright,
How Christ, the Lord of glory was born on earth this night.
To Bethlehem they sped and in the manger found Him,
As angel heralds said.

This Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere;
True man, yet very God, from sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.
~Michael Praetorius

I love this carol.
The stanza that is particularly hitting me lately is the fourth one and most especially, the last two lines:
 “True man, yet very God, from sin and death He saves us,
   And lightens every load.”
The first part is mystery. “True man, yet very God.”  That it is true, the Bible tells me so.  That I get it? No.  But that I believe it? Yes.
And then: “from sin and death He saves us.” God’s justice demanded that human nature must pay for its sin, (but a sinner couldn’t do that). But Jesus Christ, by the power of his divinity, bore the weight of God’s anger in his humanity and restored to us righteousness and life. (Thank you Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 16, 17). This is good news!
Now, the last part: “And lightens every load.”  This is the one that gets me.  The Scriptures don’t mince words: we have loads. Sometimes, it seems as though we are doing okay carrying a load.  Other times, no, no, it is too heavy and one feels crushed.  The reality that Christ lightens our load is something to cling too . . . otherwise where does one go?
A baby in a manger, my burden bearer.
~Danyale Tamminga

The Word Made Flesh

 What Child Is This?
What child is this, who, laid to rest,
on Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
while shepherds watch are keeping?
   This, this is Christ the King,
   whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
   haste, haste to bring Him laud,
   the Babe, the Son of Mary.
Why lies He in such mean estate
where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear; for sinners here
the silent Word is pleading.
   Nails, spear, shall pierce Him through,
   the cross be borne for me, for you:
   hail, hail, the Word made flesh, 
   the Babe, the Son of Mary.
So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
come peasant, king to own Him;
the King of kings, salvation brings,
let loving hearts enthrone Him.
   Raise, raise the song on high,
   the virgin sings her lullaby.
   Joy, joy for Christ is born, the Babe, the Son of Mary.

 

  I like to be asked questions.  It makes me think I might just know something.  And I like to ask questions of other people.  It may engage them in a conversation.  And it is sometimes a good way to find out what they think or believe.
  The question in the title of this hymn, “What child is this?” is a compelling one.  It begs an answer.  And it is a wonderful question to ask at the beginning of Advent.  For what is Advent, but the coming of Jesus Christ into this world as a baby, a boy, a son, a child.
  The word “child” (referring to Jesus) occurs 21 times in the first couple of chapters of the four Gospels.  The words son, boy, and baby total another 25 similar names.  The Gospel writers were obviously emphasizing this name of Jesus.
  This question must have been uppermost in the minds of those present at the birth of “the Babe, the Son of Mary.”  It must have been difficult for them to understand that the child who lay “in such mean estate” was truly the Messiah.  But how could He be born of a virgin and save His people?  The long-awaited salvation had been prophesied throughout history.
  Look at their responses in this hymn:
~the “shepherds guard and angels sing”
~animals nearby peacefully eating
~a call to repent from sin and to worship with praise and wealth
~and joyfully raise their voices in adoration, as the virgin mother Mary “sings her lullaby.”
  And later on in Luke the shepherds “spread the word” concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed…But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God…”  And later on “Joseph and Mary marveled at what was said about Him” (by Simeon).
  This was no ordinary child.
  Fast forward to Luke 8:25, when Jesus instantly calmed the storm assailing the boat in which He and some of His disciples were sitting.  Look at their response:  “In fear and amazement they asked one another,
  “Who is this?’ (or, “What manner of man is this!”)
  Many still ask “Who is this Jesus?
  Is He really who He says He is?
  What is your response?
I pray this Advent you may give the triumphant answer to this question as it burst forth in the refrain,
  “This, this is Christ the King!”
Born thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a King.
~Barb Hoelle
  ~This hymn was written by William Chatterton Dix (1837-1898) in 1865.  At the age of 29, he was stricken with a sudden serious illness, confined to bed for an extended period, and suffered a deep depression until he called out to God.  Out of this spiritual experience, this is one of the hymns he penned.  It was taken from a longer Christmas poem, “The Manger Throne.”  The melody “Green Sleeves” is a traditional English folk tune.

Grace Beyond Merit

So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.  But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace.
Romans 11: 5-6

“Good Friday and Easter– the days of God’s overpowering acts in history, acts in which God’s judgment and grace were revealed to all the world– are just around the corner.  Judgment in those hours in which Jesus Christ, our Lord, hung on the cross: grace in that hour in which death was swallowed up in victory.  It was not human beings who accomplished anything here: no, God alone did it.  He came to human beings in infinite love.  He judged what is human.  And he granted grace beyond any merit.”
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Our dog Sam does barn chores with me, always has from his puppy beginnings.  He runs up and down the aisles as I fill buckets, throw hay, and he’ll explore the manure pile out back and the compost pile and have stand offs with the barn cats (which he always loses).  We have our routine.  When I get done with chores, I whistle for him and we head to the house.

Except this morning.  I whistled when I was done and his furry little fox face didn’t appear as usual.  I walked back through both barns calling his name, whistling, no signs of Sam.  I walked to the fields, I walked back to the dog yard, I walked the road (where he never ever goes), I scanned the pond (yikes), I went back to the barn and glanced inside every stall, I went in the hay barn where he likes to jump up and down on stacked bales, looking for a bale avalanche he might be trapped under, or a hole he couldn’t climb out of.  Nothing.

Then as I passed by, I heard a little faint scratching inside one of the horses’ stalls, which I had just glanced in 10 minutes before.  The horse was peacefully eating hay.  Sam was standing with his feet up against the door as if asking what took me so long.  He must have scooted in when I filled up the water bucket, and I closed the door not knowing he was inside.  It was dark enough that I didn’t see him when I checked.

There was not a whimper or a bark when I called for him as I walked past that stall at least 10 times looking for him– he was patiently waiting for me to open the door out of my love and concern for him and set him free —  there was nothing he could do but wait.

It’s a Good Friday.  The lost is found even if he never felt lost to begin with.

But he was lost to me.  And that is what matters.

He was waiting for the grace of a closed door to be opened.

Today that door has been thrown wide open.
~Emily Gibson