I’ll never forget the first time I heard someone singing the heavenly song. I later became friends with the young worshipper (Rick Amato who later went to Bible School with me). He was strumming his guitar, playing a spontaneous melody and singing in what I thought was Latin. I later heard others singing in different languages and was told that they were singing in their heavenly language. It was beautiful, terrifying, and had the sense of God’s glory on the singing. This was one of the signs that attracted me to the followers of Jesus, they had more than a creed, there was obviously a supernatural presence among them and that is what I was after. I needed something real and I had finally found it. This heavenly song was a big part of birthing the Pentecostal movement of the 1900’s. Here is a testimony from the Azusa Street Revival as witnessed by Frank Bartleman.
“Friday, June 15, at “Azusa,” the Spirit dropped the “heavenly chorus” into my soul. I found myself suddenly joining the rest who had received this supernatural “gift.” It was a spontaneous manifestation and rapture no earthly tongue can describe….No one could understand this “gift of song” but those who had it. It was indeed a “new song” in the Spirit. When I first heard it in the meetings, a great hunger entered my soul to receive it. I felt it would exactly express my pent-up feelings. I had not yet spoken in “tongues.” But the “new song” captured me. It was a gift from God of high order, and appeared among us soon after the “Azusa” work began. No one had preached it. The Lord had sovereignly bestowed it with the outpouring of the “residue of oil,” the “Latter Rain” baptism of the Spirit. It was exercised, as the Spirit moved the possessors either in solo fashion or by the company. It was sometimes without words, other times in “tongues.” The effect was wonderful on the people. It brought a heavenly atmosphere, as though the angels themselves were present and joining with us.”
I received this gift almost 44 years ago, since that time it has been a daily part of my life. Like Paul taught, we can sing with the Spirit and sing with our understanding. I like to go back and forth singing scriptures in English then singing in the beautiful heavenly tongue. Doing this keeps us built up in the faith and delivers us from the foolish attractions in the world.
2Sam. 6:14 Then David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod.
For the religious, this is a highly disturbing scripture. What does it look like to dance before the Lord with all your might? Have you ever danced, or worshipped for that matter, with all your strength before the Lord? Some may think this is extreme or unnecessary but if we are passionate about anything shouldn’t it be the Lord? Don’t you think our strongest feelings and displays of affection should be reserved for what is the most valuable, or most beautiful or most powerful? Should I be more excited about football, winning the lottery, or even marriage than I am about the Lord and His mercy? Absolutely not. The problem is this, passionate worship is the results of a personal revelation of the Lord. Apathy is a sure sign of having a head knowledge of God rather than an encounter with His redeeming love. Why was David dancing? The Lord had delivered him from many years of facing death and living in caves. He found himself in the presence of God in front of the ark of God. He had to dance. Here are some thoughts from John Piper on passionate worship.
“A key measure of a heart’s worship is whether it is authentic and intense or divided and tepid. Authentic means undivided, genuine, real, sincere, unaffected. Intensity implies energy, vigor, ardor, fervor, passion, zeal. The Bible does not leave us wondering what kind of worship God is aiming at in all his work and word. Over and over God calls for our hearts to be authentic and undivided in our worship. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”. You shall “search after him with all your heart and with all your soul”; and “serve the Lord your God with all your heart”; and turn to him with all your heart; and “trust in the Lord with all your heart”; and “rejoice and exult with all your heart”; and give thanks to the Lord with your whole heart. No competitors. No halfhearted affections.”
You can check your spiritual temperature by the passion in your worship. Remember what Jesus said about the woman who washed His feet with her hair, “the one who is forgiven much loves much”. So go ahead and dance, it’s the least we can do after all He has done for us.
Psa. 16:11 You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Praise and worship is spontaneous, it is what we do when we see greatness. Take sporting events for example, great accomplishments are followed by exorbitant accolades. I think of greatness and I think of Usain Bolt or Carl Lewis in the Olympics, or Secretariat winning the Belmont Stakes, and for New Orleanians nothing tops the Saints winning the Super Bowl. I will never forget that night, the city was in an uproar and I was receiving phone calls from Africa, Australia, and Asia within seconds of the victory. Greatness absolutely demands a response. The moment is completed in sharing our response to greatness with our friends. We want to share those special moments with others. That brings us back to worship. One moment in the greatness of God’s presence absolutely demands a response. Seeing Him as He is causes us to magnify the greatest of all beings. That’s how you know for certain that someone has the real thing, worship is the unquestionable characteristic of the redeemed. Here are some thoughts from C.S. Lewis on the subject of praise.
“But the most obvious fact about praise—whether of God or anything—strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise. . . . The world rings with praise—lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game—praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians and scholars. My whole, more general difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can’t help doing, about everything else we value. I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of complement that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are, the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.”
So when you see Him for yourself let it out. Responding to His love and mercy is what our praise is all about. No wonder Jesus said if you won’t praise Him even the rocks will cry out.
The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.
1 Samuel 16:7
Israel wanted to be like the other nations, that’s why they kept demanding that Samuel would give them a king. Sound familiar? One of the first signs of a cold heart in the people of God is that they want to be like the rest of the world. I remember what Dick Mills said to me when revival first broke out in our church. He said it was the same thing he felt as a child in the early days of the Pentecostal outpouring. He said it lasted for about thirty years. He also said that the Pentecostals got tired of being different from everybody else, that’s when they lost the glory of God. They wanted to be like the other churches and that’s exactly what they got. A form of godliness without the power of God. In the same way, the Israelites got Saul, a man who stood out above everyone else. Saul was a man of human strength and effort, not a man of the Spirit. Here is how Watchman Nee describes Saul.
“Saul was of striking stature. ‘From his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people.’ No wonder Israel acclaimed him: they could all see his head. Yet how often does the head of man stand in the way of the will of God! It seems David understood this—David the man after God’s own heart, who time and again set human reason aside and acted instead in simple faith. Confronted with Goliath (whose head was even more prominent than Saul’s), he declined helmet and mail, and went out against him with but a sling. One well-aimed stone from this, lodged in the giant’s brow, brought him down. That day marked David out as Israel’s king.”
What Israel needed was David, a man after God’s own heart. David’s strength was his heart of worship. He was unashamed of worshipping, prophesying on his instruments, and dancing with all his might before the Lord. Those three things; worship, prophesy, and dancing before the Lord, are not too popular in today’s hip church world. Too many churches want to be acceptable (or relevant) to the culture of today. They may gain crowds of people but they will lose the one thing none of us can afford to lose; the power and presence of the Lord.
MERRY TUESDAY BY PARRIS
“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” Rom.1:20
In the Book of Daniel we watch with mouths open the fall of King Nebuchadnezzar. (Dan 4:30) He is warned by God not to take credit for all his powerful deeds as king. But somehow we just know he will slip. With bated breath we read of a powerful man being turned into a beast, furry haired thing scratching along the dirt gnawing on vegetation and dreaming the things animals dream of in their sleep. In his humbled state he declares God as being the great I am and is restored back to his former self. He learned there is one creator -THE GREAT I AM. We too are without excuse trying to control what we can’t control and own what we don’t own. In a weird realty we see a world being turned into animal’s ways. Turning downward and never looking up. What is the answer? To worship the creator not the creation. When we became born again a new king stepped into our lives and took over our reign. I Cor 4:7 reminds us gently when it says “what do you have that you did not receive?” When Christ steps into our lives a supernatural rearranging takes place in us. We stoop low and remain thankful for the ups downs bumps and breakthroughs we have in this temporary setting. Ephesians 3:20 says; “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” Thank God for the power of God replenishing our desire to take credit and control.
Jen Wilkin in her book None Like Him says, “Worshiping the creation rather than the creator doesn’t cause us to protect life or steward creation. It causes us to devalue life and consume creation. This is because all worship of the creation is actually a veiled form of self worship. Consider abortion, human trafficking, domestic violence, and child abuse as daily evidences of our disordered worship of people. Rather than treating people as image bearers, we treat them as consumable and expendable, only holding value insofar as they feed our desires. Dig through our landfills and gaze on our shattered landscapes to discern our disordered worship of things. Rather than stewarding resources, we treat them as consumable, expendable, only holding value insofar as the satiate our cravings. When we attach our worship to something less than God, we end up consuming and casting off the person or thing we worship in his place. And in the consuming and casting off, we reveal that the true object of our worship is self. We make a shameless declaration of “I am”.
Rev. 5:11 ¶ Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands,
Rev. 5:12 saying with a loud voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
Ever go on a vacation. Actually you have to make preparations to go. If you travel out of the country you need a passport and possibly a visa. You also need to check the climate, nothing like going to the Southern Hemisphere and realizing our summer is their winter. How much more should we prepare, or acclimate ourselves, for the world to come. If you plan to go to heaven one day you better get ready. It is a quite different place than anything here. Many people would be uncomfortable there because of the excessive worship and excessive joy. Have you ever thought about the possibility that this world is only a preparation for the next? If that is the case many people are missing the boat. Here is how Jonathan Edwards explains this.
“We ought now to begin that work which we intend shall be the work of another world; for this life is given us on purpose that therein we might prepare for a future life. The present state is a state of probation and preparation: a state of preparation for the enjoyments and employment of another, future, and eternal state; and no one is ever admitted to those enjoyments and employments, but those who are prepared for them here. If ever we would go to heaven, we must be fitted for heaven in this world; we must here have our souls moulded and fashioned for that work and that happiness. They must be formed for praise, and they must begin their work here. The beginnings of future things are in this world. The seed must be sown here; the foundation must be laid in this world.”
This should change the way we view church, especially the worship part. Many think that worship is not that important and refer to it as the preliminaries. Actually, I think worship is the most important part of the service. This is our preparation for the worship in heaven that never stops. The worship will be preeminent, preaching will become a distant memory.
Rev. 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
What a contrast the world and its songs are to those of the redeemed of the Lord. You can tell a lot about someone by the things that make them sing. What are you singing about today? The world’s songs are often sad songs. They may be singing of love that went wrong, injustices they have experienced from other people, or even the songs of protest that were so popular back in the 1960’s. For Christians, we have come to sing a new song. Our lives have been touched deeply and God’s love and joy have filled our hearts. The foundation of all of our songs are the joy of the Lord. How can you sing a sad song when you have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus. That’s why, for me, joy is a huge litmus test when it comes to worship. If it is not happy then it can’t be worship. Here is a glimpse of the contrast to the world and the joyful sounds of heaven.
“This world is a valley of tears, a world filled with sighs and groans. One is groaning under some bodily pain, another is mourning and lamenting over a dear departed friend; another is crying out by reason of the arm of the oppressor. But in heaven there is no mixture of such sounds as these; there is nothing to be heard amongst them but the sweet and glorious melody of God’s praises. There is an holy cheerfulness to be seen throughout that blessed society. They shall never have any thing more to do with sighing and crying; but their eternal work henceforward shall be praise. This should make us long for heaven, where they spend their time so joyfully and gloriously. The saints especially have reason to be earnestly breathing after that happy state, where they may in so joyful a manner praise God.”
For Christians we can experience sadness when we relate to the world’s problems and enter into a time of intercession. A word of warning, intercession is not worship, it is intercession. In order to stay healthy and full of the Spirit your song needs to be saturated with worship, this is where we see clearly and help drag others out of the bog of depression in the world.
Rev. 14:2,3 – And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders.
It’s hard for us to fathom what heaven will be like. How will our experience differ from what we know now? I think one of the obvious differences will be our perception of the Lord. Paul said we now see through a glass darkly, then face to face. The ‘then’ Paul is speaking of is heaven, the ‘face to face’ is Jesus Himself. Our view of Him and His work will be crystal clear, we will be stunned at what He has done for us and we will be awestruck by Him and His attributes. We will see His sovereignty, His power, His wisdom, His goodness and His love for us in new light. What will be our response? That is what heaven is all about, our response to His glory. We will be transformed into amazing worshippers by the sight of His glory. Here is Jonathan Edwards talking about our worship in heaven.
“They have another sense how great a gift the gift of God’s only begotten Son is. They have another sense of the greatness and dignity of the person of Christ, and how great a thing it was for him to become man, and how great a thing it was for him to lay down his life, and to endure the shameful and accursed death of the cross. They have another sense how great the benefits are that Christ has purchased for me, how great a mercy it is to have sin pardoned, and to be delivered from the misery of hell. They have another sense how dreadful that misery is, for the damned are tormented in the presence of the holy angels and saints, and they see the smoke of their torment; and have another sense what eternity is, and so are proportionably more sensible how great a mercy it is to be delivered from that torment.”
The things we have barely glimpsed in this fallen world will be unveiled in heaven. We will find ourselves consumed by the atmosphere, joining together with the angels and the redeemed from every generation singing heaven’s song. It seems as we get closer the power from that other side is breaking in on us. How does that effect us? It makes us want to worship Him more.
Psa. 142:5 ¶ I cry to you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.
King David taught us to worship. He was obviously a talented song writer and musician, 3000 years later we are still singing his songs. What is it about David’s songs and David’s worship that effects us? There is obviously something different about his Psalms that have grabbed our attention over all these years. That unseen ‘something’ is called the anointing. There is an unseen substance that resonates in true worship. That’s why David was singing about wars, and caves, and trials, and enemies. David had discovered access into the very presence of God which He gained through worship, this place of intimacy became David’s hiding place. The Lord was his refuge, his strong tower, his shield, and his rock. He knew there was a real place he could run to to be protected, encouraged, and empowered for his battles. When Christ is your portion you can face anything or anyone with joy. Here are some thoughts about facing your struggles with the Lord as your portion from Jonathan Edwards.
“We may learn, that whatever changes a godly man passes through, he is happy; because God, who is unchangeable, is his chosen portion. Though he meet with temporal losses, and be deprived of many, yea, of all his temporal enjoyments; yet God, whom he prefers before all, still remains, and cannot be lost. While he stays in this changeable, troublesome world, he is happy; because his chosen portion, on which he builds as his main foundation for happiness, is above the world, and above all changes. And when he goes into another world, still he is happy, because that portion yet remains. Whatever he be deprived of, he cannot be deprived of his chief portion; his inheritance remains sure to him…..But how great is the happiness of those who have chosen the Fountain of all good, who prefer him before all things in heaven or on earth, and who can never be deprived of him to all eternity!”
Steven faced the rocks with joy, Paul faced beatings too often to count with joy, and even Jesus endured the cross with joy. How could these men face unthinkable troubles with joy? They had found the Lord as their portion and that was enough. He is more than enough for all of us, no matter what.
Matt. 21:15-16 ¶ But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,
“‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise’?”
Church people get offended over just about anything. I remember our first church fight was just a few months after we opened our church. New people were starting to come to church so I filled the yard with shells for a parking area. People actually got mad and left the church over that. People have gotten mad and left for the last 38 years over all sorts of interesting things. Jonathan Edwards caused a stir in his church in the 1700’s when he had children leading small groups in neighborhood homes. I guess some folks want things to stay the same no matter what. Jesus got flack about kids worshipping too. I guess the Pharisees (some things never change) didn’t like the kids shouting out in worship. That’s exactly what Jesus was looking for, He wanted excitement, He couldn’t take lukewarm worship. Jesus has always awakened the next generation to carry His message. Adam Clarke made some interesting observations about this passage in the Methodist revival in the 1700’s.
“The eighth Psalm, out of which these words are quoted, is applied to Jesus Christ in three other places in the new covenant. Which proves it to be merely a prophetic psalm, relating to the Messiah. It was a common thing among the Jews for the children to be employed in public acclamations; and thus they were accustomed to hail their celebrated rabbins. This shouting of the children was therefore no strange thing in the land: only they were exasperated, because a person was celebrated against whom they had a rooted hatred. As to the prophecy that foretold this, they regarded it not. Some imagine that babes and sucklings in the prophecy have a much more extensive meaning, and refer also to the first preachers of the Gospel of Christ.”
Is it possible that the Lord is stirring the millennials, the “children” of the last revival to preach the gospel to their generation? I think I hear the sound of “children” shouting again. It won’t take long for the Pharisees to crucify somebody, they just can’t take the sound of passionate worship.