TO KNOW HIM

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.

Do you know Jesus? That is a common phrase heard amongst evangelical believers. The problem with this is it is easily misunderstood. What does it mean to know Jesus? Does it mean have you answered an altar call, or prayed the prayer ? Or does it mean you have answered the question right when you are asked are you going to heaven when you die? Paul talked about “knowing” Jesus in today’s verse. For Him it wasn’t a casual statement or something that happened once upon a time, it was a deep, intimate relationship with the Lord that was increasing throughout his life. It wasn’t an add on in his life, for Paul knowing Christ was his life. Paul said that to know Christ was the most valuable possession that he owned and the very pursuit of all his energy. His ministry seemed to be an overflow of his pursuit. Here is how Steven Fry describes Paul’s statement.

“From a prison cell in Rome, Paul pens this personal letter in which he comes to terms with an accomplished past and a confining present. After his past as a persecutor of God’s people and through his “superior” religious activities as a Pharisee, Paul came to the liberating conclusion that all is rubbish compared to knowing the Lord! Freed from the stagnation of yesterday’s victories and the emotional paralysis of yesterday’s mistakes, Paul knew that the only thing that ultimately counted was knowing the Lord and being obedient to His will. Not only was his past subsumed by this singular passion, his present imprisonment could not snatch from him the joy of knowing Christ. Prison chains could not keep him from pursuing God, nor dull his effectiveness in ministry. Paul’s desire to know Christ sprang from no other motive but to enjoy Him. He wanted Christ for Christ’s sake, not his own. He was a lover of God, not a user of God.”

I love that statement, He wanted Christ for Christ’s sake. So let me ask that question once again, do you know Jesus? Do you know Him as your passion, your goal in life and your friend? Answering this question is where life begins.

WORKING IN YOU

Phil. 2:13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

This verse reminds us of our utter dependence upon God. Any good that we do originates in heaven. It is Christ in us, nudging and empowering us to go forward. It is the will and pleasure of God in us motivating us to His purposes and our destiny. Actually this relieves a lot of stress in my life, ‘it is not I but Christ’. What is my part? I must draw near to God, enjoy all He is, and yield my will to the blessed will of God. Here is how John Calvin sees it.

“This is the true engine for bringing down all haughtiness — this the sword for putting an end to all pride, when we are taught that we are utterly nothing, and can do nothing, except through the grace of God alone. I mean supernatural grace, which comes forth from the spirit of regeneration. For, considered as men, we already are, and live and move in God. But Paul reasons here as to a kind of movement different from that universal one.”

How does this look in the practical world? As I experience the hand of God on my life in worship and searching His written Word, I experience this strange and delightful miracle. My will begins to change. I can begin to say with the Lord Himself, ‘I delight to do your will oh God’. Matthew Henry talks about this.

“To will and to do: he gives the whole ability. It is the grace of God which inclines the will to that which is good: and then enables us to perform it, and to act according to our principles. Thou hast wrought all our works in us, Isa. xxvi. 12. Of his good pleasure. As there is no strength in us, so there is no merit in us. As we cannot act without God’s grace, so we cannot claim it, nor pretend to deserve it. God’s good will to us is the cause of his good work in us; and he is under no engagements to his creatures, but those of his gracious promise.”

So, did you see it? Henry said it is grace that ‘inclines the will’. How does that happen? It is in the area of enjoyment. He changes the things we enjoy. It is the very effect of God on our soul that changes our will or changes the things we love and enjoy.

THEY SHALL BE WILLING

Psa. 110:3 Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth.

This describes the biggest problem man has; he knows what is right but way too often finds himself in the midst of a conflict. He chooses the wrong just because he wants to. People often discuss and even argue about the free will thing. Man was created with a free will all right, there is just this minor problem. It was our free will that became twisted that fateful day when our first parents ate from that dratted tree. You know the one, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Somehow how, free will is not so free anymore, it is entirely bound by sin.

So what is the solution? It’s found in today’s verse. Did you see it? It’s the day of His power. It is times of spiritual awakening that our will is bent or conformed to His will. People tend to volunteer to follow Him gladly in the day of His power. Here are some awesome thoughts from John Pulsford.

“Willing to do what? They shall be willing while others are unwilling. The simple term ‘willing’, is very expressive. It denotes the beautiful condition of creatures who suffer themselves to be wrought upon, and moved, according to the will of God. They suffer God to work in them to will and to do. They are willing to die unto all sin, they are willing to crucify the old man, or self, in order that the new man, or Christ, may be formed in them. They are willing to be weaned from their own thoughts and purposes, that the thoughts and purposes of God may be fulfilled in them. They are willing to be transferred from nature’s steps of human descent to God’s steps of human ascent. Or, to abide by the simplicity of our text, God is Will, and they are ‘willing’. God will beautify them with salvation, because there is nothing in them to hinder his working. They will be wise, they will be good, they will be lovely, they will be like God, for they are ‘willing’; and there proceeds from God a mighty spirit, the whole tendency of which is to make his creatures like himself.”

Maybe you are still like that unbridled wild horse or maybe even like a mule. Be encouraged, we live in the day of His power. Step into His presence. Maybe that old mule will bend His neck to the yoke of the Lord.

HEAVENLY FATHER

“Our Father in heaven …”

MATTHEW 6:9

I love the simplicity of the teachings of Jesus. ”Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened;” and this, “give and it shall be given to you”. These words are simple yet open us up to an incredible life that is deeper than the ocean. One of these profound simple teachings was the Lord’s instructions on how to pray. “Our Father”, he starts. This is the simplest and the deepest revelation of all. Most everyone understands the concept of father. In theory, everyone has a father. Maybe your idea of father is a little twisted from your daddy experiences, Christ reveals to us what the heavenly Father is like. “If you have seen Me you have seen the Father” He declares. This Father is good and loving and kind. For those of us who have been born again you have received the Spirit of sonship, we have become sons of God. We can now pray and understand the simplest and deepest of all prayers, “Our Father Who art in heaven”. A. B. Simpson taught about the beauty and simplicity of this prayer. Check this out.

“Our Father. How simple, how beautiful, this invocation which Christ puts upon our lips! And yet how inconceivably rich in its meaning, in the fullness of the love and blessing it contains.

Just think of all the memories there have been on earth of wise and loving fathers. Just think of what this world owes to fathers. What a gift Christ bestowed on us when He gave us the right to call His Father “our Father.” My Father! We count it a great privilege that the Father comes so near to His earthly children, but when we pray, “Our heavenly Father,” the need arises within to enter into His holy presence in heaven, to breathe its atmosphere and become truly heavenly minded. Then the words “heavenly Father” take on new meaning, and our hearts come under an influence that abides all day long.”

Praying this prayer puts us in touch with with this heavenly reality, we are His and everything will be okay. He loves me, corrects me, forgives me, and He heals me. All I need or long for is found in this heavenly relationship. Say it now, “My Father’. There is no greater prayer. “Our Father Who art in heaven, hallowed be your Name. Let Your Kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

DO I HAVE A FREE WILL?

May your will be done.

MATTHEW 26:42

Our will is a huge part of our life. Desire and the pursuit of happiness are pretty much at the bottom of all of our decisions and actions. When man was first created, our free will was a beautiful part of our being, choosing to love and honor God was at the core of everything we did. That all changed in a moment at the fall of man. It was our free will, our ability to make good choices, that was effected most by the fall. Rather than worshiping and loving God, our heart began to pursue other interests. What had happened? Our free will became ensnared in the quagmire of sin We became slaves of our own lusts and as Paul said, “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” That pretty much sums it up, our free will is messed up until Christ sets us free. Here is how Andrew Murray explained it.

“God created man with a will of his own and the power to choose and make decisions for himself. And after man had fallen and yielded himself to the will of God’s enemy, God in His infinite love set about the great work of winning man back, that man would make the desires of God his own once more. As in God, so in man, desire is the great moving power. And just as man had yielded himself to a life of desire after the things of the earth and the flesh, God had to redeem him into a life of harmony with Himself. And so the Son came into this world to reproduce the divine desires in His human nature. Jesus yielded Himself to the perfect fulfillment of all that God wished and willed. He was even prepared to be forsaken by God, so that the power that had deceived man might be conquered and deliverance procured. It was in the wonderful and complete harmony between the Father and the Son, when the Son said, “May your will be done,” that the great redemption was accomplished.”

Christ became a man to liberate fallen man. That work of liberation began as Jesus spilled great drops of blood praying in Gethsemane, “Not My will Father, but your will be done”. The work of redemption begins with the will. The obedience of Christ changed everything. Through the disobedience of Adam, all of us became sinners, slaves of our fallen will. Through the obedience of Christ, whoever believes on Him experiences this powerful liberation from our fallen will. What a salvation! I can now shout with Jesus, “I delight to do your will oh God”.

WHEN GOD’S WILL BECOMES BAD

Luke 22:42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

Sometimes God’s will is not as obvious as you think. You may want to win the world, empty the hospitals of the sick, and maybe even raise the dead and still totally miss the plan of God. If you think about it even Jesus didn’t heal everybody. The lame man in the temple healed through Peter had been in the temple for years. Jesus probably passed by him many times without even stopping, God’s plans are not that obvious. He has a distinct plan for each of us, we have to yield our will to discover what that is. Easier said than done. Here is how Luther describes this struggle to yield to God’s plan.

“…..there’s also a good will that God doesn’t want us to do. This is the kind of will David had when he wanted to build a temple for God. God praised him for it, and yet God didn’t let it happen (2 Samuel 7:2–29). This was the kind of will that Christ had in the garden of Gethsemane. Even though it was good, his will had to be set aside (Luke 22:42). So if you would like to save the whole world, raise the dead, lead yourself and everyone else to heaven, and perform miracles, you should first seek God’s will and submit your own will to his will. You must pray, “Dear God, this or that seems good to me. If it pleases you, let it be done. If it doesn’t please you, let it remain undone. God often breaks a good will in order that a false, evil will won’t sneak in by appearing good. He does this so we learn that as good as our will might be, it’s still immeasurably inferior to his will. So our inferior good will must yield to the infinitely good will of God.”

So does God want to see the lost saved, absolutely. Does He want to heal the sick, without a doubt. I guess the struggle comes when we come to the shocking conclusion that we are just not that important. The Lord is able to do whatever He wants, whenever and through whomever. That’s why the yielding part is so important. We are more often the problem rather than the solution. At the end of the day The Lord will not share His glory. He doesn’t care who has the microphone in his hand, He will jealously guard His glory. When revival comes everything changes in a moment. The very atmosphere becomes heavy with God’s glory. Things that took years to accomplish happen in an instant. So if you want to see a move of God maybe the answer is getting out of the way. In a sense that’s what Jesus did when He prayed not My will but Your will be done.

YOUR KINGDOM COME

YOUR KINGDOM COME

Matt. 6:10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.

Let your kingdom come, in my life. That’s where revival must start, it has to start in your own heart. We had morning prayer in our church for many years. It started somewhere around 1979 and became a major emphasis for us in the 1980’s. One of the main things we prayed for consistently during those years is that The Lord would bring revival to New Orleans. We prayed for the churches, the schools, the government officials, we were praying for everyone that God would open their hearts to the move of God. Like many other things, my emphasis of prayer changed in 1994. Suddenly, I saw my own personal need for revival. It came as a convicting, and yes, a painful revelation from God. It was my heart that needed to change. I needed renewal. I needed to return to my first love. Yes, The Lord was answering my prayer for revival but it didn’t look anything like I expected. This revival had to start in my heart. It had to start with my repentance. I had been praying “let your kingdom come” assuming I was already caught up in His kingdom. The change was this, the kingdom had to come and bring change and new life in me. If I wanted revival in New Orleans I must have revival in my soul. Martin Luther spoke powerful about the kingdom of God and its effect on us in his reflections on The Lord’s Prayer.

“We don’t have to seek or ask for joy, happiness, or anything else we may desire. Rather, all of this comes along with God’s kingdom. So to help us avoid wanting what is false and selfish, Christ tells us to seek first God’s kingdom itself, not the fruits of the kingdom. But those who seek the fruits of God’s kingdom seek the back end of God’s kingdom. They seek the last part first, and the first part they value only because of its ultimate benefits.”

Seeking the kingdom is seeking God Himself. The kingdom of God is not meat and drink (physical or earthly things), it is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Kingdom prayer starts with praying for yourself; “let your kingdom come in me Lord”.

That strange revelation that revival had to begin in me was one of the greatest blessings I ever received from The Lord. What started out as painfully convicting, ended quite differently. This revelation led me on my greatest adventure. Through repentance and openness, a fresh move of the Spirit was birthed in my soul. He was making all things new. At that point in my life I had been a born again Christian for twenty-one years. After this new personal emphasis of praying for God’s kingdom to come I was brought back into that first love relationship with Christ. He makes all things new, He was starting with me. So maybe you need to pray this simple prayer along with me today. “Lord let your kingdom come, let your kingdom come in me.”

ALL THINGS LOSS

ALL THINGS LOSS

Phil. 3:7-8 ¶ But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.

The Apostle Paul had a total life change that he said began with his encounter with Christ on the Damascus Road. He was filled with anger and hostility toward the young Christian movement and was determined to do all that was within his strength to eliminate Christianity before it got entrenched in the world. He was on a trip to root out the Christians in Damascus when his whole life was permanently changed. Paul was swallowed up by the love of God with his radical encounter with Christ. Jonathan Edwards said that this love for God effected all that Paul said and did.

“Another instance I shall observe, is the apostle Paul; who was in many respects, the chief of all the ministers of the New Testament; being above all others, a chosen vessel unto Christ, to bear his name before the Gentiles, and made a chief instrument of propagating and establishing the Christian church in the world, and of distinctly revealing the glorious mysteries of the gospel, for the instruction of the church in all ages; and (as has not been improperly thought by some) the most eminent servant of Christ that ever lived, received to the highest rewards in the heavenly kingdom of his Master. By what is said of him in the Scripture, he appears to have been a person that was full of affection. And it is very manifest, that the religion he expresses in his epistles, consisted very much in holy affections. It appears by all his expressions of himself, that he was, in the course of his life, inflamed, actuated, and entirely swallowed up, by a most ardent love to his glorious Lord, esteeming all things as loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of him, and esteeming them but dung that he might win him. He represents himself, as overpowered by this holy affection, and as it were compelled by it to go forward in his service, through all difficulties and sufferings.”

Our Christian world today seems to be satisfied with a surface level, hip version of Christianity. Rather than having a life changing encounter, slick Christian empowerment slogans are peddled off as solutions to problems that clearly can only be changed by divine intervention. Surface level answers can never penetrate to the depths of our souls where all the issues lie. Paul was changed when he was knocked from his horse by the power of God. He found himself face to face with the King of Glory, He was looking into the face of the Eternal One, the Creator and Sustainer of all things. One moment in God’s presence and Paul was a new man. From that day on Paul counted all of his possessions and accomplishments in this life as nothing in comparison to the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

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.

THE LAST WILL #2

LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT#2

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Jesus met with His disciples for the last time before His death. At that meeting, He instituted the Lord’s Supper as well as gave His final promise to His disciples. You might say He gave to them His last will and testament. The significance of a will is determined by the possessions accumulated by the person who is dying. In this case, the Lord had very few earthly possessions, He had stored up all of His treasures in heaven. He was about to unveil the significance of this inheritance to His followers. Jonathan Edwards made some interesting observations about this. Listen to His powerful words.

“That it was his own, that which he had to give. It was the peculiar benefit that he had to bestow on his children, now he was about to die and leave the world as to his human presence. Silver and gold he had none: for while in his estate of humiliation he was poor. “The foxes had holes, and the birds of the air had nests: but the Son of man had not where to lay his head” (Luke 9:58). He had no earthly estate to leave to his disciples who were as it were his family: but he had peace to give them. It was his peace that he gave them; as it was the same kind of peace which he himself enjoyed. The same excellent and divine peace which he ever had in God; and which he was about to receive in his exalted state in a vastly greater perfection and fullness: for the happiness Christ gives to his people, is a participation of his own happiness: agreeable to what Christ says in this same dying discourse of his, John 15:11, “These things have I said unto you, that my joy might remain in you.”

To the natural man, Jesus had nothing to offer. He had no property, no stocks, no money, no treasures or jewels. All He had was His promise. What was that promise? Actually it was the Promise of the Father. He said “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you”. Actually this promise was that the Holy Spirit would come to replace Him. He would carry out the same ministry Jesus had performed, the only difference, He would now work through each of the disciples. They were entering into a whole new world. They were about to enter into the world of the Holy Spirit. This world of the Spirit is where everything changes. Rather than looking to our earthly possessions as our inheritance, we become suddenly aware of another whole world. This is the world of the Spirit. Our new inheritance is not silver and gold but it is Christ Jesus, the pearl of great price.