THE REVIVAL THAT CHANGED THE WORLD

Acts 11:21 – And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.

None of us have any idea of the lasting impact of the ministry that we perform by the power of the Holy Spirit. This church in Antioch was never meant to be the church that changed the world; but it was. What started as a result of exiled Christians from Jerusalem that landed in Antioch ended up changing the world as we know it. First, this was the first gentile Christian church. Think about the power of that statement with the millions of gentile Christians in heaven and on earth today. Secondly, the Apostle to the gentiles, none other than the Apostle Paul himself, was launched into ministry from this church. Paul and Barnabus preached here in Antioch for one year. This is where Paul’s vision for the church was birthed, this is where church as we know it today got its start. Here is how Maclaren describes this phenomenon.

“How little any of us know what will become of our poor work, under His fostering care! How little these men knew that they were laying the foundations of the great change which was to transform the Christian community from a Jewish sect into a world-embracing Church! So is it ever. We know not what we do when simply and humbly we speak His name. The far-reaching results escape our eyes. Then, sow the seed, and He will ‘give it a body as it pleases Him.’ On earth we may never know the fruits of our labors. They will be among the surprises of heaven, where many a solitary worker shall exclaim with wonder, as he looks on the hitherto unknown children whom God hath given him, ‘Behold, I was left alone; these, where had they been?’ Then, though our names may have perished from earthly memories, like those of the simple fugitives of Cyprus and Cyrene, who ‘were the first that ever burst’ into the night of heathendom with the torch of the Gospel in their hands, they will be written in the Lamb’s book of life, and He will confess them in the presence of His Father in heaven.”

So maybe your unnoticed work is not unnoticed at all. Who knows the world changer that may have read that tract that you passed out, or maybe the pastor that came to the Lord as a result of your witness. Who knows who that person was that you shared with after they answered the altar call. Antioch was not that significant until the Lord put His hand on some folks, your insignificant work may not be that insignificant at all, in the hand of the Lord insignificance becomes supernatural.

SMACK YOUR LIPS

Eph.1:14 – Amp. – That [Spirit] is the guarantee of our inheritance [the firstfruits, the pledge and foretaste, the down payment on our heritage], in anticipation of its full redemption and our acquiring [complete] possession of it—to the praise of His glory.

Nothing like some good home cooking. Last week there was an impromptu Mary’s Song Banquet for ladies involved with Rodan and Fields. There was several thousand women from Rodan and Fields in New Orleans for a convention. Because of a friend of a friend being in leadership with that company, a request was made for a banquet with the Mary’s Song girls to “give back” in light of all the Lord has given us. It was an awesome night of testimonies and giving but that is not why I brought this all up. The meal was cooked by the Mary’s Song girls under the direction of Tyren George.The ladies at my table were raving over the “home cooking”. They also said it was the best meal they had eaten all week; pretty good with the amazing restaurants they all went to in the French Quarter. I guess you just can’t beat home cooked meals.

Now this brings me to the whole point of all of this, today’s verse says that the Holy Spirit is the foretaste of all the Lord has prepared for us. That first taste, or sampling of the food before a meal, tastes awfully good. It actually increases our anticipation for the coming feast. In Psalm 63 David was enjoying feasting on the Lord. He was enjoying the feast of God’s presence, enjoying what he was receiving, but smacking his lips in anticipation of more. Here is how it reads in the Message Bible.

Psa.63:3-5 The Message

In your generous love I am really living at last!

My lips brim praises like fountains. I bless you every time I take a breath;

My arms wave like banners of praise to you.

I eat my fill of prime rib and gravy;

I smack my lips. It’s time to shout praises!

The good meal at our banquet for our out of town guests last week was really only the foretaste. The real meal was when Parris, Ali Spitsbergen (the lady with Rodan and Fields), and the girls from Mary’s Song began to share what the Lord had done in their lives. The testimony of Jesus was our taste of the coming heavenly banquet. So I think I’m going to join David and smack my lips, if this first taste is this good it’s hard to imagine what the whole meal will be like.

STRANGE WORKS OF GOD

Lk. 9:29-31 – And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming. And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.

Obviously, we don’t have everything figured out yet. Just when we think we have it all sorted, the Lord throws us a huge curve ball. Who could have seen this coming. Casting out devils, healing the sick, even raising the dead; we kind of get that. Transfiguration? What is that anyway? Jesus and three of His disciples were praying when suddenly Jesus’s whole body began to shine with glory like Moses’ face when he came down from the mountain. Not only that, Moses and Elijah were there with Jesus out of nowhere talking about the Lord’s coming death. The disciples were still stuck on sorting out this life, they had no idea about kingdom glory.

What is the message in this passage for us today? It seems like church services today have become shorter and shorter and the emphasis on the kingdom of heaven has gotten less and less. We hear about finances and goals and family and success but not so much about glory and rarely a word about kingdom come. Jesus being transfigured sort of changed the conversation that day. What is transfigured anyway? Transfigured comes from the word metamorphosis. It is describing a total change from one being into another. It’s kind of like a butterfly coming from a caterpillar, it just doesn’t get much stranger than that. The Lord wants to bring a transformation into our lives. Paul used this word and idea in 2 Cor.3:18, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit”. In this passage Paul actually says that there is a metamorphosis in our lives as we are transformed by the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

So there it is, it is that anointing thing again. Maybe the anointing seems strange and insignificant to some but there is no way for us to be transformed or transfigured without this strange work of God. Maybe its time for us to be still in our services and allow this strange, transforming work of the Spirit to come into our services. This is the only place our disintegrating culture can be restored.

HARLOTS AND WORSHIPERS

John 4:23 – But the hour is coming, and is here already, when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for indeed the Father is seeking just such people to be his worshipers.

One of the tragedies of the fall of man is our twisted vision of life, especially the enjoyment part of life. We all tend to seek for joy and ultimate satisfaction in places that can never complete us. The world sells a bill of goods that many of us have bought. We are told that we can find our ultimate happiness if we just get the right partner in life. That’s the story of the woman at the well in Samaria. She bought the lie five times and was now working on number six. The hard lesson was that no man can ever fulfill you. That’s when Jesus showed up seemingly changing the subject. He wasn’t changing the subject at all, ultimate satisfaction belongs to worshippers. Here is how John Piper explains it.

“The first thing we learn is that worship has to do with real life. It is not a mythical interlude in a week of reality. Worship has to do with adultery and hunger and racial conflict. Jesus is bone weary from the journey. He is hot and thirsty. He decides: “Yes, even now, just now, I will seek someone to worship the Father—a Samaritan adulteress. I will show My disciples how My Father seeks worship in the midst of real life from the least likely. She is a Samaritan. She is a woman. She is a harlot. Yes, I will even show them a thing or two about how to make true worshipers out of the white harvest of harlots in Samaria.”

Rather than judging this woman Jesus gave her love and understanding. What was He saying to her? She was just drinking from the wrong well. Like everyone else she saw religion as an irrelevant separate part of her life. Like most people, she had her religious beliefs but they had nothing to do with joy or the rest of her life. Sometimes we have to be stopped in our tracks by the uncomfortable truth, we have wasted our lives in unfruitful pursuits. Jesus came to lead the woman at the well to that well of living water. It was that living water that changed her from a harlot to a worshipper.

TEST THE SPIRITS

1John 4:1 – Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Most people judge a church service by the way things appear on the outside. They like a certain type of music, a certain length of service, and of course the right emphasis (according to them) in the preaching. Some people will judge a service based on people crying out, clapping, dancing, or jumping in a service. Our church has been criticized because many people fall under the power or make noises in the services. The problem with all these observations is just that; they are just observations. Outward manifestations are no indication of what is actually happening in someone’s heart. Jonathan Edwards dealt with these issues during the Great Awakening. He actually wrote a book that would help in understanding some of the outward things going on. One of his points was that we should judge not by what we see on the outside but if the individual in question is actually changing and coming out from worldly influence. Here is how Edwards said it.

“And therefore if we see persons made sensible of the dreadful nature of sin, and of the displeasure of God against it, and of their own miserable condition as they are in themselves, by reason of sin, and earnestly concerned for their eternal salvation, and sensible of their need of God’s pity and help, and engaged to seek it in the use of the means that God has appointed, we may certainly conclude that it is from the Spirit of God, whatever effects this concern has on their bodies; though it causes them to cry out aloud, or to shriek, or to faint, or though it throws them into convulsions, or whatever other way the blood and spirits are moved.

The influence of the Spirit of God is yet more abundantly manifest, if persons have their hearts drawn off from the world, and weaned from the objects of their worldly lusts, and taken off from worldly pursuits, by the sense they have of the excellency of divine things, and the affection they have to those spiritual enjoyments of another world, that are promised in the Gospel.”

At the end of the day its not noises or lack of noises that determine whether a service is spiritual. What we should look at are the results. Are the individuals involved becoming more Christlike? Are they reading their Bibles and are they excited about spiritual things? Be careful what you judge, you may be judging the very work of God.

AND SUCH WERE SOME OF YOU

1 Cor.6:9-11 – Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

One of the sure signs of a real move of God is changed lives. That was the argument Jonathan Edwards made in his writing, ‘The Distinguish Marks’ in his defense of the Great Awakening. He described numerous individuals that he knew personally that had a dramatic change in their lives after they were influenced by the move of God. At the end of the day that is how we know if something that looks like revival is legitimate. Are people being liberated from past habits? Is there a new interest in the Bible and going to worship services? Are those influenced by the move focused on Christ? These characteristics are a sure sign that you are dealing with something quite different from emotionalism. Here is how William Cooper described the atmosphere of the awakening in its earliest days in his introduction to Edwards work, ‘The Distinguishing Marks’.

“Some of the most rude and disorderly are become regular in their behavior, and sober in all things. The gay and airy are become grave and serious. Some of the greatest sinners have appeared to be turned into real saints. Drunkards have become temperate: fornicators and adulterers of a chaste conversation; swearers and profane persons have learned to fear that glorious and fearful name, the Lord their God; and carnal worldlings have been made to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Yea, deriders and scoffers at this work and the instruments of it, have come under its conquering power. Some of this stamp, who have gone to hear the preacher, as some did Paul—”What will this babbler say?”—have not been able to resist the power and the spirit with which he spake; have sat trembling under the Word, and gone away from it weeping; and afterward did cleave unto the preacher…”

I love this description of revival, how can you argue with this? Drunkards are temperate, adulterers are modest and chaste, and mockers have been conquered by God. My favorite, swearers have learned to fear the glorious Name. Sounds like the real thing to me.

CAN WE ACTUALLY CHANGE ?

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my

decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

Ezek 36:25–27

There are some many dangerous teachings more accessible than ever to Christians in today’s social media dominated world. I often say that social media is the judgement of God on all of us. What do I mean by that? That whatever is in our hearts and heads just comes spilling out on Facebook or whatever. Everyone has a pulpit in social media and few have any accountability. Today’s verse points us to the new power found in the Christian faith established by the Lord through the blood of His Son. The New Covenant cleanses all of the filthy stains from our lives but it doesn’t stop there. The New Covenant also gives us a new heart where our actual behavior is changed. This new heart is connected to the indwelling presence of Christ in us, Christ in us is a total game changer. Here is how Andrew Murray describes this blessing.

“In contrast to the Old Covenant, the God-given power that enables the people to stay within His law is the distinctive feature of the New Covenant. But why does the truth of the New Covenant so seldom become a reality in the life of a believer? The answer is quite simple: It is not preached or believed, and the fulfillment of it is not felt in the believer’s life. Paul is an example of the fulfilling of the New Covenant in a believer’s life. The same anxious person who cries out that the power of sin holds him captive, shortly thereafter thanks God that he has, in Jesus Christ, through the Spirit that gives him life, been set free….God links His promises to our faith—however difficult the truth may be for the human mind to fathom. His promises become operative when we believe.”

We must preach this powerful message. Jesus started it with “repent, the kingdom of God is upon you”. Peter continued it by preaching “repent and receive the Holy Spirit”. It is the Spirit that gives us the ability to actually change. This is the power of the New Covenant, the power to live different kinds of lives.

FED UP

Psa. 120:6,7 The Message – My whole life lived camping among quarreling neighbors. I’m all for peace, but the minute I tell them so, they go to war!

Have you had enough? Are you tired of the promises of the world that always turn up empty? You know what I mean; the empty promises of a political candidate that turn into the same old same old after election. Then there are the expectations of the right guy or girl for happily ever after that somehow seems to crash and burn into unrealized expectations. Or how about the joy promised by partying, or the safety and security of financial gain? You get the idea, the expectations of the world never seem to pan out. If you are finally fed up with the blah, blah, blah of unfulfilled hopes then you are a candidate for a different kind of life. Maybe you are finally ready for the One Who is called faithful and true whose words are steadfast and sure. What does it take? It takes a willingness to walk away from the false promises of this world into the journey that multitudes of pilgrims have walked before. The future is shrouded but is shining bright in the hand of the Lord. Here are some comments from Eugene Peterson, translator of the Message, on this verse.
“A person has to be thoroughly disgusted with the way things are to find the motivation to set out on the Christian way. As long as we think the next election might eliminate crime and establish justice or another scientific breakthrough might save the environment or another pay raise might push us over the edge of anxiety into a life of tranquillity, we are not likely to risk the arduous uncertainties of the life of faith. A person has to get fed up with the ways of the world before he, before she, acquires an appetite for the world of grace.”
So what is it? Are you fed up or will you try another shot at chasing shadows? Are you still waiting around for Eugene O’Neill’s iceman or looking for Don Quixote’s windmills? Or maybe you, like Abraham, are looking for that unseen city whose builder and maker is God. If you are ready there is no time like the present, throw all those pipe dreams in the trash and turn your eyes to the One Who chases away all shadows. Before you know it you too will be on the road to the Celestial City.

RESTORE, RESTORE , RESTORE

 

 

Merry Monday by Parris Bailey

 

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.”

 

Spurgeon said, “God is glorious in the history of his church. God is glorious in the history of every believer. The life of a true believer is a glorious life. He will have men know that he is God, and beside him there is none else.”

This morning while in worship I felt like I was looking through a huge telescope of God, or through His lens instead of mine. I saw the future of Victory and my family. We all know that God is a God of restoration, after all the gospel is good news is it not? He gives us a future and a hope. At times I know we can all get self absorbed in the here and now and begin to lose sight of the promises of God. In 2005 when Katrina blew into our city, Frank and I said it would take  ten years to build it again. I realized that God has been using all of us that live in New Orleans to restore the ancient wells. What’s crazy it’s now been ten and I was challenged this morning to evaluate if I had grown spiritually since then. How wonderful it to see through the telescope and observe God and all He has done through restoration in our church and our lives. He desires breakthrough, expansion and perseverance for the kingdom of God. In the Spirit I felt like I saw the church debt paid off, my family members restored and on our back property I saw Restoration village! A small city so to speak filled with the stories of what God has done. He surely can restore what the cankerworm has eaten in our lives. The above verses is all about Restoration of the Messiah kingdom. When CHRIST comes into our lives our DNA changes. We are no longer wolf like but live like lambs with each other and little children. Jesus said “you will know they are Christians by their love”. God can restore broken relationships and broken hearts but we have to step up and let Him take the broken things from us. Do you measure your life from what has been taken or have you’ve been able to put it into the hands of our Heavenly Father and let him make all things new.

 

CHEAP GRACE

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.