GOD’S RIVER

March 21, 2015

Psa. 46:4 ¶  There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

the holy habitation of the Most High.

Parris and I love to kayak on the rivers near our house. Recently we went for a paddle down the Bogue Falaya River. Needless to say, the river is teeming with life. From the Kingfisher patrolling the river to the egrets looking for some breakfast, there is always a lot going on. If we are lucky, we sometimes even see a river otter sneaking a peak at who is intruding his world. Ezekiel says that everywhere the river goes there is life. Ancient civilization was closely related to rivers. Everything that pertained to life was connected to life on the river. The crops needed the water, food came from the river, transportation, cleaning, and of course the water itself. Everything was dependent on the life that the river provided.

No wonder Jesus used the river as the picture of spiritual life. “Anyone who is thirsty”, He cried, “must come to Me and drink”. He has water to give that quenches the very thirst of our souls. Our spiritual life is totally dependent on this river. Here are some thoughts from John Bunyan on this river of God.

“At the bottom of grace’s holy river, we see the glory of God. We are healed, made whole, and kept safe by grace, through the redemption that comes from Christ, to the praise of the glory of God. This river bottom is good and solid, for grace will not fail. Christ has proven that God will never lose His glory, and therefore they who drink of this river without a doubt will be saved, so long as they drink of it with a spiritual appetite. In the glory of His wisdom, this river of grace gave joy to God. He created it according to His own plans, the fruit and product of His wisdom. That is why, lost soul, you should please Him by doing that which gives Him most joy: come to the waters, dive into them, and do not be afraid of drowning. Trust God alone as you float in His grace, borne by the current into His praise, where you will see His throne.”

So we are still river dwellers today. Its in this river that our thirsty souls are satisfied and as Bunyan said, we are carried along by praise until we see His throne. So like the Kingfisher, we are patrolling the River drinking in all the life it provides. Like the egret we are up early searching for our next meal. Like the otter, we are swimming in the current, enjoying this life given to us by God.

CHRIST IS ALL

March 20, 2015

Col. 3:1-4 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

There is no comparison to the Christian life to the life without Christ. They are as different as being alive or being dead; there are really no similarities. For the Christian, the Lord doesn’t become part o our life, He actually becomes our life. The Apostle Paul was the forerunner of this new kind of life. He said that he had been crucified with Christ. That is a dramatic and powerful image. Paul’s former life was executed, done away with on the cross with Christ. When Christ was raised, Paul was also raised. Christ was now his life, the other life was permanently gone. Here is how Jonathan Edwards described tis life hidden away in God.

“Ye are now dead, and your life is hid. Dead men are hid; they are out sight. ‘Your life is hid’. The world don’t see that you live. They don’t see that you are happy, but look upon you miserable, because you deny yourselves, and don’t gratify the flesh, nor give yourselves that enjoyment of earthly things which they do. They don’t see what ’tis that you live upon. They don’t know how, nor in what, nor by what means you enjoy comfort and happiness. The world looks upon you dead, as you are indeed dead to the world. But your conversation is in heaven. You live above the world. Your life, and comfort, and happiness is in God, whom the world sees not; it is in heaven with Christ. But though now ye are hid like dead men that are out of sight, yet when Christ, who is your life, shall appear, ye shall be hid no longer, but then shall appear with him, and shall appear with him in glory. Then your life shall appear; then shall it appear that you are alive and happy.”

We have a new life and a new joy. We love different things than we used to love. Christ and His kingdom have become real to us. They have not only become real, they have become the joy and center of our very lives.

THE DAY OF HIS COMING

March 19, 2015

Rev. 1:7 ¶ Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. 

I have plenty of memories from my tree planting adventures back in my Bible School days. For those that don’t know, my wife Parris and I spent about seven months in the mountains of Oregon and Washington planting trees to support our Bible School. One of the adventures including night time tree planting to avoid the sun and heat of the day. It was dark and cold on those long winter nights on the slopes. I can remember the anticipation and joy as sunrise would approach. Jonathan Edwards preached about the joy that will fill our hearts at the great Sunrise of the coming eternal day. For the saved, the celebration will begin. For the lost, rather than joy they will shrink back in fear at the dawning of the great day of the Lord. Here is how Edwards explains it. 

“This shall be the most joyful and pleasant sight to believers that ever their eyes beheld. It will be a thousand times more refreshing to them than ever was the sight of the rising sun to them that have wandered in a wilderness, through the longest and darkest night. The sight of [it] will fill their souls with unspeakable gladness and rejoicing. It will be a bright day to the saints. The beams of that glorious Sun that will then appear will make it bright. The earth will be lightened with his glory, and the light of his glory that the world will then be filled with will be a sweet light to them…

But this appearance, that will be so pleasant to believers, will fill the souls of unbelievers with amazement. The first sight of it will strike them with terror. They shall be for hiding “in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains” [Revelation 6:15]. Every ray of that glory that Christ shall then appear in will be like a stream of scorching fire, and will pierce their hearts with a keener torment than a stream of fierce lightning…”

Malachi prophesied about that coming great day and how it would be for the lost.  He said,  Mal. 3:2 “But who can endure the day of His coming?

And who can stand when He appears?

For He is like a refiner’s fire

And like launderers’ soap.”

He also spoke of that day for the saved, “Mal. 4:2 But to you who fear My name

The Sun of Righteousness shall arise

With healing in His wings;

And you shall go out

And grow fat like stall-fed calves.”

The question begging to be answered; what kind of day will it be for you?

 

STEPPING INTO THE POWER OF SIGNS AND WONDERS

March 18, 2015

Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 

Another powerful benefit we receive when we speak in tongues is that our prayer language opens the door to the supernatural world of God. In Acts 3:7-8, we see the first healing miracle after Christ’s death and resurrection. A lame man had been in the temple for 38 years when he met Peter: “And (Peter) seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. With a leap, he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.” There is an invisible spiritual world in which you and I were created to function. God is Spirit. We are spirit beings; we were created by God in His image to live and operate in that world. When we are baptized with the Holy Spirit, a new door to the world of the supernatural opens for us. This is a world that God inhabits, and that man was created to inhabit. As we begin to move into this heavenly realm, walls are torn down and authority is given to us by God in this world, so that we can live victoriously on earth. Learning to function in awareness of the spirit world becomes normal to the Christian who prays often in tongues. In Acts 3:7-8, Peter began to live in this spiritual realm. He was launching out into the world of the supernatural. We see this supernatural world throughout the Book of Acts. The lame man was healed in Acts chapter 3. In Acts chapter 5, multitudes are healed. The Church began to expand and grow throughout the Book of Acts, as people were praying in tongues and began to experience the miracle power of the Lord. God wants us to live in His supernatural world! He wants us to live victoriously, dwelling with Him. We can spend extended periods of time praying in the Holy Spirit and enter this supernatural realm that God inhabits. We may not have a disciplined prayer life but that can change. Make a decision to schedule time with the Lord every day. Begin to launch out into the spiritual world praying in your heavenly language. For too long Christians have been afraid of the spiritual world, yet our prayer language brings us into this new realm, the realm of the Holy Spirit. Spend time praying in your Spirit language and you will begin to see the power of signs and wonders becoming a part of your life. 

SIGN TO THE UNSAVED

March 17, 2015

 1Cor. 14:22 ¶ Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe. 

In Acts chapter 2 we see the first time people in the Bible prayed in tongues when they gathered together in the Upper Room. The people on the streets heard them and some were hearing their native languages being spoken. Acts 2:11 (NASB) says, “Cretans and Arabs – we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” Peter responds in Acts 2:15-16 (NASB): “For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day [or nine o’clock in the morning]; but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel.” These non-Christians on the street were in essence asking, “What does this supernatural utterance mean?” Peter explains the baptism with the Holy Spirit to them. That day 3,000 people were born again. We see clearly in this passage of Scripture that praying in tongues drew the people to Christ. God was evident there. His presence is evident when we pray in the Holy Spirit. The world is looking for a supernatural experience. Over the last couple of decades, people have been interested in Ouija boards and fortune-telling. More and more, individuals have looked to psychics and to the occult, longing for the supernatural that they are not finding in many of their churches. People are tired of dead churches that have a form of godliness, yet are devoid of power. They want to experience God. When we pray in the Holy Spirit, we pray a supernatural utterance from God. Our mind is not praying, but our spirit, energized by the Holy Spirit, is praying. This makes Christians and non-Christians alike aware of the presence of God. It is one of God’s advertising tools. What a tragedy it is to invite someone to a prayer group or a church service and hope the people praying in tongues don’t pray too loudly, or that prophecy doesn’t come forth because of the fear that the person visiting might not accept God. The underlying thought is, “I hope there is no supernatural manifestation. I hope God is not here today. If God shows up, this person might not accept Him.” But realize, brothers and sisters, that praying in tongues is God praying! The Holy Spirit is praying through you in a supernatural utterance, and others will be drawn to Christ because they will sense God’s presence there! How vital is our prayer language! It is an outreach to the lost. The last portion of Isaiah 28:11-12 (NASB) tells us about this: “Indeed, He will speak to this people through stammering lips and a foreign tongue…” This is a prophecy written 700 years before Christ. It is a prophecy the apostle Paul quoted in First Corinthians 14:21 regarding our prayer language. Paul quotes Isaiah saying that God was going to speak to the world through the prayer language. Our churches need a new outpouring of this Pentecostal gift. What will the results be? Another harvest of souls. 

GOD FIRST

March 16, 2015

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS BAILEY 

 “I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before” Phil 3:13

Katrina was a good lesson in whether God reigned in my life or not. I’m not really sure I passed the test. We left at the last minute like everyone else I suppose, not prepared and having no idea of what lay ahead. I took all three of my kids, a daughter in law, grandchild, my two labs  and found a cabin up in Alabama near Georgia.  Leftovers from Katrina came up there and knocked the power out so unbeknown to us the levees broke in Nola. I remember taking the dogs running through this beautiful state park bawling my eyes out. The Lord begin to deal with me to surrender everything over to him. Funny how I so thought I had done did this! I needed a God encounter! 

Andrew Murray said, “The motto of the Cape General Mission is, God first. In one sense that is a beautiful motto, and yet I am not always satisfied with it, because it is a motto that is often misunderstood. God first may mean “I” second, something else third, and something else fourth. God is thus first in order, but still God becomes one of a series of powers, and that is not the place God wants. The meaning of the words, “God first” is really “God all; God everything;” and that is what Christ wants. To be willing to give up everything, to submit to Christ and let him teach what to say and what to do, is the first mark of the man to whom Christ will come. Are you not ready to take this step and say: “Jesus! I do give up everything; I have given up everything; reveal Thyself.” Oh my gosh how does He desire to reveal Himself to us! 

Well needless to say in the days, weeks and months and yes years ahead, God just kept wanting my all. The Apostle Paul called it the “one thing”. I believe what gets lost in translation is destiny. Somehow in the hustle and bustle, in the waking and sleeping we lose grasp with our destiny with God.   

Murray goes onto to say, “We must come away from all the manifold and multifarious blessings that Jesus can bestow from time to time, to the blessed unity of that one— that Jesus makes Himself known, Jesus Himself is willing to make Himself known.” The most amazing thing that will happen in your life is that without the power of the Holy Spirit all of this is simply impossible. Christ comes when we are filled with Christ. Learning to be empty so He can fill us and overflow through us moves us into the realm of the impossible. Our job is to get hungry, and it’s not as simple as putting God first then us second or our families third. He is all consuming fire. 

HEALING IN HIS NAME

March 15, 2015

Acts 3:16 And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.

Healing is inseparable from the gospel of Jesus Christ. After all, He is the Sun of Righteousness that Malachi prophesied about. He has risen and there is healing in His beams. Everywhere Jesus went in His earthly ministry healing followed Him. From the paralytic let down through a roof to the healing of Blind Bartimaeus, Christ healed them all. This same miracle power continued after Christ’s death. The disciples moved in the same healing anointing that Jesus walked in. Their miracle ministry was introduced in today’s verse when the well known paralytic in the temple was healed. The name of Jesus was honored, the kingdom advanced, and and the compassion of Christ for the hurting was displayed. Here are some thoughts from Matthew Henry on this amazing miracle.

“It is done by the name of Christ, not merely by naming it as a spell or charm, but it is done by us as professors and teachers of his name, by virtue of a commission and instructions we have received from him, and a power which he has invested us with, that name which Christ has above every name; his authority, his command has done it; as writs run in the king’s name, though it is an inferior officer that executes them. The power of Christ is fetched in through faith in his name, a confidence in him, a dependence on him, a believing application to him, and expectation from him, even that faith which is by him, which is of his working; it is not of ourselves, it is the gift of Christ; and it is for his sake, that he may have the glory of it; for he is both the author and finisher of our faith. Those that wrought this miracle by faith derived power from Christ to work it, and therefore returned all the glory to him. By this true and just account of the miracle, Peter both confirmed the great gospel truth they were to preach to the world—that Jesus Christ is the fountain of all power and grace, and the great healer and Savior…”

Why should we not expect the same today? The Lord confirms His word as true with signs, wonders, and miracles. Maybe today the Lord will give you an opportunity to pray for someone who is suffering. As you lay your hands on them in faith, God Himself will begin to work. If you are sick, take courage. Jesus of Nazareth is still alive and I heard a rumor that He is passing your way.

CHEAP GRACE

March 14, 2015

1Cor. 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 

It’s funny as much as things seem to change they stay pretty much the same. Jonathan Edwards spent much of his time dealing with modernists in his day consumed with “freedom of the will”. To him, it was just another form of modernism trying to throw off the shackles of orthodox Christianity. In our arena, many modern Christians want to cloak their belief in  so called inclusiveness with the label of grace. It sounds strangely similar to what Bonhoeffer dealt with in the church in Germany in WWII. The so called proponents of grace want to soft peddle on some of the sticky issues of our day such as abortion, sex outside of marriage, drinking, homosexuality; you know the drill. Their version of a loving God ‘accepts’ all of us like we are. In their version, the church looks just like the world with no power to change. Here is a quote from Chelsen Vicari dealing with the hipster version of church we find all too often today. 

“Popular liberal evangelical writers and preachers tell young evangelicals that if they accept abortion and same-sex marriage, then the media, academia and Hollywood will finally accept Christians. Out of fear of being falsely dubbed “intolerant” or “uncompassionate,” many young Christians are buying into theological falsehoods. Instead of standing up as a voice for the innocent unborn or marriage as God intended, millennials are forgoing the authority of Scripture and embracing a couch potato, cafeteria-style Christianity all in the name of tolerance.

This contemporary mindset is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian whose Christian convictions put him at odds with the Nazis and cost him his life, called “cheap grace.” In his book The Cost of Discipleship Bonhoeffer wrote: “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

Right now cheap grace theology is proliferating around evangelical Bible colleges, seminaries and Christian ministries.”

How can you improve on what Bonhoeffer said, “cheap grace is grace without discipleship…grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ…” Don’t settle for the new spin on an old heresy, let’s return to the unpopular path of primitive Christianity. 

PRAYER AND THE WISDOM OF GOD

March 13, 2015

1Cor. 2:11-13 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

Man has limited knowledge, but our Lord is all-knowing. He begins to give us glimpses into His plans as we pray in the Spirit. As we press into God, we begin to have bits of His wisdom unveiled to us. He begins to show us the “deep things” of the Spirit. 1 Cor.2:10 tells us that we can know what God is going to do: “God has revealed them”. “Them” refers to the things God has prepared for those who love Him. These things are revealed to us through His Spirit. They are no longer mysteries. He reveals things to us by His Spirit: “For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:10b-11 NKJV). The Spirit of God within you knows your innermost thoughts. He “searches all things… the deep things of God.” By praying in the Spirit, He begins to reveal or unfold God’s wisdom to you. When you pray in tongues you are not praying with your natural mind but from your spirit energized by the Holy Spirit. Your mind doesn’t understand what you are praying but you are touching the unseen wisdom of God.

This helps us in our personal lives; dealing with family, ministry or business situations because we become people with insider, privileged information. The mysteries of this great universe are known by the Spirit of God. He knows what is happening across the globe. He knows the plan He has personally ordained for your life and my life. A revival lies ahead of us, and He also has that clearly in focus! God doesn’t want to keep these things a mystery hidden from you. Pray in the Spirit and you will find yourself touching the hidden wisdom of God.

 

ALL THINGS FOR GOOD

March 12, 2015

Rom. 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

What an awesome passage of Scripture! The Lord is working everything out in my life according to His plan. Actually Paul was speaking out of his own experience. If anyone ever tasted adversity, it was the Apostle Paul. He was betrayed, slandered, falsely arrested, beaten, stoned, and shipwrecked. Yes, Paul knew about the struggles in this life. Through all of his struggles he had come to an amazing conclusion, the Lord was working through ever circumstance in Paul’s life for the advance of the kingdom and for Paul’s ultimate good. From his decision to go to Macedonia, that led to beating and imprisonment, to his arrest in Jerusalem, that brought him to jail in Rome. Paul believed that the Lord was working through all these things for the good.

In verses 26 and 27 of Romans 8, Paul talks about supernatural prayer. The Lord actually anoints us to pray the will of God. The all-knowing God orchestrates events on the earth through our prayers. The Lord searches to and fro throughout the earth to find a heart turned toward Him. When He finds this heart, this person, He anoints them to pray. As we yield ourselves to the Lord, praying in the Spirit, we begin to pray the will of God. The Lord answers these prayers and orchestrates the events of our lives for our good. How incredible are the ways of the Lord! He plans the events of our lives and brings them to pass by anointing us to pray supernatural prayers according to the will of God. He is causing all things to work together for the good in our lives. What an awesome God!

Maybe your life has taken some unexpected and even unpleasant turns. Don’t lose heart, this is also part of God’s plan. Pray in the Spirit. Pray in the Spirit a lot. You will find a fresh anointing to pray coming upon you and several things will happen as a result. First, the Lord will give you a sense or an understanding of why these things are happening. Secondly, these prayers, given by the Spirit, will be used by God to usher in His plan for your life. Finally, you will experience a real strengthening and encouragement from the Lord. Your worst moments will suddenly be turned into the best moments of your life.


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