PROVISION FROM HIS HAND

Ps.145:16 – You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

What beautiful insight into the care and love of our Heavenly Father in this simple yet beautiful verse. Th Psalmist tells us that the Lord provides for us out of His hand but he doesn’t stop there. The Lord provides our desires out of His hand. He meets not only the desires of our heart in this world, He lavishly supplies the great desire of all of our hearts. What would that be? Of course, to feast on God Himself as our sustenance for life itself. Feasting on Him not only sustains us but satisfies us with a joy and contentment like nothing this world can supply. Here are some thoughts from Spurgeon’s Treasury of David on today’s verse.

“You alone provide, O Jehovah! Thou doest it liberally, with open hand; thou doest it easily, as if it were only to open thine hand; thou doest this at once as promptly as if all supplies were ready to hand. Living things have needs, and these create desires; the living God has suitable supplies at hand, and these he gives till inward satisfaction is produced, and the creature sighs no longer. In spiritual things, when God has raised a desire, he always gratifies it; hence the longing is prophetic of the blessing. In no case is the desire of the living thing excited to produce distress, but in order that it may seek and find satisfaction. These verses refer to natural providence; but they may equally well apply to the stores of grace, since the same God is king in both spheres. If we will but wait upon the Lord for pardon, renewing, or whatever else we need, we shall not wait in vain. The hand of grace is never closed while the sinner lives. In these verses we behold our God in the realm of his free grace dealing well with his believing people.”

The amazing thing about God satisfying our desires from His hand is this, He is the author of all our spiritual desires. He awakens our longings for Him and then He fulfills them. As Spurgeon said, our spiritual longings are prophetic. These desires are awakened by God and will be met by Him as well. So the Lord satisfies the cattle and sheep with lush meadows of grass, He provides shrimp for the trout, and fruit and seeds for the fouls of the air. For His sons and daughters He not only supplies us with our daily bread, He is our bread which we are called to feast on every day.

“Time to Run”! 40 year mark!

MERRY FRIDAY BY PARRIS-

Isaiah 58:12 says, “Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”

Over the weekend, we as a church, will be celebrating 40 years as Victory Fellowship. In the past month the staff has bent over backwards trying to catalogue and find all of our memories and important God moments. Boxes, sermons, photos have long been thrown away because there is not enough storage to contain those 40 years! Only eternity keeps the true stuff! Frank and I feel like the years were few and the blessings immense. At the young age of 21 when we started, I still shudder how long it has taken me to understand the things of God.

The number 40 is mentioned 146 times in Scripture. Most of the time; it symbolized a period of testing, trial or probation. During Moses’ life he lived forty years in Egypt, was sent forty years in the desert before God selected him to lead his people out of slavery, and then another 40 years in the wilderness of testing with the Jewish nation. Moses was also on Mount Sinai for 40 days and nights, on two separate occasions receiving God’s laws. He also sent spies, for forty days, to investigate the land God promised the Israelites as an inheritance.

The prophet Jonah powerfully warned ancient Nineveh, for forty days, that its destruction would come. The prophet Ezekiel laid on His right side for 40 days to symbolize Judah’s sins, Elijah went 40 days without food or water at Mount Horeb. Jesus was tempted by the devil for 40 days and nights and He also appeared to his disciples and others for 40 days after his resurrection. Jesus prophesied the total destruction of Jerusalem and 40 years after his crucifixion in 30 A.D., the Roman Empire destroyed the city and burned the temple. The Bible was written by forty different people. Wow thats a lot of forties!

In Jer. 29:11 it say’s-“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” God has each one of us on his precious time clock. This scripture is saying is that the Lord will superadd or will add from one thing to another and that he would perform his good word found in his promises. We have a future that he is overseeing! And he always is working at full noon! He is on it!

I believe we have a lot to celebrate about! Victory, now that she is 40, can move from the “probational testing” period in her life (haha) and begin the great rebuilding of our city, New Orleans, through every means possible. We know what we have to do, and that is run with all of our might with the Lord’s wind behind us doing what we do best and that is living and loving the message of redemption. I hope to see you this Sunday as we celebrate together as a body His goodness and grace!

WORD FOR MARTYRS

Rev 2:10 – Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

The book of Revelation is full of stories about martyrs. One of the passages that haunts me is found in Revelation 15, I call it the song of the martyrs. “And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.”

These are those who gave their lives for the testimony of Jesus during the Great Tribulation. They were worshipping God for the privilege of dying for His Name.

Who better to encourage martyrs than Jesus, the One who gave His life for us. Today’s verse is a word of encouragement to future martyrs in the church in Smyrna. The bishop himself, Polycarp, would give his life in several years. Here are some observations on this verse from Adam Clarke.

“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer. This may be addressed particularly to Polycarp, if he was at that time the bishop of this Church. He had much to suffer; and was at last burnt alive at Smyrna, about the year of our Lord 166. We have a very ancient account of his martyrdom, which has been translated by Cave, and is worthy of the reader’s perusal. That account states that the Jews were particularly active in this martyrdom, and brought the sticks, by which he was consumed. Such persons must indeed have been of the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer.”

The head of the church in Smyrna was Polycarp, disciple of John. It is from Polycarp that we know that John authored Revelation. These early Christians had a different perspective of eternity and dying. Some of the early church fathers were known to request prayer that they would be chosen to die for Christ. I haven’t heard prayer requests like that lately. What can we learn from these early Christians? First, there is a grace that is bigger than anything, even death. Secondly, that eternity is real and should be in the forefront of our thoughts. Finally, that we have a cause worth living for and worth dying for. Until we see that for ourselves we haven’t really begun to live.

THE FAITHFUL WITNESS

Rev. 1:4,5 – John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood —

John said in John 1:18 that no one had seen God but Jesus had declared or explained Him. Jesus is the Father’s revelation or declaration of Himself. There could be no greater witness, He is the Father’s word expressed in a distinct person. This is where our understanding of everything that pertains to life begins, with an unveiling of Christ Himself. In His light we see light. He is the light of life. That is why Revelations begins with John having a new revelation of Christ. If John needed a greater glimpse of Jesus, what about me? Here is a thought from Matthew Henry of Jesus being the unveiling of the Father to us.

“He is, in person, the Son of God, the only-begotten Son of God, and as such he must have the same nature. This personal distinction always supposes one and the same nature…. The person of the Son is the glory of the Father, shining forth with a truly divine splendor. As the beams are effulgent emanations of the sun, the father and fountain of light, Jesus Christ in his person is God manifest in the flesh, he is light of light, the true Shechinah. The person of the Son is the true image and character of the person of the Father; being of the same nature, he must bear the same image and likeness. In beholding the power, wisdom, and goodness, of the Lord Jesus Christ, we behold the power, wisdom, and goodness, of the Father; for he hath the nature and perfections of God in him.”

To understand the book of Revelations we must have a revelation of Christ. It is in seeing Him that we begin to understand and see the things to come. In the beginning of this new year we need a greater revelation of Christ. This is where we see God’s plan unfolding before us. Draw near, get yourself in the Spirit like John and you too will begin to have insight into things to come.

WHEN THE FULLNESS OF TIME COMES!

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS

“The extension of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel.” Is. 8:8

I can’t imagine four hundred silent years between the testaments in which the world saw no light, or no voice. Adam no longer walked in the garden, Moses had lost the shine, David no longer danced, and the glory took up its wings and left the temple. Occasionally God would appear but he would not linger. Tozer exclaimed “The eyes of fallen, sinful men were no longer able to endure the radiant majesty and glory of deity. This deep dark yawning mystery was wrought and accomplished without any compromise.” The Apostle Paul said in Galatians 4:4-7, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Gods eternal time clock was ticking.

On the Eve of Christmas we find ourselves yet again in the fullness of time. The world was a swirl opening up to receive the Christ that was to be born. Many of us have read Mary’s response to the angelic visit. She gave space for the visitation. Trappe remarks; “She made room for him, enlarged her thoughts of him and throws wide open the everlasting doors, that the King of glory my come in! My spirit rejoices and dances in God, for God is the matter and ground of my joy. The appointed time of the Father, who does all things in number, weight and measure, never comes too soon, neither stays he too long.”

Each response of Mary’s echoes prophecies from of old. She was drawing from the deep wells she had steeped herself in all throughout her life. Immanuel’s Land was cresting. Trappe says, “She had by much reading made her bosom Christ’s library” and compared her hunger as a “hunted hart brays after the water brooks, she breathes and brays after the brooks with utmost desire. This spiritual appetite and affections arises from a deep and due sense and feeling of our want of Christ, whole Christ and there is an absolute necessity of every drop of his blood.” The fullness of time comes to give us the true bread of life, the heavenly manna, the rock flowing with honey, a fountain of living water, that revives us over and over again. Let’s go and be a part of the miracle at that manger this eve of Christmas. He will meet us again and again.

“If Christ does not rule us, a mob of tyrants will. Our own passions, our own evil habits, all the fascinating sins around us. They soon cease to seem helpers, and become tyrants”. McClarens

OXEN AND DONKEYS

Isa.1:3 – An ox knows its owner, and a donkey its master’s manger, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand.

What an amazing verse of scripture. According to Isaiah the ox and the donkey had more sense than God’s people. Isaiah said that the ox knew his owner. That is huge!! Many of us don’t realize that we are owned by God. We are His purchased possession, we are no longer our own. This basic revelation changes everything. It changes the purpose of our life and brings tremendous peace. After all, if we belong to God then nothing can touch us. Next, he said that the donkey knew his master’s manger. The donkey knew where his home was, he would never be foolish enough to wander off, he would stay at his master’s home, the place of protection and provision. Several years go I began to write a poem every Christmas. Here is my poem for Christmas 2018.

THE OX KNEW HIS MASTER

Isa.1:3 – An ox knows its owner, and a donkey its master’s manger, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand.

The ox knew his master

The donkey knew his home

The sheep bowed in reverence

These beasts would never roam

The Creator born among them

Their feeding trough for His birth

Just a manger and a stable

To cloak heaven’s priceless worth

Nothing could be stranger

Who could ever ever understand

The drama was now unfolding

Creator God had become a man

The angels they were singing

Their voices piercing the sky

The heavens were announcing

This Infant King was born to die

Eternal drama was performing

Before an ox and a lamb

Eternal generation quite astounding

From a virgin comes a Man

Augustine had an interesting twist on today’s verse. He viewed it as prophetic. He saw in this a glimpse of the Lord being born in a stable among His creatures. Think about that, there was no room in the Inn because no one knew who He was. Life went on as normal, the world was clueless about the birth of the King. Is it possible that the creatures knew Who He was? Mark said that when Jesus was in the wilderness fasting for forty days He was with the wild beasts. Creation recognized the Master but His own people couldn’t, they were blinded by their sin. As the world passes by the stable and manger, caught up in the business of the season, I want to take my cue from an ox and a donkey. I want to honor my owner and bow at His manger.

CHRISTMAS TREASURE

Lk.6:20 – And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God”.

How do you measure a really good Christmas? Is it the haul of presents and gift cards you got, the family reunions over holiday celebrations, or the bonus check at work? Obviously gift cards and prizes don’t last, the thrill is over pretty quick. The bonus usually disappears in the black hole of Christmas bills, and family time isn’t always what it is cracked up to be. Maybe the mystique of Christmas is much deeper than carols and candy canes, sleigh rides or sitting on Santa’s lap. Maybe its about the Savior’s birth and why He came, to restore man to a relationship of intimacy with God. Maybe Christ Himself in us is the true measure of a really good Christmas. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was in prison in Germany in WWII because of his faith in God. He wrote a letter to his fiancée from prison during Christmas season that speaks volumes about the true measure of Christmas time. Here is a portion of that letter.

“I think we’re going to have an exceptionally good Christmas. The very fact that every outward circumstance precludes our making provision for it will show whether we can be content with what is truly essential. I used to be very fond of thinking up and buying presents, but now that we have nothing to give, the gift God gave us in the birth of Christ will seem all the more glorious; the emptier our hands, the better we understand what Luther meant by his dying words: “We’re beggars; it’s true.” The poorer our quarters, the more clearly we perceive that our hearts should be Christ’s home on earth. I think we’re going to have an exceptionally good Christmas. The very fact that every outward circumstance precludes our making provision for it will show whether we can be content with what is truly essential. I used to be very fond of thinking up and buying presents, but now that we have nothing to give, the gift God gave us in the birth of Christ will seem all the more glorious; the emptier our hands, the better we understand what Luther meant by his dying words: “We’re beggars; it’s true.” The poorer our quarters, the more clearly we perceive that our hearts should be Christ’s home on earth.”

Amazing, “I think we are going to have an exceptionally good Christmas”. How could anyone have an exceptional Christmas, all alone in prison, separated from their loved ones? The answer is simple, we are not alone, we are never alone. Bonhoeffer believed that in the midst of horrible circumstances what really matters in life becomes more precious and even more real. So if you are going through some unusually tough time this Christmas, take Bonhoeffer at his word, “The poorer our quarters, the more clearly we perceive that our hearts should be Christ’s home on earth.”

NOT EATING AND DRINKING

Rom.14:17 – for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

This verse sums up the Christian life. Paul is adamant, the kingdom of God is not about a system of rules and religious observances. The kingdom of God is spiritual and closely related to the Holy Spirit. The book of Romans has a theme connected to the righteousness of God that comes by faith. Being declared righteous by faith in the sacrificial death of Christ opens the kingdom of God up to us. Peace with God, peace in our own life, and peace with others is the fruit of the righteousness of God in our lives. Having been justified by faith we have peace with God. Joy is also the fruit of being right with God. It is in access to the kingdom of God that we are filled with the Holy Spirit and our joy begins to overflow. Here is how Matthew Henry describes this verse.

“Righteousness, peace, and joy, are very comprehensive words; and each of them includes much, both of the foundation and the superstructure of religion. Might I limit the sense of them, it should be thus:—As to God, our great concern is righteousness—to appear before him justified by the merit of Christ’s death, sanctified by the Spirit of his grace; for the righteous Lord loveth righteousness. As to our brethren, it is peace—to live in peace and love, and charity with them, following peace with all men: Christ came into the world to be the great peace-maker. As to ourselves, it is joy in the Holy Ghost—that spiritual joy which is wrought by the blessed Spirit in the hearts of believers, which respects God as their reconciled Father and heaven as their expected home. Next to our compliance with God, the life of religion consists in our complacency in him; to delight ourselves always in the Lord. Surely we serve a good Master, who makes peace and joy so essential to our religion. Then and then only we may expect peace and joy in the Holy Ghost when the foundation is laid in righteousness.”

Stepping into the kingdom of God by faith is what the book of Romans is all about. Today you and I have access into this kingdom life. We can step into the righteousness, peace, and joy of the Lord, being filled repeatedly with the Holy Spirit.

THE PRECIOUS HOLY SPIRIT

John 14:16,17 – I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.

I’ll never forget that first night I was touched by the Holy Spirit. I was actually attending my very first Bible study. It was in an upstairs apartment over a Pizza Parlor on Carrollton Avenue in New Orleans. I had been invited by some street preachers the week before and found myself in a room full of missionaries headed to Central America. These were the Jesus freak variety of street preachers, full of the Holy Spirit, and obviously unashamed of the power of God. I remember them singing in other languages for an extended period of time, the more they sang the more the room filled with an atmosphere I had never felt before. They seemed to stop singing on cue and an invitation was given, “whoever wants more of Jesus, step into the center of the room”. The simple invitation was given by a gentle giant of a man who seemed to be their leader. I found myself in the middle of the room, overwhelmed with the incredible presence of the Lord. My life was being changed, marked forever by the touch of God.

That was my first encounter with the Holy Spirit, thankfully it wasn’t my last. That first encounter was in the summer of 1973, fast forward to the summer of 1994 and I was now pastoring Victory Fellowship in the New Orleans metro area. Sixteen years of pastoring had taken a toll on my spiritual condition. I had become thirsty and dry and was now struggling, just trying to pastor my church. The problem seems quite obvious in retrospect, I had forgotten the importance of the Holy Spirit. Not only was my church dry, I was dry. I had forgotten how to receive, honestly I was unaware of my need to receive from the Lord. I was considering stepping out of the ministry for the first time in my life. That’s when my second visitation came, I was about to be filled again with the Holy Spirit. Rumors of revival were everywhere that summer, I was at the place where I was open to receive a touch from the Lord.

After overcoming my stubborn resistance to revival in a package I was unfamiliar with, I went to some meetings in Rockwall, Texas. After sitting in services for a week I reluctantly answered an altar call for pastors. The next thing I knew I was caught up in that same presence I had felt in that strange Bible study so many years before. The Holy Spirit fell on me that day and changed everything again. First, I learned how to receive. Next, I fell in love with ministry again. To my surprise, that same presence that fell on me in Texas visited my church that next Sunday. Almost twenty five years have passed since that awakening in my life in 1994. That same presence is in our church today. Honestly, I couldn’t continue another day without Him.

HARMONY OF LOVE

Ps.133:1-3 – Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!

It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!

It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

Let’s face it, all of us are looking for happiness and contentment in life. I guess where we differ is in our search for this blessedness. Today’s scripture can help point us in the right direction. In this Psalm of David we find direction to this life of happiness. David says that we can find it in the most unexpected place, he says we find it in the harmony of the Spirit found in the body of Christ. Rather than in independence and doing our own thing there is a place of freedom and blessedness found only in the community of the body of Christ. There is actually a flow of love amongst His people that flows from the Father and the Son right through His church. David also called this the place of commanded blessing. Here are some thoughts from Matthew Henry on today’s verse.

“There, where brethren dwell together in unity, the Lord commands the blessing, a complicated blessing, including all blessings. It is God’s prerogative to command the blessing, man can but beg a blessing. Blessings according to the promise are commanded blessings, for he has commanded his covenant for ever. Blessings that take effect are commanded blessings, for he speaks and it is done. They are everlastingly blessed. The blessing which God commands on those that dwell in love is life for evermore; that is the blessing of blessings. Those that dwell in love not only dwell in God, but do already dwell in heaven….. Those that live in love and peace shall have the God of love and peace with them now, and they shall be with him shortly, with him for ever, in the world of endless love and peace.”

Church has its share of detractors. I can’t even begin to count the times I have heard people say they don’t believe in the organized church. From the Lord’s perspective that is like saying you don’t believe in Him. After all, church is why He became a man and why He died. I love His imperfect church, it is the place where He pours out His oil of love, it is the place of absolute blessedness.