SONG OF HEAVEN

Matt.5:8 – Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

You ever think about the sights and sounds of heaven? In Revelations 14 John tries to describe the singing he heard in heaven. It sounds strangely similar to the way he described the Lord’s voice in Revelation 1. He said the singing had the sound of many waters, like the ocean. Why was the singing so different from the singing on earth? (You know John had heard some powerful worship in his lifetime). I think it all has to do with perception. When you see something worth worship, the worship takes on a new fervency. With eyes wide open the worshippers in heaven are totally unrestrained. Here is how Jonathan Edwards described that scene in his Thanksgiving sermon in 1734.

“They that see God cannot but praise him. He is a Being of such glory and excellency, that the sight of this excellency of his will necessarily influence them that behold it to praise him. Such a glorious sight will awaken and rouse all the powers of the soul, and will irresistibly impel them, and draw them into acts of praise. Such a sight enlarges their souls, and fills them with admiration, and with an unspeakable exultation of spirit.

’Tis from the little that the saints have seen of God, and know of him in this world, that they are excited to praise him in the degree they do here. But here they see but as in a glass darkly; they have only now and then a little glimpse of God’s excellency; but then they shall have the transcendent glory and divine excellency of God set in their immediate and full view. They shall dwell in his immediate glorious presence, and shall see face to face. Now the saints see the glory of God but by a reflected light, as we in the night see the light of the sun reflected from the moon; but in heaven they shall directly behold the Sun of righteousness, and shall look full upon him when shining in all his glory.”

So what about where we are today, do we have a heart of thanksgiving this Thanksgiving in 2018? If Jonathan Edwards is right maybe that is determined by what we have seen of the Lord. Take some time as we celebrate Thanksgiving and reflect on the beauty of the Lord. Maybe you will be struck by His magnificence and be caught up in the heavenly song.

TEARS THAT AVAIL

Behold, he prayeth.” —Acts 9:11

Prayer gets God’s attention. This simple three word verse speaks volumes about the Lord. The Lord was calling Ananias to reach out and pray for the Pharisee from Tarsus. This would have been unthinkable for Ananias but those three words stood out, “Behold, he prayed”. Ananias was wary about visiting Paul until the Lord told him Paul was praying. Paul had just been awakened and his first recorded action was to pray.

Sometimes it seems we are so overwhelmed that we don’t even have the capacity to pray. That’s when the supernatural element of prayer kicks in and our prayers take on new power. We may be only able to muster a groan and some tears but the Holy Spirit energizes those groans into prevailing prayer. It’s when we are at our weakest that the strength of the Lord begins to shine. As Paul said later in his life in Romans 8:26 – “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Here are some thoughts from Spurgeon on the prayers of the Spirit.

“Prayers are instantly noticed in heaven. The moment Saul began to pray the Lord heard him. Here is comfort for the distressed but praying soul. Oftentimes a poor broken-hearted one bends his knee, but can only utter his wailing in the language of sighs and tears; yet that groan has made all the harps of heaven thrill with music; that tear has been caught by God and treasured in the lachrymatory of heaven. “Thou puttest my tears into thy bottle,” implies that they are caught as they flow. The suppliant, whose fears prevent his words, will be well understood by the Most High. He may only look up with misty eye; but “prayer is the falling of a tear.” Tears are the diamonds of heaven; sighs are a part of the music of Jehovah’s court, and are numbered with “the sublimest strains that reach the majesty on high.” Think not that your prayer, however weak or trembling, will be unregarded. Jacob’s ladder is lofty, but our prayers shall lean upon the Angel of the covenant and so climb its starry rounds. Our God not only hears prayer but also loves to hear it.”

Remember what the Lord told Paul when he felt he was at his weakest, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness”. Maybe you feel like you are done, that’s okay, the Lord is just now getting started.

CROWNED WITH MERCY

Ps.103:4 – who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.

Redemption is not the end of the story, it is where everything begins. God’s plan for you is not just to fix you so you can be a better version of you in this life. His plans are far more aggressive. His plan includes crowns and glory and other such things. He lifts us out of our hopeless condition and loads us with His benefits. Mercy crowns our life and our story brings glory to the Lord. Whatever pit you were wallowing in just becomes a crown of mercy on your head. Your life is filled with the fruit of mercy, the joy of the Lord. Your story declares and displays the glory of the Lord. Here is how Spurgeon describes it.

“Redemption will ever constitute one of the sweetest notes in the believer’s grateful song…. Our Lord does nothing by halves, he will not stay his hand till he has gone to the uttermost with his people. Cleansing, healing, redemption, are not enough, he must needs make them kings and crown them, and the crown must be far more precious than if it were made of corruptible things, such as silver and gold; it is studded with gems of grace and lined with the velvet of lovingkindness; it is decked with the jewels of mercy, but made soft for the head to wear by a lining of tenderness. Who is like unto thee, O Lord! God himself crowns the princes of his family, for their best things come from him directly and distinctly; they do not earn the crown, for it is of mercy not of merit; they feel their own unworthiness of it, therefore he deals with tenderness; but he is resolved to bless them, and, therefore, he is ever crowning them, always surrounding their brows with coronets of mercy and compassion. He always crowns the edifice which he commences, and where he gives pardon he gives acceptance too.”

We started in a pit, we end up on a throne. Paul said we are seated together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. What started as a nightmare ends up in a fairy tale. I had no hope, Christ found me, extended His hand of mercy, He then crowned my life with His endless love. Everyone who sees what happened to me is struck by the magnificence of His glory on display in my life.

THE REWARD ON THE MERCIFUL

Ps.41:1-3 – Oh, the joys of those who are kind to the poor! The LORD rescues them when they are in trouble. The LORD protects them and keeps them alive. He gives them prosperity in the land and rescues them from their enemies. The LORD nurses them when they are sick and restores them to health.

This passage is loaded with promises for those who are generous to the poor. The Hebrew word for poor is filled with meaning. It refers to the helpless, those who are dangling by a rope or hanging on for dear life. It’s much easier to shut our ears to the cries of the hurting, it is more beneficial for us to hear and respond. Who exactly are the poor referred to in this verse? This is speaking of the sick, the addicted, and those hurting financially. This is a description of what ministry is about. Here is how Adam Clarke describes this verse.

“The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive. It is worthy of remark, that benevolent persons, who “consider the poor, “and especially the sick poor; who search cellars, garrets, back lanes, and such abodes of misery, to find them out (even in the places where contagion keeps its seat), very seldom fall a prey to their own benevolence. The Lord, in an especial manner, keeps them alive, and preserves them; while many, who endeavor to keep far from the contagion, are assailed by it, and fall victims to it. God loves the merciful man.”

If you read on in this Psalm you can see the blessings of the generous piling up. First, He says He will protect us. He will surround us with His favor like a shield and no weapon formed against us will prosper. Next, He says He will keep us alive. Death itself will have to back off because we are being kept by the Lord. He also promises us prosperity in the land. The land itself will respond to us. This is speaking of harvest in whatever our hand finds to do. He then says He will keep us from our enemies, nothing that is planned against us will prosper. Wicked plans will turn around to bring favor into our lives. David also says that the Lord Himself will nurse us in our sickness. He will bring us back into total health and recovery. There is a reward for the merciful, this is what our lives and church are all about.

HUMILITY – PERSEVERANCE – AND THE HEALING POWER OF GOD

Jn.4:46,47 – Therefore He came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a royal official whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and was imploring Him to come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death.

One of the big obstacles to receiving a miracle is our pride. Humility is the breeding ground of miracles. This royal official who worked in Herod’s regime was willing to risk his job, fortune, and reputation to see his son made whole. He came to the conclusion that the power of God was more valuable than his prestige. Secondly, he was willing to go 20 miles on foot to get a miracle for his son. I can’t begin to tell you the number of people who have told me they love what God is doing at Victory, they just don’t want to cross the bridge. You just have to make some choices in life, what you value always comes out in what you do, not so much in what you say. Here is how Barclay describes this scene.

“Here is a courtier who came to a carpenter. The Greek is basilikos which could even mean that he was a petty king; but it is used for a royal official and he was a man of high standing at the court of Herod. Jesus on the other hand had no greater status than that of the village carpenter of Nazareth. Further, Jesus was in Cana and this man lived in Capernaum, almost twenty miles away….. There could be no more improbable scene in the world than an important court official hastening twenty miles to beg a favor from a village carpenter. First and foremost, this courtier swallowed his pride. He was in need, and neither convention nor custom stopped him bringing his need to Christ. His action would cause a sensation but he did not care what people said so long as he obtained the help he so much wanted. If we want the help which Christ can give we must be humble enough to swallow our pride and not care what any man may say.”

So maybe you need a miracle or someone you love needs a miracle. I guess we all have to ask the question, just how much do I want it? If a miracle is what you need what people think or the inconvenience of driving to church and enduring the worship and preaching should pale in comparison to the longing for God’s intervention in your life.

I SEE MEN LIKE TREES WALKING

Mk.8:22,23 – And they came to Bethsaida. And they brought a blind man to Jesus and implored Him to touch him. Taking the blind man by the hand, He brought him out of the village; and after spitting on his eyes and laying His hands on him, He asked him, “Do you see anything?”

This is one of the beautiful miracles of Jesus displayed in the gospel of Mark. I love the taste of Mark’s eyewitness account. It had been many years since the miracle had taken place but the scene was like a snapshot recorded in Mark’s memory. He still remembered when Jesus gently took this man by the hand and led him out of town. That’s it, that’s exactly what all of us need. That personal encounter with Jesus where He takes each of us by the hand and leads us out of town. It’s those blasted past relationships, the village we used to live in, that started all of our problems. Before this man could receive his miracle he had to get out of the spell the world had him ensnared in. Let’s go with Jesus outside the camp, that is the place where surely we too shall receive our miracle. Here is how Matthew Henry describes this passage.

“Here is Christ leading this blind man. He did not bid his friends lead him, but (which bespeaks his wonderful condescension) he himself took him by the hand, and led him, to teach us to be as Job was, eyes to the blind. Never had poor blind man such a Leader. He led him out of the town. Had he herein only designed privacy, he might have led him into a house, into an inner chamber, and have cured him there; but he intended hereby to upbraid Bethsaida with the mighty works that had in vain been done in her, and was telling her, in effect, she was unworthy to have any more done within her walls. Perhaps Christ took the blind man out of the town, that he might have a larger prospect in the open fields, to try his sight with, than he could have in the close streets.”

You see, as long as you stay in the village its hard to see anything. Only when Jesus got the blind man out of town and received the touch of the Lord did his sight begin to return. You too can begin to see again, just take Jesus by the hand and go with Him outside of town. Something beautiful will happen to you there.

OPEN YOUR HEART TO JESUS

Jn.1:11-12 – He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,

In yesterday’s devotion I spoke about receiving from the Lord. That was the first lesson I learned as I embraced the outpouring of the Spirit in 1994. Somehow, my receiver had been broken. I had been serving and counseling and praying and preaching and binding and loosing for so long that I had become stuck in the pouring out mode. Even when standing in the line to receive prayer the tendency was an aggressive, intercessory type of prayer. There is a place for that but not when you are trying to drink in the Holy Spirit. To receive from the Lord our stance needs to change. Words like compliant, humble, open, and hungry come to mind. Jesus said it like this, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink”. Here is how Spurgeon speaks about receiving.

“When I receive Jesus, He becomes my Saviour, so mine that neither life nor death shall be able to rob me of Him. All this is to receive Christ—to take Him as God’s free gift; to realize Him in my heart, and to appropriate Him as mine. Salvation may be described as the blind receiving sight, the deaf receiving hearing, the dead receiving life; but we have not only received these blessings, we have received CHRIST JESUS Himself. It is true that He gave us life from the dead. He gave us pardon of sin; He gave us imputed righteousness. These are all precious things, but we are not content with them; we have received Christ Himself. The Son of God has been poured into us, and we have received Him, and appropriated Him. What a heartful Jesus must be, for heaven itself cannot contain Him.”

When my heart first opened to the outpouring that summer of 1994, I felt like waves of glory were literally washing over me. I was shocked at how real and how profound this outpouring was. It was unmistakeable and undeniable. The only prerequisite was spiritual thirst which flows from a profound humility. David says it like this-

Ps 34:1,2 – “I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.

My soul will make its boast in the LORD; The humble will hear it and rejoice”.

RECEIVING

As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord.” —Colossians 2:6

I often talk about what happened to me in the summer of 1994. I had been a Christian for twenty one years and had pastored for sixteen. As a matter of fact I considered myself a committed, spirit filled, Pentecostal/charismatic pastor. In retrospect something was wrong and I was out of touch with that. What had changed over the years of ministry was a subtle change. I guess my ministry success had effected me more than I realized. At some point on my journey I had forgotten how to receive from the Lord. The scary thing about that, I didn’t realize I needed to receive, I thought I was doing quite well. What changed all of that? It was seeing Christians in the midst of an outpouring of the Spirit. It was intimidating, infuriating, and convicting at the same time. I needed another touch, I needed to receive again from the Lord. Here is how Charles Spurgeon describes this.

“The life of faith is represented as receiving— an act which implies the very opposite of anything like merit. It is simply the acceptance of a gift. As the earth drinks in the rain, as the sea receives the streams, as night accepts light from the stars, so we, giving nothing, partake freely of the grace of God. The saints are not, by nature, wells, or streams, they are but cisterns into which the living water flows; they are empty vessels into which God pours His salvation. The idea of receiving implies a sense of realization, making the matter a reality. One cannot very well receive a shadow; we receive that which is substantial: so is it in the life of faith, Christ becomes real to us. While we are without faith, Jesus is a mere name to us—a person who lived a long while ago, so long ago that His life is only a history to us now! By an act of faith Jesus becomes a real person in the consciousness of our heart. But receiving also means grasping or getting possession of. The thing which I receive becomes my own: I appropriate to myself that which is given.”

It was a big thing but something that changed quickly and dramatically. It was like turning on a light switch. Suddenly I found myself in the receiving mode and was experiencing huge downloads of the Spirit from heaven. Revival was right under my nose but I couldn’t step in until that adjustment was made. Humble yourself, get in a receiving mode and you too will swept up in God.

NONCONFORMIST

Rom.12:1,2 – Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,

One of the ways hippies were described in the 60’s was with the term “non-conformist”. The hippie culture prided itself in not fitting into the system or culture of the day. They actually became a counter culture. Actually the thing they were trying to avoid is what they became. Their nonconformity just became conformity to a new system and culture. In today’s passage Paul tells us not to be conformed to this world. In other words, don’t be molded into the shape of worldliness. He was actually describing a true worshipper. Worshipping God from the heart destroys the possibility of being molded into this world’s image. Here is how Barclay describes this verse.

“True worship is the offering to God of one’s body, and all that one does every day with it. Real worship is not the offering to God of a liturgy, however noble, and a ritual, however magnificent. Real worship is the offering of everyday life to him, not something transacted in a church, but something which sees the whole world as the temple of the living God….This, Paul goes on, demands a radical change. We must not be conformed to the world, but transformed from it…. The word he uses to be conformed to the world is suschematizesthai; its root is schema, which means the outward form that varies from year to year and from day to day. A man’s schema is not the same when he is seventeen as it is when he is seventy; it is not the same when he goes out to work as when he is dressed for dinner. It is continuously altering. So Paul says, “Don’t try to match your life to all the fashions of this world; don’t be like a chameleon which takes its color from its surroundings.”

There is only one way to avoid conformity and that is supernatural transformation. Being transformed is the work of the Holy Spirit. He actually begins to transform us into a different image, the image of Jesus Christ. How does this happen in our lives? It all boils down to yielding. Present your whole self to God, that is where the miracle will begin.

ONE OF THE LAST PROPHETIC PIECES OF THE PUZZLE

Rom.11:12,15 – Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be! For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

I remember a class I had at Bible School in the fall of 1973. Our teacher showed up in class looking like local weatherman Bob Breck when a cat 5 hurricane enters the Gulf of Mexico. Obviously the teacher was totally disheveled and disturbed by what had happened in the news that day. Israel had just entered into a war with the Muslim nations surrounding them and had a sudden overwhelming victory. What disturbed our teacher was what he expected to happen next. He said that Jerusalem could be surrounded by Russian tanks by morning. Obviously that didn’t happen but what did happen is that I suddenly became aware of Israel’s involvement in God’s prophetic time clock.

As I began to study Bible prophesy on my own I became aware of something Jesus said about Jerusalem and the last days. He said in Luke 21: 24, “Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled“. This is the phrase that grabbed me, “until the time of the gentiles is fulfilled”. I had no idea what that meant and I just had to find out. What I discovered was this, that the Lord had dealt primarily with the people of Israel until the time of Christ. Their rejection of the messiah brought the destruction of their land. That is actually what Romans 11 is about. The Lord turned to the gentiles for a season and the Jews were blinded from the truth. The good news is the Lord is not finished with Israel. Paul also referred to the time of the gentiles in this chapter. He said that there would be a great harvest of Jews when the time of the gentiles is fulfilled. Here is how Paul says it in Rom.11:25,26, “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery — so that you will not be wise in your own estimation — that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.”

So what conclusions I have come to in my studies of Bible prophesy is this, keep your eye on Israel, He is not finished with them yet. Finally, don’t be rigid in what you believe. What you believe may have to be altered as you see the events unfolding before your very eyes.