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STAR COUNTER

October 1, 2014

Gen. 15:5,6 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
One of my earliest memories as a child was my mom reading to me from a children’s Bible story book. The only story I remember was the one about Abraham. I can still see the picture of Abraham in my mind. He was outside at night looking into the heavens and counting the stars. It’s funny that that story stands out to me. There must have been the story of David and Goliath in that little book or even the three Hebrew children and the fiery furnace. I don’t remember any of those stories from my children’s Bible, only the one about Abraham and the stars. The Lord was obviously sealing this story in my mind as a child. Why this story? It must be because of the awesome role awakening faith plays in our lives. Here is Martin Luther teaching about his favorite topic, the power of faith.

“With these words, “He believed God,” Paul shows us that faith in God is the highest worship, the greatest allegiance, the ultimate obedience, and the most pleasing sacrifice. Whoever has a way with words should expand on this topic. That person will discover that faith is all-powerful. Its power is immeasurable and infinite. Faith gives God the greatest honor anyone can give him. Giving God honor is believing him, considering him truthful, wise, righteous, merciful, and all-powerful. In short, it’s recognizing that he is the Creator and Giver of every good thing. Reason doesn’t do this; only faith does.”

So today, I am still counting the stars. I am grateful for all I have been privileged to be part of in my Christian journey but I still am a star counter. I think there is a great harvest to come, actually I know that there is. You see every time I count the stars I have an increasing expectancy, an expectancy that all of Abraham’s children are about to come home. Have you been outside at night lately? Give it a try, you may see some of Abraham’s children in those beautiful stars.

TRUE HEART

September 30, 2014

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith; having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. HEBREWS 10:22

At the end of the day, it is the heart that God is after. That’s why the Pharisees were so offensive to Christ. They had all their religious ducks in a row; they fasted, tithed, gave to the poor, memorized the scriptures, offered the right sacrifices and sang the right songs. The only problem was a real deal breaker, their hearts were not engaged in their actions. Jesus often told them that they worshipped God with their lips but their hearts were far from Him. That is the worst form of hypocrisy and the greatest insult to God. Think about it; the eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God is so astounding that words cannot describe Him. To worship Him casually (or formally) without passion is the worst kind of sin imaginable. It is insulting the Creator of all things. Here are some thoughts from Andrew Murray on the true heart of worship.

“Turning to God with a sincere heart full of love, faith, and trust is the best form of prayer, even without words. A prayer that does not come from the heart is like a prayer rising out of an empty well, and you yourself are not within it.When you really long for God, your prayer is moved by the Spirit of God. The breath, or inspiration, of God is stirring, moving, and opening itself in your heart. Surely nothing can ascend to heaven but that which was born in heaven! Therefore, every time a good desire stirs in your heart, a good prayer goes out of it that reaches God as being the fruit and work of His Holy Spirit. It is the continuity of the desire in the heart to have that which can hardly be expressed in words that is the goodness and perfection of prayer.”

When you touch God (or when He touches you) and you begin to worship Him passionately with your heart and soul, then you will taste true worship. It is not about the right song or the right culture, it is all about a true heart and a full heart pouring out praise to the Lord. It’s time to step out of the proper protocols and proper formulas; it is time to experience pure worship from a true heart.

GOD ENTRANCED VISION

September 29, 2014

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS BAILEY-
Job 42:5 “I have heard thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye sees thee”.

Early every morning I take my dog “Renny” out for his walk. He is a 7 lb. mutt, so ugly he is adorable if that makes sense. This is my time to recapture, adjust, and repair my perspective of God and my life. The other day I heard something behind me and caught a glimpse of a deer running across the driveway. I will say that those many walks bring me to a fresh place with my Father. I usually raise my hands up and begin to worship whether in song, prayer, a new song or just silent meditation. John Piper called it “having a God entranced Vision”. Piper gives credit to Jonathan Edwards who felt that “God is the beginning, the middle, and end of all things. Nothing exists without his creating it. Nothing stays in being without His sustaining word. Everything has its reason for existing from Him. Therefore nothing can be understood apart from Him, and all understandings of all things that leave Him out are superficial understandings, since they leave out the most important reality in the universe.”
In those daily walks I pray that my vision would be seeing “out of the God lens” and not my lens of unbelief, anger, self or anything that doesn’t bring Him glory. Am I passionate? Do I hunger and thirst after Him? When I become silent I realize that He is all sufficient, perfectly glorious and infinitely beautiful. He bids me “come and dine” to “sit under the apple tree” and to “enter into His rest”. And yes, worshipping the creation is not what He is desiring. My duty and privilege is all for the glory of God, to be satisfied in Him alone. Job had everything taken away from Him and yet he kept his eyes upon God Himself. What is getting you off balance today? It’s Monday and you might find yourself overwhelmed with the idea of going to work, college, car pool and the huge load that we have managed yet again to put on ourselves. Let’s close with Edwards finest! “THE ENJOYMENT OF GOD IS THE ONLY HAPPINESS WITH WHICH OUR SOULS CAN BE SATISFIED. TO GO TO HEAVEN, FULLY TO TO ENJOY GOD, IS INFINITELY BETTER THAN THE MOST PLEASANT ACCOMMODATIONS HERE. FATHERS, MOTHERS, HUSBANDS, WIVES, OR CHILDREN, OR THE COMPANY OF EARTHLY FRIENDS, ARE BUT SHADOWS; BUT GOD IS THE SUBSTANCE.”

CHILDREN OF GOD

September 28, 2014

1John 3:1 ¶ See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.

Sometimes I think us Christians become numb to the spiritual blessings that have become our heritage. For example, we are called children of God in the New Testament. Some folks think that all humans are children of God; that is just not the case. Until someone is born again they are actually called children of disobedience, children of darkness or even children of wrath. Jesus even told some of the religious leaders in Israel that the devil was their father. Only when someone experiences the blessing of the new birth are they called children of God.

What does it mean to be God’s child? It means that the Spirit of God has come to live in our hearts. His nature has become ours, we have literally taken on a new nature. We have the DNA of Christ throughout our being. The Fire Bible describes some of the incredible blessings we have received when we became God’s child. Check this out.

“The truth that God is our Father and we are his children is one of the greatest revelations in the NT.  Being a child of God—chosen and adopted through Christ as his very own—is among the highest honors and privileges of our salvation.  Being a child of God is the basis for our faith and trust in God and our hope of glory for the future. As God’s children, we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, which means that we have part in his eternal inheritance. God wants us to become increasingly aware that we are his children. This awareness comes through the presence of the Holy Spirit—the “Spirit of sonship”—within us. The Spirit allows us to call on God in a deep, personal and intimate way—“Abba, Father”—and he gives us the desire to be “led by the Spirit”.  Being a child of God means that, at times, we will be disciplined by the Father so that we can grow in spiritual maturity. God’s highest goal in making us his children is to save us forever  and to make us more like Jesus.”

Paul talks about a joyful expectancy that has come into our lives at the new birth. We are expecting the full manifestation of our sonship. As John said, “when He appears we will be like Him.” Those are some of the most exciting and sobering words I have ever heard. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, we will see Him and will instantly be like Him. Come quickly Lord Jesus.

ALL THE BLESSINGS OF THE SPIRIT

September 27, 2014

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all the blessings of the Spirit in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 1:3.  A.B. Simpson

The church in Northampton was running on empty. it had been four years since the historic outpouring had awakened their church, a lot can change in four years. There was arguing, dissension, insurrection; you know the drill. Pastor Jonathan Edwards was desperate to return to the days of outpouring. That’s when he preached the sermon, Praying for the Spirit. He couldn’t stand the thought of returning to the days of lifeless formalism, he had tasted too much for that. In this sermon he was encouraging the church to seek another outpouring of the Spirit. Check this out.

Jonathan Edwards

“But there is another sort of blessing that the children of men are capable of and that they stand in need of, which are through the influences of the Holy Spirit: such as the sanctification of our natures, our being made partakers of the divine nature, having the love of God shed abroad in our hearts, being united to the Son of God, being the children of God, having the presence of God, the light of his countenance and communion and fellowship with him, having divine peace and joy and living a divine life, and being hereafter possessed of eternal life and glory— which are more excellent things than the other, as high above all the temporal enjoyments of princes as heaven is high above the earth. They are infinitely the most necessary, the most profitable, the most honorable, the most pleasant and delightful and satisfying, and the most durable blessing.”

This passage is absolutely slammed full of truth about the Holy Spirit. Obviously Edwards had thought long and hard about the spiritual blessings associated with revival, nothing less would do for him. In this sermon he began to remind the people how they would get concerned when there were temporal problems and how they would seek the Lord in prayer for their answers. Crop failure, health problems, raids from the natives; these things got their attention and became the subject of their prayers. He was telling them how much more they should call out to God when there was a spiritual drought or famine. I think these words are for us today. We need a fresh outpouring of the Spirit. I can’t imagine what would become of our culture and our nation without a new spiritual awakening. Its time for us to seek the Lord, its time for another outpouring of the Spirit.

BEYOND THE GRAVE

September 26, 2014

Heb. 9:27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,

In April of 1999 there was a tragic school shooting in Columbine, Colorado. You could say we entered into a new season that day. Unexpected shootings have become more and more common since that day. They have happened in movie theaters, shopping malls, elementary and high schools, and even on military bases. It seems as if there is really no safe zone in our modern world. As a response to this explosion of violence, Victory Fellowship began a production called Beyond the Grave in October of 1999. There have been hundreds of performances with thousands of young people being impacted and converted to the Christian faith over theses last fifteen years. Tonight, we begin the sixteenth season of performances of Beyond the Grave.

What has caused the unexpected success of BTG? It seems to have captured the sense of the hopelessness that this world is engulfed in and at the same time present the hope offered to us in the message of the gospel. The gospel story never gets old, ‘God so loved the world’ is still the greatest of all messages.

Solomon, in Ecclesiastes, talks about eternity in our hearts. The Fire Bible explains the significance of this.

“God has placed within each person an inborn desire for something beyond our earthly existence. Deep inside, human beings want to live forever in peace. They want to find lasting value in the world and the activities of life; they want to be a part of something with eternal meaning. That is why material things, worldly activities and the pleasures of earth will never fully satisfy.”

Is it possible we live in a generation that has learned to be satisfied in the conveniences and pleasures available to us in our highly technical, modern world? It seems as if the combination of the conveniences our society affords us and the “best life now” message that has over run the modern church world has inoculated this generation from the power of the gospel. The hunger for eternity that is in all of our hearts explains the popularity of the production Beyond the Grave. Is there a hunger crying out inside of you? Do you know that there must be more to life than a new smart phone, a football game, or another three day weekend? Maybe its time to dig below the surface and allow your heart’s cry for more to be released. Tonight could be historic. Why not make some phone calls and bring a carload of friends to Beyond the Grave.

HEAVEN IS A WORLD OF LOVE

September 25, 2014

Rev. 22:1 ¶ Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.

The natural man cannot comprehend the things of God. Paul went so far as to say that spiritual things seem as foolishness to the natural man. Heaven is one of those things. The non born again person has no understanding of the place called heaven. All he can think of is the mansion and the gold streets, he has no concept of the real value of heaven. Heaven is heaven because Christ is there. It is knowing Him that makes heaven so heavenly. Beyond the Grave is a production about the tragedy of a shooting at a high school. The story goes on to describe the real tragedy, leaving this world unprepared for the next. Yesterday, I spoke about the horrors of eternal hell. Today, we will let Jonathan Edwards describe to us the pleasures that are available to us in heaven.

“There dwells God the Father, who is the Father of mercies, and so the Father of love, who so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. There dwells Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, the Prince of peace and love, who so loved the world that he shed his blood, and poured out his soul unto death for it. There dwells the Mediator, by whom all God’s love is expressed to the saints, by whom the fruits of it have been purchased, and through whom they are communicated, and through whom love is imparted to the hearts of all the church. There Christ dwells in both his natures, his human and divine, sitting with the Father in the same throne. There is the Holy Spirit, the spirit of divine love, in whom the very essence of God, as it were, all flows out or is breathed forth in love, and by whose immediate influence all holy love is shed abroad in the hearts of all the church. There in heaven this fountain of love, this eternal three in one, is set open without any obstacle to hinder access to it. There this glorious God is manifested and shines forth in full glory, in beams of love; there the fountain overflows in streams and rivers of love and delight, enough for all to drink at, and to swim in, yea, so as to overflow the world as it were with a deluge of love.”

How can you know for certain about your eternal dwelling place? Can you be certain that heaven is your final destination. I believe you can. It happens when the love of God actually comes into your life. From that moment, heaven becomes a real place to you. Something inside of you belongs in that other world. When your eyes close for the last time in this world you will suddenly awaken on the other side. That’s when you will say, “I know what this is, I’ve been waiting for this day all of my life!”

SINNERS IN THE HAND OF AN ANGRY GOD

September 24, 2014

Deut. 32:35 Vengeance is Mine, and recompense;

Their foot shall slip in due time;

For the day of their calamity is at hand,

And the things to come hasten upon them.’

Beyond the Grave was partially inspired by my reading the writings of Jonathan Edwards. I say partially because it was obviously birthed because of the tragic high school shooting in Columbine, Colorado. Something about that tragedy struck a deep cord in the hearts of the youth in our country. That was partly because of being able to identify with the struggles that goes on in the hearts of all high school age young people. The other factor is this, the Bible says we have eternity in our hearts. We all know by instinct that physical death is not the end, the tragedy of Columbine brought that question front and center in all of our lives, “What lies beyond the grave?” How about you, are you ready for life beyond the grave. Here is a famous excerpt from Edwards’ sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, let theses powerful words soak in.

“The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times so abominable in his eyes as the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince: and yet ’tis nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment; ’tis to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep: and there is no other reason to be given why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up; there is no other reason to be given why you han’t gone to hell since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship: yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you don’t this very moment drop down into hell.”

Maybe we don’t like to hear such graphic words about eternal death, never the less, if these words are true we must warn this generation. Every generation deserves to hear the message of eternity, it may make you uncomfortable but that is better than the alternative. This week marks the beginning of our sixteenth year of BTG performances. Bring someone this Friday night, eternity is waiting for us all.

IF THEY ONLY KNEW

September 23, 2014

Psa. 68:3 But the righteous shall be glad; they shall exult before God; they shall be jubilant with joy!

“If they only knew!” Kathryn Kuhlman used to say that all of the time. If they only knew how real He could be, if they only knew His great love, if they only knew His omnipotent power; if they only knew their life would then be totally different. Rather than anxiety and fear we would trust in the Lord. Rather than facing all of our problems in our own strength we would hide ourselves under the shadow of His wings. But how can we know for ourselves about this great God, how can we rejoice in the Lord rather than trembling in fear before our enemies? These things come by a relationship with the Holy Spirit. He alone can make these attributes of God real to our souls. Here are some thoughts by Spurgeon on exulting in the Lord.

“Be glad of heart, O believer, but take care that thy gladness has its spring in the Lord. Thou hast much cause for gladness in thy God, for thou canst sing with David, God, my exceeding joy. Be glad that the Lord reigneth, that Jehovah is King! Rejoice that he sits upon the throne, and ruleth all things! Every attribute of God should become a fresh ray in the sunlight of our gladness. That he is wise should make us glad, knowing as we do our own foolishness. That he is mighty, should cause us to rejoice who tremble at our weakness. That he is everlasting, should always be a theme of joy when we know that we wither as the grass. That he is unchanging, should perpetually yield us a song, since we change every hour. That he is full of grace, that he is overflowing with it, and that this grace in covenant he has given to us; that it is ours to cleanse us, ours to keep us, ours to sanctify us, ours to perfect us, ours to bring us to glory-all this should tend to make us glad in him.”

David said that the Lord had turned his mourning into dancing; now that’s a dramatic change. One moment, wringing your hands in despair; the next moment shouting and dancing for joy before the Lord. The amazing thing about the Lord is this, oftentimes our problems haven’t even changed yet. The only thing that has changed is that God has come down. That’s when our mourning turns to dancing. The Lord loves it when we exult in Him in the midst of our troubles. When that happens deliverance is not far behind.

THE UNSEEN ANCHOR

September 22, 2014

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS BAILEY-

HEB 6:19 “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil”

I will never forget the great raft expedition of 2014. Frank and I decided while in Hawaii to take a zodiac raft to the Na Pali coast. Anything on the seas is a challenge for me, so with seasick pills taken, and sea bands on I was ready. On the way out we saw the coastline and unparalleled beauty all around. I was so happy! When we were pulling out from our lunch stop, I saw a huge sea turtle upside down right beside me. The Captain and the crew started yelling that it was a tiger shark and in it’s mouth was this turtle. Within seconds it disappeared into the deep. Frank and I were stunned needless to say! Here was all this beauty and wonder and right below us lay scary stuff! Even snorkeling afterwards was quite a step of faith! I thank God through all the thick and thin of life- there lays an anchor down deep below both sure and steadfast for my soul. Jesus has undertaken this for us.This isn’t about how strong our boat is, but the unseen anchor that it is tied to will hold us fast. Andrew Murray says, “that He is ready, He longs, as God Himself to work in us all that He has promised. He cannot do this except we open our hearts to Him, and yield ourselves in stillness and surrender for Him to do His work.” Tiger sharks may abound but there is an anchor that will hold me through the darkness of the deep. Do you know that “it is impossible for God to lie?” Murray goes onto to say, “OH, IF WE WOULD BUT TAKE TIME TO TARRY IN THE PRESENCE OF THIS GOD, AND TO LISTEN TO HIM SWEARING TO US THAT HE WILL BE FAITHFUL, SURELY WE SHOULD FALL DOWN IN CONFUSION THAT WE EVER HARBORED FOR A MOMENT THE DOUBT, WHICH THINKS IT’S POSSIBLE THAT HE MAY BE UNTRUE AND NOT KEEP HIS WORD.” I love this verse in Duet.33:13 when Jacob prophesied over Joseph, “And of Joseph he said, Blessed of the LORD be his land, for the precious things of heaven, for the dew, and for the deep that coucheth beneath.” Joseph found his anchor in that dungeon. Something was waiting for him in the deep-the great intercessor himself who went beyond the veil. Instead of trying to get out of your storm why not wait and see what the Master of the Ship says—–I know this, He has gone before you!


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