The day I heard the angels sing!
Merry Monday by Parris Bailey
“When the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:7)
Ten years ago our family was faced with a terrible accident that happened to our third son. The bible speaks of an evil day in fact it says “therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand.” (Eph.6:13) Well the devil paid us a visit in the evil day and almost took my son’s life, miraculously he lived. We spent 6 weeks in the hospital and months of physical therapy with two back to back weddings in between with my other sons. Needless to say all sorts of emotions were being brought up. In the middle of this nightmare of watching our son being treated as a burn patient, our precious staff begin to question our position as head pastor. Ya know sometimes it all just hits the fan. On this particular day we were in our weekly pastoral staff meetings when we got challenged so to speak concerning our son’s accident. I hurriedly left the meeting for I had to go back to the hospital to be with our son getting his skin scrapped twice daily and bandages changed. God has so graciously given me a scripture about my son’s accident that I had comfort in the midst of the raging storm. But this day when I got into my car I begin to weep. There was a question that I needed to be answered by the Lord. I asked Him where He (GOD) was when my son was getting dragged down the street under a car. It wasn’t an angry fist shaking accusing question but just a question a mother wanted answered. This is the answer I felt He said, “I was there singing over him all the way through.” and that’s when He brought the song. The car was filled with this heavenly song and my heart was filled to overflowing. That day I heard the angles sing! I call it the new song, the one He gives you to sing when you find yourself in a horrible pit. This song seems to fill every space, every inch of the air you breathe, in fact if this song had color it would shine as the noon day sun. It sang a song so full of love that I felt that the Father above loved my son more than I ever could and somehow this tragedy would turn into something amazing.
Have you given yourself to listen to this new song that He sings over you? Have you found yourself in a horrible pit? Sometimes we just have to turn off all the other faucets flooding into our souls. It takes time to locate that still small voice when the world is screaming at you. The truth of the matter is that he has never stopped His song.
“The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, And in the night His song shall be with me a prayer to the God of my life.” (Psalm 42:8)
THE SPIRIT OF WORSHIP
Something fresh is happening at Victory Fellowship. As I returned home from morning service Sunday morning I had the familiar feeling of revival on me. We had worshipped for hours at church. I take pride in being in decent shape, but this old man was tired, that good kind of tired that comes from worshipping and dancing before the Lord. There is a new freshness in our services, a new excitement to be in church, and definitely something stirring in our worship. These seasons are precious and rare. When the Lord begins to move amongst His people, we dare not take it for granted, we must set aside everything and step into this move of the Spirit.
There is nothing like supernatural worship. You may be singing the same songs but there is something beyond any natural explanation when the Holy Spirit is involved in the worship. Suddenly, the songs that you have sung hundreds of times come alive, God is in the house. I think our prayer language is directly connected to this supernatural worship. The Lord poured out His Spirit in unusual places in the 1960’s, people were receiving the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues everywhere. Worship was strangely effected in traditional churches and on college campuses all across America. In Catholic Churches, Episcopalian Churches, and Presbyterian Churches, the Holy Spirit began to fall in unprecedented ways. Bob Morris, a member of the YCF prayer group on the campus of Yale in the 1960’s shared his thoughts in John Sherill’s book “They Spoke in Other Tongues” about speaking in tongues and worship.
“For me, the gift of tongues turned out to be the gift of praise. As I used the unknown language that God had given me I felt rising in me the love, the awe, the adoration pure and uncontingent, that I had not been able to achieve in thought out prayer. Praise and adoration are basically non-conceptual things, and glossalalia is non-conceptual prayer. It releases us from our dependence on specifics and step-by-step thought processes into a direct awareness of God-just as we’re aware of the impact of a human personality without enumerating the details which go to make it up.”
Have you ever been baptized in the Holy Spirit? If so, do you regularly worship the Lord with your heavenly language? There is a vital connection between the heavenly language and the powerful experience of supernatural worship. If you are baptized in the Spirit, take some time (right now would be a great time) and worship the Lord in that spiritual language. You can sing to the Lord in English, and then sing to Him in your prayer language. As you do, you will become more and more aware of the profound presence of the Lord. When His presence comes down, that’s when everything changes. The humdrum of religious futility is gone, you are in direct contact with the Creator of all things, He is anything but boring. This is where your life begins, this is the place of supernatural worship, this is the place where all things become new.
PRAISE THAT PLEASES
Rev. 4:11 “You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created.”
In today’s verse we see a glimpse of the worship taking place in heaven. This kind of worship is tasted when God pours out His Spirit on the earth. We taste the edge of this today as we enjoy the outpourings of His presence, especially as we gather together with His church in our corporate worship services. In the time of David’s reign he pitched a tent on Mount Zion that contained the ark of the covenant. David appointed musicians and singers to worship the Lord continually in this tent. What else could they do? God was there in His manifest presence. What else can we do? The Lord is in our midst, we have to worship Him continually. Graham Truscott spoke of this continual worship in his book, “The Power of His Presence”. Here is an excerpt from his book.
“How did the people bring the Presence of God to the Tabernacle of David? What did they do?
They lifted up their voices.
They sang with all their might.
Some sang high piercing notes.
Other sang deep and low.
There was dancing before the Lord.
They blew loud-sounding trumpets.
They clashed cymbals of brass.
They strummed guitars.
They shouted the high praises of God.
They rejoiced greatly before the Lord.”
Sounds like church to me!! One of the points that Truscott brought out in his book is this, the tabernacle of Moses was characterized by almost silent worship. It was formal and restrained. It was governed by the law. After the cross and the resurrection, we entered into a new season. How can we be restrained in our worship in light of what Christ has done for us? He has cleared away all the judgement against us. He has forgiven our sins. He has borne the curse of poverty at the cross. He has healed us of our diseases by His stripes. He has defeated death once and for all. He is seated at the right hand of the Father as my representative, always there making intercession for me. How can I remain silent, how can we not all break out in singing and dancing continually before our Lord?
As James prophesied in in discourse in Acts 15, the Lord is rebuilding His house which is fallen down, He is restoring His church to its former power and Glory. He is rebuilding the Tabernacle of David in these last days as a sign and wonder to this dark and perverse generation. Many of our churches today are just structures, beautiful buildings providing all types of good services for our communities without the manifest power of His presence. The Lord has promised before He returns to restore His church to its former glory. What will that look like? I’m not sure about everything but this one thing I know. A major part of this move of the Spirit will be characterized by worship, unrestrained worship and dancing before the Lord. Let everything and everyone who has breath give praise to the Lord.
GOD’S SONG IN THE DARKEST OF NIGHTS
Psa. 40:1-3 ¶ I waited patiently for the LORD;
And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay,
And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;
Many will see and fear
And will trust in the LORD.
David’s life was not all fun and games. He went though some very dark places in his life. His experience with God even in those dark nights of the soul, is what makes his writings so attractive to us today. We can relate to David. His relationship with God sustained him in the darkest of nights, even when he walked through the valley of the shadow of death. All of us go through those dark nights of the soul. Some of those places are darker than others. David Brainerd was a young missionary during the time of the Great Awakening. He went through some very dark times. He was expelled from Yale because of some statements he had made about the dean of the college in relation to the revival. He was also battling tuberculosis which ultimately took his life at twenty nine. He became a missionary to the Native Americans. It was in the battle for his health while living in the wilderness, ministering to the Native Americans that he wrote his journal. To him it was insignificant, his work seemed insignificant. Brainerd’s journal is crediting with playing a huge role in the birthing of the modern missions movement. In his darkest moments, God gave Brainerd a song in the night. That song is still being sung today. Brainerd’s journal has never been out of print since the 1700’s. Check out a brief portion of his words.
“He is able to support the heart under the heaviest sorrows, and to give light in the greatest darkness: he can divide the thickest cloud with beams of heavenly light and comfort: he is one that gives songs in the night, and turns the shadow of death into the morning: he has power to make up the loss of those that are bereaved by the death of the most eminent minister. His own presence with the bereaved is sufficient…
Persons under sorrowful bereavements are ready to go and lay open their sorrows to them that they think will be ready to pity them, though they know they can but pity them, and cannot help them. How much more is here in such a case to induce us to go to Jesus, who is not only so ready to pity, but so able to help, able abundantly more than to fill up the breach, and able to turn all our sorrows into joy!”
He is able to turn all our sorrows into joy!!!. The power of Brainerd’s life is this, the reality of God in the darkest of nights. That is the appeal of his journal. Why have missionaries like William Carey, Hudson Taylor, and Jim Elliott attributed Brainerd’s journal as one of the main tools the Spirit used in inspiring them to go to the nations? It is because Brainerd found the joy of the Lord’s song in the dark night of his soul. Maybe you are in one of those dark nights, if so, listen carefully. You might just hear the joyful sound of God’s Song in the Night.
TUNING YOUR HEART
Eph. 5:18-20 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
Several years ago the band, Delirious, performed a concert in our church. Before the show that night, I had the pleasure of meeting the leader of that band, Martin Smith. He was a joy to be around (I remember him prophesying over a coming move of the Spirit touching children in our church). Before his performance that night, he spent several minutes tuning up his voice. He loved to sing those high notes and wanted to get his vocal cords ready. It was quite interesting to see the importance he placed in tuning his voice. Jonathan Edwards spoke about tuning our spiritual voice. He says it takes preparation to be able to really worship. Listen to his thoughts about this spiritual exercise.
“Not only the matter of the song must be learnt, but also the music of the song. But the music of this tune consists in the melody of the heart. Eph.5:19, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” As in order to learn the music of other songs, the voice must be tuned, so in order to learn the music of this song, the heart must be tuned. The music of this new song consists of holy admiration, in exalting thoughts of the glory of God and the Lamb and the great things of the gospel; and in divine love, in loving God for his excellency appearing in the face of Christ, in holy rejoicing in God and in delight and complacence of the soul in Jesus, whereby we, having not seen him, do love him and “rejoice with unspeakable and full of glory”(1Pet. 1:8). They that are unacquainted with this spiritual melody, they can’t learn to sing that new song.”
I love Edwards thoughts on this verse, our hearts must be tuned in order to worship. What does it mean to have you heart spiritually tuned? How can my heart be tuned to God’s worship? To be in tune means to come into harmony or agreement with God. We are brought into harmony by the influence of the Holy Spirit. Without the influence of the Spirit, we are just making discordant sounds. The sounds may or may not be generated by human talent, but without the anointing, they are ineffective in worship and are not acceptable worship. True worship is the work of the Spirit. Only a heart tuned to God Himself can enter into that place of spiritual harmony.
That Delirious concert was a very special night for me. Not only did I enjoy the music, I was spiritually refreshed. after meeting Martin Smith that night, I gained a new respect for true worshippers. In order to have an effective night of worship you have to tune up both of your instruments. You have to prepare your voice, and according to Jonathan Edwards, you have to tune up your heart.
SACRIFICE OF PRAISE
Heb. 13:15-16 Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
I love Thanksgiving Day. I love the meal, the family gathering, the smells of turkey and pie, I even love the football. But there is something else I love even more about Thanksgiving. What is it that I love, I love to just give thanks to the Lord. It just feels right. When someone does something special for you there needs to be an acknowledgement, we have to say thank you, it’s the right thing to do. After all the Lord has done for us, we have to stop and just say thank you Lord. It just feels right.
I love my Thanksgiving memories. The one that stands out amongst all of them was the Thanksgiving feast I had in 1973, just after I had come to the Lord. Parris and I were living in Kerman, California attending Bible School. We were obviously far away from home with no chance to return for the holidays. We were invited to Thanksgiving dinner at an elderly couple’s house. They were a Pentecostal family, you know the old school holiness Pentecostals. The sweet lady wore her hair in a bun, they were really old school. Parris and I felt a little awkward going to these stranger’s house for a meal, but our fears were quickly put away. This couple opened their home and opened their hearts to us. It wasn’t long until we were caught up in old stories and some really great food, this was a real Thanksgiving feast. During the dinner and conversation I began to notice something about the old man. There was a deep joy shining out through his face. His eyes were lit up and his face had a huge smile stuck on it. It seemed every other statement was “thank you Jesus”. He said “Thank you Jesus” over and over again that day, he was unconsciously teaching me about the real meaning of Thanksgiving. Now don’t get me wrong, there was nothing forced or overly religious about his thankfulness. It came across as real. He was thankful and deeply effected by God’s love and he wanted to give thanks. When I left their house that day I was profoundly effected. Parris and I talked about that precious couple and their deep love for the Lord. We had experienced the real Thanksgiving for the first time. We would never be able to forget that day, Thanksgiving could never be the same for us, we had been impacted by another family and their love for the Lord.
The atmosphere in that house that day was similar to all of the other Thanksgivings I had experienced. There was the turkey and dressing, the cranberry sauce and the green beans. Of course there were all of the pies and various other deserts. The only difference was the atmosphere was permeated with the love of God, real giving of thanks filled the house. Thanksgiving, I learned that day, was more that fragrant food smells, there was another smell that filled the house. It was the smell of Thanksgiving coming from the hearts of those precious Pentecostals. I bet they are enjoying this Thanksgiving more than all of the rest, they are now at the real heavenly feast, before His throne, giving thanks to the Lord.
LOOK WHAT THE LORD HAS DONE
8 Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them.
9 For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.
How many times today have you praised the Lord for His great Love? How many times have you thanked Him for the wonderful things He has done? As children of God, we have received the greatest gift, the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ… Not because of anything we may have to offer or have done, but because of His great love. He has caused His face to shine upon us…while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. We should ever keep in the foreground of our mind the mighty gift of salvation and daily give thanks. Charles Spurgeon puts it this way, “Surely men will do this (give thanks) without being exhorted to it when the deliverance is fresh in their memories…It is well that the redeemed should be stirred up to bless the Lord again and again, for preserved life deserves life long thankfulness.”
In the mid 1990’s, during a season of heightened revival, we often sang a song in our church called: “Look What the Lord has Done.” The chorus says, “Look what the Lord has done. Look what the Lord has done. He healed my body. He touched my mind. He saved me just in time. I’m gonna praise His name. Each day is just the same. Come on and praise Him. Look what the Lord has done.” Then we would sing, clap, jump, dance, shout and even run. As I write the lyrics to this song and think back to the times of singing it, I get a smile on my face and joy floods my soul. Think about what He has done! Joy and peace will begin to flood your soul. When we are grateful to God and begin to rehearse His marvelous doings, God is glorified and we are satisfied. God wants us to remember His works because they speak of His goodness, of His faithfulness, of His very nature. His works declare His glory!
During this Thanksgiving season, we should remind ourselves of the Lord’s blessing in our lives. We daily eat from His hand. He supplies seed for sowing and bread for food. Jesus is upholding, sustaining, and maintaining our lives. He has conquered sin, death, and the grave. He has given us the Victory. He has translated us from the Kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of the Son of His love. We were once thirsty and He satisfied us, we were once hungry and He filled us with Himself. Take a moment to thank Him today that He did not leave us as orphans but we have received a “Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’”
Psa. 150:1-2,6 ¶ Praise the LORD!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty expanse. Praise Him for His mighty deeds;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD!
When I was a teenager, my parents would suddenly decide we were all going back to church after I had gotten into trouble. In those painful years, my family lived in Colts Neck, New Jersey. After one of my acts of stupidity, we all piled into the car and went to the Colts Neck Reformed Church. That was a really boring experience. At that time in my life, I wanted to be anywhere but church. That’s how it is with most people, it’s not that they are any worse than everyone else, but worship and hearing the Bible preached is unappealing to a lost soul. Of course all of that changed in a few short years. After I received Christ, my awakened soul longed for the courts of our King. Worship not only became tolerable, worship became my passion. My life became consumed with music, I began to join with the angels and the redeemed from every generation praising God in the beauty of holiness. In 1734, Jonathan Edwards preached a powerful Thanksgiving message about worship in heaven. Listen to the passion for worship in an awakened soul.
“When they behold the glorious power of God, they cannot but praise that power: when they see God’s wisdom that is so wonderful, and infinitely beyond all created wisdom, they cannot but continually praise that wisdom; when they view the infinitely pure and lovely holiness of God, whereby the heavens themselves are not pure in comparison with him, how can they avoid with an exalted heart to praise that beauty of the divine nature! When they see the infinite grace of God, and see what a boundless ocean of mercy and love he is, how can they but celebrate that grace with the highest praise!”
What changed in my life when I was born again? I became aware not only of the reality of God, but became staggered by the goodness of God. He became the passion of my life. I was overwhelmed by His power, humbled by His wisdom, convicted by His holiness, and consumed by His relentless love for me. What else could I do but praise Him? Now I can begin to understand why the angels and the inhabitants of heaven are all about worship. When you see Him there is nothing left for you to do, we have to praise our magnificent God. Maybe today you are consumed by the problems and concerns of your daily lives. These stubborn difficulties can be quite distracting and can easily cloud our vision of His greatness. The only answer is to start praising Him whether your feeling it or not, before you know it, the wind of His love will blow away the oppressive clouds of this life. Go ahead, give it a try, let everything that has breath give praise to the Lord !!!.
A LITTLE HEAVEN ON EARTH
Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.
My first four years of my Christian experience was in a Christian community in Kerman, California. Those were very special times in my life, experiencing for myself the revelation of Christ in His church. One of my fondest memories was our Sunday night services. I can remember spending extended times of spontaneous worship, like Paul said, singing in the Spirit and singing with the understanding, all of us pouring out our hearts together to the Lord. This was what made this community special. It was this experiencing of Christ together as a family. What happened in those meetings was the very life of our fellowship. What came next was awesome, our lives had been joined together in this place of worship, the rest of our week was an opportunity to allow this life of God to be expressed through our life. Wuest has some reflections from today’s verse that describes the expression of this life in the real world.
“The use of this specialized word (politeuomai) colors the entire epistle, and gives to it a heavenly atmosphere. It teaches us that Christians are citizens of heaven, having a heavenly origin, and a heavenly destiny, with the responsibility of living a heavenly life on this earth in the midst of ungodly people and surroundings, telling sinners of a Saviour in heaven who will save them from their sins if they but trust Him. The ethics in the letter are invested with heavenly standards. The saints are reminded that as a colony of heaven, they are to live heavenly lives on earth, representing their Sovereign by a life which reflects Him. They are taught that obedience to the ethics of the Pauline epistles is not merely obedience to ethics as such, but involves a duty which they are responsible to discharge as citizens of a heavenly kingdom, and as subjects of a heavenly King.”
What I love about this passage is how Paul describes our behavior in a corporate way. He sees the Christian community living and working together in the midst of a crooked world. The supernatural life that we share as Christians begins to be seen in the life of the Christian community. Christ in us loves one another, loves the Kingdom of God, and lives His life through us publicly. So Paul is telling us to be mindful of our conduct, individually as well as corporately. How can I change my behavior? Our conduct, our very life flows out of that place of revelation found in the place of prayer and worship with our spiritual friends. So if you want to change your conduct, it might just start with that spiritual song.
THE NEW SONG AND CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;
All of us know about the importance of Christian community and spiritual unity, at least in our heads we know it is important. But bringing that concept into our experience is another matter. It is too easy to see the faults of others (and overlook our own). Easily offended, we pull away and never experience the blessing of walking together with others in one heart, one spirit, and one faith. It is easier to walk away than to forgive (or maybe ask for forgiveness) than it is to press on and face the challenges and the blessing of human relationships. Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke of Christian community and the role worship plays in the unity of that community. Here are a few of his comments.
“Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Our song on earth is speech. It is the sung word. Why do Christians sing when they are together? The reason is, quite simply, because in singing together it is possible for them to speak and pray the same Word at the same time; in other words, because here they can unite in the Word. All devotion, all attention should be concentrated upon the Word in the hymn. The fact that we do not speak it but sing it only expresses that our spoken words are inadequate to express what we want to say, that the burden of our song goes far beyond all human words. Yet we do not hum a melody; we sing words of praise to God, words of thanksgiving, confession, and prayer. Thus the music’s completely the servant of the Word. It elucidates (clarifies) the Word in mystery.”
As we see our world becoming increasingly dark and dangerous, we see the need of strengthening our community of faith (we normally call it church). The bond that strengthens this family is the fellowship we have with the Holy Spirit that with share with our Christian community. Singing the new song of the Lord with our spiritual family is the place this bond of unity is formed. I think of the picture of the 120 priests singing and playing their musical instruments together at the dedication of Solomon’s temple. As they lifted up their voices in one accord something unprecedented happened, that building was filled with the cloud of God’s Glory. No one there that day could ever go back to life as normal. That was impossible, they had tasted something only found in one place. They had tasted the very life of their community. After all, the scripture says that God inhabits the praises of His people.