WHEN CHRIST COMES – THE MYSTERY OF ADVENT AND THE STUMP GROWER

“The cut-off stump of Jesse will sprout,
and a fruitful Branch will grow from his roots:
the Spirit of Yahweh will rest upon him,
the Spirit of Extraordinary Wisdom,
the Spirit of Perfect Understanding
the Spirit of Wise Strategy,
the Spirit of Mighty Power,
the Spirit of Revelation” ISAIAH 11:1

The guests have all left from your Thanksgiving Meal and you can’t wait to see the last dessert eaten, the stuffing thrown out, the leftover turkey frozen just to be able to eat something green again. Before you know it, we suddenly wake up to the coming of Christ or the “advent season”. When the son of man “rents a womb to come into the world”. (Augustine) The unexpected unwraps himself with something so small that becomes something so big. Right when you think you can never reach back and see any life from the stump, a branch begins to grow. It is called the story of redemption. It has brewed in the swirl for eternity, born the test of time only to come knocking at your door – the coming of him into your life. He is the stump grower, the branch extender, the vine connector. He becomes our ladder back to God in a most mysterious way. The little child in the manger always looks for the one that is invisible. The decay in your life where the roots have been forced to keep digging deeper will suddenly spring up and your cut off stump will grow like a green shoot. The germinator has come! Just allow him to come, forever come into you life and let him become the wonder for He too bore the brunt of the stump. Stumps understand other stumps.
It’s time to “sing, who were once barren”(Isaiah 54). Matthew Henry says, “The longer the church has lain desolate the greater will the transports of joy be when it begins to recover the ground it has lost and to gain more”. For in this Advent season, this coming season-you will gain new ground so to speak or new territories. Your life, your dreams, will sprout and grow till they overtake the very dark that they came from. Light comes in advent, when you receive the gift from the cradle hide it deep within. The barren one is comforted because It broke forth, as the breaking forth of waters—on the right hand and on the left, that is all around her house.
So go ahead, let the coming one come for the fullness of time came. As you hang your lights, decorate your tree-surround yourself with family, he comes in those precious moments hiding on their smiling faces. Open up your stunted self and watch the miracle grow…….

BREAK OUT

Micah 2:13 – The breaker goes up before them; They break out, pass through the gate and go out by it. So their king goes on before them, and the LORD at their head.

Peter probably said it best, “You preach freedom but you yourselves are slaves of your own corruption”. Slavery starts on the inside of us, not on the outside. This is one of the great ironies that surround us every day, humans want to break rules so that they can be free from the man or the system or the church. They indulge in promiscuity or drunkenness and proclaim that they are free all the while encumbering themselves in the mire of sin and suffering the consequences of bad decisions. Jesus is the Breaker who breaks this horrible pattern of destruction that humans tend to embrace. How does He do it? First, He opens our eyes to the foolishness of sin. Secondly, He draws us to Himself. It is in the presence of the Breaker that this horrible bondage is finally broken. He leads us out of bondage and into the joy of being sons and daughters of God. Here is how Maclaren describes it.

“Men and women! Some of you are the slaves of your own lusts. Some of you are the slaves of the world’s maxims. Some of you are held in bondage by some habit that you abominate, but cannot get away from. Here is freedom for you. The dark walls of the prison are round us all. ‘The Scripture hath shut up all in sin, that He might have mercy upon all.’ Blessed be His name! As the angel came to the sleeping Apostle, and to his light touch the iron gates swung obedient on their hinges, and Roman soldiers who ought to have watched their prey were lulled to sleep, and fetters that held the limbs dropped as if melted; so, silently, in His meek and merciful strength, the Christ comes to us all, and the iron gate which leadeth out into freedom opens of its own accord at His touch, and the fetters fall from our limbs, and we go forth free men. ‘The Breaker is gone up before us.”

Sin is not only controlling, it is also blinding. It the miracle of new birth that gives us sight, sight to see Christ as He is and to see the ugliness of sin. It is this miracle of sight that enables us to follow the Breaker and break out of our destructive patterns in life.

THE SWEETEST OF ALL SONGS

Rev. 14:3 – And they were singing a wonderful new song before the throne, in front of the four living creatures, and in front of the twenty-four elders.

Singing is a gift given to us by the Lord. Singing is obviously the release of the emotions of our heart. That’s why they always say “you have to pay your dues if you want to sing the blues”. So singing is the release of our sorrow, our joy, faith, or really anything that we are experiencing in life. Singing the new song of the Lord is literally a taste of heaven (I emphasize the word literal). So when someone is filled with God their cup overflows with joy. Often our joy is released in beautiful songs of joy. The heavenly song is saturated with life. Everyone who embraces this song is filled to overflowing and becomes a participant in singing the songs of the Lord. Here is how Jonathan Edwards responds to this passage.

“The singing of songs is used as a token of mirth and rejoicing. Singing and rejoicing are wont to go together. When carnal persons meet together to sing songs, it is in token of carnal mirth. But there is no joy like that which is expressed in singing this new song…..The melody is pleasant to the angels, and pleasant to the Lamb of God, and pleasant to him that sits upon the throne, and most pleasant to the soul that makes the melody. The act of praise is an abundant reward to itself. He that sings it has communion with God in it, for in the same time that there flows a stream of love out of the heart towards God, there flows a more full stream of love from God into the soul. At the same time that he praises God with a sweet voice, Christ with a sweeter voice speaks peace to the soul and manifests his love to it.”

Next time you go to church make a real attempt to hear His voice. He is present in His gatherings and He loves to minister to each of us. There is a supernatural joy that hovers in the midst of God’s people. As we sing the new song of the Lord spontaneously and corporately the presence of the Lord comes and hovers in our midst. He is setting us apart by His love so that we can glorify God in the world that’s confused and hurting. Maybe you are the vessel He wants to use in these last days.

CHOSEN WHEN WE WERE NOTHING

Ps.136:23 – TPT – He’s the God who chose us when we were nothing!His tender love for us continues on forever!

Ps.136:23 NKJ – Who remembered us in our lowly state, For His mercy endures forever;

This verse gives us an incredible look into the mercy of the Lord. The two characteristics that stand out to me in this verse about the mercy of the Lord is how He lavishes His mercy on us when we are nothing or as the NKJ says in our lowly state and how His mercy is everlasting. First look at His mercy on the undeserving. There is nothing I could have done to warrant mercy, actually the opposite was true, I did everything to offend God but instead of judgement I got mercy. His mercy reached into the depths of my depravity and poured out grace that opened my eyes to His love and broke the chains of sin that had enslaved me. As the Passion Bible says, “He chose me when I was nothing”.

Next, His mercy or tender love lasts forever and ever. He loved me before I was born, He loved me when I was rebellious, and He will love me beyond the end of time. Here is how Dick Mills defines this word eternity.

“Eternity; the ages; infinity; the universe, the world. Derived from the verb ‘alam (“veil from sight” or “conceal”), ‘olam refers to that infinite and everlasting expanse God has created. It is both an unending expanse of space (universe) and time (eternity), indicating the limitless dimensions in which God’s sovereignty is displayed. The word sometimes refers to the remotely distant past and sometimes to the remotely distant future. God is called ’El ‘Olam, “the Everlasting God”. As God is eternal, so is His mercy le ‘olam, that is, “unto the forever.”

The universe is intended to give us a glimpse into the eternal nature of our God. It reaches further than our computer generated telescopes can see and it reaches farther than our thoughts can imagine. His tender love for us is like that, it is deeper than the ocean, wider than the horizon, and higher than the heavens. There is no end to His tender love and mercy. My life began by His mercy, it is sustained by His mercy, and will continue forever by His mercy. He chose us when we were nothing and His tender love for us continues forever!

THANKSGIVING GOODNESS

Ps. 136:1 – Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!

For His mercy endures forever

This is one of the famous lines from the Psalms of David. It was sung at the dedication of Solomon’s temple and it was the song sung by the Levites as they marched before Jehoshaphat’s army leading them in victory. To me, it is a perfect song. It gives a glimpse of why we give thanks and worship the Lord, because He is good and His mercy endures forever. A glimpse of the goodness of the Lord brings us to a place of worship. When the paralyzed man was healed in Peter’s house everyone began to glorify the Lord, when the woman who was bent over for eighteen years was healed she began to glorify the Lord, when Jesus fed the multitudes they began to glorify God. Seeing His goodness brings us to the place of giving thanks to the Lord. Here is how Spurgeon describes this verse.

“We thank our parents, let us praise our heavenly Father; we are grateful to our benefactors, let us give thanks unto the Giver of all good. For he is good. Essentially he is goodness itself, practically all that he does is good, relatively he is good to his creatures. Let us thank him that we have seen, proved, and tasted that he is good. He is good beyond all others: indeed, he alone is good in the highest sense; he is the source of good, the good of all good, the sustainer of good, the perfecter of good, and the rewarder of good. For this he deserves the constant gratitude of his people. For his mercy endures for ever. We shall have this repeated in every verse of this song, but not once too often. It is the sweetest stanza that a man can sing. What joy that there is mercy, mercy with Jehovah, enduring mercy, mercy enduring for ever. We are ever needing it, trying it, praying for it, receiving it: therefore let us for ever sing of it.”

The Lord’s very essence is goodness. We see His goodness in all His works, His goodness was on full display in the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth, and His goodness is poured out on all of us through the immersion into the Holy Spirit. What else can we say but, “the Lord is good and His mercy endures forever”.

ROASTED MEAT, WORSHIP AND AN OFFERING

Psa. 116:12,13,&17 What shall I render to the LORD

For all His benefits toward me? I will take up the cup of salvation,

And call upon the name of the LORD. I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving,

And will call upon the name of the LORD.

Have you ever thought about the atmosphere in the temple in Jerusalem? It was a very special place with the sounds and smells of worship and sacrifice. There was the sounds of animals, the bleating of the sheep, and the mooing of the cows. There was the sounds of the musicians and the singing of the levites. There was also the smells, the smell of incense and the smell of roasted meat filled the air. Jerusalem was constantly filled with these festival sounds and smells. The sounds and smells of holiday celebration filled the temple all year round, it was a happy place for the children of Israel to visit throughout their lives.

One of the offerings that was brought before the Lord was a thank offering. It was characterized by confessing before the Lord His goodness, His power, and His mercy. This is the idea Paul had in mind when he wrote in Hebrews 13:15 “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” As we come before the Lord, we confess to His name, His goodness, His power, and His mercy.

Thanksgiving Day reminds me of the Jewish festivals. These festivals were characterized by worship, preaching, celebration in singing and worship, and always plenty of good food. There was always one requirement that the Lord made for each of these festivals. You were required to celebrate before the Lord with joy. There could be no sadness at the Lord’s thanksgiving celebrations.

This Thanksgiving, people all over America are celebrating with their families. Many people will be with loved ones they only see on special occasions. This is a very special time. Just like the temple, there will be all sorts of sounds and smells at these family gatherings. There will be music, laughter, and the delightful smells of our Thanksgiving feast. There is nothing quite like it. Israel was the only nation on earth that had these Thanksgiving celebrations to worship and give thanks to their great Jehovah God. In the same way, Thanksgiving is uniquely American. Each year we remember what the Lord has done in our lives and we remember what He has done throughout history for our nation. We have a spiritual legacy, thankfully we can still embrace and celebrate our heritage.

This year as you gather with your family, stop and observe the sounds and smells of that day. Maybe for a moment you can be transported in time to those special days of joy in Jerusalem. Maybe if you close your eyes and listen and smell you can be transported to that first American Thanksgiving as our forefathers gave thanks to the Lord for their new land. Oh yeah, remember the Lord’s command, everyone has to be happy at His celebration.

MELODY OF THE HEART

Rev.14:2 – And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps,

Life carries within itself a rhythm or a melody. Each city has a feel or rhythm about it, it is no different with the city of the Lord. Take New Orleans for example, you can spot a local a mile off. I have lived in New Orleans for about fifty of my sixty seven years. I have pretty much become a part of the city but there is still a distinct difference when you meet someone who has been in a New Orleans family that has been here for generations. New Orleans is literally in their blood. This new song that John is speaking of can only be sung by citizens of the heavenly city. Being born again is how you become part of the population of the New Jerusalem. When that happens the life that enters you brings you into the rhythm and harmony with the heavenly company, then and then only can you begin to sing the new song. Here is how Jonathan Edwards describes this mystery.

“There must be an ability to sing. 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…..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 in 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 joy unspeakable and full of glory”. They that are unacquainted with this spiritual melody, they can’t learn to sing that new song.”

So has your heart been tuned to the heavenly song. You must have the substance of the song, the gospel of Jesus Christ in your heart. You also need the melody of the song which is the work of the Spirit. It’s impossible to fake it, the locals will see phonies a mile away.

NEW SONG OF THANKSGIVING

Rev.14:2,3 – The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, and they were singing a new song before the throne.

There are many things to be thankful for that come to us from the hand of the Lord. We are thankful for the Lord’s hand upon our families, our health, His provision, His protection, our church family. You could write a list and never exhaust it because His mercies are daily and they are extravagant. But if I had to nail down why I am thankful I would have to go to redemption. Redemption is our greatest gift. Recently, as I was giving the altar call for Beyond the Grave, I got stuck looking at the faces in the crowd and wondering about the circumstances they may be facing. I was wondering if they understood and if they were able to appreciate God’s great work and the redemption He was offering to “whosoever will”. This gift when embraced changes everything. It actually produces a kind of song in your belly. Suddenly you will be singing the new song with the angels and the redeemed. Here is how Edwards describes this passage.

“By this work of God in renewing the heart, the man that is the subject of it becomes a new creature or is a new man, as it is often said in Scripture. And therefore no wonder that his song is new: for we are told that “old things are passed away” and “all things become new with him”. [The] hearts of the redeemed are new. He has a new spirit put within him. Their natures are new. In some sense their bodies are new. They have new eyes. They are renewed in the whole man. They are said to be “a new lump,” having put away “the old leaven”. They are newborn babes. They have new garments, for their filthy garments are taken away and they are clothed with change of raiment. And they have a new name. Rev. 2:17, “He that overcometh I will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” And ch. 3:12, “I will write upon him my new name.”

The new birth is supernatural and mysterious. Somehow our very makeup, our nature, is totally changed. We have a different rhythm and lyrics beating inside of us. We have become part of heaven’s brand new song.

ENTER HIS GATES WITH THANKSGIVING

Ps.100:4 – Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

Thanksgiving week is upon us. I love it. I enjoy watching the secular news folks tie themselves in pretzels as they avoid the inevitable. Who are with thankful to? In order to be thankful we have to acknowledge the Creator. More than that, giving thanks points to the sovereign nature of our Creator. Giving thanks not only points to His sovereignty it also points to His goodness. In order to give thanks you must acknowledge the personal nature of the Lord, humble yourself acknowledging your dependence on His goodness, and respond to His goodness with worship bathed in giving thanks. Here is how Charles Spurgeon describes it.

“In all our public service the rendering of thanks must abound; it is like the incense of the temple, which filled the whole house with smoke……So long as we are receivers of mercy we must be givers of thanks. Mercy permits us to enter his gates; let us praise that mercy……And into his courts with praise. Into whatever court of the Lord you may enter, let your admission be the subject of praise: thanks be to God, the innermost court is now open to believers….Be thankful unto him. Let the praise be in your heart as well as on your tongue, and let it all be for him to whom it all belongs. And bless his name. He blessed you, bless him in return; bless his name, his character, his person. Whatever he does, be sure that you bless him for it; bless him when he takes away as well as when he gives; bless him as long as you live, under all circumstances; bless him in all his attributes, from whatever point of view you consider him.”

David said in today’s verse that we can actually enter the gates of His presence with thanksgiving. As we worship and give thanks for all He has done for us in Christ, we suddenly become flooded with the amazing sense of His presence. This attitude of thankfulness drags us out of the realm of self centered ungratefulness and brings us immediately into the courts of our King. Acknowledge Him and His kindness in your life. Lift up your voice and worship Him. As you do your enemies will be scattered and your heart will overflow with the goodness of the Lord.

THE RIVER OUTPOURING

Ps.46:4 – God has a constantly flowing river whose sparkling streams

bring joy and delight to his people.

His river flows right through the city of God Most High,

into his holy dwelling places.

I have told this story probably hundreds of times in the last twenty five years but it is impossible to tire of reiterating the same story again and again. The testimony of the move of God lives in the telling of the story. In 1994 I was dissatisfied and unappreciative of the things of God and with the church I pastor in New Orleans. Saying that again today brings me under conviction. I was dry and lukewarm in my spiritual life. Now don’t misunderstand, I was not living a secret life of sin, I was faithful to my marriage and was walking in a pure, Christian life. Something just wasn’t right. Somehow I was trying to get my satisfaction and identity from the size and influence of my church but it was never big enough or good enough. I had fallen into the despair of professional Christianity.

When I first heard rumors of the outpouring of the Spirit I was disinterested at best and critical at worst. I reluctantly went to some revival meetings near Dallas, Texas and that’s when I got more than I bargained for. The services were worse or better (depending on your perspective) than I could have imagined. There were worship times that would go on for two hours, offering teachings that seemed endless, and services that would often last beyond midnight. There were people littering the floor, their bodies, having been overcome by the Spirit. There was mass intoxication by the Spirit and then there was the laughter. Hundreds of people laughing and laughing at the same time.

The outward appearance of all those things would unnerve just about anyone except…. The longer I stayed in that atmosphere the more undeniable it became. What do I mean? The presence of the Lord was unmistakable, undeniable, and stronger than I had ever begun to experience. That’s what got me; the familiar presence that drew me to Christ so many years before was reeling me in to the River.

After several days in those services I went up for prayer. Needless to say God rocked my world. I was filled with a supernatural joy that tasted to me like heaven itself. My joy was restored, my first love for the Lord was restored, and my love for His church was restored. Twenty five years later I am still enjoying the fruit of that outpouring. All I can say is do it again Lord.