FORTY YEARS

Jn.4:35 – Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.

God’s word is more powerful than any of us can realize. After all, everything that is was created by the power of God’s Word. God’s word has power for salvation and healing as well as creation. The Word of God is also prophetic. It declares and forms our future. This verse in John has been instrumental to the founding and shaping of Victory Fellowship. It has been involved in everything from those early evangelism teams to Feed the Multitudes. It has continued shaping our course with life groups, Beyond the Grave, Feed the City, and Mary’s Song. This prophetic word has been the heart beat of our community, challenging and empowering us to reach our city with the good news of the gospel.

Something that stands out to me in this passage is the eternal presence of ‘I am’ in this verse. Jesus said not to put the harvest off to four months in the future. He would also say don’t get caught up in the ‘glory days’ of the past. What would He say? Look again, the fields are white right now for harvest. After forty years He is still calling us back to the fields, the harvest is ready.

Just as He did with His first disciples so many years ago, He said ‘launch out into the deep and let your nets down for a catch’. He is still calling new ‘fishers of men’. The funny thing about the Lord is this, He loves to call the least likely to effect our world. Who knows? Maybe He is calling you to launch your boat out into the deep.

I see this forty year anniversary of Victory Fellowship as a transition. One awesome season has come to an end. The effect of our church over the last forty years is impossible to gauge; thankfully only One is able to judge it and we will leave that in His hands. Leaving behind one season inevitably leads to the entering of another season. What will this next era of our church look like? Who will rise to the day to lead the charge? The Lord will suddenly raise up new voices and new talents to meet the challenge of this generation. I don’t want to linger too long thinking about the glory days gone by, “I am” is moving amongst us and I want to be included in the new voices that usher in His kingdom.

THE SHEPHERD KING

Jn.1:10 NLT – He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him.

If you think about what John is saying in today’s verse it is actually something that goes way beyond our ability to understand. How could the creator of all things enter into His own creation? The first few verses of John 1 describes the Word as God, the Word as being the creator of all things, and now the Word enters into the very world He created. John says it like this in vs.14, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth”. What this is like is the author of a play entering his own play or a artist entering his own work of art. Creators live outside of their work, especially the One Who created all things. He created time and space and matter and everything else that exists. For Him to become part of His own creation is unthinkable. That is the story of Christmas. Here are some comments by C. S. Lewis about authors and plays.

“When the author walks on to the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right: but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else—something it never entered your head to conceive—comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side.”

What Lewis is describing is actually the second Advent of our Lord. When the Creator enters into this creation again it will be over. The time for decisions and picking sides will be over, that’s what this Christmas season and this world are all about. Have you stopped and acknowledged the coming of our Lord? Has His birth effected you and caused you to see this world from a different perspective. That’s what happened to those shepherds that first Christmas. Two kingdoms collided as the Creator of all things took on a human body. The glory shone, the angels sang, and the shepherds bowed before this Shepherd King.

BEAUTIFUL FEET

Rom.10:14,15 – How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!”

It had been a long, hot day of pine cone picking in Klamath Falls, Oregon when this scripture took on new meaning for me. Parris and I were part of a team working with Weyerhaeuser to supply funds for our Bible College. I had been working all day and was hot and thirsty. One of our team leaders, Glenn Swarthout, had gone to get water for our team. I can still remember the moment even though it has been well over forty years ago. The mountains were stunning and it was a beautiful late summer day when I heard Glen singing and worshipping in the distance. Isaiah’s version of this promise says it like this, Isa.52:7 – “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

Seeing Glenn coming around the bend through the trees was a beautiful sight. I don’t want to sound overly dramatic but we were really thirsty. Nice cold water was the best news I could possibly receive, it was like nourishment for my soul.

Now think about this for a moment, God’s word is compared to water in the scriptures. It cleanses and refreshes us. It is the very source of life. Each one of us, as Christians, are called in some capacity to be carriers of God’s Word. We are carrying this water of life to the people of our world. To those who begin to get it, those whose hearts are opening to the gospel, our arrival is beautiful. We are those carrying the refreshing water of the word to the thirsty in the wilderness of this world.

Each one of us are strategically planted in the world to be carriers of His good news. You aren’t in your family by accident, your neighborhood and your place of employment are really divine assignments filled with His appointments. I am thankful for those who have brought me a refreshing drink over the years, now its my turn to bring His refreshing into the wilderness.

PREACH

Lk. 4:16 -18 – And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,

“THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED,

Today’s passage reminds us why Jesus came to earth as a man; it also reminds us what it means to be one of His followers. This is our first real glimpse into the preaching of Jesus. This is the message He preached in His home town. He was preaching in the synagogue He had attended all of His life. He saw the same people He had known throughout His childhood still sitting in their familiar spots like they had done for all of those years. His message outlined what He would preach and live for the next three years; it also upended the apple cart. He started by saying He was anointed to preach good news to the poor. He came to break the power of poverty from our lives through His death and bring God’s message of provision in His actions and words. He would feed the hungry as well as teach them about the blessing of sewing and reaping. After all it was Jesus that taught us “it is more blessed to give than to receive”.

Secondly He proclaimed release to the captives. Man has been enslaved to sin since our first parents fell. The message of Christ is forgiveness and release from the power of sin. His death is the basis for our freedom from those horrible shackles of sin. We are freed from sin”s bondage by the power of forgiveness.

Next Jesus proclaimed recovery of sight to the blind. Not only did Jesus open sick, blind eyes; He also opens the eyes of our heart. One touch from His hand and we view our world differently. This is part of our ministry, opening the eye of the spiritually blind to the beauty of our Lord.

He also preached healing from oppression. The power of the gospel releases us from the ramifications of our sinful past. No matter how much we messed things up He has provided a way of escape.

Finally, Jesus declared the beginning of the season of God’s favor. The gospel is good news. The season of our bondage is over. We are now entering the season of God’s favor on our lives through the power of the gospel.

WRITTEN IN YOUR HEART

Rom.2:14,15 – Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.

According to this verse Paul believed and taught that all mankind, Jews and gentiles alike, had something of God’s law in our hearts. Even after the fall there remains in all of us something of God’s moral code written within us. Because of our fallen nature we don’t have the capacity to follow our conscience, nevertheless it remains a constant reminder that we were created in the image of God. This is why humans from all ages have tried to create a religious system based on their version of the moral code written inside of all of us. From Buddhism to Islam, humans have created intricate systems of some sort of law based on this inner moral code. Sadly, no religion has the power to enable us to overcome our fallen nature. Only the gospel that provides a new heart within all that believe has the capacity to live this life that we all long to attain to. Here is how Albert Barnes describes this law written in our heart.

“The revealed Law of God was written on tables of stone, and then recorded in the books of the Old Testament. This law the Gentiles did not possess, but, to a certain extent, the same requirements were written on their hearts. Though not revealed to them as to the Jews, yet they had obtained the knowledge of them by the tight of nature. The word ” hearts” here denotes the mind itself, as it does also frequently in the Sacred Scriptures; not the heart, as the seat of the affections. It does not mean that they loved or even approved of the Law, but that they had knowledge of it; and that that knowledge was deeply engraved on their minds.”

The changed heart shows the superiority of Christianity over Judaism as well as all other religions or religious codes. Our nature is dramatically changed by the new birth, in Christ we can finally begin to live the way we know we should. Paul shows that all of us are sinners in need of a Savior. Only Christ has they ability not only to forgive us but dramatically change who we are.

PROTESTANT AND PENTECOSTAL 2

1Pet. 2:9 ¶ But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Luther also taught us a second great lesson, the priesthood of the Christian believer. In I Peter 2:9 we are called a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” This teaching birthed a great revolution in the souls of those experiencing this new faith. No longer did they need an earthly mediator; they had a mediator in heaven, the man Christ Jesus. We all have direct access into the holiest of all by the blood of Jesus. We are all priests unto God.

Luther also taught us the importance of the written Word of God. He proceeded to translate the Bible into German for the people in his churches. As these new believers began to search the scriptures in their own language everything changed. Today we have access to many great translations, commentaries and word study books. Dig into the word of God; it is food for our soul.

Our Protestant fathers also taught us the importance of the local church. The ministries of the ministers flow out of the local church and become the centerpiece of our Christian lives.

In the revival of 1734-1735 in Northampton, Mass, the local church became the hub of everything. This is where our instruction, our relationships, and even our business found its protection. The local church is critical to our way of life in our western culture.

Ephesians 2:17-22 17And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

These truths in today’s devotion can change your life. We learn the importance the priesthood of the believer. We all have access to God and can hear from Him. Also we see that the Lord speaks to us primarily fro His written word. Immerse yourself in scripture and you will begin to grow profoundly. Finally in today’s segment, we are reminded of the blessing of the local church. This is our place of safety and our place to serve together with other believers.

HOW SWEET IT IS

Ps.119:103 – How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

It hasn’t always been that way for me, I haven’t always loved the Bible. I guess you could say there was a day when I hated the Bible. I hated it because of the demands I thought it placed on me. I had no idea that it was in the Bible that I would actually find freedom from the bondage that sin and the law had placed on all of us. Now don’t take this the wrong way, I’m not saying that we can do whatever we want without ramifications. I am saying that the word of God produces a change in us that could be a self fulfilling prophesy. God’s word places a demand and then enables us to fulfill that demand and actually like it. What a deal, He places His word and His Spirit in us, the word of righteousness and the power of God to live it. Here is a glimpse from Luther’s famous intro to Romans that shows his love for God’s word. This is the intro that Wesley read that strangely warmed his heart.

“This Epistle (Romans) is really the chief part of the New Testament and the very purest Gospel. And it is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul. It can never be read or pondered too much, and the more it is dealt with the more precious it becomes, and the better it tastes….

Faith, however, is a divine work in us. It changes us and makes us to be born anew of God (John 1); it kills the old Adam and makes altogether different men, in heart and spirit and mind and powers, and it brings with it the Holy Ghost.”

So have you tasted this sweetness that Luther is describing? It is the sweetness of the Word of God. Like all of us, Luther didn’t always have a taste for the scriptures. That happened after he too was born again. One day he hated it, the next day he loved it. Maybe you don’t take time to read the Bible, maybe you think its boring or dry. Taste it for yourself, you may be surprised at the sweetness of its taste.

PRAYER AND GOD’S WORD

Heb.4:12 – For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

One of my grand adventures back in my Bible School/tree planting days took place near Klamath Falls, Oregon. We were finishing up a long day of work for Weyerhaeuser in the mountains and were about to break camp, it was the last day of our trip. Just as we finished dinner the forest rangers showed up at camp and told us we were ‘drafted’ to fight a forest fire that night. None of us had any experience in fire fighting so we ended up in a crew putting out the leftover fires in burned over areas. The one thing that became obvious that night, fire will keep burning until it runs out of fuel. That brings us to the lesson for today, prayer is a fire that burns on the fuel of the word of God. Here is Andrew Murray explaining that powerful combination of prayer and God’s Word.

“Prayer is like fire. The fire will only burn well if it is kept going with a viable fuel. God’s Word is a powerful fuel that must be carefully and prayerfully studied, taken to heart, and lived by. The inspiration and working of the Holy Spirit alone can do this. In this way we have a deeper insight into the value and power of God’s Word as the seed of everlasting life — a small seed in which life-giving strength is sheltered. Each Word or promise of God is a seed sheltering divine life in it. If I absorb it into my heart by faith and love, and meditate on it, it will produce fruit. Think about this: Even if your heart should feel cold and dead, the Word of God will bring about the kind of outlook He has promised in His Word. The Holy Spirit uses both the Word and prayer.”

Daily spending time reading the written word is imperative if we want to walk in the fire of God. Hebrews says that our God is a consuming fire, in our lives this fire is fueled by God’s promises. As you spend time in prayer, pay close attention to scripture that comes to mind, a fire just might break out.

He was there

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS-

In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God

He was the light shining in the darkness. John 1:1

Before the world was, there was Christ and he gave the world its existence. The more we dive into the word the more we remain in awe of a mighty Savior, the more redemption takes on a fuller and deeper meaning. He forever is the “the light shining in the darkness” over fallen man. It does one well to ponder the present ministry of Christ. Christ was “there through it all”. He saw Adam and Eve as they grabbed the first bite of unbelief, he watched Noah as he built the ark, stood by Abraham before he killed Issac and he provided another offering. He oversaw the killing of all the firstborn of Egypt while the plague passed over the Israelites. He has been on task throughout eternity and he ever lives to make intercession for us now. Christ is there and he is ever there and he made his way among us.

Far too many of us negate the work of Christ in our lives. In our hustle and bustle of everyday life the precious blood of Christ seems to slowly loose its mark upon us. Our redemption story becomes more like a fairytale of bygone years. Somehow we make it all about ourselves again. Going to church, reading his word, being thankful all become laborious! No wonder our faith grows weak and our prayers silent. He becomes a God that once was rather than he is and will continue to be. My friend your lamp has run out of oil and the light is slowly becoming extinguished. The Shulmaite in the Song of Solomon experienced a Holy Ghost awakening when she desired his kisses again. When he took her into his chamber she exclaimed. “look not upon me for I am black, they made me a keeper of the vineyards and my own vineyard I have not kept”. She knew somewhere, somehow she had left her first love. She got caught up in the things that make her sorrowful (the blackness of life) and spent her years toiling under the burning sun. She had forgotten how he loved her and brought her out of all of that. How precious it is that Christ comes to us again and again, telling us how we are loved, like his special rose. He takes each part of us and shows us the beauty in it. My friend Christ can be the light shining in your present darkness. Somehow the little foxes came and took your joy away, ate away the words sown deep within and left you barren. He is there with you now waiting for you to turn to him.

YOUR WORDS ARE SPIRIT AND LIFE

Jn.6:33 – It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.

This is actually how Jesus draws people to Himself, it is with the power of His words. No one has ever spoken like this man, Jesus of Nazareth. His words are permeated with life itself. Everyone who hears His words are drawn to Him. They become the sweetest of all treasures. In this scenario Jesus had been talking about eating His body and drinking His blood. To those who can’t hear, these words are some of the most offensive of all. He sounded like a madman or something worse. To those being drawn to Him, these were the sweetest of all words. Life itself is found in feasting on Christ, the Bread from heaven. This is where our lives begin. Here are some thoughts on this verse from the Tyndale Commentary.

“Addressing again the disciples who stumbled over his words, Jesus said, The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. Jesus is saying to the disciples that in and of themselves, as people of the flesh, they can never experience eternal life. Only the Spirit (of God) can give life. He then indicated the way the Spirit normally mediates life to people: The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. It is because Jesus had been endowed with the Spirit ‘without limit’ that he could speak the words of God, and these words mediated eternal life to those who believed. There is no-one else whose words have this power. It is worth noting that one cannot believe in Jesus without believing his words.”

This was the pivotal moment in the ministry of Jesus. The day before many of these same people He was speaking to had eaten the bread and the fish, one of the greatest miracles in Jesus ministry. Now they are choking over His words of explanation. Rather than words of life they have become words of offense. They had tried to make Him a king not realizing that His kingdom was not of this world. They were stuck on food to fill their bellies rather than food to satisfy their soul. Have you tasted the sweetness of His words? They are Spirit and Life and the only path to knowing Him.