Awakened to the Lord – C.S. Lewis

CS Lewis“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy,
the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.
If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it,
that does not prove that the universe is a fraud.
Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it,
but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 120)…

I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country,
which I shall not find till after death…
I must make it the main object of life
to press on to that other country
and to help others do the same.”

One Powerful Lesson for the Church

On November 18, 1978, at the direction of charismatic cult leader Jim Jones, 909 members of the People’s Temple died, all but two from apparent cyanide poisoning,” including over 200 murdered children.

Mel White, a Christian writer and filmmaker and adjunct professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, set out to investigate the causes of the Jim Jones’ Jonestown tragedy in the Guyana jungle, and pub­lished his findings in Deceived (1979).

In talking to defectors and survivors, he discovered that Jones’s victims had church backgrounds, but they did not find love there. Jean Mills, for exam­ple, a defector after seven years, said, “I was so turned off in every church I went to because nobody cared.”

And Grace Stoen, whose lawyer husband Tim became the second most powerful man in the People’s Temple, said, “I went to church until I was 18 years old .. . and nobody ever befriended me.” In the People’s Temple, however, according to Jean Mills, “everyone seemed so caring and loving. They hugged us and made us welcome … and they said they wanted us to come back.”

This discovery led Mel White in his last chapter (entitled “It Must Not Happen Again”) to list several resolutions, of which the first is, “I will do my best to help make my church a more loving community to our members and the strangers in our midst.”

Please make this one of your resolutions for 2019!

The Lord is Your Portion

Thomas Brooks, a Puritan pastor, counsels believers
to confront all temptations
(the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life) with the words of the Psalmist:
“The LORD is my portion” (16:5; 73:26; 119:57; 142:5).

He exhorts:

Every blast and every wind of temptation will overset and overturn that man that hath not God for his portion. Such a man may pray a thousand times over and over, ‘Lord, lead me not into temptation,’ and yet every day falls before the least temptation, as common experience doth abundantly evidence;
whereas a man that hath God for his portion will stand fast like a rock in all storms, yea, in the face of all temptations he will be like mount Zion,
that cannot be removed.

Luther counsels every Christian to answer all temptations with the short saying, ‘I am a Christian’  and I would counsel every Christian to answer all temptations with this short saying, ‘The Lord is my portion.’

O Christian, when Satan or the world shall tempt thee with honors,
answer, ‘the Lord is my portion,’
when they shall tempt thee with riches, answer,. ‘the Lord is my portion;’
when they shall tempt thee with preferment, answer, ‘the Lord is my portion;’ and when they shall tempt thee with the favors of great ones,
answer, ‘the Lord is my portion;’
yea and when this persecuting world shall threaten thee with the loss of thy estate, answer ‘the Lord is my portion;’
and when they shall threaten thee with the loss of thy liberty,
answer, ‘the Lord is my portion;’
and when they shall threaten thee with the loss of friends,
answer, ‘the Lord is my portion;’
and when they shall threaten thee with the loss of life,
answer, ‘the Lord is my portion;. O sirs!

If Satan should come to you with an apple, as once he did to Eve,
tell him the “the Lord is your portion;”
or with a grape, as once he did to Noah,
tell him that “the Lord is your portion;
or with a change of raiment, as once he did to Gehazi,
tell him that ‘the Lord is your portion;
or with a wedge of gold, as once he did to Achan,
tell him that “the Lord is your portion;”
or with a bag of silver, as once he did with Judas,
tell him that “the Lord is your portion.”[1]

[1] Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, vol 2, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Edinburgh, Scotland: James Nichol, 1666), 114.

In the Presence of a Holy God – Isaiah 6

It was a devastating blow.  Like all devoted citizens, Isaiah had venerated King Uzziah. For fifty-two years, King Uzziah had led Judah in an administration of peace and prosperity. It was an era of expansion and achievement. Now he was dead.  The throne sat empty.  It was unfortunate that the king had rebelled against the Word of God and died a leper (2 Kings 15:1–7; 2 Chron. 26). Isaiah realized that though the nation had prospered materially, it was in terrible condition spiritually.

In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw the Lord. Isaiah 6:1.  Think of a time when one of your heroes passed on.   God’s purpose… Over and over again the Lord sometimes removes our friends and family in order to put Himself in their place, and that is where we faint and fail and get discouraged. Take it personally: In the year that the one who stood to me for all that God was, died—I gave up everything? I became ill? I got disheartened? or—I saw the Lord?

I. The Upward Gaze – In the presence of a holy God, we see the Lord for who He really is…the living, authoritative, omnipotent, resplendent, revered, holy, and glorious King whom all of heaven tirelessly serves and worships. The Christ we must perceive.  The one who is worthy of all worship.  To the discouraged prophet, as he knelt in prayer at the Temple at Jerusalem, the Lord granted a transforming vision of His glory.

He thus assured Isaiah that despite the apparent triumph of evil in the world,

The Lord still reigned omnipotent upon his heavenly throne (Isaiah 52:13 – same terms used for the servant of Lord).  On the throne – Sovereign Ruler.

 

See the sovereignty of the Eternal Monarch: he sits upon a thronea throne of glory, before which we must worship,—a throne of government, under which we must be subject, God’s dominion is total: he wills as he chooses and carries out all that he wills, and none can stay his hand or thwart his plans.[1]

—and a throne of grace, to which we may come boldly. This throne is high, and lifted up above all competition and contradiction.[2]

The heavenly attendants – adored by the mighty angels of heaven (symbolically represented by the six-winged seraphim). Even the foundations of the earthly Temple trembled at the thunder of the angelic choir, and the sanctuary was filled with the incense smoke of adoring prayer.  Serephs – “burning ones.”

Covering their eyes…In the presence of a holy God, even the dazzling and sinless are overwhelmed. They are fit neither to see him or be seen by him

Covering their feet – they disavowed any intention to choose their own path.

They flew – They are swift to serve (v.2) and tireless to praise (v.3).  Calling to one another.. the antiphonal song of God’s holiness.

God lifted Isaiah’s eyes from himself and his people to the throne of heaven. There might be confusion and unrest on earth, but there was perfect peace in heaven: God was seated in majestic power and glory.

John 12:38–41 informs us that Isaiah saw Jesus Christ in His glory. “These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him.”

He was on the throne of heaven being praised by the seraphim. His royal robe filled the heavenly temple, and the house was filled with the smoke of His anger against sin (Ps. 80:4). His angelic creatures, the seraphim (“fiery ones”), praised Him for His holiness and His glory. “The whole earth is full of His glory.” Isaiah did not see much glory that day, nor do we see it today. Rather, it seems that the whole earth is “filled with violence” (Gen. 6:11).

Holy – the word signifies everything about God that sets him apart from us and makes him an object of awe, adoration, and dread to us. It covers all aspects of his transcendent greatness and moral perfection and thus is an attribute of all his attributes, pointing to the “Godness” of God at every point.[3]

II. The Inward Gaze – In the presence of a holy God, we see ourselves for who we really are…sinners in need of cleansing. The Cleansing we must possess.

From where did the coal come?  Came from the place of sacrifice and spoke the language of atonement.  “The penalty of sin was paid for by a substitute offered in the sinners place.  The symbol applied to Isaiah’s lips (the point of most pressing need) assures him of personal forgiveness.

What was it that King Uzziah had to say after his sin and consequent affliction of leprosy?  Unclean, unclean…

A true vision of God and His holiness always makes us realize our own sinfulness and failure. Job saw God and repented (Job 42:6); Peter cried out, “I am a sinful man” when he saw Christ’s power (Luke 5:8). Self-righteous rabbi Saul saw that his own righteousness was but “garbage” next to the glory of Christ (Acts 9 and Phil. 3), and he believed and became the Apostle Paul. When believers have a true experience with the Lord, it does not make them proud; rather, it humbles and breaks them.

When Isaiah confessed his sins, he mentioned especially his unclean lips. Of course, unclean lips are the products of an unclean heart. The prophet knew that he could not faithfully preach for the Lord unless he was prepared and cleansed. How different from some Christians who rush out to serve Christ before taking time to meet the Lord and be cleansed. God met the prophet’s need: He sent a seraph to cleanse him with a coal from the altar.

How tragic it would be to have the throne without the altar! There would be conviction of sin, but no cleansing.

III. The Outward Gaze –  In the presence of a holy God, we see the need and receive our commission – our marching orders.  The commission we must pursue.  Note well that we are not called to serve until we are cleansed.  “Here I am, send me!” is truly a remarkable statement considering Isaiah’s previous despair in chapter 5.  Secondly, that a human voice is allowed to speak in the heavenly court.

The Call – “Here I am, all of me to go anywhere at any time at any cost.”  Total availability and accessibility.

The Cause – “Go and tell…”  Two verbs of Jesus Christ… “come and go.”  “Go and tell!” This is God’s commission to us today. “You shall be witnesses to me…to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8, nkjv). It was not an easy commission God gave to the prophet, for the nation was in no mood to hear his messages of sin and judgment.

The Crown – (v.13c) A holy seed, a remnant, fruit from our efforts.

The cost – rejection and persecution

Conclusion:

Every time we gather for worship, we should experience the same thing that Isaiah did.

When Isaiah walked out of the temple that day, he was no longer a mourner—he was a missionary. He was not merely a spectator; he was a participant. God had equipped him to do the job: Isaiah had seen the Lord, he had seen himself, and he had seen the need. Knowing that God was on the throne, and that God had called and commissioned him, he was ready to fulfill his commission even unto death.

 

 

 

 

[1]Packer, J. I. (1995, c1993). Concise theology : A guide to historic Christian beliefs. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House.

[2]Henry, M. (1996, c1991). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible : Complete and unabridged in one volume (Is 6:1). Peabody: Hendrickson.

[3]Packer, J. I. (1995, c1993). Concise theology : A guide to historic Christian beliefs. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House.

In the Midst of Trouble – Psalm 138

A Prayer Guide…

1 I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;
2 I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.
3 On the day I called, you answered me;
my strength of soul you increased.

4 All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O Lord,
for they have heard the words of your mouth,
5 and they shall sing of the ways of the Lord,
for great is the glory of the Lord.
6 For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly,
but the haughty he knows from afar.

7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life;
stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
and your right hand delivers me.
8 The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.

What am I to do? 
Worship and call upon the Lord.  What does the text say?
Give thanks…sing His praise…bow down…

Who do I call upon? 

  • The LORD – the personal God who keeps covenant with His people.
  • The God who is steadfast/loyal in His love for his people (vv.2,8).
  • The God who is ever faithful to His people and who exalts His name and His word above all things.
  • The LORD who from His lofty and exalted position takes notice of those who are humble but distances himself from the proud and haughty.
  • The LORD who does not forsake the work of His hands.

How do I call upon Him?

  • With my whole heart…singing praise and offering thanks (vv.1,2,4).
  • With humility of heart – Verse 6 – “For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar.”

Why do I call upon the LORD?

  • He answers me (v.3).
  • He preserves my life while I am in the midst of trouble by delivering me from my enemies (v.7).
  • He will fulfill His purpose for me (v.8).

A Prayer of Adoration – from Psalms 3-5

Who is like You O LORD?

You are a shield about Your people (3:3).

You answer the prayers of Your people when they cry aloud to You (3:4).

You sustain Your people when they sleep and when they rise (3:5).

You are the LORD to whom salvation belongs (3:8).

You are a God who gives relief to those who in distress (4:1).

You are the LORD who sets apart the godly for Yourself (4:3).

You are the LORD who “lifts up the light of Your face upon us” (4:6).

You are a God who puts joy into the hearts of Your people (4:7).

You are the LORD who causes Your people to “dwell in safety” and to rest peacefully (4:8).

You do not delight in wickedness (5:4).

You are abundant in “your steadfast love” for Your people which enables and invites us to worship You (5:7).

You lead Your people in Your righteousness and make our way straight (5:8).

You spread Your protection over Your people and cover them with Your favor (5:11,12).

Would you delight to show Yourself strong and mighty in these ways for all of your children today! AMEN.

Praying Psalm 2

Psalm 2 – The nations that rage will become the inheritance of the Messiah (vv. 1,8).

Father, you have given to Jesus the ends of the earth as His possession.
He declares, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.”
“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Jesus Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!’ (Abraham Kuyper)

Since the ends of the earth are your possession, you have called us to be your witnesses “even to the ends (remotest parts) of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

I pray that you would supernaturally cause a mass conversion of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Shintoists, animists, atheists, and agnostics
to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Have mercy upon them, open blind eyes like you did long ago,
pour the wine of your love and Word on calloused, stony hearts.
May a great in-gathering of souls take place in our lifetime
as people devotedly kiss Your Son as Savior (Psalm 2:11),
as young people throughout the world
“serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling” (v.11)
as they contemplate you as a loving Savior,
but also as a just judge
who will come with “a rod of iron”
and break those who have refused to kiss you
as the only Savior of sinners. AMEN.