BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART

BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Matt.5:8

All of us are looking for happiness, or like Jesus said, blessedness. Every person and every creature in God’s creation are looking for their version of pleasure. The bird is looking for his worm, the cat is looking for it’s rat, the beagle is baying for it’s rabbit, all of us are looking for something. With humans it gets more complicated, because of our fallen nature, the pursuit of joy has taken on some twisted characteristics. The drunk is looking for another drink, the unfaithful man looking for happiness in the arms of “another woman”, and the depressed wife is looking for relief in her bottle of pills. All of us are looking for the same thing, the question is, “Where can I find this happiness that will last?” This was one of Jonathan Edwards’ favorite topics, some think he knew only about hell, but Edwards also knew about the pleasures of God. Here is an excerpt from his sermon, “Blessed Are the Pure in Heart”.

“We never can find anything here below that shall make us so happy, but that we shall have grief and pleasure mixed together. This world, let us make the best of it, will be spotted with black and white, varied with clouds and sunshine. And to them who yield their hearts to it, it will yield pains as well as pleasure. But this pleasure of seeing God, can suffer no mixture. For this pleasure of seeing God is so great and strong that it takes the full possession of the heart. It fills perfectly full, so that there shall be no room for any sorrow, no room in any corner for anything of an adverse nature of joy. There is no darkness that can bear such a powerful light. It is impossible that they who see God face to face, who behold his glory and love so immediately as they do in heaven, shall have any such things as grief or pain in their hearts. When once the saints are come into God’s presence, tears shall be wiped from their eyes, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. The pleasure will be so great, as to fully and perfectly employ every faculty: the sight of God’s glory and love will be so wonderful, so engaging to the mind, and it shall keep all the powers of it in such strong attention, that the soul will be wholly possessed and taken up.”

Joy is a funny thing. Sometimes it is found in the strangest and most unexpected places. Maybe you have been looking for happiness and it seems to be just out of your reach. Maybe it is because you are created in the image of God and nothing in this earthly realm can ever get the job done. Maybe the worm works for a bird and the rabbit for the beagle but you are not so easily satisfied. What will work for you. You will be satisfied when you behold the beauty of the Lord, nothing less will do.

OIL IN THE CUPBOARD

Oil in the Cupboard-Merry Monday by Parris Bailey

“Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the LORD: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen. 2And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? tell me, what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil. 3Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbors, even empty vessels; borrow not a few. 4And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons, and shalt pour out into all those vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full.” 2 KINGS 4:1-7

Sometimes life happens. Unexpectedly we find ourselves jobless, or fighting a terrible disease, or suffering the loss of a loved one. This women in 2 Kings found herself without her husband, and now the creditors were coming to take away her two sons. Her life as she knew it, was changed at the sudden death of her husband and she found herself at the edge of the precipice.
What I like about this story is that she had had that oil in the cupboard all along. There it sat, ever so still and unnoticed, til now. In fact, when her husband was around there was never really ever a reason to go in that cupboard and pull out the oil, He always had taken care of everything. He paid the bills, saw to the repairs at the house and even had taken care of his two sons. They were quite a team, him and her, that is until he died. She found herself spinning out of control. She didn’t see this one coming and was unprepared. How could God do this to her, when her husband had been so faithful? But there sat the oil unnoticed and shut up in the cupboard.
“Tell me, what do you have in the house”? Elisha asked her. Her answer says it all, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house……..but a jar of oil.” That’s how she wrapped up her life. She had nothing left in her to give, nothing left to sell, nothing left to hope for. Even mentioning the jar of oil that was in the cupboard was a second thought, hardly worth mentioning at all, really.
I like to compare this story with the feeding of the 5,000 when Jesus said to Phillip; “You give them something to eat.” The widow and Phillip both had one thing in common, both were looking at what they didn’t have instead of what they had all along.
Phillip and the widow both had seen miracles that Jesus and Eilsha did in their ministry. She never saw the jar of oil for what it was. Phillip had never seen Jesus for what he was.
A.B. Simpson says- “So many have the Holy Ghost confined in a little pot of oil and hidden away on the shelf of a cabinet. God wants us to go out into all the needs of life, and pour that divine fullness into every vessel that comes to us, until our whole life shall be a living embodiment and illustration of the all-sufficiency of Christ.”
It was time for the both of them to pour, and to keep pouring, to take the precious anointing and use it, not just for ourselves, but for the multitudes. “Go borrow vessels for the oil that is multiplied shall not stop as long as there are vessels to receive!”
Like the widow’s pot of oil that flowed out into every vessel, so the presence of God touches everything that comes into our life, and we find that all things work together for good to us if we love God and fulfill His purpose. She opened her cupboard and used the oil to not only meet her needs but she learned the most important lesson of all. God was her source, not her husband, her children nor even Elisha.
Have you looked into your cupboard lately? The jar of oil, the boy’s lunch is just what the Holy Spirit uses to overflow into our lives and others.
What’s in your house?

A NEW KIND OF FOOD

A NEW KIND OF FOOD

“For the bread of God is *that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.”
John 6:33-35

Several years ago, Parris challenged our staff to change their lifestyles, more specifically, change the way we ate. Now you can mess with a lot of areas in a person’s life, but for most of us, don’t mess with our food. We all like our liberties when it comes to our meals. After several months, many of us began to experience not only weight loss, but a new freedom from the carnal apetites of the soulish man. Now that brings us to the comments Jesus was making to His disciples in today’s scripture verse. Jesus was talking about more than food, He was talking about the very source of life itself.
If you think about it, food is very interesting. We have to eat to live, but there is a good amount of pleasure involved in the process. What Jesus is saying here is that there is another kind of bread, heavenly bread that is actually the true source of all life. When we discover this heavenly bread, we not only discover the source of life but will also uncover the the very source of all pleasure. Jesus was saying that He had another kind of bread to eat, this was the bread of God that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. The crowds who had experienced the miracle of the multiplication of the fish and the bread had wrongly interpreted the miracle. They thought it was just a miracle of physical provision. As a result, they also misinterpreted the purpose of Jesus’ ministry. He had not come to provide our physical food only, He had come to provide the food for our souls. He clearly said, “I am the bread of life. He who eats this bread shall never hunger.” Have you tasted the bread of heaven or are you still stuck on the other kind of messiah, the one that only fixes this present world? This miracle marked the turning point in Jesus’ ministry. He now began to teach them about the real reason He came. He came to introduce not only a new kind of food but a new kind of life. He told them they must eat His body and drink His blood or they could not live, His body was true food and His blood was true drink. After this event, the crowds left, they didn’t want anyone messing with their food. Anyone want to go to Popeye’s?

THE EARTH IS YOURS

THE EARTH IS YOURS

The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it. For He has founded it upon the seas And established it upon the rivers.
Ps.24:1,2

Recently, Parris and I went kayaking in Florida at St. Joseph’s State Park (I never knew Joseph had a park in Florida). We had a great time there and were caught off guard by the surprising beauty that we observed. I guess someday we will stop being surprised, He has left His mark on everything, as David said, “the earth is the Lord’s”. From the moment we slipped into the inlet, the dance of God’s creatures began in the clear waters below us. From the stingrays gliding effortlessly across the bottom, to the strange gathering of the horseshoe crabs, to the over abundance of the hermits, it was as if they were all competing for our attention. Then there was the schooling minnows like dark clouds in the water, to the mackerels jumping and dancing for joy. It seemed like creation was calling out to their glorious Creator.
Michael Gungor has a song, “The Earth Is Yours”, that glorifies this aspect of God’s beauty. Enjoy his lyrics.

Your voice it thunders
The oaks start twisting
The forest sounds with cedars breaking
The waters see You and start their writhing
From the depths a song is rising
Now it’s rising from the ground
Holy, holy, holy, holy Lord
The earth is Yours and singing
Your voice it thunders
The ground is shaking
The mighty mountains
Now are trembling
Creation sees You
And starts composing
The fields and trees
They start rejoicing
And now it’s rising from the ground
Now it’s rising from the ground
Hear us crying out

Make a conscience effort to observe God in His creation today, He is calling out to us in everything we observe. As you observe the dance of creation, don’t be surprised when you see that your life has been part of the dance all along. Sometimes, things in our life can be quite painful and often hard to understand; disappointments, heartbreak, set backs, and unrealized expectations are all part of the dance. The victory comes when we see His hand in it all. Joseph’s “dance” led him from a pit to a prison, from false accusation to a palace. Part of his dance was painful, but God was in it all. He was purposely leading Joseph throughout his life, Joseph’s destiny was sure even though it was hidden for years. Maybe St. Joseph is a good name for that park after all, He is the Lord of the dance whether it is with the horseshoe crabs or with the prison guards, He is orchestrating it all.

ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN

ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN

And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”
And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped.
Rev.5:13,14

I will never forget the early days of my Christian walk, it was at God’s Army Seminary of the Bible in Kerman, California. This was not an ordinary Bible School. Sure we had teachers and classes and grades and papers and all the normal school “stuff”, but that is where the similarities ended. This was a Christian community. We lived in “extended households”, we had a “common purse”, we ate our meals together, we prayed together, we worked together, we were experiencing the life of Christ as a true Christian community. It was very tough but that is where I experienced some of the greatest times in my Christian walk. Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke about Christian community, specifically about worship in his book “Life Together”, here is an excerpt.

“It is God who has prepared one great song of praise throughout eternity, and those who enter God’s community join in this song. It is the song that “the morning stars sang together and all the children of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). It is the victory song of the children of Israel after passing through the Red Sea, the Magnificat of Mary after the Annunciation, the song of Paul and Silas when they praised God in the darkness of prison, the song of the singers on the sea of glass after their deliverance, the “song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb” (Rev. 15:3). It is the new song of the heavenly community. Every day in the morning the community of faith on earth joins in this song and in the evening it closes the day with this hymn. The triune God and the works of God are being extolled here. This song has a different sound on earth that in does in heaven. On earth, it is the song of those who believe; in heaven, the song of those who see.”

Worship is happening in heaven, what else can you do when you behold His glory? As we come together in community, in the true fellowship of Christians, we begin to experience corporate worship, a taste of the heavenly ecstasy that will be ours soon. You can tell a lot about your spiritual condition by your worship experience with others. Worshipping with your spiritual family is as close as we get to the kingdom here on earth. This is the place where Jesus prayer is fulfilled, “Let your kingdom come, let your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”.

FINISH THE RACE

FINISH THE RACE

THEREFORE THEN, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us,
Heb.12:1 Amp.

I ride by bicycle on the Mississippi River Levee for exercise many mornings. It is a time of reflection and enjoyment as I find myself lost in God’s beauty all around me. One of the perks to these morning bike rides are the people you meet up on the levee. One of the most interesting friends that I have met is a cyclist by the name of Mark. At first glance he might seem like many other road bike enthusiasts, you know those guys, the ones with the fancy bikes and the lycra tights. But Mark is different, Mark is in his eighties and rides about eight hours a day on his bike. He also rides across America, from Washington to Maine on his bike every year. Recently I ran into Mark and he began to tell me “I didn’t make it this year ‘Rev’. I only made it to South Dakota, halfway, about 2000 miles, I hurt my back and had to be flown home”. The amazing thing about this story is that his injury was only a few weeks ago and Mark was already back on his bike!!! He said he had to cut back on his training (he was only doing thirty two miles this morning). You see this is more than a bike ride for Mark, this is his life. He lives for the moments, along the road, where he gets to chat with strangers, inevitably the story turns to Jesus, eternity, and the power of prayer, (that’s what we talked about this morning).
You see Mark has discovered that there is another race, not just the obvious “rat race”, that is calling for our involvement. It would be easy for him to take it easy, forget about the bike, after all he is in his eighties. There is always a reason, and some pretty good ones to stay out of the “kingdom race”. You know the drill, “I have to spend quality time with my children”, or better, “I will get involved later, now is just not a good time”. Or how about this one, “I used to be involved, I’m just not into organized church, you know, they are just in it for the money”, (have you figured out who “they” is?) Maybe it is time for you to bag all of the excuses and just get into the race. You never know who you might meet on your journey. Maybe you will run into another “Mark” and maybe, just maybe you will meet some new friends that just need to hear your story, you know the one, the one that talks about eternity, the power of prayer, and God’s love for the world seen in the gift of His only Son. Before long, our race will be over and we will be in the stands of eternity, finish your race strong.

HEAVENLY BREAD

HEAVENLY BREAD

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.
John 6:27

Jesus is beginning to prepare His followers for the day He would be gone. They were clinging to Him for the physical miracles, totally missing the real reason He had come. Jesus had come, not to feed our bellies, but to feed our soul. It is so easy to get stuck, looking only for help in the physical world, oblivious to the real help that He is offering us. The Lord was telling His disciples about “spiritual food”, His body and his blood. He was teaching us the importance of the “true bread” that comes down from heaven. Martin Luther taught about this spiritual food, listen to his words.
“In this passage, Christ compares what perishes with what endures forever. If we were truly concerned about this difference, we would keep holding on to what is eternal and stop clinging to what is temporary. Christ is saying here, “If I were to give you right now the type of things you already have, such as the bread you get from the baker, and if I were to give you enough of it to satisfy the entire world, how much would it really help you? If I had more wheat, barley, oats, money, and property than the richest person in the world to give you, what would be gained? I would have food to give you, but it would be perishable food that wouldn’t last forever.” Christ, however, is saying that everything we own is perishable and that we should willingly give it all away in order to get eternal food. But in this world, we tend to be more concerned about what will pass away than what will last forever. We grab for a handful of food and end up letting go of the gospel.”
Have you ever tasted the heavenly bread, after all, man does not live by bread alone. Once you get a taste for this new food, everything will begin to change. My wife, Parris, has introduced me to a new physical food in the last couple of years. I was reluctant at first, don’t mess with my gumbo, but have been converted to this new lifestyle. The more I eat healthy food, the more my body craves it. Maybe there is a spiritual lesson there. Maybe this new heavenly food will be more pleasurable and addictive than you could ever know.

NAME ABOVE ALL NAMES

NAME ABOVE ALL NAMES

For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Phil.2:5-9

There is no challenge you will ever face in life where Christ is not sufficient to meet every demand. He is all sufficient in every trial or circumstance of life. When our world is unpredictable, He is our sovereign king. when you feel alienated from God, He is our high priest. When we have wandered off of the path, He is the Good Shepherd. When we are stubborn and defiant, He graciously brings His staff of correction. When we face enemies greater than we are, He is our captain who mightily leads us in triumph. Listen to Charles Spurgeon’s comments about our gracious Redeemer.
“Jesus, the Redeemer, is altogether ours and ours for ever. All the offices of Christ are held on our behalf. He is king for us, priest for us, and prophet for us. Whenever we read a new title of the Redeemer, let us appropriate him as ours under that name as much as under any other. The shepherd’s staff, the father’s rod, the captain’s sword, the priest’s mitre, the prince’s sceptre, the prophet’s mantle, all are ours. Jesus hath no dignity which he will not employ for our exaltation, and no prerogative which he will not exercise for our defence. His fulness of Godhead is our unfailing, inexhaustible treasure-house.”
What kind of challenge do you face today? Is there anything too hard for God? Is there anything in this world or in the world to come that can separate you from the love of God revealed for us in Christ Jesus our Savior? I am convinced that neither life nor death, nor angel or principalities can separate us from God’s love. His love is eternal and His power is unlimited. The good news is that if you belong to Him, if He is your Redeemer, then you stand safe in His hand. His ways are steadfast and His plans are sure. Today, we can rest in His love. “Jesus hath no dignity which he will not employ for our exaltation, and no prerogative which he will not exercise for our defence. His fulness of Godhead is our unfailing, inexhaustible treasure-house.”

CLOSURE

CLOSURE
MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS BAILEY

Closure: Merry Monday by Parris Bailey

“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.” Matt. 6:1 Message
I have had a very interesting couple of weeks. My dad died a few months before Katrina after suffering from cancer. Many of you might remember that I wasn’t raised in a Christian home. So when my dad died, I guess you could say it was bittersweet. (Sweet that His suffering with cancer was over, but everything else was left hanging.) Even the estate, though small, was filled with painful memories of divorce, anger and disinherited children. Just recently, my stepmom decided that it was time to settle the estate. The last few weeks my sister and I, along with my brother, found ourselves, once again, reliving the good and bad about our family as the house was being sold and emptied. I am the youngest of the three, got married at 16, and moved away right after so I have felt distant to the sting of my childhood. Plus after raising 4 kids of your own, one does find themselves a lot more forgiving with their parents!
None of us expected to receive much of anything at the closing of the estate, but a series of circumstances happened and to all of our surprise, we received a monetary inheritance. The oldest had been struggling to make ends meet, the 2nd born had been disinherited, ended up getting his share and I bought something that our grandkids can enjoy for years to come. The unexpected came and we all were in tears! Today was Father’s Day, and words cannot begin to explain how the above scripture brings comfort to me. It may have taken a lifetime for me to understand all the “whys” and how “tos” about my up bringing but all along God did have it all under control, He had my back. Oh-how sweet it is to have closure on a very long chapter!
If that wasn’t enough, the Saturday after I received the news about our inheritance, I went outside to put the trash cans back for the trash men had come. I saw some trash that I assumed had dropped out of the garbage. It was all folded up and by instinct I opened it and found inside a huge gemstone. (You read right) Later that morning I had to go clean my rental apartment and was having to clean a dirty bathtub when I found a small diamond. The apartment had no electricity, and in the dark hot bathroom I stopped and found that quiet secluded place where I tried not to role-play. I said, “God you had me at Hello a long long time ago.” I could feel his grace upon my life in that little rental.
“Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!
What have you been looking at lately? In service tonight I spoke to a soon to be graduate of MarySong. She was in deep thought and to me seemed distant and worried. If we don’t watch ourselves we get consumed with the issues and shift our focus off from God. Too many times we act like the older brother of the prodigal. Our glass is half empty instead of half full. Let’s settle in with our Father’s love, His comfort and presence in the good times and the bad. You never know you too could get “Closure”.

THE PROMISE OF THE FATHER

THE PROMISE OF THE FATHER

“Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me”.
Acts 1:4

There was a very important agreement made, it was made long before time began. It was a solemn, eternal covenant made between the Heavenly Father and His Only Begotten Son. What were the conditions of this covenant and what was the promise that was made? The agreement was this, that the Son of God would become a human, He would be born of a virgin and become part of the human race, permanently. As the representative of man before the Father, He would offer His life as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind. What would be the results of this arrangement? The Father would give the Holy Spirit to all that would believe on His Son. As a result, the Father gave an incredible promise to the Son, we call this the Promise of the Father. This would bring redeemed man into an incredible spiritual fellowship, a place of intimacy previously only enjoyed by the Father and the Son. Here is how Jonathan Edwards explained the Promise of the Father.

“The Holy Spirit, in his indwelling presence, his influences and fruits, is the sum of all grace, holiness, comfort, and joy; or, in one word, of all the spiritual good Christ purchased for men in this world: and is also the sum of all perfection, glory, and eternal joy, that he purchased for them in another world. The Holy Spirit is the subject matter of the promises, both of the eternal covenant of redemption, and also of the covenant of grace. Therefore the Holy Spirit is so often called the Spirit of promise, and emphatically, the promise, the promise of the Father,”

When the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost, this heavenly, eternal covenant began to be fulfilled. Today, people on every continent, from every ethnic group, every age and gender are experiencing the fruit of this covenant. The Holy Spirit is being poured out on all flesh. We are no longer orphans, we have been purchased by the blood of our Savior. The Holy Spirit is being poured out on all who believe. How about you? Have you received the Promise of the Father? He said in the last days He would pour out His Spirit on His Sons and His daughters. This promise is for you, this promise is for today.