Pastor Parris Bailey, Victory Fellowship, Metairie Louisiana, speaks candidly about the struggle of ministry and the revival that brought her back to her first love.
My attendance at a writing critique group unexpectedly ended. I awoke the next morning, perplexed. I had attended the group for years and didn’t want to leave, but I knew that it was time to move on. On the heels of leaving the group, a name kept coming to my attention: Linda Rodriguez.
Linda led a Christian writers group. We connected via Facebook. Her writing group had not been meeting, but she wanted to start again. She revived The Holy Scriptors long enough for me to meet her husband, Pastor David. Before the group disbanded again, I asked David if I could write his profile for NOLA’s faith blog.
I tried to find a mutually agreeable date to meet with Linda and David without success. Linda is a gifted writer, so I asked her to write the article. She consented, and that was the last I heard from her until someone called my name as I walked out of a restaurant. I turned around to see Linda’s smiling face. She had been busy and didn’t think she would have time to write the article.
I asked Pastor David, seated beside her, if he still wanted an article written. He did. I made an appointment to meet at his church office. I didn’t need directions to Christian Fellowship Church. I had attended the church on 5049 Ehret Road when I was a teenager, and it was called Marrero Assembly of God. Shortly before and during the two years I attended Marrero Assembly of God, I had spiritual experiences that are as vivid today as they were in 1973. The church holds a significant place in my heart.
David led me to a room he uses for counseling, and we sat at opposite ends of a long table. For the first time since I started writing about local Christians, I would record a story without coffee machines grinding, music blasting, and the neighboring table’s conversation in the background. But a greater gift than that awaited. Before our conversation ended, David solved a thirty-eight-year-old mystery.
David encountered God in an old-fashioned tent revival, complete with sawdust on the ground. The evangelist brought his fiery message to a close and pleaded for willing hearts to come to the altar.
David looked at his friend seated next to him. “Do you want to go?”
“Do you?” his friend replied.
“I’ll go if you go.”
The boys slipped out of their seats and walked the sawdust trail to the altar. The next thing David remembered was lying flat on his back with a feeling of refreshing flowing over him and a foreign language coming from his mouth, which Pentecostals call “tongues.”
“That experience marked my life,” said David. “From that point on, I knew with certainty that I was God’s child. Then I became a teenager, and the hormones from hell kicked in. When I was fourteen, I decided being a Christian was too hard. I knew I would die and go to hell if I turned away from God, but I figured I’d have a lot of fun before I got there.”
Four years later, David’s fun came to an abrupt end when he stole a car with a friend and found himself staring through the bars of a Georgia jail. The small cell aggravated his claustrophobia, magnifying his suffering. He paced the cell, longing to be free, and then he remembered the prayer of Cain and pleaded for mercy. “Lord, my punishment is greater than I can bear” (Genesis 4:13).
The next day, David called home and told his father what happened. His father replied with calm assurance, “David, the Lord spoke to me. You’re coming home tomorrow.”
“But Dad,” David objected, “I’m five hundred miles from home, and I don’t have money to hire an attorney.” His father stood steadfast on God’s promise. David hung up the phone and was escorted to his cell with little hope of being released. The next day, his friend’s father posted bail for both of them, and the judge ordered them to return in August for sentencing.
David returned to New Orleans and met a girl who introduced him to marijuana. He was experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs when he stood before a Georgia judge for sentencing. David knew God had heard his prayer for mercy when the judge gave them probation instead of a jail sentence, but his gratitude for a lighter punishment was short lived.
The guilt of spurning God’s mercy weighed heavily on David. When he partied with his friends, conviction gripped him. While his friends enjoyed the hallucinations, David often spoiled the party by announcing they were all going to hell and preaching to them. When his girlfriend became pregnant, he married her, but the marriage quickly fell apart. His wife left him and then learned she was pregnant with David’s second son. David lay on his bed and cried out in despair, “God, why is this happening to me?”
He reached for the Bible lying beside him and flipped it open. Proverbs chapter 6 glared at him: “A scoundrel and villain, who goes about with a corrupt mouth, who winks with his eye, signals with his feet and motions with his fingers, who plots evil with deceit in his heart—he always stirs up dissension. Therefore disaster will overtake him in an instant; he will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy” (Proverbs 6:12-15).
“I felt I was reading my life story and God was showing me why he was about to throw me into hell” said David. “I remember dropping on my knees, shaking with fear, and saying, ‘God, I am sorry,’ but I didn’t ask God to forgive me. I chose hell when I was fourteen and thought it was too late. When I stood, I felt a hot pressure and heard a mocking echo in my mind: ‘It’s too late. It’s too late.’”
That evening, David’s father visited him. During the course of their conversation, his father said, “The devil will tell you that you are going crazy.” When David heard those words, the oppression choking him with despair lifted.
David smiled. “It’s easier to appreciate God’s grace when you have tasted his justice. I tell people I got saved in 1970, but that’s not entirely accurate. That afternoon, reading Proverbs, I knew I had crossed the line with God, but he spared me. Instead of giving me the hell I chose, he restored me.”
David reconnected with Jeb, a high school friend who had also committed his life to Christ. On weekends, David and Jeb returned to their old haunt, a local Dairy Queen, and told anyone who would listen that they had found something better than drugs. Jeb’s car was often packed to capacity with teenagers desiring to learn more about Jesus the following Sunday. When David wasn’t sharing his faith in Christ, he worked as an assistant manager for Shakey’s Pizza Parlor and fought for custody of his two children.
Several months after David’s restoration, a woman approached him with a prophecy that she believed was for him. She had felt the unction to speak it during the church service, but being a new Christian, she was reluctant to prophesy publically. She told David, “Thus says the Lord, ‘My son, when I set you free, you are free indeed. I have a work for you that you know nothing of.’”
Shortly after the prophecy, an opportunity for David to become general manager of a Shakey’s Pizza Parlor arose, but David had a dilemma. To become general manager of his own store, he had to reveal that he had a felony conviction. The general manager knew David was on probation, but the owner of the Louisiana franchise did not. David told his probation officer about his predicament. His probation officer called the franchise owner to express the dramatic and positive changes he had seen in David since he was placed on probation.
“The next thing I know, I received a letter from the Atlanta judge complimenting me on how well I have handled myself since the conviction. He had terminated my probation and ordered that my judgment be set aside. My record was cleared, as though it never happened. Then my former wife, who was still on drugs, decided our boys would be better off with me and gave me custody. I rented an apartment in New Orleans East, picked up my sons on Valentine’s Day 1971, and started my job as a general manager of my own store the next day. It was like the hand of God wiped everything clean. Then in the spring of 1972, Jeb told me he was starting a ministry called The House of Living Water, and he wanted me to run it.”
At this point in David’s story, I heard him talking, but I wasn’t listening. My mind was flooded with memories. God had revealed himself to me at The House of Living Water in August 1973. I wondered if David was talking about the same place and struggled to concentrate as he continued his story.
“Jeb and another man planned to fix up a building in old Algiers. I would live at The House of Living Water and run the ministry while they went to Bible College. I was in walking distance from the Shakey’s I managed in New Orleans East. Moving to the west bank meant a twenty-six-mile round trip, but I accepted the position and moved into the building with my sons.”
“What year was this?” I asked.
“1972,” he replied.
The year didn’t fit my experience, but the location did. The place I had encountered the living God was on Opelousas Street in old Algiers. I remembered two things about the preacher whose message led me to accept Christ: he was young and had a beard. I studied David’s face, trying to imagine how he would look with a beard, and listened intently as he continued his story.
“The manager of the Shakey’s on Veterans resigned. I was managing the smallest restaurant in the chain and next in line for the bigger store. The Veteran’s Shakey’s was in disrepair, and I felt like I could grow in New Orleans East. I had already made up my mind to turn it down when the owner of the chain came to talk to me. The owner said, ‘The manager of the Veteran’s store has left, and I want you to take over the Gretna Shakey’s.’ He was an older man. I thought he had a senior moment, so I corrected him. ‘You mean the Veteran Shakey’s.’ Then he corrected me. ‘No, the manager of the Gretna Shakey’s has seniority over you. He wants the Veteran Shakey’s.’ The Gretna Shakey’s was the plum in the chain, the biggest and nicest of all the stores and located minutes away from The House of Living Water. God worked everything out, and I stayed at The House of Living Water until late in 1973—”
“I was saved at The House of Living Water in August 1973,” I exclaimed. “I never knew the preacher’s name, but I remember he was young and had a beard.”
“I had a beard,” said David.
David had more than a beard. He kept a small photo album in his office with pictures from that time in his life. I looked at a picture yellowed with age of a young David with a beard and said, “It was you!”
It’s never too late to say thank you, and I thanked David for his obedience to God that led me to salvation.
What are the odds that the man God used to lead me to Christ would now pastor the first church I attended after my salvation—the same church where God unfolded and confirmed his plan for my life? What are the odds that I would return to Ehret Road thirty-eight years later and learn the identity of “the young preacher with a beard”? The odds are slim, but God’s kindness is great. I walked out of Christian Fellowship knowing God had used me to comfort, encourage, and assure a faithful servant that his labor in the Lord is not in vain.
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This post is part of the Thankful for God’s Gifts Blog Hop. Please be sure to stop by the other participants listed below.
11/17/14 Loving Christ Ministries: Thankful In Grief www.lovingchristministries.com
11/18/14 Keeper Ministries: The Barren Woman a Joyful Mother – God’s Perfect Gift www.KeeperMinistries.com
11/19/14 Teena Myers Blog: A Greater Gift http://teenalmyers.com/blog/
11/20/14 Live, Love, Laugh, Post: 7 Reasons I Am Thankful For Godhttp://livelaughlovepost.com/2014/11
11/21/14 The Green Tomato Experience: To Serve and Capture http://www.thegreentomatoexperience.com/
11/22/14 Donna Stone Blog, Giving Thanks: Searching the Storm Clouds for Silver http://donnastone.me/
11/24/14 Sister We Thrive: Sister, given any thought to being thankful? Well, I have. http://www.lindsyb.com/#!blog/c17x6
11/25/14 Completely Committed Blog: One Grateful Mom http://completelycommittedgirl.blogspot.ca/2014/11/another-battle-and-solution.html
11/26/14 The Kangacoo Blog Grateful People Share, Daily Bread is Enoughwww.kangacoo.com/blog
The will of God is easy to find. Some might disagree with that statement, but it’s true. Throughout the Bible God repeatedly says “I will”. Whatever follows the “I Will” is the will of God. Some of the I will’s apply to individuals, some to the nation Jacob’s children became, some pertain to the surrounding nations and some to all of us. Discern which I wills belong to all of us, and you have found the “will” of God for your life.
I know. The I wills may not address the will of God for an individual pertaining to ones gifts and callings or more personal matters regarding a marriage partner or career choice. But if you lack direction for your life this is a good place to start. Knowing God’s will for his people gives direction for one’s gift, calling and personal matters.
God spoke the same I wills for three generations beginning with Abraham. According to the New Testament, the promises in the gospel he preached to Abraham were made to two men – Abraham and Jesus. Any one from any nation who walks in the faith of Abraham will inherit the promises God made to Jesus.
Therefore, the will of God for his people is to possess the land he showed Abraham forever. We will become a great nation more numerous than the dust of the earth and the stars of heaven that is a blessing to all nations. God will bless those who bless us and curse those who curse us. He will establish his covenant with us to be our God. We will possess the gate of our enemies, which is another way of saying we will govern our enemies. They will not govern us.
Did you notice the promises lack specifics. There is more to the gospel than the brief summary in the preceding chapter. The promises God made to Abraham and Jesus were the beginning of fulfilling the promise God made to humanity in the Garden of Eden.
I will put enmity between you [the serpent] and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.
Jesus has come and returned to heaven without receiving the land God promised him. We are still strangers and foreigners on earth often ruled by the enemies of God. Clearly, God is still revealing and fulfilling his “I wills”.
 All scripture quotes are from the NIV Bible unless otherwise noted.
 Galatians 3:8, 16
 Galatians 3:29
 Genesis 3:14
When I first entered Christianity, I prayed more than I do today and that is a good thing. Most of my praying consisted of telling God what was going on in my life and the world around me and then telling him how to fix the problems. Such arrogance is appalling. What could I tell God that he doesn’t already know? Fortunately, his mercy is new every morning.
I don’t pray as much today because I have stopped telling God what he already knows. God knows what happened in the past. He was there. He knows what is going on in our lives. He has placed his Spirit within us. He knows what will happen tomorrow. He decides what will happen and then makes it happen.
In God’s dealings with Abraham he said “I know” three times. Two times in reference to Abraham and once to calm the fear of a king that Abraham had lied to. Each time God’s actions were based on what he “knows” that no one had to tell him.
When God was on his way to judge Sodom and Gomorrah, he stopped at Abraham’s tent to reveal his plans. There was a reason God told Abraham about the coming judgment. God said,
“I know him [Abraham] that he will command his children and his household after him and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring on Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.
Preserving the knowledge of God’s way by teaching our children is important to God. God’s plan would take generations to fulfill. Therefore, it was important that Abraham teach his children the way of the Lord, so his children would teach their children and that practice would continue until the time came for the fulfillment of God’s promises.
God knew the good that was in Abraham but he also knew the bad. He did not punish Abraham for lying to Pharaoh and to King Abimelech, but he did expose him. We don’t know how Pharaoh learned Abraham lied to him. We do know how King Abimelech discovered the truth. God told him. He appeared to Abimelech in a dream and said, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.”
Abimelech told God what he already knew. Abraham lied to him. Abimelech had a clear conscience and clean hands. His innocence did not change the fact that Sarah was a married woman and taking her into his bed would have been a sin against God worthy of the death penalty. God told Abimelech the truth because he did not want him to perish.
God’s response to the problem Abraham’s lie created tells us a lot about God. He knew Abimelech was free of malicious intent, so he kept Abimelech from sin. Now that Abimelech knows the truth, he must do the right thing or he will die. Not only must he return Sarah to her husband. Abimelech must ask the liar who got him into this mess to pray for him so he will live. If Abimelech had been an arrogant man he would have died.
Neither the good nor the bad in Abraham moved God to favor him. The promises God made to him were not guaranteed until God swore an oath to keep them. God swore that oath when Abraham obeyed God to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. Abraham’s actions confirmed what God already knew.
“Now I know that you fear God seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son from me.”
If Abraham had not feared God he might have lost everything God promised to him and we would be calling someone else the father of our faith.
 All Scriptures are from the NIV Bible unless otherwise noted.
 Lamentation 3:22-23
 Genesis 18:19, kjv
 Genesis 20:3
 2 Peter 3:9
 Genesis 20:6
 James 4:17
 Hebrews 6:17-19
 Genesis 22:12
God’s dealings with the patriarchs are essential to understand the Bible for several reasons. First, God approached Abraham with the intent of blessing all nations making the things he promised Abraham relevant to everyone. Second, Abraham is the father of the only kind of faith that pleases God. Third, we acquire the things God has promised by walking in the steps of Abraham’s faith. Finally, God redeemed us so the blessing he gave to Abraham would come to the Gentiles. Therefore, before we leave the patriarchs I want to make some observations about the times God said, “I am”, “I know” and “I will” beginning with “I am”.
Some things God said to individuals belong only to that individual. The things that apply to “all nations” is the focus of this post and the next two posts about the things God knows and the things he will do.
On several occasions, God identified who he is with the words “I am”. He said to Abraham, “I am your shield, your very great reward.” God is a shield or one who protects his people. He also calls himself our exceeding great reward. To the western mind, reward implies something given for good behavior. The Hebrew word means compensation or payment. In other words we are rewarded when we obey God regardless of our good or bad behavior. All of the patriarchs had character flaws which would have cost them if we were rewarded based on our character.
God said to Abraham, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur…” In Hebrew God called himself Yehovah which means self-existent or eternal. While humanity depends on God for their existence, God is dependent on no one to exist. There is no higher power who formed God and breathed life into him. He is eternal.
He also said to Abraham, “I am Almighty God; walk before me and be perfect.” Other translations say “and be blameless” or “complete”. God’s greatest strength is his love. In everything God has done he has wronged no one because he loves everyone. Therefore he is blameless. At the end of the day, every evil accusation made about God will prove false.
If we walk in God’s might we will also be blameless as he is blameless. If we love people we will not wrong them. We will not treat people as a means to an end to be discarded when they are no longer useful. Everyone will be important and have value. Humanity falls far short of treating people the way God does. Therefore, the only way to truly love people is to walk in God’s ways.
Finally, God said, “I am the God of Abraham” to Isaac and to Jacob. Centuries after the patriarchs died God added a name to his many names – the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God told Moses this is his name forever and the name he wants to be remembered by from generation to generation.
 All scripture quotes are from the NIV Bible unless otherwise noted.
 Genesis 15:1
 OT:7939 sakar (saw-kawr’); from OT:7936; payment of contract; concretely, salary, fare, maintenance; by implication, compensation, benefit: (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)
 Genesis 15:7
 OT:3068 Yehovah (yeh-ho-vaw’); from OT:1961; (the) self-Existent or Eternal; Jehovah, Jewish national name of God: (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)
 Genesis 17:1
 Exodus 3:15
Two decades elapsed without record of God speaking to Jacob. He knew Jacob was heartbroken at the loss of Joseph. He knew Joseph brothers lied to their father. God also knew the pain and deception would one day work for their good. God had chosen Joseph to save his family from starvation.
A famine brought the shameful acts of Joseph’s brothers to light. They had sold Joseph into slavery thinking his dreams would never come to pass. The next time they saw Joseph, he was second only to Pharaoh in the mightiest nation on earth and they bowed before him fulfilling Joseph’s dreams. Instead of chiding his brothers for the evil they did to him, Joseph acknowledged three times God had sent him to Egypt.
The evil that is done to us by those closest to us can produce good things, but how do you forgive the kind of betrayal Joseph experienced. It appears God allowed evil things to happen because it advanced his plan to save everyone. That is how Joseph interpreted the events of his life and that may be why he could find the strength to forgive.
God’s plan is bigger than Jacob and his family. In the year 1882 God told Abraham, Joseph’s great grandfather, his family would be afflicted in a foreign nation, but God would judge that nation and afterward bring them out with great substance. Abraham and Isaac were not permitted to leave Canaan. When Jacob fled from his brother Esau’s wrath God promised to bring him back to Canaan. Only something truly dramatic would prompt Jacob to leave Canaan again.
The threat of starvation should he remain in Canaan and revelation that Joseph lived and ruled Egypt was not enough. Yes, he would go to Egypt to see his son but relocating his family was a difficult decision after three generations of God telling them to stay in Canaan.
On his way to Egypt, he stopped in Beersheba to offer sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. God told him, “Don’t be afraid to go down to Egypt…” Then God repeated what he had been saying for three generations, “I will make you into a great nation…” God also promised to go with them to Egypt and bring them back to Canaan again.
Jacob knew God could bring them home again. He had already experienced God’s protection and provision when he relocated to Haran and God brought him back to Canaan. This time Jacob would not come back. God told him he would die in Egypt and Joseph would close his eyes.
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph never saw the fulfillment of God’s promises. Yet they lived and died believing God would keep his word. Before Joseph died he told his family to bring his bones with them when God brought them back to Canaan. Joseph’s faith that God would keep his word gave him a place in Hebrews Chapter 11 among the great men and women of faith.
 All scripture quotes are from the NIV Bible unless otherwise noted.
 Genesis 46:3
 Genesis 46:3
After Jacob kept his vow at Bethel, God stopped talking to Jacob and began talking to Joseph. Jacob knew God spoke through dreams. The first time God spoke to Jacob was through a dream. When Joseph dreamed of being exalted above his brothers the brothers hated him. His father remained silent.
Then Joseph dreamed of being exalted above his father, and Jacob rebuked him. A clear indication that Jacob did not understand the gospel Abraham taught him. To receive the things God promised, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob must bow to one of their son. We know that son is Jesus, but the patriarchs did not know which son they would inherit the promises from. Jacob did not know about Jesus, and he did not know when the son God made the promises to would be born. For all Jacob knew he was rebuking the Messiah. Joseph was not the Messiah, but God did use him to save the world from starvation.
God’s message and actions have remained consistent for three generations. He told Abraham his family would serve a nation that would afflict them, and God would judge that nation before he brought them out with great substance. That nation was Egypt, but the patriarchs did not know that. God gave Joseph dreams to prepare the way for their relocation to Egypt fulfilling the things he spoke and vowed he would do when Abraham believed him.
It may have appeared that Joseph’s dreams were vain imaginations to both Joseph and his family. His brothers sold him into slavery, and then lied to their father. Jacob lived many years believing Joseph was dead. I find it interesting that Jacob’s sons treated him the same way Jacob treated his father Isaac. And Jacob would lived with sorrow for many years before he learned God made his evil deeds work together for good.