Words From the Cross

1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Recently, I have been reflecting on the incredible price Christ paid for our salvation. His death on the cross is His demonstration of His love for us.  The physical suffering from the beating and the crucifixion were horrendous in their own right, but Christ suffered also an incredible agony from the spiritual implications of Calvary. We can learn about and see His love and His suffering in His words that He spoke from the cross.  These are eternal words that can change everything about our lives.

His first statement is recorded in Luke 23:43, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  The immediate focus of His prayer was the Roman soldiers who were actually performing the crucifixion.  But after reflection, we can see the far reaching effects of this prayer.  The prayer reached through the authority of the Roman army all the way to Pilate. This prayer also reached out to the Jewish leaders who demanded His death. Finally, His prayer reached out to you and to me today.  Actually, it was not the soldiers, or Pilate, or even the Jewish priests who were responsible for His death.  I am responsible.   Christ died to save sinners.   It was my sins and your sins that nailed Him to the cross.  Christ’s prayer, “Father, forgive them” has been answered thousands, actually millions of times as sinners call upon the name of Jesus and experience salvation through the death of Jesus Christ.

Secondly, Jesus answered the request of the thief on the cross.  This man had lived a sinful life and was being executed for his crimes.  He was judged and found guilty by the Roman courts and was headed toward eternal judgment. By God’s grace and providential plan the thief found Himself dying next to the Saviour.  He cried out in desperation, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom”.  Jesus responded, “Today, shalt thou be with me in Paradise.”  Luke 23:43

What an incredible word.  Salvation based not on this man’s deeds or accomplishments in life.  This salvation came only by His faith in the dying Saviour by grace through faith. After all, this is the only way a man can be saved. We must come to Christ hopeless, and helpless trusting only in His ability to save us.

Third, Jesus addressed His mother, Mary and his disciple John.

When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, Behold your son,” and to the disciple, “Behold your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. John 19:26, 27

We hear the tenderness and love that Jesus had for His mother, He cared for her even in His last last dying moments. In these words, we see something about family and love that we are looking for.  Christ has provided for us a family that is closer than even flesh and blood.  He has joined us together by our common testimony.  When we are born again, the spirit of sonship enters into our hearts. God becomes our Father and every member of the body becomes our brother and sister.  We enter into a spiritual family that comes from this new nature that we have received. Not only are we joined together with Christians from all over the world and from every generation; we are also joined together by the Lord to a local church.  We are placed there by the Lord. He actually gives us a spiritual family on earth.  In these relationships, we begin to discover the commandment, “love one another”. This love, His love is the substance that holds us together and makes us one.

At about noon on the day Jesus was executed, the whole earth became dark. The sun and creation itself were affected by the treatment Jesus was receiving in Jerusalem.  The sun refused to shine as Christ became an offering for our sin.  We hear the cry of Jesus, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”  Christ was now experiencing the worst of His sufferings. He was taking upon Himself the punishment for the sin of mankind.   As Isaiah said, “It pleased the Lord to bruise Him”. What an amazing miracle. Christ became sin that I might become the righteous of God.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  II Cor. 5:21

This is how we can now approach God. God’s anger toward sin was satisfied, judgment had been accomplished and mercy was now offered to all mankind.

Fifthly, Jesus cried out, “I thirst”, John 19:28. Thirst, incredible thirst, results from the blood loss during crucifixion.  Jesus experiences an incredible natural thirst. He also was experiencing another kind of thirst.  He was thirsting for souls, after all that is why he came. He was thirsty for Peter to be converted and Paul to experience His love and He was thirsty for you and thirsty for me. We are why he came, and He longed for the fulfillment of His work.  He also had had another incredible thirst. He was thirsty for  His return to that place of intimacy that He had enjoyed with His Father from eternity. He longed for His Father and He was crying out desperately for satisfaction.

It seems as if Jesus was strengthened as He faced His death. He cried out His victory shout, “It is Finished”, John 19:30.

The plans of God from eternity were complete. The prophecies of the Old Testament had been fulfilled. Redemption for man had been accomplished.  It is finished.  Because of that we can enter into a rest that comes from the work of Christ on the cross.  All our debts are settled, our sins have been paid for righteousness has been fulfilled, we are at peace with God. It is finished.

Finally, Jesus prayed His last prayer.

Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.  Luke 23:46

Jesus yielded up His spirit to the Father. His work had been done, He could now return home. He could return to the right hand of the father as His beloved Son.  The Son of God was now also the Son of man. Not only did the second person of the trinity take His rightful place at the Father’s right hand. Also my representative, Jesus my heavenly high priest took His place in heaven. Today, He represents man to the Father. The resurrected Son of God and yes, Son of Man is ruling all things by the Word of His power.

As we celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ again this year, let the words of Christ from the cross effect your heart and change your life.  After all we have a faithful High Priest who saves to the uttermost praying for us in heaven.

The Triumphant Entry of Christ

Matthew 21:8-11 And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘ Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’[a]
Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?”
11 So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”

In Matthew’s description of Christ’s triumphal  entry he tells us that “a very great multitude spread their garments in the way”.  I was recently reading a book that caused me to rethink that great procession we know as “Palm Sunday”.  The book is The Life of Jesus Christ by James Stalker.   He claims that 2-3 million visitors had made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem that Passover.  That is a shocking number of people. Could it be possible that the Lord brought such a large population to Jerusalem that weekend because of the events that were to occur that particular weekend?  Could it be that there was a sovereign plan connected to the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord?

The stories of Christ’s miracles had spread far and wide over the past three years.  Every Jewish person scattered all over that region of the world had heard of the miracles and the teachings of Christ.  They wondered, could this be the promised messiah?  Could this be the savior of the world?  They all came with hopes of seeing a miracle, or hearing one of His famous teachings.  There was an expectancy and excitement as hundreds of thousands poured into Jerusalem.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold thy King cometh unto thee:  He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.”

Zach. 9:9

As Jesus came into Jerusalem, the crowds were shouting with excitement. Their time had finally come.  Their king was taking His Throne.  They had no idea of the plan of God. Within a few days there was a betrayal, a denial, a trial, and a crucifixion. Their messiah was publicly executed.  They experienced catastrophic earthquakes and supernatural darkness as Christ hung on the cross. Then after three days, there were rumors of a resurrection.  What an incredible time to be in Jerusalem.  The most important event in history, the death and resurrection of Christ had come, and the expanded population of Jerusalem for this Passover had been effected permanently by these events.

The Second coming of the Lord will also come suddenly and unexpectedly. Paul said Jesus would come like a “thief in the night”.  The events taking place in our world are sign posts on the way to the second coming.  Every earthquake, every tsunami, every hurricane, every catastrophic act of terrorism, all of these things are just signs of the Return of Christ.

I believe God has a supernatural last day plan for the city of New Orleans. Our city is known historically for its sinful reputation. People from the world come here and do things they would never do anywhere else. Paul said, “Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound”.  There is a time of reciprocity coming from the Lord. There is an outpouring of God’s overflowing abundant grace coming to New Orleans as a sign to the nation. Jesus is coming back. I believe the crowds will gather as they did at His first coming, just wanting to see or hear a glimpse of Christ for themselves.

The crowds at that first Palm Sunday were looking for a messiah who would fix their earthly problems.  They did not understand His miracles or why He came. But in their ignorance they witnessed something greater that anything they hoped for.  They were there for the cross and the resurrection of our Lord.   Maybe your curiosity for the supernatural and a solution to your earthly problems may draw you to take a look at our Lord Jesus. As you draw close, you may be surprised at the sound of the pounding nails, astounded by the empty tomb.  Then you will see that Christ has a plan for you far bigger and better than just fixing your problems.  He has a new life for you that begins now and continues forever.

FINISH STRONG

Hebrews 12:1,2  Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 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 sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Who would have thought that the New Orleans Saints would go to the Super Bowl. This team has always been known for their bad breaks and underachievement, that is until now. This last weekend, everyone was stunned as they fulfilled their motto, Finish Strong. I recently received an email from someone who attended the NFC Championship game last week. They said that at the end of the game, the crowd began to roar “Finish Strong, Finish Strong, Finish Strong.” The sound and power of the crowd of witnesses seemed to carry the team to a great Victory.

In Hebrews, Paul spoke about the crowd of witnesses around us as we run the race of Christianity. Paul was painting the picture of the cheering crowd at the ancient Greek Olympic Games. He said we are athletes, and the believers who have gone before roar their encouragement to us, “Finish strong, finish strong, finish strong.”

As we are running this race we look up into this great cloud of witnesses and see those who have gone before, urging us on. First we see Paul himself. Paul is standing and cheering. “Run the race, run that you may win.” I Corinthians 9:24 Paul believed there was no other option. Less than our best effort is unacceptable. With our imperishable, eternal reward at stake, we have to run the race with winning as our only option. Run this race to win!

Next I see the smiling face of the Apostle Peter. He seems to be crying out, “Come, walk on the water with me.” Matthew 14:29

Our best human efforts in this spiritual event will fall miserably short. We need the supernatural power of God. Peter remembered walking on the water with Jesus, impossible. He also remembers standing and risking his life in Jerusalem, preaching under that great Pentecostal anointing. Peter stands and begins to shout, “Walk on the water, walk on the water, walk on the water with Jesus.”

Then we catch a glimpse of the great church leader, Augustine. He seems to be perfectly at rest, the outcome of the race is secure. How could he be so confident. He seems to be saying, “our hearts find no peace until they rest in you.” Augustine is giving us a powerful tool for our race, the sovereignty of God. The results are guaranteed. The victory is ours. Run the race with confidence. Finish strong, finish strong, finish strong!!!

Suddenly another figure stands up. Confidence and strength seemed to be coming from every pore of his body. It is Martin Luther. He begins to proclaim, “The just shall live by faith.” Wow! What a message. We are not only saved by faith, but every step we take in our great gospel race is a step of faith. We do not only begin the race by faith, we live by faith. This is the work of God, we are being carried to the finish line by the grace that comes by faith.

Now, I see two figures. Standing arm in arm shouting out their encouragement. What a strange sight, John the Baptist and Jonathan Edwards begin to lift their voices up in unison, “Burn and shine, burn and shine, burn and shine.” (John 5:35) their words are filled with joy and revelation. As I look to Jesus I am filled with joy unspeakable. His joy is my strength. In His presence I begin to see revelation. Psalm 36:8, 9. Wow, revelation and joy. Revelation of the glory of God. Joy strengthening me to finish strong!

Next I see John the beloved apostle . God’s love seems to be pouring out of him. John is pointing to the crowd. Suddenly the great crowd takes on a supernatural oneness. The crowd is a beautiful bride, the bride of Christ. The bride is crying out for souls, come to Jesus. The Spirit and the bride say come, let everyone who is thirsty come. The passion for souls begins to burn deeper into our heart. The finish line is just ahead, souls, souls, souls. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision. Finish Strong.

Finally, I see the greatest witness of all. Standing in the midst of the crowd, He is lifting up His voice. It is Jesus. What is He saying? “Behold, I and the children God has given to me.” Then with a greater intensity, He begins to cry out, “Surely, I come quickly.” The crowd noise begins to intensify, the finish line is within our grasp. “Finish Strong, Finish Strong, Finish Strong.”

Unprecedented Acts of God 2010

Several years ago Dick Mills gave me a word of prophesy in our church. The word was Exodus 34:10 And He said: “Behold, I make a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation; and all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD. For it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.” This is an incredible word about incredible “marvels” and “awesome things” that the Lord has promised to perform. The first word “marvels” comes from the Hebrew word pala, this is the same word Isaiah used to refer to the supernatural birth of Christ. This word can be translated as wonderful or supernatural. It is speaking of the miraculous,  unexplainable work of God! The second phrase, “awesome thing” is just that: something that produces an atmosphere of awe, reverential fear of God. We are expecting God to do things in 2010 that are supernatural and produce and incredible reverential fear of the Lord.

At the beginning of 2009, the Lord impressed on us Isaiah 48:6, 7 “You have heard; See all this. And will you not declare it? I have made you hear new things from this time, even hidden things, and you did not know them. They are created now and not from the beginning; And before this day you have not heard them, lest you should say, ‘Of course I knew them.’” This passage speaks of God doing things that have never been done before. In the ESV study Bible the notes say that unprecedented acts of God are on the horizon. We believe those acts of God are coming upon us in 2010.

Another verse of scripture that comes to mind as I reflect on the purposes of God in 2010 is Deuteronomy 11:12 “a land for which the LORD your God cares; the eyes of the LORD your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year”. This verse describes the eyes of the Lord watching over our year. This verse suggests care, protection, as well as bounty. The Lord has his eye on every moment of every day in 2010. It will be a year of God’s favor upon our lives.

Paul uses a very powerful phrase in Galatians 4:4 “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.” The phrase that speaks to me is fullness of time. There is a specific time when God has determined for certain things to happen. There was a perfect time for Christ to be born. There was a perfect time for Paul’s conversion. There was a perfect time for Luther, for Whitefield, for Edwards. There was an appointed time for Wales and Azusa Street. There is a set time for the awesome move of God. In my heart I believe we are approaching another season we could call the “fullness of time”.  Genesis 21:2, “For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him”, speaks of God’s “set time” for Isaac to be born.  Abraham had believed God for 75 years for a son, but Isaac did not appear until the “set time” to fulfill the plans of God. Could it be that 2010 is a special year? It is quite possible that his year is an appointed year for the move of God in our church.

Finally there is a powerful phrase in Ephesians 5: 16-18 “redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit”, Paul speaks of “Redeeming the time” and “being filled with the Spirit” in relation to each other. To stay drunk on this world’s beverage and carnal ways is a waste of time. As we heed Paul’s admonition and stay full of the Spirit we will redeem the time. The Lord has some plans for you in 2010. Let us give our attention to the Lord, stay full of the Spirit, redeeming the time for the days are evil.

TWO GENERATIONS

Augustine was amazed at the two generations of Jesus Christ, how scripture reveals Christ as the eternal Son always in the state of being generated from the Father. He is the radiance of the Father’s Glory. He also was amazed at the miracle of the virgin birth. I wanted to give you an excerpt from one of Augustine’s Christmas sermons. I also included some of my thoughts and some scripture. Enjoy. You and your family have a blessed Christmas.

“Open my lips, O Lord, so that my voice may break out in praise!” So the Psalmist has sung (VUL 50:17; NRSV 51:15). He was saluting his Lord with a chain of seemingly incompatible attributes. And so too I sing this morning.

Augustine is overwhelmed with joy reflecting on the birth of Christ. His message seems to be delivered as a “song”.

Almighty God the Father I want to praise but, to my amazement, He’s the Infant Christ.

I Timothy 3:16 NKJ
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory.

Augustine is astounded at the beauty and mystery of the incarnation. God Himself as an infant in a manger.

The Lord has made all things, and yet He takes His stand among the very things He’s made.

John 1:1-3
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

The creator God – Jesus Christ – enters into the very creation He has made. He became part of creation when he became a man.

He’s the Revealer of His Father, and at the same time He’s the Creator of His mother.

John 1:3, 18
3All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son,[a] who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

Augustine explores the mystery of Jesus Christ, He is the radiance of the Father’s Glory and created His mother before He was conceived in her womb.

He’s the Son of God born of the Father without a mother; and He’s the son of man born of a mother without a father.

Micah 5:2
2 “ But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”

Isaiah 7:14
14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.

The two generations of Christ, begotten of the Father as the eternal Son yet born as a human from a virgin mother. What an incredible God!!!

He’s the Day as the Angels count time; He’s the Clock as human beings tick off the day.

He inhabits eternity with the angels, outside of time and space. In time he is the sovereign ruler directing every detail of history.

He’s the Word of God before there were timepieces; He’s the Word made flesh who stopped the clock when He was made flesh.

John 1:14
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jesus is the Father’s Word, idea or expression of Himself. When He became a man all history was permanently impacted.

He made the sun with His own hands, and yet He Himself was made under the light and heat of the sun.

John 1:3-5
3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

He formed the stars of the universe including our star, the sun yet as a man he lived under the light and heat of the sun.

He regulates human history from the bosom of His Father; and yet He consecrates this one particular day from the womb of His mother.

John 1:18
18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

Jesus retained His sovereignty ruling in heaven even as he lived amongst us as a man. His supernatural birth made that day supernatural.

He remains with His Father, and yet He goes forth from His mother.

John 3:13
13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.

The mystery of the omnipresence and the humanity of Christ. Great is the mystery of godliness.

He’s the Creator of the heavens and the earth; and yet He takes His own rise under the heavens, that’s to say from the earth.

Psalm 85:11
11 Truth shall spring out of the earth, And righteousness shall look down from heaven.

Jesus, the truth, springs from the earth like Adam. The amazing diverse excellencies of Christ seen in His deity and His humanity.

As God He has more Wisdom than He can mouth, and yet as a babe he hasn’t enough mouth to utter the Wisdom He knows.

As God He is all knowing unlimited in His knowledge, as an infant unable to vocalize His eternal wisdom.

He fills the world with jots and tittles, and yet He Himself lies a tot in a manger.

He has created a masterful world full of intricate detail, yet he lies helpless and dependent as an infant in the manger.

He sets the stars in motion, and yet he sucks His mother’s breasts.

Genesis 1:3-5
3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.

Augustine continues to explore the amazing contrast of deity and humanity. He reveals Himself in His wisdom and power in creation and His incredible humility as a man.

He’s so great as a god, yet so small as a slave.

Philippians 2:5-9
5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,

God’s greatness and Christ’s humility. He is truly the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world.

His divinity isn’t underwhelmed by His humanity, nor is His humanity overwhelmed by His divinity.

He is not threatened or decreased by His humanity. His humanity has not depleted His deity, only magnified His glory in our eyes.

He didn’t abandon His divine agenda when He picked up His carpenter’s tools.

Ephesians 1:11
11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,

His plan of the ages has never altered. God is never responding to circumstances. All things are ordered and developing according to His plan.

He didn’t stop holding His universe together with His mighty arms while He was trying to catch flies with His baby fingers.

Isaiah 9:6,7
6 For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice 
From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Augustine continues to be amazed at the irony of the power of God and the weakness displayed in the infant Christ.

He put on the clumsiness of the flesh when he entered the Virgin’s womb, and yet His movement throughout the universe wasn’t hampered by the baggy pants. He didn’t take away the food of Wisdom from the Angels while He was supplying us with the sweetness of the Lord.

Micah 5:2
“ But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”

The bread of heaven, Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem – the house of Bread. The Lord has displayed His beauty in the miracle birth of Christ. He came to make this heavenly bread available for us all.

Glimpses of His Glory – John 11

The story of Lazarus is one of the great stories in the Bible. Actually this was the miracle that sealed our Lord’s death. After Lazarus was raised from the dead, the leaders of the Jews were determined to have Christ executed. His greatest miracle had brought about the end of His life and earthly ministry. There is a ray of the Glory of God that shines out of the miracle of Lazarus. This glorious display of God’s love reaches through the years and reaches all the way to you and all the way to me.

At the beginning of the story Jesus heard of Lazarus sickness. Being Lazarus friend everyone thought Jesus would drop everything and run to his side. That is what the disciples thought, it is what the family thought. But they were all wrong, they were all very wrong. Jesus acted almost unconcerned, He waited two days to begin His journey to Bethany. Everyone was shocked and disappointed. No one could understand His actions.

Jesus said that Lazarus sickness would not end in death but that this sickness was to be used to bring glory to God. How could this be? Actually, many times the Lord does not respond when and how we want Him to. His delays are not denials. He has a time for everything. He had a time for Lazarus. He has a time for you.

When Jesus finally came to Bethany, Lazarus had been in his tomb for four days. The family and friends were devastated. Their brother was dead and their friend had let them down.

Jesus used this moment for a great teaching opportunity. He began to tell them that He was the Resurrection and the Life. He said, ‘If anyone believes in me he shall live even if he dies. I am the resurrection.” The words reminded everyone of Moses and the burning bush. Jesus was publicly calling Himself God.

Lazarus is a picture of all of us. We are all born dead in our own transgressions and in our sins. We are hopelessly lost until Christ comes and cries out our name. “Lazarus, come forth.”

When Jesus calls our name an awakening begins. Death loses its grip from our lives. Liberation flows into us. He begins a new life in us. The old life is gone and His life now begins. We are born again. Jesus has raised us up from the dead.

As I think about Lazarus being raised from the dead, a picture of Christ comes into my mind. It is Jesus standing outside the tomb just before He calls Lazarus. The Bible says in John 11:33 that Jesus groaned in the Spirit. The literal meaning is to snort with anger. Jesus was angry about what sin and death had done to Lazarus. He is angry about what sin has done to you.

I also see Jesus outside the tomb weeping. John 11:35
Jesus was moved with compassion over Lazarus’ dilemma. He is moved with compassion for you. Today, Jesus is standing outside your tomb. Maybe you are a Christian but you keep wandering back to the world and its ways and you keep going back to your old tomb. I think I hear Jesus outside, “Roll away the stone.” He is about to call your name.

Maybe you have experienced disappointment as a Christian. If you will be honest you will recognize you are not disappointed in people or disappointed in circumstances, but disappointed in God. He never responded the way you hoped or the way you thought He should. He seldom does. His ways are not our ways. His delays are not denials. He has an appointed time for your miracle, the time that will bring the greatest glory to God. In the meantime, He is calling out to you. In our darkest times, He becomes our closest friend. Draw near to God. Take the expectations and timetable off of Him. Let your Christianity just be about love, not about performance. I think someone is standing outside the tomb calling out your name.

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.