Saturday, April 30, 2005

God is All About Faith

God Himself exercises faith. Faith is believing the Word of God and expecting it to be fulfilled. When God speaks, He always has an expectation that it will be fully accomplished:
For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My Word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)
God is also the source of our faith. Don’t try to come up with your own faith — you’ll never make it. Instead, have faith of God. That’s what Jesus told the disciples in Mark 11:22. Your version might read “Have faith in God,” but the literal Greek is “Have faith of God.”

Before you can have faith in God, you must have faith of God — that is, the faith that comes from God. Paul said that faith is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). This faith comes by hearing the Word of God (remember that God always expects His Word to be fulfilled), so get heavily involved in the study and meditation of the promises of His Word.

God uses faith in the same way He expects us to use it. He speaks it out. In Genesis 1, God spoke forth His Word to create: “Let there be light,” or “Light, be!” and there was light. In Mark 11, Jesus spoke out His faith by His words: He rebuked the fig tree and it withered from the root. Then He taught the disciples to use faith in the same way:
Have faith [of] God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, “Be removed and be cast into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. (Mark 11:22-23)
God is all about faith. Are you? Understand where faith comes from, how faith comes, and how to exercise it. Then go out and move the mountains of your life.

Friday, April 29, 2005

The Blessing or the Curse ~ No In-Between

I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers. (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)
There is only blessing or cursing. There is nothing else — no middle ground, no neutral zone. If you are not under the blessing, you are under the curse. Just as darkness is nothing more than the absence of light, and evil is nothing more than the absence of good, so the curse is nothing more than the absence of blessing.

The blessing corresponds to life, the cursing to death. These affect, not only ourselves, but our families, our children, our descendants. The Bible says that the iniquity of the fathers who hate the Lord haunts the children to the third and fourth generations (Deuteronomy 5:9). But those who love the Lord and keep His commandments enjoy His blessing for a thousand generations (Deuteronomy 5:9, 7:9).

Although there is only blessing and cursing, and no in-between, many people experience both blessing and cursing. If there is blessing in your life, it may well relate back to someone, or many, in your family tree who honored the Lord, even thousand generations ago. Likewise, if there is cursing in your life, it may also relate back to previous generations. Which one will you ratify?

God gives you the choice — life or death, blessing or cursing. HINT: Choose life!

If you have blessing in your family history, praise God and get into agreement with it. Add to it by turning to the Lord and honoring Him through faith and love. If you have cursing in your family history (and who doesn’t?), know that the Lord Jesus Christ came to free you from it. Understand, also, that you can be the one who introduces blessing into you generations:
Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:13-14)
Not only the removal of the curse, but the impartation of blessing comes through faith in Jesus Christ. There is no other way, no in-between. Which will you choose for you and your children?

Listen to Choosing Life (in MP3), one of the tracks from Healing Scriptures & Prayers Volume 2: New Testament. This album, available in MP3 as well as CD, features readings by Jeff Doles from his book, Healing Scriptures and Prayers, along with relaxing background music to help you meditate on the healing promises of God.

Healing Scriptures and Prayers

Healing Scriptures and Prayers
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Understanding the Lovingkindness of the LORD

Who are the redeemed of the LORD? They are wanderers in the desert, rebels in prison, fools in sickness, and those who are in the greatest peril — any and all who turn and cry out to the Lord. He hears them and delivers them, bringing them into safety, prosperity and health. He causes them to walk with Him in rightness.

You see, there are just two kinds of people in the world: Those who cry out to the Lord, and those who do not. Notice what happens with each.
He turns rivers into a wilderness,
  And the watersprings into dry ground;
A fruitful land into barrenness,
  For the wickedness of those who dwell in it.
(Psalm 107:33-34)
Because of wickedness, rivers and wells run dry. The fruitful become barren. This is not only true of individuals who turn from the Lord, it is also true of the land they inhabit. God does not cause it to be this way, He allows it to be this. He permits is because the wicked permit it, by their words and their ways. You see, God has given them the right to choose, and He honors their choice by allowing them to have real consequences.
He turns a wilderness into pools of water,
  And dry land into watersprings.
There He makes the hungry dwell,
  That they may establish a city for a dwelling place,
And sow fields and plant vineyards,
  That they may yield a fruitful harvest.
He also blesses them, and they multiply greatly;
  And He does not let their cattle decrease.
(Psalm 107:35-38)
When people repent and cry out to the Lord, they are redeemed. Their dry, dusty fields become well-watered pastures, lush and green. They are established — stabilized and positioned for abundance and prosperity. Their harvest is full of all kinds of fruitfulness. Their blessings multiply. Just as wickedness brings curse, even to ecological systems, so does righteousness bring blessing.
When they are diminished and brought low
  Through oppression, affliction and sorrow,
He pours contempt on princes,
  And causes them to wander in the wilderness where there is no way;
(Psalm 107:39-40)
God is righteous and just—that is, He does right and sets things right. When oppression, affliction and sorrow are brought upon the redeemed, God is not silent or still. He visits the perpetrators, and those who sit idly by, with contempt. He laughs as their honor, position and power disintegrate. He hastens their downfall and sets them wandering in the wilderness of their own making.
Yet He sets the poor on high, far from affliction,
  And makes their families like a flock.
The righteous see it and rejoice,
  And all iniquity stops its mouth.
(Psalm 107:41-42)
God’s justice means restoration for the poor, all who look to Him. He sets them high above misery and trouble. He enlarges them and causes them to prosper. He greatly adds to their families and thus causes His inheritance to increase on the earth. For those who do what is right, this is a cause for celebration. Those who do what is wrong are dumbfounded — it is hard to argue with blessing.
Whoever is wise will observe these things,
And they will understand the lovingkindness of the LORD.
(Psalm 107:43)
This brings us back to where we began — the song of the redeemed: Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever (Psalm 147:1).

If you seek wisdom, pay close attention to these things and guard them carefully in your heart. Then you will begin to discern the goodness of the Lord, and see His lovingkindness displayed in your life.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Redeemed: Those in Greatest Peril

Let the redeemed of the LORD say this: The LORD is good, His hesed (covenant love and mercy) lasts forever. Who are the redeemed of the LORD?
Those who go down to the sea in ships,
  Who do business on great waters,
They see the works of the LORD,
  And His wonders in the deep.
For He commands and raises the stormy wind,
  Which lifts up the waves of the sea.
They mount up to the heavens,
  They go down again to the depths;
Their soul melts because of trouble.
  They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man,
  And are at their wits’ end.
(Psalm 107:23-27)
These are sailors, merchants, businessmen of the sea. They have taken on the most perilous sort of work, but they are also privileged to see the mighty works of the Lord in the wonders of the deep. They admire its great power and beauty, but they also have a very healthy respect for its dangers. It is both exhilarating, and at times, daunting. When the sea pitches them around like drunken men, they lose heart and are far past their ability to cope.
Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble,
  And He brings them out of their distresses.
He calms the storm,
  So that its waves are still.
Then they are glad because they are quiet;
  So He guides them to their desired haven.
(Psalm 107:28-30)
They turn to the Lord and He hears their cry. He calms the storm and the sea and brings them to safe place. They are glad, perhaps for the first time.

Jesus stood by the Sea of Galilee and said, “Let us cross over to the other side.” So they piled into the little boat and set out. Midway, a great storm suddenly arose and was starting to swamp their vessel. Jesus slept peacefully in the stern, but was awakened by the disciples, “Teacher, don’t You care that we are perishing?”

Jesus arose and rebuked the wind and the waves, “Peace, be still.” All was calm. But He said to the disciples, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (Mark 4:35-40).
Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness,
  And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
Let them exalt Him also in the assembly of the people,
  And praise Him in the company of the elders.
(Psalm 107:31-32)
Truly God is good to all who seek Him, to all who call on His name. He delivers them from the greatest peril. His works are full of wonder and are to be declared to all the people, even those in the places of highest authority. Thanks and the highest praise belong to His name.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Redeemed: Fools in Sickness

Fools, because of their transgression,
  And because of their iniquities, were afflicted.
Their soul abhorred all manner of food,
  And they drew near to the gates of death.
(Psalm 107:17-18)
These are those who did not walk in the fear of the Lord and the wisdom of God. They were not naïve, at least in the eyes of the world, but they very intentionally took the path of rebellion and evil. This rampant evil in their souls brought forth the natural consequence of sickness and disease in their bodies. Moving past all desire for physical nourishment, they became intimately acquainted with death, and lingered at its gates.
Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,
  And He saved them out of their distresses.
He sent His word and healed them,
  And delivered them from their destructions.
(Psalm 107:19-20)
It does not matter that their wretched condition was brought about by their own willful behavior — when they turned to the Lord, He heard their cry and rescued them from their troubles. More specifically, He sent forth His Word to heal them, and quickly slipped them away from the gates of death.

This is always God’s way — when we turn to Him and call on His name, He hears and delivers us. James said, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (James 5:14-15).
Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness,
  And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving,
  And declare His works with rejoicing.
(Psalm 107:21-22)
The word “men” is not in the original text, but is supplied by the translators. The idea is that these fools and rebels, who have experienced the salvation of the Lord in such wondrous ways, should gratefully acknowledge the mighty works of God. Since we have all had something of the fool and the rebel inside of us, this exhortation broadens out to all.

“Sacrifice the sacrifices.” This is an idiomatic saying used for emphasis: Give your reverent praise and adoration to the Lord, and don’t hold back — give it everything you’ve got! Not only that, but got out and declare it widely, with great rejoicing (literally, with squeals of joy).

Are you in need of healing, forgiveness or some other form of deliverance? It doesn’t matter that it may be because of your own foolishness, or even rebellion. God will not force Himself on you, but if you cry out to Him in faith, He will gladly send His Word and heal your disease.

Monday, April 25, 2005

The Redeemed: Rebels in Captivity

Those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,
  Bound in affliction and irons —
Because they rebelled against the words of God,
  And despised the counsel of the Most High,
Therefore He brought down their heart with labor;
  They fell down, and there was none to help.
(Psalm 107:10-13)
These are those who rebelled against the Word of God (which is to rebel against God Himself) and ended up, not in freedom and pleasure as they had supposed, but in bondage and affliction. They despised the counsel of God, which would have flooded them with life and light, and ended up in darkness instead. They did not bow down before God, so they were made to bow beneath the weight of oppressive burdens much too heavy for them. It is no mystery why, given the road they chose, this should be the fate they would meet. But how is it that they have now become the Redeemed of the LORD?
Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,
  And He saved them out of their distresses.
He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,
  And broke their chains in pieces.
(Psalm 107:13-14)
The grace and mercy of God is so great that even when we turn to Him in our rebellion, deep in the trouble of our own making, from rock bottom, He hears and responds to our cry. Faith, taking God at His Word, always pleases Him, even at the last, and whoever calls on His name shall be saved. He brings us out of darkness — not in chains, for He completely destroys those — but into the light of His freedom.

Rebels turned and cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and so they were redeemed.
Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness,
  And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
For He has broken the gates of bronze,
  And cut the bars of iron in two.
(Psalm 107:15-16)
Here is the goodness of God expressed again, in powerful signs and wonders. He destroys the chains of bondage, tears down the gates of captivity and breaks through the mightiest strongholds. Give Him praise!

Have you been in rebellion and gotten yourself into trouble? God does not expect you to be your own savior. Turn to Him now — it is not too late. Call on His name, the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and He will gladly bring you out.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Divine Initiative of Love

I love the Lord because He has heard
My voice and my supplications.
(Psalm 116:1)
Yes, I love the Lord because of what He has done for me. Some people might think that is selfish, making it all about me. But there is no way to avoid it. The initiative — even the initiative to love — always belongs to God:
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins…We love Him because He first loved us. (1 John 4:10, 19)
That is what the psalm writer is saying: “I love the Lord because He first loved me.” He knows that the Lord has first loved him because the Lord has been attentive to his prayers.

Why does God love us? The answer is found in Him, not in us. That is, it is not about what we have done or not done, it is all about Him.

Why do we love God? Again, the answer is found in Him, not in us. It is not about what we have done or not done. Nor is it about our capacity to love, for we have no capacity apart from Him. It is all about Him and what He has done.

The fact that we love the Lord for cause (e.g., because He heard my voice, because He first loved me), does not diminish His loveliness one little bit. Rather, it enhances it. In the Westminster catechism, the answer to the first question, What is the chief end of man?, is “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” When we love the Lord for cause, we are glorifying Him for who He is, embracing the initiative of His love.

You see, it is not about a ritual but about a relationship. God has exercised the divine initiative. He has set loose His love toward us — and in us — and we respond by returning His love back to Him. The circle of God’s love to us and through us is complete and has become larger in the process, because we are now a part of it. There is no end, only an ever-deepening discovery of the love of God.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you forever.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

The Redeemed: Wanderers in the Desert

Who are the redeemed of the Lord? The come from the most unlikely places. They are homeless wanderers in the desert, rebels in prison, fool in sickness and people in the greatest peril. They all have something in common — they are all in trouble. But that is not all. What is more important is what else they have in common — they cry out to the Lord in the midst of their trouble. And so they are redeemed!
They wandered in the wilderness in a desolate way;
  They found no city to dwell in.
Hungry and thirsty,
  Their soul fainted in them.
(Psalm 107:4-5)
These are people who have no home, no dwelling place, no stability in their lives, no focus. They are aimless wanderers whose whole life seems to be nothing more than a vast desert, dry and dusty. They are hungry and thirsty for a place and a provision, but they have given up and are shrouded by the shadow of death.
Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,
  And He delivered them out of their distresses.
And He led them forth by the right way,
  That they might go to a city for a dwelling place.
(Psalm 107:6-7)
Then in their desperation, they remember that there is a covenant God, a God of goodness, a God of mercy. They cry out to Him, not with eloquence or ceremony, but from the depth of great need and hunger.

God hears and delivers them — “snatches them out” is the meaning of the Hebrew word — from all their distresses. He sets them on the right path and leads them forward into the destiny He has had prepared for them all along. He directs them to a city, a place where destinies come together to be nurtured and protected and brought to fulfillment.
Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness,
  And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
For He satisfies the longing soul,
  And fills the hungry soul with goodness.
(Psalm 107:8-9)
Here is the psalm’s refrain, invoking the song of the redeemed: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy is forever” (v. 1). Out of God’s great goodness He brings forth wonders—marvelous and extraordinary things, even greater than we had known to expect. He fills the hungers and desires of the human soul full to overflowing with good things.

God welcomes the wanderers. It does not matter if you ended up in your desert by pigheadedness, naïvete, foolishness or willful pride. The name of Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew) means “Yahweh delivers, saves, heals,” and the Bible says that whoever calls on His name will be saved.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Let the Redeemed of the LORD Say—What?

Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,
Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy.
(Psalm 107:2)
Let the redeemed of the LORD say — what? Certainly the redeemed of the LORD should recognize that they are the redeemed of the Lord, although there are plenty of Christians who do not. They live, act and speak as if they have not been redeemed at all, or have only been partially redeemed. They don’t seem to realize that guidance, provision, restoration and satisfaction truly belong to them. They learn to live with bondage and sickness, as if deliverance and healing were not a part of God’s salvation. They believe more in the stress of their lives than in the peace of God that has been made available to them. These folks should certainly start declaring that they are the redeemed of the LORD.

But that is not primarily what the psalm writer is talking about here. No, he is going directly to the root of the matter. What the redeemed of the Lord should learn to say is foundational to everything in their redemption, and that is this:
Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
(Psalm 107:1)
To give thanks is to acknowledge with gratitude. It is a knowing, a confession about something, an agreement with something. Whatever the circumstance, let the redeemed always acknowledge and agree with this:
The LORD is good, and His mercy endures forever.
This is a very powerful confession, and the gateway to the intimate experience of God’s glory and presence. In 2 Chronicles 5, when the temple Solomon built for the Lord was being dedicated, the priests and singers and musicians praised the Lord together in unison, and this was their song: “He is good, for His mercy endures forever.” At that very moment, “the house of the LORD was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God” (vv. 13-14).

This confession is also the pathway to victory. In 2 Chronicles 20, when three kings and their armies surrounded Judah, King Jehoshaphat prayed to the Lord, and God answered that the army of Judah would not need to fight this battle, but would stand back and see the salvation of the Lord. The next day, Jehoshaphat sent the worship team out ahead of the army, and this was their song: “Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever” (v. 21) The Bible says, “Now when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated” (v. 22).

The angels sing, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isaiah 6:3). That is how they have experienced God, for they are the hosts of heaven, and so they sing with great intensity about the holiness of God. We, too, can experience the holiness of God along with the angels.

We can sing the song of the angels, but the angels cannot sing the song of the redeemed — it is beyond their personal understanding. That song belongs to the redeemed alone, for they are the only ones who have experienced it. Angels long to look into these things (1 Peter 1:12), but they can do it only from without, not from within.
Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
  For His mercy endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,
  Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy,
And gathered out of the lands,
  From the east and from the west,
  From the north and from the south.
(Psalm 107:1-3)
Let us confess together the song that only the redeemed have experienced firsthand: The LORD is good! His mercy endures forever. Sing it over every circumstance, problem, and need you may be facing. Then watch for His glory and expect the victory to come forth.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

How Mercy and Justice Work Together

I will sing of mercy and justice:
To You, O LORD, I will sing praises.
(Psalm 101:1)
Mercy and justice are not in competition. In fact, they work together. The justice of God is what sets things right, and it is a good thing. Of course, if you are on the wrong side of God’s justice, you might not think it so wonderful.

But that’s where the mercy of God steps in. The Hebrew word for “mercy” is hesed (or chesed, with the guttural kh sound). God’s hesed is His steadfast love and mercy. It is the love with which He has covenanted to be always be good to His people. It matches the agape love of the New Testament.

Here is how God’s mercy and justice work together:
  • The justice of God comes and sets things right
  • The mercy of God comes and sets you on the right side of His justice.
God’s mercy and justice come together in the Lord Jesus Christ, who took our sins upon Himself and nailed them to the Cross. Mercy and justice have both now been satisfied in the Lord Jesus, and we receive this through faith in Him.

No wonder, then, that David says, “I will sing of mercy and justice.” Together they come and set things right for you and me — and position us to receive blessing. In other words, God’s mercy means that it is just and right for God to bless us now. So David gladly becomes the minstrel who sings of both mercy and justice.

David quickly adds, “To You, O LORD, I will sing praises.” You see, mercy and justice are all about God. They begin out of His initiative and out of His goodness. It is God’s nature to do right and to set things right — that’s the holiness of God. But it is also God’s nature to show mercy to His wayward people — that’s the love of the God who is love.

Today is the day to sing of God’s mercy AND His justice, for they are both for your benefit and blessing. Sing praises to the LORD who has covenanted to love you forever, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Tapping Into the Mind of God

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. (Isaiah 55:8)
Our minds were made, not to think our own thoughts and have our own understanding, but to think His thoughts and operate in His understanding — His Spirit communicating to our spirit. That certainly unlocks the cage and sets the canary free.

What a blessed place we come to when we get tired of our own incompetent ways and limited thoughts. We don't need those stinkin' things, anyway. Never did—they only do us harm. But we have the Spirit and the Word and the Blood and the Name, and a God whose plan is to reveal His ways and His thoughts upon the earth through us!

In Joel 2 and Acts 2, God speaks of pouring out His Spirit on all flesh. “And your young men shall see visions, and your old men dream dreams.” What strikes me about that is that the old men, when they are filled with the Spirit, do not sit around reminiscing about “way back when.” No, they become oriented in a different direction. They dream dreams. They are not caught in the past but look to the future and what God is bringing forth.

Yes, God is looking for those who will dream His dreams upon the earth. He will fulfill them if we will dream them, and we will dream them when we give up on ourselves and learn to tap into Him.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Loud, Disruptive Praise

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
(Psalm 95:1-2)
Can you believe it? This is an invitation to party with the Lord. Come!
The word for “sing” (Hebrew ranan) means to shout aloud, to cry out for joy. Not at all vague or tentative — it is an overcoming sound, a sound of rejoicing and triumph.

Come and “shout joyfully.” The Hebrew word is rua and means to mar the silence, to split the ears with sound. It is a loud and clamorous noise. Maybe some people cannot carry a melodious tune, but is there anybody who cannot make a joyful noise? In my neighborhood there is a guy who, every time our hometown football team scores a goal, will either grab his trumpet and give a loud blast, or else run out to his car and lay on the horn. That’s rua, a joy-filled, unrestrained noise of celebration.

What’s all the clamor about? The Rock of our salvation. The Rock speaks of a stable and secure refuge, a place of strength and advantage, a superior position high above the enemy. “Salvation” is deliverance, safety and even prosperity. The Hebrew word is yesha. This is the salvation (yasha) that comes from the Lord (Yahweh), the equivalent of Yeshua (Yahweh saves), and that is the name of Jesus.

If that doesn’t prime your pump, you just need more revelation about Jesus, who He is and who you are in Him. [See Getting a Revelation of Jesus]

Come before His presence. That is, don’t delay a second, but hurry to meet Him. In His presence is the place to be. Come running, and bring your todah with you. Todah is praise and thanksgiving, the lifting of your hands in adoration toward Him. It is the attitude of a grateful heart turned loosed into the body. It is worship that doesn’t hold back.

Shout joyfully to the Lord! God says it twice — the second witness to establish the fact that God wants us to get loud and joyful, even disruptive in our praise. Bellow out to Him with songs of praise — break out your instruments and pluck, pound, blow, fram and frail. Bring all your best riffs. Don’t worry about being prim and proper — this is a jam session, so turn it all loose before Him. Get a Saturday night frame of mind and celebrate Jesus with all your heart.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

When God Delivers His People

Rescue me and deliver me from the hand of foreigners,
  Whose mouth speaks lying words,
  And whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood —
(Psalm 144:11)
David is the psalm writer here. In this prayer, he is not just asking for himself. He is king, and he is seeking deliverance for the sake of his people. Deliverance from “foreigners,” people who do not know the God of Israel. They are the enemies of His people. So the promises that follow are not just for David or a few select individuals. They are for all God's people.
That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth
  That our daughters may be as pillars,
  Sculptured in palace style.
(Psalm 144:12)
When God brings deliverance to His people, they also receive promise for their children. The prophet Isaiah echoes this in Isaiah 54.13, “All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace [shalom, the peace that comes from being made whole] of your children.”
That our barns may be full,
  Supplying all kinds of produce;
That our sheep may bring forth thousands
  And ten thousands in our fields
That our oxen may be well laden
(Psalm 144:13-14)
When God brings deliverance to His people, they have provision of every kind. Their barns are full and their goods are multiplied. This is reminiscent of the covenant blessings found in Deuteronomy, “And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers” (Deut. 8.17).
That there be no breaking in or going out;
That there be no outcry in our streets.
(Psalm 144:14)
When God brings deliverance to His people, He blesses them with security. There is no fear, for the LORD is their God.
Happy are the people who are in such a state;
Happy are the people whose God is the LORD!
(Psalm 144:15)
These blessings are for all the people of God. None are left out. When God delivers His people, anyone who knows the LORD may claim these promises, and they will not be denied. If people of old covenant were thus blessed, think how much more people of the new covenant are blessed.

The good news of the Gospel is that, in Jesus Christ, God has delivered us from everything that keeps us from Him and the life He desires for us. Nothing now stands in the way, except for unbelief.

Psalm 144 is good “praying ground,” because it expresses the will of God for His delivered people. First John 5:14-15 gives us the assurance that when we pray according to God's will, He hears us, and we will have our prayers answered.

Let the words of this psalm fill your mouth in prayer. Let them be on your lips in praise. Let faith rise up in your heart as you meditate on these promises from God's Word. Then begin watching for the answer to emerge.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

The Nearly Perfect Crime

The Nearly Perfect Crime
How the Church Almost Killed the Ministry of Healing
by Francis MacNutt

Francis MacNutt has written an insightful book about how the ministry of healing has been greatly diminished in the Church for centuries (almost 1600 hundred years!). Healing was a major part of the ministry of Jesus and His disciples, the record of which takes up about a third of the Gospels, not to mention the book of Acts. Throughout, MacNutt emphasizes the importance of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, not just for healing ministry, but for every ministry.

MacNutt shows how healing ministry flourished for the first three centuries, and was then sidelined by nominal Christianity beginning with the Constantinian era. He details how ecclesiastical structures and the developing clergy/laity distinction quickly began to remove healing ministry from the hands of the people — it became a work for the “super-spiritual,” and few could qualify to perform it (some of the Desert Fathers, for example). Healing shortly became the province of relics and shrines — and the clergy no longer had to deal with embarrassing questions when healings did not occur at their hands.

He also talks about how the purpose of God’s love and compassion in healing had been severely neglected in the intervening centuries. Healing ministry became viewed strictly as a validation of truth, but was no longer necessary for faith. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” became the watchword, and interest in the display of God’s love through healing fell by the way.

MacNutt discusses how the Platonic split between body and soul, and the severe doctrines of the Manichees (i.e. the intrinsic evil of the flesh, and especially of sexuality) further eviscerated the ministry of healing. During the middle ages, the development of the “divine right of kings” generated “the Royal Touch,” and healing ministry was limited, by law, to the monarchs of England and France.

Although a committed Roman Catholic, MacNutt believes that the Reformation did not extend far enough in its scope — the Reformers continued to ignore the reality of healing ministry. Oh, they recognized that there had once been such a thing in Jesus’ day, but now that time was past, and the ministry had ceased. So much for reformation!

But all along the way, there have been healing ministers and ministries among the people, arising in times of revival and when people were desperate for a healing touch from God. In the last 300 hundred years there have been some glimpses of healing ministry arising again, then faltering. Then it began trending upward in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, mostly among the pentecostally inclined. These came to include the charismatic and “third wave” movements late in the mid-to-late 1900s, about which MacNutt writes from personal experience (the appendix is a testimony of how he received the baptism, or “release” of the Holy Spirit, into his life and ministry).

In all, Francis MacNutt brings us understanding about the decline of healing ministry, but also a hope and a challenge to welcome the release of the Holy Spirit and healing ministry back into the Western Church  — just as it has been increasingly been experienced in the Third Word Church.

The Nearly Perfect Crime (now available at

Meditation in the Psalms

In the Psalms, as well as in the Bible in general, meditation is not about emptying our minds, but about filling our hearts and mouths with the things of God: the words, the works, the wonders, the majesty and the love of God, and ultimately, on God Himself. Here are some Hebrew words concerning meditation:
  • Damah — to compare or consider
  • Siyach — to ponder and converse with oneself (aloud)
  • Hagah — to ponder or imagine; literally, to murmer
Benefits of Meditation
Let the words of my mouth
  and the meditation [higgayon, from hagah] of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
  O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.
(Psalm 19:14)
The word for “acceptable” means pleasure, delight and favor. When we learn to meditate on the things of God, it is a delight to Him and brings forth His favor.
My mouth shall speak wisdom,
And the meditation [haguth, from hagah] of my heart shall give understanding.
(Psalm 49:3)
Meditation brings understanding. When we put it in our mouth and speak it forth, it is the wisdom of God.
Hear my voice, O God, in my meditation [siyach];
Preserve my life from fear of the enemy.
(Psalm 64:1)
Some people meditate on the enemy, but when our meditation is on God, He hears, and we are delivered from fear of the enemy.
May my meditation [siyach] be sweet to Him;
I will be glad in the LORD.
(Psalm 104:34)
Meditating on the things of God is sweet to Him and brings delight and joy to us as well.
I have more understanding than all my teachers,
For Your testimonies are my meditation [siychah, from siyach].
(Psalm 119:99)
Meditation on the truths of God’s Word give us understanding, more than our teachers can give.
Evening and morning and at noon
I will pray [siyach], and cry aloud,
And He shall hear my voice.
(Psalm 55:17)
Anytime day or night, when we meditate on God and cry out to Him, He hears us, and hearing us, He acts on our behalf.

On the Word of God

Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates [hagah] day and night.
(Psalm 1:1-2)
My eyes are awake through the night watches,
That I may meditate [siyach] on Your Word.
(Psalm 119:148)

I will meditate [siyach] on Your precepts,
And contemplate Your ways.
(Psalm 119:15)
On the Works of God
I have considered the days of old,
  The years of ancient times.
  I call to remembrance my song in the night;
I meditate [siyach] within my heart,
  And my spirit makes diligent search….
I will also meditate [hagah] on all Your work,
  And talk of Your deeds.
(Psalm 77:5-6, 12)

I remember the days of old;
I meditate [hagah] on all Your works;
I muse [siyach] on the work of Your hands.
(Psalm 143:5)
On the Wonders of God
Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him;
Talk [siyach] of all His wondrous works!
(Psalm 105:2)

Make me understand the way of Your precepts;
So shall I meditate [siyach] on Your wondrous works.
(Psalm 119:27)
On the Majesty of God
I will meditate [siyach] on the glorious splendor of Your majesty,
And on Your wondrous works.
(Psalm 145:5)
On the Love of God
Within Your temple, O God,
We meditate [damah] on Your unfailing love.
(Psalm 48:9 NIV)
On God Himself
When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate [hagah] on You in the night watches.
(Psalm 63:6)
Meditate on God and the things of God at all times. Let them fill your heart, your mouth and your mind, and the blessings and benefits of God will begin to fill your life.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Burdens or Benefits?

Blessed be the Lord,
Who daily loads us with benefits,
The God of our salvation!
(Psalm 68:19)
“Who daily loads us with benefits.” That’s how the King James has it, and the New King James. The NIV and the NASB have, “Who daily bears our burden(s).”

So, which is it? Burdens or benefits?

The Hebrew text is a bit enigmatic here, as it does not use the word for either “burden” or “benefit.” In fact, there is no noun used there at all, only a verb. Young’s Literal Translation brings that out: “Blessed is the Lord, day by day He layeth on us.” The Message has it, “Day after day He carries us along.”

The verb for “load” (“Who daily loads us with benefits”) can mean loading on, but it can also mean to take up a load. So we’re back where we started.

Certainly, it is a great benefit when the Lord takes up our burdens for us. That is exactly what Jesus did for us at the Cross — He took up our sins upon Himself so that we don’t have to bear them any more. Isaiah 53 also speaks of Jesus bearing our sicknesses and carrying our pains (v. 3; see also Matthew 8:17) and says that by His stripes we were healed (v. 5).

Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One (they all mean the same thing). Isaiah shows us the anointing and what it means: “It shall come to pass in that day that his burden will be taken away from your shoulder, and his yoke from your neck, and the yoke will be destroyed because of the anointing oil” (Isaiah 10:27).

We see this echoed in Jesus’ words: “Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Jesus exchanged the heavy yoke of oppression for His yoke, which is easy because He bears it with us.

So, maybe it’s “Who daily bears our burdens.”

On the other hand, there is more to our salvation than what Jesus bore for us. There are also the things He has given to us, and these, too, are great benefits — too great and too many for me to do them justice here. But David sums up the wonderful benefits of the Lord in Psalm 103:
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
  And forget not all His benefits;
Who forgives all your iniquities,
  Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
  Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth [desires] with good things,
  So that your youth is renewed like the eagles.
(Psalm 103:2-5).

So maybe it’s, “Who daily loads us with benefits.”

In the context of Psalm 68, we see God portrayed as a conquering King ascending to His throne: “You have ascended on high, You have led captivity captive; You have received gifts among men” (Psalm 68:18). But how does that play into verse 19?

Paul quotes this passage in Ephesians 4, referring to the Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ and how He gave gifts to His body, the Church:
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says:

“When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.”
(Ephesians 4:7-8)
Wait a minute — doesn’t that just create another problem? I mean, Psalm 68 says He received gifts and Ephesians 4 says He gave gifts. It really is no problem, though, when you understand the triumphal return of a conquering king. He was not only greeted by the people, but he was also given gifts and tribute. Then, in turn, he would give out those gifts to others who, for example, supported him in battle. So there was both receiving and giving of gifts.

So maybe, in the context of receiving (and giving) of gifts, it is, “Who daily loads us with benefits.”

Perhaps it is best to think of it as two sides of the same coin. And whichever one you are feeling the need for most on any given day, burden-bearing or benefit-blessing, that’s the one you can look to the Lord for. Whichever way you take it, remember that it is daily — day after day, God is faithful to bear our burdens and to bless us. So why not look to Him for both — every day.

Here’s one more thing — and to me, it is the most exciting thing. We’ve seen how Jesus fulfills this passage either way, both bearing our burdens and blessing us with benefits. But I want you to notice that His name is even embedded in this text. The last line of the verse reads, “The God of our salvation.” The Hebrew word for “salvation” here is yeshua, and that is the Hebrew name for Jesus.

For every need, God has a provision. Claim it.
For every burden, God has a benefit. Receive it.
For every problem, God has a promise. Believe it.

Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears your burdens and loads you with benefits, the God of your salvation — Jesus! Selah on that for a while.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Barefoot at the Burning Bush

Back when I was in the Presbyterian church, my old pastor and I used to have a running discussion about Moses and the desert and the burning bush (see Exodus 3). At the time, we were both trying to understand our own circumstances and callings in the flickering light of that paradigm. We began to develop a theory that when Moses ran from Egypt and fled to the desert, maybe it was not originally a desert at all. Maybe it was a lush and lovely forest. Not the backside of the desert, but the backwoods.

So maybe one day, God decides to get Moses’ attention, because He has something that He wants to do in and with and through Moses. And so He sets one of those trees on fire — torches it as a fiery beacon of His presence. But Moses isn't paying attention, and so he misses it.

The next day, God tries again. Whoompsh! Another tree bursts into flames. Again, Moses misses it. But God doesn't give up — He never gives up.

And so, day after day, greatly desiring to do a mighty work for and with Moses, God lights up trees and bushes and shrubs. And day after day, Moses, maybe absorbed with being rejected by his people, and perhaps remembering the princely courts of Egypt which adorned his former days, doesn't even notice.

Months pass. Years go by, until, one day, Moses no longer dwells in a lush and lovely forest at all, but in a dry and dusty desert. He no longer thinks about what once was or what might have been. He is an old man now.

But there is one last little bush left. And God hasn't given up — He never gives up. So He sets this one last little bush on fire. But He cannot let it be consumed by the flames because it is the last little bush.

Now we know from Scripture that Moses does eventually see the burning bush, but we are never told how long it took. Could've been days. Could've been months. Could've been years. The bush burning all the while. But finally! Moses looks and, behold! The bush is burning with fire and is not consumed. Moses says to himself, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn” (v. 3).

It is at that moment, when Moses turns aside from his routine, from his own thoughts and his own ways — it is at that moment that God calls out to him from the midst of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And Moses stepped into a life-changing, world-changing encounter with the Lord of heaven and earth.

God says that His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). He calls us to trust in Him with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). Are you ready to turn aside from your own ways and thoughts to embrace His? A wonderful adventure awaits.

(You can read more about this "barefoot adventure" in Walking Barefoot: Living in Prayer, Faith & the Power of God, from Walking Barefoot Ministries. Also at Amazon in print and Kindle.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Becoming a Son of Encouragement

Let me tell you about Joseph, “a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement)” (Acts 4:36). The Greek word translated “encouragement” here is paraklesis, from para, meaning “by the side,” or “alongside,” and kaleo, “to call.” Paraklesis is a picture of one coming alongside and calling out to another. It is a word of gentleness and strength that speaks of exhortation as well as encouragement, of challenge as well as comfort. The apostle Paul numbered paraklesis among the spiritual gifts in Romans 12.

Spiritual encouragement is an “alongside” ministry. It means talking with people, “up close and personal,” rather than shouting at them from a distance. It means helping them find their spiritual way, the path God calls them to walk, rather than leading them in our footsteps. It requires the vision to see what God can do in a person's life.

Barnabas had such a vision. When the apostle Paul first became a believer, he ceased persecuting Christians and began preaching Jesus in the synagogues. But when the disciples in Jerusalem were afraid and did not think him sincere, it was Barnabas who recognized the work of God in Saul (later called Paul) and brought him into the fellowship (Acts 9:27).

When the first Jewish Christians, scattered by persecution, began to take the gospel into gentile communities, Barnabas went to Antioch to investigate. “When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts” (Acts 11:23).

And when Paul wanted to make his second missionary journey without John Mark, who had deserted the first mission, Barnabas sharply disagreed. He saw the work God wanted to do in Mark's life and was not willing to abandon him. So Barnabas parted company with Paul, taking Mark with him to Cyprus, mentoring him in ministry. His vision was confirmed as Mark became an able and respected partner to both Peter (1 Peter 5:13) and Paul (2 Timothy 4:11).

How is your vision? Can you see what the kingdom of God looks like in the life of someone to whom you are ministering. They may not be able to see it for themselves — can you see it for them and encourage them with it, speaking it over their lives and believing God for it? Can you walk beside them — not ahead, not behind, not above, but beside them? Then you can become a “son of encouragement.”

Monday, April 11, 2005

Abiding Even in the Face of Evil

But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God;
I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever.
I will praise You forever,
Because You have done it;
And in the presence of Your saints
I will wait on Your name, for it is good.
(Psalm 52:8-9)
The inscription of this psalm reads, “A contemplation of David when Doeg the Edomite went and told Saul, and said to him, ‘David has gone to the house of Ahimelech.’”

You can read about the treachery of Doeg in 1 Samuel 22. Doeg was an exceedingly ruthless man, and King Saul had fallen so low in his bitterness toward David that he made Doeg his right hand man. When Saul’s own royal guards would not slay Ahimelech and the house of priests, Doeg gladly performed the task, killing 85 who wore the linen ephod. Not only that, he also turned against Nob, the city of the priests, where he slew men, women, children, and nursing infants, as well as oxen, donkeys and sheep.

In the midst of this evil and treachery, David puts his trust in the Lord:

“But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God.” A green olive tree is a symbol of prosperity and stability, reminiscent of the tree planted by rivers of living water in Psalm 1. Olive trees are also long lived, with many years of fruitfulness.

“I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever.” David continually looks to God for refuge. He trusts in the hesed, the steadfast love and faithfulness of God, for he is in covenant with Yahweh. That is his plan from now on, emphatically — forever and ever!

“I will praise You forever because You have done it.” He lifts his hands to Yahweh in thanks and praise, because the LORD has the situation well in hand and will render the judgment. His heart is set.

“And in the presence of Your saints, I will wait on Your name, for it is good.” David has a patient expectation in the Lord. This is not something hidden away and done in secret, David has gone public with it. He has declared himself, his trust, his gratitude, his praise before all the people of the LORD who are in his company.

No wonder then, that he opens this psalm with, “Why do you boast in evil, O mighty man? The goodness of God endures continually.” He has already seen the end of this matter from the beginning, and that is where he makes his stand.

Yes, there is evil round about, but it is the goodness of God that will endure. So take your stand with David: 1. Trust in the covenant love and mercy of God forever. 2. Keep on giving your thanks and praise to the Lord. 3. Wait on the Lord in patient expectation, for He always will uphold His name’s sake.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Restoring Wholeness and Destroying Oppression

For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth.
He shall judge the world with righteousness
And the peoples with His truth.
(Psalm 96:13)
The judgment of God is not a bad thing—unless you’re on the wrong side of it. But when you are on the right side of it, it is very magnificent. If you are on the wrong side of God’s judgment, repentance it a very magnificent thing.

For all those who know the Lord Jesus Christ, the judgment of God does not come to condemn you No, when you know Jesus, the judgment of God comes to condemn everything that stands against you.

Jesus came to save His people (that is, everyone who trusts in Him) from their sins (Matthew 1:21) — and that is the judgment of God. But He also came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8) — and that is the judgment of God also. He also came to give you life more abundantly—and that, too, is the judgment of God.

Do not fear the judgment of God, but receive it — it is for your good. If you need to repent, then repent. For God is merciful and gracious, and His judgment will turn in your favor. That’s why Jesus came.

Saturday, April 9, 2005

Glory in the Looking Glass

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:22-25)
When you look in the mirror, what do you see? James likens the perfect law of liberty to a mirror. The law of liberty is the Good News of Jesus Christ, for He is the one who has fulfilled (perfected) the law of God on our behalf. It is a law of freedom, not of bondage. The law of liberty is the law of the Spirit, for where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17).

The law of liberty is the law of love, for Jesus summed up all the commandments of God with this: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind… You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40). Love fulfills the law of God: “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Galatians 5:14).

The law of liberty is a mirror for us, if we have received the Lord Jesus Christ. When we look into it, we can see the love of God at work in us, transforming us into the likeness of Christ. But it is not a mirror we can casually glance at and expect to receive any benefit. No, this mirror is one we must take time to behold, to gaze into long and deeply, and with a heart of obedient faith.

The Enigma of Glory
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)
We see dimly, at first, and so we must gaze intently. That is how it is now, but Paul says there is also a then. Now we see dimly — it is enigmatic — but then we shall see face to face (literally, looking at the face of the One who is looking at us). Now we know in part, but then we shall know just as we are also known.

Paul adds, “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (v. 13). The law of liberty, which is the law of love, is at work in us right now, and so there is a transforming experience as we continue to gaze into this mirror. We become more and more like the God who is love.

Beholding the Glory
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of God. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
When you look into a mirror, do you see the glory of the Lord? If you know Jesus, the Spirit of the Lord lives inside you, and He does not reside there without the glory of the Lord. In fact, you were created and birthed from above, by the Spirit of God, to bear this glory and reveal it to others, to be fully conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).

Give your diligent attention to the law of liberty, the law of the Spirit, the law of love. Believe and obey whatever the Lord makes known to you as you are transformed from glory to glory — ever greater, ever deeper expressions of His goodness. This is the looking glass of glory, and it reveals your identity and your destiny in the God who is love. Gaze intently for the rest of your life.

Friday, April 8, 2005

Delight, Desire and Dreams

Delight yourself also in the LORD,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
(Psalm 37:4)
The Hebrew word for “delight” means to be soft and pliable, to be luxurious. You can always tell what a person delights in most — it is what they talk about all the time, what they spend their money on, what they give their time and their life to. They are soft and pliable toward it. They luxuriate in it.

The word for “desires” means requests, or petitions. They are literally “askings.” As we get closer to God and become soft and pliable toward Him, and our thoughts become fixed on Him, the object of our delight begins to shape our desires. The askings of our heart are nurtured by the dreams God has for us. By us, I do not just mean you and me; I mean you and God, and me and God — an “us” that includes God.

God has a dream for us and Him together. But He does not just want to dream it Himself. He wants to see what the dream looks like when we dream it out of our desires and delights.

When God made Adam, He brought all the animals to him to see what he would name them. He did not tell Adam what to name them, but He wanted to see what the dreams and askings of Adam’s heart were, and how they would be revealed in Adam’s namings. In the same way, God wants to know the askings and dreams of our hearts as we get into intimate relationship with Him.

Let down your defenses and become soft and pliable toward God. Luxuriate yourself in Him — His love, His grace, His goodness. Dream together with Him — then ask what you will, it will be done for you, in Jesus’ name.

Thursday, April 7, 2005

Having Dominion

How did God plan for Adam and Eve to have dominion over the earth and all its creatures? And how was it connected to their identity in Him? Find out in this month's faith-builder article, a study in Genesis 1:26-28, called Having Dominion.

The Order of Prosperity

Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. (3 John 2)
There is an established order to prosperity. It begins with the soul, for John said, “even as your soul prospers.” Then there is health, the prosperity of the body. Finally, there is prosperity in all other things, including, but by no means limited to, financial prosperity.

Financial prosperity will not lead you into soul prosperity, but soul prosperity will lead you into a place where you can receive financial prosperity.

Focus on the prosperity of your soul, then you will be ready to prosper in all things. Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

The Seedbed of Pure Desire

Delight yourself also in the LORD,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
(Psalm 37:4)
Intimate relationship with God is the seedbed for every pure desire.

Wednesday, April 6, 2005

The Holy Breath

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)
So Jesus said to them, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you. And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sings of any, they are retained” (John 20:21-23).
God breathed into Adam; Jesus breathed into the disciples. In both instances, this was an impartation of the Holy Spirit. What was also being imparted was the authority to speak on behalf of God and heaven.

In Genesis 2, God literally “puffed” into Adam’s nostrils. The Hebrew word is naphach.

In John 20, Jesus literally “puffed” on the disciples. The Greek word is emphysao. It is the same word used to translate naphach in the Septuagint (an early Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament).

In Genesis 2, Adam became a breathing, speaking spirit, with the capacity to think God’s thoughts and speak God’s words. (See Created to Know and Speak the Mind of God)

In John 20, the disciples received the Holy Spirit and were sent out in the same way that Jesus was sent out. They were given authority to forgive sins, or retain them. This was the authority to speak the Gospel, to extend the forgiveness of God through preaching the Good News.

There has always been great power in the human capacity to speak words. Even from the beginning, they were meant to reveal the mind of God. Now, even more, God has given us authority to extend the forgiveness of His heart to those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Monday, April 4, 2005

Created to Know and Speak the Mind of God

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)
Man is a unique creature in all the universe. He alone has the breath of God in him. Literally, God puffed the breath of life into Adam’s nostrils, then man became a nephesh chayyim, a “living being.” He was not just living, as the animals of Genesis 1 were said to be living. No, he was living solely and especially because of the breath of life from God’s own mouth was at work in him.

In other Bible passages, the word nephesh is often translated as “mind,” for example, at Genesis 23:8 and Deuteronomy 18:6. So in the context of God and man, it refers to more than mere existence. It involves the capacity for thought.

There are a couple of other words translated as “mind” in the Old Testament which help us understand this connection even more. The Hebrew word for “spirit,” ruach, is often used to refer to “wind” and even “breath.” But it also is used as a word for “mind” (Genesis 26:35). The breath that God breathed into Adam’s nostrils was actually the Holy Spirit, giving life to Adam’s body. But we can also say that what God breathed into Adam was the mind of God.

Another interesting word in this regard is the Hebrew word peh. In Leviticus 24:12, it is translated as “mind.” But it literally refers to the mouth as a means of blowing. God, with His mouth, blew the breath of life into Adam’s nostrils. It gives a new meaning to the term “mind-blowing.”

God says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways, My ways” (Isaiah 55:8). But that does not mean that we cannot know God’s thoughts. Indeed, we were created with the capacity to know the mind of God, to understand His ways and walk in them. Though Adam fell, we still have this capacity to think the thoughts of God, if we have experienced the new birth by the Holy Spirit. For Paul says:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. (1 Corinthians 2:9-11)
An ancient Hebrew commentary, the Targum Onkelos, has something very interesting to say about Genesis 2:7. The commentator concludes that God blew into Adam’s nostrils a speaking spirit, and thus Adam himself became a speaking spirit. So not only did Adam bear the image of God, and the authority of God, but he was also a speaking spirit, to breathe forth words, even as God did.

We were created, not only to have the mind of God, to think His thoughts after Him, but also to speak forth the mind of God — our mouths breathing forth His words. His words are never idle or spoken in vain, but they accomplish everything He sends them out to do. As we speak them into our life and the world around us, they will bring forth the purposes of God.

God has created you and me with tremendous capacity, world-changing potential. Do not limit yourself by your own thoughts when you can know the mind of God. Why use your mouth to speak your own feeble words, when you can breathe out the powerful Word of God into the world.

Saturday, April 2, 2005

Problem Solving 101

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep…. And God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. (Genesis 1:1-3)
Can you imagine if God did what we do whenever we run into a problem? “Wow, it sure is dark out here! Can you believe how dark it is? Angels, come and take a look at this darkness, would you. I mean it is daaaark. Whew! I don’t know what I’m gonna do, its just so dark. I hope it doesn’t get any darker or else we’re all going to be in big trouble, because I was counting on it not being so dark. But it is daaaaark. Dark, dark, dark! We’ve really got a problem on our hands because its just so dark.”

How silly would that have been to keep focusing on the problem, talking about the problem, getting into agreement with everyone about the problem — when God had the answer all along.

And yet, so often, isn’t that how you and I have been conditioned to deal with problems? We tell everyone about the problem and hope to get sympathy from them. We try and get others to agree with us about how bad the problem really is. We go on and on about the problem.

But what did God actually do?

It was dark. God said, “Let there be light.” He didn’t say one word about the problem. He simply spoke the answer: Light be. And light was.

Now, you and I are not God. But we are created in the image of God. And we have the authority to speak the Word of God. We have the authority of Jesus to speak to mountains and expect to see them move (Mark 11:22-23).

When you have a problem, find out what the Word of God has to say about it, then start saying what the Word says. In other words, don’t focus on the problem, focus on the answer God has provided.

Friday, April 1, 2005

Abundance or Contentment?

Paul’s word to Timothy:
Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:6-10)
Paul’s word to the Corinthians:
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)
Contentment or abundance — which one does God want us to have? Actually, it is not either/or but both/and. God wants us to have contentment and abundance. It is not readily apparent in the English texts, but the Greek word behind “contentment” in 1 Timothy 6:6 and “sufficiency” in 2 Corinthians 9:8 is the same: autarkeia. It has to do with an inner disposition about outer circumstances.

The truth is that we cannot understand abundance until we have come to understand contentment. Some people are never satisfied, no matter how much they have. It is this sort of person that Paul is advising Timothy about. They desire to be rich but are never satisfied because they are looking for finances and material possessions to rescue them and make them happy.

But money and things were never designed by God to meet those needs. In fact, when we look to money to rescue us, make us happy, or fulfill us in any way, we have idolized it, making it a god before us. There is only one who can do those things for us, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, God promises to meet all of our needs. But until we look to Him alone, we will not realize the fulfillment of that promise because we are putting our trust in other gods. That always leads to fear, because fear is the opposite of biblical faith. So, out of fear, we will keep trying to gather more than we need, never having contentment.

The answer to contentment is simple: Trust God to take care of you in all things. “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want [have lack].” His grace is sufficient for every circumstance. Then you will be able recognize the abundance God is placing within your hands to bless others with.