FOOTSTEPS OF GOD

Eph 3:8 – To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ,

Paul seemed to live in a state of “stunned”. How could you blame him? In one moment a Pharisee was turned into a disciple, a murderer was turned into gentle man, and and a man breathing out profanity was turned into a man spilling out words of grace. Paul himself stayed shocked at the change in his life until the day he died. We see the tension in today’s verse, he considered himself the chief of sinners, the least of the saints, and yet he became the chosen mouthpiece of the gospel message of salvation by grace alone through faith alone. He said the revelation he had of Christ was unfathomable. Stop for a moment and think about what Paul is saying, he is saying the mercy of God is too great to comprehend. We see the edges of it as we drink of the cup of grace but it will take eternity to explore the depth of His love for us. Adam Clarke had seen the results of this message of grace in the revival in England in the 1700’s. Here are his comments on today’s verse.

“The word ανεξιχνιαστος, to trace out, from ιχνος, a step, is exceedingly well chosen here: it refers to the footsteps of God, the plans he had formed, the dispensations which he had published, and the innumerable providences which he had combined, to prepare, mature, and bring to full effect and view his gracious designs in the salvation of a ruined world, by the incarnation, passion, death, and resurrection of his Son. There were in these schemes and providences such riches — such an abundance, such a variety, as could not be comprehended even by the naturally vast, and, through the Divine inspiration, unparalleledly capacious mind of the apostle.”

The implications of this apparent conflict in the life of Paul tells the story of our Christian faith. Paul clearly recognized his personal sinfulness and the amazing depths of God’s love that chose and appointed him for his mission. So it is with us, our sinfulness is exposed by His love and we become aware of our sins. We too are saved by grace as a gift which we receive by faith. What is our response? To join our voice together with Paul’s to shout the glory of His grace from the rooftops.

GALLERY OF ART

2 Cor. 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Of all the works of the Lord this has to be the very pinnacle. This is why Jesus came. This goes way beyond forgiveness and everlasting life. This is about the beautiful transformation of His sons and daughters. He takes us out of our misery, washes away all of our sin, and then begins the work of restoration and renewal. It is the work of the Spirit in our lives. How does it happen? It comes from gazing on the glory of the Lord. How can you see the unseeable? It’s really quite simple, we see the unveiling of Jesus Christ in the written word through the working of the Spirit on our souls. We are caught up in the glory of His love, we drink deeply of His Spirit, and we feast on His word. As we do this His beautiful work of artistry goes into effect. We are transformed from glory to glory. Here is how Jonathan Edwards describes this.

“We have a lively image of this Trinity in the sun. The Father is as the substance of the sun; the Son is as the brightness and glory of the disk of the sun, or that bright and glorious form under which it appears to our eyes; the Holy Ghost is as the heat and powerful influence which acts upon the sun itself and, being diffusive, enlightens, warms, enlivens and comforts the world. The Spirit, as it is God’s infinite love and happiness, is as the internal heat of the sun; but as it is that by which God communicates himself, is as the emitted beams of God’s glory. Moses was changed by God’s glory shining upon him, even as we are changed by God’s Spirit shed as bright beams on us. The Spirit of God is called the Spirit of glory upon two accounts: because ’tis the glory of God and is as it were his emitted beams, and as it is the believer’s glory and causes him also to shine.”
We gaze upon Christ, bask in His radiation, and then we begin to change and at the same time reflect the glory of the Lord. So this is what He is after, to put each of us on display in His gallery of art.

FACE TO FACE

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So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying,
“It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared”.

Gen.32:30

We saw Jacob’s journey begin as a young man at Bethel. It was the place of Jacob’s ladder that marked the beginning of God’s plan for Jacob. God’s plan was more than just Jacob meeting God, the Lord would not be satisfied with anything less than face to face. The Lord wanted total transformation. That first awakening in Jacob’s life revealed to Jacob how much he needed the Lord, it wasn’t until years later that Jacob began to reflect the change that God was after in his life. The Lord met Jacob as he was in his youth, a plotter and schemer trying to gain his inheritance by his own striving and trickery. After years had passed with God dealing in Jacob’s life the transformation was beginning to show. There was something of a completion that night as Jacob wrestled with God and saw God face to face. Here are some thoughts from Andrew Murray on today’s text.

“How often Christians complain that they have little experience of what it means to meet with God in prayer and feel the light of His countenance upon them. They have tried their best, but it seems to no avail. Their thoughts in the inner chamber bring only self-reproach and shame.

And yet your Father in heaven is not only willing but strongly desires that the light of His countenance shall rest upon you. Perhaps the words of this text may help to assure you of God’s desire. Yes, your inner chamber can also be called Peniel, because it is the place where God wants to meet you face-to-face. Only there will you realize what it is to meet with God, to see His face, and to feel how certain and blessed it is that His love rests upon you.”
At first, Jacob saw God just as his source of provision. That’s good, but not good enough. The Lord wants to be more than that. Our prayer becomes more powerful when it becomes a passion to seek Him and not just to get what He can give us. It is that kind of wrestling with God that leaves us changed. We begin to see that our life itself can become a prayer. Jacob left that place with a new identity, he was now called Israel, the prince of God. He also left with a limp, he would never be the same again.

WHAT’S THAT SMELL ?

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His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as the cedars of Lebanon.
Hosea 14:6
Fragrance is an interesting phenomenon. It can be pleasing, arousing, attracting, or incredibly repulsive; our sense of smell is often a great indicator of what we are about to deal with. The Bible talks about spiritual fragrance. It describes Christ with amazing aromas in Ps.45:7,8 “Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions; your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia”. In 2Cor. 2:15 Paul describes the aroma of believers, “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” Apparently, the fragrance of Christ is on us, we smell like Jesus. To those who are being attracted to Christ, that is a good thing. For those who are repulsed by Christ, we have the stink of death on us. Watchman Nee describes this fragrance in his comments on today’s verse.

“Hosea surely knew something of the scent of conifers. From Lebanon he paints us a picture of what the Christian life should be in its effect on others. The impression of Christ it gives should penetrate everywhere like pine fragrance. A man’s sense of smell is the most delicate of his senses. Through it he receives impressions of what is beyond reach of touch and even out of sight altogether. Nor need anything be said. For where there is fragrance, the effect is everywhere, pervading all. You cannot hide it. So does one whose roots are in Christ shed forth, like the cedar, a sweet savor of Him who is his unseen source of life. We carry with us the unassuming beauty of the Holy Spirit, as figured in the olive, and the effect is to make people aware only of a fragrant influence of Christ. He cannot be hid.”
I love that, the beauty of Christ is on us. We carry the sweet fragrance of Christ everywhere we go. The more we press into Him by reading our Bibles and spending time in worship, the stronger the effect becomes. So don’t be surprised the next time someone looks at you and says, “What’s that smell?”

AWAKENING

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS-

“But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you.” I Peter 5:10
One of the greatest revelations I received was knowing that God is more for me than me! If one could allow themselves to really think about the work of the Trinity and how each of them impact our lives it will blow your mind. To put it simply-“they are on it”! What an “awakening” of a lifetime for me, knowing “Christ will finish the work he started”. From that revelation, I could begin to rest in the finished work of redemption and allow the work of the Holy Spirit to sanctify, perfect and establish me all through my life. I am not some lonely star out in the huge galaxy of mankind bumping and drifting along. These words always give me comfort and courage to face my tomorrows.


I love this by Andrew Murray, ”I will tell you where you probably fail,” he wrote. “You have never yet heartily believed that He [God] is working out your salvation. Of course you believe that if painter undertakes a picture, he must look to every shade and color and every touch upon the canvas…But you do not believe that the everlasting God is in the process of working out the image of His Son in you. As any sister here is doing a piece of ornamental or fancy work, following out the pattern in every detail, let her just think: ‘Can God not work out in me the purpose of His love?’ If that piece of work is to be perfect, every stitch must be in its place. So remember that not one minute of your life should be without God. We often want God to come in at a certain time, say in the morning. Then we are content to live two or three hours on our own, and then he can come in again. No! God must be every moment the worker in your soul.”

“May he teach us our own nothingness and transform us into the image of His Son and help us to go out to be a blessing to our fellow men. Let us trust Him and praise Him in the midst of a consciousness of failure and of a remaining tendency to sin. Notwithstanding this, let us believe that our God loves to dwell in us, and let us hope without ceasing in His still more abundant grace.”

There is nothing better than to allow God to work the work in you! To cease from striving and understand that His will is the best ever! Finding joy in just Him is finding the hidden treasure at last. Christ has laid the foundation and we are hidden in the cleft of the rock. I always say to myself, there has certainly been a lot of effort made on my behalf for me to finish the race. Allow yourself to “see” the bigger picture. I pray you too will have an “awakening”!

A POTHEAD AND THE POWER OF PLEASURE

Rom. 5:17 For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. 

I often think about the way I was delivered from my sin of choice. I was a pot head, plain and simple, I loved to smoke weed before Christ set me free. I remember the dilemma I thought I was in the week just before I accepted Christ into my life. I knew He was real, I just couldn’t see giving up my sinful pleasure to follow Jesus. I couldn’t imagine going a day without pot, much less stopping totally. That’s when it happened. Jesus snuck up on me. I literally got caught by surprise by His love and simply, His reality. Christ came into my life and a miracle happened. My heart was changed. I lost my desire to smoke marijuana. Not only did I not want my sin of choice any longer, I wanted to follow Jesus. I just couldn’t get enough. I started devouring my Bible, going to Christian gatherings, and even sharing my faith.

Shortly after my conversion I remember standing outside holding a bag of grass in my hands. I looked at it and started to laugh. It looked so pathetic now. I had changed, my heart had changed. I had found a greater pleasure. This new pleasure freed me from the shackles of sin. Here are some thoughts about liberation from sin by the pleasures of God by Sam Storms.

“Here’s my point. How do you fight the pleasure of sin? I’ll tell you: with another pleasure. Holiness is not attained, at least not in any lasting, life-changing way, merely through prohibitions, threats, fear, or shame-based appeals. Holiness is attained by believing in, trusting, banking on, resting in, savoring, and cherishing God’s promise of a superior happiness that comes only by falling in love with Jesus. The power that the pleasures of sin exerts on the human soul will ultimately be overcome only by the superior power of the pleasure of knowing and being known, loving and being loved by God in Christ. Or again, the only way to conquer one pleasure is with another, superior, more pleasing pleasure!”
So what happened to the pot? I flushed it down the toilet of course. Almost forty two years have come and gone and the pleasure of God is sweeter and sweeter in my life. What kind of pleasure has you ensnared? I know the way out. It is not in rules or dogmas. The way out is by tasting the sweetness of Christ. It will ruin your appetite for the sins of this world.

WINEPRESS

Psa. 84:0 ¶ TO THE CHOIRMASTER: ACCORDING TO PTHE GITTITH. A PSALM OF THE SONS OF KORAH.

Psa. 84:1 ¶ How lovely is your dwelling place,

O LORD of hosts!
This Psalm is titled, Gittith, “For the Winepresses’. That is similar to the meaning of Gethsemane (oil press), the infamous garden that Jesus spent His last evening in with His followers. Like Jesus, David was familiar with God’s winepress. David had it right, how lovely is your dwelling place O Lord. You see what makes our life beautiful is not the comfort of our present situation. What makes our life beautiful is this, God is present with us. Jesus wrestled with God in Gethsemane. He was being squeezed in God’s winepress. What was the fruit of that night? The fruit was calvary, the empty tomb, and a great harvest of souls. David was also familiar with the uncomfortable wine press of God. David also bore fruit from being squeezed by God, he was transformed into the greatest of worshippers and song writers that has effected every generation since his time. Here are some thoughts from Augustine on today’s passage.

“This Psalm is entitled, “For the winepresses.” The grape hangs on the vines, and the olive on its trees. For it is for these two fruits that presses are usually made ready; and as long as they hang on their boughs, they seem to enjoy free air; and neither is the grape wine, nor the olive oil, before they are pressed. Thus it is with men whom God predestined before the world to be conformed to the image of His only-begotten Son, who has been first and especially pressed in His Passion, as the great Cluster. Men of this kind, therefore, before they draw near to the service of God, enjoy in the world a kind of delicious liberty, like hanging grapes or olives:…He hath the coverings of carnal desires stripped off from him, like grape-skins: for this hath taken place in him in carnal desires, of which the Apostle speaks, “Put ye off the old man, and put on the new man.” All this is not done but by pressure: therefore the Churches of God of this time are called winepresses.”
So have you been to God’s winepress lately? Augustine said it was God’s church. It is in church where we hear God’s word, struggle to yield, and then are pressed in our interaction with the body of Christ. His dwelling place is lovely, it just may take you a while to see it.

180

Phil. 3:13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,

Victory Fellowship is celebrating today 36 years of ministering to the New Orleans area. The Lord has blessed us beyond our dreams and expectations. We are very thankful but more hungry than ever for more. We believe the Lord has challenged us in 2015 with the theme 180. He is calling for a complete turnaround to follow after Him and His plan. One of the great influences on our church over the years has been Dick Mills. Even though he is no longer with us, his words still speak to us. Here is his devotion for January 30. Think it may be prophetic?

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could open the top of our head like a lid, reach inside our brain, and clear out all the traumatic memories? The next step would be to put the lid back on and go our way with a mind cleared of painful and hurtful associations with our past. It can be done. This verse tells us we can turn 180 degrees from looking into our past and can begin to confidently peer into the future.

One time a very godly person had a vision of me bound to past memories. A prayer went up, ”Lord, free Dick Mills from being chained to the past, even if you have to give him a vision to do so.” It happened that very evening while I was in prayer. I saw a vivid picture of myself sitting in a chair with chains linking me to the past. I could see many signposts all in a row. The closest signpost was marked with the date of the preceding year. The one behind it showed the date of the year before that. There were twenty posts in all, receding in time. (I was twenty four when this event took place.) In the picture I was chained to all twenty of those past years in my life. My back was to the future and I was facing the past. In desperation I cried out to God: “Lord, I will never be able to adequately minister to the needs of the people until these chains are removed. Dear Jesus, free me from this bondage.” This verse in Philippians 3:13 and others came to me, and immediately the chains came off. I did a complete turn around. I was gloriously freed so I could get on with what the Lord had called me to do.”

The Lord has new things, unprecedented things reserved for us individually and corporately. Let’s turn around, shake ourselves, and follow on to seek the Lord. This could prove to be the defining year of our lives.

REDEEMED FROM DESTRUCTION

MERRY THURSDAY – BY PARRIS BAILEY-

“Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies.” Ps. 103:4

“Why should I feel discouraged
Why should the shadows come
Why should my heart feel lonely
And long for heaven and home
When Jesus is my portion
A constant friend is he
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know he watches over me
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know he watches me”

I often think of this song when I make my way over to Marysong to visit with the girls. There are so many stories with the girls that got them there. All I know is they all end up needing the same Jesus that I needed when I was 16. It doesn’t take them long to realize that he has been “WATCHING OVER THEM THEIR WHOLE LIVES WAITING FOR THIS MOMENT”. Christ truly redeems their life from destruction. Redemption doesn’t stop at salvation but he gives us a crown of lovingkindness.
Spurgeon says, “Our Lord does nothing by halves, he will not stay his hand till he has gone to the uttermost with his people. Cleansing, healing, redemption, are not enough, he must needs make them kings and crown them, and the crown must be far more precious than if it were made of corruptible things, such as silver and gold; it is studded with gems of grace and lined with the velvet of lovingkindness; it is decked with the jewels of mercy, but made soft for the head to wear by a lining of tenderness. Who is like unto thee, O Lord!”
Watching the girls change is just supernatural. They are even amazed at the goodness of The Lord. But it isn’t easy!
The Lord surrounds us with His lovingkindness and His tender mercies. Our lives, from before we were ever born, are surrounded by God with His lovingkindness and His tender mercies.
This is one of those passages in the Bible that reminds us of how practical God’s love is for us. His love is not just a doctrine to examine in church or Bible class. It is actually an experiential reality that keeps us in the darkest of times. For David, this love is what held him when he was in exile for years. This mercy kept him and restored him when he fell into sin with Bathsheba. This lovingkindness and tender mercies were his bread when his son Absalom tried to take over his father’s kingdom. Maybe you are in trouble today. Maybe depression has grabbed you and tried to choke the very life from you. If so, remember this family love God has for you. Even better, He has loved you from your mother’s womb. You are His. He is with you, watching, caring, and loving you all of your days. Bless The Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless His holy name. Don’t ever forget His benefits. He has crowned you with life!
The stories never get old and they never stop at Marysong Restoration Center!

NEW HEART

NEW HEART

Psa. 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

I often think of the homeless man that got a new heart in church. I’m talking about a physical heart, you know, the kind you have thumping in your chest. He got in the prayer line reeking of booze, received prayer, and got a new heart. He actually went into the old Charity Hospital in New Orleans that week for open heart surgery and to the doctor’s great surprise, he didn’t need his operation, he got a new heart. Actually, every time someone is born again they receive a new heart. That is the blessing of Christianity, The Lord gives us all brand new hearts. That is how we change. Our old heart was corrupt, prone to sin. Our new heart is different, our new heart loves God and everything to do with this new life. Henry Smith speaks about today’s verse and this new heart, check this out.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, etc. David prayeth the Lord to create him a new heart, not to correct his old heart, but to create him a new heart; showing that his heart was like an old garment, so rotten and tattered that he could make no good of it by patching or piecing, but even must cut it off, and take a new. Therefore Paul saith, “Cast off the old man; “not pick him and wash him till he be clean, but cast him off and begin anew, as David did. Will ye know what this renewing is? It is the repairing of the image of God, until we be like Adam when he dwelt in Paradise. As there is a whole old man, so there must be a whole new man. The old man must change with the new man, wisdom for wisdom, love for love, fear for fear; his worldly wisdom for heavenly wisdom, his carnal love for spiritual love, his servile fear for Christian fear, his idle thoughts for sanctified works.”

This is the power of the Christian faith. Every religion has high standards and aspirations for man. From Buddhists to Hindus; from Jehovah’s witnesses to Hare Krishnas, all of them want man to live more moral and better lives. The problem with all of them is this, there is no ability to change the heart. This is the source of all of our problems. Like Jeremiah said, our hearts are desperately wicked. We must be born again. When Christ comes into your heart you become a new creation. You actually have a heart transplant.
Thinking about the drunken homeless man I have to laugh. The Lord was using this unexpected miracle to prophesy over all of us. This man need a new organ in his body, all of us need a spiritual heart transplant. So if you have been struggling with sin, pray David’s prayer, “Create in me a clean heart oh God”.