I AM MORTIFIED
that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.
When I was a child, I remember seeing an entertainer on television by the name of Jimmy Durante. He was quite popular and was even imitated in many cartoons that I remember from my childhood. He was famous for his quotes, “I’ve got a million of ’em”, one of which was “I am mortified”. That phrase is not used so much today but, when it is, it means something like extreme embarrassment or offense, taken literally, it means to put to death. This word, mortification, was a very common word used by the leaders of the protestant reformation. It was a word connected to the continual change that takes place in a Christian’s life, putting to death the old life and lifestyle.
When someone is born again, there is quite a change that takes place. Not only are we forgiven for our past, but a new life begins for us. Christ comes to live in our hearts by faith as we begin to taste the first fruits of the heavenly kingdom. Part of our inheritance is reserved for that great day when Christ returns for His people, until then, we still live in our natural body with natural tendencies that are at war with the kingdom of God. So what is the solution, we have to be mortified. We have to be disgusted with the natural world and its carnal fantasies, we have to be tired of living the natural life like all of the lost people all around us. From that place of utter disgust with the worldly life we begin to look to the cross. We come to the cross, not only for forgiveness, we come to the cross for mortification. Like the Apostle Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ”. That truth continues the process of mortification in our lives. I have been crucified with Christ, from this day I need to consider myself dead to sin and alive to God. The word of God becomes the tool we use to apply this truth of mortification in our lives. Search the scriptures about the cross, apply them to your life today. Like Jesus said, “If anyone comes after Me, let him deny himself, pick up his cross daily, and follow me”.
So are you mortified? Are you disgusted with the old ways? If so, mortify yourself with God’s word, yield yourself to God’s plans for your life. Explore the meaning of Jesus’ words, “Deny yourself and pick up your cross and follow me”. Only someone who can really say, “I am mortified”, has learned how to live their new life.
STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN
He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. Gen. 28:12,13
Jacob had his first divine visitation the night he left home. He was headed to his uncle’s house hundreds of miles away. He was all alone out in the wilderness, at least he thought he was all alone, until the angels showed up in his dreams. He had quite a night, he found himself at the very stairway into heaven. That’s the way it is with all of us, especially when we are going through rough waters, we think we are all alone, not realizing that we are right there at Jacob’s ladder. When Jacob woke up that morning, it hit him, “God is here with me, this is the very house of God” (he named the place Bethel which means house of God).
Have you been awakened from your state of sleep. Actually that is what happened to Jacob, while he was sleeping he was being awakened, awakened spiritually to a new awareness of spiritual reality. God was not only there with Him, but God had become his God. Jacob no longer had to go on the stories of his father Isaac or his grandfather Abraham, God was his God and He had a plan for Jacob.
Have you ever been suddenly surprised by the nearness of God? He comes in unexpected ways at very unexpected times. Sometimes you don’t even realize he was speaking until days later. Everyone remembers my wife Parris’s story of the faces in Bulgaria. God was speaking through the Bulgarian shepherd, the girls washing their clothes, the shining faces of the sunflowers, and the fragrant aroma of the Valley of the Roses. In 1994 he was speaking through the angels with watermelons, these were messengers preparing us for the days ahead. More recently He has been speaking to me from the faces in the crowd. I can’t forget the policeman’s cry for justice, the simplicity of the dancer, the urgency of the EMS worker, the cry for revival from “Evan”, the compassion of the newspaper man, and his cry for eternity. I remember looking at the faces in the tent at FTM last week as Courtney sang, “America the Beautiful” and saw the cry in their faces for an awakening in our country. Have you heard his voice lately? You know, like Jacob, maybe you are sleeping at the stairway to heaven, He is nearer than you think. If you wake up to His voice today, it’s time to follow Jacob’s example, pour out some oil and call upon the Lord.
ALL IN ALL
which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
During the 1700’s there was a great move of the Spirit of God in Europe and in North America, one of the leaders in this movement was Count Zinzendorf, bishop of the Moravian Church. The Moravians were known for their powerful missions teams that went all over the world. It was the Moravians that witnessed to John Wesley on his first trip to America. It was a Moravian prayer meeting where Wesley’s heart was strangely warmed and he met Christ. What was the secret of their spiritual power and their love for the lost that sent them to the furthest parts of the known world in their day? Maybe you can catch a hint of their power in these words by Count Zinzendorf.
“Our method in proclaiming salvation is this: To point out to every heart the Loving Lamb, who died for us. And although he was the Son of God, offered Himself for our sins, as our God, our Mediator between God and man, our throne of grace, our example, our preacher, our example of the law, our comforter, our confessor, and our Savior. In short, our all in all, by the preaching of His blood, and of His love unto death, even the death of the cross. Never, either in the discourse or in the argument, to digress even for a quarter of an hour from our Loving Lamb; to name no virtue except in Him, and from him, and on His account. To preach no commandment but faith in Him; no other justification but that He atoned for us; no other sanctification but the privilege to sin no more. No other happiness but to be near Him, to think of Him and to do His pleasure; no other self denial but to be deprived of Him and His blessings; no other calamity but ti displease Him; no other life but in Him.”
What an incredibly God centered message. What was the source of their passion for souls and their fervor that won Wesley to Christ? Why of course it was their love of Jesus, their message of the cross, their emphasis in the power in His atoning blood, and their desire to be as close to the Lord as possible. Nothing has changed in these three hundred years. We can still preach no commandment but faith in Him, no justification but that He atoned for us, no other sanctification but the privilege to sin no more, and no other happiness but to be near Him.
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
It seems like I had a strange unusual perception of my surroundings this Monday at our annual Feed the Multitudes event. I kept seeing people’s faces. I know we always see faces but these faces were calling out to me. It was as if there was a silent voice commanding my attention. I heard Uncle Sam calling out to me (Uncle Sam seemed to be attached to the elderly event in the Life-center). His voice was reminding me about God’s purpose for our country and our historical connection to revival. Uncle Sam seemed to be saying, “Get ready, It’s about to happen again.” Then I heard the voice speaking to me as I talked to Evan, the television reporter. I actually had a hard time listening to his instructions about the live interview, all I could think of was that name, “Evan”, and about another Evan from Wales who was calling out to me from 100 years in the past. “Bend us Lord”, the silent voice seemed to be saying. During that live interview another voice seemed to be speaking from the police officer who was looking at me over Evan’s shoulder. The officer seemed to be saying “Justice is about to be served. The great and terrible day of the Lord is at Hand”. Don’t these voices have any manners? It seemed like one kept interrupting the next. Then I was attracted to the activity swirling around an ambulance that suddenly appeared near the church offices. There was another one of those faces with the silent voice, this time it was an EMS worker. As he worked on the victim suffering from heat stroke, his silent voice began to cry out, “the people are hurting, they are sick, they need a doctor.” There seemed to be an urgency in his voice, like the time was drawing to a close. The next voice caught me by surprise. I was talking to a newspaper reporter about a veteran who had gone on to be with the Lord. The conversation started out as routine, an apparent reluctant interview with someone just doing his job. When suddenly the reporter began to be moved with emotion, I guess it was something about the fallen soldier, and then the voice began to speak, “Eternity is close, it is nearer than you think. Tell them, tell the people to get ready for that day”. I wandered back to the music tent, thinking the silent voices would be quiet, when a young girl began to dance to the music (I guess you could call it dancing). Her freedom from fear was quite disturbing, and then the voice started up again. “It was for freedom that Christ made you free, don’t take yourself so seriously. Become like a child, enter into my rest”. I guess only crazy people listen to the silent voices. On second thought, maybe I was only imagining things or maybe it was those blasted watermelons.
He rained down manna upon them to eat and gave them food from heaven. Man did eat the bread of angels; He sent them food in abundance.
One of my favorite pictures is a beautiful painting by Lorraine Gendron of Feed the Multitudes July 1994. She painted this picture shortly after the event that year and donated it to me. We have a huge print of this painting on display at Victory Fellowship. It is a beautiful impressionist style painting including different features of the event that year. You can see the food lines, the water baptism, the children playing and a flurry of other activities taking place (and of course the ominous storm clouds in the distance). The one thing that stands out in the picture are the angels. Angels flying overhead, angels seated at the the food tables, angels delivering watermelons. Its the angels with watermelons that always caught my eye. Why would the angels be bringing the watermelons? They weren’t bringing the chicken or the jambalaya or the hamburgers and hot dogs, no, they had the watermelons. Why watermelons?
You see I have a theory about those watermelons (I guess you knew that was coming), I think the melons were spiked. I think especially that year, 1994, they did something to those melons. Why would I think that? Because I know what happened that August. There was a strange angelic visitation in our church that lasted for years. There was an unexplainable, undeniable, unignorable (is that a word?) outpouring of the most contagious joy in our church that I think had something to do with those watermelons. People were experiencing life altering visitations of heavenly joy that was characterized by very unusual, drunken behavior. The side effect of these bouts of joy was changed lives. Many people gave their hearts to Christ, others were called into the ministry, others were sent to the nations. Worship leaders, Beyond the Grave, church plantings, all can be traced back to the after effects of those spiked melons. So here I am, years later, involved in another Feed the Multitudes, staring at the painting of those angels bringing the watermelons. I know the scriptures say that the children of Israel ate angel’s food when they ate the manna, I wonder if there was more to that story. Maybe, just maybe, it was that angel food that kept them alive in the wilderness for all those years. Could it be that they were influenced by that crazy food to make them think they could ever escape from Egypt in the first place. Maybe it was those melons that prepared us in New Orleans for the coming dark days of Katrina. I wonder if the angels did anything to the melons this year? If you partook of the melons I am not responsible for what happens, I say they are spiked.
America, America, God shed his grace on thee”
Merry Monday by Parris Bailey
Today for the last 22 years we have been doing Feed the Multitudes on July 4th. It’s a living parable of God’s grace being shed upon our lives and living in the America that we dreamed of. Lots of thoughts run through my head, living in a city that likes to party and eat and be religious. Put them all together with the grace of God and you get Feed the Multitudes. What is this special event, I am glad you asked.
Its the gospel, the main message that Jesus and everyone in the Word of God have been communicating all along. It’s about love at its best but better than love, cause it’s simply about Jesus saving the lost. Feed the Multitues came from Victory Fellowship almost closing it’s doors in the early 1990’s. We were not paying the bills, our credit was worthless and our people were running out the doors like rats on a sinking ship. We thought God’s name was called “MONEY”! We were compelled by the Lord to begin to reach out to the homeless so that his house would be filled. Our whole purpose in moving to Airline Drive in the first place was to get to a bus line so “anyone or everyone” could attend. So we bussed in the homeless and you guessed it, more of our families left. They didn’t like the homeless “cleaning up” in the bathrooms or sitting close to them. (I couldn’t blame them, my first encounter was with a guy asking me for some money for lice……after he had just hugged me) I lived in my box far too long.
The boy with the lunch, or the widow with the oil in the cupboard, or Joseph with his empty grave, all had something in common. Give what they have and put it into the master’s hand. Victory needed to get her eyes off of our failures and our mistakes and find “what was in the house”. We, Christians, unbelievers or whoever can stand around all day and pick out each other’s mistakes, or we can come together and find other people worse off than us, and give them our little lunch or what is in our hand.
A.B. Simpson says this about the widow woman in 2 Kings-
“Was there, then, nothing left for her? Was she entirely without resources? “Tell me, what hast thou in the house?” And she answered, “Thy servant hath nothing, save a pot of oil.” To her that seemed like nothing, and yet it contained the supply of all her need. God loves to utilize and economize all the resources which He has already given to us. Just as a master workman can do a great deal of excellent work with very common tools, so God can work with very simple instruments; but He wants us to utilize what He has already given. It was very little that Moses had, but that little rod was sufficient to divide the Red Sea and to break the power of Pharaoh. It was very little that the lad on the Galilean shore had that day; but his five loaves and two small fish were sufficient to feed the five thousand, when they were given to Jesus and placed at His service. Our least is enough for God, if we allow Him complete control.”
Well, there you have it, “OUR LEAST IS ENOUGH FOR GOD, IF WE ALLOW HIM COMPLETE CONTROL”. Your church may not be the coolest thing in town, or your pastor, youth group, etc. But jump on board and see what God can do with the least of these. You can tweet, Facebook your opinions all day about how the church or Christians are supposed to be doing or not doing. Or better yet come join me and a few others as we celebrate our freedom in our nation that God has shed his grace on. OH, DON’T FORGET TO BRING YOUR LUNCH! LOL!
YOU GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO EAT
When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, “This place is desolate and the hour is already late; so send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat.”
There is more going on in this story than you can see at first glance. Jesus is ministering to the crowds, they have been thronging Him for three days. If that was not enough, the Lord just wanted to be alone. He had just heard that his cousin, John the Baptist had been killed by Herod, this was disturbing on two levels. First, Jesus had loved and respected the courage and preaching of John, now John was gone. But even more troubling, the Lord knew that if the authorities had killed John, in time they were coming for Him too. He needed to be alone, but that was a luxury that had to wait for another day. Jesus continued to minister to the crowds for three days when all He really wanted was to be alone.
Back in 1990, the Lord really used this miracle to speak into my life. We were going through horrible, ministry threatening, financial problems. It is hard to be effective in anything, especially in ministry, when you are in trauma yourself, especially money trouble. During our worst of times, the Lord began to challenge us to reach out to people who were in worse trouble than we were. He led us to begin a free food festival, “Feed the Multitudes”. No matter how much we whined or complained, the message was clear, “You give them something to eat.” I was surprised at what happened at that first FTM event. Of course the poor and the homeless came, they came by the thousands. In those pre-Katrina days the projects in New Orleans were full, full of desperate people looking for some kind of relief. We had food, music, water games for the kids, it was an awesome day of ministry and fun.
What happened next is what caught me by surprise. The great miracle that happened that day was not the feeding or ministry to the poor. The real miracle happened in the heart of our church. The Lord was telling us, like He had told His disciples years ago, “You give them something to eat”. As we followed His directions, we began to get it. It really was MORE BLESSED TO GIVE THAN TO RECEIVE. We were the ones that received a miracle that day. For all these years, Feed the Multitudes has been part of what we do at Victory Fellowship, it is a living parable to us about giving. If you are in trouble, it is time to start giving. You can eat your lunch and it will be gone or, like the little boy, you can put your lunch in the hands of Jesus and your life of miracles will begin.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Jesus had a very different way to teach, so simple, but deeper than the oceans in wisdom and truth. What exactly did Jesus mean by his phrase “peacemaker”? Is being a “peacemaker” a possibility in our current culture? Am I a “peacemaker”? Actually the jewish mindset for peace, at the time of Christ, was quite different from what ours is today. For the jewish man in Jesus’ world peace was more than an absence of war or strife. Peace had some powerful positive connotations. Here are some observations about peace from the Full Life Bible Commentary.
“Like some of the other beatitudes, English and Western concepts do not fit the words Jesus uses. Our word “peace” is a pitiful parallel for what Jesus meant. We often define peace as a state opposite of war and peacemaking as putting aside a conflict for a truce – a concept that also fits the classical Greek usage of the word. The Hebrew word shalom better reflects Jesus’ intent. Shalom is a state of wholeness in individuals or nations, including safety, health, and wealth in the context of God’s covenant with His people.
True peace is based on God’s covenant of peace” with his people (Ezek. 37: 26). It is the nature of God’s blessing for his faithful people, who are in right relationship with him. Mere absence of military strife and material wealth are not God’s peace.
God’s peace is much deeper, more thorough, and more meaningful. Numbers 6:24-26 expresses it well: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.” The reference to God’s face speaks of his presence, which is the ultimate source of his peace.”
So what is a peacemaker? The life of a peacemaker is the life of spreading the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Once you have tasted the kindness of our Lord and drunk from His cup of peace, the only response is to spread this life to whomever we can. The perfect example would be the earthly ministry of Jesus. He went about doing good and healing all who were harassed by the enemy. He brought forgiveness, healing, provision, and salvation, He brought God’s peace. Jesus brought shalom everywhere He went. What else could He do, after all, He is the Prince of Peace.
HAPPY ARE THE HUNGRY
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Have you ever been really hungry? We all talk about being hungry, but most of us don’t miss many meals. In other times and in other lands, it is not so. Many people face hunger on a regular basis, the kind of hunger that nothing else matters, the kind of hunger that can’t think of anything else. Your life is in jeopardy and you have to have food, you have to get it now. Most of us have never experienced that kind of desperation. That is the kind of hunger Jesus was talking about. He said when you hunger after spiritual reality like your life depends on it you will be satisfied. Jonathan Edwards spoke often of spiritual hunger, listen to these words.
“Such a holy desire, or thirst of soul, denotes a man truly blessed: Matt. v. 6. “Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” And this holy thirst is connected with the blessings of eternal life: Rev. xxi. 6. “I will give unto him that is athirst, of the fountain of the water of life freely.”
The scriptures speak of holy joy, as a great part of true religion. So it is represented in the text. And as an important part of religion, it is often pressed with great earnestness; Psal. Xxxvii. 4. “Delight thyself in the Lord and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.”
Most of us don’t know what satisfied is in the spiritual world. To be satisfied with God, that is the greatest joy available to man. When spiritual satisfaction settles into your soul, your longing for the carnal delicacies of this world begin to weaken, you are content with God. But that is when the real hunger for more settles in. You will be satisfied in regard to the things of this world, but eating spiritual food awakens a hunger that is healthy, you know there is more. From that day you become a strange contradiction, satisfied but hungry, content but desperate. You have lost your appetite for worldly pleasures but that other kind of appetite, the one that needs Him has been awakened in your soul. From this day you are that living irony, full but hungry. Only those who have feasted at His table can possibly understand.
DELIVER US FROM EVIL
‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
Stuff happens. There is plenty of bad stuff to go around for everybody. There is physical sickness, emotional struggles, marriage problems, financial woes. Then there are stuggles with work, issues with our children, political problems; need I say more. You get the picture, something went wrong in our world, obviously a good God never intended for us to experience all the pain and trauma that comes directly from our fall from favor with our God. In the model prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us how to deal with evil, bring it to God. A.B. Simpson had plenty to say about this phrase, “deliver us from evil”. Here is a portion of his comments on this verse.
“There are many forms of evil which do not come from the evil one. We have as much cause to pray against ourselves as against the devil. And there are physical evils covered by this petition as well as special temptations. It is a petition, therefore, against sin, sickness and sorrow in every form in which they could be evils. It is a prayer for our complete deliverance from all the effects of the Fall, in spirit, soul and body. It is a prayer which echoes the fourfold gospel and the fullness of Jesus in the highest and widest measure. It teaches us that we may expect victory over the power of sin, support against the attacks of sickness, triumph over all sorrow and a life in which all things shall be only good and work together for good according to God’s high purpose. Surely the prayer of the Holy Ghost for such a blessing is the best pledge of the answer! Let us not be afraid to claim it in all its fullness.”
What kind of “evil” are you facing today? Are you facing depression or sickness? Are you staring at financial crisis or marital failure? Maybe you are worried about your children and their role in this world. This prayer gives us the sure way out of our dilemmas, “Deliver us from evil”. Today, we have a refuge from the storms of life and the “evil” that Jesus spoke of. We can bring our requests to the Lord, knowing that He hears us and will speedily bring us our answer. Don’t hesitate, no need to be overcome with worrying about the troubles of life. Call upon the name of the Lord, “Our Father, who are in heaven, hallowed be your name. Deliever us from evil, show your glory as you overthrow every weapon that has been formed against us”.