THE WAY

Jn.14:6 – Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.

This scripture has always had a special role in my life. It was actually the one the Lord used in my life to get me on the right track. God’s word, even the supposedly simplest verses are incredibly powerful. I had heard this verse in Sunday School as a child and somehow it was hidden away in my heart. In the fullness of time for me the Lord brought this scripture back into my mind. I had been exploring various other religions and suddenly I became aware that Christ was the way to life, the only way!!! Within a few days of this scripture coming back to me I was converted. Jesus came into my life and I was radically born again.

Just take a minute and think about the claims that Jesus is making in this verse. First He is saying that He is the only way to God and heaven. Notice carefully, He doesn’t claim to be a way but the only way. Believing this launched me into a new life. Next He claims He is the truth. The word that He used could be translated real or reality. Jesus is the very reality or essence of God. In meeting Him you are meeting the Father. Finally He claims to be the life. Again, He is not promising a better life, He is claiming that He Himself is life. Knowing Him is where real life begins. Here are some comments from Jonathan Edwards on this passage.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life.” In the foregoing verses there are three things spoken of. The place or blessed state to which Christ was going; 2. The way to it; and 3. The knowledge of it. About each of these the disciples are here inquiring of Christ. And therefore Christ in this verse tells them that he himself is virtually each of these. He was the life or happiness to which they desired to know the way. And he was also the way to it. And he was the truth by which they might come to the knowledge of both the life and the way to it. There was everything in him that they needed; in him all fullness dwelt.”

What does this all mean? It means that when we meet Jesus we begin to enter life. He is the only way to God, He is the very essence of God, He is life itself; the place of joy unspeakable that flows from Him.

FOOD FIGHTS AND CHURCH DRAMA

Eph. 2:20-22 – – having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

There is nothing like a good church fight. Churches fight over everything from choir robes to parking lots, from deacon selections to offerings. We’ve had our fair share over the years, we even had one because of my over emphasis of God in our services. Church people can be really mean.

The New Testament doesn’t try to hide the church’s blemishes. In the first days of the church (Acts 6) there was the first known church fight. This one turned into a food fight (fighting about food not throwing food). We had one of those in our church one time, feeding and reaching out to the poor and homeless was too much for some of our more “respectable” church members. The one in Acts 6 was not only about food but about race. Accusations were being thrown around that the needy Hebrews were getting more food than the needy Greeks. Sound familiar?

The next fight we see in the Bible is in Acts 15, that one was also about race. Paul had been planting gentile churches and the church was no longer mainly jewish, it was rapidly taking on a large gentile population with a very different culture. When Paul came to tell the stories of his gentile church planting, a fight broke out in Jerusalem at the highest level of leadership. The answer to the problem not only brought peace but was historic. The lead pastor in Jerusalem, James, spoke out in the form of a prophetic word using a text from Amos the prophet. What James was saying is that these gentile churches were the beginning of the last day temple of God. Here is how James said it.

“With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written,

‘AFTER THESE THINGS I will return, AND I WILL REBUILD THE TABERNACLE OF DAVID WHICH HAS FALLEN, AND I WILL REBUILD ITS RUINS, AND I WILL RESTORE IT,

SO THAT THE REST OF MANKIND MAY SEEK THE LORD, AND ALL THE GENTILES WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME,’

SAYS THE LORD, WHO MAKES THESE THINGS KNOWN FROM LONG AGO.’”

(Acts 15:15–18 NAS95)

So church fights can bring destruction or, if cooler heads prevail and everyone yields to the leading of the Holy Spirit, great solutions can be forged. Today the Lord is restoring His temple, I am just glad to be part of His plan.

CONSIDER THE DOLPHIN

Job 37:14 – Hearken unto this, O Job: stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God.

 

 

 

 

Parris and I got to enjoy four days in Hawaii on our return from a ministry trip to Asia. On our last day we went on a snorkeling trip and were able to see several pods of various types of dolphins on the way to the snorkeling location. It seems like the Lord is constantly speaking through His creation. The trip guide begin talking to us about the purpose of dolphins living in pods, sometimes God’s animals have more sense than us. Why do they live in pods? Several very important reasons. First, for protection. The dolphins are able to protect themselves from predators (the snorkel guide avoided using the shark word). These dolphins can ward off the sharks and protect their young by working together. Secondly they work together for survival. They are smart and actually work a plan to trap fish for their food. They also are very social animals and need the affection and care that they show for one another. Here is some info about dolphin pods from the publication called Dolphin World

 

“In the ocean, the “school” (or, in the case of dolphins, the “pod”) is the basic social unit. It provides for a cooperative, social way of life and increases the chances for individual survival. The pod uses both acoustic and non-acoustic means of communication. Cooperation and forming alliances are ways in which the more complex mammals attempt to manipulate their social environment. Such alliances require sophisticated means of communication in order to manage relationships. Dolphins do this by forming fluid, temporary groups called “pods”, typically consisting of 2-15 animals. Dolphins are very social creatures and appear to need each other while hunting, defending themselves and their pods, and (obviously) mating.”

 

So have you connected the dots in your life yet? Too often we try to forge on by ourselves or worse yet, join up with an ungodly “pod” of worldly people. In our Christian pod/community we too find the answer to many of our needs. We find protection from sin and destructive heresies by the production we find in our Christian community. We also find the spiritual nourishment that we need for our daily survival. We find the teaching from God’s ministers as well as the Lord speaking to us from various members of His body. Finally, this is our place where we find God’s love. His love is the life of the church. It’s in relationships found in our Christian pods that we are made whole.

 

THE GOSPEL FEAST – JOINED TOGETHER WITH HIM

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Is. 25:6 ¶ On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples

a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,

of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.

This Christmas I want to learn to feed more and more on Christ. Today we will continue our gospel feast. What is today’s dish? Feasting on the blessing of being joined together with Christ. Jesus Himself said that He was in the Father, we are in Him, and He is in us. You can’t get more connected than that. I am connected to Him in His humanity, His death, His resurrection, and His glorification. The power of that truth is totally overwhelming. This is not something set apart for the future, it is a fact today. Feeding on this truth, enjoying and relishing every bite, allows the power of it to sink in. His story has become mine. I am in Him and all that He has inherited from the Father is mine too. Here is Spurgeon’s comment from his sermon Gospel Feast.

“There is an indissoluble union between Christ and all His people…. This is a union of the most wonderful kind, which figures may faintly set forth, but which it were impossible for language completely to explain! Oneness to Jesus is one of the fat things full of marrow, for if it is so indeed, that we are one with Christ—then because He lives we must live also; because He was punished for sin, we also have borne the wrath of God in Him; because He was justified by His resurrection, we also are justified in Him; because He is rewarded and forever sits down at His Father’s right hand, we also have obtained the inheritance in Him—and by faith grasp it now, and enjoy its earnest. Oh, can it be that this aching head already has a right to a celestial crown, that this palpitating heart has a claim to the rest which remains for the people of God, that these weary feet have a title to tread the sacred halls of the New Jerusalem?”

How can a Christian ever be bored. We have risen from our dead lives with Christ and are seated with Him in heaven at the Father’s right hand. Our future is better than we can imagine. The best part? It all starts now. Dig in; enjoy today’s meal.

Community of Jesus # 2

Continued from yesterday

4. The local church is the place of gifting and impartation.
1Cor. 12:12 ¶ For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
There is a special anointing that the Lord places in each local church. There is an anointing on the house. During the time of David he pitched a tabernacle on Mount Zion. This tabernacle became a type of the New Testament local church. In it there was a special anointing that the Lord had placed on David. Others, like Asaph and the sons of Korah ministered under that anointing of the house. Their songs were like the Psalms of David and carried the anointing of the house. There is something unique in our house. Those that embrace this community begin to experience the anointing that is in this house.

5. The community of Jesus also provides a place of accountability and discipleship.
Matt. 28:19,20 – Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Correction is never fun but it is necessary. The Lord corrects those He loves and changes them. The local church provides the place of safety and love where this discipline can happen.

6. It is the love of God that is the life source of our community
Col. 3:12-15 ¶ Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
The love of God is very real and is what absolutely makes this community different from all others. Jesus Himself said that the world would know we are His disciples by our love for one another.

7. It is in this fellowship that we experience revelation.
Luke 24:30,31- When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.
Jesus really lives in our midst. One of His promises was that wherever two or three of His followers gather together He would be in their midst. It is in His community that we see Him the most clearly.

HE HEALED THE BLIND AND THE LAME

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Matt. 21:14 ¶ And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.

After Jesus cleansed the temple He began to heal the blind and the lame. This miracle, connected to the cleansing of the temple, is filled with spiritual application. The first thing Jesus does when He comes into our lives is cleanse our hearts from sin. The results of that is we are healed of our spiritual blindness and lameness. Before Christ enters our temple, we are blind to His beauty, unable to see Him in our lives. We are also lame, unable to function, paralyzed by our own sin. That changes when Jesus enters our temple. This passage also speaks to us about Jesus entering His church. He cleanses our motives as a congregation and fills His church with power to change lives. Here are some thoughts from Adam Clarke on this passage.

“The blind and the lame came. Having condemned the profane use of the temple, he now shows the proper use of it. It is a house of prayer, where God is to manifest his goodness and power in giving sight to the spiritually blind, and feet to the lame. The Church or chapel in which the blind and the lame are not healed has no Christ in it, and is not worthy of attendance.”
So the church should be a hospital rather than a shopping mall. That’s exactly what Jesus displayed when He turned over the tables of merchandise and began to heal the sick. Matthew Henry also spoke powerfully about this passage.

“The temple was profane and abused when it was made a market-place, but it was graced and honored when it was made an hospital; to be doing good in God’s, is more honorable, and better becomes it, than to be getting money there. Christ’s healing was a real answer to that question, Who is this? His works testified of him more than the hosannas; and his healing in the temple was the fulfilling of the promise, that the glory of the latter house should be greater than the glory of the former.”

As we welcome Jesus into our lives and into our churches He is glorified and our lives are completed. This Holy Week open wide the gates of your heart, He will cleanse your temple and make you whole.

PRECIOUS IN HIS SIGHT

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John 12:12-15 ¶ The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.

I often think about the strange and unusual crowd we have at Victory Fellowship. There are all sorts of diverse groups. Kind of reminds me of the song we sang in Sunday School so many years ago; “red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight Jesus loves the little children of the world”. There are the young, the old, the homeless, the affluent, the single moms, the nuclear families, the hipsters, hippies, and beat nicks. You might find a teacher, a cook, a police officer, a military man, students, lawyers and preachers, stay at home moms, and corporate moms. The one common denominator that makes us a community is the testimony of Jesus, Christ lives in each of us individually and reveals Himself in us corporately.

I have been thinking about the first Palm Sunday as our annual Palm Sunday celebration approaches and have been struck thinking about the diversity in the crowd that day. I began to imagine the strangest companions who may have met in the massive crowd. I think of Blind Bartimaeus who had just been healed several days before running into the lame man who had been healed at the pool of Bethesda. What a pair, the one who couldn’t see who couldn’t take his eyes off of Jesus, and the one who couldn’t walk who couldn’t stop dancing. Then there was Lazarus and the widow of Nain and her son. Lazarus and this young man shared an unusual bond, they had both been dead but now they were singing and shouting and following Jesus down the road. I wonder if Mary Magdalene, the former prostitute, was holding on to Jesus’ mother Mary. One who had followed Jesus from her youth and one who was redeemed from a dark life of sin. They both followed Jesus and both had a common testimony, His love had changed their lives forever.

I think the thing that probably stood out the most that day was the singing of the children, they were laughing and singing with all their hearts. They too were part of this Jesus Community and they too were precious in His sight.

GOD IS IN HIS CITY

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Psa. 46:5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
I don’t know if it is just me but I hear the word community an awful lot recently. I hear it applied to our nation, our city, a neighborhood, I even heard it in defense of Christians joining in on the revelry of Mardi Gras. For me, community has a special connotation. It started for Parris and I when we became part of the Christian Community called God’s Army back in the seventies. We learned a lot and went through some really tough times in those days but there was something unique and special about that community. What made it different? Today’s verse tells us, God was in the midst of us. He made our society very special, actually it was supernatural. That is why I love the local church, this is where we experience true community and of course this is where we find God in the midst of us. Here is how Matthew Henry describes today’s word.

“God has assured his church of his special presence with her and concern for her; his honor is embarked in her, he has set up his tabernacle in her and has undertaken the protection of it, and therefore she shall not be moved. The church shall survive the world, and be in bliss when that is in ruins. It is built upon a rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Not disturbed, not much moved, with fears of the issue. If God be for us, if God be with us, we need not be moved at the most violent attempts made against us. Deliverance to the church, though her dangers be very great: God shall help her; and who then can hurt her? He shall help her under her troubles, that she shall not sink; nay, that the more she is afflicted the more she shall multiply.”
Without His presence community is just a club or an organization with temporary written all over it. The family community breaks up, businesses split, friendship wander apart, all human communities are just that, natural and human. We need the Lord in our lives individually, we also need Him in all our relationships. He is the bond that makes it survive, He is the engine that drives it, and He is the joy and love that sustains it. Yes, God is in the midst of His community and He helps and sustains her.

BETHESDA COMMUNITY


Merrry Monday with Parris Bailey
WHY BETHESDA COMMUNITY
In the Gospel of John vs 5:25 says; “ It’s urgent that you get this right: The time has arrived—I mean right now!—when dead men and women will hear the voice of the Son of God and, hearing, WILL COME ALIVE. Just as the Father has life in himself, he has conferred on the Son life in himself.”
Last week while cooking supper I heard on the US NEWS that Opioid use has killed more than 33,000 people in 2015 alone. Overdose deaths nearly equal the number of car fatalities. Also the first time in our history heroin overdoses alone surpassed gun homicides. It is reaching epidemic proportions. Right outside our doors the interstates are filled with trafficking this lethal drug. We need to realize that this isn’t happening in some dark alleyway in shantytowns. Addiction has gone mainstream hitting every small town, big cities including the social elite. We can try to blame the person but in reality this world can’t handle their hurts. The prison systems are failing, and prescribing more meds simply isn’t working.

There is another way! Now after ten years running a restoration center working with women, I still find myself searching for more ways to bring hope and recovery to anyone that darkens the door. The intake requests never stop and the back door to use again never closes. Once a drug user myself, I learned from personal experience to never “leave the community” or in my case the kingdom of God. We can never underestimate the power of redemption. Jesus still saves, baptizes and delivers. Jesus is still walking the halls of institutions and the alleyways.
The good news is the message of God gives life where the dead are. Matthew Henry says, “He is to his creatures the fountain of life, and all good; author of their being and well-being; the living God, and the God of all living. It is by the voice of the Son of God that souls are raised to spiritual life; it is wrought by his power, and that power is conveyed and communicated by his word: The dead shall hear, shall be made to hear, to understand, receive, and believe.”
The Bethesda Community exists to show forth redemption to a fallen world. The Bethesda Community will use the model Jesus used with his disciples. They lived, prayed and ate together for three years. These twelve men changed the world after the resurrection, preaching teaching and baptizing in the name of Jesus. In Acts 2:46, you hear community again when we read, “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart”.
This coming June we are launching of our new Discipleship Training School. it will consist of a one year program for ages 18-25 who will enroll for a small fee and have hands on training, learning missions, inner city evangelism, and attend our Bethesda School of Ministry. They can also elect to further their college education while living here. The Campus will provide a Christian atmosphere or safe zone, so to speak, to study, be discipled, and live a deeper life.

It is our goal to raise $80,000 to equip each 8 two-bedroom apartment with furniture, finish out the apartments with needed appliances, plumbing and electrical work. Please pray for us as we impact the next generation.

THE ECCLESIA

1Cor. 1:2 ¶ To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours

The New Testament word for church is ECCLESIA. It is full of shades of meaning describing the life we have been called to enjoy. This word for church describes a little bit of who we are, the called out ones. We have been called out of one culture into another, we are set apart by God to display His glory. There are several vivid pictures of the church in the scriptures that describe different aspects of who we are. First we are called the body of Christ. Paul describes how each one of us are one part of the unique body of Christ. None of us are self sufficient, we need each other. Just as the hand needs the arm and the foot needs the leg, every member of the body of Christ is vital for us to be useful in the work of God.

Secondly, we are called the bride of Christ. This communicates several beautiful truths. Just as the marriage relationship represents the most intimate of human relationships, being called the bride of Christ speaks of our intimate relationship with the Lord. We are one flesh with Him just as a bride and a groom, bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh. This relationship also implies righteousness displayed by the wedding garment. We must be clothed with the righteousness of God that comes by grace through faith, there is no other way for us to enter into this life of intimacy with the Lord.

The third picture of the church is the temple of God. Peter says it like this, “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”. Each one of us are living stones in the temple of God. Why do we exist? We exist to be a habitation of the glory of God. The world needs to experience this supernatural life. We are in the world but not of it. We are here to present another alternative community to this world so others can also join the ECCLESIA, the called out ones.