AUTHENTIC FAITH

November 26, 2016

Eph. 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 

I can remember the fog of unbelief that shrouded the vision of Christ from my heart for many years. It was the gentle wind of the Holy Spirit that blew the fog from my senses and created an atmosphere of faith in my life. It wasn’t a struggle or a labor for faith, suddenly Christ was real to me. As I yielded my heart and life to this new found love, a sense of His immensity began to fill my life. I often wonder how it started and why it started in my life. My only conclusion is that I was set apart by God by the work of His Spirit. It wasn’t anything in me that started the process in motion, it was strictly His sovereign pleasure. He loved me and wanted me in His plan. Just as Paul said in today’s verse, faith is a shear gift from God. Here are some thoughts from Andrew Murray about God’s gift of faith. 
“True faith bows before God in the deep realization of His greatness, of His power to work wonders in our hearts, and of His loving care for us. We must be convinced of our utter inability to produce on our own this love, which is holy and can conquer sin and unbelief. We need a burning desire to receive instead this heavenly love into our hearts, whatever the cost may be. Then we shall gain an insight into God’s Word as a living power in our hearts. This supernatural power is a gift from God through the Holy Spirit living and working within us. It is not something that we can generate in our own strength.”
So if this all makes sense to you and you have entered into this world of faith please don’t allow apathy to set in and steal the beauty and freshness of His incredible love. After you enter the world of faith by God’s gracious gift the work of faith begins. We labor at entering into this rest of faith. What do I mean? We must press in by searching the scriptures daily. He lives and walks in the pages of the Bible and will meet us regularly there. We must also labor by stirring up the gift of God in our lives. How do you do that? For me the easiest way is to pray in my heavenly language and live in an atmosphere of worship. The Word and the Spirit, this is how we walk in faith. 

IN THE BEGINNING

November 25, 2016

John 1:1,2 ¶ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. 

This passage obviously connects the first pages of the Bible to the revelation of God in Christ in the New Testament. God spoke and everything that exists came into being. The agency of the creation of all things is God’s Word. Now this is where it gets really interesting, John went on to say that the Father’s Word is a distinct person who became a man. John 1:14 ¶ ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth’. This is the whole point of our Christmas celebration, it is the greatest of all mysteries, God Himself took on human flesh. Here are some words from Martin Luther on this mystery person that John called the Word.  

“If the Word preceded all creatures, and all creatures came by the Word and were created through it, the Word must be a different being than a creature, and was not made or created like a creature. It must therefore be eternal and without beginning. For when all things began it was already there, and cannot be confined in time nor in creation, but is above time and creation, yea, time and creation are made and have their beginning through it. Thus it follows that whatever is not temporal must be eternal; and that which has no beginning cannot be temporal; and that which is not a creature must be God. For besides God and His creatures there is nothing. Hence we learn from this text of Moses, that the Word of God, which was in the beginning and through which all things were made and spoken must be God eternal and not a creature.”
The point of all this is that the Creator of all things loves us; He loves you. He went to unthinkable extremes to reach out to all of us in our fallen condition. He became part of His own creation, He became part of His own creation when He was conceived in the womb of a young jewish virgin. Christ came to the earth to die on a cross for sinners. What is our part in this great Christmas drama? It’s really quite simple, all He wants is for us to make room in our hearts for Him. When that happens you will experience the real purpose of God’s creation, to know God’s love in a personal way and to experience the effects of His grace in your life. 

THANKSGIVING 2016

November 24, 2016

Psa. 116:17 I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving,
 And will call upon the name of the LORD. 
Thanksgiving is ingrained in the fabric of our American culture and heritage. Despite the onslaught on our heritage in the last generation, Thanksgiving remains in the hearts of Americans. It began with a simple celebration in the 1600’s as some of our first Americans survived a very unpleasant and difficult winter. They were grateful that many had survived and a harvest had come in that year. All they knew to do was to call a special feast day and give thanks to the Lord. It became a practice of various colonies over the years and became part of our national heritage under our first President, George Washington. 

In the 1860’s our nation was being torn by the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln called for a national holiday to give thanks and praise to the Lord which has continued on the fourth Thursday of November since Lincoln’s proclamation. Her is a brief excerpt from his proclamation. 

“…I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.”
President Abraham Lincoln, October 3, 1863
Our country is torn again today. At the heart of this conflict is two visions of America. Are we a secular or a Christian society? The way we answer that question will determine our national destiny. Give thanks to the Lord for the Lord is good. His mercy endures forever. 

OUT OF ZION

November 23, 2016

Psa. 50:1,2 ¶ The Mighty One, God the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth. 

Our world could be characterized as a very dark place. I would have to see it is a far different world than the one I experienced as a child. It seems as if this spiritual darkness has multiplied, especially in the last decade. When I was a young teenager the biggest scandal in town was the pharmacist who was performing abortions for pregnant teens. Now it is common to take the life of the unborn and is even considered the mother’s “right”. Who could have imagined same sex marriages or men using women’s bathrooms just a few short years ago. It has become the norm in our upside down world. These problems are not political but spiritual in nature. As the spiritual climate of our nation has waned these issues have surfaced. The problem isn’t politics, the problem is the spiritual climate. I have to say it begins in the pulpits of our nation; oh I forgot, it’s not cool to have a pulpit, a Bible, or a cross in church anymore. 

The purpose of the church is to house the very glory of the Lord. His presence in His church convicts the world of sin, displays the righteousness of God in its people, and attracts people to the glory and beauty of His presence. Here is how Charles Spurgeon describes today’s verse. 
“The Lord is represented not only as speaking to the earth, but as coming forth to reveal the glory of his presence to an assembled universe. God of old dwelt in Zion among his chosen people, but here the beams of his splendor are described as shining forth upon all nations. The sun was spoken of in the first verse, but here is a far brighter sun. The majesty of God is most conspicuous among his own elect, but is not confined to them; the church is not a dark lantern, but a candlestick. God shines not only in Zion, but out of her. She is made perfect in beauty by his indwelling, and that beauty is seen by all observers when the Lord shines forth from her. Observe how with trumpet voice and flaming ensign the infinite Jehovah summons the heavens and the earth to hearken to his word.”
The world desperately needs an awakened church. The church is the light that penetrates the darkness and the salt that preserves our culture. Let Zion awaken and the Glory of the Lord shine brightly in this dark day. 

ZION

November 22, 2016

Heb. 12:22 ¶ But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 

The amazing thing about this passage is it says we are already brought to Zion. Zion and the New Jerusalem are more than just a place somewhere; they are the very kingdom of God which is here now. For most, the veil still blocks the view, for others they stand in the blazing beauty of His presence. Even seeing through a glass darkly is quite stunning, I can’t even imagine face to face. That veil that blocks the view is taken away in Christ. What kind of veil blocks your view? Is it pain from past disappointments? Maybe its shame for a past life that somehow still feels very present. Could it be your veil consists of offenses from past betrayals never really letting go of the past and all that was said and done? Regardless of what material your veil consists of it is totally and finally removed in Christ. Here is how Andrew Murray describes this beautiful city called Zion. 

“Ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. Read the description of the heavenly Jerusalem in Revelations, and listen to the voice: Behold I the tabernacle of God is with men, and He shall dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God. The Lord God Almighty, and the Lamb are the temple thereof. The glory of God did lighten it, and the light thereof is the Lamb. The throne of God and of the Lamb shall be therein; and His servants shall do Him service; and they shall see His face. This is the glory to which Jesus has brought thee in, when He took away the veil. In the power and experience of that opened way the Holy Spirit enables thee to live. This is the city which Abraham looked for, which hath the foundations. Thou art come to it. Of this city thou art now a citizen. In it thou canst live, for thou hast been brought into the Holiest, the very centre of the city, the very presence of God. Ye are come unto Mount Sion.”

So let go of the past; the anger, the guilt, and the pain and let’s go to Zion. It’s nearer and more amazing than you have ever thought. As a matter of fact it is here right now within your reach. 

“The Cruciform Life” Living a cross shape life-

November 21, 2016

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS.  


“My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you” Gal 4:19
Everyday we have to walk out our cruciform. Being cross shape people in a secular world and that takes on challenges all in its own. When our life takes on the shape of the cross: you begin to live the vertical life of loving God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and you begin to live the horizontal life of loving your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40). The cruciform life is a day-in-day-out lifestyle of gospel-driven love for God and others. (Quote from Cruciform Life by Jimmy Davis) Living life where God has placed you in the body. We begin to allow Christ to shape our lives. Matthew Henry says; ” that they may be renewed in the spirit of their minds, wrought into the image of Christ, and more fully settled and confirmed in the Christian faith and life. That Christ is not fully formed in men till they are brought off from trusting in their own righteousness, and made to rely only upon him and his righteousness.”

Spurgeon says it this way; Why, when a Christian is in a right state, his love to Jesus is the mightiest force in his nature, it is an affection which, like Aaron’s rod, swallows up all other rods; it is the mainspring of his action, and sways his whole body, soul, and spirit. As the wind sweeps over all the strings of the Aeolian harp, and causes them all to vibrate, so does the love of Jesus move every power and passion of our soul, and we feel in our entire being that our Beloved is indeed ours, and that we love him with all our hearts. Here, then, is the Beloved realized, and our love realizes it too. 

How will my cruciform life take on the cross this week? More than likely it will be to die to things I love and choose the things Christ saw his Father do. He has the words of life, why would I choose any other words to define me? Lord let me speak only cruciform words as I gather around table of thanks. Everyday I am being spiritual transformed as the cruciformation continues. Let me have a cruciform love that takes on God’s own love that flows out to others in redeeming love and let my love be redemptive.

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Phil. 2:5-8

Have a supernatural Thanksgiving Eucharisteo Week! 

TWO MOUNTAINS

November 20, 2016

Heb. 12:22-24 ¶ But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. 

Let me tell you about the first sermon series I ever preached. It took place one month after Parris and I pioneered Victory Fellowship in January 1979. That February, we attended a minister’s conference in Monroe, Louisiana. Boy did we feel out of place!!! All the preachers were there in their three piece suits with their well groomed preacher’s haircuts. The women were decked in their finest outfits and some of the older ones were wearing that famous Pentecostal bun hairdo. This was a long way from our Jesus commune in California; characterized by beards, jeans, and flannel shirts. 

The services were also different from what we were used to. The songs were “Victory in Jesus”, “I’ll Fly Away”; you get the picture. At the end of the service they would gather at the “altar” by the platform and cry. We figured we were just out of the loop and something terrible had happened. 

As the week wore on the message being preached began to get my attention. It was called “Let’s Go Back to Mount Sinai”. I didn’t understand fully the theological ramifications of that sermon but something just didn’t ring true for me. That’s when it happened. It was one of those moments during the sermon when you begin to wander off, I wandered off and my eyes fell upon today’s verse of scripture in Hebrews 12. You have come to Mount Zion, quite different from Mount Sinai. These two mountains pretty much point to the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament, between the preaching of law and grace. That became the topic of my series called TWO MOUNTAINS that began the very next Sunday. Mount Sinai speaks to us about our separation from God because of our sins. It’s the place where Moses wore a veil so that the people could not look on the glory shining from his face. Zion speaks about the unveiled worship that David introduced on Mount Zion. Mount Zion speaks about the message of grace and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Sinai reminds us of the fall and our banishment from God, Zion speaks of our reconciliation and calls us near. That was how our church began, God calling us to Zion. That is how we must continue, let’s camp out at Zion, the place of unveiled worship and intimacy with the Lord. 

SECRET SPRING

November 19, 2016

A spring shut up, a fountain sealed.
Song of Solomon 4:12
True Christianity is very personal. It is characterized by the most extreme of all intimacies. There are secrets and special things in all of our lives only shared with the closet of friends. The Lord becomes the most intimate of all friends, nothing is hidden from Him and He keeps nothing back from us. Jesus described that personal relationship as if going in a closet and shutting the door. I remember a little closet like that in a duplex we lived in when we first started our church. There was a small closet in the hall that became my secret place. I was able to cram a desk and a chair in this closet and even close the door. Outside were our energetic children, the dog, and all of the other household activities; but I had my hidden place, it was like this fountain sealed in today’s verse. Spurgeon describes this secret fountain in his comments on today’s verse. 
“there is a mysterious life within which no human skill can touch. It is a secret which no other man knows; nay, which the very man who is the possessor of it cannot tell to his neighbor. The text includes not only secrecy, but separation. It is not the common spring, of which every passer-by may drink, it is one kept and preserved from all others; it is a fountain bearing a particular mark-a king’s royal seal, so that all can perceive that it is not a common fountain, but a fountain owned by a proprietor, and placed specially by itself alone. So is it with the spiritual life. The chosen of God were separated in the eternal decree; they were separated by God in the day of redemption; and they are separated by the possession of a life which others have not; and it is impossible for them to feel at home with the world, or to delight in its pleasures.”
Actually this secret place is even more hidden than my little prayer closet. It is the secret places of our heart where this bubbling fountain flows. We can go there for refreshment and strengthening anytime we like. This spring becomes like a bubbling fountain of living water refreshing and strengthening us every time we go there. So take some time and head to your special place. He will meet you there and your life will be made new all over again. 

GLORY

November 18, 2016

Rom. 11:36 ¶ For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. 

Once you see it you begin to understand, everything is about His Glory. The whole reason we exist is to display the various characteristics of our God. Paul said it like this, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse”. For example, the intricacies of the human eye display His wisdom, the releasing of the power in an atom through a nuclear explosion displays His power, and the vast, endless nature of creation displays His greatness. His glory is seen also in the work of redemption. To see former alcoholics free and clean, former prostitutes holy women of God, former drug dealers as ministers, or thieves showing wise stewardship in building God’s kingdom; these redemptive works are all about His glory. All of creation and human culture is intended to bring glory to God. Here is how Spurgeon describes giving glory to God.  

“Let your desire for God’s glory be a growing desire. You blessed him in your youth, do not be content with such praises as you gave him then. Has God prospered you in business? Give him more as he has given you more. Has God given you experience? Praise him by stronger faith than you exercised at first. Does your knowledge grow? Then sing more sweetly. Do you enjoy happier times than you once had? Have you been restored from sickness, and has your sorrow been turned into peace and joy? Then give him more music; put more coals and more sweet frankincense into the censer of your praise. Practically in your life give him honor, putting the Amen to this doxology to your great and gracious Lord, by your own individual service and increasing holiness.”
When you discover the glory of God you will be changed. You will see yourself from a different perspective. Rather than being filled with pride at any accomplishments in your life, your successes will bring a greater humility. You will see anything good that comes from you really came from Him. He is glorified and we are blessed to be a tool used to display His glory. What is my response, I will pursue Him and find my joy in Him. The more I am satisfied the more He is glorified. 

EUCHARISTEO

November 17, 2016

1Cor. 11:24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 

What an incredible picture. The eternal Son of God had become a man, He was preparing Himself and His followers for the horrible day that would follow, the suffering and death of Jesus of Nazareth. What was this strange meal all about? It was about giving thanks to the Lord in the midst of the most difficult circumstances imaginable. Jesus gave thanks and lifted up the jewish cup of salvation or the cup of thanksgiving. He was giving a thank offering to the Lord. He was introducing the eucharistic meal. Eucharist comes from the greek word eucharisteo which Jesus used in His prayer, it means to give thanks. He was thanking God for the fulfillment of God’s sovereign plan, He was about to die for the sins of mankind. Here is a short explanation from Vincent’s Word Book. 
 “In post-apostolic and patristic writers, Eucharist was the technical term for the Lord’s Supper as a sacrifice of thanksgiving for all the gifts of God, especially for the ” unspeakable gift,” Jesus Christ. By some of the fathers of the second century the term was sometimes applied to the consecrated elements. The formula of thanksgiving cited in ” The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” is, for the cup first, ‘We give thanks to Thee, our Father, for the holy vine of David Thy servant, which Thou hast made known to us through Jesus, Thy servant: to Thee be the glory forever.” And for the bread: ” We give thanks to Thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge which Thou hast made known to us through Jesus Thy servant: to Thee be the glory forever. As this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains and, gathered together, became one, so let Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy Kingdom, for Thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ forever.” 
This communion meal is the very foundation for our life of eucharisteo or life of thanksgiving. We see Christ in all of our whole life. He is there in our trials, our suffering, our healing, and our restoration. Receiving communion gives us a chance to center our lives, to regain our focus. It is by communion with God through giving thanks that we are able to see all of His blessings that literally overflow our lives.