Saturday, December 31, 2005

Behold, a New Creation

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
In this portion of his letter to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul is speaking of things in the Spirit. In v. 16 he declared, “Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh.” The actual order of things is that the natural comes forth from the spiritual, so it is now to the spiritual that Paul focuses his attention.

Just what is it that Paul sees in the spirit? A new creation. If anyone is in Christ — received new life from the Spirit of God by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ — he is a totally new creation. Brand spanking new! The things that belonged to the old man, the man he used to be, no longer pertain to him — he is new. All things have become new for him — they do not pertain to the old man that was. In his letter to the Galatian believers, Paul put it this way:
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 NKJV; the KJV has “by the faith of the Son of God.)
The old man is dead — crucified with Christ. This is not something we do ourselves, but something that happened at the cross. We simply receive it by faith. The old man is dead, and there is now a new man in residence — born from above, from heaven, by the Spirit of God. This new man of the Spirit is activated and energized by Christ, by His faith and love.

Notice that Paul says, “Behold, all things have become new.” We have some beholding to do. To behold, in this context, means to see in the spiritual realm, to appropriate by faith what is being declared in this passage.

It may not yet be apparent in the flesh. Look at my 50 year old body and you might not discern that I am a new creation. But as Paul said just a chapter earlier in his Corinthian letter: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).

Regardless of how I look in the natural, I am now a new creation, fully equipped and capable of living on this planet as a new creation of God. As Paul says, I have “put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created [me]” (Colossians 3:10).

In Romans, Paul exhorted the believers to "not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Romans 12:1-2).

Transformation and the renewal of our mind and our inward man does not come by our own work and initiative. They are the work of the Holy Spirit which we receive by faith. Discussing the whole matter of salvation, Paul said that it is
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration [the new birth which is from above, John 3:3] and renewing of the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:5)
From beginning to end, this transformation and newness is the work of God. Our job is to behold, to see it in the Spirit and lay hold of it by faith.

As you contemplate the new year take your eyes off the natural and behold in the Spirit that, for those who are in Christ, all things have become new. You no longer have to live like the old man of the flesh, you can live as a new creation in the spirit.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Behold, New Things Springing Forth

Thus says God the LORD,
Who created the heavens and stretched them out,
  Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it,
Who gives breath to the people on it,
  And spirit to those who walk on it:

“I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness,
  and will hold Your hand;
I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people,
  As a light to the Gentiles,
To open blind eyes,
  To bring out prisoners from the prison,
  Those who sit in darkness from the prison house.
I am the LORD, that is My name;
  And My glory I will not give to another,
Nor My praise to carved images.
  Behold, the former things have come to pass,
And new things I declare;
  Before they spring forth I tell you of them.”
(Isaiah 42:5-9)

Behold, I will do a new thing,
  Now it shall spring forth;
  Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness
  And rivers in the desert.
(Isaiah 43:19)
Isaiah prophesied a new thing that would spring forth. It is a messianic declaration—Messiah called forth in righteousness and given as a covenant to Israel and as a light to the nations. It is a time for healing and for setting free, a time for the glory of the LORD to be uniquely manifested in the Anointed One. This is Jesus, and His blood shed for us is the cup of the New Covenant for all who receive Him.

The Hebrew word for “spring forth” literally means to sprout, as a plant. A seed is sown. It germinates. Soon a shoot pushes up through the soil. It grows and develops, rapidly multiplying in size. It prospers and flourishes.

Isn’t this what Jesus said the kingdom of God is like?
The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come. (Mark 4:26-29)

To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade. (Mark 4:30-32)
When the seed is sown, we might not understand how it sprouts and grows — it is a God thing. But there is a steady progress from the first shoot to the ripened fruit, and then it is time for the harvest.

God has declared and is doing a new thing which is now springing forth. It is the kingdom of God. It started as a very small seed, but it is continually growing, shooting out large branches with shade for all.

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray, “Kingdom of God, come! Will of God, be done on earth as it is in heaven.” In the Greek, the tense is continuous: “Kingdom, keep coming! Will of God, keep being done on earth as in heaven.” For it has already broken into our world and is continually increasing at a greater and greater rate. We are now in the time prophesied so long ago in the book of Amos:
“Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD,
  “When the plowman shall overtake the reaper,
  and the treader of grapes him who sows seed;
The mountains shall drip with sweet wine,
  And all the hills shall flow with it.”
(Amos 9:13)
Notice that God says “Behold.”
  • Behold, the former things have come to pass and new things I declare.
  • Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth.
  • Behold, the days are coming …
To behold means to see, to appropriate or take hold of, as with the eyes. It is to gaze intently, to focus upon with great attention. When God says “behold,” it is a command to see in the spirit that which cannot yet be seen in the natural.

God is doing a new thing that is now springing forth. Our job is to behold, to look into the spirit realm and appropriate it. We may not understand how it shall all come about, but God will somehow bring it about. So we sleep by night and rise by day, all the while beholding the promise of God in the spirit, believing in our hearts, and calling it forth by our prayers. In this new year, therefore, watch and be ready to put in your sickle for the harvest.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

And We Are Glad

When the LORD brought back the captivity of Zion,
We were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
And our tongue with singing.
Then they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us,
And we are glad.
(Psalm 126:1-3)
The LORD has delivered our captive ones this year and we are seeing dreams come true. In our Faith Log vocabulary, a dream is a communication from a deeper realm, a vignette from the spiritual dimension. Dreams bring to light things thought impossible, or improbable, and bid us to follow on to the place of hope and gladness.

Our mouths are filled up with laughter, our laughter is filled up with joy, and the joy inside us is singing of the goodness of the LORD, which has become so evident in our lives this year that others around us say, “The LORD has done great things for them.”

As we pause in this reflecting place between Christmas and New Year, we agree that, indeed, the LORD has done great things for us — and we are glad!

Yes, there are more captives to be released, but we trust the LORD to bring them back as streams in the desert (v. 4). There is sowing in tears, but there is reaping in joy (v. 5). And those who go out continually sowing will certainly come home greatly rejoicing and with a rich harvest (v. 6).

Consider the great things the LORD has done for you and be glad. Keep sowing your seed and watch for you harvest to come in strong in the New Year — the fruits of salvation: freedom, health, prosperity and joy for you and your house.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Behold the New

Many people are already starting to put away their Christmas decorations. Which is a shame, because the season of Christmas has only just started. Today is the second day of Christmas, yesterday being the first. The Twelve Days of Christmas are not a count-down to Christmas day, but a celebration which begins on Christmas day and runs all the way through to January 6, which some celebrate as Three Kings Day, and shows on the traditional church calendar as the beginning of Epiphany (for more about this, see Jesus is the Reason for EVERY Season).

Culturally, we are also getting ready for New Year, widely recognized as a time for new beginnings. How appropriate that it should smack in the middle of Christmas, because if Christmas is about anything, it is about the new beginning we have in Jesus Christ, the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us. Everything has changed since He came into the world.

At the Nativity, the event we celebrate at Christmas, the angels could not keep silent, but cried out:
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men. (Luke 2:14)
The earth has always been filled with the glory of God — as the angels in Isaiah’s vision proclaimed (Isaiah 6:3). All that was needed was a revelation of His glory, something God promised in Habakkuk 2:14: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD.”

That is what happened at the first Christmas:
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
In other words, it was a revelation of the glory of God. That is indeed what the angels were singing about: Glory to God in the highest — “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). It was this announcement which jolted the angels so that they could not contain themselves anymore, and they pierced the silent darkness with loud, powerful praises.

Glory to God in the highest — it has now been revealed! Not only glory, but peace as well, the peace of heaven coming into the earth. For Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and at the Cross, “the chastisement for our peace was upon Him” (Isaiah 53:5) In other words, He took our chastisement and gave us His peace. This would be the Hebrew understanding of peace, the shalom of God: wholeness, restoration, oneness — nothing missing, nothing broken.

The glory of God was revealed that night in the city of Bethlehem. The peace of heaven entered the earth that night, for all who trust in Him, for these are the ones upon whom His favor rests, the ones in whom He is well-pleased.

The Bible says, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). This began on that Christmas night and was completed thirty-three years later at the Cross.

The revelation of God’s glory and the peace of heaven entered the world at Christmas — and they have never left! They are not absent, but are fully present in power. The only problem is that we have so often failed to appropriate them.

Now is the time to lay hold of the revelation of the Word of God and the things announced by the angels at Bethlehem. Now is the time to give ourselves over to the Lord Jesus Christ, to receive the peace He came to give us and experience the favor He came to show us, to walk in the glory He came to reveal to us and live in the victory He came to give us. That is where our all our new beginnings lay.

“Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Behold the new!

Let Earth Receive Her King
Let Earth Receive Her King
Advent, Christmas and the Kingdom of God
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

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

Friday, December 23, 2005

Christmas: Receiving the Word Made Flesh

But as many as received Him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name. (John 1:12)
Jesus is the Word who was in the beginning, who is with God , and who IS God (John 1:1). He is the Word that became flesh and dwelt among (v. 14). In Him is light and life, more than enough for every human being who has come into the world.

But not all are willing to receive Him. Some love darkness rather than life, because their deeds are evil (John 3:19). The light shines in the darkness and overcomes it, and cannot ever be overcome by it. Many of Jesus’ own people did not receive Him, though He came expressly as their long-promised Messiah.

Even so, there have been many more who have continued to receive Him, and the grace of God is so abundant and rich that, all who have and do receive Him have the right to become children of God, for the Word, the only begotten Son of God has declared the Father to us (John 1:18). All who know Jesus may behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (John 1:14; 2 Corinthians 4:6).

Have you received the Word made flesh and become a child of God? Have you beheld the glory, grace and truth of the Lord Jesus Christ? That is what Christmas is all about. 

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Christmas in Psalm 2

Why do the nations rage,
  And the people plot a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
  And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the LORD and against His anointed, saying,
  “Let us break Their bonds in pieces
  and cast away Their cords from us.”
(Psalm 2:1-3)
King Herod went into a rage at the news of the new King born in Bethlehem, God’s anointed one — Messiah (Hebrew), the Christ (Greek). The anointing of God breaks lifts the burden and shatters the yoke of oppression, but Herod wanted no part of it, precisely because he was one of the oppressors.
He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;
  The LORD shall hold them in derision.
Then He shall speak to them in His wrath,
  And distress them in His displeasure,”
“Yet I have set My King
  On My holy hill of Zion.”
(Psalm 2:4-6)
Christmas celebrates the birth of this King, who comes to set all things right. The oppressors of this world thought they were in control, but it turns out that they were seriously self-deceived — what a laugh!
“I will declare the decree:
  The LORD has said to Me,
‘You are My Son,
  Today I have begotten You.
Ask of Me, and I will give You
  The nations for Your inheritance,
  And the ends of the earth for Your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron;
  You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.’”
(Psalm 2:7-9)
This is the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us, whose glory we behold, “the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). God’s truth shines a searchlight on the lies of the tyrants, and His grace — the favor of heaven — is far greater than their cruelties and comes to wipe them out. “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the words of the devil” (1 John 3:8).
Now therefore, be wise, O kings;
  Be instructed, you judges of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear,
  And rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,
  And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
  Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.
(Psalm 2:10-12)
Wise men came, kingly in stature, and bowed before God’s anointed one, for they understood the portent of the heavenly sign. "When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy” (Matthew 2:10). They kissed the Son, as it were, honoring Him with gifts befitting a great King.

This psalm begins by depicting the conspiratorial rage of tyrannical kings and despots, but suddenly — and surprisingly — ends with an invitation to receive wisdom, a repentance that ends in exceedingly great joy. It is a promise of blessing — the power of favor of heaven — on all who entrust themselves to God’s anointed one, Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Christmas: The Memra Became Flesh

In the beginning was the Memra, and the Memra was with God, and the Memra was God. (John 1:1)
John wrote in Greek, but he was Hebrew in thought and Aramaic in speech. The Greek word for “word” is logos, a word which depicted logic and reasoning. But John uses the word to mean so much more. Consider these Old Testament Scriptures:
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.
(Psalm 33:6)

He sent His word and healed them,
And delivered them from their destructions.
(Psalm 107:20)

Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.
(Psalm 119:105)

I will worship toward Your holy temple,
And praise Your name
For Your lovingkindness and Your truth;
For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.
(Psalm 138:2)
In the Septuagint, which is an ancient translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, the word for “word” in every instance is the Greek logos. It is not merely the reason or logic of God, but the very breath of God by which He created the heavens and the earth. It is the healing, life-giving power of God. It is the light of God which He manifested at Creation. It is equal to the name of God. To speak of the Word of God is to speak of God Himself.

This is exactly how the ancient Hebrew mind perceived the Word of God. The ancient targums, which were translations of the Hebrew Scriptures into Aramaic, the Word of God is often used as the name of God. The Aramaic word for “word” is memra.
  • Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in His own image.” The Jerusalem Targum has, “And the memra of the LORD created man in His likeness.”
  • In Genesis 9:17, God says to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.” Targum Onkelos says, “This is the sign which I established between my memra and between all flesh which are on the earth.”
  • In Genesis 17:7, God says to Abraham, “I will establish My covenant between Me and you.” Targum Onkelos says, “I will establish My covenant between My memra and you.”
  • In Genesis 28:21, “then the LORD shall be my God.” Targum Onkelos has, “then shall the memra of the LORD be my God.”
  • In Exodus 14:31, where the Hebrew text says, “and believed the LORD,” Targum Onkelos has, “and believed in His memra .”
  • Joshua 12:2, “Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the LORD.” The ancient rabbi, Jonathan ben Uziel, has, “Now swear unto me by the memra of God.
  • 1 Samuel 20:23, “And as for the matter which you and I have spoken of, indeed the LORD be between you and me forever.” Targum Onkelos says, “And the thing we spoke of, you and I, this is the memra of God between you and me forever.”
  • Psalm 62:8, “Trust in Him at all times your people.” Onkelos has, “Trust in the memra at all times.”
  • Isaiah 45:17, “But Israel shall be saved by the LORD.” Jonathan ben Uziel has, “Israel will be redeemed by the memra of God.”
  • Isaiah 45:22, “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth.” Jonathan ben Uziel has, “Turn to my memra , all dwellers on earth.”
This is in the mind of John as he opens his Gospel. He writes logos, but he thinks memra .
In the beginning was the Memra, and the Memra was with God, and the Memra was God. (John 1:1)
The startling thing is not that John equates the Memra/Logos/Word with God — that was nothing new for the Hebrew mind. The startling thing is that the Memra/Logos/Word “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14) and that He is identified as Jesus the Messiah, the unique Son of God (vv. 17-18).

(See also The Word Became Flesh)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Christmas: The Word Became Flesh

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. (John 1:1)
Matthew’s Christmas story begins with a genealogy and tells of Mary and Joseph, of angels, dreams, and wise men. Mark begins with Old Testament prophecy and John the Baptist. Luke tells of Zechariah and Elizabeth, of Mary and Joseph, of census and stable and manger, of angels declaring and shepherds beholding, of Anna and Simeon.

John begins with the Word.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:1-5).
The author of Hebrews puts it this way:
God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Hebrews 1:1-3)
There is only one Word.
  • This Word has always been with God.
  • This Word is that which was spoken by the prophets, for their message is one.
  • This Word is that by which God made the worlds—“framed” the worlds, as Hebrews 11:3 puts it. Nothing was made without this Word.
  • This Word is the brilliant expression of the glory of God, the exact image of His substance.
  • This Word is the power that sustains and holds all things together.
  • This Word is the Son of the Father, and heir to all things.
  • This Word is full of life and light. “For the Word of God is living and powerful” (Hebrews 4:12). “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).
We cannot understand Christmas unless we understand this. For it is this same Word that John describes in John 1:14:
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
It was necessary, in order for the Word to purge us of our sins, that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, to bridge the gap between us and God. Having purged our sins by His death on the cross, the Word ascended to heaven and is now seated at the right hand of the Father. Because the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, all who receive Him are seated with Him at the right hand of Majesty (Ephesians 2:6).

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. This is the unique gift of the Father which we celebrate in this season. It is the glory we behold, the grace we need and the truth we seek — all given to us in abundance.

(See also The Memra Became Flesh)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Christ in Christmas

I just received the latest newsletter from Saint Augustine’s House, which is, I think, the only Lutheran monastery in the world (or at least in the United States). I lift this quote from Father Herbel’s Advent* meditation:
We are frequently exhorted this time of the year to “keep Christ in Christmas.” It is, of course, a welcome reminder of the “reason for the season” as another catchphrase puts it. As Christians we certainly ought to be concerned over deliberate attempts to empty this season of its traditional and specifically Christian content. But along with this concern we should also have confidence that Christ is able to keep Himself in Christmas. He entered into the first Christmas; He is able to enter into this Christmas too.
When we think Christmas is all about what we do, we worry and fret. But when we recognize that it is really about what He does, we enter well into the season of comfort and joy.

*Advent is the season of preparation to celebrate the coming of Jesus into the world.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

How Shall These Things Be?

Today as I did my prayer walk around Westfield Shopping Town in Brandon, FL (see Prayer-Walking at Westfield), I found myself asking these questions:
  • How shall Your church emerge at Westfield?
  • How shall Your kingdom come here?
  • How shall Your will be done at Westfield as it is being done in heaven?
  • How shall Your name be hallowed here?
  • How shall Your glory be revealed here at Westfield?
  • Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil—how shall that be manifested here?
  • How shall these things be?
I’m reminded that Mary asked a similar question when the angel visited her and announced that she, a virgin, would bring forth a Son. “How shall this be,” she said, “since I do not know a man?” (Luke 1:34).

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you” (v.35).

The Greek word for “overshadow” is found only a few times in the New Testament: here, the Transfiguration accounts in three of the Gospels, and in Act 5. Acts 5 tells how the people brought their sick out into the streets and laid the along the way where Peter would pass, so that his shadow might “fall on” some of them (v. 15). The Greek for “fall on” is the word for “overshadow.” The next verse tells us that they were all healed!

How shall these things be? The Holy Spirit must come upon us, and the power of God must overshadow us, even at Westfield — or wherever God has placed you and me.

(See also The Shadow of Glory Part 1, Part 2)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Christmas in Isaiah

Isaiah 40 is rich with Christmas, the coming of Christ into the world (Handel found it to be fertile soil for his Messiah oratorio). Speaking to a people who would soon be going into Babylonian captivity, Isaiah prophecies a wondrous future beyond. It begins:
“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!”
Says your God.” (v.1)
There is the voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (v. 3). The Gospel writers reveal this figure as John the Baptist.

Then there is the promise of the Gospel, good news to Israel:
O Zion,
  You who bring good tidings,
  Get up into the high mountain;
O Jerusalem,
  You who bring good tidings,
  Lift up your voice with strength,
Lift it up, be not afraid;
  Say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” (v. 9)
There are four “Beholds” to consider. When God tells us to behold something, it is to fix our attention, our focus, our gaze upon something that our human eyes cannot yet discern. It is to look into the realm of the spirit and see truth “behind the scenes.” It signals something unexpected, something that is known only because God reveals it to us.

In verse 9, the command is to “Behold your God!” There is the dimension of the divine, but there is also the personal aspect, because He is called our God. After the time of captivity and darkness, the Good News comes: Our God is now here to deliver and take care of His people.

The second “Behold” immediately follows:
Behold, the Lord GOD shall come with a strong hand.
And His arm shall rule for Him. (v. 10)
Our God comes exercising power and authority.

Then comes the third “Behold”:
Behold, His reward is with Him,
And His work before Him. (v. 10)
The NIV has the second line as “And His recompense accompanies Him.” These are the spoils of victory. For our Lord Messiah comes to destroy the works of the enemy and set the captives free, while making prisoners of those who held His people hostage. He lifts up the humble but repays those enemies who have lifted themselves up in pride.
  • “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8)
  • “Therefore He says: ‘When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.’” (Ephesians 4:8)
In Isaiah 40:11, we find that our warrior God, who prevails so powerfully against our oppressors, is also a tender shepherd:
He will feed His sheep a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs with His arm,
And carry them in His bosom,
And gently lead those who are with young.
Handel’s Messiah marries this text to Matthew 11:28-29:
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I wil 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.
But we are also drawn to the Good Shepherd in John 10:
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. (v. 11)
The fourth “Behold” comes in Isaiah 40:15.
Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket,
And are counted s the small dust on the scales;
Look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing.
God is big! All the nations taken together cannot compare to Him. They do not even come close. Do not let the nations shake you, for God will shake the nations and bring them into line. For He is not like the false gods and idols of those nations. He is the true God and Judge who comes to set things right. Therefore, “lift up your eyes on high” (v. 26).
Why do you say, O Jacob,
  And speak, O Israel:
“My way is hidden from the LORD,
  And my just claim is passed over by my God”?
Have you not known?
  Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the LORD,
  The Creator of the ends of the earth,
  Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
  He gives power to the weak.
  And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
  And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the LORD
  Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
  They shall run and not be weary,
  They shall walk and not faint.
(Isaiah 40:27-31)
That is why Jesus came, to deliver you and me, to shepherd us and restore us to God. Isn't that the promise of Christmas?

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Christmas in the Old Testament

Just now I’ve been watching the CBS “Early Show.” Discussing the Presidential Christmas cards, one of the anchors brought up the Old Testament and mentioned that it does not mention Christmas.

No, not by name. But then, neither does the New Testament. But they both talk about the birth of the Christ, or as He is called in the Old Testament, Messiah. Consider these Messianic passages in the Old Testament:
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
(Isaiah 7:14)

For unto us a Child is born,
  Unto us a Son is given;
And the government shall be upon His shoulder.
  And His name shall be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
  Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
  There will be no end.
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
  To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
  The zeal of the LORD of Hosts will perform this.
(Isaiah 9:6-7)
Now compare with the New Testament account:
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her public example, was minded to put her away secretly.

But while he though about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name, JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”

So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and the shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
(Matthew 1:18-23)
Consider also the testimony of the Magi, who learned the when and the where of Christ’s birth because they paid attention to these Old Testament prophecies:
The utterance of him who hears the Words of God,
  And has knowledge of the Most High …
I see Him, but not now;
  I behold Him, but not near;
A star shall come out of Jacob;
  A Scepter shall rise out of Israel.
(Numbers 24:16-17)

But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
  Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
  Who will shepherd My people Israel.
(Micah 5:2)
Compare again with Matthew’s Gospel:
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:

“But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
  Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
  Who will shepherd My people Israel.”
(Matthew 2:1-6)
Christmas is there in both the Old Testament and New. For it is all part of God’s eternal plan to redeem His people. Wisdom recognizes this.

(See also Wise Men Discern Kings)

Christmas in Zion

Hey, our new faith-building article is out for December 2005. It's called Christmas in Zion and is free to read and download at Walking Barefoot Ministries.

Thursday, December 8, 2005

Surrendering to the Passions of God

Been reading in Mystics and Miracles: True Stories of Lives Touched by God, by Bert Ghezzi. Part Six is called “Miracles that Changed the Course of History.” It begins with this quote from Clare Boothe Luce:
The saints give little thought to changing the world around them. They are too busy changing the world within them. They are not out to reform Caesar, but to conform themselves to Christ.
Later, Ghezzi comments: “The surrender of the saints gave God permission to intervene directly in human events. That accounts for the flow of signs and wonders in their wakes.”

We change the world, not by trying to change the world, but by surrendering to God. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and everything else will be taken care of.

Mary understood this and lived it out. She said, “Behold the servant of the LORD! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Indeed, the world changed.

We change the earth by surrendering to the passions of God.

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Stand in Awe of God and Fear Nothing

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
(Proverbs 9:10)
To fear the LORD is, in a word, to stand in awe of Him. We used to say “Awful” (read “awe-full”). Now we exclaim, “Awesome!”

When God and God alone is awesome in our eyes, we will not fear anything else. We find a classic example of this in Numbers 13, when Moses sent out a team of twelve to spy out the land of promise.

Ten came back and said that, yes, indeed it was a land of milk and honey and an abundance of fruit. But, you see, the people there were very strong: “There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight” (Numbers 13:33).

They made the mistake of supposing that, because they saw themselves as grasshoppers in their own sight, the “giants” of the land must have seen them that way, too. But their view of God was small, and caused them to look only to themselves and, coming up short, they lost heart. They did not fear the LORD, so they ended up fearing everything else.

On the other hand, there were two spies, Joshua and Caleb, who stood in continual awe of the LORD. Listen to their report:
“Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.” (Numbers 13:30)

“The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land which flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them.” (Numbers 14:7-9)
They did not consider the “giants.” They did not even consider themselves. They considered the LORD alone. Their only consideration was, “The LORD is with us;” their conclusion was, “Do not fear them.”

The virgin Mary stood in awe of the Lord. When the angel announced the favor of God on her, and that she would give birth to the Son of God, she learned that there was not only nothing to fear, but that nothing would be impossible:
Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this in now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible. (Luke 1:34-37).
Mary visited Elizabeth, who announced Mary’s pregnancy: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Luke 1:42). The Mary sang a wonderful song of praise which begins, “My soul magnifies the LORD.” She stood in awe of Him.

When you stand in awe of God, you will never have to fear anything else. There is nothing to fear, for nothing will be impossible.

(See also When It’s All About God)

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

The Voice of the LORD

The voice of the LORD is powerful;
The voice of the LORD is full of majesty.
(Psalm 29:4)
In the beginning, when darkness was over the face of the deep, the voice of the LORD boomed, “Light be!” and the darkness was broken (Genesis 1:2-3). God caused light to come into existence in the natural by the Word of His mouth. Indeed, the Bible says that the whole world was framed by the Word of God (Hebrews 11:3). The voice of the LORD is powerful and full of majesty!
The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of disciples, that I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens me morning by morning, He awakens my ear to listen as a disciple. (Isaiah 50:4 NASB)
When the voice of the LORD speaks it is so that He may be heard. He awakens our ears to hear, so that we may speak His word. It is the essence of discipleship.
Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. (Romans 10:17)
When we hear the voice of the LORD, faith comes. When we believe, we speak. Paul said,
And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak. (2 Corinthians 4:13)

For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans10:10)
The heart believes, the mouth confesses. That’s how faith works. Jesus described the same thing:
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 11:23)
The whole world is made up of the Word of God, the voice of the LORD. Our part is to hear His voice, believe His Word and speak it forth into the world. That is how and why faith moves mountains.

Monday, December 5, 2005

Faith Comes! Faith Works!

Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. (Romans 10:17)

Faith works through love. (Galatians 5:6)
“Faith comes! Faith works! Get the Word part right, and faith always comes. Get the Love part right, and faith always works.” ~ Kenneth Copeland
Tune up your faith by hearing the Word of God and releasing His love to others.

Friday, December 2, 2005

The LORD Your Shade

The LORD is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
(Psalm 121:5-6)
There is another name God reveals in this psalm: “The LORD Your Shade.” How close is your shadow? The LORD is just as close. The word for “shade” comes from a root that means “to hover over.” The LORD overshadows us to protect us from the burden of the day, but also from the fears that torment in the night.
You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
  Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
  Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
(Psalm 91:5-6)
When the LORD is at your right hand, He overshadows you with all the strength you need for any situation. With Him at your right hand, you are able to do what you could never do on your own.

Thursday, December 1, 2005

Yahweh Shamar: The LORD Your Keeper

The LORD is your keeper …
The LORD shall preserve you from all evil;
  He shall preserve your soul.
The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in
  From this time forth, and even forevermore.
(Psalm 121:5, 7-8)
We find the Hebrew root shamar, six times in this psalm, translated as “keep” or “preserve.”

  • He who keeps you (v. 3).
  • He who keeps Israel (v. 4).
  • The LORD is your keeper (v. 5).
  • The LORD shall preserve you from all evil (v. 7).
  • He shall preserve your soul (v. 7).
  • The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in (v. 8).
I think that the LORD is trying to tell us something! In fact, He brings it out quite strongly in His name, Yahweh Shamar — The LORD Your Keeper. (Notice that the word “is” in verse 5 is in italics. This signifies that it has no basis in the text, but was added by the translators.)

The word “LORD” (all caps) represents the Hebrew word Yahweh, the personal name of God by which He reveals Himself in covenant with His people. By the name Yahweh Shamar, God has covenanted to watch over His people to protect and preserve them.
  • The LORD keeps you, both individually and as a part of His corporate people (vv. 3-4).
  • The LORD will keep you from all evil (v. 7). Jabez prayed to the LORD to preserve Him from evil, and was powerfully blessed by God (1 Chronicles 4:9-10). The Lord Jesus taught us to pray, “Deliver us from evil.”
  • The LORD will keep your soul. The “soul” is not just the immaterial part of a person, but is often used to refer to your entire being. The Bible says that God will sanctify and preserve us completely — spirit, soul and body — at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
  • The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in — from now on. God is just as able to take care of us in a foreign land or right under our own roof, and all points in between. He covers us in our daily routine and at all hours.
Look to the LORD to watch over and keep you in every area of life. He is committed to you — are you committed to Him?

(For more about the LORD your keeper, meditate on these verses: Psalm 12:7; 41:2; 97:10; 116:6; 145:20; 146:9.)