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.

DIVINE INTERVENTION

April 9, 2014

2Kings 4:30 Then the mother of the child said, “As the LORD lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So he arose and followed her.

It amazes me that humans actually think they can fix themselves. If we believe what the Bible says; man is dead in his trespasses and his sins. Dead people have no chance of fixing anything. If that is the case, recovery from our dilemmas in life are dependent on intervention, divine intervention. Whether your issue is substance abuse, moral issues, financial problems (fill in the blanks); the source of our problem is internal. It is called the depravity of man. We are all born with an eternally fatal flaw, without divine intervention we are stuck in an endless treadmill of ineffective self help programs, never to find freedom or satisfaction in life. Elisha performed a miracle on a a helpless dead boy. He raised him from the dead. Obviously the boy couldn’t help himself and no other person could help him. It took divine intervention through God’s anointing upon the prophet Elisha. I have come to the conclusion that I am the little boy. Hopefully you will see yourself as this little boy. That is the place miracles begin. The ESV Study Bible has some interesting observations on this passage. Check it out.

“I will not leave you. The woman is not willing to accept Elisha’s plan to resurrect the boy from a distance by means of his staff; she wants his personal attention, which in the end does in fact prove crucial. Only his own prayer and mysterious actions succeed in bringing the boy back to life. Elisha’s actions vividly picture God restoring breath to the child (putting his mouth on his mouth), as well as sight (his eyes) and strength (his hands). As Elisha stretched himself upon him, it portrayed the Spirit of God who, through Elisha, was being imparted to the child to give him life. The giving of life, like the instance with Elijah, prefigures the resurrection of Christ and the life he gives to us through union with him.”

When Peter described the outpouring of the Spirit on the Gentiles gathered in Cornelius’s house he used an interesting concept. He said that the Holy Spirit fell on them just as He fell on the disciples at Pentecost. His phrase “fell on them” makes the ministry of the Spirit very clear. His word (Epipipto) means to fall upon and embrace. It’s the word used for the Father embracing his prodigal son. The Holy Spirit falls on us like Elisha fell on this dead boy. Face to face, mouth to mouth, The Lord is breathing His RESURRECTION life into us. We were dead and helpless, when Christ falls on us we come alive. This is divine intervention. This is our only solution. This is the place our life begins. Today is a good day to start. Go ahead, lay on the floor, turn on some worship music, the rest is up to Him.

MOUTH TO MOUTH

April 8, 2014

2Kings 4:34 Then he went up and lay on the child, putting his mouth on his mouth, his eyes on his eyes, and his hands on his hands. And as he stretched himself upon him, the flesh of the child became warm.

In May of 1995 Parris and I conducted revival meetings at Cathedral of Praise in Manila Philippines. That week of meetings were some of my favorite meetings of all time. The Lord came down that week suddenly, powerfully, and undeniably. The church was filled with glory daytime and nighttime for the entire week. This began a series of daily meetings that continued for months in that church. The incredible characteristic that we all enjoyed was the nearness of God. He was there with us and in us and upon us. The church people called it the “in your face revival”. They felt that God was so near He was up in there faces. I can relate. I can’t remember the messages I preached that week but one of my favorites from that season was the message of Elisha raising the little boy from the dead. Elisha spread his body on top of the dead young boy. His face on the boy’s face, his hands on the boys hands; you get the picture. This story is a beautiful picture of Christ coming to us, stretching His body on top of our lifeless body, and then breathing resurrection life into us. That is revival. I was dead but now I am alive. Here are some observations by A. B. Simpson on this incredible miracle.
Simpson

“The hand of Gehazi, and even the staff of Elisha, could not heal the lifeless boy. It required the living touch of the prophet’s own divinely quickened flesh to infuse vitality into the cold clay. Lip to lip, hand to hand, heart to heart, he must touch the child before life could thrill his pulseless veins. We must come into personal contact with the risen Savior and have His very life quicken our mortal flesh before we can know the fullness and reality of His healing. This is the most frequent cause of failure. People are often trusting in something that has been done to them, or in something that they have done, or in something that they have believed intellectually. Their spirit, however, has not felt its way to the heart of Christ; they have not drawn His love into their being by the hunger and thirst of love and faith, and so they are not quickened. The greatest need of our souls and bodies is to know Jesus personally, to touch Him constantly, to abide in Him continually. May we this day lay aside all things that could hinder our near approach to Him and walk hand in hand, heart to heart, with Jesus.”

Hand to hand, heart to heart; that is the description of this life we have in Christ. Maybe you feel cold and lifeless today, your problems are bigger than you. Just be still, Christ is here; face to face, heart to heart, His power and life are flowing into you.

CHOOSING THE BEST PART

April 7, 2014

MERRY MONDAY- Parris Bailey

RUTH 1:16 “And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.”

There is nothing worse than making a wrong decision and not being able to get back to the right one! Sin always keeps us longer than we ever wanted to stay! In the book of Ruth, Elimelech felt the need to sojourn in the land of the Moabites when Bethlehem had a famine. I can understand this but the verse continues saying “they continued there”. That’s one thing that we need to be careful of—–continuing in the land of compromise. Naomi paid a heavy price for it, not only did she lose her husband but her two sons as well. Jesus says, “those who seek to preserve their lives will lose it”. After ten years, Naomi arose because she heard “Bethlehem had bread”. I believe many of us stay too long in a situation that is bearing no fruit for us in the spiritual realm. I am glad she begin to bestir herself to hunger after God and left that environment of sorrow, carnality and hopelessness. “Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon thee.” SOS 6:13. I pray you too can leave the pleasures of Egypt and head on back to the Promised land! When I think of Orpah I realize that He will test the love I have for Him. Twenty years ago, The Lord told me my religion wouldn’t sustain me for the years to come and to turn off all the faucets of my life and let Him teach me His love. I have not ended that journey yet! Our decisions effect time and eternity! The Lord will shift out the Orpahs and they will eventually return back to their homeland of worshipping false gods! Yikes! Ruth chose the best part, as Mary did! She saw the emptiness of her wayfaring and hungered for something more. David yearned for the one thing and Paul exclaimed, “this one thing I do!” Such awakenings of the spirit are supernatural works of the Holy Spirit drawing and wooing us back to him. Unfortunately many times He will use the circumstances of life to get our attention. Whoever has tasted Him can never again live without him, there is no going back to the “beggerly elements of the world”.
“Those that go in religious ways without a steadfast mind stand like a door half open, which mocks a thief, but resolution shuts and bolts the door. Worldliness is pursuing the world which is, to the forgetfulness and exclusion of that which to come, it is a sacrificing of the future to the present, the enjoying of earth’s mess of pottage at the loss of the heavenly birthright.”
(Preacher’s Commentary) Just like the rich man we will walk away sorrowful if we choose the wrong path. I believe Ruth stands as a prophecy, our kinsman redeemer waits for us in the field of harvest.

TREE OF LIFE

April 6, 2014

Prov. 3:13,18 Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed.

The Tree of Life is another one of those beautiful mysteries weaved into the fabric of God’s word. It is first mentioned in the garden in the book of Genesis and it is refered to in various places of the scripture all the way to the closing chapter of the Book of Revelation. Our first parents were never able to eat from this tree because of their disobedience and imminent fall into sin. Their fallen state kept them from this tree and the promise of a higher quality of life that had been placed before them. The promise of a spiritual state of happiness escaped them and their seed, the promise still remained of restoration in the coming of a future Savior. Christ Himself is actually the tree of life. It is in Him that the promise of of joy unspeakable is finally realized. Here are some comments about that tree from Adam Clarke.
“She is a tree of life, alluding most manifestly to the tree so called which God in the beginning planted in the garden of Paradise, by eating the fruit of which all the wastes of nature might have been continually repaired, so as to prevent death for ever. This is an opinion which appears probable enough. The blessings which wisdom-true religion-gives to men, preserve them in life, comfort them through life, cause them to triumph in death, and ensure them a glorious immortality.”

Clarke speaks of Christ as the wisdom, or word, of God. It is in eating the fruit from that tree that we enjoy the heavenly benefits now. Matthew Henry also spoke of the blessing found in this Tree of Life.
“It is the happiness of paradise: She is a tree of life. True grace is that to the soul which the tree of life would have been, from which our first parents were shut out for eating of the forbidden tree. It is a seed of immortality, a well of living waters, springing up to life eternal. It is an earnest of the New Jerusalem, in the midst of which is the tree of life. Those that feed and feast on this heavenly wisdom shall not only be cured by it of every fatal malady, but shall find an antidote against age and death; they shall eat and live for ever.”

Wow! We don’t have to die to eat from the Tree of Life, we can begin now. We are feasting on Christ as we read the word, celebrate communion, or spend time in His presence in worship. We don’t have to die to taste heaven, the enjoyment of life begins now. Christianity is a celebration, it is the return to the lost garden, it is eating from that tree of mystery. Let the party start in you today.

SILENT PRAYERS AND GROANINGS

April 5, 2014

Psa. 42:7 Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.

Real prayer comes from the depths of our heart, it is a combination of our deep longings and God’s deep love. It is a mysterious blending of man’s hunger and need and the anointing of the Spirit. It’s not our eloquence, our formula, or our many words that get God’s atention, It is the heart crying out for Him. It’s the cry of Bartimaeus, the touch of the woman with the issue of blood, the centurion’s faith, or the desperate actions of friends tearing off a roof. Heart faith is displayed in groanings too deep for ordinary words. Crying to God in your heavenly language is a picture of utter dependency on The Lord. He always responds to the cries of faith. Here are some powerful words about the simplicity and depth of prayer from Luther.

“Then Jacob prayed, ” . . . I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. . . . Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children.”Genesis 32:9–11
When we pray, we shouldn’t “keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words” (Matthew 6:7). People who blather on when they pray aren’t thinking about God’s promises and commands regarding prayer or even the help they so desperately need. This isn’t true prayer. I used to pray this way when I was a monk. I called out to God in times of need, but I didn’t know anything about God’s promise to hear me or about his command to pray. I was only mumbling words. Real prayer, on the other hand, comes from deep down. Like Jacob’s prayer in this passage, real prayer comes from a heart full of faith that realizes both the need to pray and God’s command to pray. But some people routinely mumble their prayers while their thoughts are far away. They’re not really praying, for they don’t even know what they’re saying. A real prayer doesn’t require a lot of words. Instead, it often involves long, deep sighs, without any words at all. Jacob’s prayer probably wasn’t limited to the words recorded by Moses here. Most likely, Jacob sighed all day and all night.”

Luther had a great understanding of prayer. He learned his prayer in times of desperation. He was living in life threatening circumstances from the pope and the Holy Roman Emperor for many years. He learned about the power of groaning before The Lord. Sometimes words aren’t enough. Just releasing our hearts in sounds to The Lord is really all that is necessary. He hears our heart’s cry and responds. If you are in a storm you don’t have to depend on your eloquence or your many words, sometimes a silent prayer or a groan is all you need to find yourself in His loving arms.

REAL FAITH

April 4, 2014

What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them—Mark 11:24

Paul called faith a substance. It is actually touching the reality of the unseen world. Don’t you realize that there is an invisible world that most people are unaware of ? Faith perceives that alternate reality. Faith doesn’t bring things into existence, God does. Faith just makes it real to us. We get saved by faith, we are freed from the shackles of sinful behavior by faith, you can even be delivered from addictions by the power of faith in God. It actually touches the realm of the supernatural where all things become possible.
A. B. Simpson had a great way of describing the realm of faith, check it out.

“Faith is not working up by willpower a sort of certainty that something is coming to pass. Rather, it is seeing as an actual fact that God has said this thing shall come to pass-and that it is true-and then rejoicing to know that it is true. It is simply resting and entering into it because God has said it.

Faith turns the promise into a prophecy. While it is merely a promise it is contingent upon our cooperation. It may or may not be. But when faith claims it, it becomes a prophecy and we go forth feeling that it is something that must be done because God cannot lie.

Faith is the answer from the throne saying, “It is done.” Faith is the echo of God’s voice. Let us catch it from on high. Let us repeat it and go out to triumph in its glorious power.

Hear the answer from the throne,

Claim the promise, doubting one,

God hath spoken, “It is done.”

Faith hath answered, “It is done;”

Prayer is over, praise begun,

Hallelujah! It is done.”

I love that statement, ‘faith turns promise into a prophesy’. When our faith is awakened, the things hoped for become real to us. Even better, God Himself becomes real to us. Far too often our beliefs are just that, concepts about a spiritual things and a person called God that are just that to us, concepts. When faith comes we understand what Paul meant by his word substance. Heaven is no longer a concept, we have tasted the edge of it. Jesus is no longer a concept, He has become our friend. The Holy Spirit is not some vague idea about power or revelation, He is the unseen person that is as real to us as the air we breathe. The Bible is not a handbook for success, a series of empowerment slogans, or even a book of principles to live our life by. The Bible is the living breathing word of God. Faith brings His words alive to us, in it The Lord is speaking to us as a Father and a friend.

LOOKING BACK

April 3, 2014

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.
Proverbs 16:9

Thinking about the past and all that God has done in my life gives me a sense of His detailed sovereignty and His Fatherly love for me. He has been involved not only in the overall scope of His plan for my life, He has been intricately involved in the details. I remember years ago I was driving just outside of Phoenix, Arizona out in the desert when a sparrow flew into the front of my car and apparently was instantly killed. I was immediately reminded of a scripture I read that very morning, “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.” Matt.10:29
I had been going through a time of financial pressure and was struggling with worry, doubt, and fear. When I saw the bird fall to the ground and then remembered the scripture, I was suddenly aware that The Lord was watching me, He was there with me, and He was orchestrating the events of my life. He had me covered.
Thinking over the years of my life, He has been guiding and providing for me every step of the way. He protected Parris and I during our treeplanting years, living in questionable conditions and working and driving in a dangerous environment. He helped us when I had no job, no real work experience (unless pushing chicken manure counts) and we were trying to start our church. He supplied in those early days and He has kept us in some amazing circumstances. We have overcome apparent bankruptcy, betrayals and church splits, Katrina, and various other trials and tribulations. Not only has He kept us, He has blessed us beyond words. Martin Luther also spoke of the blessing of looking back at what God has done in our lives.

“Looking back, people can see how much they have accomplished and suffered without trying or thinking about it, even against their wishes and wills. They gave such little thought to what they were doing before it occurred or when it was happening. Now, after everything has been carried out, they are amazed and say, “Why did these things happen to me when I never thought about them or thought something completely different would happen?” So Proverbs 16:9 is true: “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps,” even against his plan and will. So we must agree that our own cleverness and foresight don’t guide our lives and actions. Instead, God’s wonderful power, wisdom, and goodness guide us. Only as we look back do we fully recognize how often God was with us when we neither saw his hand nor felt his presence at the time it was happening. Accordingly, Peter said, “He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).”

If you are struggling today remember, He has been faithful in the past and He is faithful still. He is the author and the finisher of our faith. He always finishes what He starts.

THE LOVE OF CHRIST

April 2, 2014

The love of Christ which passeth knowledge.
Ephesians 3:19

At the time of my conversion I experienced an awareness of the humanity of Christ. I was strangely drawn to the gospels. It was as if I could not hear enough about Jesus. He became incredibly real to me: my friend, my role model, my teacher, my Savior, and my joy. Several months after my conversion I became aware of His deity, I was stunned and overwhelmed. Jesus was not only a man He was God. He was the Creator and Upholder of all things. I was humbled by His wisdom, awed at His omnipresence, and terrified by His omnipotence. He was not only the lamb of God, He is also the lion of the tribe of Judah. Charles Spurgeon is known as the prince of preachers, reading His description of the greatness of Christ shows us why he has been called by that name.

“The love of Christ in its sweetness, its fulness, its greatness, its faithfulness, passeth all human comprehension. Where shall language be found which shall describe his matchless, his unparalleled love towards the children of men? Before we can have any right idea of the love of Jesus, we must understand his previous glory in its height of majesty, and his incarnation upon the earth in all its depths of shame. But who can tell us the majesty of Christ? When he was enthroned in the highest heavens he was very God of very God; by him were the heavens made, and all the hosts thereof. His own almighty arm upheld the spheres; the praises of cherubim and seraphim perpetually surrounded him; the full chorus of the hallelujahs of the universe unceasingly flowed to the foot of his throne: he reigned supreme above all his creatures, God over all, blessed for ever. Who can tell his height of glory then? And who, on the other hand, can tell how low he descended? To be a man was something, to be a man of sorrows was far more; to bleed, and die, and suffer, these were much for him who was the Son of God; but to suffer such unparalleled agony-to endure a death of shame and desertion by his Father, this is a depth of condescending love which the most inspired mind must utterly fail to fathom.”

Like Paul, Spurgeon spent his life trying to describe the indescribeable Christ. No words can express the greatness of His power, the depth of His love, or the power of His presence. No poems or songs could tell of His matchless grace, His mercy that never ends, or the convicting nature of His holiness. No matter how we have polluted our lives, destroyed our bodies, or decimated our realationships He is still there for us. Christ relates to our weaknesses in His humanity. He is touched with the feeling of our weaknesses. He has power to overcome our weaknesses because He is God. If you feel all alone today, He is your forever friend. If you are surrounded with enemies, He is more than able to lead you in triumph. Think about it, Jesus the Lion and the Lamb is there for you today.

NEW WINE

April 1, 2014

John 2:11 ¶ This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.

Jesus performed His first miracle at a wedding. This speaks volumes about The Lord; His value of marriage, His love for people, His willingness to provide in time of need; but it also serves as a living parable about the whole point of His ministry. Jesus came to fulfill the law and offer to man a new life. He came to offer us a new quality of life through His new and better covenant. When the wedding feast ran short of wine for the celebration, Jesus took action. He used the large barrels of water normally used for the rites of purification. He turned about 120 gallons of water into wine! This wine, of course, speaks of celebration. It speaks to us about the nature of the new life we have received in Christ. This new life is infused with joy. The very joy of The Lord invades our life as Christ comes into our lives. We are no longer caught up in the tedious activities of religious observation, we have been filled with the Holy Spirit. Our lifes are saturated with the new wine joy of The Lord. Here is how Matthew Henry describes this miracle and its relation to the law and the new and better covenant.

“It was done in water-pots: There were set there six water-pots of stone. For what use these water-pots were intended: for the legal purifications from ceremonial pollutions enjoined by the law of God, and many more by the tradition of the elders. The Jews eat not, except they wash often, and they used much water in their washing, for which reason here were six large water-pots provided. It was a saying among them,–He who uses much water in washing will gain much wealth in this world. To what use Christ put them, quite different from what they were intended for; to be the receptacles of the miraculous wine. Thus Christ came to bring in the grace of the gospel, which is as wine, that cheereth God and man (Judg. ix. 13), instead of the shadows of the law, which were as water, weak and beggarly elements. These were water-pots, that had never been used to have wine in them; and of stone, which is not apt to retain the scent of former liquors, if ever they had had wine in them. They contained two or three firkins apiece; two or three measures, baths, or ephahs; the quantity is uncertain, but very considerable.”

I think it is incredible that turning water into wine is the first miracle. It tells me the significance of Christ coining the phrase “new wine” when speaking of the life He came to bring. Even though many Christians shun away from the true implications of this miracle, the message of this miracle is like the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. People want to argue about the alcoholic content of this wine in the miracle missing the very essence of the miracle itself. He came to turn our water into wine, He came to make your boring, normal life into something supernatural. As we embrace Christ and bring our waterpots of formalism and symbolism to Him, He turns our water into wine. We are filled to the brim with the joy of The Lord.


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