Deeper Worship

My heart was lifted by a recent article by Pastor John Lancaster who wrote on the theme of worship. He explained that we are in danger of reducing our worship of the Almighty to a time in Church when ‘we sing songs that bless us and have a ‘time of ministry’ when our personal needs are met.’ He explained that worship is an encounter with God quoting William Temple whose description of worship inspires us to hunger for an ever deepening daily encounter with God – ‘to worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind by the truth of God, to purify the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.’

God created us in His own image crafting and shaping us for relationship with Himself and spiritual worship through a daily walk with the Almighty. Because of this nothing else can satisfy the human heart and mind no matter what it is that man turns to seeking to fill the void in his life. Here I refer to the daily walk in life and not a service when we obey His Word by meeting together. That being said, our joining together in worship must go deeper than a particular style of song or an intimate atmosphere created by the modern setting of semi-darkness, lights and smoke. It involves the heart, mind and will of a person being moved by the Holy Spirit and enabled to rise beyond the limitation of the natural to the realm of the glory of God. When our full focus is lifted from the daily cares and routine of life we begin to ‘ascend the hill of the Lord’ through the revelation of the holiness of God himself. I write of an awareness of the glory of God from when we rise to when we sleep. A God consciousness and awareness of His presence that remains with us even when interrupted by the routine and often mundane aspects of life, we can live with a God consciousness in our inner being.

When we do gather together in the house of the Lord our worship should be shaped by praise, thanksgiving and adoration as the Lord reveals His mercy and grace afresh towards us. Very often we limit our meetings to a celebration style of expression which is wonderful and needed, but as we encounter Christ together we must learn to move as it were, through the outer court of His presence, to the inner court allowing ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit into the most holy place. For this we are totally dependent upon God to lead us for nothing of the flesh can take us here. As we bow, kneel before Him we humbly step into this intimate place becoming conscious of our utter unworthiness and yet through His blood we are able to stand in the glory of who He is and worship in spirit and in truth. Transparent and opened faced we behold the glory as we are transformed through an encounter with the Almighty. It is an extraordinary moment when heaven’s atmosphere invades our world. Every part of our being is moved by the Spirit, therefore it is understandable we are changed from glory to glory. Even though still limited by the restriction of the physical realm we are touched by the manifest presence of the Most High. This is not emotion based or cultivated by human staged programming for it is only made possibly by the drawing of the Holy Spirit. We can only imagine what heaven will be like when we will worship before the very throne of God. A well-known worship song uses the lyric ‘indescribable’, it says it all. O God take us deeper in you.

ASK, SEEK, KNOCK

The culture in the UK is becoming more and more different from years past. Our Christian faith and values have been under attack for years and we have become a nation shaped by an anti-Christian approach. Under the guise of diversity and tolerance we have failed to pass onto our children and grandchildren the most important truth that should shape our society and the world we live in.

Many see the changes as progress and development but in reality our society is free falling into spiritual darkness and a confused culture. We have a generation searching for answers in the wrong places. The English definition for the word culture is: ‘the sum of attitudes, customs and beliefs that distinguish one group of people from another, through language, material, objects, ritual, institutions and art, from one generation to the next’. What we are passing on to the next generation is a culture damaged by an ‘anything goes attitude as long as it makes one happy’. We have changed laws to accommodate what the Bible calls sin in the attempt to make it acceptable in our culture. There is a higher law that cannot be changed by a government vote or pressure minority group. The Word of the Lord stands forever and cannot be adapted to legitimise acts that God calls immoral or wicked. God’s love and mercy towards us all is so amazing. He does not condemn or judge us harshly but offers His mercy and grace as well as the power to change. We need to return once again to God and allow His Word to shape our lives, our ways and our culture.

The Bible says; ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children, talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Before you sleep and when you wake – last thing at night and first thing in the morning) Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and your gates’. We have removed from our homes, our schools and our laws what is meant to define and shape our culture. It’s time to return and reclaim our lost spiritual heritage. What will we pass on to the next generation? A society shaped by immorality, false gods and spiritual darkness without clear guidelines of what is right or wrong in the sight of God, or a culture that is shaped by the Word of God and acceptable in His sight. Study the Bible for yourself and you will see that a lost generation is caused by man seeking to do what seems right in his own eyes.

The Bible says ‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened’. If we seek God and his ways and teach them to our children and grandchildren we will see a culture that is shaped by the things that are right in God’s eyes. Seek the Lord and you will find Him.

 

Resurrection (Part 3) His Resurrection Brings Power

The Power of a New Resident

The Old Testament saints had the Holy Spirit working WITH them through past generations, but now there was a new possibility of exis­tence, and HE, the Holy Spirit, shall be IN you [John 20:21].  That inner iron that keeps the pressures of the world at bay, not conforming to it in any way, but pressing out and changing attitudes and values that are contrary to the kingdom ethic.

The Power of a New Equipping
The creative force of the trinity was now in residence through the breath of God, so that the quickening became the equipment; and the apostles, witnesses unto Him.  The gifting of God became evident for God’s hand in the resurrection and ascension of Christ, changed the bulbs, but not the wattage. The Holy Spirit could not come until Christ was glorified and His resurrection was part of that ennobling process.  His resurrection was the prelude to Pentecost and His breath the fore­taste. Gifts were now available and He more than willing to bestow them.

The Power of a New Perception
For the promise of God is that when the Holy Spirit comes he shall teach us all things, but especially those things that relate to Christ [John14:26]. As the disciples travelled through the holy land, Jesus was not always with them, His presence being restricted, and any questions they had, had to wait until reunion.  But now, the constant companionship of the Spirit en­abled them to receive answers at any time and in all situations. Their spiritual eyes became anointed to see the Christ in a new and living way, and the fulfilment of all God’s desire for the na­tions.

The resurrection brings pleasure

The Gladness of Re‑established Relationship
Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord [John 20:20]. The happy hours of fellowship as they walked and talked in the lanes of Galilee, those responsive moments of debate a spiritual quickening, experienced as the Saviour opened up His life to theirs and unfolded the Father’s plan for time and eter­nity. They had left all to follow Him and now here He was back again, the one that meant more to them than any other. They had the simple pleasure of talking to Him and shaking His nail scarred hand. We have that happi­ness through faith, as the Holy Spirit reveals to us His nature in the everyday things of life. There is just a simple joy about being with Je­sus.

The Gladness of Kingdom Ministry
Jesus spent forty days between resurrection and ascension teaching of things concerning the kingdom [Acts 1] and such was the teach­ing that they went into the upper room and did not come out until they were imbued with power.  What richness that ministry was as the divine part of Christ’s humanity began to ex­plain the past, the present and the glorious future.

Did not the disciples say “did not our hearts BURN within us as he talked to us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us” [Luke 24:32] there is hardly any pleasure more satisfying than to hear anointed preach­ing centred on Jesus.

The Gladness of a Continued Commis­sion
The ministry to which the disciples had been called was now re‑instated.   When Jesus died their preaching was finished, for He gave substance to their message. In that upper room they found their vision again, and with it the gladness of a commis­sion designed in heaven and authenticated by the Holy Spirit through the power of resurrec­tion.  There is hardly any pleasure greater than being wanted by God that through the foolishness of preaching many might be saved.

The resurrection brings praise

The Rejoicing of Victory
As the sadness of the disciples became glad­ness the Lord met them and commanded them to “rejoice” [Matthew 28:9] and they bowed and worshipped. Satan had been de­feated and all his hordes made a show of openly. The terror of the cross turned into tri­umph, sin forgiven, death finished, and the devil’s power broken. Could any command such as “rejoice” be ignored, in fact how could it not be spoken?

The Rejoicing of His Coming Again
He rose from the dead that he might return to His Father and then come again and put all things in order. The sceptre of His right­eousness must reign and be extended in mercy or judgement before the nations. Those who pierced Him shall see Him and bow be­fore that eternal name. Every knee shall bend and all proclaim that he is the Lord. Heaven and earth shall own His name and acclaim for eternity His worth and wonder.

 

 

 

Are You Sitting Comfortably?

[1 Kings 10:1 – 10]

When the Queen of Sheba saw the “… meat of his [Solomon’s]table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers, and their apparel, and his cupbearers, and his ascent by which he went up unto the house of the LORD; there was no more spirit in her.” [1 Kings 10:5]. The core statement is the one which says “the sitting of his servants” or his officials. Sheba was stunned, for in New Testament language, likening Jesus to Solomon, we have the following statement: “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:” [Ephesians 2:6]

But, you protest, isn’t that a mystical expression, which has little or no reference to my life, for what if I am raised with Him, and do sit in heavenly places, how does that affect me, and change my life? I want a practical kind of Christianity, which relates to living in the twenty-first century, not this New Testament “stuff” which is or seems divorced from reality. What possible link can there be between the Queen of Sheba visiting Solomon and me being raised with Jesus; give me the connection!

Sitting at Top Table – Well, here it is. Her amazement was at the way Solomon treated his officials and servants, they were more than just hired hands, and they obviously meant something to him, for he gave them authority beyond their station. He allowed them to share top table with him, in such a way that suggested equality, and rather than just sit them out in the cold amongst the flotsam and jetsam of society, he brought them up to his level and showed them off for all to see. He dressed them accordingly, and made them look important. He was different from any other king she had met, for he had compassion and favour towards his people.

We have a Similar Favour – We now begin to relate this to our situation as we find  ourselves in the   Courts of God, for we have been drawn into His kingdom, and right into His presence, as an act of favour and acceptance. It all starts in [John 1:12] “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:” Notice the word “Gave” them power, it was all of Him, they simply received his bequest – power; power to be and live as sons of God. There is power in being a son of God, simply by being accepted in Christ. Modern teaching tends to diminish such power, and tries to deceive us into thinking that salvation is but the first step towards something yet to come,  and always  tries to get us to look onward for something yet to obtain, but in our sonship we have all things.

It is to be agreed that heaven is yet to be reached and that the whole process of living with Jesus brings about a change and an upward stretch for purity, yet to possess, but in our sonship is the depository of all we need. By sitting at top table we have received acceptance by the king and have been allocated a position of authority in the kingdom. Let us live like it.  Even if the king did not speak to us again, our position proves that we have reached favour and have been given recognition in the eyes of others as to our influence.

Free from Condemnation – Many forget this, and bring themselves into condemnation before others and themselves because they have failed to realise how important their acceptance by Christ is, it is fundamental to our confidence and frees us from condemnation. Many Christians live under perpetual censure and live a negative lifestyle because they constantly feel inferior. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” [Rom 8:1]. It’s a conditional text; they must walk after the Spirit.

Do not be amazed – Yes, we are sons of God, but don’t let that amaze you, let it fill you with a healthy self-image. We carry authority naturally, and sit comfortably with Christ in a position of authority. We reign in life, and have been called to share in the rule of Christ. There are times when we may not think anything of ourselves, but God thinks a lot of us.

Let us consider what God has done for us and in that consideration, shout for joy, and bid black despair depart for with Him we have all things. So many forget so many things that God has done, and being drawn downwards into a pessimistic viewpoint lose their joy and ability to live victoriously. Things are always going wrong in their perception, and they can see nothing except shadow and darkness around them in all that happens. But God!

Happiness Formula

It now seems that happiness can be reduced to a formula; here it is: [Mx16 + Cx1 + Lx2] + [Tx5 +Nx2 + Bx33]. This was designed by Dr. Todd Kashdan who listed six essential factors which, when put together, will ensure a happy soul.  The letters in the formula mean: M = be curious, C = do something you love, L = think of others, T = nurture relationships, N = take care of your body, B = the formula for feeling good. So there we have it; facts collected and analysed by Transform, a well-known cosmetics surgery company. Dr. Kashdan who worked with them also wrote a book entitled “Curious? Discover the missing ingredient to a fulfilling life.”  He may have unwittingly already answered the question in his title “fulfilling life,” that may indeed be the undergirding aspect of all happiness.

The research by Transform showed that Britain needed “a bit of lift,” and if the qualities above are put together in the right doses it will ensure not only a ‘bit of lift” but ‘lift-off’ into the whole realm of happiness resulting
in – seventh heaven, cloud nine and rapturous exhilaration, just remember and abide by the formula. If only it were that easy. The founding fathers of America stated in their constitution that citizens had the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This means that happiness is not automatic and is not guaranteed; and, it doesn’t explain what happiness is. One may pursue it all one’s life and never obtain it. Then there are those who do not chase it yet possess it.

Researchers have concluded that about 50% of our genetics contribute towards our happiness, 40% by life choices and the remaining 10% by circumstances beyond our control. Your temperament is therefore influenced largely by birth which amounts to half, so you can blame your parents if you need to, and many adult children have to blame someone for their emotional condition. There are some misconceptions on happiness and here are a few to contemplate, starting with the myth that young people are happier than old people. In fact, the pattern is that people become happier as they age. Older people tend to experience emotions with lesser intensity and view situations with more positive than negative thoughts.

The belief that money makes for happiness is mostly untrue. Huge lottery winners often fall back to the level of happiness they had before the acquisition. The satisfaction comes in earning it and giving it away. Happiness is often enjoying the voyage and the reached destination an anti-climax. It is this journey where positive emotions are experienced. It is always difficult to measure what happiness is when we reach our goal or acquire something of worth for which we secretly yearn.

We can, however, define happiness for it is basically “subjective well-being” which is a combination of life satisfaction and having more positive emotions. It is also basically contentment.  My wife used to ask me the question “are you happy?” usually as we travelled by car. My reply would be consistent; “that word ‘happy’ is not in my thesaurus, I never think about it for my life, I’m neither happy nor sad, I’m satisfied. I don’t need or strive for anything, for I am as I am.” Like Paul the apostle “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:” [Phil 4:11-12]. The word contentment can be read comfortable, satisfied or relaxed. Gratitude for the circumstances whatever they are, good or bad, it matters not, for God is sovereign.

The Bible helps for it says “Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!” [Ps 144:15 NKJV]. Happy because if he is lord then he will master everything for our destiny and keep us in the palm of his hand. We are in His kingdom which was devised before the world began for us to inhabit and embody. Not only acknowledging him as Lord but owning his Lordship. He is also a God who with his own people had positive dealings. Therefore “Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help,” [Ps 146:5NKJV]. Happy because promises were honoured and calling established. A man who had his natured changed so he had power with God and man. I think that would make anybody happy!

Grossness

“Candy is a term derived from the Arabic qandi, meaning a sugar confection. In the USA it is a general term for sweets of all kinds; in Britain it is used in a more restricted range of meanings, notably to indicate sweetmeats coated or glazed with sugar.”[1]   The peoples of antiquity made sweetmeats of honey before they had sugar. The Chinese, Indians and the people of the Middle East, the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans used to coat fruits, flowers, seeds and stems of plants to preserve them for use as an ingredient of confectionery, and they are still made in those countries today. Fruit and nuts were often prepared with honey.

Confectionery and preserves featured in the most sumptuous of Athenian banquets, and were an embellishment to Roman feasts at the time of the Satyricon; but it appears that afterwards, due to barbarian innovations, Europe forgot them for a while, except at certain wealthy courts where Eastern products were eaten. However, at the height of The Middle Ages sweetmeats reappeared on the tables of the wealthy. In fact, the confectionery of the time began as a marriage of spices and sugar, and was intended to have a therapeutic, or at least preventative function, to digestive troubles due to the excessive intake of food, which was neither very fresh nor very well balanced. Guests were in the habit of carrying these sweetmeats to their rooms to be taken at night. They were contained in little comfit-boxes or “drageoirs.”

In The Middle Ages physicians learned how to mask the bad taste of their medicines with sweetness, a practice still widespread. Boiled sugar plums were known in seventeenth-century England and soon were to appear in the American colonies where maple-syrup candy was popular in the North and sesame seed confections were just as tempting in the South. In New Amsterdam one could enjoy “marchpane,” or “marzipan,” which is a very old decorative candy made from almonds ground into a sweet paste. While the British called such confections, “sweetmeats,” Americans call them “candy.

A significant moment occurred in 1851 at the Great Exhibition where “French-style” candies with rich cream centres were first displayed; but it was the discovery of milk chocolate in Switzerland in 1875 that made the American candy bar such a phenomenon of the late nineteenth century. Early chocolate was bittersweet chocolate. Milk chocolate was introduced by Henry Nestle, a maker of evaporated milk and Daniel Peter, a chocolate maker. They got together and invented Milk Chocolate; the type most liked by people today.  Candy is today a 23 billion dollar industry in the United States.

A few years ago at the biggest gathering of candy manufacturers in Chicago, they discussed whether dark chocolate and liquorice would make a comeback, but on the trade floor of the All Candy Expo, the talk was of the “vomit-flavoured jelly bean, cheddar cheese-flavoured larvae and toy dogs that poop candy.” It seems that gross is now nice. There is also a line of Stinkers bubble gum. Each piece comes attached to a smelly character, such as Anti-Deodorant Rod, Rat breath and

Garbage Boy! The company’s pride and joy is a carton of crunchy larvae, made with real baby worms from California that have been freeze dried and coated with flavours like cheddar cheese and Mexican spice. They also have even worse products!

I just wonder where innocence, gentleness and loveliness have gone. Historians tell us that civilisations decline and fall, and there is abundant evidence of this decay infiltrating society at all levels. They especially target children who are susceptible to the media and their inherent greed.

The church provides teaching for one hour a week for children to help combat the persistent and nightmarish bombardment of them through advertisements on TV. You would think that parents would be only too pleased for this facility, but we have found from experience that many will attend only once a month because they come with parents, and one hour in 672 is hardly a caring attitude for their offspring. They need a counterproductive culture and environment that stands against the world system, rejecting its standards and its challenge to decency. Where else will they get such teaching?   My hope and prayer is at home, but many parents are too busy to get involved – HICC is there to help, please don’t spurn it. The history of mankind is that gross can only get grosser!

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[1] —Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press: Oxford] 1999     (p. 129)

Kit Bag

Britain’s war years sponsored a frontline favourite song that was eventually adopted by the world system – “Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag, and smile, smile, smile.” Hide your problems and pretend to be happy. Look at the positives, ignore the negatives and so make it buoyantly through life. Don’t be sad, try never to be too serious, and only mourn if you have to. Unfortunately the same philosophy is often applied to sin. Gloss over it and it’ll be okay!

The structure of most societies — whether primitive or sophisticated, wealthy or the poor, educated or uneducated — is based on the seemingly incontrovertible principle that the way to happiness is having things go your own way. Throughout history a basic proverb of the world has been that favourable things bring happiness, whereas adverse things bring unhappiness. This belief seems so self-evident that most people would not bother to debate it. Yet, Christ’s teaching reinforces the fact that godly mourning brings godly happiness, which no amount of human effort or optimistic pretence can produce.

In the routine of day-by-day living, the idea of mourning to get happiness seems absurd, but Jesus confirms this dictum. The epitome of His teaching is paradoxical, what he promises for what he says, seems inappropriate and certainly upside down in the eyes of the natural man. The assumed inconsistency of the second Biblical beatitude[1] seems obvious. What could be more self-contradictory than the idea that the path to happiness is through sadness and that the way to rejoicing is in mourning? “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” How can I be happy when the chances are against me?

When we face great sorrow, disappointment, disillusionment, tragedy, or failure, we wish that we could escape them as we do a thunderstorm by running inside. But comfort from the troubles of life is much harder to find than that. The deeper the sorrow the worse the despair and the more elusive comfort seems to be. Avoiding pain, trouble, frustration, hardships, and other problems, in the estimation of many, will bring happiness.

The modern Christian, who understands and lives the spiritual significance of Christ’s specific words, fights against a false sense of assumed piety, which gives the impression that to be religious is to be miserable – how sad and weird! There is also the co-joined error that to attract people we must be deliberately upbeat and jolly. But, it is this apparent superficiality and slickness

that works against us because it is illusory. Perhaps that is the reason the church makes little impression because in the current climate of spirituality everything must be kept at a level that fails to produce serious concern over real issues.

The love of God is offered as the answer. He is depicted as one who would never harm us in any way, and that is true. It is thought therefore that everything should work for our benefit, and so is does, but not in the way we think. As an Arab proverb says: “All sunshine makes a desert,” for there are certain things that only rain will produce; otherwise the land becomes arid and dry.

The real meaning of what Jesus is saying is this: “Blessed [happy] is that person who is poor in spirit who is desperately sorry for their own sin and their own unworthiness.” That is the meaning of Biblical mourning, and the comfort that comes from that tearful confession is that the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding . . . [will] guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:7). As another interpretation says: You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.2(Matthew 5:4). God helps us lose things that are counterproductive to our spiritual ascent, so that His love-grip is not affected by extraneous things.

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[1] For ‘beatitude’ read blessedness or happiness.
2 The Message by Eugene Peterson