THIEVES

April 19, 2014

Mark 15:25-28

Now it was the third hour, and they crucified Him. And the inscription of His accusation was written above:
THE KING OF THE JEWS.
With Him they also crucified two robbers, one on His right and the other on His left. So the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And He was numbered with the transgressors.”*

Common thieves, Jesus was executed among common thieves. Incredibly The Lord was in the midst of His people and they didn’t recognize Him. He was misunderstood, rejected, beaten and nailed onto a Roman cross just like a common criminal. That’s when the mocking intensified. He was mocked by the priests, cursed by the Roman soldiers, and finally even the others being crucified began to rail upon Him, at least they did until one recognized Him. We are not told much about this “thief on the cross” but I have thought of him often. I can’t wait to hear his story. I can imagine he suddenly realized who Jesus was when they hammered the sign, King of the Jews, above His head. Suddenly he remembered Him. “This is that preacher who came to my village a few weeks ago. This is the One who healed that old blind man and that deaf boy. He even forgave the prostitute. Maybe, just maybe, there is hope for me”. Then the thief began to cry out “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”. Then it happened, the thief heard Jesus talking directly to him. “Today, son, you will be with Me in Paradise.” Wow! These were the greatest words this thief had ever heard. Here is something Matthew Henry said about this incident.

“To complete the reproach, the thieves also that were crucified with him were not only not reviled as he was, as if they had been saints compared with him, but, though fellow-sufferers with him, joined in with his prosecutors, and cast the same in his teeth; that is, one of them did, who said, If thou be the Christ, save thyself and us. One would think that of all people this thief had least cause, and should have had least mind, to banter Christ. Partners in suffering, though for different causes, usually commiserate (sympathize with) one another; and few, whatever they have done before, will breathe their last in revilings. But, it seems, the greatest mortifications of the body, and the most humbling rebukes of Providence, will not of themselves mortify the corruptions of the soul, nor suppress the wickedness of the wicked, without the grace of God.”

Did you catch that last statement? Without the grace of God. That’s it. That thief was getting justice as he was being crucified but then grace stepped in. Grace opened the heart of the thief, grace has opened our hearts and triumphed over justice. Each one of us are actually the thief on the cross. Just as this man recognized his perilous condition we too recognize our perilous condition when grace steps in. Until that moment we are like all of the rest, accusers and mockers. When grace stepped in, paradise became our destination.

SOWING IN TEARS

April 18, 2014

Psa. 126:5-6 Those who sow in tears
shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him.

Everyone likes harvest time. Celebration, abundance; what’s not to like? It’s the sowing thing that we tend to balk at. Early mornings, late nights and only promises and hope of the harvest to come. The psalmist paints a beautiful picture of the Christian life, sowing in tears. Often times we sow in prayer for years before the harvest appears. Our circumstances cry out, “it will never happen, The Lord will not answer your prayer”. The enemy whispers ” He answers others but He has passed you by”. Even our friends words weigh on us “I don’t know how you keep going on”, or even better, “come on, don’t be so religious, come hang out with us”. But you have heard the promise of The Lord, in your heart you know sorrow will give way to the joy of harvest, it is only a matter of time. Here are some thoughts on this passage from Spurgeon’s Treasury of David.

“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. Hence, present distress must not be viewed as if it would last for ever; it is not the end, by any means, but only a means to the end. Sorrow is our sowing, rejoicing shall be our reaping. If there were no sowing in tears there would be no reaping in joy. If we were never captives we could never lead our captivity captive. Our mouth had never been filled with holy laughter if it had not been first filled with the bitterness of grief. We must sow: we may have to sow in the wet weather of sorrow; but we shall reap, and reap in the bright summer season of joy. Let us keep to the work of this present sowing time, and find strength in the promise which is here so positively given us. Here is one of the Lord’s shalls and wills; it is freely given both to workers, waiters, and weepers, and they may rest assured that it will not fail: “in due season they shall reap.”

Don’t you get it, your season of sorrow will only make the harvest more sweet. God is never mocked, every seed has no choice but to respond in God’s season of harvest.
One of the most unusual seasons of harvest came for us during the aftermath of Katrina. In the midst of incredible sorrow from all of the loss and the unceasing labor of sowing during the recovery, we saw the most amazing harvest, it was beyond imagination. We saw thousands of people helped physically, thousands of people encouraged spiritually as well as receiving provision. We started two new churches and a rehabilitation center called Mary’s Song. It would have been easy to miss the harvest, we had great excuses to stop sowing in tears. Maybe you have been sowing for awhile, don’t give up. The depth of sorrow and the length of the seed time will give way to shouts of joy in harvest.

THERE IS A FOUNTAIN

April 17, 2014

Eph. 1:7 ¶ In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace

I love to look at the variety of movies that portray the suffering and death of Jesus. I know its hard to look at, but once you have been washed in His blood, it becomes impossible not to look at. I guess I am partial to these crucifixion scenes portrayed in movies because of the role one of them played in my life. My wife Parris and I got saved after watching the film version of Jesus Christ Superstar. It was the crucifixion scene that got me. In that rendition, Christ was surrounded by modern day long haired guys wearing some sort of hard hat. Following that scene was music with famous artists’ renditions of the death of Christ. That’s when it hit me. The fountain of my tears began to flow, I was experiencing the power of forgiveness through His blood for the first time. I was being made brand new.
Years later the movie ‘The Passion of the Christ’ was released. Again, the suffering of Christ in that movie effected me deeply. The visual image of Christ suffering in my place is more than I can bare, but I still have to look. William Cowper had tasted of the power of the blood of Jesus in his own life in England in the 1700′s. From His encounter with forgiveness of sins he wrote this timeless song, There is a Fountain, that is still being sung in churches today. Check out his song, look closely, this song may actually be yours.

There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins,
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.
The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in His day;
And there have I, though vile as he,
Washed all my sins away.
Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood
Shall never lose its pow’r,
Till all the ransomed church of God
Are safe, to sin no more.
E’er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.
When this poor, lisping, stamm’ring tongue
Lies silent in the grave,
Then in a nobler, sweeter song,
I’ll sing Thy pow’r to save.

Every year as we celebrate Easter our thoughts return to the suffering, death, and the glorification of Jesus. Have you tasted the power of redemption? Are you enjoying the benefits purchased for us by His precious blood? William Cowper was haunted by bouts with depression throughout his life. The anchor of his soul that kept him through those days was the salvation he experienced when he was plunged beneath the flood flowing from Immanuel’s veins. The Lord helped Cowper through the strength, encouragement, and wisdom of his pastor John Newton. Newton also knew the power of forgiveness, he had been delivered and forgiven for his evolvement in the slave trade. He also wrote a song from his experience that you may know. His song was called Amazing Grace.

REAPING IN JOY

April 16, 2014

Psa. 126:6 He who goes out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him.

This passage has special meaning for those who have become involved in the work of The Lord. Obviously, The Lord is talking about more than farms and corn and tomatoes in this verse. He is talking about more than field workers, farm hands, and farm owners. He is talking about the essence of our Christian walk. The Lord is speaking about the law of love, living our lives to see the harvest of souls in the kingdom of God. Have you seen the harvest? Has your heart been awakened to the teeming thousands of lost souls all around us? When that happens you will engage in the rhythm of this Psalm, sowing in tears and reaping in joy. Here are some words from Spurgeon on this wonderful passage.

“He leaves his couch to go forth into the frosty air and tread the heavy soil; and as he goes he weeps because of past failures, or because the ground is so sterile, or the weather so unseasonable, or his corn so scarce, and his enemies so plentiful and so eager to rob him of his reward. He drops a seed and a tear, a seed and a tear, and so goes on his way. In his basket he has seed which is precious to him, for he has little of it, and it is his hope for the next year. Each grain leaves his hand with anxious prayer that it may not be lost: he thinks little of himself, but much of his seed, and he eagerly asks, “Will it prosper? shall I receive a reward for my labour?” Yes, good husbandman, doubtless you will gather sheaves from your sowing. Because the Lord has written doubtless, take heed that you do not doubt. You will return to this field — not to sow, but to reap; not to weep, but to rejoice; and after awhile you will go home again with nimbler step than today, though with a heavier load, for you shall have sheaves to bear with you. Your handful shall be so greatly multiplied that many sheaves shall spring from it; and you shall have the pleasure of reaping them and bringing them home to the place from which you went out weeping.”

Part of our salvation experience is becoming aware of the hurting people all around us. Jesus said “Look, the fields are white unto harvest”. Have you seen it yet, have you discovered the real purpose of your salvation? When that moment comes, you enter into the precious life of sowing in tears and reaping in joy. Until that moment of awakening, we are stuck looking for joy in other things. It’s the old forest for the trees thing. When the moment of awakening comes, sowing and reaping becomes our bread and butter. Yep, weeping may last for the night but joy comes in the morning.

NO LONGER ALONE

April 15, 2014

Matt. 9:22 But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, “Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that hour.

Have you ever felt all alone. When you go through unusually difficult times loneliness only amplifies the situation. Your problems are mounting, solutions just out of your grasp, and there is no one there to help or even offer words of comfort. It is a terrible place to be. There is a nameless woman in the Bible (tradition calls her Veronica) that is facing extreme loneliness and despair. She had a female problem that left her ceremonially unclean. She couldn’t be with anyone, not even a touch, at the risk of leaving them unclean. She had been all alone for twelve years. She hardly remembered what it was like to laugh and spend time with her friends; no, she was all alone.
One day she heard about Jesus, she heard how others had been healed of incurable ailments. She dared to hope there was a chance her misery would come to an end. She still had a huge problem to overcome; the crowds. She couldn’t touch anyone and Jesus was surrounded by crowds. She decided to sneak through the crowd undetected, maybe she could steal her miracle. Once she made her way to Jesus, she reached out and touched the edge of His robe. Healing power went through her body, her miracle had begun. In the next moment an even greater miracle took place. Jesus turned to look for her in the crowd. He had perceived the touch of faith, she found herself looking into the eyes of The Lord. Her loneliness was gone. Not only had she received her healing, she was brought into life. She could never be lonely again. Here is something Barclay said about this beautiful story.

“It was the tassel on the robe of Jesus that this woman touched. When she touched it, it was as if time stood still. It was as if we were looking at a motion picture and suddenly the picture stopped, and left us looking at one scene. The extraordinary, and movingly beautiful thing, about this scene is that all at once amidst that crowd Jesus halted; and for the moment it seemed that for him no one but that woman and nothing but her need existed. She was not simply a poor woman lost in the crowd; she was someone to whom Jesus gave the whole of Himself.
For Jesus no one is lost in the crowd, because Jesus is like God. W. B. Yeats once wrote in one of his moments of mystical beauty: “The love of God is infinite for every human soul, because every human soul is unique….”

So you are not lost in the crowd, smothered by your “issues”, Jesus has is eye on you and is coming your way. Not only is He a worker of miracles, He is the Restorer of Life.

COVENANT LOVE

April 14, 2014

Merry Monday by Parris Bailey

“AND NAOMI SAID UNTO HER DAUGHTER IN LAW, BLESSED BE HE OF THE LORD, WHO HATH NOT LEFT OFF HIS KINDNESS TO THE LIVING AND TO THE DEAD.” Ruth 2:20

I came across a Hebrew word today that ministered to me while reading the book of Ruth. In fact it is mentioned throughout the Bible. It is chêsêd which means, kindness; by implication (towards God) piety; rarely (by opprobrium) reproof, or (subjectively) beauty: – favor, good deed, kindly, (loving-) kindness, merciful, mercy, pity. William Barclay describe it as “Chesedh is the ability to get right inside the other person’s skin until we can see things with his eyes, think things with his mind, and feel things with his feelings.” This what Boaz felt toward Ruth who is a type of Christ. All throughout the bible this “steadfast love” speaks of Gods covenant love He made with us. I’m not sure any of us will ever fully understand this wonderful part of God. The Apostle Paul admonishes the Galatians in 4:9 saying we should never turn back to the ‘beggerly elements of the world”. (Like Orpah) Even in the book of Hosea God again is trying to demonstrate the harlotry we play against Him by the relationship Hosea had with His wife Gomer. Hosea 2:19 says, “I will betroth thee unto me for ever!” God was so orchestrating Ruth’s life to give her the desire to “choose the best part”. I read that it’s not so much what we take up that makes us rich, but what we leave behind. He will bring us back to the heart of worship sooner or later. He will test our affection-in our emptiness he will bring fullness, in our danger he brings peace and security and our hope is fulfilled. Have you felt that you have come up empty? Just as David ministered to Mephilbosheth who was lame in his feet. He will surely allow you to feast at the banqueting table of His presence. Man may think they control their lives, but the hand of God is behind them as He works His purposes out. Maybe this makes you nervous, but when I think of the covenant of love-His steadfast love that reaches out to me, I am safe in my Father’s arms. Our kinsman redeemer encourages us when he says in Ruth 2:12, “The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of The Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.”
Do you feel like all your decision making was wrong and you spent wasteful years? When Naomi held Obed in her arms (who was in the linage of Jesus Christ) the women prophesied over her saying, “And he shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age.” Ruth 4:15
Our kinsman redeemer Jesus Christ, does just that—–restores the wasted years and brings us fresh life and joy. Thank God for his steadfast love!

IMAGES OF THE COMING KING

April 13, 2014

Matt. 21:5 “Tell the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your King is coming to you,
Lowly, and sitting on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey.’ “

The last week of Jesus’s life was a swirling panorama of images, prophetic images of the soon coming kingdom. It begin with the triumphal entry of Christ, he was making His final entrance into the city of David. He came on a donkey stirring prophetic visions from the book of Zechariah, “Behold, your King is coming to you”. It was impossible for his friends to hold back their joy, the city seemed to burst with praises, “Hosanna to the coming King!”. Just behind this picture was the unmistakeable expectancy of another coming. No one could express it, but they felt it, Jesus was prophesying with His actions about His Second coming.
The scene suddenly changed, one moment there was dancing and singing, the next moment there were scowls and accusations. The religious leaders were not happy, this was way out of bounds. “Tell the children to be quiet” they complained. Jesus response, “if they don’t worship the rocks will”.
From there Jesus entered the temple. Before you knew it He was turning over tables and driving people out with whips. “You have turned My Father’s house into a house of merchandise rather than a house of prayer”. He was cleansing the temple, preparing His house for a move of the Spirit.
The next picture is Christ teaching in the temple, healing the sick, ministering to the hurting. That’s what He always does. That’s what His house is for, that’s what He is doing today.
The next image from that week of weeks was Mary anointing Jesus with oil. The house was filled with the fragrance of the costly spikenard. What else could Mary do? After all He had done in her life all she could do was lay at His feet, wash them with tears, and anoint His head with oil. This is where the dissension in the disciples midst began to break out. “Why this waste? We should be feeding the poor rather than this extravagant display of worship.”
The next picture that comes to mind is the communion itself. As Jesus poured out the wine and broke the bread He was painting an eternal picture in our minds. The new and better covenant, a new way to live our lives was being introduced. The way into the Holiest of all was being openly portrayed. Jesus was restoring man to the Father. He came to die so that we could live. This final image came after supper. He began to wash their feet. He was actually showing them the ministry of the One coming after Him. He was prophesying about the age of the Holy Spirit. As we celebrate Palm Sunday and Easter this year our mind will turn to these images. We know His first coming was an assurance, an assurance that all things He spoke would soon be fulfilled.

SALT AND FIRE

April 12, 2014

Mark 9:49-50 ¶ “For everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt. Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another.”

This is a powerful passage that Jesus spoke about the the possible effects sin will have on our lives. He had been telling the disciples the danger of sin and talked about plucking out eyes and hacking off hands, sin is serious business. He went on to talk about salt and fire. As Christians, we are priests and sacrifices unto God. Our lives are effected by the “salt” of God’s presence and word. Salt has two effects on us. It purifies and preserves us. In this rotting world of self indulgence we need to be salted regularly. The sin is purged from our heart and we are preserved in holiness to live a different kind of life. Christians are also impacted by the fire of God. Our God is a consuming fire and we are baptized in the fire of the Holy Spirit on a regular basis. This fire of God inflames our affections as well as cleansing us from the worldly grime that surrounds us. Regretfully, the lost experience fire. This eternal fire of God will consume the lost. Those who have chosen to face eternity alone will suffer the unimaginable horror of eternal fire. Here is Mathew Poole’s take on this passage.

“The saints are both priests and sacrifices. For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. God hath a fire, and a salt, which every man must endure. He hath a purging fire, to take away men’ s dross and tin. Some he baptizes with the Holy Ghost, and with fire. And he hath a consuming, tormenting fire, a fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. It is true, the Lord’ s sacred fire of his Holy Spirit will, like fire and salt, cause smart while it purges out our lusts; but judge you whether it be not better to endure that smart than to endure hell fire, for every one must endure one of these. Yea, and every one must be salted with fire. The saints shall be seasoned with influences of grace, and they shall by the Holy Spirit of God be preserved by faith through the power of God to salvation, till their purity of heart and holiness of life shall issue in an incorruptibility of being and blessed state.”

Salt and fire, two necessary ingredients to keep us in the midst of our putrefying society. Every day we face temptation and compromise. The pressure is on because ‘everyone is doing it’ and ‘God is love’ and ‘love wins’. What a miserable way for a Christian to live. The fire of God changes that. He changes us. He changes what we love. Being salted daily with fire is the way of pleasure, the only pleasure that lasts, the unspeakable pleasures of God.

TWICE TOUCHED

April 11, 2014

Mark 8:24-25 ¶ And he looked up and said, “I see men like trees, walking.” ¶ Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly.

Jesus would often say “you have ears to hear but you can’t hear, you have eyes to see but you can’t see”. Of course He was speaking about spiritual seeing and hearing. Unless a man is born again he can never see the kingdom of God. We are all born deaf, dumb, and blind; we cannot see until we are touched by God. In today’s story, this blind man received a second touch to receive his healing. Even though this is a real story with a real miracle, it also serves as a parable to us. We are blind and deaf, like the disciples our spiritual healing may come in spurts. Here is some interesting insight on the second touch from the Life in the Spirit Commentary.

“For Mark, the story of Jesus is an enacted parable that must be understood on two planes. By placing the story of the twice-touched blind man in exactly this context, he makes clear that the miracle of restored sight is also significant on two planes. Like other miracles in the book it is a kind of enacted parable. This literal blind man represents the blind disciples, who see but do not see, who hear but do not hear. This story is therefore also a literary subplot that mirrors the developments of the major plot: The story intimates that the disciples, too, will have a “second touch,” but only after they have straggled with an incomplete and blurred vision of Jesus.
The next section in Mark will introduce that blurred vision with striking clarity: In response to a direct question—“Who do you say I am?”—Peter will make a true but uncomprehending confession: “You are the Christ.” Mark’s rhetorical strategies involve a subtle shift of identifications. He does not simply tell the reader about the disciples’ failures; he passes judgment. In doing so, he wants the reader to take a position, to share the “enlightened” point of view from which the judgment proceeds.”

Funny thing about spiritual blindness and spiritual deafness, we are not in touch with the seriousness of our condition. We don’t realize that we can’t see and hear until we are healed. When Jesus puts His hand upon us, the light and sounds of God begin to flood our senses. Suddenly, we live in a brand new world. At first, we may seem like we see men like “trees walking”, but after that second touch our perception is clarified.
Maybe that is the problem you are facing today. You are a Christian, Christ has become real to you, but oftentimes it just seems as if you are walking around in a fog. Look to Jesus again. Look to Him like you did the first time. That second touch often brings us into the light of day.

TAKE YOUR MEDICINE

April 10, 2014

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine—Proverbs 17:22

I’ll never forget being surprised by joy in Rockwall, Texas in August of 1994. I had always associated joy with our human response to God’s gifts and blessings. Someone gets saved and joy is our response. Maybe an answered prayer would produce joy. It could even be the success of the church or just the blessings of God on our family or finances. Of course all of those things produce some kind of joy as we see God glorified and His kingdom go forward, but that’s not the kind of joy that surprised me that day. This was something totally different. This had a different characteristic or feel about it. This had nothing to do with answered prayers, breakthroughs, or blessings. This joy was supernatural in nature and was actually the very atmosphere of this Holy Being. It was His joy, the joy that Jesus enjoys in the presence of His Father. This Joy of The Lord had invaded my life and caught me by surprise. I was surprised by how real it was, how strong it was; but most of all I was surprised by some Christians response to it. Some wanted nothing to do with this kind of joy. Supernatural anything makes the natural man uncomfortable. Here is something A . B. Simpson said about the joy of The Lord.

“King Solomon left among his wise sayings a prescription for sick and sad hearts, and it is one that we can safely take. A merry heart doeth good like a medicine. Joy is the great restorer and healer. Gladness of spirit will bring health to the bones and vitality to the nerves when all other tonics fail and all other sedatives cease to quiet. Are you ill? Begin to rejoice in the Lord, and your bones will flourish like an herb, and your cheeks will glow with the bloom of health and freshness. Worry, fear, distrust, care-all are poisonous! joy is balm and healing, and if you will but rejoice, God will give power. He has commanded you to be glad and rejoice, and He never fails to sustain His children in keeping His commandments. Rejoice in the Lord always, He says. This means no matter how sad, how tempted, how sick, how suffering you are, rejoice in the Lord just where you are-and begin this moment.

The joy of the Lord is the strength of our body,

The gladness of Jesus, the balm for our pain,

His life and His fullness, our fountain of healing,

His joy, our elixir for body and brain.”

How can I rejoice when I am sad? Try it, you will be surprised at how a sacrifice of praise can turn suddenly into floods of joy. Just start singing, if you are really desperate just start dancing before The Lord. You might feel awkward or a little hypocritical at first, but when He rushes is in, suddenly all things are made new. Today is the day to start. Rejoice in The Lord always and again I say rejoice.


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