DRAGONS AND OTHER CREATURES

2 Cor.5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

The problem with humans is far more severe than we want to admit. Some think education can fix our dilemma, others think that discipline alone is the answer. Others appeal to the home life or maybe therapy and counseling. You see none of those solutions are bad and may prove to be quite helpful. None of them actually address the real problem with humans. Its our nature that’s the problem. C.S. Lewis dealt with this very issue in the Chronicles of Narnia. One of the young children actually morphed into a dragon. He was actually a dragon all along, fixing him took drastic measures. Lewis portrayed the new birth as actually peeling off or peeling away the dragon nature that encompassed Eustace. It was a picture of the new birth experience. We used to be some horrid creature. We have become different creatures by the new birth experience. Dane Ortlund describes this transformation.

“In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader C. S. Lewis captures an Edwardsian view of regeneration in his depiction of the change wrought in the previously obnoxious Eustace: “It would be nice, and fairly nearly true, to say that ‘from that time forth Eustace was a different boy.’ To be strictly accurate, he began to be a different boy. He had relapses. There were still many days when he could be very tiresome. But most of those I shall not notice. The cure had begun.”

In the new birth the cure has begun. Like Eustace, the dragons that we all naturally are by birth have been decisively peeled off in the new birth. Old tendencies remain, but the fundamental change has secured us once and for all as new creatures.”

So maybe you are still dealing with some sort of slippage back into that dragon like life. You know there was a change and for a while you appeared to be a different person. Those dragon like qualities just keep creeping back into your world. What can you do? Its really quite simple; stop feeding the beast. Feed that new person you have become. How do you do that? Stop eating dragon food. Its the carnal atmosphere that surrounds us that feeds the dragon. We have to get violent with ourselves. Attack that dragon like life with the word of God and the Spirit. Feast on the food of angels and the dragon will be gone for good.

HEAVEN’S INCREASE

Rev. 4:9-11 – Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:

“You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.”

Have you ever wrapped your head around eternity. I remember my first glimpse of it came when I was a little child. My mom was reading a story to me about Abraham and how he counted the stars. The book had a picture of Abraham outside looking up at the infinite number of stars. In that moment I remembering asking my mom about eternity, specifically eternity past. “Where did God come from?” I asked. I don’t remember my mom’s answer but what can you say? He has always been and will always be.

Have you ever wondered about eternal heaven and what that will be like? Jonathan Edwards says that it will be a place of ever increasing and ever intensifying joy. The longer we are there the greater the happiness will be because we will be living in a state of the constant unveiling of the magnificence of God. Her is how John Piper describes it.

“Heaven will be a never-ending, ever-increasing discovery of more and more of God’s glory with greater and ever-greater joy in him. If God’s glory and our joy in him are one, and yet we are not infinite as he is, then our union with him in the all-satisfying experience of his glory can never be complete, but must be increasing with intimacy and intensity forever and ever. The perfection of heaven is not static. Nor do we see at once all there is to see—for that would be a limit on God’s glorious self-revelation, and therefore, his love. Yet we do not become God. Therefore, there will always be more, and the end of increased pleasure in God will never come.”

There will always be more. Unthinkable!!! It will be impossible to be bored and want to move on to what’s next. His glory that we glimpse in His creation will be unveiled right in front of us. We taste just the edge of it now, eternity will be greater than we can imagine.

THIRSTY SOUL

Ps. 63:1 – O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Thirst is one of the few things that can’t be ignored and ultimately will not be denied. When you are thirsty all your other desires seem insignificant. Everything else will just have to wait until your thirst is quenched. David understood thirst and wilderness and the role water played in the sustenance of life. As a shepherd in his youth leading the sheep to water was a daily priority. When his spiritual eyes were opened he became intensely aware of his spiritual thirsting. David knew that in order to live he had to have water every day. The solution, his journeys always kept him close to his water source. He had to lead the sheep beside the waters of rest, how much more would David need spiritual refreshment for his soul. When David was in exile his mind turned back to the waters of Bethlehem. 2 Sam.23:14,15 – “David was then in the stronghold, while the garrison of the Philistines was then in Bethlehem. David had a craving and said, “Oh that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem which is by the gate!” He remembered drinking from those wells to quench his thirst, he needed a drink that day as he ran for his life. Here are some thoughts from Spurgeon on today’s verse.

“Thirst is an insatiable longing after that which is one of the most essential supports of life; there is no reasoning with it, no forgetting it, no despising it, no overcoming it by stoical indifference. Thirst will be heard; the whole man must yield to its power; even thus is it with that divine desire which the grace of God creates in regenerate men; only God himself can satisfy the craving of a soul really aroused by the Holy Spirit….When the wilderness caused David weariness, discomfort, and thirst, his flesh cried out in unison with the desire of his soul. In a dry and thirsty land, where no water is. A weary place and a weary heart make the presence of God the more desirable: if there be nothing below and nothing within to cheer, it is a thousand mercies that we may look up and find all we need.”

So thirst is a good thing, it reminds us of our greatest need. It reminds us to return daily to the well that satisfies our soul.

COME TO THE OASIS

Matt. 11:28-30 – TPT – Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me. I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis. Simply join your life with mine. Learn my ways and you’ll discover that I’m gentle, humble, easy to please. You will find refreshment and rest in me. For all that I require of you will be pleasant and easy to bear.

This verse reminds me of the services Pastor John Osteen used to conduct at Lakewood Church on Thanksgiving week. Pastor John was a full on Holy Ghost guy. As a matter of fact his famous book was “The Confessions of a Baptist Preacher”. It was his story of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. Those services were a place of refreshment for ministers and Christian leaders from all over the world. In those days they fondly called their church I Houston an oasis of love. What a great name! It was a place of spiritual rest and refreshing in the spiritual desert our world had become. We all need a place of spiritual refreshing, a place to recharge and recover from the heat of the day. In the Passion Translation, quoted above, it uses the two pictures of rest. It speaks of an oasis and being yoked to Jesus. Here is what the notes from the Passion say about this verse.

“Or “Bend your neck to my yoke.” The metaphor of a yoke is that it joins two animals to work as one. It is not simply work or toil that is the focus here, but union with Christ.

As translated from the Hebrew Matthew. The Aramaic could be translated “Come to me and I will cheer [refresh] you. I am cheerful [refreshing] and humble in heart, and you will find cheer [refreshing] for your soul.”

All of us need refreshing, as David often said, “we are traveling through a dry and dusty land”. I have to agree, even many churches have become quite dry in recent years. I remember driving through the Mojave desert back in the seventies with an evangelism team headed to Phoenix. Our air conditioning was broken and it was really hot. We crossed over the Colorado River and made a decision. We got out and went for a swim. We had found an oasis for our journey. A time of refreshing was needed that day, we needed God’s Oasis of Love. Maybe you feel dry in your journey today, its time to drink from His well of living water, it is a refreshing oasis that travels with us every where we go. I

GIVE THANKS TO THE LORD

Psa. 136:1 ¶ Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

for his steadfast love endures forever.

Complaining is the opposite of being thankful. Murmuring and complaining caused a whole generation of Jews to fall short of the promise and die in the wilderness. Paul said those things happened as an example to us. Getting your eyes on Jesus, looking to His word, and reflecting on all His blessings in our lives will drive ungratefulness from our hearts. There is something about giving thanks and acknowledging His goodness that puts us in touch with the Lord. Rather than ungrateful our hearts are filled with gratitude. David, of all people, knew about adversity and had learned how to navigate through the mine fields of negativity. He had worshiped in adversity for years, living in the wilderness in exile. He had found access into the Lord’s presence through thanksgiving. After all, it was David who sang, “We will enter His gates with thanksgiving, and enter His courts with praise”. Here are Spurgeon’s thoughts on today’s verse.

“The inspired writer calls us to praise Jehovah for all his goodness to us, and all the greatness of his power in blessing his chosen. We thank our parents, let us praise our heavenly Father; we are grateful to our benefactors, let us give thanks unto the Giver of all good. For he is good. Essentially he is goodness itself, practically all that he does is good, relatively he is good to his creatures. Let us thank him that we have seen, proved, and tasted that he is good. He is good beyond all others: indeed, he alone is good in the highest sense; he is the source of good, the good of all good, the sustainer of good, the perfecter of good, and the rewarder of good. For this he deserves the constant gratitude of his people. For his mercy endureth for ever. We shall have this repeated in every verse of this song, but not once too often. It is the sweetest stanza that a man can sing. What joy that there is mercy, mercy with Jehovah, enduring mercy, mercy enduring for ever. We are ever needing it, trying it, praying for it, receiving it: therefore let us for ever sing of it.”

Seeing God’s goodness is where it all really starts. Looking at your problems and disappointments can poison you. Looking at the Lord and His goodness changes everything.

LIGHT ARISES OUT OF DARKNESS

Judges 14:14 – And he said to them, “Out of the eater came something to eat. Out of the strong came something sweet.”

God’s glory provides a great contrast to the darkness that engrosses the world. The prophet Isaiah declared “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles:

The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.”

Of course Isaiah was speaking of the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, whose entire life was about redemption. In the midst of our greatest darkness, Jesus shined His light into our lives. When we were at our lowest He came to us, bringing us out of misery into an incredible life in Him. We were once darkness but now we are light in the Lord. So I like to think of it like this, what was once my worst day became my best day. I was drowning in my own misery, the fruit of a life of bad choices, when the light of Christ invaded my life and brought me into a whole new world of light. Maybe you feel like you are at the bottom. You are a candidate for redemption and the beginning of a whole new life. Here is how Jonathan Edwards describes good times coming out of bad.

“As all the good and happiness of mankind comes by redemption and salvation, all his light arises out of darkness, all his happiness out of misery, all his wealth out of the most extreme poverty, and his life out of death. Agreeable to these circumstances of mankind, and the great designs and methods of God’s grace towards him through the Savior, it is ordered that so many of our outward mercies and good things are given in a way of deliverance, protection or remedy from some calamity we have been the subjects of, or are exposed to.”

This pretty much describes the ministry of Jesus when He was here on earth. Everywhere He went He was bringing help to the hopeless and helpless. He brought healing to the sick, provision for the needy, and freedom to those bound by sin. The good news is this, He is still doing exactly the same things today. Even better news, He will do all of this for you.

DO NOT BE AFRAID

Matt. 14:27 – But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

As we have often noted, the miracles of Jesus were real but they each carried a sermon that penetrates the circumstances of our lives. This story contains one of the most well known miracles that Jesus performed. It happened the night after the feeding of the multitudes when the disciples were caught in the middle of the Sea of Galilee in a storm. It seems that they were rapidly losing their courage thinking maybe this could be the end of the line for them when Jesus suddenly appeared walking on water. This was a miracle that would not be forgotten anytime soon, it carried significant applications in many parts of their lives. Here is how Ellicott describes the application of this miracle.

“Be of good cheer; it is I be not afraid.—The accuracy with which the words are given by St. John, as well as by St. Matthew and St. Mark, shows the impression which the incident made on the minds of the disciples. To hear the familiar tones and the cheering words was enough, even amid the howling of the winds and the dashing of the waves, to give them confidence and hope. We can scarcely doubt that in after years that moment came back to their recollection, invested for them, as it has since been for the Church at large, with something of a symbolic character. Often the sky became dark, and the waves of the troublesome world were rough, and the blasts of persecution beat on them, and the ark of Christ’s Church was tossed on the waters, and they were wearied and spent with rowing. They thought themselves abandoned, and then in the dim twilight they would see or feel once again the tokens of His presence. He was coming to them through the storm. “Be of good cheer” became the watchword of their lives.”

Maybe you find yourself today in the middle of a storm. What makes matters worse is it seems that the Lord is nowhere to be found. Take courage, don’t be afraid. I’ve heard that Jesus is often seen in the midst of a storm. Who knows, this storm may be the beginning of a season of miracles in your life. Just when you thought all hope was gone, there He is, walking on the waves, calling out your name.

ENTER HIS GATES

Ps. 100:4 – Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!

This is the great lesson of the children of Israel in their wilderness drama. They couldn’t enter in to the promised rest because of unbelief. Their unbelief was expressed in unthankfulness. All they could think about was the good old days in Egypt. The glory of God was in their midst, the promise of entering the land of promise was just ahead, complaining rather than giving thanks to the Lord blocked them from the blessing. Sometimes we have to give thanks to the Lord as an expression of faith, it is in thanksgiving that we access His presence and His promises. Here is how Charles Spurgeon describes this verse.

“In all our public service the rendering of thanks must abound; it is like the incense of the temple, which filled the whole house with smoke….Mercy permits us to enter his gates; let us praise that mercy. What better subject for our thoughts in God’s own house than the Lord of the house. And into his courts with praise. Into whatever court of the Lord you may enter, let your admission be the subject of praise: thanks be to God, the innermost court is now open to believers, and we enter into that which is within the veil; it is incumbent upon us that we acknowledge the high privilege by our songs. Be thankful unto him. Let the praise be in your heart as well as on your tongue, and let it all be for him to whom it all belongs. And bless his name. He blessed you, bless him in return; bless his name, his character, his person. Whatever he does, be sure that you bless him for it; bless him when he takes away as well as when he gives; bless him as long as you live, under all circumstances; bless him in all his attributes, from whatever point of view you consider him.”

David had learned the power of thanksgiving in his life. As a matter of fact Psalm 136 is an entire Psalm given over to thanksgiving. He thanks God for His mercy, His goodness, His signs and wonders, for His creative wisdom, for deliverance from his enemies, for giving them the land of promise, and for remembering them when they were nothing. Acknowledging God’s past goodness and giving thanks places us in a position to continue to enter in to His promises and His presence. Give thanks to the Lord for He is good and His mercy endures forever.

YOU GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO EAT

Matt. 14:16 – “They don’t need to leave,” Jesus responded. “You can give them something to eat.”

Those were exactly the words the disciples didn’t want to hear, “You give them something to eat”. After all, they had been promised a break; you know, a mini-vacation, a four day week end, and now this inconvenient interruption. The timing couldn’t be worse. Jesus had to be kidding, but He wasn’t. He had seen what the disciples couldn’t see yet, Jesus was moved with compassion. What had gotten the Lord’s attention in the wilderness that day? While the disciples were distracted with thoughts about missed vacation days and where their next meal would come from Jesus had been distracted by something else. Maybe it was the single mom trying to herd in her brood, or possibly the leper sneaking around the edge of the crowd, or even the paralyzed guy who would not have the luxury of working another day. Actually it was all of them, Jesus saw hurting people and He was moved with compassion. Some day the disciples would see but right now they were still thinking about their own issues, how could they help others when they had their own fish to fry.

Does this story sound familiar? I thought so. This is my story and your story, this is our story called Feed the Multitudes. It seems like yesterday when the Lord told us to give the people something to eat. All I could think of was how terrible the timing was and we have our own problems to handle. The Lord was persistent so Feed the Multitudes it was. I had no idea that FTM would be where our miracle would begin. The Lord wanted us to be moved with compassion. He wanted us to see the single mom trying to survive. He wanted us to see the homeless veteran who had forgotten and forsaken written all over him. He wanted us to see the loneliness in the eyes of the elderly and the hopelessness in those that rolled up in a wheel chair, thinking “is this all there is left to my life”.

The Lord wanted to put His disciples in an uncomfortable position that would define the rest of their lives. He wanted them to look into the eyes of the hurting and also be moved with compassion. This is what Feed the Multitudes is all about. You may be uncomfortable and out of your comfort zone at first but when you see what Jesus saw you will be happy to just give them something to eat. After all, this is about more than just fish and bread.

ANGELS WITH WATERMELONS

MERRY WEDNESDAY BY PARRIS

“With joy you will draw water from the springs of salvation”

Isaiah 12:3

Lately I have been seeing our church services filled with angels carrying watermelons. They must know it’s that time of the year when the miraculous happens, the hungry get fed and Christ walks among us because he goes where the hurting are. Our 30th year of Feed the Multitudes is upon us. Each year we watch wide eyed as we see the heavens open and people come from far and wide to offer “their 5 loaves and 2 fish” for the biggest free food festival held in New Orleans ever! Presently our pews are filled with bags of groceries, empty shoe boxes lay scattered in disarray, red white and blue wave all over the property. Latrines, tents, barricades, and the sound of chopping sausage for the red beans are all repeated sights. But who sees the angels flying around with watermelons in their hands?

Mark Twain once said about watermelons, “It is chief of this world’s luxuries, king by the grace of God over all the fruits of the earth. When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat.” Somewhere in this chaos Victory and our church lays aside all talk of business, conference updates, church growth principles and our own real life issues and we begin to watch the angels swirl over our heads. The watermelons are necessary because from days of old these delicious vegetables have an unbelievable root system that makes it 96% water. The angels come to bring us living water because without the living water we become just another meal for just another day.

July 4th is not only about our great country remembering its roots in God and coming together in celebration of our freedom but July 4th, to Frank and Parris, is a reminder that Christ really comes to bring life and as we pour, he pours back into us. I have had my stormy days and will continue to have them. The angels with the watermelons always remind me to pause, laugh and look up to join in the sweetness of all that God has to offer. Just maybe as you wash someone’s feet that day or serve them food you can find something to be thankful about and love on your brother/your sister. Oh don’t forget to grab yourself a watermelon.