LOST IN GOD

February 12, 2016

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live

Galatians 2:20
One of our greatest needs in life is to find our identity. Multitudes wander aimlessly through life covering their lack of purpose with facades or deaden their emptiness with the pleasures of sin. We cloak our emptiness in sports, pleasure seeking, politics, ambition, or some form of good deeds. All the while our heart is restless, longing to know who we are and why we exist. It’s funny how we finally find our answers. It’s in losing our identity in Christ that we actually take on our true identity and find purpose in life. I felt as if I was imitating others all my life. It started with super heroes as a child, moved on into sports figures as a preteen, and went to rock stars in my youth. Only when I met Christ and delivered my life up in surrender to Him that I began to be free to pursue my own life and identity. Like Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ nevertheless, I live”. Here is how A. B. Simpson describes this. 

“The Christ life is in harmony with our nature. The other day I was asked by a thoughtful, intelligent woman-one not a Christian, but who had the deepest hunger for that which is right-“How can Christ enter us and we not lose our individuality? This experience will destroy our personality; it violates our responsibility as individuals.”
My response was, “Your personality is incomplete without Christ. Christ was made for you, and you were made for Christ, and until you meet Him you are not complete.
“Suppose,” I continued, “that gas jet should say, ‘If I take this fire in, the gas coursing through me will lose its individuality.’ Oh, no; it is only when the fire comes in that the gas fulfills its purpose for being.
“Suppose the snowflake should say, ‘What shall I do? If I drop on the ground I shall lose my individuality.’ But it falls and is absorbed by the soil, and with the coming spring the snowflakes are seen in the primroses and daisies.”
Let us lose ourselves and rise to a new life in Christ.”
If you are stressed out it probably comes from being out of harmony with Christ. He has a flow, He has a specific flow of life perfectly set for your life and your circumstances. Finding that harmony in Christ brings you into peace and satisfaction. In Him you finally answer the question who and why you are. 

GROW UP!

February 11, 2016

Heb. 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Heb. 6:1 ¶ Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, 

I think there is probably way too many Christians that are still babes in Christ. According to the scripture, our spiritual diet has a whole lot to do with our spiritual growth. As the famous saying goes “we are what we eat”. The book of Hebrews is dealing with that exact problem. Christians were eating the wrong spiritual food and never could go on to maturity. What is the food that makes us grow? Well, if you remember, Jesus said that He was the true bread that comes down from heaven. He said He is our spiritual food. What Hebrews goes on to teach us is the present day, heavenly ministry of Jesus is the key to growing up spiritually. Many never advance past the cross to the throne of God. Jesus is resurrected. Recognizing Christ as our heavenly high priest and receiving His ministry as the Baptizer in the Holy Spirit is the way we enter into this new heavenly life. We have been given life behind the veil, this is the new and living way that Hebrews calls us to. Listen to Andrew Murray as he calls us on to this new deeper life of maturity in Christ. 
“In the letter to the Hebrews, we discover that the recipients had long been Christians, who by then ought to have been teaching others. Instead, they were still like infants, needing to be fed milk. The writer attempts to rouse them to go beyond the elementary teachings about Christ, “not laying again the foundation of repentance.” They were to go on to maturity, to the status of spiritual adults, and to more profound truths concerning Christ’s priesthood and the fullness of their salvation. Because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore, He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He ever lives to intercede for them. This is the solid food of which the writer speaks.”
So how is it with your soul today? Are you stuck between the two worlds, perpetually living as a babe in Christ? Nothing can be more frustrating than that. Draw near today to the throne of grace. There are not only answers to your prayers there, there is a brand new life available for us all.  

SAVED

February 10, 2016

He shall save his people from their sins.
Matt.1:21 
What a powerful word from the angel that visited Joseph, “He will save His people from their sins”. The word save in the New Testament is quite powerful. It is describing way more than just a ticket to heaven, it is describing a quality of life. Save comes from the Greek word sozo. That word smacks of wholeness. Forgiveness of sin brings us into wholeness for our spirit, soul, and body. Sin has stolen from all of us. It has decimated our relationships, it has tormented our minds, it has violated our conscience, stolen our money, and poisoned our bodies with disease. That’s why this angelic word is so profound, the forgiveness of our sins restores what was lost by our sin; it restores everything. Charles Spurgeon shares powerfully about this verse, check it out.
“Many persons, if they are asked what they understand by salvation, will reply, ‘Being saved from hell and taken to heaven’. This is one result of salvation, but it is not one tithe of what is contained in that boon. It is true our Lord Jesus Christ does redeem all his people from the wrath to come; he saves them from the fearful condemnation which their sins had brought upon them; but his triumph is far more complete than this. He saves his people from their sins. Oh! sweet deliverance from our worst foes. Where Christ works a saving work, he casts Satan from his throne, and will not let him be master any longer. No man is a true Christian if sin reigns in his mortal body. Sin will be in us-it will never be utterly expelled till the spirit enters glory; but it will never have dominion.”
What has been stolen from you? Have you lost precious relationships with family and friends? 

Maybe sin has stolen your peace of mind or health. Or maybe your finances have been ransacked and your possessions pilfered. Could it be you have become more dependent on pills or drink than you are willing to admit? All of these things is what the angel had in mind when he spoke to Joseph. “Call His name Jesus, He will save you from your sins.” All of that can change as you drink from the cup of salvation. You see when you say those often repeated words, “I am saved”, you have said a mouthful. You may have received more than you know. 

FLOWS, REVEALS, AND IMPARTS

February 9, 2016

He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine
and making it known to you.

JOHN 16:14
The book of John gives a glimpse into the very life of God. My Bible School teacher used to say that John 13-17 was a glimpse into the holy of holies. It starts with Jesus washing His disciples feet, moves into an amazing description of life in the Spirit that the disciples were about to enter into, it finishes on the holy ground of Christ praying for us in the garden of Gethsemane. For those who have ears to hear, this is like standing with Moses before the burning bush. Andrew Murray says that we learn from this passage that the Spirit flows from Christ, reveals Christ, and imparts Christ. Here is how he says it. 
“The Holy Spirit flows from Christ, reveals Christ, and imparts Christ.Do you desire the Spirit? Have faith in Christ who gives the Spirit. Do you desire Christ? Trust the Spirit to reveal Christ to you. The Spirit is sent from Christ glorified in heaven to impart Christ glorified to us upon the earth. The fullness of the Godhead dwelt in Christ in order that the life of the Godhead might dwell in us. All this is in Christ. Our entire life exists in union with Christ. As the branch is in the vine, so we are in Christ and He in us. Each new day we must begin with this conviction: Christ lives in me and the Holy Spirit will make this a reality for me. Count on the quiet, unseen working of the Holy Spirit in your heart.”

The Holy Spirit is like a powerful river flowing from the Father and the Son seated on the throne of God. It is flowing out from Jesus and flows over us, healing and restoring the broken parts of our lives. This river of the Spirit of God reveals Jesus. It opens our eyes to His glory, opens our heart to His great work of redemption, and opens ours ears to His magnificent word. It is the Holy Spirit that makes Jesus and His work come alive in our lives. Finally, the Holy Spirit imparts the life of God in our soul. The very nature of the Son, the Spirit of Sonship or adoption, comes into our lives and permeates our whole being. We take on a new nature and become different kinds of people. Drink in His Spirit today; He will restore you, refresh you, reveal Christ to you, and impart His amazing love into your soul. 

“Celebrating 37 years”

February 8, 2016

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS-

Psalm 126 “When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream.Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them.The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad”
When was the last time you dreamed? Last week I “attempted to jog/walk” through LaSalle Park listening to the latest Jesus Culture “Let it Echo” on my iPhone.(Loved it!) I was so enjoying myself, praying for my usual stuff when the Lord began to stir me about the 37 years being here at Victory. It was if I was in a dream! What a beautiful journey of the Love of God! Most of the folks at Victory know the story of Frank and I driving a car back to New Orleans, that wasn’t ours, bringing only what the car would hold, with our 4 yr. old son Jeremy. It was early morning the sun was rising over the city, and the Lord gave this verse, John 4:38-“I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.” For the next 37 years at Victory we have done just that, reaped where so many have labored over this precious city. 

When the Lord turns back our captivity, joy comes! The summer of 1973, we walk right into some “Jesus Freaks” around the Mardi Gras fountain at the Lakefront, singing and worshipping. Frank and I were ripe for the harvest we never looked back. We got married, went away to Bible School. Now it was fall 1978 and we found ourselves right smack in the Charismatic move impacting the city reaping where others have sown. Our church exploded. 

As I jogged around the park, I saw so many that have plowed up this city, restoring the ancient wells that God intended to be here. People came in broken and left full and ran to the nations. In the Treasury of David it says, “In proportion to the sorrow of sowing will be the joy of reaping”. I pray you too have found this hidden joy. Christ changes people into reapers, after all isn’t this what redemption is all about? We sow our precious seed and God brings the harvest. Whether it be the tent meetings we had, our school that preached Christ for 32 years, Bethesda Bible School training leaders, the many productions we have had, including Beyond the Grave, feeding the hungry through “Feed the Multitudes”, creating communities of restoration centers where the broken can come, hosting care groups throughout the city—-Christ is preached and redemption comes to life. 

By the time I walked back to the church from my run, these 37 years have turned my/our tears into joy, filling our mouth with laughter. I can truly say, The Lord hath done great things and we are glad! Happy 37!  

TESTIMONY

February 7, 2016

Rev. 19 :10
Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

What a powerful word! Prophecy is the living word of God, or God speaking right now. The fact that Jesus Himself lives in us as born again Christians causes us to step into that prophetic anointing, John called it the testimony of Jesus. Christ is living out His life, or His testimony, in us to glorify His grace. His testimony makes us alive and makes Christianity real. Jesus told His followers in Acts 1 that they would be witnesses of Him after the Holy Spirit came upon them. This word “witnesses” is the same root word as “testimony”. In other words, after we are filled with the Spirit we begin to carry the testimony of Jesus in our lives. He lives in us to reach others for the sake of His name. 

This Sunday we will be celebrating as a church thirty-seven years since we first began. This service will be a celebration of the testimony of Jesus. It’s the story of Parris and myself and how we got saved on the lakefront by the Mardi Gras Fountain in August of 1973, got married, went off to Bible School, baptized in the Holy Spirit and received a calling to the ministry. It’s the story of how Jesus met us as we returned to the city on the Bonnet Carre Spillway in 1977 and were called to pastor a church in New Orleans. We will celebrate all of our stories. Stories like the young woman in the psychiatric unit at Charity Hospital who got saved and her story ended up in the birthing of our first church plant, Believer’s Life on the Westbank. Stories like James and Christina Widener. Christina being one of our revival kids in 1994, James a convert from jail to the ministry. Their story went from Manila, Katrina restoration, until today the thriving work in Shanghai, China. The testimony includes a business woman from Guatemala who became a leader at Victory and has started three schools, a Bible School and multiple churches in Uganda. We will celebrate how Feed the Multitudes was birthed out of a financial crisis in our ministry, and how Beyond the Grave was birthed from the tragedy of a high school shooting, ending up in a harvest of many thousands of new believers. It’s also the story of young women at Mary’s-song and young men at 180 having their lives turned around by the testimony of Jesus. 

The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophesy. What is your testimony? Is Christ living in and through you? There are no limitations to what He can do. He is doing above and beyond anything we could have asked or even thought according to His power that is working in us. 

ENOUGH GRACE

February 6, 2016

“But where sin increased, grace increased all the more,
so that … grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life.

ROMANS 5:20–21
Grace has been used as an excuse for all sorts of bad behavior. That’s what happens when unrenewed minds try to grasp and even expound on the scripture, it’s not very pretty. Grace is not the description of God looking the other way to bypass our sorted behavior. Not at all, it’s actually the exact opposite. The Lord is very meticulous about our sin, ever one of them where dealt with in Christ’s crucifixion. He bore my punishment, my sinfulness, so that His righteousness could be credited to my account. Grace is the influence of God on our souls to see this marvelous truth. Rather than giving us an out so continue in our sins of choice, grace opens our eyes to sin’s ugliness. What is our response? We have to run as far away as fast as our legs will carry us. We have been set free by grace, not just covered up. Every generation has had to deal with the corruption of this message of grace. That’s what Paul addressed in Romans, its what Augustine dealt with in Africa, and it is what Luther dealt with in Germany. Today it’s still the same, the so called grace message can cause the unsaved to think they are saved and it can cause the Christian to stay carnal and ineffective. Here is how Andrew Murray described it in the 1800’s. 
“This great truth is seldom fully grasped. That sin increases, we know only too well. But do we believe that grace increases all the more, enabling us to overcome sin? It is absolutely essential that you grasp this truth if you want to live a life of abundance in Christ. In 2 Corinthians 9:8, Paul particularly uses the words all and every, denoting abundance: “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” Ask yourself, ‘Is the all-abounding life for me?’ Your answer should be, ‘If God is faithful, it is possible for me’!”
THE POINT IS THIS, CHRIST CAME TO GIVE US LIFE. The life that He came to give is vastly different from what most people settle for. Grace is the pathway to that life. We come out of darkness, we are washed and cleansed by His amazing grace, and then we enter in to a new kind of life. 

DIFFERENT KIND OF PEACE

February 5, 2016

Ezek. 37:26 Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them…

Are you going through a difficult time? All of us do. Tough times are when we prove the promises of God. Anyone has peace when things are going well. Peace that is dependent on circumstances is not the kind of peace Ezekiel was preaching about in today’s verse. He was describing a peace that stands in the face of catastrophic circumstances. 

I often think of the weeks shortly after Katrina devastated our city. The future looked bleak. Our leaders were gone and our church was scattered across the country. Just basing our future on the way things appeared, it wasn’t very bright. When I think back on those days I have found myself longing to be back in that time. I know it sounds crazy but we were experiencing a supernatural peace; we knew that God had us. There was even a joyful expectancy because so many miracles of provision and blessing were taking place. He had us safe in His hand. He always does. Today, He has you in His hand. You may be facing overwhelming obstacles, just rest. There is nothing you can do to fix it. Trust Him and stand still and see the hand of God work for you. Here are some thoughts about this peace from Billy Graham.  

“Even the birds know peace: The sea was beating against the rocks in huge, dashing waves. The lightning was flashing. The thunder was roaring. The wind was blowing. But the little bird was asleep in the crevice of the rock, its head tucked serenely under its wing, sound asleep. That is peace—to be at rest in the storm.

Jesus was asleep in the boat when a storm like that arose. The disciples were terrified and woke Him, “Lord, we will perish; save us!”

Jesus “said to the sea, ‘Peace, be still!’ And the wind ceased” (Mark 4:39).

In Christ, we can be at peace in the midst of the confusions, bewilderments, and perplexities of this life. The storm rages, but our hearts are at rest.”
Take the example of the disciples in the midst of a storm with Jesus sleeping on the boat. He may seem like He is asleep but He is on the boat in the storm with you. Look to Him. Call out His name. He will rise and move on your behalf. 

LAND OF THE LIVING

February 4, 2016

John 5:24 ¶ Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. 

Have you ever experienced the joy of the other side? I am talking about the joy of heaven. I remember a funeral we had several years ago for a lady by the name of Ginger who worked for us at the church. She died suddenly and unexpectedly at a very young age. This funeral was not like any funeral I had ever been to. You see, we were experiencing a very powerful outpouring of the Spirit characterized by supernatural joy in those days at our church. Ginger had been right in the middle of it. She would laugh and rejoice for hours in the presence of the Lord. At the funeral, waves of unspeakable joy began to be poured out. The sadness and tears were rapidly washed away by an unmistakeable sense of God’s presence. Laughter and rejoicing were absolutely filling the chapel at the funeral home. There was no hint of disrespect but quite the opposite. It was as if everyone there was tasting a little of the heavenly joy that Ginger had stepped into. We were receiving a taste of the joy in heaven at her arrival. Here is a quote about heaven from Billy Graham’s book called ‘Where I Am’. 
“I cannot help but think of the powerful words widely attributed to John Newton as he lay on his deathbed. Someone asked him, “Are you still with us?” Newton whispered, “I am still in the land of the dying, but soon, I shall be in the land of the living!”

You see, death for the Christian is just the entryway to eternity, where the eternal God in the heavens welcomes us in. Think of having complete fulfillment, knowing that our homecoming brings unspeakable joy to our wonderful Lord! Only when we stand in the joyful presence of Jesus Christ will this be realized. So why do we prefer lingering here? Because we are not only earthbound in body; we are earthbound in our thinking. Our imagination is limited to the things of this earth. But when we leave this place, we will never dwell on it again. Our eyes and hearts will be fixed on Christ.”
So maybe it’s time to think about heaven. If you are prepared to go, don’t be surprised if you begin to taste a bit of heaven’s joy. It’s going to be greater than any of us could ever imagine. 

EXTREME JOY

February 3, 2016

 John 15:11 ¶ “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. 
It seems like the approach to joy for most Christians is not what I would call extreme. Somehow, many divorce joy from their spiritual activities and replace it with duty and sacrifice. Joy is reserved for their more secular activities therefore it has to be monitored and limited. That’s not the joy Jesus mentioned in this verse; that is not the joy of the Lord. Think about it, our God is happy; He has always been happy. The Father and the Son are happy in their relationship with each other. This joy is infinite and would be characterized as extreme. Now here is the best part. This is the joy that was purchased for us, this is the joy of the Lord. This is what Peter called ‘joy unspeakable’ and is the fruit of salvation and being filled with the Spirit. This joy is available to us and accessible by faith. This is the joy that satisfies our soul and keeps us in the midst of the difficulties of our lives. Here is what Jonathan Edwards says about the joy of the Lord. 
“Christ from eternity is as it were in the bosom of the Father, as the object of his infinite complacence. In him is the Father’s eternal happiness. Before the world was, he was with the Father, in the enjoyment of his infinite love; and had infinite delight and blessedness in that enjoyment; And when Christ ascended to the father after his passion, he went to him, to the enjoyment of the same glory and blessedness in the enjoyment of his love; agreeable to his prayer, the evening before his crucifixion….. That new wine is especially that joy and happiness that Christ and his true disciples shall partake of together in glory, which is the purchase of Christ’s blood, or the reward of his obedience unto death. Christ, at his ascension into heaven, received everlasting pleasures at his Father’s right hand, and in the enjoyment of his Father’s love, as the reward of his own death, or obedience unto death.”
Jesus actually used the phrase ‘new wine’ when referring to this life He purchased for us. Why new wine? It has to be because of the joyful inebriating effect of the Holy Spirit on our lives. So go ahead and get extreme. Drink the new wine, taste the joy of the Lord. He will be better than you imagined and His joy will be your strength. 


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