LAUNCH OUT INTO THE DEEP

LAUNCH OUT INTO THE DEEP

Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat. When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
Lk.5:3,4

It was just an ordinary day, just another boring day at work, that is until Jesus stepped onto the boat. Everyday is ordinary until Christ breaks onto the scene. Has He visited you lately?
That particular day was more than boring, all that work and effort and no fish, it was quite aggravating. The bills were piling up, that never changes, but no fish meant no money, maybe tomorrow would be a better day. Sound familiar, all of us have days like that, for some of us, our whole life is like that, better luck tomorrow.
That’s when Jesus stepped onto Peter’s boat. After teaching the word for awhile, He spoke directly to Peter, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” It sounded all wrong, Peter knew the conditions were not right to catch fish, but those words, somehow they were strangely compelling. We all know the rest of the story; the boatloads of fish and Peter beginning to follow Jesus. But I want to hesitate here for a minute, I think the Master is speaking again today, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” What could that mean? He means press into places you have never been before. Launch out deeper into His Word. Launch out deeper in prayer, especially praying in the Spirit. Launch out in your stewardship, bring your tithes and offerings into your local church. Press into God and as you do, let down your nets, tell others what the Lord has done for you.
This is the Word the Lord spoke to me in 1999 when He led us to start Beyond the Grave. That has been eleven years at this writing, and over 60,000 decisions have been made for Christ. Maybe Jesus wants to step onto your boat today, when He does, do what He says. His commands are many times unconventional and out of step with others, but there will be a “boatload of fish”. Peter never regretted his decision, he may have looked foolish to the other fishermen, and many times following the Lord will be misunderstood by “natural men”, but we follow anyway. “Launch out into the deep”, I hear that the fish are running again.

LEAST OF THESE

LEAST OF THESE

For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
Matt.25:35,36,40

We had been through hard times before, but nothing like this, not even anything close. It was 1990 and we couldn’t pay our bills. We had built our huge building on Airline Highway near New Orleans and we were on the verge of losing it. I was deeply afraid. And then, the strangest thing happened, the Lord clearly spoke to my heart, “have a giant free food festival for the poorest of the poor in New Orleans”.
That was the strangest thing I had ever heard, I couldn’t pay my bills and “you want me to feed thousands of people for free”. When I first began to think about it, I would be paralyzed with fear, but after some time passed, I knew it was the Lord.
I will never forget the day I told our church. I remember shocked looks, folded arms, and rolling eyes, most thought I had finally lost my mind. As the plans began to take shape, the people at Victory began to get on board, I was witnessing the beginning of a miracle. There were businesses, restaurants, and private individuals who helped that year. We served a giant free feast on that fourth of July; jambalaya, hamburgers, red beans, hot dogs, snowballs, and watermelons. Of course we can’t forget the music; choirs, rock bands, and soloists, it was quite a celebration.
Then, I saw it, the miracle we needed in our church was happening. No, a millionaire didn’t write a check. God was touching our hearts. It was a hidden miracle, the kind not everyone could see. It happened as we picked up the homeless off of the streets, it happened as we loaded up the children into the buses at the housing developments, or served a plate of jambalaya, or prayed for a single mom. The miracle was happening, it was happening deep within our hearts. That day happened over twenty years ago, it was our first FEED THE MULTITUDES, but it wasn’t our last. Since that time we have had this free food festival every year, we do it because we have to. Not because of all of the hurting people in New Orleans, there are plenty of those post Katrina. No, we do it because of what Jesus said, ” when you have done it to one of the least of these, you have done it unto Me”. Maybe today, you need a miracle, most of us do. Your miracle may not be one of those obvious ones. It may be a secret miracle. The kind not everyone can see. Maybe your miracle will be found looking into the eyes of a desperate girl at Mary’s Song, or the cry of the young man in prison, or the homeless man trying to survive. It will happen as you look into the eyes of “the least of these” and catch your first glimpse of Him. Then you will know that it is more blessed to give than it is to receive, because when you have done it to the least of these, you have done it unto Jesus.

THIRTY TWO YEARS

THIRTY TWO YEARS

Mary Monday: Parris Bailey

“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.” John 12:24 The Message

Sunday, Victory Fellowship, Frank, and I celebrated thirty two years of ministry. Before I left for church this morning Frank had me run upstairs and get his Bible that he had since 1973, the very same Bible that the Lord spoke to him from when we were driving into the city to take over the work that our bible school had started. When I went to grab his Bible, I saw my old Bible, the one that I had since 1976. Those Bibles have been sitting there for years, but today of all days, it all got to me. I opened mine, and saw the scriptures Dick Mills gave to me during that time and I saw the words, “FAITH, TIME, PATIENCE-ALL THINGS ARE POSSBILE”-5/5/77. That little scribble scratch called out to me—it was the very same word that the Lord had just given me for 2011.
This Sunday I was to take the tithes and offering and the Lord gave me John 12:24. Unless the grain of wheat is buried into the ground, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. I used my bible from 1976 to share from and drove a van that someone just had donated to Mary’s Song from her parent’s estate. I guess you could say it all began making sense. We die so that others live. That little hippie girl from the 70’s, surely had no idea that her whole life would become one big seed planted into the ground so a harvest could come from it.
I found this quote yesterday: “See the fatal consequences of an inordinate love of life; many a man hugs himself to death, and loses his life by over-loving it. He that so loves his animal life as to indulge his appetite, and make provision for the flesh, shall thereby shorten his days and shall lose the life he is so fond of. He that is so much in love with the life of the body, and the ornaments and delights of it, as to deny Christ, he shall lose it, that is, lose a real happiness in the other world, while he thinks to secure an imaginary one in this.”
Even the van that was given had meaning, it too had to germinate itself into the kingdom of God. The loved one who died would have a legacy, their car would be used for women getting a second chance. The hippie girl would find a new love, how ’bout you? Are you ready to decompose yourself?

UNITY OF THE SPIRIT

UNITY OF THE SPIRIT

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Eph.4:4-6

Everyone knows there is supposed to be unity in the church but, many times, that is far from true. Where does unity come from? How can we attain to that atmosphere that we all long for? Obviously, it takes more than just knowing that we need unity, there has to be a spiritual effect in us corporately, a common participation in order for us to experience this spiritual oneness. Charles Hodge has some great insight on this passage, here is part of what he said.

“There are many passages to which the doctrine of the Trinity gives a sacred rhythm, though the doctrine itself is not directly asserted. It is so here. There is one Spirit, one Lord, one God and Father…It is one because there is to us one God the Father, one Lord, one Spirit. It is a truly mystical union; not a mere union of opinion, of interest, or of feeling; but something supernatural arising from a common principle of life. This life is not the natural life which belongs to us as creatures; nor intellectual: which belongs to us as rational beings; but it is spiritual life, called elsewhere the life of God in the soul. And as this life is common, on the one hand, to Christ and all his members—and on the other, to Christ and God, this union of the church is not only with Christ, but with the Triune God. Therefore in Scripture it is said that the Spirit dwells in believers, that Christ dwells in them, and that God dwells in them. And, therefore, also our Lord prays for his people, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.”

I love that, “the sacred rhythm” of the trinity. As we as individuals are filled with God, we are joined together with this spiritual rhythm with the Father and the Son. We find ourselves flowing not only with the Lord, but also with the body of Christ. He has made us drink together of His Spirit, and out of this drinking we are drawn into this heavenly dance. Can you feel the heavenly rhythm? Join into this heavenly dance today, as you do, you will find yourself being drawn out of the world and into a brand new way of life.

ONE

ONE HOPE, ONE SPIRIT, ONE CALLING

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Eph.4:4-6

Everytime I read this passage of scripture, I remember the prayer Jesus prayed in Gethsemane. John tells us in John 17 that Jesus prayed that His followers would be one as He and His Father are one. What could this possibly mean? How can we experience oneness with the Father and His Son and also experience oneness with His people? We see the answer in today’s passage from Ephesians. The oneness Jesus spoke of is spiritual in nature and does not come about by human effort or planning. We don’t experience this oneness by trying harder. No, this is the work of the Spirit of God. When someone is born again, the Spirit of God enters into their life, oneness is produced by the Holy Spirit. How can this be, it is because each member of His church is drinking of the same Spirit. Just as the spirit of a man brings life to his body, the Holy Spirit brings spiritual life to us and connects us to God and also to His body. Since we now share the same nature with the Father, His Son Jesus, and with the church, the result is what Jesus called oneness. As we grow in grace and yield our lives to the Holy Spirit, this oneness begins to be lived out in our daily experience. As a result, we begin to flow together with His church, evidenced by our relationship to the local church He has placed us in.
Then we begin to see it, we see the hope that He has called us to. We begin to discover His master plan to reveal His Glory to the world. And then comes the best part, we are part of this plan. The life of God in His church is the difference between the church and other human organizations. He is the difference maker. Each one of us has an incredible role to play. How can you discover your part in the Master’s plan? There is only one way, it is realized in your life through the life of the body. As you draw near to the Lord and yield to the Holy Spirit, your life will become more and more connected to His church. In that place of oneness your true identity will be revealed. As this happens, God will be glorified and we will be more than satisfied. We will find ourselves joining together with Paul and the great congregation singing, ” One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE

ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE

Mark 9:23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for him who believes.”

I’ll never forget the first meeting I had after I returned to New Orleans in 1977. In that first service I gave an altar call and about ten young people gave their lives to Christ. Some sunday school teacher from a local Methodist church had brought his teenagers to the meeting that day, several of them got saved. These teenagers served as the nucleus of our new church, one of them became a pastor in the city and still pastors today.
When we first began Victory Fellowship, we had a sign in front of our church with this verse of scripture, “All things are possible for him who believes”. I remember looking at that sign many times when I was facing difficult times. God always met us. We were living in a season of miracles, people seemed to be getting saved everyday. There were drug users, alcoholics, sex addicts, people with every kind of vice were attracted to our church, God was moving and lives were being changed. There was an electricity in the air, all of us wondered what would happen next. That was a very special season in the life of our church.
Today, God is still the same and His word is still true. “All things are possible for him who believes.” What are you believing God for today? What kind of battle are you engaged in? Do you need a miracle in your life?
It doesn’t take much faith, all it takes is faith like a grain of mustard seed, not very much. Where does this faith come from? Of course it comes from the Lord, it is spiritual in nature. Faith is a gift that flows from the presence of God.
How do I receive this gift? You don’t have to seek faith or try to muster it up. You don’t even have to try to build up your faith, it is a gift.
But you say “How do I receive this gift?”
By getting hold of Jesus, as Paul said “Faith and love are in Christ Jesus”. When you get hold of Him, faith is the result.
When you draw near to God, faith flows like a river. So what is the conclusion? The season of miracles is not over, the Lord is stiring our hearts with His faith again today. Miracles are in the air. “All things are possible to him who believes.”

THE AUTHOR AND FINISHER

AUTHOR AND FINISHER

looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Heb.12:2

Have you ever felt like you were way over your head? Your circumstances are bigger than you or your abilities. It seems like your troubles are “unfixable”, so why even try? All of us have faced situations like that. The spiritual and the carnal, the Christian and the nonchristian all face huge problems throughout our lives.
How we respond in those times will define the outcome of our life.
I was in one of those moments in my life in 1990. We had just completed a new church facility, the economy had tanked, and we could not pay our bills. Part of me wishes I could tell you I gave an offering to some ministry and got a breakthrough to get out of debt. That didn’t happen. What I did receive was far more valuable. The Lord spoke to me from His word. It was delivered as a word of prophesy by Dick Mills, but actually it was the verse of scripture for today’s devotion. The part that spoke to me was the “author and Finisher of my faith”. That was what I needed. I knew my Christian life had begun supernaturally, my salvation was an encounter with God. I knew He was the author of my faith. Now I saw it, Jesus was also the Finisher of my faith. My future success, the success of my ministry was in the hands of the Lord, what could be a safer a place than that? The One who had started this journey was more than able to finish it. Like I said before, my circumstances didn’t instantly change, something better happened. I changed. Something inside me was different. I didn’t know how, but I knew in my heart everything was going to be okay.
Over the months and years ahead the Lord delivered us out of our crisis, but as far as I was concerned, the crisis ended when He spoke to my heart.
What are you facing today? Is any problem too big for our God? The One who began this beautiful work in you will finish it, He always does. He is not only the author of your faith, He is the finisher. He will finish what He started. Today, stop looking for the circumstances to change, that is the easy part. Let the word of the Lord settle down in your heart, let Him change you, that is the place your miracle will begin.

MISSIONARY TO NOLA

MISSIONARY TO NOLA

Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
Jn.4:35-38

I was twenty six years old, just out of Bible School, and headed back to New Orleans. Parris was twenty one, and our first son, Jeremy, was three years old and we were excited. We had been away for four years and we were returning to begin our great gospel adventure in New Orleans. We had no real plans, but we had a fire burning in our hearts. As we were crossing the Bonnet Carre Spillway, I was reading my Bible (obviously a friend was driving our borrowed car) and then it happened. I got my first real strong word from the Lord. It was the passage of scripture at the beginning of today’s devotion. The Lord was calling me as a missionary, that part was not unusual because our school was a missionary training center. It was the location that was strange, the Lord was calling me as a missionary to New Orleans, my home town. We had all sorts of plans, most Bible school students do, but now we had a word from the Lord, this would change everything.
In this verse he spoke to me of an unprecedented supernatural harvest (makes me think of Beyond the Grave). He also said others had labored and I was entering into their labors. The second part struck me. I always remember this word and remember the labor of others. All of us are just vessels in the overall master plan of God, it is not our work but His, and any fruit that we bare is the Lord’s fruit. Many have gone before us and prepared the soil for the great last day harvest of the Lord.
Thirty four years have passed since the Lord gave me this word but it is as fresh today as it was then. There is a great harvest ready to be reaped in the city of New Orleans, in America, and in the nations. Just like Jesus said, “lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are ready for harvest”. Maybe the Lord is speaking again today, maybe He is speaking to you. Can you hear His voice? “I am sending you to reap where others have labored”. The greatest harvest of all is yet to be reaped, an unprecedented harvest is ripening in the fields. Who will go and whom will He send? Those who have ears to hear His precious voice.

EYES WIDE OPEN

EYES WIDE OPEN

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
1Cor.2:14

We have been given an incredible capacity to learn and understand truth by the Lord. He has created all of mankind with the natural ability to comprehend and assimilate information, even truth concerning the word of God. But natural understanding alone is not enough, not nearly enough to satisfy our hungry hearts. There is another kind of learning that comes only by divine revelation, as Paul said, spiritual understanding is “discerned” by the Spirit. The Lord has to open our hearts or it is impossible to comprehend the things of God. Jonathan Edwards spoke frequently about the difference between natural and spiritual understanding, give your attention to his words.

“THERE are two kinds of knowledge of divine truth, speculative and practical, or in other terms, natural and spiritual. The former remains only in the head. No other faculty but the understanding is concerned in it. It consists in having a natural or rational knowledge of the things of religion, or such a knowledge as is to be obtained by the natural exercise of our own faculties, without any special illumination of the Spirit of God. The latter rests not entirely in the head, or in the speculative ideas of things; but the heart is concerned in it: it principally consists in the sense of the heart. The mere intellect, without the will or the inclination, is not the seat of it. And it may not only be called seeing, but feeling or tasting.”

Sometimes you have to sort through Edward’s words, but it is well worth the effort. Edwards reminds us of the difference between head knowledge and heart knowledge of the Lord. Spiritual revelation is the opening of our hearts to spiritual things. Edwards speaks of “seeing, feeling, and tasting” spiritual realities. These spritual senses are the essence of spiritual revelation, and brings our heart into the spiritual arena. Has your heart been effected by God’s Word? This is where revelation begins to come, when that happens, we are influenced deeply by His words, and through these awakened affections He speaks to us.
Our heart becomes affected by the beauty and grace of the Lord, our hearts become inflamed with the passion that comes from the Lord Himself, from that moment on, all things become new.

IS ANYTHING TOO HARD FOR THE LORD? #3

IS ANYTHING TOO HARD FOR THE LORD #3

Mary Monday by Parris Bailey
“Is there anything too hard for god?” Gen. 18:14

This weekend was a big weekend. It started last Friday night when we had “Beyond the Grave” in which we gave out over 300 booklets for people that came up to receive the Lord. We also had over 30 people get water baptized. I wept. There is something about people rushing to the altar to find Jesus and make a life change. Many of them will go back to their seats with just an emotional “touch” like watching a movie that they cried in. But others might be like this particular young man that walked up to Frank and told him that he went up to an altar call 10 years ago at a BTG service and tonight he brought his youth from his United Methodist church here because he is the youth pastor. You just never know what is happening in someone’s life.
Some of the reason why I found myself crying is that I know that none of this comes easy. It’s not like one can snap their fingers and have God show up and “do his thing”. It takes stepping out time and time again and believing that the gospel is truly what this world needs. I cried because not everything in my life is perfect and complete-but when God steps in, it becomes complete. That altar call showed me again that there is “nothing too hard for God”. He can change a situation in a moment.
Another milestone happened also Sunday night, we had another Mary’s Song graduation. Two of the girls finished Phase One (5 months) and another finished the 2nd phase (10 months). The 2nd phase girl tonight shared her testimony how she had gotten an abortion years ago and her body and her mind were messed up for years, putting her into a life of drugs and jail. While at Mary’s Song she has lost over 50 pounds, received healing in her body and forgave herself of the bad decisions she made. She also had put art down for over 10 years and just these past few weeks, picked up a brush and begin to paint some of the most beautiful paintings that I have ever seen. “Is there anything too hard for God”?
What are you facing today? Maybe you feel as if you have no place to turn nor is anyone listening. Another Mary’s Song girl didn’t have a drug or alcohol problem but had a rejection problem that drove her into deep depression. She too is receiving the love of God. He is a fountain and this fountain is made just for you. I pray that you can open your heart to receive this Love. What we think is impossible, weak, without strength, not able or impotent, God takes and changes it into something beautiful. He makes all things new…….yes he does!