Worship is All that Really Matters

Art by Lynda Finch
He leads us in His dance, Lynda Finch

“Jesus replied, “Do wedding guests fast while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. They can’t fast while the groom is with them.” 

Mark 2:19

This whole idea of celebrating is often at odds with religious sensibilities.  “Too much liberty and too much freedom, and not enough control.  People won’t know how to behave, and it’ll ruin everything.” This argument has been used for generations, and will continue to perpetuate itself.

People just don’t know what to do when the presence of Jesus becomes activated in their midst.

There is a wedding!  Like all weddings this alters the present status-quo.  “We interrupt life for this special announcement– JESUS is getting married!”  He has attached Himself to a bride, she is simple, and yet beautiful.  Room is made for the outcasts and mentally ill. For she is the Church, made up of rascals and ragamuffins who have had their many sins forgiven! All are invited.

We are limited our religious duty of fasting.  It is definitely not appropriate in the light of this good news.  Simply put, we cannot advance our religious reputation in this new environment. It’s not about us at all!  Joy has taken over, and we can do nothing but stand in wonder. Jesus Christ has become “all, and in all”.

To follow Jesus must mean we are people of joy and celebration!  The old concepts of religious effort are nullified, plain and simple.  It really isn’t required, but it is understood that we will rejoice.  We will begin to party!

Joy is to infuse our understanding, and it will lift us to the place where life becomes infected with the contagion of heaven.  It is an epidemic spreading to every believer. The Universe has become the stage when worship is the only solution to the history of man.

His Presence has tipped the scales, and He has formulated Himself as the center of the whole ‘kit and caboodle.’  A joyful romance is at the very essence of everything.  C.S. Lewis once said that “Joy is the serious business of heaven.”

When it all comes down, we are transferred into the status of the amazed.  What has happened has caused us to take a breath, and step back in wonderment.  Jesus is the Revolution!  We are brought to the place where we belong, we are nothing more than  witnesses and participants in His exaltation.  We must rejoice in the joy of the Bridegroom!

 ybic, Bryan

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His “Irresponsible” Love

“Nothing in the church makes people in the church more angry than grace. It’s ironic: we stumble into a party we weren’t invited to and find the uninvited standing at the door making sure no other uninviteds get in.

Then a strange phenomenon occurs: as soon as we are included in the party because of Jesus’ irresponsible love, we decide to make grace “more responsible” by becoming self-appointed Kingdom Monitors, guarding the kingdom of God, keeping the riffraff out (which, as I understand it, are who the kingdom of God is supposed to include.)” 

— Michael Yaconelli

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Often there can be a frustrated hostility simmering just below the veneer of a religious person.  It can be seen in sudden outbursts of irritation that seems to come from nowhere.  It is often encountered when they feel the ‘spigot of grace’ has been open too long, too much water is being used, and the people are getting a little wild in showing their enthusiasm.  “They’re acting like ungodly pagans.”

Regulating the watering hole becomes a compulsion, and a necessary work of the “Church.” Jesus’ love is for all is a confirmed fact, but we must have some standards of decorum and appropriate levels of conduct and respect.  “We the keepers-of-the- spigot are called to take some responsibility in this,” we end up saying.

Celebratory shouts of joy are simply not acceptable.  Dancing in the mud is way ‘out-of-line.’  But there is an outrageous element to grace.  It is preposterous and disturbing.  It is untamed and wild, and not at all logical.  “We definitely prefer the thinking side of our faith,” we say.

Judas rebuked Jesus as he was getting a foot massage from the ungodly woman.  She had no business to be there in the first place.  And secondly, she has just poured this incredible fortune on the feet of Jesus!  Judas said, “way out-of-line!”  But there is a irrepressible love that always pushes its way forward.

For those of us who have first experienced God’s love and grace we must keep an alert out for our hard hearts.  First, He is in charge of how the water is utilized.  Second, [and we MUST believe this] when a man or woman connect with the water, there can be spontaneous displays of joy!

The dance of grace

We must change our thinking, e.g. repent, and insist that we ‘cease and desist’.  Our attitude is not acceptable or true to the Spirit of Christ.  We are the ones way “out-of-line” and we have not been good witnesses about his grace and love.  We had better turn from this sin, and ask Jesus to free us again.

“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  John 8:32

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Shining Forever, and Ever

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“The wise people will shine like the brightness of the sky. Those who teach others to live right will shine like stars forever and ever.”

Daniel 12:3, NCV

“So our faces are not covered. They show the bright glory of the Lord, as the Lord’s Spirit makes us more and more like our glorious Lord.”

2 Corinthians 3:18, CEV

In my teenage years, my mom and I attended a bunch of services in a Christian commune.  (This would’ve been in 1972 -73.)  They all lived in a house, and had started a Christian rock and roll band.  I was impressed with what I saw.  When we gathered together for worship, they began to ‘glow’.  I would stare at them and they became ‘illuminated’, I had never seen anything like this before.  The presence of Jesus was there making Himself known in the hearts of His disciples.

Since then I have heard many testimonies of that same dynamic at work.  Confessing believers engaged in prayer and worship, have their countenance changed while in the Lord’s presence.  A peace and a joy and a confidence affects them in a profound way.  Their physical appearance is altered, and they proclaim ‘a peace that passes understanding’.

Since I became a Christian in 1982, I have retained those images in my thinking.  I now am very aware of the “witnessing presence’ of Jesus in the lives of His people.  And scripture itself, on several occasions points to this wonderful dynamic in active gear in the lives of consecrated believers.

When the light comes, it can’t help but transform those of us in darkness.  Our faces, hearts and countenances change when peace and joy (especially knowing our sins are forgiven).  For the first time we can truly know ‘joy’.

Daniel talks about ‘shining like a star’.  This is simply not ‘do-able’ in the mechanics of normal life as an unbeliever, at least for any real length of time.  That is simply not plausible.  The only answer is the Christian’s belief.  Namely, that Jesus Christ who is indwelling every believer, reflects His presence out into a dark world.

A few winters ago I was out walking on the Alaska Bible Institute campus.  Twilight was settling in and 20-30 yards ahead I was jolted by a child’s sled left in a snow pile.  In the monochromatic world of an Alaskan winter, the fluorescent sled glowed and could not be missed.  It was then I understood the verses about Christians being ‘a light on a hill that could not be hid’.

You and I who bear His presence are to be ‘fluorescent’.  His activity in our hearts are to make us astonishingly conspicuous.  We can’t hide His presence (even with sin) and we have been irrevocably marked and adjusted.  We have become ‘glow-in-the dark’.

ybic, Bryan

 

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We Shall Sun Ourselves in the Smiles of God

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“Heaven is where the unveiled glories of the Deity shall beat full upon us, and we forever sun ourselves in the smiles of God.”

Ezekiel Hopkins, “A Puritan Golden Treasury”

Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot fast while the groom is with them, can they? As long as they have the groom with them, they cannot fast. (Mark 2:19)

This was Jesus’ idea.  He was bringing correction to the lives of those who were very serious, and therefore most religious.  Our native tendency is to asceticism.  We evaluate ourselves religiously by our prayers and our fasts.

For serious people we have a serious religion, and we focus on doing serious religious activity, for that is what our serious faith demands.

Jesus pointed out that mournful faces are not indicators of a pious life.  How can His disciples mourn when Jesus the bridegroom is nearby? His disciples are going to a wedding, not a funeral!

Without question the New Testament believers are to know repentance and self-examination.  We should grieve over our sin, but that grief is to be based in hope, and in joy.  If you are saddened by sin, that sadness must be tethered to joy and not to despair.  Jesus has revolutionized forever the nature of religious faith.

The disciples could not mourn and fast while Jesus was present.   He does not wish His disciples to go mourning and fasting when they have no occasion for such exercises. His words are a defense of Christian joyfulness. Christ wants His friends to be glad. There is an utter incongruity in a sad and mournful Christian life.  It does not make sense in the light of what Jesus has done.

Our sins have been forgiven.  We have been dipped into the righteousness of the Son of God.  The fierce enemies of our souls have been eradicated by Jesus.  All of this is to bring out a song from a grateful heart.  We revel in the smile of Jesus and walk under the banner of a wonderous love.  We have His forgiveness and been given His favor.  We should be radiant!

 I pray that you’d would rejoice in this wonderful day he has made.

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Be Ye Glad!

“But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”

1 Peter 4:13, KJV

BE YE GLAD Lyrics

In these days of confused situations.
In these nights of a restless remorse,
When the heart and the soul of the nation,
lay wounded and cold as a corpse.
From the grave of the innocent Adam,
comes a song bringing joy to the sad.
Oh your cry has been heard and the ransom,
has been paid up in full, Be Ye Glad.

(Chorus)

Oh, Be Ye Glad, Be Ye Glad,
Every debt that you ever had
Has been paid up in full by the grace of the Lord,
Be Ye Glad, Be Ye Glad, Be Ye Glad.

From the dungeon a rumor is stirring.
You have heard it again and again.
But this time the cell keys are turning,
and outside there are faces of friends.
And though your body lay weary from wasting,
and your eyes show the sorrow they’ve had.
Oh the love that your heart is now tasting
has opened the gate, Be Ye Glad.

(Chorus)

So be like lights on the rim of the water,
giving hope in a storm sea of night.
Be a refuge amidst the slaughter,
for these fugitives in their flight.
For you are timeless and part of a puzzle.
You are winsome and young as a lad.
And there is no disease or no struggle,
that can pull you from God, Be Ye Glad.

Words and Music by M.K.Blanchard 
© Gotz Music/Benson 
(860) 673-5100

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Making Pain Work for You, [Trials]

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“Then they went back to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch in Pisidia. 22They encouraged the followers and begged them to remain faithful. They told them, “We have to suffer a lot before we can get into God’s kingdom.”

Acts 14:21-22, CEV

Paul and Barnabas, together are perhaps the most gifted men ever to minister the Gospel.  They have an amazing love for the Church.  They operate out of great difficulty, but the deep work they do, proceeds out of encouragement.  I looked at a dozen or so translations of the Bible–all of them translate this, “encouraged.”  Every single one!

Earlier in chapter 14, we can read about the brutality and ugliness they had to walk through.  It was very bad, beyond belief.  But these two never ever lose their love for the Lord, and for His people.  Their ministry continued to be full of optimism and comfort.  They simply can’t be poisoned by the nastiness and bitterness just days before.

They understand something.  What they have to say (as they minister that comfort) kind of boggles everyone’s thinking.

They said, “We must suffer many things to enter God’s kingdom.”

Comforting and strengthening, isn’t it?  Sometimes when I read this passage I can’t believe what they are saying!  It doesn’t make any sense at all.   I believe there are three things we must process to fully understand these verses.

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1)  What comforts us is not always comfortable.

 I’m slowly coming to the place of accepting pain and sickness as my personal doorway into the Lord’s kingdom.  I know my mental illness has opened an entrance into something wonderful.  My months of being institutionalized in different hospitals has seemed to have filled me with grace, gentleness and love–in other words, the kingdom. At least that is what I think.

2)  What we think is the best way often is not.

No one chooses one’s particular path.  If we could we would all be driving a BMW and our homes would be palaces, we would win the lottery on a regular basis.  Our children would be little angels.  We would never be sick, or have a chronic illness.  But–we can’t enter His kingdom, unless there are trials.  They have to be there, they must.  Somewhere it says,  if we suffer, we will reign.

3)  What we need from our elders and pastors is the truth.

 Often the leadership of the Church keeps this one in the closet.  They communicate very well other subjects that are enjoyable.  And we pressure them to do this, gently and subliminally of course.  And everyone wonders why we don’t mature in our faith.  Paul and Barnabas are tremendous leaders, but they don’t roll things in sugar, and their ministry carries on the sufferings of Jesus.

Often it seems, when God chooses to bless a man or a woman greatly, He will send a trial to prepare them deeply.

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Turning Joy Into Strength

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Joy becomes strength

“Because you did not serve the LORD your God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity,  therefore in hunger and thirst, in nakedness and dire poverty, you will serve the enemies the LORD sends against you. He will put an iron yoke on your neck until he has destroyed you.” 

Deuteronomy 28:47

“…the joy of the Lord will make you strong.  The Levites helped calm the people, saying, “Be quiet, because this is a holy day. Don’t be sad.”

Nehemiah 8:10

Two completely different viewpoints, with two effects on our understanding.  The first passage traces out for us a judgment which could of been adverted by joy.  JOY!  And even though joy is a remarkable thing, most will remove it and replace it with ‘guilt’.  That seems much more suitable for a Christian.  And ‘why’ is that? Is forgiveness that hard to believe?

Austere guilt and sadness seem a better alternative for ‘the sinner saved by grace’.  Any display of any frenetic joy disturbs us, and needs to be most definitely eradicated lest some get the wrong idea of us, and our churches.  Yet in this verse in Deuteronomy we are impressed with the idea that this is one of the reasons ‘judgment’ will come on to our lives.

I get a trifle nervous whenever an ‘iron yoke’ is talked about in scripture.  It means that it is long-lasting.  It is a judgment, but with a permanence.  And people who don’t walk out in joy are soon walking in bondage.  They don’t sing with their hearts out loud.  They choose not to sing, but to suffer.

Nehemiah had to reverse the polarity of his people.  They leaned toward sadness and grimness.  Nehemiah had to change the way these people thought and reasoned.  ‘The Kingdom of God is like a wonderful party’, he said.  It is for feasting, and not at all for fasting.  Nehemiah must reverse the natural direction of the people.

Nehemiah made the connection between joy and strength.  When he linked these two a very critical thing happened.  As people began to sing, they began to get strong.  A transfusion of joy began to work out its magic.  The nation was empowered and energized to do things.  The Levites had a good idea what was happening, and they proceeded to get them on the right track.  When joy is finally added to the mix, the people are prepared to move out in strength.

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