HAPPY

Phil.3:8 – More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,

This verse gets to the very heart of life, the pursuit of happiness. That basic motive in everyone’s heart is often that huge elephant in the room. Everyone knows it is there but no one would ever acknowledge it. That is except for Paul, he had been chasing that elusive elephant all his life. If you still don’t know what I am talking about let me be really specific; all humans are directed, motivated, and empowered in the pursuit of happiness as the basic drive of their life. Many are not even aware that this is what motivates them but it is always present. Paul is saying he found out why that desire for happiness is the common denominator in everyone’s life. The businessman in pursuit of success is pursuing happiness. The athlete in pursuit of a championship is after the happiness that would bring. Even the prostitute in her humiliation is looking for happiness at what lies after the next trick. Drug addicts, alcoholics, policemen, and politicians (and preachers too) are looking for happiness they hope their choices will bring. Here is how Jonathan Edwards describes this verse.

“Young people commonly seek pleasure in company, and oftentimes spend much of their time in mirth among their companions; but none have such delightful company as those that live in the exercise of religion, and virtue, and holiness, for they have their conversation in heaven. The Lord Jesus Christ has become a friend and companion. Oftentimes when they are alone and seem to the world to spend their time solitarily, they indeed have company enough. It is their delight to withdraw from all the world, the more freely and intimately to converse with Jesus Christ…. The Father and the Son come to seek young people and walk and make their abode with them, and manifest themselves to them. They have an intercourse with heaven by meditation, and prayer, and other duties of religion. They with a spiritual eye do see Christ, and have access to him to converse; and Christ by his spirit communicates himself to them, so that there is a spiritual converse between them and Christ Jesus. And must not this needs be the pleasantest and the happiest company?”

Edwards spoke about young people in their pursuit of happiness among friends. Edwards said that even the youth could find their greatest happiness in the pursuit of the Lord. So Paul and Edwards came to the same conclusion, ultimate happiness is found in Christ alone.

GIVE THANKS TO HIS NAME

Heb.13:15 – Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.

I love the book of Hebrews. It is God’s final appeal to His chosen people just before the destruction of Jerusalem. Many of the the Christian Jews were being tempted to go back under the ceremonial law with all of its sacrifices, types, and shadows. Paul is begging them not to fall into that trap. He says all of the sacrifices have been fulfilled in Christ. There is only one sacrifice left; we are to give thanks offering the sacrifice of praise. Really, that is our Christian tradition. Christ has become everything for us. All that is left for us to do is offer thanks to His beautiful name. Here is how Adam Clarke describes today’s verse.

“By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise. He has now fulfilled all vision and prophecy, has offered the last bloody sacrifice which God will ever accept; and as he is the gift of God’s love to the world, let us through him offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, this being the substitute for all the Levitical sacrifices. The Jews allowed that, in the time of the Messiah, all sacrifices, except the sacrifice of praise, should cease. To this maxim the apostle appears to allude; and, understood in this way, his words are much more forcible. In Vayikra Rabba, and Rabbi Tanchum, “Rabbi Phineas, Rabbi Levi, and Rabbi Jochanan, from the authority of Rabbi Menachem of Galilee, said, In the time of the Messiah all sacrifice shall cease, except the sacrifice of praise.” This was, in effect, quoting the authority of one of their own maxims, that now was the time of the Messiah; that Jesus was that Messiah; that the Jewish sacrificial system was now abolished; and that no sacrifice would now be accepted of God, except the sacrifice of praise for the gift of his Son.”

Thanksgiving Day provides us an opportunity to reflect on all the Lord has done for us. He has met us individually and corporately as a church in 2018. What else can we do but offer up a sacrifice of praise giving thanks to His Name? We have entered into a new season as a church, a new season of harvest is upon us. Together we can bring an offering into His house giving thanks for what He has done and worshipping in anticipation of great days ahead of us.

ONE OF THE LAST PROPHETIC PIECES OF THE PUZZLE

Rom.11:12,15 – Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be! For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

I remember a class I had at Bible School in the fall of 1973. Our teacher showed up in class looking like local weatherman Bob Breck when a cat 5 hurricane enters the Gulf of Mexico. Obviously the teacher was totally disheveled and disturbed by what had happened in the news that day. Israel had just entered into a war with the Muslim nations surrounding them and had a sudden overwhelming victory. What disturbed our teacher was what he expected to happen next. He said that Jerusalem could be surrounded by Russian tanks by morning. Obviously that didn’t happen but what did happen is that I suddenly became aware of Israel’s involvement in God’s prophetic time clock.

As I began to study Bible prophesy on my own I became aware of something Jesus said about Jerusalem and the last days. He said in Luke 21: 24, “Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled“. This is the phrase that grabbed me, “until the time of the gentiles is fulfilled”. I had no idea what that meant and I just had to find out. What I discovered was this, that the Lord had dealt primarily with the people of Israel until the time of Christ. Their rejection of the messiah brought the destruction of their land. That is actually what Romans 11 is about. The Lord turned to the gentiles for a season and the Jews were blinded from the truth. The good news is the Lord is not finished with Israel. Paul also referred to the time of the gentiles in this chapter. He said that there would be a great harvest of Jews when the time of the gentiles is fulfilled. Here is how Paul says it in Rom.11:25,26, “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery — so that you will not be wise in your own estimation — that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.”

So what conclusions I have come to in my studies of Bible prophesy is this, keep your eye on Israel, He is not finished with them yet. Finally, don’t be rigid in what you believe. What you believe may have to be altered as you see the events unfolding before your very eyes.

“MAKING FULL TO OVERFLOWING”

MERRY MONDAY-

“May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God” EPH.3:19

The world shows up empty everyday. Doctor’s offices are filled with patients getting opioids subscribed that lead to addiction. Prisons are over crowded while mental patients wait for a bed, our courts are jammed with lawsuits, and heinous crimes never stop. Young America continues to spend thousands of dollars to get taught by professors bombastically teaching them on whatever hip current idea that comes into their head. Thank God there is another way-Christ lived out in our lives; day by day. He comes with abundance and makes the crooked go straight. Yes, it can be that simple. By the end of this year Frank and I will have pastored 40 years, have run a school for 35 years, fed the poor for 30 years, put on a drama to teens for 20 years, and now run a rehab for 10 years. In each of these situations we have been personally hands on, we have watched Christ come in the worst case scenarios. He doesn’t show up unprepared, put out, or out of touch. If the person is hungry and desperate, Christ comes and brings HIS FULLNESS and overflows abundantly into our issues.

Christ comes to fill us up because we have been running on empty for far too long and we have tasted its emptiness. His love comes unencumbered and unabridged. Christ has the uncanny ability to prepare, expand, and strengthen our capacity to receive more of his love. He imparts to us his own character and glory taking out of us the old character and canceling out the stain of the past. In Luther’s words he says, “he alone completely rules and works in us” and are “filled in every way that he can make full”.

We remain no more in defect but instead he imparts his perfection to the church, making us a partaker of His Divine Nature! We become a sign and a wonder that causes judges, doctors and scientists to stand in awe. Another author named ALFORD says; All the fulness of the Godhead abides in Christ, Col. 2:9. Christ then abiding in your hearts, ye, being raised up to the comprehension of God’s mercy in Him and of His love, will be filled, even as God is full—each in your degree, but all to your utmost capacity, with Divine wisdom, might, and love.”

If you need a word picture; imagine ships are filled with freight, merchandise, sailors, oarsmen, and soldiers; or the animals filling up Noah’s Ark, or a city filled with inhabitants, houses and towering buildings. A gap that is filled or baskets that are overflowing. Do you get the picture yet? God comes to fill you up! Wholly flooded and filled!

FILLED TO OVERFLOWING

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John 1:16 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.

Have you ever been so filled that there is no other option, you have to overflow? I guess what is really important is this question: what exactly are you filled with? In today’s verse John is describing an overflowing kind of filling. He describes fulness or overflowing as grace upon grace. So much love poured on us that it is impossible to contain it, we have to overflow. John is talking about God’s love for us and how it fills us until it begins to spill out all around us. Here is a quote from Spurgeon describing the overflowing joy that comes with being filled.

“Bunyan tells us that Mercy laughed in her sleep, and no wonder when she dreamed of Jesus; my joy shall not stop short of hers while my Beloved is the theme of my daily thoughts. The Lord Jesus is a deep sea of joy: my soul shall dive therein, shall be swallowed up in the delights of his society.”

The amazing thing about Bunyan’s words, they were written from prison. He was overflowing with a joy bigger than prison walls. It is striking that John who was exiled and later martyred and Bunyan who was imprisoned for preaching Christ both spoke of a fulness of God that transcended the rest of their lives. Nothing this world could throw at them could disrupt their joy, it was supernatural and untouchable. John Trappe also talks about this fulness found only in Christ.

“Grace for grace – “Which is both repletive and diffusive; not only of plenty, but of bounty; not a fulness of abundance only, but of redundance too. In Christians is an abundance of vessels, but in Christ, is the fount, these differ (say the schoolmen) as fire and that which holds the fire. Take a drop from the ocean, and it is so much the less; but the fulness of the fire is such, that light a thousand torches at it, it is not diminished.”

This word repletive means to satisfy, satiate, or provide something in abundance. So this fulness is provided in extreme measures and diffused everywhere we go. Redundance describes an excessive amount, way more than necessary. Trappe is describing overflow as pouring out in extreme measures everywhere we go. This is the story of Christmas, the Word took on human flesh that I can be filled to overflowing with the fulness of His grace. Merry Christmas !!!!!

HAPPY PEOPLE

Psa. 144:15 Happy are the people who are in such a state;

Happy are the people whose God is the LORD!

I have learned a lot from Jonathan Edwards. That may sound strange to some people, since he has been dead and gone for several centuries, but his message is as relevant today as it was in the 1700’s. One of the things I have learned from Edwards is the role of happiness in our Christian faith. According to Edwards, God is glorified when I am happy. Now he is not talking about a casual happiness that comes from pleasant circumstances but the supernatural joy that emanates from the presence of the Lord. Edwards used to say it like this, “God is most glorified when I am satisfied with Him”. In other words, Jesus alone is enough to complete my happiness in this life. Here are some thoughts on spiritual happiness from Edwards.

“Tis a great mercy to have health among a people. But the pouring out of God’s Spirit, tends much more to their happiness than that; for this tends to the health of their souls: a people with healthy bodies and sickly souls, are but a miserable people….It tends more to a people’s happiness than outward plenty. Then God gives food for a people’s souls, the bread of life which came down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and live forever. Then is given not the meat that perishes, but the meat that endures unto everlasting life.

At such a time, God bestows on a people spiritual and heavenly riches, which makes ’em a more happy people, than if they flourished in the greatest outward wealth. They are received, many of them, to be the children of God, which is much better than if they were made earthly Princes.”

 

So maybe you can’t have it all in this life but maybe you don’t really want it all. Maybe, just maybe there is a better way to live. That’s the claim Jesus made. He said if we would abide in Him that our joy would be overflowing. John 15:11,12 NLT – “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!”

 

I believe its true; actually, I know its true. I have tasted this joy for myself and have decided this is the way I want to spend the rest of my life.

 

DABBLERS AND DRINKERS

rod-long-355994.jpgJohn 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Human beings without Christ are really like zombies, walking dead people with no source of life or joy. Expressionless faces wandering through life trying to pretend they are something that they aren’t or have something they don’t have. Life itself comes into our emptiness when we meet Jesus Christ. In today’s verse Jesus speaks about an overflowing joy that comes from Him when we are filled with the Holy Spirit. In this whole passage He has been teaching about the Spirit and compares the life of the Spirit to the life of a grape vine. Life flows from the branches into the vine and produces fruit. Jesus describes this as overflowing joy. He is actually making the most radical of all promises, stay filled with Him and you will experience a continual flow of overflowing joy. Here is how A.B. Simpson describes it.

“The filling of the Holy Ghost will bring us joy and fullness of joy. “These things have I spoken unto you,”the Master said after He had given us the promise of the Spirit, “that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” And so the apostle prays that “the God of hope may fill us with all joy and peace in believing, that we may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost. The fullness of the Spirit must crowd out pain, doubt, fear and sorrow, and bring the joy of Christ to fill our being. What is it that makes the melody in an organ? It is not the touch of skillful fingers only on the keys, but it is the filling of the pipes by the movement of the pedals. I may try in vain to play the most skillful tune, unless the organ is filled; and so our songs of praise are dead and cold until the breath of God fills all the channels of our being. Then comes the heart-song of praise and the overflowing fountain of gladness.”

Many have dabbled with Christianity and not experienced the fullness Jesus is promising. Dabbling is not enough; abiding in Him and drinking of Him is the way to fullness of joy. So ask yourself this question today, am I a dabbler or a drinker.

FULFILLED

Heb. 12:2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The Lord has promised to finish what He starts, He always does. I think one of the things that makes all of us nervous is the fact that the Lord never is nervous. He proceeds the same way in the worst of times as in the best of times. When I look at my circumstances and see a mountain of unanswered prayers and unfulfilled promises and expectations, my tendency is to try to make things happen myself or slip into discouragement and fear. I was in one of those moments in 1990 when this scripture was given to me as a prophesy. It always amazes me how a scripture verse that is received and believed can change everything. That has been 25 years ago now and this promise is still being realized in my life and ministry. The immediate work the Lord performed was in me, I was no longer afraid but I began embracing all the Lord was doing in my life. Here are some thoughts from Matthew Henry on today’s verse.
“The same hand that has begun this good work will perform it: He shall bring forth the head-stone; and again, The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house, be it spoken to his honor (perhaps with his own hands he laid the first stone), and though it has been long retarded, and is still much opposed, yet it shall be finished at last; he shall live to see it finished, nay, and his hands shall also finish it; herein he is a type of Christ, who is both the author and the finisher of our faith; and his being the author of it is an assurance to us that he will be the finisher, for, as for God, his work is perfect; has he begun and shall he not make an end? Zerubbabel shall himself bring forth the head-stone with shoutings, and loud acclamations of joy, among the spectators. The acclamations are not huzzas, but Grace, grace; that is the burden of the triumphant songs which the church sings. It may be taken as magnifying free grace, and giving to that all the glory of what is done.”
So maybe you have some unfinished business in your life; its going to be okay. He always finishes what He starts. If the Lord is at work in you, completion is certain.

LOST TREASURE

Eph. 3:18,19 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 
‘Am I enough for you?’ That was the strangest question I had ever been asked. This is what the Lord asked me in the fall of 1994 when I was laying on the floor of our church in one of our services. I had never thought of God on those terms. He was my Savior, my Healer, my Provider, and my Counselor. I had never thought of God in the way quite like His question demanded; He was the treasure. Not His gifts but Him. For the first time I began to understand what the Lord meant when He called Himself jealous. He wanted my affection and was unwilling to share it with anyone or anything else. I was beginning to see the seriousness of revival; it is all about the heart. In today’s scripture the Lord describes the depths of His love for us. This love captures us and actually becomes the foundation of our love for Him. Here is how Matthew Henry sees it.
“The breadth, and length, and depth, and height. By enumerating these dimensions, the apostle designs to signify the exceeding greatness of the love of Christ, the unsearchable riches of his love, which is higher than heaven, deeper than hell, longer than the earth, and broader than the sea. Some describe the particulars thus: By the breadth of it we may understand the extent of it to all ages, nations, and ranks of men; by the length of it, its continuance from everlasting to everlasting; by the depth of it, its stooping to the lowest condition, with a design to relieve and save those who have sunk into the depths of sin and misery; by its height, its entitling and raising us up to the heavenly happiness and glory.”
I finally began to get it; His love is unsearchable. It is in tasting the depths and height of His love that my love for Him is birthed. That brings me back to the floor of our church that Monday morning in September of 1994. He was after my heart. He was winning my heart by pouring out unprecedented measures of His love on my life. I finally had my answer. He was more than enough! Better than fame, success, money, or anything this life could offer. He became my Treasure.

GOD FIRST

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS BAILEY

 

“I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before” Phil 3:13

 

Katrina was a good lesson in whether God reigned in my life or not. I’m not really sure I passed the test. We left at the last minute like everyone else I suppose, not prepared and having no idea of what lay ahead. I took all three of my kids, a daughter in law, grandchild, my two labs  and found a cabin up in Alabama near Georgia.  Leftovers from Katrina came up there and knocked the power out so unbeknown to us the levees broke in Nola. I remember taking the dogs running through this beautiful state park bawling my eyes out. The Lord begin to deal with me to surrender everything over to him. Funny how I so thought I had done did this! I needed a God encounter!

Andrew Murray said, “The motto of the Cape General Mission is, God first. In one sense that is a beautiful motto, and yet I am not always satisfied with it, because it is a motto that is often misunderstood. God first may mean “I” second, something else third, and something else fourth. God is thus first in order, but still God becomes one of a series of powers, and that is not the place God wants. The meaning of the words, “God first” is really “God all; God everything;” and that is what Christ wants. To be willing to give up everything, to submit to Christ and let him teach what to say and what to do, is the first mark of the man to whom Christ will come. Are you not ready to take this step and say: “Jesus! I do give up everything; I have given up everything; reveal Thyself.” Oh my gosh how does He desire to reveal Himself to us!

Well needless to say in the days, weeks and months and yes years ahead, God just kept wanting my all. The Apostle Paul called it the “one thing”. I believe what gets lost in translation is destiny. Somehow in the hustle and bustle, in the waking and sleeping we lose grasp with our destiny with God.

Murray goes onto to say, “We must come away from all the manifold and multifarious blessings that Jesus can bestow from time to time, to the blessed unity of that one— that Jesus makes Himself known, Jesus Himself is willing to make Himself known.” The most amazing thing that will happen in your life is that without the power of the Holy Spirit all of this is simply impossible. Christ comes when we are filled with Christ. Learning to be empty so He can fill us and overflow through us moves us into the realm of the impossible. Our job is to get hungry, and it’s not as simple as putting God first then us second or our families third. He is all consuming fire.