Saturday, September 30, 2006

Don't Be Fooled: Understanding the Scriptures and the Power of God

You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. (Matthew 22:29)
The Sadducees thought they had Jesus stumped. A liberal sect among the Jews, they did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, and they thought that had a way to refute it from the Scriptures (though they did not accept all the Scriptures, only the books of Moses).
The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and asked Him, saying: “Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were with us seven brothers. The first died after he had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother. Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh. Last of all the woman died also. Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her.” (Matthew 22:23-28)
That is when Jesus answered them and said, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.” Then He explained why the Sadducees misunderstood both the Scriptures and the power of God:
For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” (Matthew 22:30-32)
That shut down the Sadducees’ argument. Though they might have accepted the God was able to raise the dead, they did not believe that raising the dead was actually part of His plan. They strayed from the truth concerning the power of God. They erred in their understanding of the Scriptures because they failed to see that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. And God said to Moses, in the only Scriptures the Sadducees did accept, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob,” though Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had long since passed off the scene (Exodus 3:6, 15). So the Sadducees did not even really know the only Scriptures they professed to believe. They had no faith, because faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17), and they had not really heard what the Word was saying.

It is vitally important for us to know both the Scriptures and power of God. It is not enough to know just one or the other. If we know the Scriptures, but not the power of God, then our knowledge of the Scriptures will be dry and unfruitful. If we know the power of God, but not the Scriptures, then we will be vulnerable to the deceiving miracles and false doctrines of the devil.

There are many Christians today who believe that the time of God’s miracles have ceased. They are called, and even call themselves, “Cessationists.” There are also others who, while they do not wish to present themselves as cessationist, for all practical purposes, they are cessationists nonetheless. They will allow that God may, perhaps, under very unusual circumstances, still do miracles today, but such things are few and far between, and usually not something they have ever seen, heard of, or experienced for themselves. They don’t want to be found denying the power of God, but by their theology and traditions, they keep it tightly bound and under wraps.

The truth is, if we don’t know the power of God, it is probably because we don’t really know the Scriptures. For the Scriptures continually testify about the power of God, from Genesis to Revelation, and from Beginning to End.

The Scriptures and the power of God are both manifestations of the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures are given by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21) and cannot truly be understood apart from Him (1 Corinthians 10-16). The Holy Spirit is also the Spirit of Power. It was by the anointing of the Holy Spirit that Jesus performed all His miracles on earth (Acts 10:38), and He promised His disciples, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8).

As you read the Scriptures, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal them to you in your inner man, so that they do not just become information, but revelation to you. Ask Him also to fill you to overflowing with His life-changing power. When the Word of God and the Holy Spirit are at work in you, you will be transformed by the power of God, and you will become a world-changer.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Word of Your Testimony

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. (Revelation 12:11)
No matter what you might be facing today, this is how you overcome: By the blood of the Lamb. By the word of your testimony. By loving Jesus more than anything else in life.

Who do you overcome? “That serpent of old, called the devil and satan, who deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9). Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), and He did this by His blood shed on the cross. That is why the Bible can freely declare, “Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

But what is the word of testimony? We know that it must have something to do with faith:
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4-5)
The word of your testimony is the confession of your faith:
If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9-10)

Seeing then that we have a great high Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. (Hebrews 4:14)

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23)
Your testimony is what you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth. It is a powerful force that can overcome whatever obstacle you may face. That is what Jesus taught His disciples:
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 11:23)
The Greek word behind “confess” is homologeo and literally means “to say the same thing.” It is about coming into agreement with something? What are we to come into agreement with? The Word of God. Whatever the Word says about something, that is what we are to say. When you believe the Word of God in your heart and confess it with your mouth, it becomes the word of your testimony.

Here are some confessions you can make to come into agreement with the Word of God:
  • The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want [be in lack]. (Psalm 23:1)
  • The LORD is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust. (Psalm 91:2)
  • He forgives all my iniquities and heals and my diseases. (Psalm 103:3)
  • He delivers my life from destruction and surrounds me with lovingkindness and tender mercies. (Psalm 103:4)
  • He satisfies my desires with good things so that my youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:5)
  • With long life He will satisfy me, and show me His salvation. (Psalm 91:16)
  • Jesus bore all my sicknesses and pains, and by His stripes I am healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5)
  • I am accepted in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:6)
  • My God shall supply all my need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19)
  • In all these things I am more than a conqueror through Jesus Christ, who loves me and has given Himself for me. (Romans 8:37)
  • Nothing shall be able to separate me from the love God has for me and has demonstrated for me in the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 8:39)
These are just a few of the promises, but there are many other confessions you can make in agreement with the Word of God. In fact, whatever your circumstance, whatever your need, God has already spoken a promise and made a provision that covers it. It’s all in the Word.

What is the word of your testimony? Is it based upon the finished work of Christ on the cross, and in agreement with the promises of God? Then today you are an overcomer.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Equal Parts, Love and Truth

And He gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the quipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-15)
We must speak the truth in love. Both halves are equally necessary, equally important. Truth and love are equally divine: God is love (1 John 4:8); Jesus Christ is the truth (John 14:6). The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of Truth (John 16:13), and fruit of the Spirit is love (Galatians 5:22).

Truth without love is nothing more than facts, data, information. It is just knowledge. The apostle Paul gave this assessment: “Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies” (1 Corinthians 8:1). On the other hand, love without truth is sentimental emotionalism. Paul wrote to the believers at Philippi, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:9-10).

It is not enough to speak the truth. We must speak it in love, are we are not really speaking it at all. Likewise, it is not enough to speak in love. We must also speak the truth, or else we are not really walking in love.

When we speak the truth in love, it brings forth a maturity and a unity among the people of God. It builds up the body of Christ and reveals the “stature of the fullness of Christ” in us — everything of Him being made known in us.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Goodness of Bold, Declarative Praise

It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
And to sing praise to You name, O Most High;
To declare You lovingkindness in the morning,
And your faithfulness every night.
(Psalm 92:1-2)
Let us consider goodness.
Three things come to mind:

  • That which is good is good in its source, for that which is evil cannot produce that which is good.
  • That which is good is good in its essence. God is able to bring forth good things in the midst of evil, but we should never call evil good because of it. We should always delineate between the two.
  • That which is good is good in its effects. It brings forth good results, making the world a better place. It adds benefits and strengthens virtue. It increases beauty, bounty, and prosperity in the world.
What is it that the psalm writer is pronouncing as good? Giving thanks. It is good to give thanks to the LORD. The Hebrew word translated “give thanks” is yada. Literally, it means to use the hand, as to throw. But it is used as a term of worship. Think of it as throwing praise and worship toward the Lord in grateful recognition.

The psalm writer is not talking about passive acknowledgement. He is talking about standing up and making bold declaration. What is that declaration? The lovingkindness and faithfulness of the Lord. This is the steadfast covenant love and mercy, and complete trustworthiness of our God.

It is a good thing to worship the Lord, to boldly declare His love and faithfulness. It comes from a good place and brings good results, magnifying the goodness of God on the earth.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Kingdom of God is Now Here

From the very beginning, and throughout His ministry, Jesus preached about the kingdom of God, that it was now present. After His baptism, and the temptation in the wilderness, Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). In Mark’s Gospel, we read:
Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15)
To say that the kingdom is “at hand” is to say that it is now here. The appropriate response it to repent and believe, to receive it by faith. This was the message He was sent to preach. “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent” (Luke 4:43).

When Jesus sent His disciples out, He sent them out to heal sicknesses, cast out demons, and to preach. What were they to preach? The kingdom of God:
Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. And heal the sick there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” (Luke 10:8-10).
The miracles and acts of deliverance were signs that the kingdom of God was present in their midst. Later in Luke’s Gospel, when He was accused of casting demons by the power of the devil, Jesus replied, “But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 11:20).

Jesus described the kingdom of God as a seed:
The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the lest of all the seeds, but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in the branches. (Matthew 13:31-32)

The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened. (Matthew 13:33)

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 4:26-27)

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 small 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)
The kingdom of God starts out as a seed that is sown, then it takes root and begins to grow, continually expanding. It becomes a tree shooting out large branches and starts to bear fruit. The fruit ripens and is harvested. That is how it is with the kingdom of God, and with everything that is sown into the kingdom. In another place, Jesus said,
Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not received a hundredfold now in this time — houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions — and in the age to come, eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30)
Jesus is describing an exponential growth of the kingdom of God. Notice that it is “now in this time,” as well as in the life to come. Surprisingly, many Christians overlook the magnificent expansion of the kingdom “now in this time” and see only the persecutions.

Now, the gospel Jesus is talking about is the gospel of the kingdom of God, for that is the gospel He preached:
And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. (Matthew 4:23)

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. (Matthew 9:35)

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)
The kingdom of God has been growing and expanding ever since Jesus came into the world. Jesus said,
Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force. (Matthew 11:11-12)
The NIV has this as, “The kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing and forceful men lay hold of it.” The kingdom of God is not in retreat; it is forcefully advancing, moving forward in a powerful way, becoming more and more what Jesus often described it as becoming.

The kingdom of God is here and now and is continually growing and expanding. We lay hold of this kingdom by faith in Jesus Christ, who has “delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Colossians 1:13). The old kingdom of the present age, and the god of this age are passing way. The new kingdom, the kingdom of God, is advancing and increasing. The apostle John said, “Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining” (1 John 2:8).

This forcefully advancing kingdom is present within everyone who believes in Jesus Christ: “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:2-21).

It does not come militarily or politically. It is not marked on a map; nor can it be geographically contained. The kingdom of God is much more pervasive than that. It is within the people of God, and everywhere they go, that is where the kingdom is. Wherever Jesus is preached and the works of Jesus are being done, the kingdom is in manifestation. God is bringing it forth through His people.

The kingdom of God is not a symbolic kingdom, or a figurative one. It is a real kingdom — the dominion of the King, the rule and reign of God. It is here in this world and now in this time. It has not yet become all that it is going to become, but it has already begun. The seed has been planted and has been growing for two thousand years.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Earth Shall Yield Her Increase

Let the peoples praise You, O God;
  Let all the peoples praise You.
Then the earth shall yield her increase;
  God, our own God, shall bless us.
God shall bless us,
  And all the ends of the earth shall fear Him.
(Psalm 67:5-7)
When God shows His mercy and blessing to His people, it reveals the glory of His salvation to the world and causes the nations to be glad, bringing forth praise to His name (see A Revelation of Jesus to the Nations and Governing the Nations). When that happens it causes the earth to release its increase, its fruitfulness, its wealth. The praise of God brings forth the prosperity of the earth. It is as the apostle Paul said:
For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. (Romans 8:18-22)
This revelation has already begun, for Jesus has come to destroy the works of the devil, through His death, burial and resurrection, and has ascended to His throne in heaven, where He rules and reigns forever.

So why don’t we see this happening more? Why don’t we see the nations giving praise to God, and the earth yielding its increase?

The problem is that there are very many of God’s people who do not embrace this revelation and walk in its truth. Many have simply not been taught about it and discipled in it. There are also others who even argue against it, believing that it is not for this life at all, but only for the next. So the glory of God remains largely hidden upon the earth.

But the plans and purposes of God shall be fulfilled. The blessing shall be seen, the glory of God shall be revealed. The nations shall praise, and the earth shall be aligned with the will of God and bring forth her wealth.
God, our own God, shall bless us.
God shall bless us,
And all the ends of the earth shall fear Him. (vv. 6-7)
The psalm writer ends with the confidence that his request shall be fulfilled. Our God shall bless us, and all the ends of the earth shall stand in awe of Him.

God be merciful to us and bless, and cause His face to shine upon us. Selah.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Governing the Nations

Let the peoples praise You, O God;
  Let all the peoples praise You.
Oh, let the nations be glad and sing for joy!
For You shall judge the people righteously,
  And govern the nations on earth.
(Psalm 67:3-4)
When God shows His mercy and blessing to His people, it blesses all the nations of the world with a revelation of His salvation (Psalm 67:1-2; see A Revelation of Jesus to the Nations).

When His “salvation” (Hebrew yeshuah — in name form, the Hebrew word for Jesus) is made known to the nations, because of His blessing on us, it causes the people of the world to praise Him with joy and gladness. For it is a sign that God is coming to judge the people righteously (fairly and equitably). That is, He is coming to set things right. He is coming to govern the nations, to lead and guide them into the place of blessing.
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:17)

For unto us a Child is born,
  Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
  And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
  Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
  There will be no end.
(Isaiah 9:6-7)
The judgment of God does not come to condemn or destroy the nations, but to lead them into salvation, healing and prosperity, through faith in His Yeshua. It is the invitation of Psalm 2. Though the nations rage and plot against the LORD and His Messiah in vv. 1-3, still, He invites them into a redeeming relationship with Him:
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)
When God’s people learn how to walk in the favor and blessing of the Lord, and give Him all the glory, it becomes a powerful witness to the nations of the world — the hope of peace and righteousness being established.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Revelation of Jesus to the Nations

God be merciful to us and bless us,
  And cause His face to shine upon us,
That Your way may be known on earth
  Your salvation among all nations.
(Psalm 67:1-2)
Psalm 67 is a prayer calling on God, not only for blessing, but for His name to be honored all over the world. The Lord Jesus taught us to pray to the Father, “Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” That is, “Cause Your name to be recognized and honored on earth, among all the nations, just as it is in heaven.”

When God is merciful to us, blesses us and causes His face to shine on us, it is a revelation of His salvation to all the nations of the earth. The Hebrew word used here for “mercy” means to bend or stoop, as a father might bend down to show kindness or favor to his child. Blessing is a divine endowment, benefit or empowerment, an impartation of the resources of heaven.

The face of God shining on us is the revelation of His glory in our lives. It is a manifestation of His gracious favor: “For the LORD will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11). As God imparts His mercy and blessing, so He imparts His glory, and we are lit up by the manifestation of His presence in our lives.

The revelation of the salvation of the LORD is a revelation of Jesus. The Hebrew word for “salvation” here is yeshuah. The King James Version translates it as “saving health.” Elsewhere it is rendered at “welfare,” “help,” “health,” and “deliverance.” Some versions even translate it, in some places, as “prosperity.” Used as a name, it is Yeshua, the Hebrew name translated in the New Testament as “Jesus.”

When God shows His favor and mercy to us, and blesses us, and causes His glory to shine on us, it not only benefits us, but becomes a revelation of Yeshua — of Jesus — to the nations of the earth. It shows that He is a God who saves, heals, delivers, helps, and prospers all those who trust in Him.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Our High Tower

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah.
(Psalm 46:1-3)
When God is our refuge, there is no need for fear. Not even if the whole earth were destroyed and every mountain submerged in the deepest oceans. Nor in the midst of great tsunamis and monumental earthquakes.

God is our shelter, our strength, our security. He is the cause of our boldness, our confidence. He is a very present help. The margin note in the NKJV says, “abundantly available help.” The Hebrew words show that God is more than ready to move on our behalf, vehemently, speedily and wholly. He greatly desires to help us with all that belongs to Him. Especially in the time of trouble.

Therefore, we will not fear.

The psalm writer has “done the math,” and concluded that, regardless of whatever happens in the world, or even to the world, there is no reason for fear. He has stepped into the revelation of the love of God, for God is love, and perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). If we have fear, it only means that we need to know more of His love.
There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice, the earth melted.
(Psalm 46:4-6)
Literally, the “city of God” refers to Jerusalem, the place where God specifically manifested the of His presence. It was holy because it was set apart as the place where the glory of the Most High dwelt on earth. But now, everyone who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ has the Holy Spirit of God dwelling in them. We are the living temple of the Living God.

There has never been a literal river that flows through Jerusalem. The river the psalmwriter has in mind is a river of God’s mercy and favor. It is a river of revival, like the one in Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 47), bringing life and healing to the people of God. It is a river that everyone who thirsts may come and drink (Isaiah 55). It is the river of living water Jesus spoke about, which would come forth from our innermost being — a river of the Holy Spirit.

There is a holy city, and the river of God runs through it. God is in the midst of her, therefore, she shall not be moved. There is no shaking or falling or crumbling in this city; God is instantly there to “help” — the Hebrew word means to surround and protect. For this is the city of God, a city of heaven, the kingdom of God now breaking into the world.

Nations and kingdoms may rage against it, but it is they who will be moved, not the kingdom of God. For God utters a sound, and their foundations disintegrate. He speaks a word, and their evil works are destroyed. In “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” based on this psalm, Martin Luther identifies this word as the Lord Jesus Christ, the Living Word.
The LORD of Hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
(Psalm 46:7)
This is a very bold and powerful declaration of our position in God: Yahweh Sabaoth, the LORD of Hosts is with us! Yahweh, signified in our English Bibles by “LORD” (all caps) is the name by which God reveals Himself in covenant. His “hosts” are all the angels and armies of heaven. God has made covenant with us, and all of heaven is on our side!

“The God of Jacob” is another reference to covenant, the one God made with Abraham, confirmed to Isaac, and then to Jacob. He is our “refuge,” our high fortress, which is totally beyond the reach of the enemy. He is our strong and high tower. In fact, that is how the Jewish Publication Society Bible renders it: “The God of Jacob is our high tower.”
Come, behold the works of the LORD,
Who has made desolations in the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariot in the fire.
Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
(Psalm 46:8-10)
Get big picture of what God is doing. As His kingdom breaks into the world more and more, and His will is being done more and more on earth as it is in heaven, the enemies of God will be undermined and their wicked works destroyed. Hostilities will cease, and the implements of war will be useless.

We have not yet send that day. But we will when we cease from our own striving and understand that this is all about God and His glory. Then He will be exalted among all the nations of the earth.
The LORD of Hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
(Psalm 46:11)
So the psalm writer ends with the repetition of his theme: God and all of heaven is with us; He is our high tower.

Five years ago, Islamic terrorists tried to cast the world into fear. But it will not stand, for God is love, and love casts out fear. Today, as we remember the fallen towers of 9/11, let not your heart be troubled. Quiet your heart and know that the Lord is God. Give Him glory, and put your trust in Him. For He is your strong and high tower which can never be toppled.

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Crushing Satan

And the God of peace will crush satan under your feet shortly. (Romans 16:20)
Wow! Imagine satan crushed under your feet. That is what God is doing. That is why Jesus came: “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). The Greek word for “destroy” means to break up, to loose and put off, to dissolve and disintegrate, even to melt. It is thorough, complete and irrevocable. It was the anointing of the Anointed One is for, to completely remove the burden and utterly destroy the yoke (Isaiah 10:27).

This was God’s plan from the beginning, when Adam and Eve rebelled against God. He gave this promise, which is known as the protoevangelium, the first mention of the gospel (“good news”): God said to the serpent (satan), “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed [Jesus Christ]; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15).

In the movie The Passion of the Christ, this is graphically portrayed in the first scene, where Jesus is shown praying in the garden of Gethsemane: A snake slithers out from the robes of the satan figure — and Jesus abruptly crushes its head under His foot. That is what happened at Calvary; satan got Jesus up on the cross, right where he wanted Him, but it turned out to be the death blow for satan — Jesus crushed his head!

How did that happen? Because it was not for Himself that Jesus died — it was for us:
Surely He has borne our griefs [literally, sicknesses]
And carried our sorrows [literally, pains]
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted [as if on His own account]
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
(Isaiah 53:4-6)
The wounds and bruises with which satan wanted to afflict Jesus were for our benefit. Jesus endured the chastisement that rightfully belonged to us, and in its place, He gave us His peace. The Hebrew word for “peace,” shalom, refers to wholeness — nothing missing, nothing broken.

Notice in Romans 16:20, it is the God of peace who crushes satan under our feet. That might seem to be a disjunction; what does peace have to do with crushing? But that is exactly how God has given us His peace — Jesus crushed the head of the evil one and destroyed all his works. The work of the devil is to steal, kill and destroy, but Jesus came to give us His peace, the life of God in abundance (John 10:10).

If Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil, then why are they still around today? Because God is not only doing a work in and for His people, He is doing a work through His people. Jesus has delivered the death blow to satan and all his works, but He has given His people the authority and power to enforce that victory over the adversary:
Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. (Luke 10:19)
Jesus has not only given us authority, but power also, just as He promised: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8). This is the same power by which Jesus performed all His miracles and destroyed the works of the devil: “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth wit the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). The broken power of the devil is no match against the power of the Holy Spirit.

The power of death, the last enemy, was broken when God raised Jesus from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit:
Which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to com. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:20-22)
God raised Jesus from the dead. Forty days later, Jesus ascended to His throne in heaven, where rules and reigns forever. All things have been placed under His feet, his authority. The devil and his works have been destroyed — dealt the death blow — though it has not fully manifested on earth as it is in heaven. For we are living between the time of the cross and the end of this present evil age:
Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all things under His feet. (1 Corinthians 15:24-25)
God has put all things under Jesus’ feet; God is putting all things under Jesus’ feet. It is not a contradiction, for what God has already done in the spiritual realm is now being worked out in the natural; what He has already perfected in heaven is now being brought forth on the earth. We are living in the time of that outworking. Indeed, we are a part of that outworking, just as Jesus authorized us to bind and loose on earth what is already bound and loosed in heaven (Matthew 18:18), and to pray, “Kingdom of God, come! Will of God, be done on earth as it is in heaven!” (Matthew 6:10).

God is crushing satan under our feet. He has given us authority to trample on the power and works of the enemy. Just as these things are under the feet of Jesus, they are under our feet as well. For we are His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all (see The Fullness of Him Who Fills). Not only that, but the Bible says that, just as Jesus is seated in the heavenlies at the right hand of the Father, we are also seated there in Him. God has “made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:5-6).

God is putting all things under the feet of Jesus, and you and I get to be a part of that victory. As believers in Jesus, we no longer have to listen to the lies and accusations of the devil, and be subject to his power, for that power has been broken and has no authority, and no ability, to rule over us. We are part of the body of Christ. We are now part of that fullness which fills all in all. God is crushing satan under our feet, and that is the outworking of His peace, His shalom, in the world.

Monday, September 4, 2006

The Heart/Mouth Connection

You have tested my heart;
You have visited me in the night;
You have tried me and have found nothing;
I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.
(Psalm 17:3)
There is a very important spiritual connection between your heart and your mouth. Jesus said that it is out of the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). Whatever is in your heart in abundance, that is what is going to come out of your mouth, especially when the heat is on.

Jesus also taught His disciples, “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). Here, we see the heart represented by what we believe, and the mouth by what we say.

The apostle Paul recognized the importance of the heart/mouth connection. Quoting from Deuteronomy 30:14, he says this:
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart(that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:8-10)
The reason the heart/mouth connection is so important is because that is how faith works, and without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). With the heart, we believe; with the mouth, we confess — and that greatly pleases God.

So David says to the Lord, “You have tested my heart; You have visited me in the night; You have tried me and have found nothing; I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.” Here is how other versions render it:

The Hebrew word for “tried” literally means to fuse, as a metal, and refers to a refining process, such as that of a goldsmith. When God visits you and examines your hearts, is not in order to condemn you, but to refine you. It is not just about what He finds in you, but also about He removes from you, and what He fuses into you.

This is a 24/7 process. Much of it takes place in the night, while we are on our beds, and our hearts are more receptive. Of the righteous man, it is said, “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2). David said, “I will bless the LORD who has given me counsel; my heart also instructs me in the night season” (Psalms 16:7). That is why Clement of Alexandria could say, “For the saints, even their slumber is prayer.” The counsel of the Lord speaks to our hearts, even at night, and our hearts instruct us. God visits and refines us.

“I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.” When we let the Lord do His refining work in us, our hearts become filled with His purpose, and His purpose becomes our purpose. When that purpose fills our heart in abundance, it will overflow from our lips and our mouths will speak the purposes of God.

When your heart is lined up with the heart of the Father, the words of your mouth will have a powerful, life-giving quality that floods you with light. When the words of your mouth line up with the Word of God in your heart, they will bring forth an explosion of faith that changes the world. What have your purposed in your heart?

(See also, My Mouth Shall Not Transgress and His Words, Your Mouth)

Friday, September 1, 2006

Commanding the Hand of God

Here are some notes from my study file on what Isaiah 45:11 means concerning commanding the hand of the LORD.
Thus says the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker: “Ask Me of things to come concerning My sons; and concerning the work of My hands, you command Me.” (Isaiah 45:11 NKJV)
But there are also a few other renderings of this text. The New American Standard Bible has:
Thus says the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker: “Ask Me the things to come concerning My sons, and you shall commit to Me the work of My hands.”
The New International Version reads:
This is what the LORD says — the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker: “Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands?”
This reading is favored by the Revised English Bible, New Revised Standard Version, The Message, and the Bible in Basic English.

In addition to the New King James Version, the first translation, at the top, is also supported by the King James Version, the Jewish Publication Society Bible, Young’s Literal Translation, the Darby Bible, the Revised Version, Webster’s Bible Translation, the American Standard Version, and the Holman Christian Standard Bible.

There are also standard commentaries that support this rendering. Notice how they address the issue of commanding the hand of God:
It seems to me, however, that the word “command” is here to be taken rather as indicating the privilege of his people to present their desires in the language of fervent and respectful petition; and that God here indicates that he would, so to speak, allow them to direct him; that he would hear their prayers, and would conform the events of his administration to their wishes and their welfare. This is the most obvious interpretation; and this will perhaps suit the connection as well as any other. Instead of complaining, and opposing his administration, it was their privilege to come before him and spread out their needs, and even to give direction in regard to future events, so far as the events of his administration would bear on them, and he would meet their desires. Thus interpreted, it accords with the numerous passages of the Bible which command us to pray; and with the promises of God that he will lend a listening ear to our cries. (Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)

Instead of murmuring, humble yourselves and ask what you will for the consolation of my children, and you will be sure of it as you are of these things which are at your command. (Geneva Bible Translation Notes)

These words are not spoken to idolaters, or the idolatrous Jews, or those of them that were inclined to idolatry; directing them to ask of the Lord, and not of their idols, things to come, which they were not able to show, and to seek to him for, and insist upon the performance of his promises to them, his children, and creatures; but to the spiritual Israel of God, as the preface shows, directing them to inquire after things future, concerning his children and people, especially among the Gentiles, whom the carnal Jews despised; and to expect, and believe, and even, as it were, demand the performance of them, being promised and prophesied of ... The Lord not only allows his people to put him in remembrance of his promises and prophecies, but to plead for, and, as it were, require the performance of them; and so the words are an encouragement to the importunate prayer of faith. Faith in prayer has great power with God, a kind of command over him; it holds him to his word; it will not let him go without the blessing; nor let him alone till he has made good his promise; nor give him any rest, day nor night, till he has fulfilled the things to come concerning his sons. (John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible)

Instead of striving with Me in regard to My purposes, your wisdom is in prayer to ask, and even command Me, in so far as it is for My glory, and for your real good. (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary)

They are invited to enquire concerning the issue of their troubles. The Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, though he does not allow them to strive with him, yet encourages them, 1. To consult his word: “Ask of me things to come; have recourse to the prophets and their prophecies, and see what they say concerning these things. Ask the watchmen, What of the night? Ask them, How long?” Things to come, as far as they are revealed, belong to us and to our children, and we must not be strangers to them. 2. To seek unto him by prayer: “Concerning my sons and concerning the work of my hands, which as becomes them submit to the will of their Father, the will of their potter, ‘command you me,’ not by way of prescription, but by way of petition. Be earnest in your requests, and confident in your expectations, as far as both are guided by and grounded upon the promise.” We may not strive with our Maker by passionate complaints, but we may wrestle with him by faithful and fervent prayer. (Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible)
(See also “Ask Me, Command Me,” Says the LORD and Reminding God)