CONSIDER JESUS

CONSIDER JESUS

Heb. 3:1 Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus,

I love to think about Jesus, there will never be a time when we can say we have seen all there is of His greatness or His goodness, He is truly past finding out. Paul encouraged us to ‘consider Jesus’. Now we have to remember who these words were addressed to, they were written to the Christians in Jerusalem in the first century. Many of these believers had actually been alive and witnessed the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of our Lord. With that in mind, Paul is encouraging people who had known Jesus in the flesh and in the Spirit to consider Jesus again. What exactly was Paul saying? Andrew Murray often spoke of considering Jesus. Look at this excerpt from Murray’s classic book “The Holiest of All”.

“The word consider, from the root of the Latin word for Star, originally means to contemplate the stars. It suggests the idea of the astronomer, and the quiet, patient, persevering, concentrated gaze with which he seeks to discover all that can possibly be known of the stars which the object of his study are. And Jesus, who is God, who became man, and perfected our human nature in his wonderful life of suffering and obedience and now dwells in heaven to communicate to us its life and blessedness- oh, what reason there is for saying, CONSIDER JESUS. Gaze upon Him, contemplate Him. For some increased stars with devotion, what enthusiasm, what sacrifices are ofttimes witnessed. Oh, let the study and possession of the Son of God waken our devotion and our enthusiasm, that we may be able to tell men what beauty and what glory there is in Jesus.”

This word consider also contains the idea of immersion. Paul is encouraging the Jewish Christians to saturate themselves in this incredible person. He started off this letter saying that Jesus is the outshining of the Father’s Glory, He is the exact image of His nature, and He is upholding the universe by His mighty words. all throughout Hebrews that is exactly what the Apostle is doing, he is considering Jesus. Have you considered or contemplated this incredible person lately. I am not talking about His commands or His blessings. I am not talking about His great works or even His mighty miracles, I am talking about Him. The focal point of the book of Hebrews was the opening up of the holy of holies to whosoever will. The veil of separation has been torn by the sacrifice of the Son of God, the debt has been paid, the sacrifice for man has been accepted, the way into fellowship and intimacy with God has been secured. As we consider Jesus something beautiful takes place, the Holy Spirit comes in all His power and Glory. You see you can never separate Jesus from the Holy Spirit, they are inseparable. So I say with Andrew Murray and the Apostle Paul, CONSIDER JESUS, as you do you will begin the greatest of all adventures, you will actually be on the journey called the new and living way, life behind the veil. This is what you were born for, you were born to consider Jesus. This the place of ultimate satisfaction, this is the place of life evermore.

FALL FROM GRACE

FALLEN FROM GRACE

Gal. 5:4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

It seems like the mood of our city rises and falls with the New Orleans Saints. I’ll never forget the night the dome was reopened after Katrina. It was a Monday Night football game and my son Nathan and I scored some tickets. Actually we had great seats right down near the field. It was a night of joy and celebration, obviously that night was about more than football, it was the celebration of the rebirth of our beloved city. The fact that the Saints beat the Atlanta Falcons was just lagniappe, that little something extra that adds spice to life. Just a few years after that night of joy, the unbelievable happened. Pigs were flying, hell was freezing over, the saints did the unthinkable, they had actually won the Superbowl. It seemed like New Orleans was on the top of the world, the Saints were being called America’s team, the “whodat nation” had become a national phenomenon, Saints gear was being worn all over the land.
This week, all of that joy seems to be a foggy memory or a distant dream. Who could have imagined the headlines in the Times Picayune, “FALL FROM GRACE”. Even the secular media were drawing spiritual applications.
That’s what today’s word is about, everything in life is ultimately spiritual. All of us are dealing with conflicted feelings about the Saints. We are upset and disappointed about the bounties and the secrets. We are feeling feelings of justification as we remind ourselves, “all the teams are doing it”, even though we know it is wrong. We are angry about what we see as an over the top punishment to make examples out of our local heroes. Then we deal with feelings of resentment knowing that other guilty parties will prosper from our punishments. At the end of the day it is hard to make sense out of the mess.
What can we take with us from this whole situation? First, all of our human heroes are flawed. I think of David with Bathsheba, Peter’s denial of Christ with the servant girl, and Noah’s drunken binge. All of our heroes have clay feet. Does that justify their behavior? Absolutely not. It only displays the poor behavior of the best of our fallen race. There is only one human hero who has not fallen, His name is Jesus and He was despised and rejected by man.
Secondly, we must realize what is really important in life. I love sports as much as the next guy but at the end of the day, it is just a game. Our joy does not come from a touchdown, a hole in one, or a three point shot. It’s not the fastest or the strongest that will make it into the kingdom, it is only those who have been saved by grace through faith. Who knows what this year holds for the “black and gold”, will it be the Super Bowl or the cellar, it really makes no difference. The question that really matters is this, how is it with your soul?

WHEN SAINTS BECOME SINNERS

“When Saints become Sinners”
Merry Friday by Parris Bailey

“But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” (1 Corinthians 9:27 KJV)

I couldn’t help but have a horrible sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach seeing the front page of the USA TODAY with a picture of Sean Payton plastered on it. Like all of us on that now famous Superbowl night in which the Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts with an interception in the final minutes of the last quarter, it’s was a night never to be forgotten. I think all of us can still see Sean Payton sleeping holding onto the Lombardi trophy.
My family knows I’m not much of a sports fan but that night was different. As a child I grew up with my mom working for the New Orleans Saints, she even drove a black and gold Mustang. The New Orleans Saints have became a part of our city and our livelihood.
So what happens when Saints become sinners? When our dreams shatter because of man? Even the great apostle Paul was afraid that he too might become a castaway. Thayer Definition is this: not standing the test, not approved or that which does not prove itself such as it ought; unfit for, spurious, reprobate. The book of Revelations bids us a sober warning, “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” (Revelation 3:11) Spurgeon even asks us this question. “Am I now a Christian? am I living as a Christian should now? am I evincing to others, am I giving to myself daily, constant, growing evidence that I am actuated by the pure principles of the gospel, and that that gospel is the object of my highest preference, and my holiest and constant desire? O how holy would be the ministry, if all should endeavor every day to live and act for Christ and for souls with as much steadiness and fidelity as did the apostle Paul!”
I’m not here to be the judge of who is a Saint or who is the Sinner. I do know God tries the hearts of men. “You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win.” (1 Corinthians 9:24) Another version says, “There is room for all to get the prize. You cannot fail if you run well. Yet there should be a noble emulation; you should endeavor to outdo one another. And it is a glorious contest who shall get first to heaven, or have the best rewards in that blessed world. I make it my endeavor to run; so do you, as you see me go before you.”
At the end of the day we all are in the great chase for the eternal glory. Saint or Sinner, you decide, in the meantime keep your eyes on the prize!

FAITH

FAITH

Heb. 11:3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

“By faith we understand”, that is a powerful description or glimpse into the amazing world of faith. You see faith is not blind but is actually quite the opposite. Faith is the divine influence on our heart that opens our perception of the spiritual realm. Faith actually opens our spiritual eyes so that God’s world becomes real to us. Not only does the Lord become real, He becomes quite attractive to us. As King Solomon said, “He is altogether lovely”. You see, this is the true litmus test, has your heart been effected by the reality of God’s kingdom? As Wesley said, has you heart been “strangely warmed”? Faith actually ignites our passion for God, this becomes the engine that drives our lives.
Matthew Henry describes this influence of God upon our soul in his commentary on this passage.

“Faith demonstrates to the eye of the mind the reality of those things that cannot be discerned by the eye of the body. Faith is the firm assent of the soul to the divine revelation and every part of it, and sets to its seal that God is true. It is a full approbation of all that God has revealed as holy, just, and good; it helps the soul to make application of all to itself with suitable affections and endeavors; and so it is designed to serve the believer instead of sight, and to be to the soul all that the senses are to the body.”

The opening of our eyes by faith enables us to actually function in this spiritual world. A man who is naturally blind is hindered in his ability to perform the most basic of tasks. He is extremely limited by his inability to see. Spiritual blindness also impedes our ability to function in this world. As our spiritual perception is awakened by faith, we are able to begin to function and perform in unprecedented ways. Charles Spurgeon says it like this.

“Faith engages on my side the omnipotence of Jehovah. Faith ensures every attribute of God in my defense. It helps me to defy the hosts of hell. It makes me march triumphant over the necks of my enemies. But without faith how can I receive anything of the Lord? Let not him that wavereth-who is like a wave of the Sea-expect that he will receive anything of God! O, then, Christian, watch well thy faith; for with it thou canst win all things, however poor thou art, but without it thou canst obtain nothing. If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”

Without faith we are at an extreme disadvantage in life, when our faith is activated by God’s grace, everything changes, we actually can begin to operate in the spiritual world as the Lord intended. You enter to the life of Victory that all of our hearts long for. BY FAITH WE UNDERSTAND.

THE ROSE OF SHARON

“I am the Rose of Sharon, I am the Lily of the valley” SOS 2:1
Merry Wednesday by Parris Bailey
I love springtime! Who doesn’t? In New Orleans it might just last a month before the sweltering heat sets in, but all around plants are budding. In fact even the large oak trees commands his presence with all the residue they leave on our sidewalks and cars. Christ in this passage is commanding His entrance! I am that I am! He invades us in our senses in all of His beauty. Spurgeon says, “Go walk around in the fields of heavenly contemplation. He is the rose but it is not given unto all men to perceive his fragrance. He is the fairest of lilies, but few are the eyes which have gazed upon his matchless purity. He stands before the world without form or comeliness, a root out of the dry ground, rejected by the vain, and despised by the proud.”
It is His pleasure that His called out ones should be delighted with, His beauty. We are not to treat Him like He is only our bare necessity but as a luxurious delicacy, a rare and ravishing delight like the rose and lily. Our thoughts of Him increase our love of Him. When we lift Him up He lifts us up out of the dung hill. Our sweet thoughts of Christ draw out our pain and sufferings. His fragrance and His whiteness purifies all our grievances. We should admire this spotless purity and this balm of Gilead.

“White and ruddy is my beloved,
All his heavenly beauties shine;
Nature can’t produce an object,
Nor so glorious, so divine;
He hath wholly won my soul to realms above.” (Spurgeon)

We have here a mixture of divine excellencies. Crimson red and bright white, his crimson blood flows freely upon us, His purity makes us white as snow. “And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.” (Revelation 6:11 KJV)
Christ comes to arouse all our spiritual senses. Our eyes can see His beauty everyday. Even Solomon in all his glory can’t be compared to a lily. Too bad we see through a glass darkly. Often we do not see this anointed one walking among us. We miss the smell or beauty of the rose for our senses and our eyes have become dull or even worse, accustomed to His beauty. We must learn to look everywhere for Him. Though we don’t actually see Him in His physical form yet the sweet influence that flows from His love should permeant our very being. Christ is so lovely that He needs no beautifying. He will satisfy us to the very full and we must consider the daily need of this rose and this lily. Press this rose into your very bosom, let the oil of it stain your very heart. Find this precious lily of the valley and receive this purity into your spirit. It’s truly Springtime!

THE AFFECTION OF HYPOCRITES

THE AFFECTION OF HYPOCRITES

Matt.6:26
Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

All of us Christians say that we want to glorify God with our lives. There are vastly different opinions on what that would look like. For some, they think the more earthly possessions they accumulate, the more God is glorified, kind of like a real life Santa Claus or Easter Bunny. For others, they think living the life of self denial and poverty brings great glory to God. In actuality, both of those positions are formed from a man centered theology. One says God is good because He gives us all of these toys. The other extreme says that the life of a Christian consists of suffering and self denial, somehow that is supposed to glorify God. The Biblical position is this, that God is glorified in the life of a Christian when that Christian is satisfied totally in God Himself. God is their portion, your financial position is totally insignificant. When that is true, as John Piper often says, “God is glorified and I am satisfied”. John Piper spoke about the affections of hypocrites in his comments on the writings of Jonathan Edwards in his book “God’s Passion for His Glory”. Here is a short excerpt from that book.

“Edwards observes, with stunning modern relevance, “True saints have their minds, in the first place, inexpressibly pleased and delighted with the things of God. But the dependence of the affections of hypocrites is in a contrary order: they first rejoice that they are made so much of by God; and then on that ground, he seems in a sort, lovely to them.” In other words, in Edwards’ view, the bottom line of happiness is that we are granted to see the infinite beauty of God and make much of him forever. Human beings do, in fact, have more value than the birds (Matt. 6:26). But that is not the bottom line of our happiness. It simply means that we were created to magnify God’s glory by enjoying him in a way birds never can.”

What a powerful message for today’s Christian world. Hypocrites are attracted to God by the message that God makes much of them. That embraces a large part of the preaching today and almost all of the preaching on television. Jonathan Edwards preached from a whole different perspective about the grace of God. He would say that grace is the divine influence on the heart that enables us to behold the infinite beauty of God revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. Without God’s grace we are blind. Our only idea of reward or benefits are earthly things. When the amazing grace of God settles into our hearts we begin to cry out with John Newton, “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found was blind but now I see.”

STRANGE HAPPENINGS

STRANGE HAPPENINGS

Is. 28:11-12 Indeed, He will speak to this people
Through stammering lips and a foreign tongue, He who said to them, “Here is rest, give rest to the weary,”
And, “Here is repose,” but they would not listen.

Have you ever thought how different, if you don’t think I’m too irreverent, or even how strange the Lord is. If you think about it, how weird is it for God to become a man, to be born in a stable, to die on a cross, all of that is really strange. And forget about the speaking in tongues, who would ever come up with that bizarre way to initiate His plan to reveal Himself to mankind on earth. It seems like anyone would come up with something not so weird to reach the world. At the end of the day, it just seems as if our Lord is extremely different than we are and especially different than the religious world has painted Him. In the 1960’s the Lord began one of His strange seasons of outpouring. John Sherrill wrote a book called THEY SPOKE IN OTHER TONGUES. Here is a small quote describing an outpouring at a Mennonite school.

In 1954, a Mennonite preacher, Gerald Derstine, was conducting a week long Bible study seminar in northern Minnesota. One, day, without warning, a young man in the class suddenly knelt down and began to cry. “This kind of emotion was very unusual in the Mennonite church”, says Derstine, “and at first we tried to put a stop to it. But before we could, another student was crying. And then another. We tried to pull the weeping students out of the classroom, but as soon as we took one out, two or three others began to cry. Then we noticed an amazing thing: strange sounds were coming from the mouths of some of these young people. Were these the ‘stammering lips’ we had read about in the Bible?”

These kind of “interruptions” became quite common in the charismatic renewal. Sudden, unexpected outpourings, became almost expected as God began to pour out His Spirit all over our world. Baptists, Catholics, Methodists, Episcopalians, and even Mennonites were having a heavenly visitation. The common denominator in all of these locations was that strange thing the Bible calls stammering lips.
Have you ever been interrupted by the stammering lip? When the Holy Spirit fills you and you begin to speak in other tongues you are at the beginning of a grand adventure. You see tongues are not the end but actually the beginning. Tongues are like the trailhead of a great adventure in the mountain ranges of God. As you yield to that beautiful expression of the Lord’s Presence, He will fill you to the top and begin to reveal Himself and His ways in your life. He will enhance your understanding of the scripture, you will be taken into new dimensions of worship, and you will fall in love with church. You will also become quite expressive, you will find yourself talking with anyone who will listen about the great things of God.

A BRAND NEW YOU

A BRAND NEW YOU

John 3:6,7 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.”

All of us have struggled with life, you know, outbursts of anger, poor behavior, bad habits, need I go on? The problem isn’t our behavior, the problem is us. We have something wrong in the core of our being. What could that be? Of course it’s the nature we inherited from our parents. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to disrespect good old mom and dad, I am talking about your first parents, you know, Adam and Eve. They passed down something, that thing called sin that no one wants to acknowledge or talk about, that thing that lurks behind all of our sorrow and problems in life. It is common to all humans, it is the unseen darkness at the core of man’s very being. This sin is why things have gone so horribly wrong in our world. When you come to grips with that sin thing then you understand the words of Jesus better, “You must be born again”. The problem we have though is this, Jesus taught that you can’t even see it unless and until you are born again. Spiritual things are hidden from our eyes until that day when He makes all things new. Martin Luther described this change that comes with new birth, check out what he said.

“…when your will is changed, what you love and desire changes as well. In order to become new, you must crawl into the gospel with your whole self. You must shed off the old skin, as a snake does. When its skin becomes old, a snake looks for a narrow hole in the rock. It crawls through it and sheds its skin, leaving it outside in front of the hole. Similarly, you also must go into the gospel and God’s Word. You must confidently believe its promise that God does not lie. So you shed off your old skin, leaving behind your old light, arrogance, will, love, desires, and what you say and do. You become a new and different person who views everything differently than before.”

When your will is changed! That is the problem, our will is hopelessly enslaved to that old sinful nature. We don’t have the capacity to change until… Until what? Until your will is changed by the new birth. We have to put off the old and put on the new, you know, like the snake. We put off that old snake skin and we put on Christ. So maybe today, like most humans, you are struggling, and quite frankly, embarrassed by your problems and your behavior. You are not alone. Instead of hiding and pretending, step into the light of the gospel . As you do, He will make all things new. He will do more than just forgive, He will give you a new heart. This new heart has a new will, a will that actually has the ability and, most of all, the desire to change.

TWO PROPHETIC WORDS

TWO PROPHETIC WORDS

Acts 2:17 “And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams.

Acts 15:16-17 “After this I will return
And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down;
I will rebuild its ruins,
And I will set it up; So that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD,

If you pay close attention, the Bible always tends to interpret and confirm itself.
In today’s verses we have two Old Testament prophecies that began to be fulfilled in the first century church. In the first prophesy from the Prophet Joel, Peter declares the beginning of fulfillment on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit began to be poured out on the multitudes gathered for the festival in Jerusalem. This was clearly the beginning of a new day that we would see spread all throughout the world during the time of the apostles. There have been seasons of continued outpourings throughout history. Today, we live at the end of that season. It seems as if the Lord has turned up the intensity of His outpourings as the end gets closer. We can trace the current world wide Holy Spirit outpourings to one common point of origin, the great Azusa Street outpouring of 1906.
This brings us to the second prophetic word in the book of Acts. The Apostle James quoted from the Prophet Amos in his discourse in Acts 15. James applied this word about the rebuilding of the tabernacle of David to the apostolic church planting ministry of the Apostle Paul. Paul’s ministry ushered in the second phase of God’s plan for the Holy Spirit to be poured out upon all flesh. In the Old Testament the Lord dwelt in a building or a tent, in the new He would reveal Himself in His Church, not in the building itself but in the gathering together of His sons and daughters from every ethnic group on earth.
This prophesy about theTabernacle of David is very significant in our day. The uniqueness of David’s tent was this, there was no veil of separation and God’s Shekinah Glory was there. In today’s church the veil of separation has been removed by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Through His blood we can all come into His presence. Secondly, the Lord intends His church today to be the place where the Shekinah Glory is welcome and present. This presence is what people need and long for, this presence is the uniqueness of Christianity. There are plenty of churches, mosques, temples, and synagogues in our world today. What would make any one of them stand out from all the rest? In the Old Testament the difference was the Glory in the temple. If we listen carefully to the prophesies in the book of Acts we will come to the same conclusion, the church is intended to be the place of His manifest presence.

BEDROOM TALK

Merry Friday by Parris Bailey-
“Bedroom Talk”

“Also our couch is green. The beams of our house are cedars, and our rafters are firs.”

This is where we should find ourselves as a Christian, upon his bed of love, for this is where union and communion must take place. After being married for almost 40 years, even I must admit that without intimacy in the bedroom its hard for a marriage to survive. Our marriages are types of our intimacy with the Lord. This passage talks of having great communion and fellowship with our Bridegroom. There is nothing worse than a stale marriage or a Christian that is barren from having no intimacy. Our bed is green, verdant, flourishing, and prosperous flowing from Him to us. He opens up His word and points out his exceedingly great and precious promises to us. He quickens us and renews us daily while we are in His presence. Yes, we can have great communion in the secret place, it becomes a sweetness that nothing else can compare to. He makes us lie down in luxurious green pastures where His love kisses overwhelm us! We become green olive trees planted in the house of the Lord. (Ps.52:8) Is your relationship ever growing in the Lord? Remember Jack and the bean stalk? Remember how the seeds were thrown out and grew into a mighty beanstalk that reached into heaven? Let God overwhelm you in your soul so that it overflows. You can leave the pot at the well! He will satisfy your thirst.
The Song of Solomon goes on to say that the beams of our house are made of cedar and our rafters are fir. There is a lot that goes into a marriage, years of surrender and struggle, how much more has Christ paid the price and laid down His life? “To whom coming, as unto a living stone, rejected indeed of men, but with God elect, precious,ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” I Pet. 2:4,5 It is no wonder this bed is made of cedar which the wood cannot rot. He has laid the foundation and He will finish what he started in us.
When Frank and I first went to Bible School in California, we were sent tree planting up in Oregon. At one particular place, we put up tents and next to us was a bed set out in a open field. (This was the 70’s) The beauty of this area would catch your breath and what a picture to see this bed in the middle of it all! He builds His galleries or banners over us. “If the earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For verily in this we groan, longing to be clothed upon with our habitation which is from Heaven, if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.”
We come so naked to Christ, let Him clothe you, but it has to be in His secret chamber.