GROWING UP

2 Peter 3:18 – But continue to grow and increase in God’s grace and intimacy with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. May he receive all the glory both now and until the day eternity begins. Amen!

Christianity is a constant and active process in our lives. In other words, we are not complete when we are born again. Now don’t take this the wrong way, in God’s eyes we are absolutely perfect the first moment we are born again. From His perspective we are new creatures in Christ. In the practical everyday world there are lots of changes that will be going on. Peter said that Christian growth was a continual process. I like his words, “continue to grow in grace and intimacy”. By grace we are introduced into this new life and by grace we continue. We are being transformed day by day.

But how does this process happen? The Passion Translation uses the word intimacy (The NJKV says knowledge). Our intimate knowledge of Christ is how this change takes place. Here is how the Passion Notes describe this beautiful work of grace.

“The Aramaic does not use the imperative but makes it more of a decree: “You continue to be nourished in grace and in the intimate knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Messiah, and of God the Father.” Spiritual growth is yielding to the grace of God and having passion to know Jesus Christ intimately. In time, we grow into his beautiful image.”

So it is a combination of these two words, grace and intimacy, that holds the key to our growing up in Christ. The influence of God’s grace unveils the beauty, power, and majesty of Christ. What was once a concept or a theological belief now becomes an overwhelming awareness of the reality and love of God. That is what grace does in us. Our response is spontaneous, we are captivated by His magnificence. He is no longer a religious belief or even a miracle worker or teacher from long ago. He becomes altogether lovely to us. We are captivated by His word, in love with His presence, and passionate about His body (the local church). As we respond to His love day by day, we continue to grow in grace and intimacy. This is how we become more like Him in our journey, this is how we continue to grow up

“This thing called beauty!”

Merry Monday with Parris

Ps.19:1 – “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech, night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech where their voice is not heard”

When we see Christ face to face we will be without excuse in regard to his voice. For creation speaks everyday to us to look up and join in the great worship! What is so amazing to me is that even as a child I truly think God was calling out to me as I played in bubbly brooks, walked among green forests and swim in his mighty oceans. Beauty opened my eyes to his love! When Jonathan Edwards studied beauty he found the person of God. In other words, whatever he saw around him, he glanced microscopically into a world too great to fully comprehend. The pursuit of beauty leads us straight into God. Edwards made it a practice to ride his horse for hours or walk alone singing songs and it was there he found rich and perpetual treasuries for his soul. He discovered nothing less than the purpose of his life and the meaning of his existence. I pray you too will dive so deep into his beauty that you will never come out!

I feel like the Trinity set in motion such a love for each other that it spilled out into the world as we know it. They are intent to make their glory known and incite us to their beauty. Creating such a circle of love so compelling that began with Christ speaking creation into being, then Christ being made man, moving onto the church ending at the marriage supper of the Lamb. It is this dance of love that creates this beauty all around us beckoning us to join in. God is not careless of the world for it is the end for which God created the earth.

It is interesting to me that the Reformers drank deeply of the beauty of God and expressed their views passionately. Edwards says; “How soon do earthly lovers come to an end of their discoveries of each other’s beauty; how soon do they see all that is to be seen! . . . And how happy is that love, in which there is an eternal progress in all these things; wherein new beauties are continually discovered, and more and more loveliness, and in which we shall forever increase in beauty ourselves; where we shall be made capable of finding out and giving, and shall receive, more and more endearing expressions of love forever: our union will become more close, and communication more intimate.” Luther believed that all created things are really masks of God (larvae Dei). They are media through which God can speak to us. John Calvin regarded nature as a most beautiful theatre of God’s work. The important theme for Calvin is that the orderliness of nature shows us the wisdom and the goodness of God and natural beauty exhibits the glory of the Creator.

To many, they cannot see the glory of the Lord in natural beauty because they do not look at the world with the right spectacles, using the word of God and reading the world through redemption. Nature though beautiful to them never speaks the mysteries of Christ nor draws them to holiness.
I pray you are touched by his beauty in such a way that you will ever be thirsty for more!

IMAGE OF HIS FATHER

Jn.14:8-10 – Philip spoke up, “Lord, show us the Father, and that will be all that we need!”

Jesus replied, “Philip, I’ve been with you all this time and you still don’t know who I am? How could you ask me to show you the Father, for anyone who has looked at me has seen the Father. Don’t you believe that the Father is living in me and that I am living in the Father?

This is one of the most riveting passages in all of scripture. Jesus had just said “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father but by Me”. Then He goes on to say “If you have seen Me you have seen the Father”. This brings us right back to this, many who have eyes cannot see. How many thousands saw Jesus of Nazareth when He was here on earth but never “saw” the Son of God. This passage is a portal into the deepest of all mysteries, the glory of God seen in Jesus Christ. Here is how Jonathan Edwards sees this passage.

“We behold the glory of God as in the face of Jesus Christ, who is the brightness of God’s light or glory, as it were reflected, and is the express image of the Father, the perfect image of God, as the image in a plain and clear looking glass is the express image of the person that looks in it. And that is the only way that the glory of God is seen by his church; he is seen no other way, but in this perfect and as it were reflected image. For “no man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son of God, that is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him”; he is “the image of the invisible God”. And he that hath seen the Son, hath seen the Father; and the Father is seen no other way, but by the Son. And ’tis only by this image is Christ seen in heaven by the saints and angels there. Yea, ’tis by this image only that God sees himself, for he sees himself in his own.

So have you really “seen” the Lord. Spiritual vision that beholds Christ will be your undoing. From that moment you can no longer take religion with no power, when you see God in Christ it changes your perspective of everything. From that day forward “seeing Him” is the greatest pleasure of life.”

WE SAW HIM

1 John 1:1 – We saw him with our very own eyes.
We gazed upon him and heard him speak.
Our hands actually touched him,
the one who was from the beginning,
the Living Expression of God.

This passage reminds us of the practical nature of our Christian faith. No, I am not talking about messages on how to be a better version of you. What I am talking about is walking, talking, and listening to the Lord in our day to day life. Jonathan Edwards used to say that Christianity was experimental; we might say experiential. The Christian faith is not a creed, a philosophy, a code of conduct, our principles to success in life. It is a vibrant continuous encounter with the Living God that happens at work, at home, or in gatherings with other believers. John and the other apostles had the privilege of seeing, hearing, and touching Christ in the flesh. John’s whole point of writing this letter was to bring others who had not seen Him in the flesh into this world of experiential Christianity. You see our senses are not limited to just our natural senses. We can see with the eyes of our heart and hear with the ears of our spirit. Christ is alive to us. Here are some interesting thoughts from the Passion Notes on this passage.

“The Aramaic text yields an interesting thought. By using the words one and heard in the same context, we’re taken back to the ancient prayer of the Hebrews known as the Shema: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one.” John is stating that he has heard the One that Israel was commanded to listen to, and that One is Jesus Christ. The word for touch is poetic. It comes from a sensory verb meaning “to pluck the strings of an instrument.” It can also be translated “to feel”. It is as though John is saying, “We have plucked the chords of his being and felt what motivated him, his melody within.”

My life is marked from those first days when Christ burst into my life in the summer of 1973. I was 21 years old and coming out of five painful years of substance abuse. I was awakened and stunned by how real Jesus had become to me and really surprised how I had been deaf and blind to Him for all of those years. That was the beginning of my experiential Christian life. Thankfully it has continued almost 47 years for me.

THE LIVING EXPRESSION

Jn.1:1 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.

Jn.1:1 – TPT – In the very beginning the Living Expression was already there. And the Living Expression was with God, yet fully God.

What does God look like? Basically, that is what the Apostle Phillip had said to Jesus, “Show us the Father”. That’s when Jesus responded with one of His most blunt and shocking statements, “If you have seen Me you have seen the Father”. This is one of the Lord’s most blatant claims to deity. God was standing right in front of Phillip; he obviously didn’t quite get it yet. That’s what is so powerful about today’s verse. In the Passion Translation John said that Jesus was the Living Expression of the Father. Jesus is the Father’s expression of Himself. Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory expressed in a human. That kind of revelation can literally take your breath away. Here are some comments from the Passion Notes on this verse.

“The Greek is logos, which has a rich and varied background in both Greek philosophy and Judaism. The Greeks equated logos with the highest principle of cosmic order. God’s logos in the Old Testament is his powerful self-expression in creation, revelation, and redemption. In the New Testament we have this new unique view of God given to us by John, which signifies the presence of God himself in the flesh. Some have translated this rich term as “Word.” It could also be translated “Message” or “Blueprint.” Jesus Christ is the eternal Word, the creative Word, and the Word made visible. He is the divine self-expression of all that God is, contains, and reveals in incarnated flesh. Just as we express ourselves in words, God has perfectly expressed himself in Christ.”

We see God’s love revealed in Christ. He was moved with compassion and healed the sick or taught those who were like sheep without a shepherd. He displayed His love when He washed His disciple’s feet. Love was in full bloom as Christ was nailed to the cross. It was His love for sinners in full view of the whole world. We see God’s wisdom unveiled through the teaching of Christ and also in God’s plan of redemption which culminated in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus is the unveiling of the Father, when you catch a glimpse of Him you are looking into the blazing glory of God.

SPIRIT WIND CREATION

Ps. 33:6,7 – All he had to do was speak by his Spirit-wind command, and God created the heavenlies. Filled with galaxies and stars, the vast cosmos he wonderfully made. His voice scooped out the seas. The ocean depths he poured into vast reservoirs.

The Lord gives us a look into the Godhead and His creative genius in the first verses of the book of Genesis. We see the word of God spoken and the Spirit-wind hovering, vibrating, or incubating over the primitive creation. This Spirit-wind is the very breath of God. The Lord formed man with His own hands and breathed His Spirit-wind into Adam’s nostrils. Man was created and became a living soul. The Word and the Spirit, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are always working in tandem, creating God’s beautiful masterpiece of redemption. Here is how Spurgeon describes it.

“It is interesting to note the mention of the Spirit in the next clause, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth; the breath is the same as is elsewhere rendered Spirit. Thus the three persons of the Godhead unite in creating all things. How easy for the Lord to make the most ponderous orbs, and the most glorious angels! A word, a breath could do it. It is as easy for God to create the universe as for a man to breathe, nay, far easier, for man breathes not independently, but borrows the breath in his nostrils from his Maker. It may be gathered from this verse that the constitution of all things is from the infinite wisdom, for his word may mean his appointment and determination. A wise and merciful Word has arranged, and a living Spirit sustains all the creation of Jehovah.”

God’s creation unveils who God is. We see His creative genius in the intricacies of all He does. From the complexity of an eye with the concept and creation of light to the depths of the sea and the expanse of space; He is more than amazing. His work of redemption, the restoration of fallen man, is the greatest work of the trinity. The Father loved the world and sent His Son, the Son entered creation and paid the ultimate price to claim our souls, the Holy Spirit functions as the great orchestra conductor coordinating the purchase of the Lord’s beautiful bride.

RIVER OF PLEASURE

Ps. 36:8 – They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house and You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures.

All of us have a huge thirst for pleasure, that is part of being created in the image of God. Obviously, the Lord Himself has an infinite thirst for pleasure. With Him there is a total contentment in Himself which is quite interesting. How can someone be satisfied yet at the same time long for more? That is the unusual characteristic of spiritual thirst. We too are ever thirsting even as we are totally satisfied in Christ alone. In this verse David sang of a river of pleasure. Ezekiel swam in it, John had a vision of it, and Jesus prophesied about it. David connected this river to the house of God. That is quite amazing. Today, that is exactly where this river is flowing. Churches, the house of God, is the place where this river can be found. Here is how Charles Spurgeon describes this verse.

“And thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. As they have the fruits of Eden to feed on, so shall they have the river of Paradise to drink from. God’s everlasting love bears to us a constant and ample comfort, of which grace makes us to drink by faith, and then our pleasure is of the richest kind. The Lord not only brings us to this river, but makes us drink: herein we see the condescension of divine love. Heaven will, in the fullest sense, fulfill these words; but they who trust in the Lord enjoy the ante-past even here. The happiness given to the faithful is that of God himself; purified spirits joy with the same joy as the Lord himself. “That my joy may be in you, that your joy may be full.”

Spurgeon used an interesting phrase in his commentary, ante-past. This is a foretaste of the coming feast. In this life we drink as the Holy Spirit is poured out upon us. In the coming kingdom we will actually live in the river of His presence. If the foretaste is so satisfying and attractive, how much more when the fullness comes. David spoke of something more than casual satisfaction. The word he used could be translated soak, satiate, or intoxicate. David is describing an excessive encounter. If that is available in this life imagine the unbridled joy in heaven

BLOOD OF THE CROSS

Jn. 19:34 – But one of the soldiers took a spear and pierced Jesus’ side, and blood and water gushed out.

John was an eyewitness of this event, blood and water flowing out of the side of Jesus. This is a picture of the River of life that flows out from Christ on the throne of God today. There is a crucified, glorified man on the throne of God at this very moment. I often think about seeing Him one day for myself. Inevitably I think about the wounds in His body. How do I know they are still there? He told Thomas to put his finger in the nail-prints in His hand and to thrust his hand into the hole in His side. That event was after the resurrection. The marks of redemption are still in His body. Could the River be flowing from the hole in His side? Here are some thoughts from the Moravian leader Count Zinzendorf.

“God sweated in agony in Gethsemane.  God died on the cross.The story of the salvation is that God took on human form and willingly suffering for the sake of his creation. Humans were enslaved to sin, death, and the devil, but Christ redeemed them from their misery. Christ came to reconcile the world to God, and the crucifixion stands as the assurance of forgiveness and makes it possible for the creature to become the bride of the creator. The blood streaming from the cross impresses the believer with the reality of his or her ransom from sin. We are purchased from wrath, from judgment, from the curse, from the Fall and all ruin, from sin, death, the devil and hell through a true, legal and complete payment, namely, through the blood of the one who tasted death for us all through the grace of God. This is what John meant when he said that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

Think about the wounds of Jesus. The thorns pierced His brow. The life of God flows from His brow declaring the curse of poverty is broken. After all, the thorns that pierced Him were a mark of the curse. The holes in His hand guarantee His help. I am in His hand and nothing can separate me from His love. His back carries the wounds of the whip, by His stripes I am healed. His feet are marked by the nails. He carries and protects all of those who are the blessed feet that carry His gospel. From His wounded side flows the River. This is the River of God’s love for the world. There is a River, this mighty river is flowing out to you and to me today, this River will never run dry.

EZEKIEL’S RIVER

Ezekiel:47:1 – Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east; the water was flowing from under the right side of the temple, south of the altar.

This River has shown up all throughout the history of prophetic revelation. In Ezekiel’s vision he sees the water flowing out from the threshold of the temple. This is quite stunning in light of what John tells us in Revelation. He says that there is no temple (per se) in the city because the Lord is the temple. This corresponds to what John also said, the River flows from the throne of the Father and the Son of God. Here are some interesting comments on this passage from John Bunyan.

“This water is said in Ezekiel and Revelation to have the tree of life grow on the banks of it and was a type of the Word and Spirit of God, by which Christ himself sanctified himself, in order to worship as high priest (Ezek 47; Rev 22). And also this water is that which heals all those that shall be saved and by which, they being sanctified thereby also, do all their works of worship and service acceptably, through Jesus Christ our Lord. This water therefore is said to go forth into the sea, the world, and to heal its fish, the sinners therein; indeed, this is that water of which Christ Jesus our Lord says, “Whoever shall drink thereof shall live forever”.

Bunyan says that this River speaks to us of the Word and the Spirit. He says it is the River that sanctifies us to minister as priests before the Lord. He also says that this water heals all of those that shall be saved, it is the Spirit that draws us, regenerates us, and perfects us for our priestly duties. Then Bunyan makes an interesting observation reminiscent of what Jesus said to Peter about being a fisher of men. Bunyan says the water goes out to heal the fish or the sinners of the world. Just as Jesus ministered to the Samaritan woman and restored her, this River attracts and heals all the so called fish in the sea. The River is still flowing out from the threshold of the temple, today the temple is the local church. These waters are for the healing and conversion of the nations.

THE RIVER THAT RESTORES AND REVIVES

Ps.23:1-3 – The Lord is my best friend and my shepherd. I always have more than enough. He offers a resting place for me in his luxurious love. His tracks take me to an oasis of peace, the quiet brook of bliss. That’s where he restores and revives my life.

What a beautiful picture of God’s waters of rest. Jesus is our Good Shepherd Who leads us to the river of the Holy Spirit, our place of rest and restoration. I see in my mind’s eye sheep laying near the edge of the river, drinking in the life giving waters of renewal. Maybe we were exhausted from the journey but our exhaustion has been swallowed up by His supernatural rest. Here are some comments from the Passion notes that describe this beautiful passage.

“The Greek word for “love” is agape, which is a merging of two words and two concepts. Ago means “to lead like a shepherd,” and pao is a verb that means “to rest.” Love is our Shepherd leading us to the place of true rest in his heart.”

“The Hebrew word menuhâ means “the waters of a resting place.”

When our journey leads us through the valley of the shadow of death only the living water of the Spirit can restore our wounded soul. Over these last several months all of us have gone through some uncharted minefields. Sometimes it feels like the endless “Groundhog Day”, and other times it seems wildly unpredictable. This Psalm reminds us of the nearness of the Shepherd and the power of His waters of rest. Here is how Spurgeon describes this renewal.

“When the soul grows sorrowful he revives it; when it is sinful he sanctifies it; when it is weak he strengthens it. “He” does it. His ministers could not do it if he did not. His Word would not avail by itself. “He restoreth my soul.” Are any of us low in grace? Do we feel that our spirituality is at its lowest ebb? He who turns the ebb into the flood can soon restore our soul. Pray to him, then, for the blessing—“Restore thou me, thou Shepherd of my soul!”

The waters of the Holy Spirit are essential. Without His healing qualities our hearts stay hard and callous, without His love our hearts stay wounded, without His rivers of peace we stay in turmoil. It’s time to lay down by the waters of rest, my only place of restoration and revival.