Saturday, July 16, 2011

Fruitful Lips

"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise - the fruit of lips that confess His name." Hebrews 13:15

When life is good, God is worthy of my praise. When life is frustrating, confusing or lacking direction, He is worthy of my praise. And when life is hard or painful, more than anything, I think He wants me to sacrifice the feelings of my flesh and praise His name. Sacrificial praise is costly - it costs me something and it may be inconvenient. On hard days praising Him can be difficult, but out of obedience to God to "continually" offer a sacrifice of praise, I must praise God anyway, especially when nothing in me feels like it. My words - spoken words, not just thoughts - should acknowledge Him, reflecting adoration and gratitude. Lips that praise His name are fruitful.

Father God, When life is good, praise comes easy. When life is hard, it can be a struggle. I have had many a hard day in the past - and will surely have more in the future - when my words of praise were barely more than a monotone act of obedience; a sacrifice of praise. In good times and in bad, I praise You Lord, because You are worthy. You are my God, and You are faithful. Each day, whatever comes my way, is a day You have said I should rejoice and be glad in. May my lips confess Your name through words of praise and bear fruit always. Today I choose to praise Your holy name. Amen.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"I Saw the Lord..."

Isaiah's Vision

"In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!"' Isaiah 6:1-3

This is a passage full of so much depth and symbolism. Ironically, after hearing a powerful mini-sermon on it this weekend at a Celebration of Life service, I came across it again in my Bible reading plan this weekend. My eyes kept wandering back to these three verses and the words, "Holy, holy, holy." I am certainly not a theologian and I feel I have only grasped a treetop portion of its truths in my own study of it, but will share what God has revealed to me...

For starters, we begin with a date stamp to give a time frame of reference. The vision given to Isaiah took place "in the year that King Uzziah died". Matthew Henry's commentary says that visions were given by God to "quicken and fix" His chosen ones to His service. In order to teach others about the knowledge of God, they needed to be well acquainted with God themselves.

In Isaiah's vision he "saw the Lord seated upon a throne, high and lifted up". He was exalted. The Lord was still enthroned in heaven and still in charge of all creation. He was seated on a throne higher and lifted far above all other thrones (the thrones of earthly kings). After His resurrection, God's Word says that He is seated at the right hand of the Father, and John 17:5 mentions it to be the same place He sat before the world came to be: "And now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence with the glory I had with You before the world began." It appears here too that the Lord is seated on His throne in the heavenlies at the right hand of God the Father, "and the train of His robe filled the temple."

According to David Guzik's commentary, kings of that time wore robes with long trains because they were hard to get around and work in. Wearing a long train meant the person was of great importance and should be shown honor and dignity and be served, much like a bride on her wedding day.

Above the Lord were seraphs, or angels, described here as having six wings. Two each covered their faces and their feet, and the two remaining were used for flying. Covering themselves with their wings speaks to their reverence and humility in the presence of the Lord. Their faces could not bear the lustre of God's glory. Even the angels are ashamed to show their faces before holy God because they too make error in the Lord's sight according to Job 4:18, "If God places no trust in His servants, if He charges His angels with error...". Even the angels are not perfect. Only Christ Himself is perfect. 

The wings that were not used as a covering were used to fly, and when needed, to make haste and tend to the Lord's work. Psalm 89:7 indicates that God is greatly feared in the assembly of the saints. It says, "In the counsel of the holy ones, God is greatly feared; He is more awesome than all who surround Him." He is supreme.

All the while the seraphs were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty, the earth is full of His glory." As Pastor Jesse Washington spoke on this part the other night, he pointed out that the Bible did not declare the Lord as "Good, good, good", or any other word three times in a row for that matter. No...because He is holy.

And because He is holy, the angel declared it with ever increasing intensity each time they spoke it: Holy, holy, holy. In the Hebrew language it was repetition that communicated intensity. He noted that this is the only word spoken in the Bible three times in a row. When the Lord called some of His servants names twice, He meant business. He was trying to get their undivided attention. So why would "holy" need to be repeated three times? Commentaries say that it was repeated once for each member of the Trinity; three times because there are Three Persons in the One God. Guzik says, "To say the Lord is holy says something. To say He is holy, holy says far more. To say holy, holy, holy is the Lord is to declare His holiness in the highest possible degree."

To be holy indicates apartness; to be set apart for a purpose. So what is the Lord in His holiness set apart from? "He is set apart from all creation and He exists outside of all creation. If all creation were to dissolve, the LORD God would remain." (Guzik) He is God and we are not. He is Divine, and we are mere man. He is Perfect. We are sinful. Our best is as filthy, dirty, pungent, repulsive rags compared to His holiness. 

Because God's standard is holiness, and our best is as filthy rags, we are presented with a problem. We cannot be present in the presence of holy God in our shameful, sinful state. We need a covering. And we are offered such a covering through the blood of Jesus, the One who wrapped Himself in the sins of all humanity on a cross in order to make a love sacrifice and payment for you, and for me. Placing trust and faith in the One who died for us, to cover our sins with His blood, is the only way one can be covered and made presentable in His sight. It is the only guarantee for being acceptable at heaven's gate, and being able to spend eternity with Jesus. Have you placed your faith in the only One that can cover you and make you presentable in God's sight? The One who longs to show you how much He loves you, and desires to have a personal relationship with you?

(Message me if you want to know more. I would be honored to introduce you to my Saviour, Jesus!)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Acquainted with Grief

It has been a difficult week in the life of our church and my circle of friends...

"Why do the nations say, 'Where is their God?' Our God is in heaven; He does whatever pleases Him." Psalm 115:2-3

Every man has a god. Our actions reveal our god, because we become like our god.

The One True God is not an idol, or a figure carved of silver of gold by the hands of men. God Almighty "has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all" (Psalm 103:19). "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to [Him]" (Matthew 28:18). God's Word says, "I know the LORD is great, our LORD is greater than all gods. The LORD does whatever pleases Him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths" (Psalm 135:5-6). The LORD does what pleases Him, and brings Him the most glory. "...He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back His hand or say to Him: 'What have You done?'" (Daniel 4:35).

"Do you ask where He is? He is at the beginning and end of everything, and not far from any of us." ~ Matthew Henry

Ours is a church acquainted with grief and sorrow and suffering. This week, all of those emotions surfaced on a grand scale again as God called one of His faithful servants home. While serving as a counselor at our church youth camp, this 22 year old friend finished the race marked out for him. Called "home" in the presence of many friends and students, and his beloved young wife, the ripple effects of this loss impact people here and around the world.

Humanly we want to ask why He would choose to take a life so young - one that was making such an impact for the kingdom. But that question, hard as it is, must be changed to why not? As we walk with Jesus, and become like Jesus, we will become acquainted with the things He was acquainted with. Isaiah 53:3 says, "He was...a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering." So today, there are ripple effects of sorrow and grief, but because we are a church that grieves with hope and clings to Jesus, and one another, there will prayerfully be even bigger ripple effects. Ripples that represent lives impacted for the cause of Christ as they bear witness to a full life, lived for an audience of One (Jesus). 

This week it pleased the LORD to very carefully orchestrate the homegoing of one of His children. He has made provision in so many ways - seen and unseen. He has given his wife and family strength through the truth and comfort of His Word, through the prayers of friends too numeroous to count, and carried them when they could not carry themselves. May God in His Sovereignty continue to use the life of this saint for His glory and to further His kingdom, especially on this day, as we gather to celebrate the life of Jacob Fowler.