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“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. 

Surrender

February 2, 2016

Mark 10:29,30 ¶ So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life”. 

We can really confuse the promises of God found in the Bible. Take today’s promise for example, Jesus talked about incredible results coming from total surrender. He spoke about houses, lands, and family, He even threw in eternal life in heaven. But it is here where it is easy for us to get in the way. If we leave everything so we can get more we haven’t really left anything at all. His whole point is that He is the treasure. We forsake our pursuit of the treasures of this world to pursue Him instead. He promises that we will gain more stuff than we gave up but that can never be why we have chosen Him. We have seen in Him the greatest of all treasures and we follow Him regardless of the payback. He is our great reward. Here are some thoughts from Oswald Chambers on today’s passage. 
“Beware of surrender that is motivated by personal benefits that may result. For example, “I’m going to give myself to God because I want to be delivered from sin, because I want to be made holy.” Being delivered from sin and being made holy are the result of being right with God, but surrender resulting from this kind of thinking is certainly not the true nature of Christianity. Our motive for surrender should not be for any personal gain at all. We have become so self-centered that we go to God only for something from Him, and not for God Himself. It is like saying, “No, Lord, I don’t want you; I want myself. But I do want You to clean me and fill me with Your Holy Spirit.”
This kind of surrender can only come from divine revelation. Until we see the preciousness of Christ and the reward that is in Him alone, all we have is natural treasures to bargain for. Religion without revelation becomes a system of working for some kind of reward. Revelation opens our eyes to the amazing grace of God and the treasure that He is for us now. When that truth resonates in you, there is no longer such a thing as sacrificing, it’s leaving behind rubbish for the Pearl of great price. 

THE ETERNAL IMPRINT

February 1, 2016

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS

“And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” Gen. 32:30
Jacob was never the same, after he left the presence of the angel. He had an encounter with God. His “wrestling with God” in Genesis 32 would lead to great blessing, but that blessing literally marked him for the rest of his life. To be touched by God leaves an eternal imprint on our lives. To be touched by God changes the way we walk. It changes the way we talk; the way we think; the way we do business; the way we deal with our families; the way we handle our relationships; it changes everything about us. God’s touch leaves a lasting imprint!

John Piper prayed this, “I love that touch. I want it more and more. For myself and for all of you. I pray that God would touch me anew for his glory. I pray that he would touch us all. O for the touch of God! If it comes with fire, so be it. If it comes with water so be it. If it comes with wind, let it come, O God. If it comes with thunder and lightning, let us bow before it. O Lord, come. Come that close. Burn and soak and blow and crash.”

The word “touched” means “to lay the hand upon” –. Here it simply means divine influence. When we are touched, we have soundness of character and begins to free us from all our hang-ups and fears that have kept our voice silent. You cannot know the forgiveness of Christ until you have been declared not guilty. You cannot be set free from the deadness of sin until you accept the new life Christ offers to you. You cannot receive and understand the voice of the Spirit speaking to you until God touches your life. 

Francis Frangipane said, “If we will study the life of Moses, we see how he sought God and lived in fellowship with Him. Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. Notice that “everyone who sought the Lord would go out.” — Exodus 33:7 If we are going to truly seek the Lord, we must “go out,” as did Moses and those who sought the Lord. We must pitch our tent “a good distance from the camp.” What camp is this? For Moses, as well as for us, it is the camp of familiarity. Because He knew that our human nature is unconsciously governed by the influences of the familiar. If He is to expand us to receive the eternal, He must rescue us from the limitations of the temporal.”

Get out of your comfort zone, and let the hand of God put His Eternal imprint on you! 

Christ’s Final Promise

January 31, 2016

John 14:2,3 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 

You can usually tell what is important to people when death draws near. I’ll never forget the day of my dad’s death. It was Thanksgiving Day 1987. My dad wasn’t interested in his bank account or any of his possessions that day, he wanted to be with his children. We all gathered around his bed as he said his last goodbyes and took his last breath. 

Today’s verse is just that for Jesus, He is gathering with His friends for His last words before He died. In chapters 14-16 in John’s gospel we see an intimate glimpse into those last moments with His friends. In this passage He talked about what really mattered. He revealed why He really came, to open up a way for us to live a new kind of life. This flows out of a new intimacy with God characterized by a profound relationship with the Holy Spirit. Here are some words from Jonathan Edwards about this passage. 
“The promises of the new covenant were never so particularly expressed and so solemnly given forth by Christ, in all the time that he was upon earth, as in this discourse. Christ promises them mansions in his Father’s house. Here he promises them whatever blessings they should need and ask in his name. Here he does, more solemnly and fully than anywhere else, give forth and confirm the promise of the Holy Spirit, which is the sum of the blessings of the covenant of grace. Here he promises them his own and his Father’s gracious presence and favor. Here he promises them peace. Here he promises them his joy. Here he promises grace to bring forth holy fruit, and victory over the world. And indeed, there seems to be nowhere else so full and complete an edition of the covenant of grace in the whole Bible, as in this dying discourse of Christ with his eleven true disciples.”
Here we see that Jesus died for more than just a life that lasts forever, we already had that being created in the image of God. He came and He died to give us a different quality of life. This life is the very life that Jesus enjoyed with His Father. He purchased that for us. This new kind of life begins when we are filled with the Holy Spirit. This Spirit filled life is life indeed. 

FULNESS

January 30, 2016

And of his fulness have all we received. John 1:16

If you know anything about humans you know that without Christ there is a profound emptiness. Most of us try our best to cover it up, some do a better job of it than others. No matter all our efforts this emptiness effects every part of our lives. It effects our emotions, our relationships, and everything we do with our lives. The only solution, the fullness of Christ; Christ enters our lives and His fullness permeates every part of us. He satisfies our heart, heals our emotions, and fills us with purpose and direction. The life that Jesus lives and displayed for us in His humanity becomes ours. His joy, His peace, His love for His Father, and His love for hurting people becomes our life. We begin to live off of the fullness that spills out of Christ and flows into us. Charles Spurgeon shares about the fullness of Christ like only he can. 
“These words tell us that there is a fulness in Christ. There is a fulness of essential Deity, for in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead. There is a fulness of perfect manhood, for in him, bodily, that Godhead was revealed. There is a fulness of atoning efficacy in his blood, for the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin. There is a fulness of justifying righteousness in his life, for there is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. There is a fulness of divine prevalence in his plea, for He is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by him; seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. There is a fulness of victory in his death, for through death he destroyed him that had the power of death, that is the devil. There is a fulness of efficacy in his resurrection from the dead, for by it we are begotten again unto a lively hope. There is a fulness of triumph in his ascension, for when he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and received gifts for men.”
So our lives of emptiness is over, we are now living off of Christ’s fullness. After reading today’s devotion I hope you get this; this fullness of Christ is not just our theology but the very life that we live. Every practical area of my life can begin to live off of the fullness of God that we have received in Christ. 


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