TALKING ANIMALS

Job 12:7,8 – But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you;

And the birds of the air, and they will tell you;

Or speak to the earth, and it will teach you;

And the fish of the sea will explain to you.

To those who have been given eyes to see, the glory of God is all around you. You catch glimpses of Him in the clouds passing overhead and hear His voice in the morning songbirds outside your window. Everywhere, from the crashing waves at the seashore to the barren wasteland of the Australian Outback, the glory of the Lord literally fills the earth. How does that relate to me in my hum drum, everyday life caught up in the noises of the city? Its really quite simple, He is there too. From the dust motes reflecting the glory of the sun in the light streaming in from your office window, to the butterfly swimming in the summer breeze, there is nowhere you can go that He is not present. Jonathan Edwards was known for his attraction to creation; here is a quote from Belsen Lane on Edwards and the voices of creation.

“As our senses open us to harmonies of sound and delicacies of scent, as they teach us to delight in the play of light in a bubbling fountain of water, they offer a spiritual training in the knowledge of God. Edwards never tired of pointing out that to “know” God is also to enjoy God. The properly trained mind not only “speculates and beholds, but relishes and feels.” When it comes to matters of the divine, enjoyment is a precondition for any authentic knowing.

In speaking of nature as a school of desire, Edwards drew on a long tradition of the “colloquy with the creatures.” This literary trope goes back to Job’s injunction to “Ask the beasts, and they will teach you,” and to Jesus’s call to consider the lilies. The form became stylized in Augustine’s Confessions when he “puts his questions to the earth,” asking the creatures, the winds, and the sky to “tell him of God”. Their answer is that their beauty leads him to a Beauty beyond themselves in God.”

So put your ears on today. His voice may come in a very unusual and unexpected way. Like

C. S. Lewis and his wardrobe, even the animals are declaring the glory of the Lord. You never no, maybe your beagle will have something to say this morning.

THE BEAUTY OF GENTLENESS

Eph.4:1-3 – I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

The first three chapters of Ephesians talk about the majesty of election, sovereignty, redemption, salvation, and our eternal inheritance in Christ. The power and force of the revelation given to the Apostle Paul takes our breath away. Chapter three concludes with a prayer that we would be empowered to glimpse the revelation of God’s love for us in Christ. It is overwhelming!! The crazy thing about this is Paul’s follow up in Chapter four. Paul says therefore, because of all He has done for us in Christ, we are to walk in humility and gentleness. That’s what the revelation of Christ’s greatness does to us, it humbles us. One sure way to know if you are “getting it” is the effect the revelation has on us. Paul says it should be humility and gentleness. Here are some thoughts from Jonathan Edwards on humility. Pay close attention, this is classic Jonathan Edwards.

“Holiness, as I then wrote down some of my contemplations on it, appeared to me to be of a sweet, pleasant, charming, serene, calm nature, which brought an inexpressible purity, brightness, peacefulness and ravishment to the soul. In other words . . . it made the soul like a field or garden of God, with all manner of pleasant flowers; all pleasant, delightful, and undisturbed; enjoying a sweet calm. . . .

The soul of a true Christian, as I then wrote my meditations, appeared like such a little white flower as we see in the spring of the years; low and humble on the ground, opening its bosom to receive the pleasant beams of the sun’s glory, rejoicing as it were in a calm rapture; diffusing around a sweet fragrance; standing peacefully and lovingly, in the midst of other flowers round about; all in like manner opening their bosoms, to drink in the light of the sun.”

What a great analogy!! My soul, as a Christian is like a little white flower. Humble, sweet, soaking in the light of His glory, planted in His community with His other flowers. The results of this humility and gentleness, the fragrance of Christ fills the atmosphere. Plant me Lord in the garden of God.

SHEAR BEAUTY

Ps.27:4 – One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.

If you stop and think carefully about the wording of today’s verse it gives us a real glimpse into the secret of David’s spiritual life. What is the key word in this verse? It is absolutely the word beauty. David saw something in the Lord that most people miss. He saw the goodness of the Lord which David called beauty. Why is it that others couldn’t see what David saw? Why can’t people today see the loveliness of Christ? The answer is exactly the same. Our fallen, sinful condition has blinded our eyes to the beauty of the Lord. It is the influence of The Holy Spirit on us that causes us to even see the beauty of Christ. David had been effected deeply from his youth by the anointing that had fallen upon him. Jonathan Edwards spoke about the beauty of Christ constantly in his sermons and his writings. Dane Ortlund talks about the beauty of the Lord in Jonathan Edwards writings.

“God is the only place true beauty is found. There simply is nowhere else and no one else who has it. All true beauty in the universe is found either in God himself or in the direct reflection of God…..What a cold underground spring is to a mountain lake, God is to all real beauty in the universe. Edwards uses this very image: God is “the foundation and fountain of all being and all beauty….”

Here is a snippet from Edwards himself on the beauty of the Lord.

“It is a sight of the divine beauty of Christ, that bows the wills, and draws the hearts of men. A sight of the greatness of God in his attributes, may overwhelm men, and be more than they can endure; but the enmity and opposition of the heart, may remain in its full strength, and the

will remain inflexible; whereas, one glimpse of the moral and spiritual glory of God, and supreme amiableness of Jesus Christ, shining into the heart, overcomes and abolishes this opposition, and inclines the soul to Christ, as it were, by an omnipotent power.”

One glimpse, literally one glimpse, of the unparalleled beauty that emanates from Christ will convince you. You too will sing with David, “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple”.

SWEETNESS

Ps.45:2 – TPT – Beautiful! Beautiful! Beyond the sons of men!

Elegant grace pours out through every word you speak.

Truly God has anointed you, his favored one, for eternity!

Have you ever seen something so beautiful that it sets itself apart from everything else? Maybe a favorite Mountain View or a special spot to view a sunset. There are moments and places like that for all of us. There is a rose that is especially beautiful to us who are from Southeast Louisiana called the Peggy Martin. It was named after a lady who lived in Chalmette who lost everything in Katrina. She lost family and property and all of her precious flowers in her garden except for one, a rose which became known as the Peggy Martin rose. For whatever reason these Peggy Martin roses survived and even flourished. Her property experienced twenty feet of salt water for two weeks but these roses survived. Obviously, anyone from this region has to say that these Peggy Martin roses have a beauty shared by no other; they stand out above all others with there message of survival and renewal. Here are some thoughts from Spurgeon about Jesus, our Rose of Sharon.

“Whatever there may be of beauty in the material world, Jesus Christ possesses all that in the spiritual world in a tenfold degree. Amongst flowers the rose is deemed the sweetest, but Jesus is infinitely more beautiful in the garden of the soul than the rose can in the gardens of earth. He takes the first place as the fairest among ten thousand. He is the sun, and all others are the stars; the heavens and the day are dark in comparison with Him, for the King in His beauty transcends all. “I am the rose of Sharon.” This was the best and rarest of roses. Jesus is not “the rose” alone, He is “the rose of Sharon,” just as He calls His righteousness “gold,” and then adds, “the gold of Ophir”—the best of the best. He is positively lovely, and superlatively the loveliest….Even the recollection of His love is sweet. Take the rose of Sharon, and pull it leaf from leaf, and lay by the leaves in the jar of memory, and you shall find each leaf fragrant long afterwards, filling the house with perfume. Christ satisfies the highest taste of the most educated spirit to the very full.”

So, maybe your life has been crowded out with the ugliness of this present life. Take a look around, Jesus is near. In the ugly places of this world His beauty is even more magnificent. His beauty will fill your life with sweetness…

LOVELY

SOS 5:16 – His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

Nothing in this life is ever totally perfect. That new car that you really, really wanted inevitably gets that first ding that seems to stand out like a sore thumb. Then there is that job that you worked so hard to land and you get there, and well, it’s just another job. Of course there is that girl (or guy) that you have had your eye on and the relationship starts, well you know the rest of that story. There is no such thing as a perfect diamond, perfect round of golf, or even a perfect city. Everything in this world is imperfect, somehow tarnished by the fallen world that we live in that seems to touch everything. That’s what makes Jesus even more special, as Solomon famously said, He is ‘altogether lovely’. He is total perfection; from the moment that you meet Him and throughout years of walking with Him. You can never see any blemish in His nature or character. He is kind, powerful, holy, wise, generous, and merciful. As He appeared perfect at the beginning, the closer you get to Him and the longer you walk with Him you have to join the chorus an say, “he is altogether lovely”. Here is how Spurgeon describes this verse.

“Our love is not as a seal set upon His heart of love alone; it is fastened upon His arm of power also; nor is there a single part of Him upon which it does not fix itself. We anoint His whole person with the sweet spikenard of our fervent love. His whole life we would imitate; His whole character we would transcribe. In all other beings we see some lack, in Him there is all perfection. The best even of His favored saints have had blots upon their garments and wrinkles upon their brows; He is nothing but loveliness. All earthly suns have their spots: the fair world itself hath its wilderness; we cannot love the whole of the most lovely thing; but Christ Jesus is gold without alloy-light without darkness—glory without cloud—“Yea, He is altogether lovely.”

Have you seen His loveliness for yourself? Today is a good day to start, draw near in worship and you too will behold the beauty of the Lord.

HIDDEN IN PLAIN VIEW

Rom. 1:19,20 – For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Mardi Gras pretty much describes the spiritual condition of our world today. It masks itself as a religious holiday, the day before forty days of fasting and penance leading up to Easter. Our culture does its best to stay spiritual, rewriting God in their own image rather than beholding His beauty that is all around us. The Lord has chosen to hide Himself in plain view. What do I mean by that? Paul touched on it in today’s verse. The Lord has revealed Himself (to those who want to see) in creation all around us. His infinite nature can be seen in the immensity and eternal nature of the universe itself, His power is seen in the smallest particle of His creation. Splitting the atom displays a small taste of the power of God seen in nuclear explosions. His beauty is seen in the splendor of sunsets and mountain vistas. His creativity is seen in the diversity of His creatures (sloths, kangaroos, and orangutans). His wisdom is seen in the invention of sound, sight, smell and taste (not to mention ears, noses, eyes, and tastebuds).

He is also hiding Himself in the mystery of redemption. The testimony of hookers, thieves, drug users and dealers as well as bank presidents, businessmen and women, not to forget the professionals from all walks of life experiencing the power of His redeeming love. He is everywhere and so casually ignored by the multitudes.

If Mardi Gras typifies the real condition of our world maybe we should not call it the day that God forgot, but rather a people who have forgotten their God. Here is a quote from my wife quoting John Calvin. I think it pretty much speaks for itself.

“Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a day “that we obscure Christ and wrap him up with our subtleties that he can never be found. For they know precisely what his name is; but we empty him of his power and so exhibit a phantom in his place. Though we profess to believe in Christ, we invent for ourselves a torn, disfigured, emptied of his power, denuded of his office, such as to be a spectacle rather than Christ himself.”

Today begins the Lenten season. I am asking to see Him more clearly in every part of my life; from the trials to the blessings, in His word and in His church. Let everything that has breath give praise to the Lord.

GOD’S ART

Eph. 2:10 – For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

This verse has a very interesting word in it dealing with God’s work of redemption in our lives. It is the word workmanship. Here is how Dick Mills defines this beautiful Bible word.

“ poiema – From the verb poieo, “to make.” (Compare “poem” and “poetry.”) The word signifies that which is manufactured, a product, a design produced by an artisan. Poiema emphasizes God as the Master Designer, the universe as His creation (Rom. 1:20), and the redeemed believer as His new creation (Eph. 2:10). Before conversion our lives had no rhyme or reason. Conversion brought us balance, symmetry, and order. We are God’s poem, His work of art.”

I love that definition, God’s work of redemption in our lives brought us from a confused and disordered life into a spiritual life of balance and beauty. We have literally become God’s work of art. His masterpiece began in us the day we were born again and will be completed and revealed when we see Him in glory. Think about it, you are God’s work of art. I recently watched a movie about Vincent Van Gogh. I was taken back by his story and after doing some research found that he was a pastor’s son who loved to read Spurgeon and Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. His spirituality in his younger days led him to an attraction to creation. He painted God’s creation and saw colors as conveyors of spiritual truth. Here is some info about Van Gogh from an article by Jacob A. Davis.

“Van Gogh’s work reflects his spirituality….Among his symbolic elements (which are quite extensive), blue represents God’s presence in his paintings, and yellow represents God’s love.  Reading Van Gogh’s most famous work, Starry Night, in this light, one notices that God and his love are present abundantly.  The sky reflects it, as does the town below.  The sky and village are both largely blue with God’s presence.  The houses are filled with the yellow light of God’s love….So what can we take from Vincent Van Gogh?  He was certainly not a perfect man, nor a perfect Christian….In the end, it is important to recognize Vincent Van Gogh’s attributes and his contribution to art as a Christian, for all of his strengths and weaknesses.”

Art, like music, can transport us and effect us spiritually. It is the Lord who created us in His image who gives us artistic talent to communicate His glory. Open your heart up to Him today, allow His brushstrokes to add beauty and depth to your life. Look for Him in creation, listen for Him in the song, gaze upon Him in a beautiful work of art. After all that’s what we are, God’s work of art.

GOD’S CLOTHES

Ps.29:2 the Message –

In awe before the glory,

in awe before God’s visible power.

Stand at attention!

Dress your best to honor him!

 

Psa. 29:3   GOD thunders across the waters,

Brilliant, his voice and his face, streaming brightness—GOD, across the flood waters.

 

Psa. 29:4   GOD’S thunder tympanic,

GOD’S thunder symphonic.

It seemed as if Jesus was surprised at humans and their inability to see God’s glory all around them. He said repeatedly that they had eyes to see and couldn’t see and they had ears to hear but they couldn’t hear. He told Nicodemus that he would never see the kingdom of God if he wasn’t born again. On another occasion He told His disciples that they must become like children or they would never enter the kingdom of God.

For those who have tasted the goodness of God His glory becomes evident and visible everywhere. Sometimes it seems like creation itself is shouting. Actually Jesus said the rocks would scream His praises if we don’t. Isaiah said it like this. “For you will go out with joy And be led forth with peace; The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, And all the trees of the field will clap their hands”. Here is John Calvin on his thoughts about seeing the Lord in creation.

“That we may enjoy the sight of God, he must come forth to view with his clothing (creation); that is to say, we must first cast our eyes upon the very beautiful fabric of the world in which he wishes to be seen by us. . . .For in this world God blesses us in such a way as to give us a mere foretaste of his kindness, and by that taste to entice us to desire heavenly blessings with which we may be satisfied. As soon as we acknowledge God to be the supreme architect, who has erected the beauteous fabric of the universe, our minds must necessarily be ravished with wonder at his infinite goodness, wisdom, and power….We see, indeed, the world with our eyes, we tread the earth with our feet, we touch innumerable kinds of God’s works with our hands, we inhale a sweet and pleasant fragrance from herbs and flowers, we enjoy boundless benefits; but in those very things of which we attain some knowledge, there dwells such an immensity of divine power, goodness, and wisdom, as absorbs all our senses.”

So Calvin viewed creation as God’s clothing. Is it possible that everything around you is there with a brilliant message? Power, beauty, wisdom, and creativity are seen in all of His creation. From roses to waterfalls, from mountain ranges to crashing ocean waves; creation itself is singing and shouting the praises of God.

A ROSE, IS A ROSE, IS A ROSE

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS

“I AM THE ROSE OF SHARON, THE LILY OF THE VALLEY”

Song of Songs 2:1

Spring came loudly this year in Nola from the snowy winter we had. It caught me by surprise when it seemed every budding plant burst its banks with color shouting winter had past. MY ROSES! I just couldn’t get enough of them. Last year I was introduced to PeggyMartin roses named from the roses that survived 20 feet of water during Katrina. Having not too much success with other roses I planted these. They came back in vengeance from the winter we had in the most pretty pink I’ve ever seen spreading along my fence at a feverish rate. I couldn’t wait to buy more to plant them in my yard. Christ comes as the rose and the lily. There is just something to see in Christ. He has beauty that seems to cleanse deep on the inside of us.

For over ten years now Marysong has been operating for women that have lost their way. The stories go untold, their scars bury deep within their souls. Mankind weaves it’s wickedness into the very earth we live and the story keeps getting repeated. The girls’ eyes always speak so much louder than their voice. I thank God Christ comes as the rose. Yes, he is our bread and he is our drink but I thank God he is our rose.

Spurgeon says, “Christ compares himself here, not as in other places to needful bread and refreshing water, but to lovely flowers- to roses and lilies. What is the use of roses and lilies? They are of no use at all except for joy and delight. With their sweet form, their charming color, and their delicious fragrance, we are comforted and pleased and delighted; but they are not necessities of life. Jesus is all that, and more; he is far more than “a thing of beauty,” and to all who trust him he will be “a joy forever.” To you who are Christ’s people, he is your bread, for you feed on him, and he makes you live; you could not do without him as the sustenance of your soul. He is the living water, and your soul would pine and perish of a burning thirst if you did not drink of him. He means for you to have joy as well as to have life, to look upon beauty as well as to be in safety, and to have not only a healthy atmosphere, but an atmosphere that is laden with the odor of sweet flowers. You are to find in Christ roses and lilies, as well as bread and water; you have not yet seen all his beauties, and you do not yet know all his excellence.”

Let Christ come to you as the rose that will drench your sorrow with his fragrance, your scars with his beauty, and the black with his lily. There is beauty in the brokenness.

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“Gods Theater”

MERRY FRIDAY BY PARRIS-

Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

So many things happen in any given week concerning redemption it can take one’s breath away. Even scarier is that so many miss the moment when God breaks the silence. The Reformers back in the day, helped us rediscover the beauty of God all around us. They taught us to stop and pause at the beauty. When we look around, God is doing back flips, front flips, twirls, twists, and so on. One need only to listen to the love, for it is all around. Just this week, a Mary’s Song girl who didn’t know what a paragraph was wrote a poem, another one sang in the Spirit, children were touched by God in service and want to read their Bibles more. And the sweetest of all was when my 86 year old mother and I sang a worship song together while driving. Yes, we pause and listen because beauty speaks and he has a name. JESUS!

The Reformed poet Elizabeth Rowe wrote, “Tis thee, abstractly thee, God of uncreated Beauty, that I love, in thee my wishes are all terminated; in thee, as in their blissful centre, all my desires meet….The God of Nature, and the original of all beauty, is my God” Calvin encourages us to pass by lightly by saying; “We have been placed here, as in a spacious theater, to behold the works of God, and there is no work of God so small that we ought to pass by it lightly, but all ought be carefully and diligently observed.” Another reformer said; “The world is God’s book, no page is empty but full of lines.” (Thomas Taylor)

I believe deeply that we can receive healing in his word and his creation, we must learn to breathe in his beauty around us instead of the toxic fake world that we allow to creep in.

Ricard Baxter who wrote a book about heaven and all the glories of it also knew some secrets of the happy life here. He said; “What a pleasure is it to dive into the secrets of nature! The majesty of the great Creator doth shine in the face of this fabric of the world. The azure sky is his comely curtain and the earth his theater.”

Show me someone that is depressed and more than likely their natural habitat is toxic. Way to much tv/media, dark houses, bad eating, lack of the word, and seclusion all breed discouragement. Their tripartite being is all out of wack. I found a very interesting quote from “Ravished by Beauty” (Belden Lane) who said, “Even the thirteenth century Franciscans found visages or traces of the holy trinity in buttes, butterflies, and buzzards everywhere and said, “Nature points us through the vestiges of these concrete mysteries into the deeper image of God in our own created being. In this threefold way, every created being erupts into praise, leading us ultimately to Christ as Lord.”

Go ahead, erupt in praise and you just might change into a happy camper!