IS CHURCH IMPORTANT?

Jesus came to build His church. Why is it important?  Why is it valuable to the Christian?  Why is the church valuable to the secular world?  Why is the church valuable to the Lord?

First of all the church is God’s temple or dwelling place on earth.  In the Old Testament the Lord dwelt in the tabernacle of Moses and the temple in Jerusalem.  This was the place where the manifest presence of God was amongst His people.  This is was what made Israel special.  Without the Lord in their midst they would be just like all of the other nations.  In the New Testament the church is His dwelling place.  He has chosen to make His presence known in the midst of His church.  This is one of the blessings of being part of a New Testament Church.  The Lord’s presence is available to us when we gather together.

Ephesians 2:19-22, Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

The secular world needs God.  They are searching for Him in all the wrong ways, looking for peace and satisfaction but never finding it.  The Bible clearly teaches that the rest our soul longs for is found only in the Presence of the Lord.  “In your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forever more.”

Psalms 16:11, This presence is found in the local church.  The church of Jesus Christ is where God tabernacles on earth and this is the place we find rest.

In John 15:5, Jesus refers to us as the vine.  “I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in Me, and I in Him, bears much fruit; for without Me, you can do nothing.”  This relationship describes just how dependent on the Lord we are.  As we stay connected to Him, His Life flows into us. This life flow is directly related to our relationship with Christ and our relationship with His church.  The life of God flows between us and through us through our relationships with God and His people.  The church is vital to this organic and spiritual union.  As we cultivate an intimate life with the Lord, and join together with others walking in this intimate lifestyle, we will experience the life flow of the vine.   If we abide in Him and he in us we will bear much fruit.

The Lord also refers to His church as the body of Christ. This is another beautiful picture of His church and the life that flows amongst us.

1 Corinthians 12:12, For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.

Each one of us is a dynamic part of the body of Christ. Each one of us share a special role, placed exactly in His church as He desires.  As we fulfill that role and relate to others who are functioning members of His body, there is a powerful result.  First, out needs are met.  When we flow with other members of His church enjoying this relationship the gifts and ministries of the Spirit begin to function.  The dynamics of the body of Christ are not seen only in large corporate gatherings, but in small groups or casual relationships that we nurture and value.  Out of these relationships the body ministers to itself.  We are then placed in a position of giving and receiving ministry as Jesus ministers to us and through us in His body.

Jesus also referred to His people as the City on a Hill.

Matthew 5:14, You are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.

As we function as a healthy church, the world will begin to recognize the life of God working through His people.  We live in a dark world.  The non-Christian population is longing for something real.  They have heard it all and seen it all.  Our world is waiting to see real Christianity in action.  Jesus told us the world would know the reality of God when they see Christians loving one another.  This picture of a city on a hill is a portrayal of His Church, walking in revival, loving God, and loving one another. When that day comes, harvest is at hand.

Finally, the Lord describes His church as the Bride of Christ.  This is the greatest portrayal of the Glory of God of all.  The Lord made a plan to save fallen man and glorify His name.  He determined to become one of us and redeem fallen man from his sins.  He said that all who would believe on Him and accept His sacrifice would become a son or a daughter of God.  When this happens we are clothed in the righteous garments, the wedding garments of Christ.  Our sins are forgiven, and we become a part of the Bride of Christ.  A great celebration is about to begin.  The singing and celebration has already started in heaven and is spilling over into the streets on earth.  All who hear this sound of rejoicing and join in become part of the great wedding celebration.  Christ is returning for His church.

Revelation 21:1-5, Now I saw a new heaven and new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.  Also there was no more sea.  Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people.  God Himself will be with them and be their God.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes;  there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.  There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”  Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”  And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

PUT ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Many times in our daily routine my wife, Parris will say, “Just put on the Lord”. This will often times come about after I make a rude comment after being cut off by an inconsiderate driver on our wonderful streets in New Orleans. “Just put on the Lord,” easy to say, but quite challenging to do in our every day practice.

All of us face challenging opportunities every day which present an opportunity for us to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Every day opportunities to compromise or fall into temptation present themselves to us. We can make excuses for our failures, try to overcome by our own will power, put into practice the latest “Christian” cliché or technique or we can put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the Lust of the Flesh.

Sometimes these challenges come to us in our daily interaction with humans. Lets face it, people can be quite miserable and self centered. Dealing with self centered people can cause frustration which can end up in outbursts of anger or bottled up hostility in our hearts. The solution to dealing with carnal people is supernatural. Only Christ in us can forgive and love unlovely people and help us to stay out of strife. Paul said, “Above all these put on Love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:14, 15). This supernatural response of love, acceptance and forgiveness can become our response when we put on Christ.

Another opportunity to put on Christ comes when we are tempted and enticed by our own lusts. All of us are subject to temptation. It comes to us in many different ways. It could be an opportunity to use alcohol or drugs. It may come in an opportunity to have an improper sexual relationship with someone. Or it may come to you in your lonely moments, a temptation that presents itself on television or the internet. None of us are immune to the lusts of the flesh, but we all have the opportunity to resist and overcome. We can overcome every temptation by putting on the Lord Jesus Christ. As Paul said in Romans 13:13,14 “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires.”

You may wonder, “How do you put on the Lord Jesus Christ? How does this work in my everyday life?” Let me share with you several ways I have learned to put on Christ in my daily life.

First, I can be clothed with Christ by faith in the precious blood of my savior. All of us are born in a state of alienation from God. Our sinfulness blocks us from the intimacy our hearts long for and from the blessings that are found in a relationship with God. The bible talks about heaven as an incredible wedding reception celebration. Only those who have been clothed with Christ, have put on His wedding garments can come to this celebration, Rev. 7:14.

Each of us face temptation and will commit sin. If we sin we have an advocate with the Father. If we confess our sin, his blood cleanses and makes us holy in His sight. 1 John 1:9 Today you can put on the Lord Jesus Christ by faith in His precious blood. You can draw near to Him and experience His love and friendship by faith in the blood of the cross. Today put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Look to Him by faith in His blood and experience His amazing love for yourself.

Secondly, we can put on the Lord Jesus Christ by immersing ourselves in His Holy Book. The word of God is life for our souls, as we read this book, we are putting on Christ.

In the book of John, Jesus is referred to as The Word of God. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” John said, “We have seen His glory, glory as of the only begotten son.” John 1:14.

Jesus said that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Father. As we eat these words, we are putting on Christ, the Word of the Father.

Recently I enjoyed watching several legs of the Tour de France on television. I was amazed at the endurance of these athletes. This bike race lasts for 20 days with most legs going from 120-140 miles. What a race! One of the facts that amazed me was the caloric intake of the cyclists. They average between 6000-8000 calories a day. What a diet! This amount of fuel is necessary just to maintain their bodies. They need strength for the journey.

Each one of us are on an amazing journey. The demands of our Christian walk cannot be met by human efforts or means. We need the help of God. We need His heavenly fuel. We need to be immersed in His precious Word.

Fall in love again with the word of God. Read the gospels again. Immerse yourself in the epistles of Paul. Drink deeply of the Psalms of David. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the lusts of the flesh.

Finally, there is another practical way to put on Christ. Paul says in 1 Cor. 12:13, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, and all were make to drink of one Spirit.”

Paul taught us to drink the Holy Spirit. This was also a common theme in the teaching of Jesus. “If anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink,” Jesus said.

What does it mean to drink the Holy Spirit? Drinking is a means of receiving something. The Holy Spirit is tangible, portrayed as the liquid love of God. As we open our hearts in humility, we can receive His presence. His presence satisfies our thirsty souls and equips us for the journey that we are on.

I know the struggles of daily life. The challenges of family life. The financial challenge we all face daily. The health problems that we are all confronted with. The challenges of ministry, of temptation, of human interaction. The challenges are overwhelming without the help of God. I must drink of His presence.

Personally, I have learned to drink several ways. Praying extended amounts of time in my prayer language. Keeping the atmosphere filled with God listening to worship music. Drawing near to God in corporate worship settings. I have to drink in His presence everyday. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ today, drinking in His precious presence.

Today, let your spiritual appetite increase. Draw near to God. Call upon His name and thank Him for His blood. Feast on the word of God, food for your soul. Drink in the Holy Spirit – put on the Lord Jesus Christ.

CHILDREN, DO YOU HAVE ANY FISH?

“As the day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore.” John 21:4

This is the third time Jesus appeared to the disciples after His resurrection. Peter and several other disciples became distracted and maybe confused and decided to go fishing. Jesus took this opportunity to reveal Himself to them and to re-establish His calling upon their lives.

First, we see the resurrected Christ standing on the beach at the dawning of a new day. This brings pictures into our minds as we realize this was the beginning of a brand new day for mankind. The outpouring of the Spirit for all people was about to begin. The glorious age of the church was dawning. The disciples were clueless and Jesus came to bring revelation into their lives.

Maybe you have been clueless, like the disciples? Still concerned only about natural things when the resurrected Christ is standing on the beach between two worlds calling us to recognize the spiritual time clock that is counting down. As the disciples were there at the beginning of the “new day”, we are here at the closing of God’s “prophetic day”. The church age is coming to a close, and the return of Christ is immenent. This age is coming to a close, the creation and society itself are suffering the birth pangs of transition. Embrace this new day and expect unprecedented acts of God to surface in your life.

Jesus began to call to His disciples from the beach “Children, do you have any fish?”

I love the compassion and tenderness in the voice of the Saviour. Children. Just a few days before this Jesus had appeared to His disciples. He showed them His pierced hands and feet. He breathed on them and told them to receive the Holy Spirit. They had received the Spirit of Adoption. They were now sons of God. The Lord was tenderly calling them His children. Today, we are sons and daughters of God if Christ is in us. If you have never been born again, now is the time for salvation. Call upon the name of Jesus, open your heart to Him and invite Him in. You can become a child of God.

Jesus asked them, “Do you have any fish?” “No” they replied. “Then cast your nets on the right side of the boat.”

These words were strangely familiar. They suddenly realized who the mysterious stranger on the beach really was. These were the words He had spoken to them when He first called them to follow Him. He was reminding them of their calling and election. He was reminding them of their supernatural life.

Peter remembered this encounter when he was facing his own execution many years later. He wrote in his second letter, “Make your calling and election sure.” Peter had come to know that the supernatural call of God is essential in our lives. When difficult times come, we have to go back to our calling. He called me. He chose me. My calling and election are sure. He will keep me in the hardest of times.

After the disciples followed His instructions, they experienced an incredible harvest of fish. This harvest was beyond human explanation. This was the work of God. This was clearly a picture given to the disciples about the harvest of souls about to come into their ministry. The Lord was preparing to harvest souls, they were about to become fishers of men.

The disciples hurried to the beach, wanting to get close to their Lord. As they arrived at shore they smelled the smell of fresh bread and smoked fish. Jesus had prepared breakfast for them “Come and have breakfast,” He said. The disciples were about to have an incredible meal. The Lord had spread a table for them in the wilderness.

As the disciples sat down for breakfast, they found themselves stealing glances at His hands and His feet. It was still too good to be true. Their prophet, their King, their teacher, and friend had become their Saviour. Their hearts were bursting with thanks and worship as Jesus began to serve the bread and fish. This reminded them of another day when they distributed bread and fish from a little boy’s lunch. Thousands of people on that day, but now it was just Jesus and a handful of men. Their lives were being changed.

Jesus was teaching them again about our spiritual food. Man does not live by natural bread alone. We must feast on God. He taught them in John 6:54, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” They were sitting in an incredible atmosphere. They were eating more than bread and fish. They were feasting on God Himself.

This is now how we live our lives. We are in need of spiritual food everyday. We can feast on God in our daily devotions, in our bible studies and in our corporate worship services. Jesus has spread a table for you. Can you hear Him calling your name? “Come and have breakfast with me.”

After breakfast Jesus began to engage conversation with Peter. He asked him three times if Peter loved him. Peter was puzzled, responded that of course he loved Jesus. Jesus began to instruct Peter about displaying that love by pouring out to other people. He was teaching Peter about another kind of spiritual food. In John 4:34, Jesus spoke about this other food. He said His food was to do the will of God.

Christianity is made up of two kinds of food. It is our spiritual diet. Of course the first food is feasting on God, sitting down at the table He has spread for us. Feasting with Him and on Him.

Our second food is distributing the food we receive. This is not only our work, but it is our food It is our joy and our nourishment to find our place of service and distribute this precious bread and fish.

FEED THE MULTITUDES 2009

I am excited about our 20th annual Feed the Multitudes taking place Saturday, July 4. This year the event will take place at the UNO Lakefront Arena and promises to be the best Feed the Multitudes yet. As usual, we will serve barbeque chicken, jambalaya, red beans and rice, hot dogs, watermelons, and an assortment of other dishes, deserts, drinks, snowballs, etc. We will also have our music tent with the Rachel Womble and company, Louis Baldo and friends, plus Amanda Shaw. The music will be the best and the atmosphere will be incredible.

As always there is water events for the kids, spa tent for anyone, medical tent, community needs tent, plus groceries for thousands of people to take home. Come out for a great day of food, fellowship and fun and also come out to serve.

Feed the Multitudes is a very important part of the legacy of Victory Fellowship and was birthed in a time of financial need for our church.

In the Spring of 1990, our church was struggling, we had a financial crisis on our hands. Our people were discouraged, we needed divine intervention! The Lord answered our prayer for help, but not the answer we were looking for. We thought He would provide a financial break through an unexpected monetary gift, that was not His plan. He told us to throw a giant free music and food festival and target the needy people of our city. That was so unusual. At the same time, many friends were encouraging me to reach out to the wealthy and minister to them. That was the way to get out of debt. Instead, the Lord said go to the poor.

So we did. That first year, we served hundreds of poor people at our first Feed the Multitudes. We were surprised at the crowd, surprised at the provision, but most of all we were surprised at what came next. As our congregation began to serve the poor in the midst of their dilemma, God gave us the miracle. It could not be seen with human eyes, but it was very real. The miracle was a heart change. The Lord gave us a new heart of compassion.

Ezekiel 36:26 I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Out of this first Feed the Multitudes, we received a heart transplant in our church. It was the beginning of a spiritual awakening in us. Only a soft heart can give and only a soft heart can receive. The Lord was leading us into both of these spiritual experiences.

There are many spiritual lessons we can learn from Jesus’ miracle of feeding the 5000.

The first one that comes to mind is that Jesus was ministering to the crowd in His time of need. John the Baptist, his cousin and forerunner, had just been killed and Jesus wanted to return to the wilderness for some rest. As the crowds followed Him into the wilderness, He began to minister to them. He preached, taught and healed the sick. After three days, He ministered to them in their hunger, multiplying a boy’s lunch to feed the crowd of people.

Out of this miracle we can see several spiritual truths:

1. Man shall not live by bread alone. Jesus is the true food that comes down from heaven.
2. That this bread was a picture of His body which would be broken for us.
3. That God is glorified by man’s dependency. The lunch was horribly insufficient, but Christ was more than enough to meet the incredible need.
4. That man can be satisfied only by eating spiritual food. Man is looking for satisfaction in life and looks for it in natural means. Only Christ can satisfy our hungry hearts. They all ate until they were satisfied.
5. We discover our call in life. After we come and eat our fill, we distribute the “bread and fish” to the hurting people in this world. Only when we find our place of service can we be completely satisfied in life.

NORTH SHORE FACILITY

We want to announce the purchase of the old “Funland” on the West Approach in Mandeville. This is the latest satellite church plant for Victory Fellowship. We have been conducting services in a rental facility in Convington for 2 ½ years. We are excited about the growth of the church and this great opportunity for expansion.

As I have shared repeatedly, we have no intentions of starting a new church in Mandeville. We view this as part of Victory Fellowship and our vision to have one church in multiple locations.

As the psalmist says in Psalm 133,

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity. It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing; life forevermore.

As we continue to flow together in unity with all of our churches we are expecting a great move of the Holy Spirit. We believe unprecedented acts of God are on the horizon.

PROTESTANT AND PENTECOSTAL

Our world is in a constant state of change, and regretfully many of these secular changes gradually but steadily affect the church. Regretfully we are losing our moorings, our connection to the heritage of our Christian faith.

Over the past fifteen years I have been on a spiritual safari, searching for the reality of God in my life and in His church. This journey inevitably leads me to the past, to the men and women who have gone before us. I find myself drinking from the ancient wells of our fathers. The wells of Augustine, Luther, Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, Matthew Henry and many others keep attracting me and calling me to drink. The more I drink; I am convinced of two things. First, I am a Protestant Christian. The message that birthed Western civilization penned by the Apostle Paul “The just shall live by faith,” and echoed by Martin Luther 15 centuries later is still the foundation of Western Civilization today, the undergirding of His church and the anchor of my soul.

Martin Luther was lost in the snare of human effort and a system of religious works until one day he read those words from Romans 1:17, “The just shall live by faith.” Those words brought freedom to his soul and began the revolution that drug Europe from the shadows of the dark ages. The Protestant Reformation had begun.

As a monk, Luther later wrote, he was tormented by the thoughts of damnation for sins, saying that he “hated this God who punched sinners, if not with silent blasphemies at least with huge murmurings. I was indignant against God. As if it were not enough that miserable sinners, eternally ruined by original sin, should be crushed…through the Law of the Ten Commandments…and so I raged with a savaged and confounded conscience.” He therefore turned to the Bible. The Catholic Church had always taught that grace was active, in the sense that it came into force at the Day of Judgment when the righteous would be separated from the damned. As he read Romans 1, Luther became convinced that the grace of which Paul wrote was passive, hence available to everyone. This led to his conclusion that salvation came not through penance and repentance, nor through the intercession of saints and martyrs or the prayers of the church, but by faith alone. It was an entirely new idea. As Luther re-read Romans 1:16-17, he wrote, I felt myself straightaway born afresh and to have entered through the open gates into paradise.” This led to the further belief that the Bible was the sole authority. In 1517, he nailed his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg University.

Luther also taught us a second great lesson, the priesthood of the Christian believer. In I Peter 2:9 we are called a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” This teaching birthed a great revolution in the souls of those experiencing this new faith. No longer did they need an earthly mediator; they had a mediator in heaven, the man Christ Jesus. We all have direct access into the holiest of all by the blood of Jesus. We are all priests unto God.
Luther also taught us the importance of the Word of God. He proceeded to translate the Bible into German for the people in his churches. As these new believers began to search the scriptures in their own language everything changed. Today we have access to many great translation, commentaries and word study books. Dig into the word of God; it is food for our soul.

Our Protestant fathers also taught us the importance of the local church. The ministries of the ministers flow out of the local church and become the centerpiece of our Christian lives.

In the revival of 1734-1735 in Northampton, Mass, the local church became the hub of everything. This is where our instruction, our relationships, and even our business found its protection. The local church is critical to our way of life in our western culture.

Ephesians 2:17-22 17And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Secondly, I am a Pentecostal, Protestant Christian. When Jesus left His disciples to return to heaven and told them to wait for the “Promise of the Father” [Acts 1:4]. This is a promise the Father made to Jesus in eternity. Father and Son entered an eternal covenant. If Christ would become a man and sacrifice his life for fallen man all those who believed upon Him would receive the Promise, the awesome baptism in the Holy Spirit. The baptism in the Spirit is the purchase possession obtained by Christ on the cross.

Secondly I want to honor the heavenly ministry of Jesus. John prophesied that Jesus would baptize us with the Holy Spirit and fire (Mark 1:8,9). When Jesus ascended into heaven His heavenly ministry as our heavenly High Priest began. This heavenly ministry is the ministry of immersion in the person of the Holy Spirit. We see the first occurrence of this on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). Today His heavenly ministry continues. The modern church, many times, does not recognize or honor Jesus and His heavenly ministry. Many times we want to rewrite the emphasis of church and Christian life. To honor the heavenly ministry of Jesus we must be baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Thirdly, we need supernatural power. Our world is become more dangerous everyday. It is becoming harder and harder for Christians to live a godly life in this dark, wicked world. We need the power of God, the tangible power that comes upon us when we are baptized in the Holy Spirit. To live Holy in this perverse world we need His power.

We also need this power for effective ministry. Jesus told us this in Acts 1:8. He said we would receive power (dunamis-supernatural power) when the Holy Spirit comes upon us. We are dealing with addictions, illnesses, and all kinds of bondages when ministering to this generation. Christian slogans are not good enough, we must have power.

Finally, I am a Pentecostal because of the blessing given to me by the supernatural language of prayer. Speaking in tongues is the doorway to the world of the supernatural.

Paul said we are edified, built up spiritually (1 Corinthians 14:2,4) when we pray in tongues. He said the Holy Spirit helps us in our weaknesses when we pray in the Spirit (Romans 8:26). He taught about our intercessory anointing that sometimes comes when we pray in tongues (Romans 8:27). He also taught about the prophetic nature of praying in the Spirit (1 Corinthians 14:15).

The prayer language is not an after thought, or an unimportant extra. The prayer language is foundational to the supernatural Christian life.

We live in perilous times (II Timothy 3:1). We need to return to the faith of our fathers. We have drifted toward a seeker sensitive, Christian light faith for far to long. We must return to our Protestant and our Pentecostal roots. The future of our families our cities and our nation are on the line. Join with me on my spiritual safari, we are sojourning to the city, the city that has a foundation whose builder and maker is God.

REJOICE WITH TREMBLING

“This fear is a gracious habit or principle planted by God in the soul, whereby the soul is kept under an holy awe of the eye of God, and from thence is inclined to perform and do what pleaseth him, and to shun and avoid whatsoever he forbids and hates.”

John Flavel – puritan Pastor who lived from 1628-1691 who died in jail, imprisoned for his faith.

In Romans 3:18 Paul quotes Psalm 36:1 saying “There is no fear of God before his eyes.”  We live in a generation that takes the things of God for granted and has no fear of God anywhere to be found.  Obviously, the lost people have no knowledge of God and cannot respect the Lord.  However, the church is in a different situation all together.  The fear of God is also absent from our congregations today.  I think often about the sorry spiritual condition the supposed Body of Christ is in and I have come to some conclusions.  Apparently, we have been willed to sleep with a message about the blessings of God in this life and we have lost our moorings.  Christianity is about more than careers, houses, ministries and everything else than has been the focus of “church” for too long.  The normal message is about success, vision, purpose, church growth, marriage and other topics that pertain to this life.  Where is the preaching about Christ and His Kingdom.  I thought Jesus taught His kingdom is not of this world.

As we reflect on the words of John Flavel, we are reminded of the difference of the church in 1600 to the church of 2000.  Flavel said that the fear of God is planted supernaturally in our soul.  Natural man is afraid of a lot of things, but the fear of God is nowhere to be found.  As we call upon the Lord, and hunger after Him our heart is filled with the fear and majesty of Almighty God.

Flavel also said that the fear of God causes an inclination in us to do the things that are pleasing to God.  In Hebrews 11:7 the Bible says that Noah was moved with fear to prepare an ark.  Noah was inclined to obey the Lord because of a Godly fear that came upon Him.  This fear produces not only obedience but like David said a delight.  “I delight to do your will oh God.”  Psalm 40:8

Finally, Flavel said that this fear causes us to avoid behavior that is displeasing to the Lord.  Job was described as one who feared God and turned away from evil.  When we come to Christ, and experience the reality of God in our souls, we have this tendency to flee from evil.  Our heart is changed, we are not attracted to the disgusting practices of the world, and we are strangely attracted to Christ.

David spoke of this strange joy in Psalm 2:11.  He said serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling.  When the incredible, holy majesty of God comes upon us we are stricken with two things.  We are overwhelmed by His attributes.  We are struck by His holiness, kindness, grace, power, love, justice, sovereignty, and power.  We tremble before this awesome God.  Secondly, we are strangely affected by the joy of heaven.  This supernatural joy fills our souls and overwhelms us.  We begin to rejoice, every part of our being begins to rejoice.  The joy of the Lord becomes ours, our joy is made full.  If you long for happiness, it is available to you.  It is available not in the pleasures of this world, but at the Father’s right hand, pleasures forevermore

WHY THIS WASTE?

 

Matthew 26:6-13

There is an amazing encounter of two followers of Jesus in this passage of scripture.  Mary is shown at the feet of Jesus pouring out her most precious possession.  She is anointing Jesus with (compare Jn. 12) one pound of spikenard valued at approximately one year’s wage. 30,000 dollars worth of perfume, Judas was offended at what he considered excessive displays of affection and wasteful uses of her resources.  Judas confronted Mary in anger and posed his famous question, “why this waste?”

 

Obviously Mary and Judas had different value systems.  Mary was focused on the spiritual while Judas was hung up on the natural world.  The reason for these different values was found in both of their perceptions of the ministry of Jesus.  Spiritual understanding of Jesus and His kingdom comes only by revelation; obviously Judas could not see the spiritual realities that were obvious to Mary.

 

Mary loved the teachings of Jesus; she loved to hear his word.  “Never a man spoke like this man.” To her, He had the words of life and she lived off of every word.  To Judas, Jesus had just another opinion; His words open to question and discussion.

 

Mary also loved the anointing.  After Jesus was baptized by John a fresh anointing for ministry had come upon Him.  He was known as the anointed one.  Today, His anointing is poured out on all flesh but not all flesh appreciated and value His presence.  Some people would go anywhere or do anything to sit in His presence, while others can never make time for church, because frankly it is just a waste of valuable time.

 

Jesus said that Mary was anointing His body for burial.  Mary had accepted the painful news of Calvary and began to understand the message of the cross for all of us.  She was grateful for the message of redemption, and she was pouring out her love while she could.

 

Judas had no use for the cross. He wanted an earthly kingdom. When he saw that Jesus was not about politics or power, he was offended and his offense led to betrayal.

 

In John 17:12 Jesus called Judas the son of destruction using the Greek word apoleia, the same word used for waste in Matthew 26:8. Jesus was saying that Judas was the one wasting his life, choosing to live for this world rather than the one to come.

 

We have the same conflicts that existed between Mary and Judas in the church today.  It all boils down to spiritual revelation which gives birth to our value system today.  Why this waste?  What are you wasting your life on?  If you seek God and His kingdom first, the people of this world may not understand but you have chosen the best part.

THE HIDDEN KINGDOM

Parris and I recently went on a trip to the Virgin Islands, it was a gift given to us to celebrate our 30th church anniversary.  We had a great time.

One of our outings in St. Thomas was a snorkeling trip.  We asked around and found one of the favorite places to go.  When we arrived it was just a “normal” beach.  It was a mixture of locals and tourists on the beach, enjoying the sun and warmth just a few feet from the water’s edge.  Lying on the beach, you can be unaware of the “other world” that lies just beneath the ocean’s surface.  This other world has different kind of life forms living a whole different kind of life.  This contrast of “worlds” and the different kind of “lives” reminds me of the contrasts that are all around us everyday.  We live in a natural world with natural people living natural lives.  This natural world is a picture of this carnal man, unaware of the kingdom of God all around us.

Then there is the kingdom of God, the world of the Holy Spirit.  This is the world opened to us by the forgiveness of sins made available to us by the blood Jesus shed at Calvary.  Through this forgiveness, we are brought to God and become aware of this other life available to us by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We began to see the parallels of the kingdom of God all around us, as Parris and I entered into the ocean that day and began our snorkeling experience.

First, we saw creatures living in a different substance.  In the natural world we live and are sustained in this “ocean” of oxygen.  We live and breathe it and are totally dependent on it.  In the undersea world, the creatures live in a different substance: they live in water and somehow get their life support through this other substance.  This is just like the kingdom of God.  When we are born again, we begin to live in this new atmosphere.  It is the atmosphere of heaven.  This atmosphere is a different substance.  This substance is the love of God.  This love is alive and is actually a person.  This person is the wonderful third person of the godhead, the wonderful Holy Spirit. It is in Him we live, breathe, rejoice and have our existence.  We are sustained and totally dependent on Him for our life.

As we continued our underwater journey, we began to see some amazing creatures.  We saw a family of squids, all moving in formation, flowing in the life of rhythm of the ocean.  We saw large schools of hundreds of fish with beautiful colors all flowing together with the current and flow of the ocean.   Everything seemed to flow in beautiful harmony.  When we are awakened to the kingdom of God, we begin to perceive a different rhythm, a different melody, a different source of life.  As we yield, our life begins to flow with God.  God Himself is like the ocean, too big to comprehend, full of life and purpose.  As we yield to Him, we find ourselves flowing with God to fulfill His plans for our life.

At one point in our journey we came around a piece of coral and a strong current was flowing against us.  We tried our hardest to swim against it but we became so exhausted and had to turn back.  We wanted to see what was on the other side, but the “ocean” had other plans.  Maybe you are trying to move against the flow of God.  Sometimes it is better to turn back and flow with His current that to try to launch out in human effort.  Exhaustion and frustration are always the result of fighting against the plan of God.

The unseen world of the Holy Spirit is a very real place.  It is actually the very atmosphere that we will live in for eternity with the Lord.  Today, we catch glimpses and tastes of this world that is breaking in on us.  As the return of Christ draws nearer, His kingdom will increase all around us.  Now is the time to launch out into the deep.  There is an unseen world of God all around us. Dive into this new adventure.  He has awesome plan for you.

 Pastor Frank Bailey

ANCHOR OF THE SOUL

 

In Hebrews 6:19 Paul refers to Jesus as the “anchor of the soul.”  He is describing something that holds us secure in the most difficult times and circumstances.  He is writing to Christians in the midst of persecution, telling them there is an anchor for their soul to hold them in those difficult times.  This anchor of the soul is Jesus, our heavenly High Priest.  He is seated before the Father representing mankind and calling us into a fellowship of intimacy.  It is that fellowship with the Lord that is our “anchor of hope” that lives behind the veil.

                Many of us in southeast Louisiana and the entire gulf coast found this anchor of hope as faithful during our recent experience with Katrina, Rita, etc.  We found Jesus as more than enough to satisfy and sustain us in the most difficult of times.  Paul spoke of this when he referred to “those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:12).  The greatest promise of all is the manifest presence of God which has become our treasure, our portion and more than enough for us in all things.

I believe 9-11 and hurricane Katrina were signs to us of the coming difficult times in our world.  There are political, economic, and weather storms brewing and will possibly increase over the months and years to come.  We must prepare ourselves spiritually for these times. 

In the past, Christians have responded in a natural way to anticipated times of tribulation.  As we draw near to Him, we become steadfast and secure, unashamed of the gospel; we then can provide a refuge and hope for others to and come to find shelter from the storms of life. 

In the ‘80s we were warned of economic collapse and were told to move to the country and store up our canned goods.  We were told similar things as we approached Y2K.  I think we need spiritual preparations rather than natural.

When difficult times come, Christians should be at their best.  In these times of darkness, our light shines brighter.  We are to be lights in the midst of a dark generation.

Our preparation is nothing new.  We must consider Jesus, the apostle and High Priest of our confession.  We must look again to His heavenly ministry. 

As our heavenly minister, He has opened heaven for us.  We must draw near to Him.  We must draw near to His presence by the blood of Jesus.  We must access this new and living way to live our lives. 

On the news side, we are open for business at Mary’s Song.  Mary’s Song is our Christian rehab for women.  It is connected to Teen Challenge and is serving for an intake program for Teen Challenge of Louisiana.  Please pray for our workers and the ladies in this program.  This is truly a front line ministry.  Our facility is beautiful but in need of all the furnishings.  Call our office if you want to help. 

Blessings to you!