SPIRITUAL BOND

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

(Acts 2:42-45 NKJV)

When we first started our church in 1979 I found myself stuck on this passage for today’s devotion. I was mesmerized by the supernatural community that formed after that initial outpouring on the day of Pentecost. It amazed me that people from all the different countries mentioned in this chapter as being effected by the Pentecostal outpouring were able to become such a close knit spiritual family so quickly. It wasn’t their nation they were from or their age or even their gender, even their Jewishness did not come into play. The bond of love that they shared is seen in this passage. If I had to boil it down to one word I would say it was the word fellowship. In the greek New Testament it says koinenea. Koinenea is at the heart of the true union found in a truly spiritual congregation. This union is not based on being poor or rich, young or old, or even black or white. Let’s look at this word koinenea and discover their secret. This is how Dick Mills describes this word.

“fellowship, koinōnia: Sharing, unity, close association, partnership, participation, a society, a communion, a fellowship, contributory help, the brotherhood. Koinōnia is a unity brought about by the Holy Spirit. In koinonia the individual shares in common an intimate bond of fellowship with the rest of the Christian society. Koinōnia cements the believers to the Lord Jesus and to each other.”

This union that is at the very heart of the New Testament community is the work of the Holy Spirit. Our love for the Lord birthed in us by our conversion is what we share in common. The fruit of this is called fellowship. We love the same things now; things like the Bible, worship, sharing our faith, and the preaching of the Word of God. Our former relationships were shaped around natural or cultural things. Our fellowship was controlled by the things we loved then; things like certain types of music and alcoholic beverages. Often times our relationships came out of interests such as fishing, motorcycles, cars, or and endless list of other interests. Today all of that has changed. We have been born again, we have been captured by the love of God. Our love for Him is what produces this incredible koinenea in our community.

CHURCH

Eph.3:21- to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

Recently I ministered in the Philippines at Cathedral of Praise and attended a conference in Seoul, Korea. I have been struck again by the diversity and supernatural nature of His Church. In the Philippines I was blessed by the passion and pageantry of the worship at Cathedral of Praise. Dancers, musicians, singers, and congregation caught up in the supernatural flow of the Holy Spirit Who is the very breath of His congregation. In Korea, I was again amazed at the militant fervency of the Korean Church when they pray in their corporate worship. They have to be stopped by the ringing of a bell. The conference was made up of His Church from Africa, USA, India, Malaysia, Australia, and too many places to mention. The diversity is striking but even more striking is the common thread that makes us all one church; the testimony of Jesus. This is our bond of unity and makes the diversity even more beautiful. Here is J.C. Ryle describing the diversity and unity of the Body of Christ.

“It is a Church of which all the members have the same marks. They are all born again of the Spirit; they all possess “repentance towards God, faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ,” and holiness of life and conversation. They all hate sin, and they all love Christ. They worship differently, and after various fashions; some worship with a form of prayer, and some with none; some worship kneeling, and some standing; but they all worship with one heart. They are all led by one Spirit; they all build upon one foundation; they all draw their religion from one single book — that is the Bible. They are all joined to one great centre — that is Jesus Christ. They all even now can say with one heart, “Hallelujah;” and they can all respond with one heart and voice, Amen and Amen.”

As I write this blog I find myself thinking about our church in New Orleans and missing the uniqueness of the expression of Christ in our local church. I love the worship in the Philippines, and the prayers of the Korean Christians. I love the joy of the African church and fellowship with Christian friends from around the world. I still have to say that there is no place like home; I am sure looking forward to church next week!

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.

THE COMMUNITY OF JESUS #1

Mark 3:14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach.

One of the beautiful dynamics of our Christian faith is the community we have been called into. Jesus Himself began this dynamic community in the early days of His ministry. It all started when He called the twelve disciples to simply be with Him. What could be greater than that, separated from the world to be with Jesus. When the church began, after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the early church followed the lead of Jesus, they also began to live together in this beautiful community of Jesus. It is in this community that we find out what life is all about. Let me share with you some of the blessings that we find living in the community of Jesus.

1. It is the place of incredible influence.

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Just take a minute and think about the implications of this verse. This ragtag group of Jesus followers are going to impact the whole world in every generation. Divided we can’t really do that much, together all things become possible. We can impact our world together through the power that is released through our union.

2. The power of God is discovered and released through the community of Jesus.

Acts 2:1,2 ¶ And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.

The power of Pentecost is discovered and released through the unity of the local church. It is not a coincidence that the power flowed as they came together in prayer.

3. The community of Jesus is the place of healing and recovery

John 11:44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave-clothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.

I love this, it was in the community of believers that Lazarus was set free. Jesus raised him from the dead, His followers took off the grave clothes.

To be continued…..

LESSONS FROM COMMUNITY

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Psa. 78:2 I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
Sometimes the Lord speaks to His people in ways that are obvious to some but to others they hear or see nothing. Jesus actually said this is why He Himself spoke in parables.
Matt. 13:10,11,13 ¶ Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given….This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand”.
One of the ways the Lord has spoken to Victory Fellowship over the years is through the living parable we call ‘Feed the Multitudes’. Through this annual free food festival the Lord reminds us it is more blessed to give than to receive. It is in giving out of our own lack and need that we meet the great Provider, Jehovah Jireh. We have learned to partner as a community with the Lord to minister to the hurting; the results? God meets us again and gain with supernatural provision.

The Lord is speaking to our church again through another living parable called Mary’s Song. Over the last eight years we have seen numerous young women who had lost their way in life actually becoming mighty women of God. They come in distraught and discouraged and have found life and light in the community called Victory Fellowship. I am not quite sure who has received the greatest blessing, these girls or our congregation. They have found forgiveness and acceptance from the Lord and affirmation and guidance from His people. It is in helping them that our church has stepped into a new season of blessing. Now don’t get me wrong, not all of us are called to be directly involved in the Mary’s Song Community, but to those who have ears to hear we can hear the voice of the Lord and make the applications to our own lives.

First, all of us need forgiveness and acceptance from the Lord and God’s people. This is the place where our healing and recovery begins. We also each need accountability, the gentle voice of authority from someone who loves us and points us back in the right direction when we stray. Finally, we live in a world falling apart defined by many people losing their way in self medication and other destructive behavior. We need more than words and willpower to change. We need the power of God. It is in this Community of God that the power of God is seen, this is the place where shackles of oppression and sin are broken. This is the place of God’s commanded blessing.

SPOT THE DRIFT

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MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS

-“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” Heb.10:23

There is something special about going to the corporate assembly and experiencing corporate worship. But you should know by now I am biased. It’s been a neat journey since the age of 16 waking up every Sunday and going to church to experience worship with my brothers and sisters, hear a Holy Ghost message and meet with the living God. I did so many godless things before that didn’t do me any good. I found out going to church and gathering with church folks beat the devil and the old self right out of me. HALLELUJAH! Paul in Hebrews must have known that in our generation we would fight against the corporate assembly or the church. We would rather sit at home in our PJS having “our weekend” going to some sport event or a music festival.

But the “day is approaching”. Yes, my friend this is when we will stand before the Lord and give an account of the life we lived and he isn’t talking about “your doing good things” either. Paul even says to exhort one another when he says in Heb. 3:12 “Take heed brethren, lest their be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God” In other words we need to “spot the drift” in our brothers and sisters in the faith. He comes as a thief in the night. When all the world sleeps, that is when he will come. Just make sure you’re not among the sleepers.

“Christianity seems to be concentrating on what we can get by with rather than how much of Christ can we contain. There is no limit to that growth. It is like a spiral which goes up and up and up, and in every convolution ‘draws nearer to the centre, but never reaches it. Our hearts and spirits are wonderfully elastic. They can take in a great deal more of God than we think they can, or than they ever have taken in. We can receive just as much of that infinite Life into our finite spirits as we will. Let us each strive to get more and more of Jesus Christ in us, that we may know Him, and the ‘power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings,’ more fully, more deeply, and may keep it more constantly. Oh, brethren! If we are not ascending the ladder that reaches to heaven, which is Christ Himself, we are descending; and if we are not growing we are dwindling; and if we cannot say that we are being sanctified, we are being made more and more common and profane.” Mcclarens Expositions

COMMUNITY LIFE

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1John 1:3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

All of us are looking for something in life, that special something that completes us. No one is quite sure what it is they are searching for, yet the search continues. The Bible maintains that the missing ingredient is life itself, the life we find in the community of Jesus. After all, that’s what Jesus came to restore, the lost community of God. This cry for fellowship resounds through the prayers of Jesus in Gethsemane, “Father restore Me to the glory I enjoyed with you in eternity. Father, include those you have given Me into the community of life”. That’s exactly what the first followers of Jesus experienced. You can hear it in the words of John in today’s verse, he had seen and experienced things in Christ that brought him into life. The joy of John and the other disciples was for others to be brought into this community of life too. Here are some thoughts from Jonathan Edwards on this word communion.

“The word ‘communion’, as it is used in Scripture, signifies a common partaking of some good. Thus we read of the communion of the body of Christ and the communion of the blood of Christ, that is, the common partaking of his body and blood. Therefore, as in a feast they all have communion in the same fare with the host and with the other guests, so Christians have communion with Jesus: they partake of the same Spirit, of the same holiness and the same happiness; they are members of Christ’s body and partake of the same life with the head; they are branches in him and partake of the same sap and nourishment with the vine. Christ and believers are partakers of the same Spirit.”
So the funny thing is that the very thing that many people rail against, the organized church, is where we find this life. Jesus walks in the midst of His lamp-stand even in its deformed and dim version of today. This is where we encounter Christ, in His body. This is where we taste of His body and drink His blood. So maybe its time for you to take another look at your community and see if Jesus is anywhere to be found.

LIVING STONES

MERRY TUESDAY BY PARRIS BAILEY-

“To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious” 1 Pet 2:4

Staying connected to the body of Christ is huge to me. For me it started way back after I met the Lord on the lakefront of New Orleans, I suddenly found myself living with a community of Believers. For four years we were surrounded with a community 24/7 and yes at times I wanted to punch a wall. After four years we moved to New Orleans and continued to live with people helping us to start the church. When I Walk into Victory, I feel it’s a part of my DNA.

We are indeed living stones. Once dead but made alive by Christ.

Maclaren says, “that if we draw near to Jesus Christ, life from Him will pass into our hearts and minds, which life will show itself in kindred fashion to what it wore in Jesus Christ, and will shape us into the likeness of Him from whom we draw our life, because to Him we have come. You draw life from Jesus Christ if you keep close to Him, and that life makes you, in derived and subordinate fashion, but in a very real and profound sense, what Jesus Christ was in the world. As ‘living stones’ they, too, share in the life which flows from Him. Touch Him, and His quick Spirit passes into our hearts. Rest upon that foundation-stone and up from it, if I may so say, there is drawn, by strange capillary attraction, all the graces and powers of the Savior’s own life. The building which is reared upon the Foundation is cemented to the Foundation by the communication of the life itself, and, coming to the living Rock, we, too, become alive. Let us keep ourselves near to Him, for, disconnected, the wire cannot carry the current, and is only a bit of copper, with no virtue in it, no power. Attach it once more to the battery and the mysterious energy flashes through it immediately. ‘To Whom coming,’ because He lives, ‘ye shall live also.’”

I love being with the body of Christ in corporate fellowship! Such amazing things happen in that place of joy. Redemption does its work in us over and over again because Christ comes when we are in one accord. Staying at home alone and trying to survive on my own is not appealing to me and I know myself far to well that in time I would despair. When I’m with my brothers and sisters I sense heaven coming down and that’s when I feel I’ve come home at last.

THE SONG OF HEAVENLY FELLOWSHIP

MERRY MONDAY- BY PARRIS BAILEY

“All that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. 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, praising God, and having favour with all the people.” Acts 4:32

There is something special about living through seasons of revival. Yes, I said revival. No, I wasn’t born in the 1700’s during the Great Awakening, nor lived during Azusa, and I could go on about the Healing revivals and many others. I got saved during the Jesus Movement/Charismatic movement down at the lakefront of New Orleans and went onto California to a Bible School/Commune. Little did I realize when I received the Lord there were literally thousands of hippie folks just like me getting a hold of Jesus and changing the whole structure of church. God came down and took me by surprise. The city of New Orleans would be a epicenter of the Catholic Charismatic move for years. When we came back to New Orleans in 1979 our church and many others encountered explosive growth due to the Catholic’s wanting more.

I can still feel the move of God in my heart when I was at bible school, I can still see us worshipping together for hours in the open air. Singing songs and reading our Bibles fervently . We believed everything and lived on nothing. It was the song of heavenly fellowship. “Wherever there is inward vigor of life there will be outward growth; and the Church which is pure, earnest, living will be a Church which spreads and increases.” (Maclaren) God came down and met us in that simple little place called Kerman. That would be my first taste of revival and there have been others. The last revival which I believe still continues started in 1994 and has only gotten deeper. The scary thing is many are clueless that God is at work today in our generation. Sometimes we have an opinion about how revival will look or not look and we end up missing out.

“God has prepared for Himself one great song of praise throughout eternity, and those who enter the community of God join in this song. It is the song that the “morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy” at the creation of the world. (Job 38:7). It is the victory song of the children of Israel after passing through the Red Sea, the Magnificat of Mary after the annunciation, the song of Paul and Silas in the night of prison, the song of the singers on the sea of glass after their rescue, the “song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb” (Rev. 15:3) It is the song of the heavenly fellowship.”

― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

CHRIST AND COMMUNITY

MERRY MONDAY- BY PARRIS BAILEY

“And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father”.  Col. 3:14-17

It’s hard to believe that the first four years of our marriage and being Christians, Frank and I lived in community or in other words, we lived with other people. What an experience! And yes, many good and not so good memories. I believe our small group (care groups) at Victory stemmed from those experiences. Even Jesus lived in community throughout His ministry.

The Word of God repeatedly draws from community. The primary feeling is that Christ be the all in all in our lives with each other. One of the funnier moments we had in community was when a “brother” borrowed our car to return it with a dent, only to get a “praise the Lord” in return. Yes, we learned a lot in community. I can still remember the “sisters” gathering around me on my return from the hospital with our firstborn. I was just seventeen crying and holding my baby because I hadn’t the slightest idea of what to do with my precious son. Yes, for me community rang loud and clear that day.

Piper said, “Once we struggled to find our significance and our happiness and our security in what we were in relation to other people—we’re Jews, we’re Greeks, we’re circumcised, we’re free, we’re American, we’re rich, we’re smart, we’re strong, we’re pretty, we’re witty, we’re cool. But then we sloughed off that old self. We put on the new self. And the core essence of the new self is that CHRIST IS ALL. “It is no longer I who live but Christ lives” (Galatians 2:20)

No matter what the issue is. No matter what the activity is. No matter what the idea is. No matter what the subject in school is. No matter what the vocation is. No matter what the TV program is. It exists for Christ, or for nothing. It rests on Christ, or it rests on nothing. Because CHRIST IS ALL.”

Matthew Henry; when speaking of the book of Acts said, “They were concerned for one another, sympathized with one another, and heartily espoused one another’s interest. They met in the temple, there was their RENDEZVOUS; for joint fellowship with God is the best fellowship we can have with one another.”

Daily we all face stuff! The waves and pressures of this life can buckle anyone if they have nothing to draw/lean on.  Learn to draw on your community-your brothers and sisters in Christ.