A Song of Protest: a call for prophetic music

INTRODUCTION

I was deeply moved recently by reading a book about early Christian devotion to Jesus. In his letter to the emperor Trajan the Roman official Pliny (c.112 A.D.) records torturing and executing Christians who confessed that they “meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god”. Such devotion under pressure is common in scripture.

reformation in Christian music

David authors psalms whilst being pursued by enemies (ps 7, ps 27, ps 31, ps 34, ps 35, ps 52), Jesus and his disciples sung a praise hymn on the way to Gethsemane (Mark 14:26), beaten and placed in a dungeon “about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God” (Acts 16:25).

The climactic musical book in scripture runs with the blood of the saints; Revelation is punctuated with hymnic material  (Rev 1:5-6, Rev 4:11, Rev 5:9-10, Rev 7:11-12, Rev 11:17-18, Rev 15:3-4, Rev 19:6-8).

Such worship is deeply inspirational in a way grossly lacking in our churches.

I will never forget coming out of a Pentecostal Church as a new Christian and commenting, “We say ‘Hallelujah, Praise the Lord’ but our lives are not changed.”

I had recognised a disturbing disconnect between my public spiritual performance and holiness of life. Something weird often happens when people sing. During an internship placement whilst at theological college I was amazed to hear the congregation happily sing from a hymn I knew they would never consent to doctrinally. All this points to a need for a reformation in Christian music.

THE PROTEST OF PRAISE

The note I find to be almost completely absent from popular contemporary Christian music is one of protest. My thinking about praise as a protest was first triggered by reading an account of student revival in Ethiopia in the 70’s when that nation was under an anti-Christian Marxist dictatorship.

The believers started to write their own songs, some of which were designed to help them overcome the evils of materialism and secularism.

Such an ethical intent is usually absent from our normal congregational experience. Why aren’t our contemporary song writers exhorting us to beware the temptations of consumerism and immorality?

The answer is found in the exhortations of Paul about corporate praise; Eph.vs.15walk, not as unwise but as wise….be filled with the Spirit, vs.19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…. Col 3.vs.16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Eph 5:15, 18-19: Col 3:16-17).

The vertical dimension of thankfulness to the Lord is practiced in our churches, but the horizontal dimension of exhorting one another to godliness through song is absent because we lack godly wisdom.

Imbibing a culture which teaches happiness is to be desired and unhappiness avoided our song writers and “worship leaders” cannot impart a godly wisdom grounded in holy fear (Prov 9:10).

They lack the faith to teach us how we are to overcome the world (1 John 5:4).

Despite popular convictions of a renewal in Church worship the steep decline in holiness of life in Western Christianity testifies otherwise. In our spiritual infancy we must return to the teachings of scripture (1 Cor 3:1-3).

LAMENT AS THE PATHWAY TO PRAISE

Sixty seven psalms are defined as songs of lament[1]Themelios-42-1.pdf pp.89ff..  

These are significant for us because they prophetically anticipate the sufferings, and subsequent glory, of Jesus (1 Pet 1:10-11). The psalms of lament must ultimately be understood as the words of him who “offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence” (Heb 5:7).

However, Jesus’ songs of sorrow are a pathway to his song of praise. This is very clear from his use of Psalm 22. Christ’s ultimate lament, ““My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” (Mark 15:34) is a quote from Psalm 22:1.

His joy in presently praising God in the Church, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you” (Heb 2:12) is a quote from Psalm 22:22.  The brothers of Jesus are intimately bound to his way of suffering and glory (Luke 24:26).

The only way to experience the riches of Christ’s glory is to walk the way of his suffering (Phil 3:10).

This great gospel truth must be expressed in songs of lament-praise in the Church. Christians under pressure have always understood this.

SHARE IN THE PROTEST OF THE CROSS

By exhorting, “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name”, Hebrews 13:15 advocates a difficult and glorious way of life that denies the final authority of evil to impede the purposes of God.

Believing this is why I always begin my day with a song, however I’m personally feeling (cf. Eph 5:20; 1 Thess 5:18).

This lifts me up to share the perspective of heaven.

Revelation’s “new song/song of Moses and the Lamb” is sung by those who have “conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name” (Rev 14:3; 15:2-3).

The original beast was the Pharaoh of the exodus deliverance (Ex 15:1) and many beasts still roam the earth. 

Secularism, post-modernism, capitalist materialism, hedonism, sexual libertinism seek to devour God’s people.

So the Church today urgently needs a release of prophetic song that is a refutation and denunciation of the powers of evil in their cruel rule over human souls.

We need to have inspired words resonating with biblical truth to sing as an edification and protest against the spiritual harlotry that has so deeply infiltrated Western Christianity (cf. James 4:4; Rev 2:22; Rev 17:1-6). I desperately need this, and so do you!

CONCLUSION

Missionaries have long diagnosed Australians culturally conditioned apathy to ultimate issues as our most resistant stronghold to the gospel.

To be free from deep and painful concerns about eternity is deemed a positive attribute in our society.

Listen to the music and you will see that this spirit is running riot in our churches

Something encouraging however is stirring in the spirits of God’s. I recently received an email that read, “I struggle with how willing people are to be lukewarm.” Let me finish where I begun.

Pliny tortured and killed Christians not as criminals but as members of a “depraved, excessive superstition” uncompromising of the tolerant religious pluralism of his day.

The “Only Jesus is Lord.” people were politically incorrect in the worse possible way.

They were protesters against a worldview and form of civilisation whose agitations threatened to undermine everything of value to the Empire.

Time would prove Pliny’s verdict on uncompromising early Christianity to be correct.

I long for a time when the boundaries between world and Church will be so starkly visible once again (Mal 3:18).

But to facilitate my protest, and yours, we must ask the Lord to raise up gifted musicians who will give us songs of suffering-and-deliverance filled with genuine spiritual power, baptising the Church in the lament of the cross and the ecstasy of the resurrection. This will herald the dawn of a great revival. 

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 11th Jan, 2018 |

Author: Dr. John Yates


MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: N/A |       |


Related Link: Nil

References

Isaiah and Jesus

[1]Since an angel witness tells us that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” the measure of any prophetic voice, old or new, will be their faithfulness in proclaiming Christ [Rev … Continue reading

Isa 6:1-13 | Ps 24:1-10 | Acts 7:44-53 | John 12:36-43

Preamble

By John Yates
I connect very strongly with Isaiah, for 21 years ago at the end of a week of prayer when I felt extremely crushed I had a manifestation of the Jesus exalted the universe which was a definite prophetic call on my life (Acts 3:19-21).

Introduction

Prophesying in Jerusalem for at least 50 years in the late 8th century and early 7th century B.C Isaiah is cited in the New Testament more than all the other prophets put together.[2]He is even at times called the Old Testament evangelist [cf. Isa 52:7].

His name means “God is salvation” and he proclaims that in times of national crisis the Lord is the only saviour (43:11; 45:21). He is married to a woman called “the prophetess” and both their sons are given names by God that speak of the coming destruction and deliverance of Israel.[3]Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, meaning, “Spoil quickly, plunder speedily.” [Isaiah 8:3]; Shear-Jashub, meaning “A remnant shall return” [Isaiah 7:3]. His spirituality seems to rise above other prophets. Moses resists the call to be God’s mouthpiece but Isaiah eagerly obeys the Word of the Lord (Ex 4:1, 10; Isa 6:8). Jeremiah complains of the cost of his calling but Isaiah unquestioningly obeys the command to walk naked for three years (Jer 11:18-12:5; Jer 15:10-18; Jer 17:12-18; Jer 18:19-23; Jer 20:7-18; Isa 20:1-6). There is almost no personal history of Isaiah in scripture, but everything we need to know about him is concentrated in this story of his call. 

Isaiah 6:1-13

Isaiah’s Vision of the Lord

1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

Isaiah’s Commission from the Lord
8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” 9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
10 Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”
11 Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”
And he said:
“Until cities lie waste
without inhabitant,
and houses without people,
and the land is a desolate waste,
12 and the Lord removes people far away,
and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.
13 And though a tenth remain in it,
it will be burned again,
like a terebinth or an oak,
whose stump remains
when it is felled.”
The holy seed is its stump. ¤  

 

v.1 In the year that King Uzziah died

Uzziah had began his reign doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord and he and the nation prospered greatly, but “when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction.” (2 Chron 26).

The vision of the Lord came to Isaiah in the midst of a nation whose affluence and pride has blinded it to its own sin and injustices (Isa 3:14-15; 5).

v.1I saw the Lord high and lofty

To see God and live was a miracle in itself and (Ex 33:20), but to see him exalted over the world was a sign of a coming great transformation in Isaiah’s life.[4]This verse hints at an extraordinary insight shaping the prophet’s life.  The words “high and lofty” are found applied to God only in the book of Isaiah, 3 times. Here, in a promise to revive … Continue reading

and the hem of his robe filled the temple

The very edge of the garment of the great King of Israel fills the temple of Solomon, so vast is his majesty.

v.2 Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew.[5]Isaiah 6:2

Surrounding the exalted Lord are fiery flying angelic messengers resplendent with the awesome holy presence of God (Ps 104:4).

The seraphs cover their faces in modesty before their Creator and their feet to signify they are to go only where their Lord directs them (Prov 1:15-16). They are an image of perfect servanthood.

v.3 And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.[6]Isaiah 6:3

The seraphs have such an insight into the wonder of the holiness of God that they must proclaim it to one another; to declare to others the worthiness of our Maker is the essence of true creaturehood (cf. Rev 4:8.

This is why Paul says we are to “address one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Eph 5:19).

Of all the attributes of God only holiness is found in this threefold repetition in scripture.[7]The Bible never says that God is “love, love, love.”

Holiness is the deepest innermost being of the Lord, a purity and perfection separated from all darkness and evil that hides his character from the eyes of sinful human beings.[8]Twenty five of the Bible’s thirty one uses of “the Holy One of Israel” are found in the book of Isaiah.  It is also Isaiah who makes the amazing and disturbing claim, “Truly, you are a God … Continue reading 

 The Holy One is the “Lord of Hosts”, a description of the God of the angel armies; Isaiah has been issued into the divine council, a sort of war cabinet through which God prosecutes his rule over the cosmos (Ps 82:1; Jer 23:22).

the whole earth is full of his glory.

This universal glory of God is a consistent biblical theme;[9]“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” [Ps 19:1cf. Rom 1:20]. but rare is the climate change scientist who will publicly testify that an earth full of God’s glory is a world worth caring for.

To deal with the denial of God’s rightful glory is the very reason why Isaiah was called to be a prophet (Isa 42:8).

v.4 The pivots* on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.

The whole temple shakes in the presence of the glory of its Creator, but it is Isaiah himself who trembles to the core (Ex 19:18; Ps 18:7-9 cf. Isa 66:2; Rev 15:8). Some Christians talk so much about the presence of God that they trivialise it; but nineteenth century evangelist D.L. Moody talks about a time when the room in which he was praying was filled with divine light and he had such an experience of God’s love that he had to ask the Lord to stay his hand. Seeking God for guidance in the midst of a crisis years ago the Lord’s peace came upon me so strongly I felt like I was going to die and had to ask him to remove his presence.

v.5 And I said: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’

In a scene like the Final Judgement Isaiah immediately and irresistibly confesses his utmost sinfulness in the presence of a holy God. He expects to be found guilty and justly condemned. But suddenly the most wonderful thing happens.

v.6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. v.7 The seraph* touched my mouth with it and said: ‘Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.’

Instead of annihilation Isaiah experiences atonement (Isa 44:22; Acts 3:19). God has sovereignly intervened to cleanse his conscience from all guilt (Heb 9:14; 10:22). Isaiah has experienced what he will later so powerfully prophesy, God can make the sinful righteous in his sight (Isa 53:11).[10]The old saying, “What goes deepest to the conscience goes widest to the world.” [P.T. Forsyth] is about to be fulfilled in Isaiah’s life.

As a man brought back from death to life Isaiah can no longer be simply a devout temple worshipper he has become an image and prophet of the coming Messiah.

v.8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’

Isaiah now stands as part God’s heavenly council;[11]Seated with Christ in the heavenly places Christians are also a part of this council [Eph 2:6; Col 3:1]. his heart beats with an urgent irresistible imperative to prosecute the case of God in the courtroom of history against all who would deny the Lord his rightful glory (Isa 42:8; 48:11).

“And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’”

An extraordinary experience of forgiveness leads to an extraordinary desire to serve an all merciful God. The prophet is propelled by his unmerited experience of divine grace to do whatever he is told (cf. 2 Cor 5:14). Isaiah is on the move but his mission will be a shocking one.

v.9 ‘Go and say to this people: “Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand.” v.10 Make the mind of this people dull, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes, so that they may not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and comprehend with their minds, and turn and be healed.’”

The purpose of prophetic ministry is not always to clarify God’s plans and purposes, Isaiah’s words will blind and deafen the people of God to his word and witness. This is not some strange Old Testament reality for the ultimate fulfilment of this weighty ministry is found in Jesus.

Quoting from Isaiah 6 today’s Gospel tells us that the ministry of Jesus brought about a blinding of eyes, a hardening of hearts and a deafening of ears.[12]Cf. Jesus explained that the purpose of his parables was not to make the secrets of God’s kingdom clear but, quoting Isaiah’s words to his apostles, ““To you has been given the secret of the … Continue reading Then John passes a comment which puts everything in perspective; “Isaiah said these things because he saw his (Christ’s) glory and spoke of him.”” (John 12:41). The glory which Isaiah saw in the temple was the glory of the Son of God which over the years unfolded through his prophecies of a Saviour to be born of a virgin, an Immanuel who would make the blind see the lame walk and the deaf hear yet be rejected and crushed for our sins but exalted by God and given the name before which every knee would bow as Lord (Isa 7:14 = Luke 1:26-31; 29:18; 35:5-6 = Luke 7:22; Isa 50:6; 52:13-53:12 = Rom 4:25; 2 Cor 5:21; Isa 45:23 = Phil 2:9-10 etc.) In entering the glory of the Lord Isaiah saw telescopically through history, he saw the glory of the Lord exalted in the temple and the glory of the Lord “lifted up” on the cross and ascended to heaven were one glory; the glory of Jesus (Isa 6:1; John 13:32).

Why did the prophetic ministry of Isaiah and Jesus harden human hearts to the light of God (John 9:40-41)?

The answer is simple and frightening; when human beings exchange the glory of God seen in creation for dumb idols they “become like them” with eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear (Ps 135:15- 18; Isa 42:16-20; Isa 43:8-20; Isa 47:5-11; Hab 2:18; Rom 1:18ff., 1 Cor 12:2). Wherever men and women are blind to the presence of God and deaf to his witness through nature and scripture you can be sure that they are bound in the sin of idolatry and that the stern prosecuting judgement of God is at work handing them over to their own spiritual stupidities (Isa 21:2; Isa 63:10).[13]The Pharisees of Jesus’ day had made human religious tradition their idol [Mark 7:6-8]. This work of judgement upon idolaters is all around us in Australia today (Col 3:5)!

Knowing that it is through his prophetic words to the nation that their terrible fate will be sealed the prophet utters a loud lament (cf. Pss 13:2; 74:10; Hab 1:2; Zech 1:12 etc.).

v.11  ‘How long, O Lord?’ The Lord’s reply is swift and to the point;

“‘Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is utterly desolate; v.12 until the Lord sends everyone far away, and vast is the emptiness in the midst of the land.”

Through the word of God’s prophet the Assyrians will soon invade and devastate the land (Isa 7-37) and after that the Babylonians will take the nation into exile (Isa 38-48). Can you imagine a man of God standing up in Europe in 1936 declaring that Hitler must invade and defeat the continent as a judgement of God upon its sins? This is the sort of weightiness of Isaiah’s words. Yet praise God judgement is not the final word.

v.13 Even if a tenth part remains in it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak whose stump remains standing when it is felled.’*The holy seed is its stump.

I was out walking near bushland yesterday and out of the stump of a chopped down eucalypt a shoot had sprung forth with new life. Throughout Isaiah there is a remnant that God preserves by his mercy (Isa 10:21; Isa 37:31-32).

Conclusion

The call of Isaiah is a sort of gospel in miniature and summary of his life’s message. The king is dead, the nation is about to be trampled underfoot by foreign invaders but as a man who has passed from condemnation to justification he knows the unlimited power of forgiveness.[14]Which is a foretaste of the saving death of the one “pierced for our transgressions;” [Isa 53:5]. Jesus is so powerfully at the centre of Isaiah’s prophetic life and ministry because he is a man who senses he has been brought back from death to life. What about our seeing and hearing into the things of Christ (Matt 11:15)?

For those with eyes to see and ears to hear it is plain that the Church in Australia has been taken into spiritual exile.[15]In the light of sexual abuse scandals the reputation of organised religion in our country has been devastated. Latest research reveals that only 27% of Australians think that the Church can significantly assist people in their spirituality.[16]http://www.mccrindle.com.au/resources/World-Vision-Church-and-Community-Infographic_Digital.pdf

As surely as Israel was taken to the city of Babylon for her sins we are exiled in a spiritual Babylon; but with one great difference. Isaiah prophesied that Israel in exile would abandon their idols but I see more and more idolatry in the Church (Isa 1:29; Isa 2:18). Whilst Australian Christians desire above all else happy, safe, secure and comfortable lives for themselves and their loved ones they can never know the glory of Christ’s transforming power.

It was a death experience that transformed Isaiah from a devout temple worshipper into a prophet, and any Church which would move from ruin to restoration must die to its idols. If the glory of the bold uncompromising prophetic spirit of Jesus would return to the (Anglican) Church today we must be overcome by a death and resurrection experience.

Last Friday a young Pentecostal pastor was talking with me about how difficult it is to break the consumer culture in the Church. Consumer Christianity is about what the Church can do for me; discipleship is about what I can do for God.

I told him that one classic goal of Anglican pastoral ministry was to help people “die well”.

Not just to die well at the end of their days with faith in Christ, but to die daily to all those sources of comfort and security which stop us following Jesus, like Isaiah did, in the way of unconditional obedience.

I said to my friend that I can only help people from those places where God has taught me through suffering.

Suffering Servanthood is at the heart of the life message of Isaiah because it is at the heart of the life message of Jesus (Isa 52:13-53:12; Heb 2:10; Heb 5:9; Heb 7:28).

If we pray to Jesus today surely in his mercy he will take us from being devout Church worshippers to those in whom his prophetic spirit dwells with power (Rev 19:10).

References

1 Since an angel witness tells us that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” the measure of any prophetic voice, old or new, will be their faithfulness in proclaiming Christ [Rev 19:10]. By this standard the spirit of Christ was particular powerful in Isaiah as he foretold the sufferings of Christ and his glory [1 Pet 1:11].
2 He is even at times called the Old Testament evangelist [cf. Isa 52:7].
3 Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, meaning, “Spoil quickly, plunder speedily.” [Isaiah 8:3]; Shear-Jashub, meaning “A remnant shall return” [Isaiah 7:3].
4 This verse hints at an extraordinary insight shaping the prophet’s life.  The words “high and lofty” are found applied to God only in the book of Isaiah, 3 times. Here, in a promise to revive the broken-hearted, and most importantly in a prophecy about the lifting up of the Messiah [Isa 6:1; Isa 52:13 Isa 57:15].
5 Isaiah 6:2
6 Isaiah 6:3
7 The Bible never says that God is “love, love, love.”
8 Twenty five of the Bible’s thirty one uses of “the Holy One of Israel” are found in the book of Isaiah.  It is also Isaiah who makes the amazing and disturbing claim, “Truly, you are a God who hides himself, O God of Israel, the Saviour.” [Isa 45:15; 57:17].
9 “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” [Ps 19:1cf. Rom 1:20].
10 The old saying, “What goes deepest to the conscience goes widest to the world.” [P.T. Forsyth] is about to be fulfilled in Isaiah’s life.
11 Seated with Christ in the heavenly places Christians are also a part of this council [Eph 2:6; Col 3:1].
12 Cf. Jesus explained that the purpose of his parables was not to make the secrets of God’s kingdom clear but, quoting Isaiah’s words to his apostles, ““To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.”” [Mark 4:11-12]. See also Matt 13:16-17.
13 The Pharisees of Jesus’ day had made human religious tradition their idol [Mark 7:6-8].
14 Which is a foretaste of the saving death of the one “pierced for our transgressions;” [Isa 53:5].
15 In the light of sexual abuse scandals the reputation of organised religion in our country has been devastated.
16 http://www.mccrindle.com.au/resources/World-Vision-Church-and-Community-Infographic_Digital.pdf

A People for Crisis Time

-Becoming a Prophetic People

crisis-time-01

 Revelation 7:13-17

New International Version (NIV)

13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

14 I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 

15 Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. 16 ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’  nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’     ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’

Jesus Christ, the First and Last,
The Living One and Lord of all
Holds power transcendent and so vast
It either appalls or enthrals.
For God, right now, is preparing an army
Of conquerors with exceptional worth,
They are the ones who will rule in Eternity
Having served their apprenticeship here on earth.
Overcomers, through the blood of the Lamb,
Ruling with Jesus in his heavenly program
Called to suffering, like the Suffering One,
Called to renounce all other claims,
Called to show the authority of the Son,
Called to mission to proclaim his Name.
This high and noble and dignified calling
Beyond all other claims, enthralling!
It’s the Church, Christ’s Body, his precious people
Who constitute this company, anointed and free.
“Who are these?”, the Elder asks John the apostle,
As they see and assess a vast dynasty,
The angel himself answers with bold clarity,
A people who are destined for co-regency!
Those who gain triumph in tribulation,
Those who are cleansed by the blood of Jesus,
Those who alone can give true veneration
To Jesus the One who is Matchless.
The overcomers by means of their victories
Share Jesus’ authority as his beneficiaries
Are we his people for this crisis hour?
Do we discern his sovereign plan?
Are we living under Holy Ghost power?
Are we transcending our culture’s life-span?
Let’s be his end-times people of power!
May we arise with a new anointing
So that in zeal and holiness this hour
We prepare for the Day of his appointing

Zone Out: Another Word for Australia

Another Word for Australia.

pdf
Downloadable PDF

by Dr. John Yates

October 31, 2011

Background

This is the substance of a prophetic message I shared at the Commonwealth Prayer Initiative (CPI) in Perth on October 29th 2011. It lacks the footnoting, biblical detail and supporting data I would usually include in my articles because it is a recollection of what I spoke directly from the floor of the meeting. The context of the CPI (www.commonwealthprayer.org) was the visit of the leaders from the commonwealth nations to Perth for CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting). Interested parties will be able to see that this message is deeply connected to my last “Word for Australia.”

This particular meeting was arranged to hear Graham Power, Graham is a successful businessman in South Africa, and the founder of the Global Day of Prayer. This movement has achieved the largest assembly of praying people in the earth’s history, over the last few years involving Christians in every nation of the earth. Once I heard that Graham was coming (I had met him once before in Hong Kong), I had a sense that there would be a very distinct “shaking” (Heb 12) at his meeting.

In a time of prayer with a few others immediately before the meeting I felt strongly to express the faith that the extraordinary things we hear about God doing in other nations, South Africa, India and so on, he will do here in Australia. In hindsight, I believe what I was about to receive in the meeting was an answer to this statement of faith.

A Strange Experience

I am very used to attending Christian gatherings and listening attentively for the Word of the Lord. Since I had been intimately involved in planning for the 24/7 week of prayer for CPI, even to the extent of residing in the Perth CBD, I firmly anticipated I would hear God in some significant way, either personally or corporately.

In this case the meeting and the usual rousing worship was led by folk from a very vital Chinese majority church in Perth. Graham’s address went on to focus on how God called him as a Christian, and dramatically shared with him visions concerning three global waves. The first would be a global prayer movement, the second an unashamedly ethical movement and finally a tsunami of worldwide revival.

Since the first has rolled out as God commanded and the second is now spread to scores of nations, we may anticipate the third will come. All this, whilst profoundly transformative, I had heard before. What grabbed my attention however was that as I sought discernment from the LORD about anything he had for me or the meeting I drew a most unusual blank.

There simply seemed to be no witness at all. I was blank and empty and said to myself puzzlingly “I am out of my zone”; I could not work out what was going on – was the dullness merely because I had heard of these things before, was it because I am not a marketplace minister??

I struggled very much within to get a handle on what was going on, but it just seemed like there “no traction” and” no vision” coming to me. It was a very difficult experience indeed. Then I started to realise that the extremely global focus which Graham personally brings was a key to what the Lord was trying to say.

Get Out of Your Zone

Having been involved in a range of prayer movement over the country for several decades, and visited a number of prayer assemblies across the nations, I happened to be in a position of being informed that few on the day possessed. I started to sense that the active and passive resistance to the adoption of the Global Day of Prayer (GDOP) in Australia from certain sections of the national prayer movement was a key to what God was trying to say. Various attempts to get the GDOP launched on a significant scale in WA, apart from the occasions when it was supported by ethnic churches, had failed to get significant traction. Local and national interests always seemed to prevail and keep people in a very restricted zone.

Sensing that the Lord wanted to speak to the assembly along these lines I approached the leader of the meeting for space to speak. Just after this we were broken into small groups to pray with the person next to us. Amazingly, the man next to me, an immigrant from another continent said with tears that he had just realised in the last few days that God had brought him to Australia for a purpose other than a happy and successful material life.  This greatly emboldened and confirmed that I was indeed hearing the Lord.

When I got up to speak I found it extraordinarily difficult to talk, it was like I felt a great weight inside me, and mentioned this several times to the group that I had a very difficult word to bring. I then mentioned the matter of national resistance to the GDOP in Australia and that I sensed that the Lord deeply wanted us to be a part of the third wave of the global movement of the Spirit that Graham Power had prophesied. The paragraph below is my memory of what I said.

“This is a message to the native born Church, not to people from other continents, not to people who have come here from Asia or Africa or the Americas, this is not your problem, it is the problem of the Caucasian Church. God has blessed Australia with extraordinary prosperity, but because of its complicated and difficult history this blessing has become a snare to us. We are happy for people to come into our zone from other places and after a while become like us, but we have no passion to go into other people’s zones.

WE DO NOT WANT THE PEACE AND PROSPERITY OF OUR EARTHLY PARADISE TO BE DISTURBED.

We need to get out of our zone; we need to go through today a representation confession/repentance on behalf of the Australian Church. I am asking all those who have been born of Australia to stand up with me and we can pray together and confess the sins of an inward looking Australian Church and ask God to break through so that we can get out of the zone in which we have become trapped.”

There was probably 30-40% percent of those present who wee Australian born, and to my knowledge they all stood up and prayed together with me a prayer of repentance. I am sure that God heard that prayer, and the very extraordinary things that he has been doing in other continents will definitely soon happen here in our land.

The Spirit and Power of Elijah

by Dr. John Yates


spirit power elijah


Introduction

The Western church has often been compared with the church in Laodicea , materially prosperous but spiritually “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev 3:17).


We are often arrogantly certain that we know in what form the next “move of God” will come, meanwhile neglecting various foundational patterns laid down in the Bible that are universal for all humanity.

Amazed by our own technology we have uniquely developed a “microwave spirituality” fixated on rapid fire solutions and intense experiences.  Since these foci, by their very nature, go against the grain of God’s order, they cannot produce enduring fruit.  Counter to these trends, especially among men, God is restoring the essential order of genuine fathering.

v5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. v6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a curse.” (Mal 4:5-6)  By God’s own testimony, unless the ministry of Elijah precedes a divine visitation,[1]In the Old Testament terms this text refers to the Day of the LORD, the consummation of all things, and in the New Testament it is connected to the life and ministry of Jesus.  More broadly, it … Continue reading the result will be a curse.[2]The word translated “curse” is a technical term [herem] used in the Old Testament for God’s holy war against his enemies, it means “utter destruction” e.g. Deut 7:26. The solemnity of this … Continue reading

The Problem with Men[3]This paper may seem rather sexist, but it seeks to pick up an important biblical concern.

Many Australian men (notwithstanding differences between age groups) still fit the emotionally detached, achievement driven stereotypes of masculinity. Many males are quite isolated, lonely and unconnected. A great proportion of church – going men are very under – pastored. Few are regularly visited in their work place (or home) by their shepherd and interaction usually occurs on the pastor’s territory and concerns church related activities.  This is a poor reflection of God as an interested Father.[4]A true shepherd images the God intimately present in all of life, ““The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day,” … Continue reading

The frequency of many social problems in wider society – crime, recidivism, domestic violence, sexual abuse, educational failure, divorce – can be traced back to a lack of good fathering.[5]Link Here  This is a particularly acute problem for indigenous people.  As one very perceptive young aboriginal woman said to me, “You see these young men wandering the streets of Belmont , they all have the same problem, none of them have fathers.”  The reviving of the spirit and power of Elijah is the divine solution to these problems.

The Spirit and Power of Elijah

In the tradition of Old Testament prophetic ministry Elijah alone has an intimate and immediate successor, Elisha. At the heart of the relationship between these two men is that the older imparts to the younger the power to make sons.  This develops in a number of steps.

Persecuted by Jezebel, depressed, alone, afraid and feeling like a helpless victim (1 Ki 19), Elijah is commanded to pass on the baton, “Elisha …you shall anoint to be prophet in your place” (1 Ki 19:16).[6]This shows us “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours” [James 5:17 ], and teaches us that no matter how defeated we are feeling, the spirit and power of Elijah remains our commission.  Elijah instantly obeys God’s command, “So he departed from there and found Elisha …and cast his cloak[7]The sign of his prophetic vocation. upon him.” (1 Ki 19:19).[8]Elijah himself is obedient to the inner spirit of what would later be known as The Great Commission, “obey all that I have commanded you.” [Matt 28:20]. As a model disciple, Elisha leaves all behind to follow his master (1 Ki 19:20-21).[9]He images the discipleship demanded by Jesus, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he … Continue reading

Knowing his master must depart the earth (2 Ki 2:1, 4), Elisha steadfastly (2 Ki 2:2,4, 6) refuses to be separated from him and petitions,  “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.” (2 Ki 2:9).  Biblically, this means that Elisha stands in relationship to Elijah as his first born son, the one who is granted twice the inheritance of any other heir.[10]Deuteronomy 21:15-17.  Elisha does exactly twice as many miracles as his mentor [28], but this is only a sign of a deeper relationship.

Crucially, Elisha knows himself to be God’s choice as the beloved son of Elijah because he witnesses his mentor’s ascent to heaven. “v11 behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. v12 And Elisha saw it and he cried, “My father, my father!….” And he saw him no more.” (2 Ki 2:11-12).  These words express a deep inner knowledge of sonship, the young prophet senses in his spirit that the anointing of Elijah now lives in him.  The outward sign that the authority of Elijah is imparted to Elisha, is that his mantle, the sign of his prophetic office, immediately clothes him with miraculous authority (2 Ki 2:13-14).

Elijah was a solitary forerunner without precedent  – he has no spiritual father (1 Ki 17:1). Elisha however goes forth in the power of his prophetic father to parent many other prophets[11]2 Kings 4:43 indicates this was about one hundred. (2 Ki 4:38; 2 Ki 6:1). This transmission and multiplication of sonship is the spirit and power of Elijah. From this perspective we can better understand the crucial nature of the New Testament Elijah figure, John the Baptist.

The Ministry of John the Baptist

v16 And he (John) will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, v17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” (Luke 1:16-17)

This angelic prophecy about John gives first place to his role in reconciling family relationships.  While the Gospels do not explicitly show John exercising this ministry, certain words of Jesus about him explain their force, “ “v12 Elijah does come first to restore all things…. v13 But I tell you that Elijah has come….”” (Mark 9:12-13)

The ‘restoration of all things'[12]Mark 9:12 is citing the Greek translation of Malachi 4:6.  See also Acts 1:6; 3:21 means the return of the whole of creation to its original pre – fallen dignity.  Biblical thought traces the degradation of the world to the fall of the first created ‘son of God’ (Luke 3:38), Adam. His rebellion against God as his Father distorted the image of fatherhood, divine and human, that he passed on to the entire human race. With the foundational reality of fathering corrupted, all other relationships have been spoiled. From this perspective, the turning of the hearts of fathers to children, initiated by John,  was a prophetic sign that the heavenly Father was about to renew the universe with a revitalized humanity at its centre.  John’s ministry pointed to this end – time reality, but Jesus brought it into being.

Jesus takes us to the Father

The turning point for humanity’s  restoration to the Father is Jesus’ ascension, “go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’(John 20:17).[13]The sonship Jesus humanity enjoys by nature is about to be imparted to his followers by grace.  Seeing Christ’s return to heaven (Acts 1:6-11) was the final and climactic earthly revelation to the apostles that humanity had been elevated to the glory Jesus enjoyed with the Father “before the foundation of the world(John 17:5).  Like Elisha, the apostles were permitted by God to witness the reality of their future destiny in the heavenly realm, in the heart of the Father (Col 3:1-3).

Elisha possessed an external mantle of authority and had sons after his own prophetic likeness, but the disciples receive the “promise of the Father” and “are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:48; Acts 1:4). This is the power of the Holy Spirit poured out from the ascended Jesus (Acts 2:33 ) at Pentecost.  From now on, through the power of the Spirit and by testimony to what has been accomplished in Christ, men and women are changed from “children of wrath(Eph 2:3) to “sons of God” (Gal 3:26).

In the heavenly Spirit (1 Pet 1:12), we know God in a new way, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,” (Eph 1:4). Knowing the unconditional blessings of the Father’s heart, our hearts are likewise turned to bless those sons and daughters that God has given us. We have the power to multiply sons.

Returning to the Blessed Father

Paul testified to the rarity of spiritual fathering,[14]This is not the same as mentoring or spiritual direction, especially when these are paid positions.  “For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for … Continue readingFor though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”(1 Cor 4:15 ).   There are several reasons why such “fathers” are uncommon.  Firstly, their preparation is a sovereign work of God.  You cannot be trained for fathering through any course, programme or emotional experience.  Secondly, such preparation is arduous. We learn the ways of God through many tribulations, disappointments and struggles. Thirdly, God’s work of preparing mature believers to care for his beloved children takes many years of the Spirit’s ministry in your own life.  You cannot take others where you have not been yourself.

Nevertheless, because “spiritual fathering” is so crucial for the stability and maturity of the church, God perseveres with this purpose for decade after decade.  Once the Father has raised up a cohort of true fathers, the church can again become true to its nature as “salt” and light”.[15]Matthew 5:13-14   Through these servants the corruption of society (predominantly due to fatherlessness) can be reversed, and a standard raised up about “the restoration of all things”. The elders are about to return to the gates of the city.[16]Proverbs 31:23

Conclusion

It is not popular charisma that brings us closest to the heart of God, but the discipline and nurture of spiritual parents whose love images the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  I am anticipating a release of a generation of earnest fathers amongst the people of God, beginning, as always, amongst the faithful remnant.[17]E.g. Isaiah 37:31-32, Rom 11:1-5.  Elijah failed to understand this principle, hence his despair [1 Ki 19:9-10, 18].

If these realities are true, you need to be asking of your life  – “Am I such a father, am I praying to be such a father?” Alternatively, are you able to recognise that through Jesus God has already set such a person in your life?  If not, pray that he would bring such a person to you.

All of us need to share God’s own desire that very soon in this land every (spiritually) young person will have the sort of mature, intimate and focused care that genuine shepherding can provide?  These are matters for sober reflection and earnest prayer, for without this impending release of the spirit and power of Elijah our land will remain under a curse (Mal 4:5-6 ).

References

1 In the Old Testament terms this text refers to the Day of the LORD, the consummation of all things, and in the New Testament it is connected to the life and ministry of Jesus.  More broadly, it applies to any historical divine visitation to the people of God e.g. Rev 2:5, 16; Rev 3:3; Rev 20, and to the Second Coming.
2 The word translated “curse” is a technical term [herem] used in the Old Testament for God’s holy war against his enemies, it means “utter destruction” e.g. Deut 7:26. The solemnity of this text was felt so strongly by its translators into Greek, and by Old Testament scribes, that they deliberately altered the order of the passage so that the final word of their Bible would not threaten the annihilation of the land.
3 This paper may seem rather sexist, but it seeks to pick up an important biblical concern.
4 A true shepherd images the God intimately present in all of life, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day, [Gen 48:15].
5 Link Here
6 This shows us “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours” [James 5:17 ], and teaches us that no matter how defeated we are feeling, the spirit and power of Elijah remains our commission.
7 The sign of his prophetic vocation.
8 Elijah himself is obedient to the inner spirit of what would later be known as The Great Commission, “obey all that I have commanded you.” [Matt 28:20].
9 He images the discipleship demanded by Jesus, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple…. any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” [Luke 14:26,33].
10 Deuteronomy 21:15-17.  Elisha does exactly twice as many miracles as his mentor [28], but this is only a sign of a deeper relationship.
11 2 Kings 4:43 indicates this was about one hundred.
12 Mark 9:12 is citing the Greek translation of Malachi 4:6.  See also Acts 1:6; 3:21
13 The sonship Jesus humanity enjoys by nature is about to be imparted to his followers by grace.
14 This is not the same as mentoring or spiritual direction, especially when these are paid positions.  “For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.” [2 Cor 12:14].
15 Matthew 5:13-14
16 Proverbs 31:23
17 E.g. Isaiah 37:31-32, Rom 11:1-5.  Elijah failed to understand this principle, hence his despair [1 Ki 19:9-10, 18].

Coming Ready or Not

by Dr. John Yates

Things to Expect in 2007

Something wonderful is about to happen, Jesus is about to visit our city in a most intimate way.  He is “coming soon” to the church as he speaks of in Revelation.  Most of these refer to a coming in judgment (Rev 2:5, 16; Rev 3:3), but one is a door of hope.  Christ woos the lukewarm Laodicea church with an invitation “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Rev 3:20).  He is not coming because of anything we have done, there is no human credit (Gal 6:14), he is coming because he is the gracious Lover of souls and the glorious Bridegroom.

The visitation we are anticipating is a temporal inspection for judgment concerning our past deeds, “whether good or evil”, it is a foretaste of what we can expect at “the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor 5:10).  He is coming from “his place” in heaven (Hos 5:15) to walk amongst us (Rev 2:1) and to show us that all he has ever done is good.

When Jesus approached Jerusalem on his way to the cross, he wept over it because “you did not know the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:44).  He has visited this city before, but these visits terminated in judgments – the breakdown of the charismatic movement, sex scandal exposed, confusion over the Toronto Blessing.  Each time he has not been properly welcomed because the church lacked “sober judgment” (Rom 12:3).  This time some will be prepared.

Refueled, Recharged & Be Alert

He has been gradually raising up elders to welcome him in humility at the city gates (Joel 1:13) with proper reverence and awe (1 Pet 1:17; Ps 34:11).  These mature men and women will be progressively recognised as a relational hub for wise fatherly counsel (1 Pet 5:1 -5).  These figures will shepherd the presence of the protective wings of God over our land and the church (Ps 91:4; Matt 23:37).

He is coming to a church that he has been secretly purifying through struggle, sickness and rejection so as to make her more attractive to himself (Eph 5:26 -27).  Soon he will reveal to us just how strong is his passion to indwell us (Eph 3:17) – not as a temporary “visitor” to our state, but in order to take up habitation in his holy temple (Eph 2:22).

His kingly manifestation will not be easily discerned by those who think they are rich and prosperous (Rev 3:17), but applauded by the marginalised, oppressed, poor, and broken in society, and in struggling but godly churches and ministries (Matt 21:14- 16).  His clear word is, “Your faithfulness will soon be rewarded” (Luke 16:11; 1 Cor 15:58).

Times of Extraordinary Miracles

His coming will release the mode of miracle.  Our prosperous and typical Western city is about to realise that we need to live in the supernatural just as much as Third World nations and our persecuted brethren.  This coming is directed not to our indulgence but to our sharing in a mighty global harvest (Matt 28:19; Hab 2:14).

Central to his manifestation is a return to the apostolic devotion of the Word and prayer (Acts 6:4).  This revival will find its foundation and longevity in the recommitment to the primacy of the Gospel revelation (Rom 1:16) in scripture (2 Tim 3:16).  In partnership with this he is calling for a dedicated sanctuary of 24/7 prayer and pure worship that he might share the holy intimacy he has with his Father (John 17:26).  He invites, “Will you do this for me”, will you have a place where I can be met day and night (Lev 6:12 -13).

With the revelation that all his judgments are good (Isa 26:9; Rev 19:1 -5) the purified church will enter into prophetic and “extravagant worship” that shall glorify the Lamb (Rev 5:6 -14) throughout the earth.

Through the power of the prayer – saturated Word the veil of falsehood and deception that lies over the minds of both unbelievers (2 Cor 4:4) and believers (Rev 3:18) will be stripped off and all things will be made clear to those with eyes to see and ears to hear (Matt 13:16).  It will become startlingly manifest that a spiritual cloud of deceit has hung over this our land, an unholy pall constituted by false teaching inhabited by evil powers (1 Tim 4:1).  This teaching has reinforced in numerous subtle ways our culture’s central lie, lie that the thing we need most fear is material and emotional deprivation; soon we shall see what it is to fear a holy God (2 Cor 7:1; Heb 12:28-29).

Faith @ Works

Jesus is about to raise up a Transformation Network that understands that the kingdom of God is not restricted to church buildings and programs, but its purpose is to fill all things with Christ. (Eph 1:22 -23; Eph 4:10) Through this he will release impartational apostolic- prophetic ministries that will be unconcerned with personal status and success.  Many of these will be Christian professionals rather than professional Christians.

His coming will bring disorder to immature elements in the body of Christ (1 Cor 3:1)   Where laziness about the Word and spiritual discipline (1 Thess 5:14) abounds people will revel in the signs of the Spirit for a time, but their self – confidence will hand them over to the demonic hosts (Luke 11:24-26).  These communities will be fractured by false teaching, competition and immorality.  In these matters the patience of God is coming to an end.  A necessary schism will occur in the visible church on account of the purified preaching of Christ (1 Cor 11:18-19).  This separation will not be like that of past times (doctrine, experience, denomination), but a clear distinction between the holy and the unclean (Ezek 44:23; Mal 3:16-18).

Repentance will not so much be commanded, but drawn out of softened hearts as they receive the revelation of the tenderness of the Father’s mercy in Christ (Luke 1:77-78).  A marvelous protective (Eph 6:14) impartation of the righteousness of Jesus (1 Cor 1:30; 2 Cor 5:21) will be released through dynamic gospel proclamation – in the streets, offices, homes, brothels, bars, schools, sports grounds  and pulpits.  All varieties and conditions of humanity shall rejoice in a glorious freedom in Christ (John 8:36).

As Jesus draws his true saints together into a network of relationships and ministries that are focused on the lost and broken an oversight hub will emerge of true shepherds and fathers.  When these things take place there will be released a “sacred canopy” (Isa 4:5) that shields the region from the unfettered power of demonic attack (Eph 3:10). All spheres of society and will begin to acknowledge the universal Lordship of Christ (Rev 19:16).