Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Day 31 (24): Worthy is the Lamb - Scene 4 (53)

Part of "Worthy is the Lamb", the final chorus of Messiah by Handel, from the composer's autograph score.
By Novello Ewer & Company Uploaded by Tim riley at en.wikipedia
 [Public domain, Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
HEART HEARING

For those of you reading on the "by Christmas" schedule, I have you ending on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas morning as this is a very reflective last movement of Messiah and perfect for the night before Christmas, especially the very long "Amen" segment of the movement. I suggest going back to the "Hallelujah Chorus" for Christmas morning! 

There is no recording on Wikisource. HERE is a link to the movement by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge:




Do not miss listening to the entire "AMEN"! It is beautiful.

Scene 4 -
"The glorification of the Messianic victim"

53. Chorus


Worthy is the Lamb that was slain and hath redeemed us to God by His blood, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. 
Blessing, and honour, glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever.  Amen.  (Revelation 5:12, 9, 13-14)

MIND MEDITATION

Revelation 5

This chapter is the culmination of all that we have learned in the three years of Bible reading in the Bible Book Club and The Scarlet Thread of Redemption that we have been tracking from Genesis - Revelation! If you are just doing this devotion and have not been part of the Bible Book Club, consider doing it in the next cycle that starts January 1!

Revelation 5 opens with God, on His throne, holding a book (scroll) that is sealed up with seven seals. The loud voice (the first of 20 in the book of Revelation) of a strong angel asks, 


"Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?" (5:2)

The only one worthy was the "Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David." Remember that David came from the tribe of Judah, and Jesus came from the line of David (Matthew 1:1). Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of a King who would come. 

“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to
 testify to you these things for the churches. 
I am the root and the descendant of David
the bright morning star.”
(Revelation 22:16)

Revelation 5:5 says that the Lion has "overcome." This statement ties in with the "victory" songs in the beginning of the last scene. "Overcome" and "victory" are derived from the same Greek root word, nike. Jesus is the victor in the battle against Satan and sin, and He has given us the victory.

Even though Jesus was introduced as a Lion, John saw a "Lamb standing, as if slain." In His first coming, Jesus came as the "Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). In His second coming, He will be the conquering Lion. Revelation 5 is the only place in this book where Jesus is referred to as a Lion, but He is referred to as a Lamb 27 times! "He is a lion to conquer Satan, a lamb to satisfy the justice of God" (Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible, p. 2471). 

What about the scroll?
The scroll represents Christ’s “title deed” to all that the Father promised Him because of His sacrifice on the cross. “Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen [nations] for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession” (Ps. 2:8). Jesus Christ is the “Heir of all things” (Heb. 1:2). He is our beloved “Kinsman-Redeemer” who was willing to give His life to set us free from bondage and to restore our lost inheritance (see Lev. 25:23–46; the Book of Ruth; Jer. 32:6–15). 
The Bible Exposition Commentary Volume 2, p. 584, Re 5:1
A title deed can only be opened by the heir, and Jesus is the heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2).

Also, Jesus "purchased" (agorazō means "to redeem") people from every tribe, language, people, and nation (salvation is available to ALL). His blood bought us all out of slavery. 

When the Lamb takes the scroll, the only response of the elders, living creatures, and eventually angels, totaling an innumerable multitude, is WORSHIP. Then, every created thing in heaven, on earth, under the earth, and on and in the sea give power, riches, wisdom, might, honor, glory, blessing and full on WORSHIP to Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb because He is so very WORTHY! 

HALLELUJAH AND AMEN!!!


SOUL SEARCHING

Whew! That was so fun to meditate in the Messiah every day for a month. How lovely to wake up every morning with the musical movements of Scripture playing in my head. This has been so enriching. I will never tire of it.

And speaking of the music, I love the way Handel built this last chorus to where there is this piling up of a multitude of voices going higher and higher with instruments coming in all over the place. It is so moving, but imagine what heaven will be like when we are in full-on worship of Him!

Jesus is the Lamb that was slain for US. He bore it all on the cross for US. "By His wounds, we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5). And that is what it is all about.

I can only say AMEN to that and cry like a baby. 
Thank you Jesus for your gift of love. May my life be worthy of the price that You paid. I want to give You everything and hold nothing back until my last breath on earth because YOU are WORTHY.

And all God's people said, AMEN!

STRENGTH STRETCHING

Worship Him as we conclude this wonderful time in Handel's Messiah

May your new year be blessed!

Light Looked Down by Laurence Housman

Light looked down and beheld Darkness.
“Thither will I go,” said Light.
Peace looked down and beheld War.
“Thither will I go,” said Peace.
Love looked down and beheld Hatred.
“Thither will I go,” said Love.
So came Light and shone.
So came Peace and gave rest.
So came Love and brought life.
And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.

Hopefully, I will see some of you at the next three year cycle of the Bible Book Club! Go to www.3yearbiblebookclub.blogspot.com or download word documents of the entire blog HERE.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Day 30 (23): If God Be For Us, Who Can Be Against Us? - Scene 3 (52)

HEART HEARING

There is no recording from Wikisource, but here is the Choir of King's College, Cambridge again. This song starts at 2:17:





Scene 3b - "The victory over death and sin"

52. Aria (Soprano)


If God be for us, who can be against us? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is at the right hand of God, who makes intercession for us. (Romans 8:31, 33, 34)


MIND MEDITATION


Romans 8

Sadly, this aria is often cut out of Messiah performances because it seems anti-climactic after the victorious chorus in the first part of Scene 3, but Romans 8 is a perfect follow-up. We have been given the victory, and this is how you can live in that victory between the "now" and the "not yet"!


In order to understand Romans 8, I need to go back to Roman 6, In this chapter, Paul exhorted believers to "count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God" (6:11); "do not let sin reign in your mortal body" (6:12) ; "do not offer the parts of your body to sin . . . but rather . . . to God" (6:13). 


In Romans 7, Paul taught that believers had died to the Law through Christ, but that our sin nature continues to wage war against our desire to live in holiness and righteousness. Consequently, will-power alone cannot help us to obey God (7:14-25).

The conflict of Romans 7 opens up to present the free life lived according to the "law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" of Romans 8.

The Christian life is essentially life in the Spirit, that is to say, a life that is animated, sustained, directed and enriched by the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, true Christian discipleship would be inconceivable, indeed impossible.  John Stott
This whole process of the work of the Holy Spirit by which we become more and more like Jesus and are being made holy is called sanctification (Romans 6:19, 22; 1 Thessalonians. 4:3, 7; 2 Thessalonians. 2:13; Hebrews. 12:14). In this process, we put to death the deeds of the body and set our minds on the things of God, yielding to the leading of the Holy Spirit because we are adopted "sons" with full rights and benefits of a biological one (8:6, 13-14, 15-17). 

Since we are identified with Christ, we also suffer with Him (8:17), but this suffering is only temporary because we will one day be with Him in glory. Right now, we are in the process of sanctification between the "now" (justification) and the "not yet" (glorification, 8:18-19, 30, 1 John 3:2). The process is a long struggle full of suffering (8:5, 10, 12-13, 17-27), but the hope of sharing in Christ's glory is at the end of that journey and the Spirit is praying for us and giving us the power to live (8:27-28).


On top of all of that, God wants us to succeed in this "not yet" time! He is for us. If He gave His only Son for us and had Him die for our sins, He has so MUCH invested in us living in the victory that Christ accomplished on the cross. 
Satan may try to accuse, but we must listen to God alone (8:33)! He wants to give us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) through Jesus Christ! Through Jesus Christ, we have been justified ("declared righteous", 8:33). He died and rose again so that we could live in that resurrection power. 

Even more, Christ is at the right hand of God, in heaven, interceding for us right now (8:34)! Through all of this, we can be assured that nothing will separate us from the unwavering love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (8:39)!

That is such a comfort to our souls! So why leave it out of Messiah!

SOUL SEARCHING

Romans 8 is my favorite chapter in the Bible. You will see why when you read the reflection that I wrote for a devotional booklet to prepare the participants for a women's retreat. If you have been in the Bible Book Club since the beginning you know the story.

This chapter is so rich and powerful. Listen to the music of Messiah and soak in Romans 8 deeply!


Hearing God’s Voice

"There is therefore now no condemnation 
for those who are in Christ Jesus."
(Romans 8:1)

I quoted this verse over and over as I walked (and cried) along the shores of Lake Washington back in September of 1983. I had burned the candle at both ends and had to leave the ministry I thought I would be doing for the rest of my life. Some would even term what happened to me as a nervous breakdown. Whatever it was, I had no idea what the next step would be. All I knew was to put one foot in front of the other and cry and pray.  This verse kept me going in the midst of feeling like an utter and complete failure.

It seems like the time God speaks to me in the loudest way is when I am stripped of everything. At that time, I had no energy to think about the next step for my life. All I could do was walk and cry and pray. I could not “do” anything.

C.S. Lewis once said:


God whispers to us in our pleasures, 
speaks to us in our conscience, 
but shouts in our pains: 
It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Well, God had great opportunity for shouting because I was in pain. I know, now, I was right where God wanted me to be.

So, I waited on God and walked and cried and prayed and meditated through Romans 8. I got to the end of the chapter where Paul asks this question:

"Who will separate us from the love of Christ?" (Romans 8:35)

The answer resounded from the Lord through Paul’s message to the Romans:

"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor  angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
(Romans 8:38-39)

Not even a huge failure in ministry and a breakdown could separate me from God’s love through Christ. He was not there to condemn me for my failure but to love me and be near to me.

"The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.
The LORD redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned."
(Psalm 34:18, 22)

In fact, a breakdown was what God used to bring me closer to Him so that I could hear His voice and learn about walking in the Spirit. It is so easy to go fluttering about in the flesh doing good things! We think God wants us to do them because what we are doing is good. 

And I was doing so much good! I was reaching out and discipling women on the University of Washington campus. That was (in my mind) the ultimate in good! Even though it was good, it was not God’s best for me; and it was not what the Spirit was leading me to do, I was just too busy and exhausted in my doing to really listen. Therefore, God had to humble me and shout out to me in my pain: 



"STOP! I have something that is my BEST for you."

So, I stopped, and I walked and cried and prayed and LISTENED to what God had for me in the next step. He had 100% of my attention. 

As I was drifting off to sleep one night, God told me three specific things:
1) Move to Corvallis and live with this specific couple you knew from college days. (That was weird. I had not seen them in years, and they were more acquaintances than good friends.) 
2) There is a group of women there who want to grow, and I will use you as My instrument to help them because of the things you have been through (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4). 
3) You will meet the man you are to marry. (No joke, I saw a vision of a tall, dark, and handsome man.)
I had planned to go back to live with my parents, but on the way down, I stopped in Corvallis, Oregon (home of my alma mater, Oregon State University). Within a couple of days, I was offered a job. A couple of days later, a college friend introduced me to the group of women in #2! Over the course of the next year, they each came to me telling me that God told them to tell me of their struggle and to ask me for help.  This led to seven years of ministry with this group of women.

Within a few months, the married couple called and asked me to live with them because the Lord had laid me on their hearts (#1). This led to a center of ministry activity with this group of women because this married couple knew them all!

Honestly, I gave up on the tall, dark, and handsome man because I thought maybe I had made that up in my mind. Four years after this vision, the night before I was to leave Corvallis for a job in Eugene, I walked into the dining room of that married couple to see my future husband, George, sitting at their table (#3)! The rest is history.

God knew that even though the ministry in Seattle was good, He had a ministry that was the BEST! God IS for us!  I rejoice in my breakdown now because through it, He taught me a valuable lesson about listening to Him and walking in the Spirit! Having a breakdown at such a young age (24) was the best thing that ever could have happened to me!

STRENGTH STRETCHING

For the last twenty years, my friend, Teala, and I have welcomed in the New Year with a day of prayer in order to hear from God about goals for the coming year. I heartily suggest doing it even if it is only for part of the day. Taking an extended time with God is so rich and rewarding. In fact, I led a leadership class a few years ago, and out of the entire curriculum the majority said this was the most significant things we did! Here is a handout to help you in that process:


How to Spend a Day in Prayer

I hope you never have to go through a breakdown to get yourself to slow down, but I really and truly believe that we do not hear God because we do not stop long enough to hear His voice. Maybe that is because we don’t believe He really will speak.  I suggest asking yourself the question Michael Card asks in the song I have at the end of this meditation:

Is the reason we're not still
To hear You speak because
We don't believe You will?


Here is an exercise in meditation. You can start with Romans 8 since this was our chapter for today:

1) GET ALONE AND GET STILL – SIMPLIFY: It does not have to be for a huge amount of time. Do what you can do. Remove all things electronic; turn off your cell phone, step away from the computer, get out of the house if you have to do it. Make sure kids are well-cared for by someone else and . . .

"Be still [cease striving, let go, relax] 

and know that I am God."

(Psalm 46:10)

Meditate on this verse over and over again and settle down into the Lord.

2) CLEAR YOUR PLATEBegin your time by praying that God will “open your eyes, that you might behold wonderful things from His law” (Psalm 119:18). Get some paper or a journal and write “On My Heart” at the top, and list anything that comes to mind. Write your burdens, distractions, even your shopping list! The goal is to lay it down on paper as if you were laying it down before the Lord so that you may be free to focus on His Word. Remember: “Be still and know that [He is] God” (Psalm 46:10).

3) MEDITATE: The primary way that God speaks to us is through His Word.  So, chew on a section of Scripture and journal your thoughts. “Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord” (Lamentations 2:19).

4) WAIT and LISTEN: This is always the hardest thing to do. Waiting may mean having to walk away for more pressing matters, but continue to be in a posture of waiting on and listening to the Lord. Try to cultivate this posture 24/7/365! When you hear, write it down. A great book to encourage you in this exercise is God Guides by Mary Geegh.

5) OBEY: If you need to act on what God tells you, do not hesitate! There are so many blessings in obedience to His voice! 

6) COMMUNICATE: When you hear, communicate it to others. It helps reinforce His Word in you and encourages the Body!
As I listened and obeyed today, I heard, once again, how God’s best plan was for me to move to Corvallis to meet my husband! My “I WILL” for today was to tell my husband that and bring him coffee and breakfast in bed while he had his morning devotional time! I am so grateful that my failure resulted in the BEST person to ever come into my life!

PRAYER

In Stillness and Simplicity
By Michael Card
Colossians 3:15


In stillness and simplicity
In the silence of the heart I see
The mystery of eternity
Who lives inside of me

In stillness and simplicity
I hear the Spirit's silent plea
That You, oh Lord, are close to me
In stillness and simplicity

You're the Word
Who must be heard
By those who listen quietly
Is the reason we're not still
To hear You speak because
We don't believe You will?

In stillness and simplicity
I lose myself in finding Thee
Oh Lord, You mean so much to me
In stillness and simplicity

So, seek the One who dwells in you
The kingdom that’s within is true
That innermost reality
In stillness and simplicity

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Day 29 (22): Death is Swallowed Up in Victory - Scene 3 (49-51)

HEART HEARING 

There is no recording for this on Wikisource, HERE is a link to Choir of King’s College, Cambridge:





The Choir of Kings College, Cambridge is one of the definitive recordings that I recommended in the Introduction. If you are unable to go to a performance, watching the entire video might be very enriching for you. This particular recording shows the location of each movement in the notes below it. 

Scene 3 - "The victory over death and sin"

49. Secco recitative (Alto)


Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, 'Death is swallowed up in victory.' (1 Corinthians 15:54b; Isaiah 25:8)


50. Duet (Alto/Tenor)


O death, where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. (1 Corinthians 15:55-56, Hosea 13:14)


51. Chorus


But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)


MIND MEDITATION


1 Corinthians 15:54-57

Yesterday we learned that our temporary, decaying, death-doomed, earthly bodies of flesh and blood will be changed into perfect bodies that will last into eternity in heaven with Him. 


Today, the emphasis is that we are no longer "death-doomed"! Death has been "swallowed up" in victory. The Greek word for "swallowed up" is katapínō, from kata, down, pínō, to drink. Figuratively it means "to overwhelm." God had promised this in Isaiah's prophecy:


He will swallow up death for all time, 
 And the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces,  
And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; 
For the Lord has spoken. 
And it will be said in that day,  
“Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us.
This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.” 
(Isaiah 25:8-9)

This Greek word for victory comes from the root nike (pronounced NEE-kay, not the way we pronounce the sports brand). Nike was the Greek goddess of victory. As you can see from all of the verses in this scene, victory is the key word!  


It may have seemed as though Satan had the victory in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:13) and even at the crucifixion, but God gave us a promise of victory over Satan and death in Genesis 3:15:



And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise [crush] you on the head,

And you shall bruise him on the heel.

Satan's little wins were just bruises to the heel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ultimately, the woman's "seed," Jesus, crushed Satan's head by dying for our sins and rising from the dead to give us life everlasting! We were cursed with death, but death's power has been removed by the resurrection power of Jesus Christ:
Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. (Hebrews 2:14-15)
The music in the duet of "O death, where is thy sting?" is almost taunting against death and Satan, as Paul meant it to be! 

Then Paul goes into a theological digression. Death came through the first man, Adam, who disobeyed God in the Garden and sinned (Genesis 3:17-19). The Law came later and revealed or "showed the strength" of sin to us. And what we deserved from that sin was death (Romans 6:23). Jesus bore our sins and the curse of the Law on the cross becoming a curse for us (1 Peter 2:24; Galatians 3:13). Then He rose from the dead, and because He lives, we will live too (John 14:19)! 


The present tense of the verb "giveth" makes 1 Corinthians 15:57 literally read, "But thanks be to God, who keeps on giving us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." 


He is the God who keeps on giving. The battle continues to be won in our everyday life. The music in this chorus is giddy with excitement, and we should be too! 

SOUL SEARCHING


The battle is won! Satan and death have been defeated FOREVER! 
We have much to be thankful for. Do you live into that victory in your day to day life? Many believers live as if they were still dead! 
Remember the word for victory is derived from the Greek word "Nike"? The slogan for Nike in modern day is "Just do it." 

Paul follows the verses in this scene with his own "Just do it" exhortation:

Therefore (since God keeps on giving the victory), my beloved brethren, be 
- Steadfast (stand firm, not turning away from the faith) 
- Immovable (not to be moved from its place by others) 
- Always abounding (present overabundantly or to excess, overflowing) in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain (useless) in the Lord. 
(1 Corinthians 15:58)
Are you living in victory or defeat today?

Are you living as though alive or dead?


I pray you can live in your true victory today!

STRENGTH STRETCHING


Let's go beyond what you have ever done before. The New Year starts in a few days. How can you stretch yourself this year in ways you never have before? What are some goals that you can set for growth and for living into that victory that you continually have in Jesus Christ? 


If you are joining this blog just for Messiah, might I suggest the three year journey through the Bible Book Club? I believe the Word of God strengthens us in that victory. This is one way to go deeper. 
In the Bible Book Club, we read 1-2 chapters each day over a three year period. You do not have to do it in three years, and you can set your own pace. Just keep reading and applying the Word of God to your life! 

Also, I have all the books available for download HERE.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Day 28 (21): In the Twinkling of An Eye - Scene 2 (47-48)

HEART HEARING HERE 

Wikisource has a recording for Movement 48 only. HERE is a link to Choir of King’s College, Cambridge singing both Movement 47 and 48: 





Scene 2 - "The Day of Judgement and general Resurrection" 

47. Accompanied recitative (Bass)


Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep; but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. (1 Corinthians 15:51, 52)


Note: Pay attention to how the music quickens at "twinkling of an eye" and how the strings make way for the valveless trumpet in the aria! I attended my first Messiah performance in 2013, and that trumpet player works VERY hard in this movement because valveless trumpets are very difficult to play!

48. Aria (Bass)


The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:52b-53)


MIND MEDITATION


1 Corinthians 15:51-53

Paul wanted the Corinthians to be wise about the resurrection because, as I mentioned before, Greeks did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. When Paul preached in Athens, some even laughed at his assertion that Jesus had risen from the dead (Acts 17:32). Most Greek philosophers considered death a welcome deliverance from the bondage of the human body. Why do we need to be resurrected? The philosophy of the Greeks had infiltrated the church in Corinth, and Paul wanted to give them a solid foundation and answer all their questions about resurrection. 

The Corinthians thought that they would be carried off to heaven at Jesus' second coming, and they thought that event would happen in their lifetime. Now, their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ were dying, and they had many questions about the resurrection of those living at His return and those who had already died. 1 Corinthians 15 is Resurrection 101 for the Corinthians and all of us! 

Just as Christ took on an eternal resurrection body (Mark 14:58), we will be transformed at His second coming from our temporary, decaying, death-doomed, imperfect, earthly bodies of flesh and blood into perfect ones that will last into an eternity in heaven with Him (2 Corinthians 5:1). Our fleshly bodies cannot be there (1 Corinthians 15:50). Also, we will be like Him (1 John 3:1-2). The trumpet is going to sound, and in the time it takes to blink, we will be transformed! 

Those who died believing in Christ will pop out of their graves with their new resurrection bodies first (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17), then those who are still alive at that time will go through the bodily transformation. The Greek word here is allasso which means "to make other than it is," "to take in exchange." We will be totally changed. YIPPEE! 

SOUL SEARCHING 

I am so looking forward to a new body! I am in my 50's, and I am in great shape, but I certainly cannot do what I did in my 20's. I have also had the physical affliction of a bad back since I was in junior high school. All of our bodies have physical flaws and were "designed for decline"! 

A new resurrection body fills me with hope! It helps me know that all our physical affliction will not last forever and are only temporary. We are designed for eternity, and we need to live in light of that in the here and now!

I was intrigued by the thought that Paul was laughed at by the Athenians when he talked of the resurrection. I wondered what Americans thought about the resurrection today, and I was pleasantly surprised when I looked it up on at www.barna.org:
Surprisingly, the most significant Bible story of all - "the story of Jesus Christ rising from the dead after being crucified and buried" - was also the most widely embraced. Three out of four adults (75%) said they interpreted that narrative literally, while only one out of five (19%) said they did not take that story literally. The more highly educated respondents were, the less likely they were to take the story literally, although even two-thirds of college graduates (68%) believe the resurrection narrative is literally true. One of the most substantial differences of opinion occurred between mainline Protestants (83% of whom take the resurrection literally) and non-mainline Protestants (among whom 95% accept the resurrection as fact). Overall 82% of Catholics embrace the resurrection narrative as being true. Black adults were much more likely than either whites (74%) or Hispanics (80%) to consider the resurrection to be true. 
There were very consistent patterns related to people's political inclinations. Of the six [Bible] stories examined, just one story (the resurrection of Christ) was considered to be literally true by at least half of all liberals, in contrast, among conservatives, only one of those stories was taken literally by less than 80% (the 76% who embraced the six day creation as absolute truth). Similarly, the data showed that Republicans were more likely than either Democrats or Independents to accept each of the stories as literally accurate. For all six narratives, Independents were the voting group least likely to hold a literal interpretation, an average of twenty percentage points lower than the norm among Republicans.
(From: "Most American Take Well-Known Bible Stories at Face Value," October 27, 2007, Barna Group. See article HERE.) 
STRENGTH STRETCHING

What is your perspective on eternity? Are you living in light of it or just for the temporary here and now? 

Also, a fun application might be to ask people you meet if they believe in the resurrection! I think it would be fun to do street interviews and film them.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Day 27 (20): In Christ All Be Made Alive - Scene 1 (46)

HEART HEARING

There is no recording on Wikisource, but here is a video of the Royal Choral Society performing on Good Friday of 2012 (they have performed it since 1878!):



Scene 1b - "The promise of bodily resurrection and redemption from Adam's fall" 


46. Chorus


Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:21, 22)

MIND MEDITATION 

1 Corinthians 15


Death came through Adam (Romans 5:12-21) making us all sinners, but life came through the "last Adam," Jesus Christ, and His resurrection (15:22). Because Christ rose from the dead, we know that He is God, we have forgiveness of our sins, He represents us to God, He has defeated death, and we will be raised with transformed bodies.  In the end, He will defeat all evil on earth and death itself. 

Paul speaks of the resurrection of the dead (15:12ff) because most of the Corinthian believers were from a Greek background and Greeks did not believe that a person's body was resurrected after death. The soul was released from the body at death and entered an eternal state. Paul needed to teach the believers who were having a difficult time in this pagan culture believing that the body and soul will be united after resurrection.

Here is a chart I made for Romans 5 that is helpful in seeing the contrast between Adam and Christ:
SOUL SEARCHING
I have been playing this chorus over and over and over again, and it is SO powerful. 

According to Calvin Stapert in Handel's Messiah: Comfort for God's People, there are many contrasts between the "death" parts and the "resurrection" parts in this movement that can be easily overlooked - a cappella/instruments, slow/fast, long notes/short notes, minor key/major key, dissonant/consonant (Location 1477, Kindle Edition). It is pretty amazing! This is the only movement where the choir is a cappella and so unusual in that almost all Baroque choral music had some kind of accompaniment! It really enriches your experience to listen for these contrasts! Try it.

This is a PERFECT movement to play in quiet reflection in the interim period between Christmas and the New Year. There is usually a great contrast between Christmas and the days after too - loud/quiet, fast/slow, busy/laid-back, big groups/time alone, stressful/relaxed.

I know that my life is pretty quiet during this time, and I hope yours is too.

STRENGTH STRETCHING


I pray you can carve out time to be truly reflective through this song. Jennens wrote Part III to be "A Hymn of Thanksgiving for the final overthrow of Death." Think about all the things you are thankful for today because of being made alive in Christ!


O loving wisdom of our God! 
When all was sin and shame,
A second Adam to the fight,
And to the rescue came.
(Poem by John Henry Newman, 1801-1890.
The hymn can be heard HERE

Hallelujah!!!! :) 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Day 26 (19):I Know That My Redeemer Liveth - Part III, Scene 1 (45)

Part III: "A Hymn of Thanksgiving for the final overthrow of Death"

HEART HEARING HERE 



(There are no more recordings by the MIT Choir. Some of Part III is from very old recordings done by Thomas Alva Edison [Yes, the same person who invented the light bulb!] in 1916. You can also listen to this movement here: https://youtu.be/AZTZRtRFkvk?t=1h55m20s)


Scene 1 - "The promise of bodily resurrection and redemption from Adam's fall" 


45. Air (Soprano)

I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand on the latter day upon the earth: And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God. (Job 19:25, 26)


For now is Christ risen from the dead, the firstfruits of them that sleep. (1 Corinthians 15:20)


MIND MEDITATION

Job 19

This part of Messiah quotes the book of Job for the first time. In the previous chapter, Job's friend, Bildad the Shuhite, had "comforted" Job by telling him that the "light of the wicked goes out" (18:5). By saying this, he was implying that Job was wicked, and this was why he was suffering. It must have especially hurt Job to have Bildad say that the wicked "has no offspring or posterity among his people, nor any survivor where he sojourned" (18:19) because Job had just lost all his sons and daughters! Isn't he a sensitive friend? (NOT!)


Maybe this last little jab about his family did hurt Job because he says, "How long will you crush me with words" (19:2)? He continues to defend his innocence and shouts for help, but he claims he gets no justice and that God is against him and has "uprooted [his] hope like a tree" (19:10). He claims that everyone else is against him and 
says that even “My breath is offensive to my wife" (19:17).  He cries out for pity, but his friends give him none.

Even though Job says that God has uprooted his hope, he still expresses hope in the final crescendo of the chapter:

As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,      

And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.
Even after my skin is destroyed,
Yet from my flesh I shall see God. 
(Job 19:25, 26)
The Hebrew word for "Redeemer" is go'el and was "a person who defended or avenged the cause of another, or who provided protection or legal aid for a close relative who could not do so for himself" (Bible Knowledge Commentary Volume 1, p. 741). We read about this most in the Book of Ruth where Boaz, as Ruth's kinsman redeemer, rescued Ruth in the new land by marrying her.

In the midst of the darkness of Job 19, the words of hope echoed in these verses inspire me to walk by faith even in my darkest times. Job made a hopeful affirmation of faith in the midst of a garbage dump, ostracized from family and friends, and in intense pain and suffering. He shouted: "I know that my Redeemer lives!" to his worthless friends and all those around him. He knew that in the end God would stand upon the earth and testify that Job was innocent. In addition, after he was dead, he would see God.


The Scarlet Thread of Redemption


Job lived during the time of the patriarchs, about 2000-1800 years before the time of Christ, but Job 19:25, 26 is a prophecy of Jesus Christ as our Kinsman Redeemer. He died for our sins and returned to heaven as our Advocate (Job 16:9) and He will, one day, stand upon the earth exercising true righteous judgment. Satan may kill, steal and destroy, just as he did to Job and his family, but Jesus Christ is the Vindicator and Living One who will give life to all who know Him (John 5:21, 26).


1 Corinthians 15:20

It seems odd to pair Job with Paul's letter to the Corinthians in this part of Messiah, but Jennens probably did it because these two verses are paired together in the Burial Service of the Book of Common Prayer.  On further meditation, I see their connection: What Job hoped for in a future time in faith, we can be confident that our Redeemer does, indeed, live through the words of one of the witnesses of His majesty, Paul, who proclaimed, "For now is Christ risen from the dead, the firstfruits of them that sleep." With the exception of the final chorus, the rest of Messiah will be devoted to the writings of Paul.

SOUL SEARCHING

The "Hallelujah Chorus" is a pretty hard act to follow, and I think most people assume that Messiah ends here, but that chorus gives us strength to live a life in His Kingdom while we still live on this earth. We are stuck between the "now" and the "not yet."  

That is why the faith of Job encourages me. Even in his darkest hour, he knew that there was a Redeemer. He knew there would come a time of justice and righteousness on earth almost 2,000 years before our Redeemer came for the first time, and then He really did! And we have proof that He did through the witness of the apostles, the growth of His Church despite unbelievable odds, and the confirmation of the Holy Spirit. 

As we stand between the "now" and the "not yet," Jennens turns us toward the writings of one of those apostles, Paul, who wrote to remind a wavering Corinthian church of the rock solid truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

STRENGTH STRETCHING

I am updating this devotional today after having biopsies on two out of four suspicious growths on my skin. I will not know the outcome until after Christmas, but what encouragement from these verses today. No matter what happens, I know that I will see God! It is a Win-Win! That comforts my heart. 

Do you know that your Redeemer lives? Can you, like Job, rely on Him in the darkest of times and despite your circumstances? 

Pray through through that with Him today. 


(2015 Update: It was a surreal Christmas in 2014 wondering if it might be my last. One of those growths was cancerous, but it was Stage 0 Melanoma, and I had it removed in January of 2015. Never would have thought it would be melanoma to look at it. Good thing my friend who is a dermatologist knew though!)