Col. 3:1-3 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
This scripture has been one of my favorites since my earliest days as a Christian. My days of pushing chicken manure at B and C Egg Ranch and planting trees in the mountains of Oregon and Washington often brought me right to the edge of the breaking point. This scripture was one of the ones the Lord used to strengthen me in my most difficult days. The KJV used the word affections rather than mind in this verse Actually the word for mind or affections is the greek word phroneo. That word encompasses the concept of mind and affections. Here is Zodhiates definition of this word.
“Phroneo” – implying not only thought but also the affections, will, or moral consideration. Related to phrénes as contrasted with noús, mind. In the Scripture it is most commonly applied to the actions of the will and affections.”
Adam Clarke brings out the idea of our affections and the part they play in our Christian walk. Our affections are the very source all of our actions. Here are some of Clarke’s thoughts.
“Set your affections on things above – Love heavenly things; study them; let your hearts be entirely engrossed by them. Now, that ye are converted to God, act in reference to heavenly things as ye did formerly in reference to those of earth; and vice versa. This is a very good general rule: ” Be as much in earnest for heavenly and eternal things, as ye formerly were for those that are earthly and perishing.”
Now its time to act on this word. Maybe you have been struggling with your thoughts and maybe even slipping into compromising situations. As Jonathan Edwards said, “Put yourself in the place of spiritual allurement”. Put on some intimate worship music. Spend some time reading the Psalms or maybe the book of John. Go on a walk and sing to The Lord. If you are baptized in the Holy Spirit, sing to The Lord with your heavenly language. Before you know it you will be caught up in the great heavenly romance. Your thoughts and actions will no longer be a problem.
More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.
Do you know Jesus? That is a common phrase heard amongst evangelical believers. The problem with this is it is easily misunderstood. What does it mean to know Jesus? Does it mean have you answered an altar call, or prayed the prayer ? Or does it mean you have answered the question right when you are asked are you going to heaven when you die? Paul talked about “knowing” Jesus in today’s verse. For Him it wasn’t a casual statement or something that happened once upon a time, it was a deep, intimate relationship with the Lord that was increasing throughout his life. It wasn’t an add on in his life, for Paul knowing Christ was his life. Paul said that to know Christ was the most valuable possession that he owned and the very pursuit of all his energy. His ministry seemed to be an overflow of his pursuit. Here is how Steven Fry describes Paul’s statement.
“From a prison cell in Rome, Paul pens this personal letter in which he comes to terms with an accomplished past and a confining present. After his past as a persecutor of God’s people and through his “superior” religious activities as a Pharisee, Paul came to the liberating conclusion that all is rubbish compared to knowing the Lord! Freed from the stagnation of yesterday’s victories and the emotional paralysis of yesterday’s mistakes, Paul knew that the only thing that ultimately counted was knowing the Lord and being obedient to His will. Not only was his past subsumed by this singular passion, his present imprisonment could not snatch from him the joy of knowing Christ. Prison chains could not keep him from pursuing God, nor dull his effectiveness in ministry. Paul’s desire to know Christ sprang from no other motive but to enjoy Him. He wanted Christ for Christ’s sake, not his own. He was a lover of God, not a user of God.”
I love that statement, He wanted Christ for Christ’s sake. So let me ask that question once again, do you know Jesus? Do you know Him as your passion, your goal in life and your friend? Answering this question is where life begins.
Phil.3:14 – I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
I know what pressing is, most guys do. It’s what we do when we really, really want something. Whether its that job or new position at work, or maybe that new motorcycle or new set of golf clubs, or maybe the girl that grabbed your eye; pressing is what we do when we want something desperately. It’s something you just can’t get out of your head. Paul knew about that from his old life. He had climbed to the very pinnacle of the ranks of the world of the Pharisees. He had pressed for that spot for years. Now it meant nothing. In his words he said his former ambitions were like rubbish (what he really said is that it was like a pile of, you know ….“mess”).
What was so, so valuable that his former passions meant nothing? It was what he saw on the Damascus Road, a glimpse of Jesus. The veil had been pulled back for a minute and he saw the beauty and pricelessness of the other side. Paul couldn’t get away from the joy that he had begun to taste that day and the promise of more to come. That’s why Paul was pressing. Here is what Matthew Henry says about this passage.
“A Christian’s calling is a high calling: it is from heaven, as its original; and it is to heaven in its tendency. Heaven is the prize of the high calling; —the prize we fight for, and run for, and wrestle for, what we aim at in all we do, and what will reward all our pains. It is of great use in the Christian course to keep our eye upon heaven. This is proper to give us measures in all our service, and to quicken us every step we take; and it is of God, from whom we are to expect it.”
So that was it, heaven had now become Paul’s prize. This prize had replaced all of those other prizes that had crowded Paul’s life before. In light of the power and beauty He experienced in the presence of Jesus the prizes of ambition and riches faded away into nothing. So how about you? Is your life crowded with pressing for those other things or have you been struck by the heavenly goal like the Apostle Paul?
Phil.3:13,14 – Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
This is one of those amazing Paul passages that causes us to rethink everything. Many people live their lives in the past reminiscing about glory days gone by. Paul had many great things in his past to get all nostalgic about but he would have none of it. There would be plenty time for that on the other side of the eternal curtain but as for now, He had his sights on other things. He was convinced that the daylight of this life was coming to an end and the new day was about to burst on the scene, there were souls in the balance so he was going to press in. How did He stay focused? Here is how Paul says it in his own words “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection”. Knowing Christ was His passion, out of that flowed His passion for the lost. Here is how Albert Barnes describes this passage.
“There is an allusion here undoubtedly to the Grecian races. One running to secure the prize would not stop to look behind him to see how much ground he had run over, or who of his competitors had fallen or lingered in the way. He would keep his eye steadily on the prize, and strain every nerve that he might obtain it. If his attention was diverted for a moment from that, it would hinder his flight, and might be the means of his losing the crown. So the apostle says it was with him. He looked onward to the prize. He fixed the eye intently on that. It was the single object in his view, and he did not allow his mind to be diverted from that by anything—not even by the contemplation of the past. He did not stop to think of the difficulties which he had overcome, or the troubles which he had met, but he thought of what was yet to be accomplished.”
That pretty much tells the tale. People make incredible sacrifices to win sporting events. How much work goes in to winning an Olympic medal or a Super Bowl ring? Paul teaches us what really matters, get your eyes on the eternal reward, everything else will get sorted out.
Jn.4:35 – Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.
God’s word is more powerful than any of us can realize. After all, everything that is was created by the power of God’s Word. God’s word has power for salvation and healing as well as creation. The Word of God is also prophetic. It declares and forms our future. This verse in John has been instrumental to the founding and shaping of Victory Fellowship. It has been involved in everything from those early evangelism teams to Feed the Multitudes. It has continued shaping our course with life groups, Beyond the Grave, Feed the City, and Mary’s Song. This prophetic word has been the heart beat of our community, challenging and empowering us to reach our city with the good news of the gospel.
Something that stands out to me in this passage is the eternal presence of ‘I am’ in this verse. Jesus said not to put the harvest off to four months in the future. He would also say don’t get caught up in the ‘glory days’ of the past. What would He say? Look again, the fields are white right now for harvest. After forty years He is still calling us back to the fields, the harvest is ready.
Just as He did with His first disciples so many years ago, He said ‘launch out into the deep and let your nets down for a catch’. He is still calling new ‘fishers of men’. The funny thing about the Lord is this, He loves to call the least likely to effect our world. Who knows? Maybe He is calling you to launch your boat out into the deep.
I see this forty year anniversary of Victory Fellowship as a transition. One awesome season has come to an end. The effect of our church over the last forty years is impossible to gauge; thankfully only One is able to judge it and we will leave that in His hands. Leaving behind one season inevitably leads to the entering of another season. What will this next era of our church look like? Who will rise to the day to lead the charge? The Lord will suddenly raise up new voices and new talents to meet the challenge of this generation. I don’t want to linger too long thinking about the glory days gone by, “I am” is moving amongst us and I want to be included in the new voices that usher in His kingdom.
Phil.3:13,14 – Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
The new works of God are what I like to call naturally supernatural. That comes close to being an oxymoron but that is the way spiritual things are in this goofy, secular world. I am thinking about stepping in to new things because of the season I believe Victory Fellowship as we celebrate our church’s 40th anniversary. The last forty years have been amazing but with all of the great things we have seen it is still the past. Paul seems almost insensitive when he said he was forgetting the former things to embrace the new. What were some of those former things? They included things like his prophetic calling into the ministry, participating in the great revival in Antiock, launching churches in Syria and in Asia, as well as planting the first churches in Europe. He had seen blind eyes open, the deaf hear, and the lame leap for joy. There had been supernatural deliverance from prison and multitudes coming to Christ throughout the region. Paul loved what God had done but he said he was going to forget those things and embrace Christ. In the same passage in Philippians Paul gives us the key, the way we can forget the good and the bad of the past and embrace the new. This is how he said it, Phil.3:10,11 – “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead”.
There are two things in this passage that give us the answer. First, our pursuit is Christ Himself, not the things He has done through us. Our passion is to know Him deeply and out of that ministry takes place. The second key is this, the resurrection from the dead. Paul’s life was consumed by what lies beyond the grave. It is at the resurrection that we will see the true fruit of what Christ has done in and through us. That day is coming and the works of our hands will all be judged.
So, let’s celebrate what God has done and then, forget about it. It’s time to embrace the new because a new season has overtaken us.
Rom.9:28 – FOR THE LORD WILL EXECUTE HIS WORD ON THE EARTH, THOROUGHLY AND QUICKLY.”
This week we have been in revival services with Rodney Howard Browne. Just before the first service I was going over my notebook of Bible prophecies given to me by Dick Mills over the years. Today’s verse was one of those words given to me by Brother Mills. He used it to share with me an expectancy he had for the Lord to enlarge and accelerate the things he was doing at Victory Fellowship. I was kind of caught by surprise when Brother Rodney begin to talk about an acceleration of God’s work over the next three years. The timing and confirmation of reading that prophesy just before service and Brother Rodney sharing about acceleration was more than coincidental; prophetic words confirm the things that the Lord is speaking over our lives. Here is that word Brother Mills gave me twenty years ago.
“I feel the Lord is changing your anointing, your vision, your methodologies, your ministry and is adjusting you for all the changes going on in the world. You’ll have a variety of outreach activities as you sow besides all waters – all ethnic groups- all strata of the social order and the unchurched society that are looking for love and acceptance in all the wrong places. Put your spiritual seatbelt on because Romans 9:28 says it will be accelerated!”
In 2000 I received another scripture promise from Dick Mills. He had no way of knowing about those first few performances of Beyond the Grave that had taken place overt the past few weeks before he gave me this word from Jeremiah.
Jer.1:11,12 – The word of the LORD came to me saying, “What do you see, Jeremiah?” And I said, “I see a rod of an almond tree. Then said the LORD unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it.
Brother Mills went on to explain how the almond tree was the first tree to be harvested each year in Israel. He said it was an indicator to the farmers in Israel of the size of the coming harvest. Applying that word to our circumstances; Beyond the Grave was to be a sign of God’s accelerated harvest in the days and years to come.
This week has brought an expectancy in my heart of the acceleration of the work of the Lord. I feel like we have already entered into a new season over the last year, now acceleration will kick in. Get ready, something amazing is happening all around us.
Moses gave not any inheritance: the Lord God of Israel was their inheritance, as he said unto them —Joshua 13:33
Have you ever been involved in distributing an inheritance? Sometimes this can become quite messy. Family members can suddenly turn into devils, especially if the inheritance is substantial. When Moses was preparing the children of Israel to enter their land, he made preparations by dividing the land of Israel into parcels for each family tribe. Every tribe received a portion, at least every family except the priestly tribe of Levi. What seemed unfair to the natural mind was quite a blessing and incredibly significant. The tribe of Levi got an inheritance, it’s just that their inheritance was the Lord. This has a message to us today who are called a royal priesthood. Just like the Levites of old, the Lord Himself is our portion. Here are some thoughts from A. B. Simpson on the priest’s inheritance.
“The procedure was very significant. God gave the land to the other tribes of Israel, but He gave Himself to the Levites. There is such a thing in the Christian life as an inheritance from the Lord, and there is such a thing as having the Lord Himself for our inheritance. Some people receive a sanctification from the Lord that is of much value, but variable and often impermanent. Others have learned the higher lesson of taking the Lord Himself to be their keeper and their sanctity, and abiding in Him they are kept above the vicissitudes of their own states and feelings. Some receive from the Lord large measures of joy and blessing and times of refreshing. Others, again, learn to take the Lord Himself as their joy.
Some people are content to have peace with God, but others have taken the peace of God, which passeth all understanding (Philippians 4:7). Some have faith in God, while others have the faith of God. Some have many touches of healing from God, others have learned to live in the very health of God Himself.”
At the end of it all, every earthly treasure is temporary and has no eternal value. Rolexes and Porsches mean nothing in heaven. So as one of the Lord’s royal priests I am glad to say “The Lord is my portion and my inheritance”. So the next time you have to deal with a family inheritance, chill out, it’s not that important.
MERRY WEDNESDAY BY PARRIS BAILEY-
“And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And having turned I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the candlesticks one like unto a son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about at the breasts with a golden girdle. And his head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto burnished brass, as if it had been refined in a furnace; and his voice as the voice of many waters.” (Revelation 1:12-15 ASV)
It is easy to lose sight of Christ in our everyday lives. Most folks have even given up on attending a local church because of time restraints, boredom and religious reasons. Jesus warned us that “even the elect” would miss His coming and grow weary. But when we turn to the book of Revelation, Christ shows himself in the first chapter. Many times while in worship at our church, I see Christ walking among the people. I see His bare feet with His long flowing robe walking around ministering to people. “His feet were like burnished brass, as if it had been refined in a furnace!” Brass speaks of the stability of His kingdom and the “energy of His government”. In a world that seems so unchristlike it is nice to know Is kingdom has no end. He has a fixed plan and will carry it to the end! He has made firm His word and will carry it out for eternity. We can rest knowing “his ways, counsels, methods in ordering and governing his church is for the beauty and glory of his peoples”. (Matthew Poole)
When I see Christ in this depiction I see that He is unwearied in his office as high priest. “For He ever lives to make intercession for us”. He loves his church that is why I constantly see Him in worship. He loves to minister to the broken hearted and fulfills that purpose through his body. He is constantly bearing us up and supporting His people with His holy and just ways. He also will come again and plant His feet firmly upon this earth on that day.
I believe He wants to flow thru the body of Christ with His administrative abilities. We are His hands, His feet, His voice and His touch. Have you met this Christ at Patmos? He has come to shake our world, our peace and our comfort. He desires to set in motion a mighty plan if you will, through His universal church and is working His plan. “Let’s open our eyes as John did to the present participation of every Christian in the present kingdom of the enthroned Christ. If we are in Him by that faith which engrafts us into Him, we shall ourselves possess that kingdom.” (McClaren)
O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.Psalm 51:15
I went to a Bible School near Fresno, California back in the 1970’s. Part of the curriculum at the school was evangelism. Each week there would be an evangelism assignment as part of the course requirements. There were some really unusual assignments designed to get the students out of the arena of fear, some of them were quite bizarre. One of my assignments was to go to a certain bar in Fresno with a tambourine. I was to get everyone’s attention by banging the tambourine and after I got everyone’s attention, sing “What Can Wash Away My Sin”. Actually the event turned out better than I could have imagined. All eyes were on me in the bar that day the moment I began to play the tambourine. After I finished singing the song they all stared at me as if to say “And so…”. I was able to preach just about everything I knew that night. All I can remember was the empty eyes and empty hearts staring out to me at the bar. Overcoming the fear of man is important when it comes to public worship. Check out what Luther had to say about the danger of worship.
“By asking the Lord to open his lips, David showed how difficult it is to offer thanks to God. This is something God demands of us. Talking about the Lord and thanking him publicly require an extreme amount of courage and strength, because the devil is constantly trying to stop us from doing this. If we could see all of Satan’s traps, we would know why David prayed for the Spirit’s strength and asked the Lord himself to open David’s lips. He wanted to tell the devil, the world, kings, princes, and everyone about the Lord. Many things can keep our lips shut: the fear of danger, the hope of gaining something, or even the advice of friends. The devil uses these ways to stop us from offering thanks to God, as I have often experienced in my life. And yet, at important times, when God’s honor was threatened, God stood by me and opened my mouth in spite of the obstacles. The Spirit urges us on—just as Peter says, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard”. The Spirit prays to God for us with many groans. Then the Lord opens our lips to announce his praise.”
So go ahead, stir up the gift of God, you may be amazed at the power of God that comes upon you and fills you up with courage. He will open your lips and fill you with His praise.