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.

THE REWARD ON THE MERCIFUL

Ps.41:1-3 – Oh, the joys of those who are kind to the poor! The LORD rescues them when they are in trouble. The LORD protects them and keeps them alive. He gives them prosperity in the land and rescues them from their enemies. The LORD nurses them when they are sick and restores them to health.

This passage is loaded with promises for those who are generous to the poor. The Hebrew word for poor is filled with meaning. It refers to the helpless, those who are dangling by a rope or hanging on for dear life. It’s much easier to shut our ears to the cries of the hurting, it is more beneficial for us to hear and respond. Who exactly are the poor referred to in this verse? This is speaking of the sick, the addicted, and those hurting financially. This is a description of what ministry is about. Here is how Adam Clarke describes this verse.

“The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive. It is worthy of remark, that benevolent persons, who “consider the poor, “and especially the sick poor; who search cellars, garrets, back lanes, and such abodes of misery, to find them out (even in the places where contagion keeps its seat), very seldom fall a prey to their own benevolence. The Lord, in an especial manner, keeps them alive, and preserves them; while many, who endeavor to keep far from the contagion, are assailed by it, and fall victims to it. God loves the merciful man.”

If you read on in this Psalm you can see the blessings of the generous piling up. First, He says He will protect us. He will surround us with His favor like a shield and no weapon formed against us will prosper. Next, He says He will keep us alive. Death itself will have to back off because we are being kept by the Lord. He also promises us prosperity in the land. The land itself will respond to us. This is speaking of harvest in whatever our hand finds to do. He then says He will keep us from our enemies, nothing that is planned against us will prosper. Wicked plans will turn around to bring favor into our lives. David also says that the Lord Himself will nurse us in our sickness. He will bring us back into total health and recovery. There is a reward for the merciful, this is what our lives and church are all about.

WAITING ON THE LORD

Psa. 27:14 Wait for the LORD;

be strong, and let your heart take courage;

wait for the LORD!

One of my big challenges throughout my Christian experience has been waiting on the Lord. I have a natural tendency, like many of us, to take matters into my own hands. How many times do I have to be reminded that the Lord doesn’t need my help? Taking what we perceive as the Lord’s work into our own hands can be quite deceptive. We mask our own motives behind a spiritual facade. How do I know? I have been guilty too many times. Waiting on the Lord brings us to a place of total dependency on the Lord, gives us greater clarity, and makes room for His power and glory to be displayed. As Isaiah says, “they that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. Here are some thoughts from A.B. Simpson on waiting on the Lord.

“Wait on the Lord. How often this is said in the Bible; how little understood! It is what the old monk called the “practice of the presence of God”. It is the habit of prayer. It is the continual communion that not only asks, but receives. It is this that renews our strength until we “mount up with wings as eagles, run and are not weary, walk and are not faint.” Our hearts are too limited to take in His fullness at a single breath. We must live in the atmosphere of His presence till we absorb His very life. This is the secret of spiritual depth and rest, of power and fullness, of love and prayer, of hope and holy usefulness. Wait, I say, on the Lord.

Waiting on the Lord is how my calling to New Orleans was confirmed to me so many years ago. I was zealous for foreign missions. I had built my zeal reading about missionaries like Hudson Taylor, C.T. Studd, Jim Elliot, and David Brainerd. I wanted to make my mark on the nations. As I was preparing to go, the Lord spoke to me by various means all saying the same thing, “Be still and know that I am God”. As I reluctantly waited on clarity from the Lord His direction became crystal clear, I was to return to my home in New Orleans. Yes, I was called as a missionary; a missionary to the city of New Orleans.

THE DAY THE CONVERSATION CHANGED

Acts 2:22 – Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know —

“Can you please keep those kids quiet!” Peter was trying to grab just a few more minutes of shut eye before he was back on that boat again. He had been going out at night fishing for years on the Sea of Galilee, tonight would be like hundreds of other nights; or would it? He had memories of fishing with his dad, now it was more serious. Peter and his fishing partners had bills to pay and food to put on the table. He was hoping for a better night tonight, he couldn’t afford too many more like last night; fishing all night and no fish. Something just had to give.

Have you ever known a fisherman? If so you already know Peter. His conversation was about tides and bait and nets and boats. His words were predictable and understandable because he knew about fish. People talk about what they know. That was about to change for Peter. After another long night of no fish an unexpected interruption changed everything. An itinerant preacher wanted to borrow Peter’s boat, reluctantly Peter agreed. Maybe he thought it might change his luck. Was that ever an understatement. After the preaching was over Peter heard the words that would change his life and his conversation forever, “launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch”. Reluctantly Peter followed the instructions and what happened next was over the top. Fish began filling the nets, so many fish that the nets began to break and the boat began to sink. Somehow they got those fish to the shore and that’s when the conversation changed, “follow Me and I will make you a fisher of men”. It’s funny, you would think the fishermen would be talking fish stories after a catch like that. How could they? Jesus had stepped onto their boat.

Peter began to speak a new language that day. How could he just talk about fish after Jesus had disrupted everything? From that day Jesus was at the center of his conversation, how could he really talk about anything else?

That brings us to us. We all talk about the things we know. Motorcycle guys talk motorcycles, guitar guys talk guitars, and golfers talk golf. You catch the drift. What could change any of that? The conversation changes when Jesus steps onto your boat. Suddenly, guitars and boats and football games aren’t that important. The conversation has changed. From now on you will be fishing for men.

MOMMA DONT CRY!

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS

Luke 7:11-15 – “Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said DONT CRY!

Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.”

An encouraging word to you my dear mothers who cry over your children! Christ visits all those who are dead, lost, or in harms way. Never give up!

Spurgeon says “He scatters His mercy by the roadside and anywhere and everywhere His paths drop fatness. Where Jesus journeys or sleeps, a word will find Him ready to conquer death, or quell the tempest. Yonder a procession descends from the city. Our spiritual eyes see death upon the pale horse coming forth from the city gate with great Suddenly the procession is arrested by another—a company of disciples and much people are coming up the hill. We need not look at the company but we may fix our eyes upon One who stands in the center, a Man in whom lowliness was always evident and yet majesty was never wanting. It is the living Lord, even He who only has immortality and in Him death has now met his destroyer. The battle is short and decisive—no blows are struck—for death has already done his utmost. With a linger the chariot of death is arrested—with a word the spoil is taken from the mighty and the lawful captive is delivered.”

My dear mother never lose heart! What I love about this story is that Jesus halts the procession of death. So many of our children are in harms way but Christ halts the progress of it. He interrupts the cycle that we were on. It’s in his nature to heal. He has a touch full of power.

Maclaren said “Note that this voice of Christ’s has power in the regions of the dead. Wherever that young man was, he heard; in whatsoever state or condition he was, his personality felt and obeyed the magnetic force of Christ’s will!”

My dear mother -wherever your dear son or daughter is God is able! Able to find, hunt down, deliver and he hears our cry!

WHAT DOORS ARE OPENING IN YOUR LIFE IN 2018?

Rev.3:8 – I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it…

What kinds of open doors are opening up before you in the next year? The Lord opens doors that no man can shut, we just have to be in a place to see them and be willing to go through them. I was recently looking up today’s verse in several commentaries. Here is a short thought from several of them. John Wesley spoke about a door of joy open to us as we serve the Lord.

“I have given before thee an opened door – To enter into the joy of thy Lord; and, meantime, to go on unhindered in every good work.”

The Lord is the source of all of our joy. The good news is that it multiplies when we are involved in His endeavors. Matthew Henry believed that liberty, freedom itself, comes from the Lord. He believed the Lord has opened doors of liberty for us. Here are Henry’s words.

“I have set it open, and kept it open, though there be many adversaries. Learn here, Christ is to be acknowledged as the author of all the liberty and opportunity his churches enjoy.”

I love that, there is not only freedom but plenty opportunities that come from proceeding through His open doors. John Trappe believed that these open doors would not only advance the kingdom, they would also prove to be beneficial to us. Here is what Trappe said about this verse.

“A fair opportunity of doing thyself good; which those that go about to deprive thee of shall be sure to lose their toil and tallow (blessing).”

Not only are we blessed, those that attack us end up losing their blessing. Finally, William Barclay said that open doors of ministry are all around us. We don’t have to go on a mission trip to find open doors of ministry, they are right here. Here are Barclay’s thought on this verse.

“There is a door of missionary opportunity before every man and he need not go overseas to find it. Within the home, within the circle in which we move, within the parish in which we reside, there are those to be won for Christ. To use that door of opportunity is at once our privilege and our responsibility.”

The truth is that there are many doors of ministry and blessing right in front of us. Embrace the Lord and He will gently lead you through them.

HE TOOK THE LOAVES

Jesus therefore took the loaves.
John 6:11
I love the pictures painted in the gospels. What a masterpiece is painted by today’s short, simple verse; the little boy’s lunch in the hands of Jesus. This is the way Jesus works even today, we look to Him in our need and He wants to know what is in our hand. Recently I was reminded of a powerful lesson the Lord taught me as a young Christian. I was driving home after looking for a job after just arriving at Bible School when I randomly picked up a hitch hiker. As I shared Christ with this apparently homeless man the Lord kept telling me to give him my lunch. You see I had my lunch under my seat. But that was not the whole problem, I needed a job, I was out of money, and there was no more food at home. I remember giving this man my lunch in reluctance as he climbed out of my car. But here is the best part, when I got home there was a package waiting for me, loaded with groceries full of my favorites from my mom. What a great lesson, our provision is right there in front of us, that day it was in the form of my last lunch. Here are some thoughts from Watchman Nee on today’s verse.
“For most of His miracles, God makes use of material. Here Jesus accepts five loaves and two fishes. He might have turned stones to bread, but He did not. He chose instead to work with what was offered Him. “Bring them hither to me,” He said. What He does, He does through us. All miracles begin here, with my all in His hands. Keep my loaves to myself, and one man is fed. Give them up to Him, and shall I go hungry?

In a day of extreme national poverty, the prophet Malachi brought to Israel God’s answer to her problem. It was: bring the whole tithe into the storehouse—and see! It takes only a tiny stopper to close a very large bottle, so withholding from us its entire contents. And heaven is like that. Often for us there is no miracle simply because we give God nothing to work on. He asks only a very little—what we have! But He needs that.”
So there you have it, the miracle has been in your hand (or in your pocket) all along. It doesn’t take much, it only takes trusting in the Lord. After all, He has you in His hand.

PRUNED

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

John 15:2
I often think of the pruning season of the vineyards next to us in California back in Bible school days. Those beautiful green vines would suddenly be pruned back to what looked like stumps. Who would ever think that pruning was the way to fruitfulness? Like clockwork, every spring, the vines would grow back again preparing for another season of harvest. Before you knew it,the vineyard was alive again. From the first growth of the early spring, to the vines bending from the heaviness of the fruit. Pruning plays a major role in it all. Pruning is important, without it there wouldn’t be much fruit. The Lord Himself is the farmer, He knows exactly what needs to be pruned away. He will prune back members of His body to prepare the way for future growth and harvest. At the end of the day the Lord is after fruit, fruit is the glory of the Lord. Here are some of Luther’s thoughts on today’s verse.
“God separates the wild branches from the others so that they won’t spread and spoil the true vine. God singles them out to protect the true vine. He determines which ones should be cut off and tossed into the fire. But it all appears very different to us. We see these wild branches growing and spreading. They are much stronger and thicker than the others. They look like the only true ones that will produce fruit. In contrast, we appear small, puny, and unfruitful. Yes, people want to root us out and cut us off as useless and unfit. But the false vines appear as if they will remain forever, and the entire world respects them highly. We need spiritual understanding and vision… From the time of the apostles until now, many heresies have challenged the teachings of Christ, of baptism, of the Lord’s Supper, of justification by faith, and so on. These heresies are so pervasive that it appears they are correct teachings and the Christian church might pass away. But God has cut off all of these wild branches and preserved his true branches, so that we nevertheless hold on to right teaching, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper as the apostles gave them to us.”
We have to trust the Lord when it comes to pruning. When He gets out that pruning knife it is never fun. We have to trust Him to cut away. He cuts away stuff from our personal lives as well as things or people from His body. He is the Vinedresser, we are just branches. As He nourishment flows into us, before we even know it, growth begins to appear all over again.

 ABSOLUTELY NOTHING

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord:

I will put my laws into their minds,

and write them on their hearts,

and I will be their God,

and they shall be my people. Heb.8:10

In His humanity, Jesus said He could do nothing without the Father. He said the same thing about us in His parable about the vineyard. If that is true, why do we still keep trying so hard to take matters into our own hands? If it’s true that I can do nothing without out Him that actually produces great freedom. I know He is all powerful (He can do anything), all knowing (He knows everything), and He is filled with lovingkindness. If I can just focus on those simple truths and then rest, life is actually a piece of cake. My job becomes yielding, not doing. That takes the pressure off of me and places the glory on Him. He has plenty in store for my hands to perform, I need His guidance and favor too be fruitful. Here are some thoughts from Spurgeon on this precious truth.
“All that the believer has must come from Christ, but it comes solely through the channel of the Spirit of grace. Moreover, as all blessings thus flow to you through the Holy Spirit, so also no good thing can come out of you in holy thought, devout worship, or gracious act, apart from the sanctifying operation of the same Spirit. Even if the good seed be sown in you, yet it lies dormant except he works in you to will and to do of his own good pleasure. Do you desire to speak for Jesus-how can you unless the Holy Ghost touch your tongue? Do you desire to pray? Alas! what dull work it is unless the Spirit makes intercession for you! Do you desire to subdue sin? Would you be holy? Would you imitate your Master? Do you desire to rise to superlative heights of spirituality? Are you wanting to be made like the angels of God, full of zeal and ardor for the Master’s cause? You cannot without the Spirit-Without me ye can do nothing.”
Our battle is the yielding part. It takes trust and humility to yield. You must believe that God is leading you and His hand is on you in order to yield. Now here is the difficult part. We have to be willing to take no credit for how He uses us. That is way easier said than done. Trust in the Lord and humble yourself under His mighty hand; all things really are possible from this perspective.

THE ARM OF THE LORD

“THE ARM OF THE LORD

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS BAILEY-

“O LORD, be gracious unto us; we have waited for thee: be thou their arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble.” Is.33:2

One of my greatest times as a young Christian was when I received a letter from back home from another Christian. Frank and I had moved to Calf. from New Orleans and cell phones were nonexistent. This particular day was overwhelming to me, we were tree-planting way up in Oregon, I went to my tent and saw that the continual rain had leaked into my sleeping bag and everything was damp. I found myself crying and the next thing I knew my contact got lost and I cried even more. A letter had just come from home with the scripture “I will sing unto The Lord for he has triumphed gloriously, the Horse and Rider he has thrown into the sea”. To this day I can feel His presence surround me in the damp cold tent. Just recently I came across this scripture and I felt the same presence. We really can do nothing without the strength of The Lord in our daily lives. Many of us try within our own strength only to fall flat or run out of gas. Recently we bought some property on the north shore which happens to be across the river from the Carmelites. (A Nun Convent) Every morning they ring bells at 7:10 am compelling others to come to mass. To me it becomes my song in the morning. “O Lord, be gracious for us, we have waited for thee, be my arm this morning and my salvation in times of trouble”. He will give us “continual supplies” for his mercy is new every morning. The arm denotes the power that The Lord exerts in defense of the Church, the Bride of Christ. He becomes our “helper” our “standby” when trouble comes. Do you find yourself without ability this Monday morning? Have no fear The Lord will fight for you, just wait for his strength, wait for his fresh dew from heaven and you will be able to mount up with wings as eagles. It is the ‘Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom”.
“For who has believed our report? And to whom is the arm of The Lord revealed”? Awake, O Zion; awake, awake, awake! Put on thy strength, O Jerusalem, start ye from your slumbers, arouse ye from your lethargy, and cry unto God and say unto him, “Awake, awake! put on thy strength, O arm of The Lord”. Is the Lord’s hand waxed short? My friend if you wait for him you find that is He is indeed able. He will prove to be faithful to the end. How much can you see through that spiritual eye of yours? Let the horizons expand itself that you can see the goodness of The Lord in the land of the living. This morning sing your songs, ring your bells and let the earth awake to the mighty arm of The Lord. For he will indeed bring salvation to those that are faint and strength to the weary.