LESSONS FROM A HARLOT

Jn. 4:13,14 – Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

Jesus loved to shock people into reality. This story in John 4 is an example of Jesus and His tendency toward shocking and borderline scandalous behavior. For us twenty first century readers we may not catch the radical nature of this story at first glance. Jesus is stepping on centuries of racial tension by going to Samaria, engaging a questionable woman in conversation, and actually asking her for a drink of water. This is unthinkable to Jesus’s disciples and unthinkable to the Samaritans living in this village. What was Jesus after? What He is always after, He was looking for worshippers. So What does He do? He decides to find a woman of the night to teach the world a lesson about worship. Here is a description from John Piper.

“Sometimes casual sleepers need to be shocked. If you want them to hear what you have to say, you might even need to scandalize them. Jesus is especially good at this. When He wants to teach us something about worship, He uses a whore!

“Go call your husband,” he says to the Samaritan woman.

“I don’t have a husband,” she answers.

“That’s right,” Jesus says. “But you’ve had five, and the man you sleep with now is not your husband.”

She is shocked. We’re shocked! But Jesus simply sits there on the edge of the well with His hands folded, looking at the woman with razors in His eyes, ready to teach us about worship.”

So what was the Lord’s point? Worship is closely associated with pleasure and satisfaction; this woman was in search of both and had found neither. So the Lord offers her what she was looking for in all of the wrong places. He told her that if she would come to Him and ask, He would give her living water that would satisfy her thirst for the rest of her life. He was offering her forgiveness for her past and a solution for her future. He is offering us the same thing today. What well are you drinking from? Is it sexual sin, or alcohol, or maybe even a career, or even something as wholesome as your family? It’s all the same and none of those wells can quench our thirst. Just leave your bucket by that worldly well and ask the Lord for a drink, like He promised, you will never thirst again.

MERCY

Lk. 15:20 – So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

One of the great parables of Jesus is the Prodigal Son, a great display of the Father’s love of fallen man. I remember looking at some pencil sketches a number of years ago from the famous artist Rembrandt. He had painted his own face as the face of the prodigal in his depiction of this parable. This pretty much tells the story, we are all the prodigal son in need of the Father’s mercy and love. In the story we see the mercy of the Father displayed in His actions. First we see the eyes of mercy, The Father is looking down the road on purpose, gazing the horizon hoping to see His son’s familiar gate. When He saw him, he was moved with compassion. The original greek for ‘felt compassion’ describes your intestines being moved with emotion. You could describe this as bowels of mercy, the Father being moved with compassion for you. Suddenly the Father could not keep still, His feet of compassion began to run, who could ever forget this picture that Jesus painted, God running toward you. Matthew Henry speaks about the arms and the lips of mercy. Here are his thoughts.

“Here were arms of mercy, and those arms stretched out to embrace him: He fell on his neck. Though guilty and deserving to be beaten, though dirty and newly come from feeding swine, so that any one who had not the strongest and tenderest compassions of a father would have loathed to touch him, yet he thus takes him in his arms, and lays him in his bosom. Thus dear are true penitents to God, thus welcome to the Lord Jesus. Here were lips of mercy, and those lips dropping as a honey-comb: He kissed him. This kiss not only assured him of his welcome, but sealed his pardon; his former follies shall be all forgiven, and not mentioned against him, nor is one word said by way of upbraiding.”

What a picture Jesus painted of our Heavenly Father. He loves us, He loved us when we were away, He welcomed us with joy when we returned. Maybe its time to bring out the fatted calf and let the party begin.

TACKLED BY LOVE

Lk.15:20 – So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

This has to be one of the most moving passages in the Bible, the Father embracing His prodigal son. It’s hard to grasp the power of the story with just a casual reading, it has to be pondered. It starts with the rebellious son demanding his portion of his inheritance. Can you imagine the awkwardness of the moment? Inheritances are for when somebody dies. The son was so blinded by his sin that he would rather see his Father die, if that isn’t possible just give me mine now anyway. Of course we all know where that would go; one party and buying spree after another until every cent is gone. From there he becomes a hired laborer at the point of fighting the pigs for pig food. Anything familiar about this story? Maybe you didn’t act out the drama (or maybe you did) but we all have the nature of prodigals deep within us.

Finally the young man returned to his senses, turned toward home, and began to rehearse his lines of repentance. That’s when the story gets good. The Father was watching down the road, hoping to see His son. How many hours the Father must have spent, looking down that road until the day came when He saw His son. The Father ran to meet His son, tears in His eyes and compassion pounding in His chest. Without a lecture or even a moment for the son to explain the Father ‘fell on’ him in the middle of the road.

We need to stop here for a moment, the KJV Bible says the Father fell on the son’s neck. The word in greek is epipipto. It means to seize or fall upon with an embrace. The Father literally tackled His son. This word is used one other time in the New Testament. It was when Peter was trying to explain to the Jewish elders in Jerusalem what had happened when he preached to the gentiles. Peter said the Holy Spirit fell upon (epipipto) the gentiles just like He had fallen on them in the upper room. The gentiles had been tackled by the love of God, the Holy Spirit had fallen upon them too.

So maybe you feel a little stinky today. Maybe you got mixed up fighting with the pigs for their food. Take a turn toward home and you too will be tackled by love.

KISSED BY THE FATHER

LK.15:20 – And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.

I think many people get the wrong idea about religious people, especially the Puritans from long, long ago. They were often quite expressive about their love for the Lord and experienced spiritual intimacy rather than just an austere form of legalism. It was their passion for the Lord and their evangelistic zeal that brought seasons of persecution leading many of them to make their way to the New World. Our country is indebted to the legacy of these spiritual pioneers. In the 1600’s there was a member of the parliament in England by the name of Edward Leigh who had an evangelistic zeal and a passion for the Lord. Here are some of his comments on the parable of the Prodigal Son.

“Among all the parables of Christ, this is most excellent, full of affection and set forth in lively colors. The old father sees a long way off, for dim eyes can see a long distance when the son is the object. His heart moves within him, and he has compassion on him. “He runs.” It would have been sufficient for him to have stood, because he was old, and a father, and even more so an offended father. But love descends rather than ascends: the son goes to the father; the father runs to the son. Then, he does not stop and embrace him or take him by the hand, but rather he falls on him and incorporates himself into him. He speaks not a single word- his joy was too great to be uttered—but he puts his whole mouth forward and kisses him, giving him the badge of peace, love and reconciliation. Through this example is declared that great goodness of God, who most mercifully pardons the sins of the truly penitent.”

This parable touches on something that is basic to our need as a human. We need forgiveness, acceptance, and real love. Jesus pointed us to the Heavenly Father for all of that. The Heavenly Father has also been painted by many as demanding and harsh. Jesus set the record straight when He shared about the rebellious son smelling of pigs embraced in the Father’s love. There is a place in His arms for you too.

CHICKEN RANCH STRIFE

kevin-horstmann-345353.jpg

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.
With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
Eph. 6:18

I was striving at the end of our work day at B & C Egg Ranch. You see it had been a long day and I had to stay late to load eggs into a truck (every day was a long day pushing chicken manure). The real problem was this would make me late for class. I wasn’t going to have time to eat, wash the chicken stink off of me, and make it to class on time. My teacher for that class had a no tardy policy, I was in a heap of strife. That’s when a homeless guy walked into the egg ranch, just as I rounded a corner pulling a pallet full of eggs. By God’s grace I didn’t run him over or dump the load of eggs but there I was standing toe to toe and eye to eye with the homeless guy. Without thinking the unthinkable happened. I felt myself move from strife to compassion in a moment of time. Suddenly I was aware of the love of Christ inside of me. It happened so quick I had no time to think or figure this guy out, the love of Christ within me responded. At the end of the day that’s how we know we are saved, 1John 3:17 “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” Actually what started as a time of strife suddenly changed, as I drove home that evening I was reflecting on this evidence that Christ was living inside of my heart. Here is how Adam Clarke describes this verse.

“Here is a test of this love; if we do not divide our bread with the hungry, we certainly would not lay down our life for him. Whatever love we may pretend to mankind, if we are not charitable and benevolent, we give the lie to our profession. If we have not bowels of compassion, we have not the love of God in us; if we shut up our bowels against the poor, we shut Christ out of our hearts, and ourselves out of heaven.”

The Lord has met us at Victory Fellowship through an unusual Fourth of July Celebration, ‘Feed the Multitudes’. As we serve the poor in various ways, the love of Christ reveals itself in us to our surprise and for His glory.

BLOODY SWEAT

BLOODY SWEAT

His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
Luke 22:44

The humanity of Christ is powerfully seen as Jesus wrestles with Himself in His prayer in Gethsemane. At Gethsemane, Christ first saw the true price of Calvary. It was more than physical torture He was facing, He was facing the very awful prospect of the outpouring of the wrath of God upon sin. Modern man shrinks back from mentioning the wrath of God, but only in the light of God’s judgement on sin can we understand the wisdom and power of Calvary and only there can we see the power of God’s love for fallen man. Jesus was making the ultimate decision as He wrestled in prayer, He was accepting the responsibility of man’s sin. He was willingly taken upon Himself the wrath of His Father. What a contradiction! The Father and Son love each other with an everlasting love! How could He bare this incredible conflict, how could He bear the separation of the One He loves? Spurgeon also speaks of this conflict that actually came to the point of shedding blood.

“The mental pressure arising from our Lord’s struggle with temptation, so forced his frame to an unnatural excitement, that his pores sent forth great drops of blood which fell down to the ground. This proves how tremendous must have been the weight of sin when it was able to crush the Savior so that he distilled great drops of blood! This demonstrates the mighty power of his love. No need for the rulers to cry, Spring up, O well; of itself it flows in crimson torrents. But see our Savior in his agony; he is so utterly oblivious of self, that instead of his agony driving his blood to the heart to nourish himself, it drives it outward to bedew the earth. The agony of Christ, inasmuch as it pours him out upon the ground, pictures the fulness of the offering which he made for men. Do we not perceive how intense must have been the wrestling through which he passed, and will we not hear its voice to us? Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. Behold the great Apostle and High Priest of our profession, and sweat even to blood rather than yield to the great tempter of your souls.”

Somehow in all the talk about grace we have forgotten about the justice of God. Without justice grace becomes powerless, it is just a weak God overlooking the ugliness of sin. That is the amazing part of God’s love glimpsed at Gethsemane, Christ agreed to satisfy the justice of God. Justice could only be satisfied when sin’s debt is paid. Then, and only then, can the grace of God be offered to us. The drops of blood that began to flow at Gethsemane, increased to a stream at the whipping post, and became a river of blood as our Savior died for us. This blood satisfies God’s justice and at the same time offers amazing grace to us.

MOVED WITH COMPASSION

MOVED WITH COMPASSION

Matt. 14:14 And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.

What a beautiful, practical description of the effect of the love of God. The greek word for ‘moved with compassion’ is quite descriptive. It literally means to me moved in your intestines. Jesus was spiritually and physically effected by the compassion of God for the hurting people that were following Him that day. This same love resides inside of every Christian. Sometimes it is latent, waiting to be released in ministry to the hurting of this world.
I recognized this strange phenomenon working in me in a most unlikely way. It was an unusually miserable day at the egg ranch (my job when I attended Bible School). I was having to work late, doing someone else’s, job when I found myself literally stumbling into a homeless man who had wandered into our egg ranch. I was tired, working late, probably late for class that night (not to mention the retching stink of chicken mess on my clothes). I had always had a distaste for the homeless, remember I was a new born Christian, still dealing with my own huge, carnal issues. That’s when it happened, I felt compassion stirring in my body for this homeless man. I recognized immediately the supernatural nature of this love, I knew it didn’t come from me, this was the love of God stirring deep within my body. Charles Spurgeon describes this amazing love in his comments on the miracle of the loaves and fish.

“When he left the boat and went forth, our Lord found a congregation waiting for him. In the most emphatic sense he saw the people, and at the sight he was burdened. He was not angry at the great multitude, nor did he show disappointment at being balked in his pursuit of quiet; but he was moved with compassion. The original word is very expressive: his whole being was stirred to its lower depth, and therefore he proceeded at once to work miracles of mercy among them. They unasked, he received them tenderly, he blessed them graciously, and at length fed them bountifully. He was as a stag that fled from the huntsman; but they had overtaken him, and he yielded himself to them. To those who needed him most he attended first: ‘He healed their sick!’ Lord, heal thou me, for I am sick in soul, if not in body!”

Whether you realize it or not, if you are born again, God’s supernatural love for the hurting of this world resides in you. You might have a hard shell on the outside or may be you are consumed with your own hurt, but rest assured, the Lord will not rest until His love is displayed in you. Why is this so important? Two reasons, first, this is how He reaches the broken in this world. He uses imperfect vessels like you. Second, this is the way out of your problems, it is in pouring out His love that we experience His healing love displayed in us.

LOST 2012

2012 “LOST”

Luke 19:10 “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

We at Victory Fellowship have named the year 2012, “LOST”. We feel the Lord intensifying His call to follow Him in seeking and saving the lost. Have you ever been led by the Lord to pursue the unsaved aggressively? In our tolerant, seeker sensitive, relevant world; evangelism can be considered intolerant or narrow minded. How dare us impose our beliefs and values on anyone else. Don’t you know that everyone’s opinions and beliefs are valid and just as significant as yours? At least that is what the world believes. For those who know Christ and listen to His voice, you know the time is now to reach out to the hurting, confused, and disillusioned who are around us every day.
How would one know that the Lord is calling you to reach out to the lost? Its really quite simple. It often starts with a growing compassion for an individual or a group of individuals. Every time you see this person (or persons) or even think about them there is a growing compassion for them. Sometimes its as if you can even feel their pain. This is a sure indication that the Lord is calling, equipping, and anointing you for this opportunity for evangelism.
This reminds me of my wife Parris and her love for hurting young women. All throughout our Christian journey, Parris has talked about having a ministry for these hurting young girls. This compassion (some would call it a burden from the Lord) resulted in the forming of a rehab ministry called Mary’s Song. The result of yielding to this affection and passion for hurting young women has been a steady stream of girls giving their lives to Christ, being nurtured and discipled 24 hours a day, and finally reentering their world with a new faith, a new confidence, and frankly, a brand new life. There is nothing that compares to the joy of seeing the lost found, to see them discovering a love for Christ and beginning a brand new life.
Have you ever felt a love for someone or a group of someones that you do not know? If you have, be assured that this is the work of the Holy Spirit. All that is left for you to do is to yield. This compassion from the Lord is supernatural in nature and is a guarantee for success in the area that the Lord is calling you to. Rest assured, if you yield to this calling from the Lord, you will not be alone. You may be surprised at others who are feeling the same thing. Obviously, if the Lord is involved in this strange kind of love, He is speaking to others as well. Maybe He is calling you to work with young women, Mary’s Song always needs help. Maybe, He is calling you to reach out to the homeless, there is a group of people that do that on a regular basis here at Victory. Could it be evangelism in the inner city that is pulling at you, every Friday night there is a team on the streets at Broad Street in New Orleans. The opportunities are endless; from prisons to hospitals, from child evangelism to ministry in the retirement homes, there is a place for you to reach the lost.

FULL OF COMPASSION

FULL OF COMPASSION

But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.
Ps.86:15

In this passage, David is comparing the arrogance and violence of man to the goodness and mercy of our great God. Because of all the disappointments we have all experienced in life because of the corruption in the fallen human race, goodness and mercy can seem almost intangible and somewhat far off. David had tasted his share of mistreatment in life, from the condescension of his brothers, to the violent aggression of Saul. From the betrayal on his staff to the rebellion of his beloved son Absalom, David could easily have become jaded and begun to act on the carnal level that he experienced at every turn. Instead, David turned to the Lord. Drinking from God’s presence, He found the safety that is available, only in the goodness and mercy of our God. Rather than becoming discouraged or lashing out in hostility, David allowed these experiences to drive Him into the arms of God’s love. In the place of shelter that he found in God’s mercy, he was able to be strengthened and encouraged in the Lord. Here are some of Charles Spurgeon’s comments on this verse.

“But thou, O Lord. What a contrast! We get away from the hectoring and blustering of proud but puny men to the glory and goodness of the Lord. We turn from the boisterous foam of chafing waves to the sea of glass mingled with fire, calm and serene. “Art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.” A truly glorious doxology, in which there is not one redundant word. Here is compassion for the weak and sorrowing, grace for the undeserving, long-suffering for the provoking, mercy for the guilty, and truth for the tried. God’s love assumes many forms, and is lovely in them all. Into whatsoever state we may be cast, there is a peculiar hue in the light of love which will harmonize with our condition; love is one and yet sevenfold, its white ray contains the chromatic scale. Are we sorrowful? We find the Lord full of compassion. Are we contending with temptation? His grace comes to our aid. Do we err? He is patient with us. Have we sinned? He is plenteous in mercy. Are we resting on his promise? He will fulfill it with abundant truth.”

Maybe you have experienced disappointments in your life. If so, how you respond to these experiences will determine the kind of life you enjoy. You can act carnally with anger or by having a “pity party”, there are always plenty of good reasons (or excuses) to be carnal. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, you can turn to the Lord. Gaze into His beauty displayed in his written word, or soar to the heights of His goodness in worship, or you can drink of the depths of His love in times of prayer and reflection. In the times of spiritual meditation , like Spurgeon, you can taste of His incredibly diverse characteristics. In sorrow He becomes our Comforter, in temptation He is our strength and virtue, in confusion He becomes our Shepherd. He is sufficient in all things. Surely He is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and overflowing in lovingkindness and truth.