AM I FREE FROM THE LAW?

Rom.7:5,6 – When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death. But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.

Christians have bickered over this question since the days of the early church, “am I still under the law?” The answer is a definite and firm no and yes. This is actually the conflict that we as Christians always feel in our lives. We know our sins have been done away with and we know that the law was a school master that pointed us to Christ revealing our sinfulness and our need for a Savior. At the same time our natural sinful tendencies want to draw some conclusions. The reasoning goes something like this,”If we are not under the law then we can live as we please”. From that point there is no restraint and people tend to concoct their own set of rules that we should live by. The point being missed is this, Paul said in vs,4 that we are dead to the law and now we are married to Christ. If that is true then I have a new person I am loyal to Who actually lives in side me. The point Paul is making is this, if Christ is in us we are no longer living under the constraints of our own will power. Christ is in us living this new life in us by the power of His resurrection.

How does that pan out in my day to day life? We really have several ways we can go. First, we can just live a compromising life similar to the rest of our society saying that we are no longer in bondage to the law. The second way is adhere to some religious version of the law and try our best to live up to it (good luck with that). The third option is the one I think we should go with. If Christ is in us draw, near to Him, yield to Him, allow Him to begin to live His life in us and through us. What will the outcome be? We will live a life free from sin by the power of the Spirit, Christ will be glorified, and our lives will be filled with the peace of God.

HIS CHURCH

Matt.16:18 – I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.

Have you ever heard someone say that they were spiritual but do not believe in the organized church? It’s really quite a funny statement. What is the church if it’s not organized? What is the church anyway? It is made up of goofed up people who have been joined together supernaturally by the work of Jesus. He came to this earth to create a people who were not a people. He has chosen us from male and female, every ethnic persuasion, and every social strata in the earth. He has gathered us together with one thing in common, the testimony of Jesus. Why has He gathered us? He wanted a dwelling place on the earth. Here is how J.C. Ryle describes the church.

“This is the Church to which the scriptural titles of present honor and privilege, and the promises of future glory especially belong; this is the Body of Christ; this is the flock of Christ; this is the household of faith and the family of God; this is God’s building, God’s foundation, and the temple of the Holy Ghost. This is the Church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven; this is the royal priesthood, the chosen generation, the peculiar people, the purchased possession, the habitation of God, the light of the world, the salt and the wheat of the earth; this is the “holy Catholic Church” of the Apostles’ Creed; this is the “One Catholic and Apostolic Church” of the Nicene Creed; this is that Church to which the Lord Jesus promises “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” and to which He says, “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world”.

I love the church; in it I have found boundaries and freedom, I lost my identity and gained a new one, I’ve surrendered my dreams and embraced His. The church brings community, friendship, accountability, and protection. Being part of the church I have joined His army, become part of His flock, a stone in His temple, and part of His bride. Yep, I believe in His church; empires come and go, kings rise and fall, the wealthy experience temporary riches. The church keeps on no matter what. What is the secret of His church? It is supernatural and kept by the Lord, the Chief Shepherd of His flock.

Pranked by the Lord

So then death worketh in us, but life in you. 2 Corinthians 4:12

I thought I was being pranked. We were hours from any main road on dirt logging roads somewhere in the Coastal Mountains of Washington. The guy who had trained our team took me out on the mountain slope and taught me how to use a hoe-dad (I had never heard of one either). It was a tree planting tool used to cut away the ferns and slash to get to the dirt. It was cold and wet and I couldn’t imagine this guy was serious; unfortunately he was. I was going to spend the next seven months planting trees, unthinkable.

Where am I going with this? We are headed to the cross, learning how to make sacrifices in uncomfortable circumstances for the sake of the gospel. Did you get that last part? The money I was making was going to support our ministry teams going to Central America. I was learning how to die but I was really learning a better way to live. Here is how Watchman Nee describes it.
‘How precious is the cross of Christ! It lies within the scope of every single member to raise the tide of life in the whole Body, provided only he will let the cross deal drastically with the life of nature in him. You ask me how you can be used to minister life to others. Not by setting out to do a lot of things, nor yet by going into retirement and doing nothing at all, but simply by letting the power of His death and resurrection operate in the course of your walk with God. Those who serve only by words or works find their ministry brought to a standstill if at any time circumstances reduce them to inactivity or silence. To be used they must be doing or speaking. But this should not and need not be so. Only let “the dying of Jesus” work in you, and life will surely manifest itself in others. It must be so, for it is an abiding principle of the Body that “death worketh in us but life in you.”
This was Paul’s toughest lesson but it is the reason we still talk about him 2000 years later. The power of the Spirit was released in Paul’s life as the cross had its effect. I was not being pranked after all (at least not by by trainer), maybe I was being pranked by the Lord.

PROTESTANT AFTER ALL

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Merry Thursday – Parris Bailey
“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” Jude 1:3

I have for a few years been mesmerized by the Reformation. It shook Europe so much that it brought the Puritans to America. In their precious cargo you would have found the Geneva Bible written in 1539. Inside you would have been found what they called the 5 solas or 5 foundations of their beliefs. These Latin phrases became their rallying cry. It was their stand against the Catholic church and kings over all of Europe. Thousands were martyred defending these 5 solas.

They were:

1. Sola Scriptura: The Scripture Alone is the Standard

2.Soli Deo Gloria! For the Glory of God Alone

3.Solo Christo! By Christ’s Work Alone are We Saved

4.Sola Gratia: Salvation by Grace Alone

5.Sola Fide: Justification by Faith Alone

As it was back then so it is now, I believe these truths are being demolished by contemporary Christianity. I think that present day Protestants are clueless to these doctrines of our faith. Even my Pentecostal/Charismatic friends have no understanding of such words as Propitiation, Justification by faith alone, redemption, etc because they have become too “Spirit-filled” to take the time to study basic Bible doctrine and end up seeking manifestations over the word of God. OOUCH! To say I’m a Christian is simply not enough, I am a Protestant (and Pentecostal). The Reformers believed if they got the word of God in a believer’s hand in their own language the word would set them free. May Martin Luther nail the 95 thesis upon our hearts! When I became “born again” at 16, I got angry because I grew up in the Episcopal Church never hearing how I could receive eternal life. How many of our Catholic brethren began to pour out of churches during the Charismatic wave of the 70’s and filled Protestant and Pentecostal churches because the “truth had set them free”. Yes, they too felt slighted. We should all thank our Protestant martyrs and let’s attempt to read what Martin Luther, John Owen, John Knox, Jonathan Edwards had to say to name a few. These doctrines should be our bread and butter along with the mighty baptism in the Holy Spirit. Yes I am a Protestant and am proud of my heritage and my Bible given to me from my Protestant brethren!

The doctrines of man centered theology is all around us. The moment man gets in the picture, he will always make it centered around him. We bend the scripture to “make us feel comfortable” when all along Paul hammers away in his epistles “not I but Christ”. This life isn’t about getting “your best now”, “purpose driven” or “free grace”. He kisses us and we spend the rest of our lives pursing Christ alone. I have laid aside the study of Church Growth tactics, how to be a millionaire, or even learning how to become a better lover, mother, wife and pastor. These are secondary next to the five solas. I am a Protestant after all.

CHRIST IS A RIVER

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Psa. 63:1 ¶ O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;

my flesh faints for you,

as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Living near the Mississippi River gives us a constant picture of the River of God. The Apostle John saw a river flowing out from the Father and the Son, this River is eternal, in other words it just never stops. Several years ago there was an outpouring of the Spirit and the River became a term that was used for the moving of the Spirit. I will never forget when a local pastor announced that the River was over. How can this River, the one flowing out from God ever end? The answer of course is that it can’t. The River is endless and is the very source of life, we live in and off of this River. Here is how Jonathan Edwards describes this God phenomenon.
“It is said that Christ is a river of water, because there is such a fulness in him, so plentiful a provision for the satisfaction of the needy and longing soul. When one is extremely thirsty, though it is not a small draught of water will satisfy him, yet when he comes to a river, he finds a fulness, there he may drink full draughts. Christ is like a river, in that he has a sufficiency not only for one thirsty soul, but by supplying him the fountain is not lessened; there is not the less afforded to those who come afterwards. A thirsty man does not sensibly lessen a river by quenching his thirst. Christ is like a river in another respect. A river is continually flowing, there are fresh supplies of water coming from the fountain-head continually, so that a man may live by it, and be supplied with water all his life. So Christ is an ever-flowing fountain; he is continually supplying his people, and the fountain is not spent. They who live upon Christ, may have fresh supplies from him to all eternity; they may have an increase of blessedness that is new, and new still, and which never will come to an end.”
If Jonathan Edwards is right, Christ is a River. He is enough for all of us. He is enough on the good days and He is enough on the worst of days. He never changes and He quenches the longing of our souls.

”The Cruciform Life”  Living a cross shape life–

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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 Alolian 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, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 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 Echauristio Week!

Candles were made to burn

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MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS

“I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” John 9:4
Tomorrow we close on the buying of the new Bethesda Community that will house disciples. At the same time we hear across the world that Syrian children and others were burned by chemical warfare, an Egyptian church was bombed with people worshipping inside and a famine is brewing in Africa. You can either run and hide, close the curtains or be disciples. Christ came with a mandate and in turn he gave us the same. Do you join with him in working the works of God? Candles were made to burn and built for light.

The night comes my friends and the great ticking clock never stops.

McClarans says “He that can say, as Jesus Christ did say: ‘My meat’-the refreshment of my nature, the necessary sustenance of my being-’is to do the will of my Father’; that man, and that man alone, feels no pressure. When ‘I will’ and ‘I choose’ coincide, like two of Euclid’s triangles atop of one another, line for line and angle for angle, then comes liberty into the life. He that can say, ‘Thy law is within my heart,’ that is the Christlike, the free, the happy man.” There is nothing like being free yet having purpose. If we don’t watch out we lose our perspective on why we are in existence. We need to make a business of it. Matthew Henry says, “Shall we be willing to be loose, when Christ was willing to be bound? Christ, having laid himself under obligations to do his work, laid out himself with the utmost vigor and industry in his work. He worked the works he had to do; did ergazesthai ta erga—made a business of that which was his business. It is not enough to look at our work, and talk over it, but we must work it. Work while we have opportunity – The time of our life is our day, in which it concerns us to do the work of the day. Day-time is the proper season for work (Ps. 104:22, 23); during the day of life we must be busy, not waste day-time, nor play by day-light; it will be time enough to rest when our day is done, for it is but a day.”
In this Passion Week Let your light shine. What were candles made for but to burn?

CHOOSE YOUR PORTION

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Psa. 73:26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Making choices is something we all do every day. We don’t give our ability to choose, our free will, very much thought. At the end of the day our heart usually overrides our head, we ultimately follow our pleasure rather than our intellect. This free will thing is closely related to our basic need to be born again. Whether we like to admit it or not, our free will is why we need to be born again. Somehow, connected to the fall of mankind, is our freewill that has been hopelessly bound by our fallen sinful nature. Until we are born again our promises to do better or turn over a new leaf fall miserably short. It is the very nature of the new birth that liberates us to choose rightly and to enjoy it. That is where the power of conversion is, a change of the very nature of our being, we love different things than we used to. Here are some thoughts from Augustine on today’s verse.
“What is it, brethren? Let us find out our riches, let mankind choose their parts. Let us see men torn with diversity of desires: let some choose war-service, some advocacy, some divers and sundry offices of teaching, some merchandise, some farming, let them take their portions in human affairs: let the people of God cry, “my portion is my God.” Not for a time “my portion;” but “my portion is my God for everlasting.” Even if I alway have gold, what have I? Even if I did not alway have God, how great a good should I have? To this is added, that He promises Himself to me, and He promises that I shall have this for everlasting. So great a thing I have, and never have it not. Great felicity: “my portion is God!” How long? “For everlasting.” For behold and see after what sort He hath loved him; He hath made his heart chaste: “God of my heart, and my portion is God for everlasting.”

People all around us can make poor choices. They may choose an illicit adventure of sexual exploits, or a night of drinking away their sorrows, or even compromise in their business dealings; these are common traps than most people fall into. It is not so with those who have experienced redemption and this new life in Christ. They still have the ability to make choices, they just desire different things.

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.