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!

LOOKING ON GLORY

2Cor. 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

David spoke often about the pleasure and blessing he found by gazing on the Lord. He said in
Psa. 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”.
One of the great ways we have of gazing on the beauty of the Lord is in engrossing ourselves in the written word of God. In the scriptures we see the beauty of Jesus Christ. After all He is the manifestation of the Father’s word. This is the place we can easily see the glory of the Lord. Soaking in the scriptures can become one of the great pleasures in our lives. Here is how Albert Barnes describes beholding the glory of the Lord.

“The mirrors of the ancients were made of burnished metal, and they reflected images with great brilliancy and distinctness. And the meaning is, that the gospel reflected the glory of the Lord; it was, so to speak, the mirror—the polished, burnished substance in which the glory of the Lord shone, and where that glory was irradiated and reflected so that it might be seen by Christians. There was no vail over it; no obscurity; nothing to break its dazzling splendor, or to prevent its meeting the eye. Christians, by looking on the gospel, could see the glorious perfections and plans of God, as bright, and clear, and brilliant as they could see a light reflected from the burnished surface of the mirror. So to speak, the glorious perfections of God shone from heaven, beamed upon the gospel, and were thence reflected to the eye and the heart of the Christian, and had the effect of transforming them into the same image.”

The effect of gazing on the beauty of the Lord is what this is all about. We are changed into the very thing we gaze upon, in this case we are being radically transformed, our very nature is being conformed to the image of Jesus. What a deal, we are transformed powerfully by the most desirable thing in this life, beholding the glory of the Lord in Christ.

ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL 

Thou art all fair, my love.
Song of Solomon 4:7
As they say, ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. Everyone has their own version of beauty. Some like a beautiful mountain view, for others nothing beats a majestic seascape. Some folks have an eye for a classic automobile or a motorcycle. Still others the perfect golf shot or a giant buck. The Lord has an eye for beauty. For Him it is all about perfection. The Father sees perfection only in His Son Jesus. Nothing imperfect would ever pass His test for beauty. That’s where grace and redemption come in. By faith in the blood of Jesus the Father credits the righteousness or beauty of Christ to me. I have put on the garments of righteousness; I have put on Christ by faith in His blood. Now I am like Christ in the eyes of the Father. I am altogether lovely. From His perspective, there is no blemish in me. Here is how Charles Spurgeon sees this beautiful truth.
“The Lord’s admiration of his Church is very wonderful, and his description of her beauty is very glowing. She is not merely fair, but all fair. He views her in himself, washed in his sin-atoning blood and clothed in his meritorious righteousness, and he considers her to be full of comeliness and beauty. No wonder that such is the case, since it is but his own perfect excellency that he admires; for the holiness, glory, and perfection of his Church are his own glorious garments on the back of his own well-beloved spouse. She is not simply pure, or well-proportioned; she is positively lovely and fair! She has actual merit! Her deformities of sin are removed; but more, she has through her Lord obtained a meritorious righteousness by which an actual beauty is conferred upon her. Believers have a positive righteousness given to them when they become accepted in the beloved ( Ephesians 1:6 ).”
This is an amazing, hard to believe, truth. If any thing was ever too good to be true this would be it; but it is true. He loves me with an everlasting love. He has crowned me with His lovingkindness. All His treasures are set aside for me. As David said, I am the apple of His eye. He will not withhold any of His benefits from His bride. So reflect on the beauty of Jesus Christ today. Then, by faith, consider those attributes to be yours. This is the way the Father views you, ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL.

BEAUTY

Psa. 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.

What  is your definition of beauty? Is it the symmetry of someone’s face or maybe a sunset that reminds you of some impressionist’s masterpiece? Or maybe beauty to you is the smile of a grandchild or the first steps of your firstborn. As they say, ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. For the golfer, it is the perfect swing; the fisherman’s beauty is the ‘fight’ in that trophy bass, and for the baseball fan it could be the ‘perfect game’ pitched by the starting pitcher. King David had his own definition and ideas about beauty, he had seen the Artist and Creator of all beauty and recognized anything of beauty in this life is only a shadow pointing to the One Who is altogether lovely. Here are some thoughts from Matthew Henry on David’s view of  the beauty of the Lord.
“He would dwell in God’s house, not for the plenty of good entertainment that was there, in the feasts upon the sacrifices, nor for the music and good singing that were there, but to behold the beauty of the Lord and to enquire in his temple. He desired to attend in God’s courts. That he might have the pleasure of meditating upon God. He knew something of the beauty of the Lord, the infinite and transcendent amiableness of the divine being and perfections; his holiness is his beauty, his goodness is his beauty. The harmony of all his attributes is the beauty of his nature. With an eye of faith and holy love we with pleasure behold this beauty, and observe more and more in it that is amiable, that is admirable. When with fixedness of thought, and a holy flame of devout affections, we contemplate God’s glorious excellencies, and entertain ourselves with the tokens of his peculiar favor to us, this is that view of the beauty of the Lord which David here covets, and it is to be had in his ordinances, for there he manifests himself.”
Henry got it, he said ‘His holiness is his beauty, His goodness is his beauty. The harmony of all His attributes is the beauty of his nature’. The beauty of the Lord is spiritual and can only be observed by revelation. We first see His beauty revealed to us in the written Word. From there we see the love shining through His Son, His grace revealed through His sacrificial death, and His life on display and available to us through His resurrection. Once you have seen His beauty then all of the other ‘beauties’ in this life fall in place and gain perspective. All true beauty in this life points us back to the Author, after all He is the Master Artist and is setting His beauty on display all around us.

INCREASING YOUR CAPACITY FOR GOD

MERRY MONDAY- BY PARRIS BAILEY

“He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set eternity in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

On our days off, Frank and I love to take our tandem and find yet another river to explore. The day was perfect and all around us we knew that spring had begun to work it’s beauty all around us.  This particular river led us to the mouth of the lake. When we got there we were greeted by two bald eagles flying above us. I put my oar down, grabbed the binoculars and we was able to watch quite a show. Both of them flew all around us, soaring higher and higher and then lower and lower until finally we could see them no more. We had other things on our mind that day and I guess you could say, we got another perspective from those eagles. He puts eternity in our hearts, or in other words we have been given a ever growing capacity for infinity.

I like McClarens take when he says, ” A spark of eternity dwells in these fleeting frames. In our embers is something that doth live. Whatsoever befalls our lives, deep within this transient clay house, that must crack and fall and be resolved into the elements out of which it was built up, there dwells an immortal guest, an undying personal self. In the heart, the inmost spiritual being of every man, eternity, in this sense of the word, does dwell. We, brethren, are the only beings on this earth who can think the thought and speak the word-Eternity. Other creatures are happy while immersed in time; we have another nature, and are disturbed by a thought which shines high above the roaring sea of circumstance in which we float. That Eternity which is set in our hearts is not merely the thought of ever-during Being, or of an everlasting order of things to which we are in some way related. This ‘capacity for the Infinite,’ as people call it- is likewise the curse of many spirits. By their misuse of it they make it a fatal gift, and turn it into an unsatisfied desire which gnaws their souls, a famished yearning which ‘roars, and suffers hunger.’ Knowing what perfection is, they turn to limited natures and created hearts for their rest. Having the haunting thought of an absolute Goodness, a perfect Wisdom, an endless Love, an eternal Life-they try to find the being that corresponds to their thought here on earth, and so they are plagued with endless disappointment.”

Sometimes we just have to push away from the table of this world. From the clutter of human voices that never seem to finish with all their ideas and plans. Let me do as those eagles, let me seek to fly above the roar and realize that in me is Christ Himself.