CREATION IS SPEAKING

Ps.19:1 – The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.

It is so easy in our high tech and video controlled world to lose the sense of the majesty of God we were created to enjoy. We spend most of our time indoors looking at computer screens or flat screens soaking in lifeless images and information. We live in an amazing world that is chattering and singing continuously the amazing attributes of our creator. Have you ever seen a cheetah in the wild running with all its might? Or maybe even a horse galloping with joy across a field? What about monkeys swinging from a tree or dolphins leaping for joy?Are all of these creatures random accidents displaying the good fortune of genetic luck through natural selection? All of these creatures carry within them the beauty of their maker. They exist to display God’s attributes, they are preaching a powerful revelation as they go about their daily activities. Here is a portion from Jonathan Edwards on the purpose of God’s creatures.

“So that when we are delighted with flowery meadows and gentle breezes of wind, we may consider that we only see the emanations of the sweet benevolence of Jesus Christ; when we behold the fragrant rose and lily, we see his love and purity. So the green trees and fields, and singing of birds, are the emanations of his infinite joy and benignity; the easiness and naturalness of trees and vines [are] shadows of his infinite beauty and loveliness; the crystal rivers and murmuring streams have the footsteps of his sweet grace and bounty. When we behold the light and brightness of the sun, the golden edges of an evening cloud, or the beauteous bow, we behold the adumbrations of his glory and goodness; and the blue skies, of his mildness and gentleness. There are also many things wherein we may behold his awful majesty: in the sun in his strength, in comets, in thunder, in the towering thunder clouds, in ragged rocks and the brows of mountains. That beauteous light with which the world is filled in a clear day is a lively shadow of his spotless holiness and happiness, and delight in communicating himself.”

Then we come to man. We are the only creature with the capacity of actually seeing God’s glory in creation. That can happen only when our eyes, blinded by sin, are opened by His grace. Like blind Bartimaeus of old, when our eyes are opened we can finally see the face of God.

DRINK FROM THE FOUNTAINHEAD

Ps.36:8 – They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house;

And You give them to drink of the river of Your delights.

Have you ever pondered the thought that God Himself created pleasure. We may have a hard time seeing that clearly looking through the lens of our fallen nature but God Himself is the inventor of enjoyment. Who is the One who conceived of honey, watermelons, and bananas? Not only did He create a world filled with savory pleasures, He also invented tastebuds to enjoy them. What about mountain streams and cascading waterfalls, lush tropical forests and arctic tundras? Not to forget sunflowers, roses, and lilies. Then He had to create light, eyes (with all their complications), and a brain to process and enjoy the magnificent beauty all around us. All of these creations point to their source, the fountainhead of everything Who is God Himself. All of the pleasure that we see and enjoy in this life are only signposts pointing to Beauty Himself. As Solomon said, He is altogether lovely. Here are some thoughts on pleasure from C. S. Lewis.

“And in there, beyond Nature, we shall eat of the tree of life. At present, if we are reborn in Christ, the spirit in us lives directly on God; but the mind and, still more, the body receives life from Him at a thousand removes—through our ancestors, through our food, through the elements. The faint, far-off results of those energies which God’s creative rapture implanted in matter when He made the worlds are what we now call physical pleasures; and even thus filtered, they are too much for our present management. What would it be to taste at the fountainhead that stream of which even these lower reaches prove so intoxicating? Yet that, I believe, is what lies before us. The whole man is to drink joy from the fountain of joy. As St. Augustine said, the rapture of the saved soul will “flow over” into the glorified body. In the light of our present specialized and depraved appetites, we cannot imagine this torrens voluptatis, and I warn everyone most seriously not to try.”

So if there is a Creator and He made us with this thirst for pleasure maybe just maybe we should stop trying to limit our pleasures in this life and call that spiritual. Maybe what we are looking for is pleasure Himself. Maybe all these earthly pleasures are just pointing to the abundance of joy found in the presence of the Lord.

THE WHOLE WORLD IS AN ANTHEM

MERRY TUESDAY BY PARRIS

“Those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs. You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy. You visit the earth and water it; you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide their grain, for so you have prepared it.” Psalms 65:8-9 ESV

Hey what does your morning look like? Do you check the latest story on instagram, or troll endlessly through Facebook? Worse yet turn on the tv and fill the house with news. I’m not here to get into your business by any means. Funny thing is while you were sleeping the God of creation had a busy night!

I may be guilty of all of the above too but I try to value God in my mornings and look for his handiwork and listen to the song. I find whatever transpired in my darkest night somehow looks brighter in the morning. Earth begins its sweet routine and life is good again. Some might find this brutal when they have lost so much but time, with its gentle hand, heals us through earth’s cycles. At some point in my morning I go lay down on the couch and read His glorious word, pray for my family and for the things that come up in my spirit and then head outside to reset my life. Our great manager had been circling the earth with his mercies. Martin Luther says, “God must be always attending to it with rain and heat, and must do everything to make it grow and prosper while the farmer lies at home and sleeps. God puts his crowning handiwork on everything”.

As we shuffle along through our lives we forget that the footsteps of God, who is the great fertilizer, may be traced by the abundance which he creates, he is all around us. His bounty makes the earth give vent to praise. The birds and the cows along with the grasses of the fields all respond back to his voice. The constant ripple of the waves and the hissing of the wind along with the cloud formations twirl and swirl according to his rhythm. The Treasury of David says “Nature has no discords. Her airs are melodious, her chorus is full of harmony. All, all is for the Lord; the world is a hymn to the Eternal. Blessed is he who, hearing, joins in it, and makes one singer in the mighty chorus.” Selah

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 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.

GOD’S VINEYARD

JN.15:1,2,8 – I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.

The Lord speaks through pictures. The great prophesy about the last days from the prophet Joel speaks of the Lord pouring out His Spirit in the last days, speaking to us through visions and dreams. If we have eyes to see it, God is always speaking through His creation. Today’s passage is a great example. Jesus is teaching His disciples about The Holy Spirit and miracles and bearing fruit and used a vineyard they were walking through to make His words understandable. The harvest we are expecting will come from His vineyard. Seeing the valuable spiritual truth in the vineyard will help us cooperate with the move of God. Here are some thoughts from Andrew Murray on the Vine.

“What has our Lord to say to us of fruit? Simply this–that fruit is the one thing the branch is for, and that if it bear not fruit, the husbandman takes it away. The vine is the glory of the husbandman; the branch is the glory of the vine; the fruit is the glory of the branch; if the branch bring not forth fruit, there is no glory or worth in it; it is an offense and a hindrance; the husbandman takes it away. The one reason for the existence of a branch, the one mark of being a true branch of the heavenly Vine, the one condition of being allowed by the divine Husbandman to share the life the Vine is–bearing fruit.

And what is fruit? Something that the branch bears, not for itself, but for its owner; something that is to be gathered, and taken away.”

Creation is intended to display God’s glory. We have the privilege of being the Lord’s greatest vehicle to display His glory. Why is that? We are His redeemed sons and daughters of God. Our connection to Him and to one another in the local church is the vehicle the Lord has chosen to display His choice fruit. How is He glorified? Through the quality and quantity of His harvest. As I stay connected to Him and His body He flows through me and He is glorified.

HIS WAYS ARE DIFFERENT

Is.55:8-11 – “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.”

Our God is really different from anyone or anything we have ever seen or imagined. In today’s verses He points to creation to display the way He works in our lives. For example, who ever thought of water or rain? Who’s idea was grain and seed? All of creation points to the wisdom of our awesome Creator. Rain, seed, grain, and harvest, all of this is for God’s glory and our provision and enjoyment. In the midst of these displays are God’s incredible lessons. We may not be farmers in the traditional sense but learning God’s ways is how we receive our provision from day to day.

I always remember a book one of my mentors, Mike McIntosh gave to me when I first returned to New Orleans to start our church. It was a classic by Oral Roberts, A DAILY GUIDE TO MIRACLES. In this book Brother Roberts taught several things that really helped Parris and I as we started our church.

First he taught to look to God as our source of provision. That may seem really simple but it is surprising how often we look to the things God uses as our source. It wasn’t the ravens or the widow that supplied for Elijah, it was God who used ravens and widows.

Secondly, he taught about the importance of seeing our tithes and offerings as seeds that we were planting. I remember seeing that truth and it changed everything for me. I got it, there is a miracle in every seed.

The next thing I learned was connecting my giving to the things the Lord was involved in. First, I saw the importance of sewing into my church, my tithe was my basic seed. Next, I recognized my offerings were also a seed. I saw the importance of foreign missions as well as ministries like Mary’s Song.

I am grateful for that book my friend Mike gave to me and thankful for those lessons I learned from Oral Roberts. Read today’s verses again carefully, maybe you will begin to see the strange ways of the Lord.

GOD REVEALED – EVERY MOMENT EVERY DAY

Rom.1:20 – For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

The Lord reveals Himself moment by moment, day by day, in all of our lives. From the infinite nature of the universe, to the intricate detail of a small flower; God’s glory is clearly seen all around us. Fallen man tends to ignore His magnificent display and create some other explanation for creation from their own minds. Paul said that people who ignore God’s shocking display all around us are finally given over to a reprobate mind. God’s glory is on display for all, some ignore it and others create idols in their minds to explain it. Paul says they are without excuse. R.C. Sproles describes this characteristic of fallen man in his comments on today’s passage.

“God has plainly and clearly shown himself to everyone. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen. The Latin word used for “clearly seen” is the root for our English word conspicuous; God has made his self-revelation conspicuous to everyone since the creation of the world. God does not pop a clue into history about his existence every three thousand years or so. Every moment since the dawn of creation God has been manifesting himself through the things that are made. God did not give us a world and just say, “Sit down and begin to think about where that world came from and reason from the cosmos back to God.” We are to do that, but it is more than that. Every second, God is manifesting himself through the things that are made so that his testimony to his nature is plainly evident.”

Creation is a signpost pointing the way to God’s glorious plan for fallen man. Once you are honest about His handiwork all around you, you will be drawn to read the scriptures. It’s in the written word that we see the greatest revelation of God and also see of our fallen condition. How is it with your soul today? Have you made peace with the Creator? This Creator is the same One Who became a man and suffered and died on a cross for your sins. Look to Him today. Call upon His Name. All that call upon His Name will be saved.

THE COSMOS EAGERLY AWAITS

MERRY THURSDAY BY PARRIS BAILEY.

Rom.8:19 “For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.”

There is so much beauty to behold in the creation. Have your ever snorkeled in the pacific ocean? Or hiked through the Smokies? Watched the kangaroos and koalas in Australia? Been on the African safaris? I have done all those things and keep telling about God’s unbelievable creativity with creation. In reality it is a fallen creation that has been given the same blow that man was given. Creation also waits its redemption, in fact creation is eagerly awaiting, sighing, groaning and travailing together with us. Why is that? The cosmos will meet its final purpose when we will be revealed as sons of God. One could almost imagine that it is joining with us in spiritual harmony or dance. To all the earth lovers the best thing we can do to restore our planet back to where it was is to “become sons of God”. This is when all wrong is made right once again.

Matthew Henry puts it this way, “Indeed the whole creation seems to wait with earnest expectation for the period when the children of God shall be manifested in the glory prepared for them. There is an impurity, deformity, and infirmity, which has come upon the creature by the fall of man. There is an enmity of one creature to another. And they are used, or abused rather, by men as instruments of sin. Yet this deplorable state of the creation is in hope. God will deliver it from thus being held in bondage to man’s depravity. The miseries of the human race, through their own and each other’s wickedness, declare that the world is not always to continue as it is. Our having received the first-fruits of the Spirit, quickens our desires, encourages our hopes, and raises our expectations. Sin has been, and is, the guilty cause of all the suffering that exists in the creation of God. It has brought on the woes of earth; it has kindled the flames of hell.”

MacLarens Commentary mentions the great reversal in the earth, “Earth’s judgments will be reversed by that divine voice, and the great promise, which through weary ages has shone as a far-off star,-’I will set him on high because he hath known my name’-will then be known for the sun near at hand. Many stars will be quenched, but ‘they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament.That revelation will be more surprising to no one than to those who are its subjects, when they see themselves mirrored in that glass, and so unlike what they are here. Their first impulse will be to wonder at the form they see, and to ask, almost with incredulity, ‘Lord, is it I?’”

There is so much to look forward to yet so much to experience now as we walk hand in hand with the cosmos as we eagerly await our last redemption.

IN THE BEGINNING

Prob.8:23,24 – The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way, Before His works of old.

From everlasting I was established, From the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth.

“In the beginning was the Word”, those are the striking words of the Apostle John as he began his gospel. One of the passages that he had in mind when he wrote those revealing words was today’s passage, “Before His works of old. From everlasting I was established, From the beginning”. In this passage from Proverbs, Solomon is personifying the wisdom of God, John calls Him the Word. Have you ever really thought about what this means? What exactly is the significance of Jesus being called the Word? The implications are quite stunning. Jesus is the Word of the Father. He is the Father’s idea of Himself. That means that every time we look at Jesus we see the Father. He is the radiance of His glory, the exact representation of His nature. Reading the Bible, seeing Christ in the scripture, causes us to see the Father and taste of His love. Here are some thoughts from Matthew Henry on today’s verse.

“His eternity; he was begotten of the Father, for the Lord possessed him, as his own Son, his beloved Son, laid him in his bosom; he was brought forth as the only-begotten of the Father, and this before all worlds, which is most largely insisted upon here. The Word was eternal, and had a being before the world, before the beginning of time; and therefore it must follow that it was from eternity. The Lord possessed him in the beginning of his way, of his eternal counsels, for those were before his works. This way indeed had no beginning, for God’s purposes in himself are eternal like himself, but God speaks to us in our own language.”

So Henry is touching on the edge of holy ground. The Father’s idea of Himself, the wisdom and word of God, is eternal. Jesus is the eternal Son of the Father Who became a man to die for us. He became a man to die for you, to purchase you, and to love you permanently and unconditionally. To read His Word, to soak in His wisdom is to touch heaven. It is the place of forgiveness, recovery, and life. Step into His love today, eternity is just now beginning for all of us.