Sunday, July 22, 2007

Beauty - Creation, Awe and worship

These are thoughts and meanderings from a communion service that was held at Capital Vineyard this morning. This was taken by the working title team

Isaiah 6:1-3

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the LORD seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were the seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet , and with two they were flying. And the were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty:
The whole earth is full of his glory”

Psalm 24:1
The earth is the LORD’s. and everything in it, the world and all who live in it.

The earth is Gods, It was created to give glory to him and in a sense, it is filled with the glory of God, it is filled with his weight, his significant. Everything that has been created has been created to bring Glory to God, our LORD and saviour. All that has been made gives praise to God.

In Revelations we see another glimpse of this.
Revelations 4
After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this. At one I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashed of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. Before the throne seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass clear as crystal.
In the centre, around the throne were four living creatures, and they were covering with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying:
“Holy, holy, holy
Is the Lord God almighty
Who was, and is and is to come.”

This passage seems pretty confusing, I’m not even going to go into talking about the meaning behind the seven spirits of God etc, etc, probably because I would get it wrong. So I’m going to keep it simple before I end up looking stupid. The first part of this scripture talks about the indescribable beauty of God, and his wonderful power and glory. When prophets have written about God it always seems to turn into mish mash of words because what they have seen is so amazing and astounding, they cannot put the words together to explain what they see. Glimpses of heaven are like this, I know in my personal life, I have had these moments, moments of breathtaking beauty, some of them I have tried to take photos of or written down to try and carry a glimpse of that moment of heaven around with me always.

The most memorable occasion of this was in Russia. I was attempting to try and sing songs in Russian, and trying to learn the Cyrillic at the same time, and for the first couple of days in Russia it was really hard, the first glimpse of God I got was when I was singing Russian songs, and I realised that there were about three or four different groups of people from all corners of the world, for me that was a glimpse of heaven, I started to realise what is was going to be like, all the saints singing in unity in heaven, this added another level to praise and worship

Another moment on this trip was when me and Andre met up early in the morning and ended up having a praise and worship time together, this was just another amazing time. I can’t describe the unity, the presence of the spirit or the the realization of total communion and fellowship with one another.

Again from Russia, on the second trip, we arrived back at our base camp in Irkutsk, had dinner, and then went home. We were then invited for desert at Pavels place (I know I’ve spelt this wrong, I apologise) The table was laid out with food and it was just an amazing blessing of a time we spent together. They then told us that we were the first foreigners they had had in their house. It was a real blessing to share those moments with them, and be generously blessed by them through the food and the fellowship we shared with them.

Another Time I personally remember seeing the beauty of God in the everyday was when me and my good friend Andrew Purini on a trip up at riversdale in the Wairapa went out to see the sunrise, it was just amazing, I guess the other amazing moment was a women who was up there as well with her son came up to me and Andrew P and we got talking, found out she was a Christian and we prayed together and she prophesied over us. It was a really special God moment. We had just breathed in an amazing sight, a wonderful sunrise, which was just so special and amazing.

Many times, particularly in Pentecostal churches, we go up at the front of God, seeking a special touch from God, we get zapped, we see things differently for a while then things sometimes fizzle out. But we should seek out the abiding presence of God. God is with us in the everyday moments. As it says in the bible “The whole earth is filled with his glory”. Gods glory pervades All Creation.

Lets ask a couple of questions
Who created the world?

What did he say about it?
That it was Good

Who created Humanity?

What Did he say about it?
That it was very Good

So why do we miss these moments, what is so wrong with us that we miss the beauty and splendor in all things.

Lewis, paraphrased by John Piper in his work the “Dangerous duty of delight” states: “‘We are far too easily pleased.’ Almost all of Christs Commands are motivated by ‘the unblushing promises of reward.’ Based on ‘the staggering nature of rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our LORD finds our desires not too strong, but too weak”

In his sermon, “Beauty” Erwin McManas discussed this idea, he talks about his journey of discovery when it came to top quality coffee. When he came to the U.S. from El Salvador he would buy coffee and discover that it was too strong for his tastes. He had to train himself to accept good quality coffee, instead of the coffee which he used to drink. He also told the story of how he got a job at a steak house, he was used to eating well done steak, he asked for well done steak and was told that the restaurant did not do well done, he argued a while with the chef, who was disgusted that he would want well done steak. The chef then told him that he would make him a medium rare steak and if he didn’t enjoy it, he would cook him a well done steak. He ate the steak, and rejoiced in the occasion. The chef then said to him that he reserved the worst steak for those who ordered well done, and the best for those who ordered medium rare. He said that Erwin's taste buds had learned to accept the worst steaks rather than the best. Erwin again had to retrain himself.

As humanity we have done this as well, our desires are too week, we end up taking second best, taking phony cons rather than accepting the real deal in life. Rather than accepting the beauty and the glorious gifts that God has to offer us, we take second best.

Philippians 4:8
Finally what ever is true. Whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is love, whatever is admirable – if anything is praiseworthy – think about such things

- If I want to grow in the awareness of God all the times this is a really good guide in refocusing, training our taste buds too the good and the beautiful and praiseworthy.

Anyway, so what point am I trying to make, I guess that God is in everything, the sacred and the secular, creation and in hardship. God is in all these moments. We need to seek him out. Gods beauty is there to be discovered. We should embrace the beauty in all the times of life, and live life to the full.

In these occasions, when we see glimpses of heaven, we not only drink in Gods presence, but we come to realise that there is something bigger and better, there is more to life.

If you want to know more about this subject here are a few resources that can help you.
John Piper “The Dangerous Duty of Delight” – this is from a reformed perspective, its nice a short and pretty easy to read (saying a lot when it comes to Piper)

John Piper “Desiring God” – the unabridged version of “Dangerous Duty of Delight” – More difficult to read!

C.S Lewis “Surprised by Joy”

C.S Lewis “The Weight of Glory”

Erwin McManus “Beauty” – this is a podcast that you can pick up from

Bob Sjogren and Gerald – “Cat and Dog Theology: Rethinking our relationship with our Master: Living Passionately for the Glory of God” – Again from a reformed position, one of the most life-changing books you will ever read on Christian theology and where our focus in our Christian faith should be. A must read!

Rob Bell – Breath – Part of his Nooma series

Rob Bell “Velvet Elvis” particularly “Tassels”

Matt Mansell


Eloieli said...

Heh, reading through this maybe we should have jsut got you to take the whole service ^_^

A very eloquent recounting of what we did and what we meant. I just hope people captured it, captured the vision, the passion of it.

I am inclined to think that many Christians accept these ideas in principle, nod and agree, but then live as if the sacred and secular are seperated anyway.

I am almost overcome with a desire to grab people and shake them. Christian and not.

"There is MORE to life that this! God has big dreams for YOU! Wake up, arise from the slumber of the mundane, step into God, lean into his invitation, cast off your blinkers and see him and his glroy *everywhere*."

I especially get this urge at the bus stop. I suspect I'd get arrested if I actually started shaking people and shouting in their faces.

And then I want to shake myself too. Because I find if I don't cling to this truth with all I have it slips away and I am overwhelmed by the mundane.

That might not get me arrested, but might get me committed*

And I got to the end of your post and saw the link to my ramble about sacredness and was surprised. That's mighty fine company you put me in :) If I could be half the man that those other writers are I'd be pretty happy.
*To a psychiatric hospital, or to Jesus. Hmmm. I wonder. Perhaps the call he gives us is a call to a kind of hyperreal insanity...hmmm...I can feel a blog post coming on -_^

Nathanael Baker said...

To Be Honest Matt, I don't think I could have coped taking the whole service at the moment, I would have been too overwealmed with the weight of what needed to be said.

Some comments, that you don't need to agree with, their just humble veiwpoints.

1) I agree with you on the need for us to be shaken up as christians, to understand the whole weight of Gods prescience, and the beauty of his love. I was carrying this frustration on wenesday. I have issues when we say something and not do, I'm not saying that worshipping and singing a few songs is the issue, the problem is when it becomes the only thing we do as christians which is the issue. I'm having to shake myself up constantly and refocus on Gods glory, Gods love for the world, Gods beauty, as I understand that, I'm becoming more impelled to act.

2) I think you are right about needing to be kind of partly insane, have you seen the people who get the glory of God, thier kooks half the time, but they are also usually humble artists, creative people who can get the middle and understand that we can't live a dualistic life. Life in the spirit means the whole life. Life as a christian means our whole life should breath out Gods goodness, showing people that Gods beauty is in this world, revealing God to everyone! Man I could go about this subject forever! I could sing of Gods love forever - not just in words but in deeds :-)

Nathanael Baker said...

Thank you matt for your generous comments, your vision for working title vineyard is amazing, thanks for your heart for God and your heart for the lost.

Nathanael Baker said...
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