..."and a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness; evil minded people shall not travel on it, but it shall be for those wayfarers who are traveling toward God. (Isaiah 35:8, adapted)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Bible Study: Book of Daniel, Chapter 5-- The Folly of Pride

Throughout the book of Daniel we continue
to see the stark contrast between Daniel,
who fears God and walks with Him, compared
with the prideful and foolish Babylonian kings.

In Chapter 5 of Daniel, Belshazzar,who is in
Nebuchadnezzar's bloodline, perhaps the grandson,
is introduced. What we see immediately is
that wanting to make yourself look good,
plus an excess of wine, will push you to
do things that you should not do.

Belshazzar was giving a great feast and the
wine flowed freely. In order to further
impress his guests he decides, against
all good judgment, to bring out the gold and
silver vessels that Nebuchadnezzar had
taken from the temple of Jerusalem and
allow people drink wine from them.

Proverbs 16:18&19 says, "Pride goes before
destruction, and a haughty spirit before
a fall. Better it is to be of a humble
spirit with the lowly, than to divide the
spoil with the proud."

The last thing we hear from Nebuchadnezzar,
even the last verse of Daniel chapter 4,
is this: "...those that walk in pride He
[God] is able to abase" (Dan 4:37).

Nebuchadnezzar was brought down by his pride.
Here, the same thing is happening. Belshazzar
is playing with fire! It is said that they
"drank wine and praised the gods of gold,
and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood,
and of stone" (Daniel 4:4). How foolish!
It is interesting that they did not mention
the God of Israel, although they surely
were told where the vessels came from.

They praised things that could not speak
back, they extolled things they could control
and things that served them! Praising the
God of Israel, on the other hand, would have
brought them face to face with the Living God.
It would have brought them face to face with
their pride, foolishness, and idolatry.

Why does Israel, indeed, why does anyone, turn to
idolatry? Because it serves them. It turns the
relationship of us serving God to a god
serving us! Praising the gods of silver and
gold made these objects appear to be something
greater than they are. Here were gods they could
use, yet this shows their ignorance of the Living
God and their lack of respect for Him. God makes
us, we don't make God! God commands us, we
don't command God! God uses us as His vessels,
we don't use Him!

Have you ever wondered, if the Living God
of Israel is your God, why you would choose
to turn away from Him?

In pondering this we will come face to face
with that in us that does not want to be
mastered and led by God.

But in the same hour that this misplaced
revelry happened, the fingers of a man's hand
appeared and wrote of God's impending
judgment upon them. Here was the wake-up call!

The King brought all his wise men to him
but they could not interpret what was written
on the wall. The queen reminds Belshazzar
of Daniel, who had an "excellent spirit,"
one who interpreted dreams with wisdom and
one who "dissolved doubts" (Daniel 5:12).

How would you like to be a person who
dissolved doubts? Doubts arise from being
double minded, they arise from wanting
something both ways, they arise from
lack of knowledge of God. Daniel was a
man who continually purposed in his heart
to follow God. He didn't choose to worship
God part of the time, and Nebuchadnezzar
or Belshazzar the rest of the time. He was
always sure because he was entirely God's!

Belshazzar promises Daniel wealth and power.
Daniel tells the king, "Let thy gifts
be to thyself, and give they rewards to
another, yet I will read the writing" (vs 17).
It is a dangerous trap to take money or
position for the gifting of God. God will
provide for you and make a way for your gift,
but God gives us His gifts freely so freely
we should share. Daniel could have easily
compromised but he stands as a exemplary
example of someone who would not compromise.

Daniel tells Belshazzar it was because
Nebuchadnezzar's heart was lifted up and
his mind hardened in pride that he was
deposed from his kingly throne. If Belshazzar
knew about the silver and gold objects taken
from the temple surely he knew the whole
story. But how selective is our memory
and how quickly we forget the parts we
do not wish to remember!

So judgment comes to Belshazzar just as
it came to Nebuchadnezzar. God is not
mocked, what we sow we reap. May we sow
humility and the fear of the Lord, lest
we reap a whirlwind of destruction.

Friday, June 27, 2008

For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be
served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.
.. C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), "Equality"

photo taken in Cheltenham, England

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Devotions From the Heart:Vision Accompanied by Purity

by Pastor Derek Gitsham

"Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not
disobedient to the heavenly vision" (Acts 26:19)

We are living in days when from the pulpit to
the pew everybody is crying out, “we must have
a vision, we must have a vision.” They go on to
quote from Proverbs, “that without a vision,
the people perish.”

Pet themes in preaching become very popular
amongst the people that oftentimes vital truths
that accompany them are left out. Although the
word "purity" is not mentioned in the scriptures
associated with vision, yet the Word of God clearly
brings it forth for us to see. For instance “Blessed
are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mat 5:1).
No mention of vision here, but clearly Jesus says
without a pure heart we will not get the right vision.

David records in Psalm 18:26, “With the pure Thou wilt
show Him Thyself pure, and with the froward
(unsavoury—not a word currently used in the English
dictionary) thou will show thyself froward.”

If God is to be seen to us as pure, and if He shows
Himself pure, then it is because we are pure. So
disposition controls what we see. In other words,
“character determines vision” (Oswald Chambers).

Many are chasing after visions, while God is
chasing them to get cleaned up. You will never
see with misty glasses, fogged up lenses. Get them
cleaned up and you will see as clear as the day.
So many are lacking vision because they are lacking
purity. The pure in heart see God. He is our vision.

Muddy waters do not yield up any possibility of us
seeing into the waters. Mixture and contamination
dwell in all of us, unless by diligent pursuance of
our relationship with God and giving ourselves to Him,
we see God remove the uncleanness and the waters
become pure.

Paul says, “To the pure, all things are pure.” So
then to get the right vision we have to get a pure heart,
lest we go chasing after what we think is God’s vision
for us, when in fact it is not; just a fable of our
imagination. God keep us true to the heavenly vision,
where all is pure and sin free.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Grand View of God

Lately I have been thinking about God alot.
This is nothing new, but I've REALLY been
thinking. Pondering about why I believe
in God, and Who Is the God I believe in.
No, asking of Him, "Who are You?"; delving
into the Scriptures so that I might
believe correctly in Him.

Even saying "the God I believe in" reveals
a primal self-focused flaw. For He is far above
any conception I have of Him, far beyond
any current revelation I know of Him,
far beyond what my mind can take in of Him
and yet, amazingly, closer than a brother.

I am back to an ineffable name, a Name
too holy to speak, yet made flesh in
Jesus Christ. This quote by Walter Kaiser
crossed my desk, "great worship occurs
when there is a great view of God.

So I sit in my house, lay on my bed, walk along
the streets, read the scriptures, pray
in the tongues of men and angels, as a kind of
supra-cognitive awe begins to descend upon me.
I come once again to the foot of the Cross to look
at God.

If great worship occurs when there is a
great view of God then that judges our
current level of worship and our current
view of God. Worship starts with
a great view of God. It starts when I see
Him as He is and am struck dumb. It starts
when I see Him and there is so much of
Him that I cannot find myself. It starts with
His purposes in Christ for Israel and finishes with
His purposes in Israel at long last found and brought
home to Christ.

It starts when the wise men bow down before
the great God of the universe who has chosen
to become a baby in the Child Jesus. It starts
when we, in the dark night of our souls, press pass
our questions and confusion and go and
sit, as Job, before a God we know on paper,
but not in reality. It starts when we take
one look at all that is around us and
realize that it could not possibly occur
by chance. Despite the seemingly cruel acts
of life that befuddle and oppose, slinging
their dark arrows of alleged outrageous fortune--
a thunderous grace emerges, a grace so vehement,
and robust, that to see it, even for moment,
would melt our souls.

A great view of God is Jesus' view of God.
Without His aid, we cannot even get into
the cheap bleacher seats of the Kingdom
of heaven.

A great view of God civilizes us. For without
that view, we are mere barbarians, for no
matter how far technology and science can take us,
they cannot teach us how to act as divinely
created children of God, much less give
us the power to do so.

A great view of God lifts us up from
foolishness, illusion, and the folly of
worshipping a god of our own making.

A great view of God brings us to God's
holiness, front to back, side to side, up,
down, and sideways. It brings us to the heavy
glory of who God is, not merely
as felt Presence, but as a creative, fiery
Spirit who comes to bring a holy fire of
purifying transformation within us.

Isaiah sees God's holiness and is undone.
Peter sees Christ's command of the elements
and wants Christ to depart from him--his sense of
sinfulness making him so weak-kneed he has no
strength to flee himself. Can you imagine
if he, or you, or I, saw the whole picture?

Worship of idols dehumanizes the high calling
of man before God. Contrarily, a grand view of
God puts us first in the dust, as mere chaff
blowing in the wind. Yet, by transformational
grace, and a long obedience in a holy
direction, we are raised from the dust as
Sons and Daughters of the Holy and Living
God. God makes Himself into dust, and then
makes dust into a people worthy of Himself.

If worship is only about us, about our feelings,
our hopes and dreams, and even our highest
yearnings, it has failed to give us a grand
enough view of God. Grand worship decreases
us so that He is known and seen as All in All.

Grand worship is "bid me come" (Matthew 14:28).

Grand worship is "be it done to me according
to Your Word" (Luke 1:38).

Grand worship is "I have sinned against heaven
and in thy sight and am no more worthy to be
called thy son" (Luke 15:25).

Grand worship is the fear of the Lord (Luke 12:4,5).

Grand worship is the "things that are impossible
with men are possible with God (Luke 18:26).

Grand worship is "Lord, I am not worthy that
you should come under my roof"(Matthew 8:8,9).

Grand worship is pouring oneself out rather
than pouring one's words out(Matthew 26:7).

Grand worship is he that overcometh shall
inherit all things and I shall be his God
(Rev. 21:7).

Grand worship is "the kingdoms of this world
are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and
of his Christ; and he shall reign forever
and forever and the four and twenty elders,
which sat before God on their seats, fell
upon their faces and worshipped God"
(Rev. 11:16,17).

God, give us a grand view of Yourself. Pull
down everything that does not do You justice.
Show us our idols so that we might pull them
down to see You in Your Grand Glory.

God, give us a grand view of Yourself.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

"The life of holiness is the life of
faith in which the believer, with a
deepening knowledge of his own sin and
helplessness apart from Christ,
increasingly casts himself upon the Lord,
and seeks the power of the Spirit and the
wisdom and comfort of the Bible to battle
against the world, the flesh, and the devil."
Edmund P. Clowney --"The Church"

photo taken in Colorado Springs, Colorado

Devotions From the Heart: Taking No Thought

by Pastor Derek Gitsham

"Take therefore no thought for the morrow;
for the morrow shall take thought for things
of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil"
(Matthew 6:34).

Jesus words were spoken before the disciples
had received the Holy Ghost on the Day of
Pentecost. How much they understood certainly
must be in question. Surely they were followers
of the Lord, but they were yet to know the Lord
spiritually and by the Spirit.

Knowing Him after the flesh was not what God was
after. He came that men might know Him after the
Spirit. Even as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:16,
“Henceforth know we no man after the flesh, yea,
though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet
now henceforth know we Him no more.” The words of
the Lord are spiritual, “the words I speak are
Spirit and life,” Jesus said.

The words “take no thought” literally mean no
anxious thought. Do not be over concerned about
anything concerning life here. “Be careful for
nothing,” Paul says. How wonderful of the Lord
to say these things. So often we get anxious about
what we have not, what we need, thoughts about
how we will pay this or that. If our faith is
really in the Lord it will be anxiety free, fear
free. Anxiety produces fear.

“Perfect love casts out all fear” says John.
There is nothing you and I can think of that
He has not already thought of for us. We are
His. Because we belong to the Lord, He takes
the responsibility for taking care of us. We
are His. Yet how long does it take for the
heart to really believe that “He careth for
us.” So often we have believed the lies of
the enemy that God will not come through.
He answers all prayers.

His Word will not return to Him void. Fight
the good fight of faith. He will come through
for you. The darkness will turn to light,
sorrow to joy and your wounds will be healed.
Only believe, and take no thought. No thought
whatsoever. He feedeth the fowls, are you not
much better than they?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Devotions from the Heart: Renewing the Mind

by Pastor Derek Gitsham

"And be renewed in the spirit of your mind." Ephesians 4:23

By using the word renewed here Paul is saying
the mind must undergo a process of change. The
natural mind will not acquiesce immediately to
the movings of the Spirit but by continual
discipline and care. Forming spiritual habits,
the mind will be taught the mind of Christ.

“Renew” in Greek means “to renew or to make young.”
Vines Word Dictionary says, “the renewed here
mentioned is not that of the mind itself in its
natural power of memory, judgment and perception,
but the spirit of the mind, which under the
control of the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit,
directs the heart and energies forward in the
enjoyment of “fellowship with Father and with
His Son, Jesus Christ,” and of the fulfillment
of the will of God.

Paul’s Romans twelve references also is revealing,
“Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind that
you may prove what is that good and acceptable and
perfect will of God.” Proverbs 23: 7 says that “as
a man thinketh in his heart, so he is.” How careful
we must be that our minds are still not enslaved to
old ways of thinking.

Renewal is the work of the Spirit in the believer,
but we must co-operate with Him if He is to perform
His work in us. So important is this word renewal
that Paul to Titus says 3:5 “We are saved by the
washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.”
Renewal is a saving work.

God is working to save us from our own minds and
that will only be possible as we put restraints on
what we allow ourselves to think, feed our minds
with His word, and forcibly block out what the world
is trying to make us think. By forcibly blocking out
we mean paying full attention to what God is saying
in His Word and taking heed to it. The battle in
the heavenlies is for our minds, and it is up to us
what we allow them to think. Be renewed, and win the
battle and grow in the things of God mightily.

Ah Lord, Love me Greatly!

"Ah Lord, Love me greatly, love me often and long!
For the more continuously You love me, the purer I
shall be; the more fervently You love me, the more
lovely I shall be; the longer You love me the more
holy I shall become, even here on earth."

--Mechthild of Magdeburg.

photograph taken in Ludlow, England

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Devotions from the Heart: Our Destiny

By Pastor Derek Gitsham

"According as he hath chosen us in Him
before the foundation of the world, that
we should be holy and blameless before
Him in love" (Ephesians 1:4)

For many in these days destiny has become
something that men strive for by doing for
God, when in fact destiny is not about what
we achieve, but what we become.

Paul, in this verse in Ephesians, says that
before the foundation of the world we have
been chosen to be holy. What a first! This
is the first thing in God’s mind. Man is
capable of doing many things, but becoming
holy is an entirely different matter.

P.T. Forsythe says so profoundly, “You can
go behind love to holiness, but behind holiness
you cannot go.” He is love because He is Holy
(I Peter 1:16). Holiness is the end even as
Paul writes to the Romans, “But now being made
free from sin, and become servants to God, you
have your fruit unto holiness, and the end
everlasting life” (Romans 6:22). Fruit is the
final thing from the tree, and its joined, says
Paul, with eternal life. That is the end—holiness
unto eternal life. There is no life without
holiness, for Jesus was life—in Him was life and
the life was the light of men (John 1:4). He was
life because He was holiness. Holiness was Him.

Forsythe says again, “We may come to holiness
by way of love, but we only come to love by
reason of holiness.” How true this is, that
holiness is the reason for all and behind all
that God has done and achieved.

If God by justifying his people is all He is
doing, then justification has no meaning, but
if by justifying us—He makes us holy, then we
have the real meaning of justification. He
forgives me to make me holy. Again, if forgivenss
is not unto holiness, forgiveness has no meaning.
Praise God for the wonderful end God has in view
for us all. When He forgives, it is because He
desires to make us holy. In doing so God is
justified by His own actions. Amen!

Monday, June 02, 2008

The Spiritual Boundaries of Covenant Relationship with God

God "cut" a covenant with our spiritual forefather,
Abraham (Genesis 15). That covenant finds its
completion and destiny in Jesus Christ. Through
Christ we are in relationship to God, on terms of
God's own making. We do not enter into relationship
with God except on God's terms.

There is a binding legal covenant, ratified by
the blood of Christ, between God and His people.
We have become "flesh of His flesh and bone of
His bone." We are betrothed to God. The earthly
marriage relationship reflects this covenant,
and that is why God has strong boundaries set
regarding the marriage relationship.

The line-upon-line letter of the Old Covenant
gives way to the indwelling relationship and
union with God of the New Covenant. Yet Jesus
said, "I have not come to abolish the law but
to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17)"

Throughout the Old Testament, God constantly
lamented Israel's lack of fidelity. She
shamelessly pursued spiritual experience outside
of the covenant that God had set up. Israel was,
indeed, having relationships with false gods
outside of her relationship with God. To be
blatant, she was having the spiritual
equivalent of sex outside of marriage.

No sooner was Moses out of sight but she had
taken up with the golden calf (Ex. 32). God sent
prophet after prophet to most graphically
put a mirror up to her adulterous face
(cp. Hosea 4; Ezekiel 16; Jeremiah 3;
Isaiah 1; etc).

What was her downfall? What exactly was the
nature of her sin? She did not cling to the
Lord but pursued spiritual experience apart
from Him! She lavished her love and attention
on gods of her own making and not on the Living

Spiritual experience, even false spiritual
experience, is not without pleasure. Knowing
and loving God within the prescribed boundaries
that He has designed is joy and delight forevermore.
But illicit spiritual experience also has its
pleasures, dangerous though they might be.

What, you may ask, would be illicit spiritual
experience? First, it would be any spiritual
experience that does not come from our
covenant relationship with God. Just as
one may have sexual relations outside of
marriage, and find pleasure in them, so
one can experience spiritual experiences
outside of our relationship to Christ.
Spiritual thrill-seeking is quite dangerous.
Seeking an experience apart from your
relationship with God is deadly (Ex 34:14-16).

Secondly, another kind of illicit spiritual
experience is engaging in anything that
God has forbidden us to engage in. There
are things we can engage in, spiritual
experiences that touch things that God
has asked us not to touch. God has forbidden
occult experience, witchcraft, wizardry,
summoning the dead, calling on spirits,
fortune telling,etc. (Deut. 17:3, Lev 19:31,
Deut. 18:10-13, Ezek. 13;18-23). There are
a whole host of things that cause us to look
to something other than God for information
or power. These are all spelled out in the
Covenant. God has not changed His mind.

A third form of illicit spiritual activity
is the use of formulaic, repetitive, or
methodical methods aimed at manipulating
God to do something. Such activity often
originates in the soul, but then can
encounter a warm welcome from demonic
forces. Obviously our spiritual lives
must have form and discipline, but
when we try to manipulate God through
some method, we are headed for a downfall.
We don't control God, God controls us!

As we move into a more spiritually active
season in history, and have more and more
opportunity to enter into experiences that
strongly affect our relationship with God, we need
to beware of undifferentiated and undiscerned
"mystical" experience. Everything that gives
you goosebumps is not from God.

Some of hallmarks of genuine encounter with
God are:

1) an acute sense of God's holiness and man's
sinfulness (Isaiah 6; Matthew 3).

2) lasting change that increases our reliance
on Christ, and decreases our reliance on ourself.
In right relationship with God, we always decrease
and He always increases! (John 3:30).

3) The fruit of the Spirit will increase and abide in
our lives. A counterfeit may produce something that
looks real, but it will be short lived (Gal 5:16-26).

4) We will have an integrated knowledge of God
that corresponds with His revealed Word.
Legitimate spiritual experience will not make
us overly sensual nor overly intellectual nor
overly soulish. It will not lead us to other
gods, to another "jesus', to angels, to men,
or bliss apart from relationship with Christ.
(cp. 2 Peter 1 & 2).

It will make us neither legalistic nor so
spiritually punch drunk that we can not be
about our Father's business. What we feel
as we experience God is not as important
as what God accomplishes in us as we
encounter Him. We cannot even come to God
unless He draws us (John 6:44). Strong feelings do
not automatically equal a strong sanctification
process although a robust relationship with
God will certainly provide you a fair share
of robust feelings. Enjoy! Still, just because you
don't "feel anything" does not mean that
nothing has been accomplished inwardly.

No matter what, we must stay within the
boundaries that God's covenant with us
prescribes. One simple act of obedience
is worth a thousand visions of angels.
If you are feeling a little fuzzy about
what God's boundaries might be, this might
be a good time to seriously look at the
Word of God.

Be ever faithful to God.