GOD’S RUBY

Isa. 60:1-5 – Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the LORD will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you.

The Gentiles shall come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising.

Lift up your eyes all around, and see: They all gather together, they come to you; Your sons shall come from afar, And your daughters shall be nursed at your side.

Then you shall see and become radiant, And your heart shall swell with joy; Because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, The wealth of the Gentiles shall come to you.

This is a powerful prophetic passage describing the beauty and radiance of the church. The word that grabs my attention in this passage is ‘radiant’. It is an unusual word that literally means to shimmer, to stream or flow like a river. Isaiah is prophesying about the beauty of Christ seen in His radiant bride. We literally shimmer with His glory. Jonathan Edwards spoke about this quality seen in the church.

“As God delights in his own beauty, he must necessarily delight in the creature’s holiness which is a conformity to and participation of it, as truly as [the] brightness of a jewel, held in the sun’s beams, is a participation or derivation of the sun’s brightness, though immensely less in degree.”

Years ago I was given a gift from a jeweler. It was a ring containing a star ruby. I never heard of a star ruby but it had a very unusual characteristic. If you took this ring into the direct sunlight you could see the sun shining from the ruby. Of course the light didn’t originate with the ruby, it was reflected glory. That pretty much describes the church, we are like the star rubies of the Lord, if we stay in the light we reflect His powerful glory for others to see and admire.

Two words of warning from this illustration. First, you must stay in the light if you want others to see His glory. The light is the revelation of Christ we find in His word and in His presence. We step out of the light and the radiance is gone. Secondly, never ever ever begin to think that the beauty comes from you or your works. We have the privilege of displaying reflected glory, the radiance shines from Christ alone.

HOLINESS

Eph.4:24 – and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

Our secular word laughs at the word holiness. As a matter of fact when was the last time you heard that word uttered from the lips of someone at the pulpit? I can understand the lost not liking or understanding that word but Christians should embrace it, not run from it. Holiness is closely related to God’s throne. Holiness is a description of the nature of our God. Holiness is associated with the goodness or beauty of the Lord. This is the ‘one thing’ that David said he lived for. From God’s perspective, holiness is the place of sheer joy that is found in the presence of the Lord. Until you are awakened, holiness and joy are opposed to each other. To those who have tasted His goodness, holiness and joy are inseparable. Here is how Dane Ortlund describes holiness from Jonathan Edwards’s perspective.

“Strikingly, Edwards speaks of divine beauty not only in terms of holiness but also in terms of happiness. I call this striking because our instinct even as believers is to set holiness and happiness over against one another. For Edwards, it is both or neither. The two rise and fall together. “Men are apt to drink in strange notions of holiness from our childhood,” he said in a sermon preached at age nineteen, “as if it were a melancholy melancholy, morose, sour, unpleasant thing.” A dear friend recently e-mailed me and said in blessed honesty, “By far the greatest functional heresy I believe is that holiness is boring and lustful selfishness is fun.” If we were to let others peer into how our hearts are really functioning, that statement would ring true for just about all of us as we roll out of bed into another day. And it is a great triumph of the enemy that we would think so. For in truth there is nothing more thrilling, more solid, more exhilarating, more humanity-restoring, more radiantly joyous, than holiness.”

Holy is the description of the purity and goodness of God. This is why the creatures around the throne sing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come”. These creatures have lived in that atmosphere of total joy in God’s presence since the day they were created. If you think just natural activities are fun and holiness is a duty you are really missing who God is. Once you see Him and taste His holiness and joy you too will be singing holy, holy, holy with the angels.

SEEING THE UNSEEN

Jn.5:35 – He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light.

Jesus had a way of boiling complex theological concepts down into ways even children could get them. He would say things like “give and it shall be given” or “seek and you shall find” or “knock and the door will be opened”. That’s what today’s scripture is like. He described John the Baptist as a burning and shining light. What He was describing in John is a glimpse into how God communicates with all of us. John was burning, a heart on fire for the kingdom of God. He was also shining, he had revelation of Christ that no one else before him had. So God speaks to us today in those two ways. He touches our hearts with His love and He opens our mind with spiritual understanding. This is what Belden Lane was getting at in his comments from his book ‘Ravished by Beauty’.

“One of the difficult issues in the interpretation of Edwards’s thought has been how this new “spiritual sense” should be understood. Some have viewed it as offering a virtual “sixth sense” by which the believer is equipped to perceive a spiritual reality altogether unavailable to non-believers. Others have understood it as providing a heightened and more integrated capacity to perceive reality through ordinary channels of sense experience. Actually both are involved, as Edwards tried to argue for two deeply held interests—the distinctively Christian experience of God as a graced reality and the importance of ordinary sense experience in grasping the way creation mirrors God’s presence. The Northampton theologian continually sought to integrate mind and heart in an apprehension of God’s beauty and the earth’s wonder. In his understanding, God’s “common grace” allows ordinary human beings to perceive something of the beauty and sweetness of God’s presence in the world. But a “new spiritual sense” is required for seeing the world in all of its mystery.”

That’s exactly how creation functions. Our hearts are captured with the beauty of a flower or the curiosity of a cat. We see human or even God like qualities in all of His creatures, from the boldness of a horse to the loyalty of a dog. All of our hearts have been touched by one of His creatures at some point. We also see the creativity and the genius of the Lord in His handiwork. The creativity of fingers and noses, or lips and ears are hard to ignore. His creative genius is on display all around us.

We can open our heart to Him in the written word, in worship, or in observing His creation. All of these tools of divine communication can set our hearts to burning and shining just like the prophet John.

ORCHESTRA OF WORSHIP

Ps.148:1-4 – Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights!

Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts!

Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all you stars of light!

Praise Him, you heavens of heavens, And you waters above the heavens!

The Bible clearly says that creation is singing. David talked about trees, mountains, and oceans praising the Lord. Jesus even said that the rocks would praise Him. So is it possible that all creation is actually an orchestra that never stops worshipping? I believe that it is. Everything from the seraphim and angels around the throne to the trees of the field and even the fish in the sea, every part of creation is engaged in continual worship. Heaven will be a confirmation of this; all of us will be caught up in the harmony of worship as the greatness of God is unveiled in eternity. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Belden Lane quotes Edwards as well as makes some comments himself in this excerpt on God being seen and worshipped in creation.

“I am not ashamed to own that I believe that the whole universe, heaven and earth, air and seas, and the divine constitution and history of the holy Scriptures, be full of images of divine things, as full as a language is of words. . . .

—Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards lived in a world that sang. He considered music to be “the best, most beautiful, and most perfect way that we have of expressing a sweet concord of mind.” It joins heaven and earth in the harmony of the spheres, echoing a primeval beauty grander than anything we can imagine. Hans Urs von Balthasar, another theologian entranced by beauty, declared in his book Truth is Symphonic, that “the world is like a vast orchestra tuning up.”

Each player plays to himself, while the audience take[s] their seats and the conductor has not yet arrived. All the same, someone has struck an A on the piano, and a certain unity of atmosphere is established around it: they are tuning up for some common endeavor.”

So I have a conclusion that I am convinced of more and more everyday. I believe that anyone or anything that glimpses our God will have no other recourse, seeing Him demands worship. Worship is the direct result of unveiled greatness. Turn your eyes toward Jesus, let your affections be influenced by His greatness. You too have a part to play in God’s great orchestra of worship.

RE-DIG THE ANCIENT WELLS

Gen.26:18,19 – And Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham his father, which the Philistines had stopped after the death of Abraham. And he gave them the names that his father had given them. But when Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and found there a well of spring water,

I was caught by surprise by the suddenness and intensity of the visitation of the Holy Spirit at our church in 1994. I had no idea of the long range ramifications that would soon set in. For me personally, I saw the shallowness of my understanding of God’s Word and I was launched into a quest of searching the history of revival and the theology that would sustain it. I entered into a season of digging deep. Like Isaac, I began to re-dig the wells of my forefathers. For Isaac, he was digging again the wells that Abraham had dug, for me it was the wells of Jonathan Edwards, Martin Luther, and our Protestant forerunners. As I labored for years learning about digging I experienced a great reward. The clear waters of renewal and reformation began and continue to flow in my life. The digging was well worth it. Here is a quote from COURTS OF PRAISE – FOURSQUARE GOSPEL CHURCH in Canada. Obviously someone else has been digging wells.

  “The Philistines plugged the wells with rocks, old wood, dead carcasses and garbage to ruin the well for future use.  Isaac and his men would have to remove all the garbage etc to make the well fresh once again.  Once the well was cleared the water would start flowing again, the well would become clean once again and be useful for drinking and watering the flocks and land. As we begin to consider “re-digging the wells of revival” there must be a sincere place within our hearts that is committed to getting rid of things that have caused the wells to become plugged in the first place.  In a spiritual sense, we too can reopen the spiritual wells of our forefathers, the revivals of old but it takes hard work.  The enemy has plugged the wells of revival with compromise, sinful habits, worldly thinking and religious activities.  This junk must be removed; Independence, Discouragement, Heart break, if we are to ever experience springs of living Holy Spirit water.”

So maybe you have some wells in your life that the Philistines have clogged up. Its time to get to work. Unstop those wells that the waters of renewal can flow in and through you once again.

 

 

WHY WORSHIP ?

Ps.86:9 – All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.

Music has always been a huge part of my life. I never learned to play an instrument and I am not a singer but I have always been strangely attracted to music. My salvation, strangely enough, was connected to the Rock Opera, ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’. After my conversion I found myself in the middle of the Jesus movement in California. Of course, music was a major part of that move of God. Christian music was different than the music I had listened to in my worldly days. Obviously the topic of the music was different but it was way more than that. I was no longer just an observer or a spectator but I was thrown into the action for myself. Congregational singing became a major part of my life. But I have to pose a question today, Why do we worship? Is it part of some formula for success or somehow a way to become pleasing to God? I don’t think so. For me, worship is simple; it is the pursuit of pleasure. There is a pleasure involved when I worship God. Congregational worship is a corporate pursuit of pleasure. After all its in His presence that we find fulness of joy. Here is a word from John Piper on worship.

“The basic movement of worship on Sunday morning is not to come with our hands full to give to God, as though he needed any-thing, but to come with our hands empty, to receive from God. And what we receive in worship is the fullness of God, not the feelings of entertainment. We ought to come hungry for God. We should come saying, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God”. God is mightily honored when a people know that they will die of hunger and thirst unless they have God. Nothing makes God more supreme and more central in worship than when a people are utterly persuaded that nothing—not money or prestige or leisure or family or job or health or sports or toys or friends—nothing is going to bring satisfaction to their sinful, guilty, aching hearts besides God.”

Music has always been a pleasure for me but music alone can never compare to worship. I may not be the guitarist, pianist, or vocalist but I am all in. So where will you find me every Sunday? I will be singing my heart out in church, pursuing pleasure with my friends, a pleasure found only in the presence of God.

SIN’S DEFINITION

Rom.3:23 – for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Is sin even still a thing? No one ever mentions that word any more. Maybe you use the word mistake instead. The problem with mistake is that mistakes are accidental. Sin is a much bigger problem. Sin is intentional. This is the way I define it; sin is what we do we God Himself is not enough for us. Sin makes promises but it ignores the consequences. The promise sin makes is pleasure but the pleasure it offers is temporary. There is a better way. There is a hidden, secret pleasure that is even greater than the pleasures of sin. What am I talking about? I am speaking of the pleasures of God. Yes, you heard me right. There is a pleasure found in knowing Him that is greater than any temporary pleasure that sin offers us. Here is how John Piper describes sin and its inferiority to the pleasures of God.

“Paul said, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Sinning is a “falling short” of the glory of God. But the Greek word for “falling short” means “lack.” The idea is not that you shot an arrow at God’s glory and the arrow fell short, but that you could have had it as a treasure, but you don’t. You have chosen something else instead. This is confirmed in Romans 1:23 where people “exchanged the glory of “the incorruptible God for an image.” That is the deepest problem with sin: it is a suicidal exchange of infinite value and beauty for some fleeting, inferior substitute. This is the great insult. In the words of Jeremiah, God calls it appalling. “Be appalled, O heavens, at this, and shudder, be very desolate, declares the LORD. For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water”. What is the essence of evil? It is forsaking a living fountain for broken cisterns. God gets derision and we get death. They are one: in choosing sugarcoated misery we mock the life giving God. It was meant to be another way: God’s glory exalted in our ever-lasting joy.”

So which fountain are you drinking from, you can’t drink from both. You can buy into the lie of temporary satisfaction in the things of this life or you can drink from the fountain of living water that will satisfy the deepest parts of your life.

CHECK THE FRUIT

Isa.28:21 – Amp. – For the Lord will rise up as on Mount Perazim…….that He may do His work, His strange work, and bring to pass His act, His strange act.

Often us Christians try to put the Lord in a box. Its much easier to deal with a predictable God who we can pretty much keep in total control, especially in our services. But what if the Lord breaks out in new ways that have never been seen before. That’s what happened on the day of Pentecost. Unprecedented acts of God broke out that day in Jerusalem of all places. The 120 followers of Jesus began to speak in unknown languages at the same time. For you religious scholars, I know SOME of the languages were understood by SOME PEOPLE; but all the languages were not understood. That’s why the disciples were accused of public drunkenness.

What if the Lord breaks out again in unprecedented supernatural displays of signs and wonders? Pharisees with preconceived religious ideas will be against it. Here is a quote from a book by Belden Lane describing Sarah Edwards being touched by revival.

“His wife Sarah similarly juxtaposed images of flowing water and dancing sunlight as she reflected on her own vivid religious experience of January 28, 1742. Her language shares in the same ambiguity one might find in a late twentieth-century physicist alternating between wave and particle images of light. Language, she knew, has to be twisted if it is to suggest a reality beyond normal human perception. This is how she recalled the experience:

‘There seemed to be a constant flowing and reflowing of heavenly and divine love, from Christ’s heart to mine; and I appeared to myself to float or swim, in these bright, sweet beams of the love of Christ, like the motes swimming in the beams of the sun, or the streams of light which come in at the window.’ Edwards and his wife found the reality of God’s presence most apparent at moments of sensory overload, when one perceives in this world a brief harmony of glimpses, sounds, tastes, scents, and tactile impressions.”

Of course many in the church world were against those strange works associated with the beginning of the Great Awakening. If we are too rigid, we too may find ourselves rejecting something different from anything we have experienced ourselves. How can we be sure when unusual things break out? Go with what Jesus said, check the fruit of the people involved. Fruit always tells the story.

“Who has beguiled you?”

Merry Saturday by Parris

Gal.3:1 – “Who has beguiled you?”

Years ago when I was pre-teen I would spend my days watching Alfred Hitchcock horror movies. I know ‘not good’ and yes it left it’s mark on me. Which brings me to my blog title-“Invasion of the Body Snatchers”. This particular one scarred me for life. It’s about “Alien plant spores have fallen from space and grown into large seed pods, each one capable of reproducing a duplicate replacement copy of each human. As each pod reaches full development, it assimilates the physical characteristics, memories, and personalities of each sleeping person placed near it; these duplicates, however, are devoid of all human emotion. Little by little, a local doctor uncovers this “quiet” invasion and attempts to stop it.” (wikipedia) The movies ends with the pods being delivered by truckloads to various cities.

Like the movie, it seems as if spores from an alien planet have seeped into our air or water supply. I just want to ask my bothers and sisters, “who are you” or “what happened to you”! It seems to feel almost as if a quiet invasion has come putting people in a zombie like state void of emotions. Even Paul in the book of Galatians said, “What has happened to you Galatians to be acting so foolishly? You must have been under some evil spell?” Gal. 3:1

Recently I was watching a preacher on YouTube talking about what is not acceptable in their services, in fact his quote was “we will not have any of that holy ghost stuff”. Holy Ghost as in redemption? People crying out like in the book of Acts “what must we do to be saved”, or Paul’s shadow healing thousands on the streets. Let us revisit the streets of London to the coals miners where tears ran down their cheeks and bars closed. People were screaming, tearing pews up and rolling outside. Calling it Holy Ghost stuff is blasphemy. He isn’t stuff but a person. He is a mighty rushing wind, a fire in our belly that when he walks into the room everything changes. I need the Holy Ghost to deal with women terrorized by drugs, demons, dragons, and doom. We all need to be careful that we just don’t sweep the Holy Spirit right out of our churches and our lives. In other words, Christianity is messy, noisy and you cannot contain it. Why would you?

Listen to MacLaren when he says, “You know the old superstition as to the Evil Eye? Certain persons were supposed to have the power, by a look, to work mischief, and by fixing the gaze of their victims, to suck the very life out of them. So Paul asks who the malign sorcerer is who has thus fascinated the fickle Galatians, and is draining their Christian life out of their eyes. Jesus Christ as having been displayed before their eyes. They had seen Him. How did they come to be able to turn away to look at anything else? Jesus Christ crucified has been conspicuously set forth before you, what happened?”

DRAGONS AND OTHER CREATURES

2 Cor.5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

The problem with humans is far more severe than we want to admit. Some think education can fix our dilemma, others think that discipline alone is the answer. Others appeal to the home life or maybe therapy and counseling. You see none of those solutions are bad and may prove to be quite helpful. None of them actually address the real problem with humans. Its our nature that’s the problem. C.S. Lewis dealt with this very issue in the Chronicles of Narnia. One of the young children actually morphed into a dragon. He was actually a dragon all along, fixing him took drastic measures. Lewis portrayed the new birth as actually peeling off or peeling away the dragon nature that encompassed Eustace. It was a picture of the new birth experience. We used to be some horrid creature. We have become different creatures by the new birth experience. Dane Ortlund describes this transformation.

“In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader C. S. Lewis captures an Edwardsian view of regeneration in his depiction of the change wrought in the previously obnoxious Eustace: “It would be nice, and fairly nearly true, to say that ‘from that time forth Eustace was a different boy.’ To be strictly accurate, he began to be a different boy. He had relapses. There were still many days when he could be very tiresome. But most of those I shall not notice. The cure had begun.”

In the new birth the cure has begun. Like Eustace, the dragons that we all naturally are by birth have been decisively peeled off in the new birth. Old tendencies remain, but the fundamental change has secured us once and for all as new creatures.”

So maybe you are still dealing with some sort of slippage back into that dragon like life. You know there was a change and for a while you appeared to be a different person. Those dragon like qualities just keep creeping back into your world. What can you do? Its really quite simple; stop feeding the beast. Feed that new person you have become. How do you do that? Stop eating dragon food. Its the carnal atmosphere that surrounds us that feeds the dragon. We have to get violent with ourselves. Attack that dragon like life with the word of God and the Spirit. Feast on the food of angels and the dragon will be gone for good.