Thursday, December 31, 2009

Simeon and Anna in Expectation

Behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. (Luke 2:25-26)
Forty days after Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph brought him to Jerusalem, to the temple to be dedicated to the Lord (Luke 2:22-24). This was standard practice for all firstborn children, according to the Law of Moses. There was nothing unusual about what they were doing … except for what happened next.

It is as this point in his narrative that Luke introduces us to Simeon, and in a very significant way — with the word Behold. In the Bible, “behold” is a word that focuses our attention and calls us to see something of importance. Others in the temple that day might not have noticed what happened next, but Luke does not want us to miss it.

Simeon was a man of no special prominence in Jerusalem. Neither a priest, nor a politician, nor a religious leader. But he was a man who had received a very special promise from God, revealed to him by the Holy Spirit: Before he died, Simeon would lay his yes on God’s Messiah.

Now, on the very same day that Mary and Joseph brought Jesus into the temple, the Holy Spirit led Simeon in also. “By the Spirit” is how Luke puts it. We do not know exactly how it was, whether it was a conscious revelation or merely a prompting in Simeon’s spirit, to which he had learned to be obedient. However it happened, the Spirit of God got him there at precisely the right place and precisely the right time.

It was a moment of fulfillment, for Simeon, certainly, but more importantly, it was a realization of God’s plan from the beginning. His purpose in Adam, in Abraham, in Jacob, in Moses and the children of Israel, in King David and all the prophets, was now being realized in the presentation of Jesus. Simeon immediately recognized Him for who He was — the Messiah, God’s Anointed. Scooping Him up in his arms, Simeon blessed God:
Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,
According to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your salvation
Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”
(Luke 2:29-32)
Now, coming into the temple at that same moment was a very elderly prophetess named Anna. She had been a widow for about 84 years and had spent her life fasting and praying, night and day, in the temple courts (vv.36-37).Perhaps she had seen Simeon before. Perhaps they had spoken about the promise he had received. Or perhaps it was a life spent in prayer which sharpened her senses so that, when she saw Simeon with Mary and Joseph and Jesus, she immediately understood what was happening. Though Luke does not say, there is no reason to doubt that she, too, was led in by the Spirit. Recognizing the presence of Jesus, Her response was simple, but significant. “She gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (v. 38).

You see, like Simeon, Anna had an expectation that the Anointed One would soon come and God’s promise would be fulfilled. And they were not the only ones. There were others also who had such an expectation and “looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” Anna sought them out and shared the good news with them.

Of course, Anna and Simeon were old and would not get to see Jesus move through the stages in His life. They would not witness the cross or see His in resurrection. No matter. They had learned to hear the voice of God and to be led by the Spirit. They had learned to live in expectation of the promise of God. They had learned to behold, and to understand what they were seeing. They had seen enough to know that God’s kingdom purpose in Israel would be fulfilled and all the world would be blessed by it. It was now beginning before their eyes.

Two thousand years later, we have still not yet seen the full manifestation God’s kingdom in the world, the will of God being done thoroughly and completely on earth as it is in heaven. But it has begun and is increasing every day. Jesus said, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing and forceful men lay hold of it” (Matthew 11:12 NIV). “The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it” (Luke 16:16). The apostle John put it like this: “The darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining” (1 John 2:8).

The infant Messiah, beheld and blessed by Simeon and Anna, grew to manhood and went to the cross for our sake. Forty days after His resurrection, He ascended to His throne at the right hand of the Father. We are now living in the days of King Jesus the Messiah, Lord of heaven and earth. Of Him, the prophet Isaiah said, “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:7).

As you look to a new year, do you hear the promise of God? Do you see the kingdom of God breaking into the world and increasing? Do you behold King Jesus? Do you pray as He taught us, “Kingdom of God, come. Will of God, be done on earth as it is in heaven”? Do you yield yourself to be led by the Spirit of God, that this expectation may come to pass in you?



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.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Pleasure of God at Christmas

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!” (ESV)
This is the crescendo of the good news the angel of the Lord announced to shepherds on the night Jesus was born. A multitude of angels now appeared in the heavens with this praise.
  • Glory to God in the highest. The highest praises heaven can offer belong to God as He brings forth the fulfillment of the promises He made to Abraham, David and the prophets. God’s gift of the Messiah King, Jesus, is the greatest revelation of His glory.
  • Peace on earth. The coming of Jesus into the world brings the peace, the shalom, of God. It is wholeness, restoration, reconciliation, the mending of rifts between God and man, man and fellow man, man and creation.
  • Among those with whom He is pleased. The coming of Jesus into the world is the pleasure of God revealed.
It is this last point that I want to focus on here. The Greek for “pleased” is eudokia. It is used often in the New Testament to speak of God’s pleasure and delight. The angels’ announcement meant that God’s favor and good will were now being made manifest on the objects of His delight.

What is it that delights God and who are those with whom He is pleased, who bring Him pleasure?

First, it is Jesus Himself that pleases God, not only in His divinity (in which the Father always delighted) but now also in His humanity. When Jesus was baptized by John, identifying with repentant sinners whom He came to save, the voice of the Father came from heaven and said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased [eudokeo]” (Luke 3:22). It was repeated again at the mount of transfiguration, where Jesus shone in all His glory and the voice of the Father said, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased [eudokeo]. Hear Him!” (Matthew 17:5).

Eudokeo is the word used when Matthew quotes the prophet Isaiah concerning Messiah and which Matthew applies to Jesus: “Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased! I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He will declare justice to the Gentiles” (Matthew 13:18; it is also the word used in the LXX, the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, in Isaiah 42:1, the passage Matthew cites).

Jesus used this same word when He spoke to His disciples about the kingdom: “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). And in His prayer of thanksgiving when the disciples returned rejoicing, having healed the sick, expelled demonic spirits and preached the kingdom of God in Jesus’ name: “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good [eudokia] in Your sight” (Luke 10:21). It pleases God to reveal His kingdom to those who simply trust Him.

Again and again, it is in Jesus Christ that the pleasure of God is revealed. Paul says that God “predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure [eudokia] of His will …having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure [eudokia] which He purposed in Himself.” (Ephesians 1:5, 9). “For it pleased [eudokia] the Father that in Him [Jesus] all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:19).

But it is also in us that God desires to show His pleasure. Paul says, “It is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure [eudokia]” (Philippians 2:13). In 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, he says, “Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure [eudokia] of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

God is doing a work of faith in us, His power manifesting in us to reveal the glory of King Jesus dwelling within. It is His good pleasure to bring this work to fulfillment in us.

It is by faith that we enter into the richness of God’s pleasure. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). The Greek word for “please” here is not eudokia but euarestio, but it means the same thing. Without faith, it is impossible to please, but believing God and seeking Him with great expectation pleases God greatly.

Paul tells us, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). So, “since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased [eudokeo] God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21). It pleases God for us to believe the good news of Jesus the Messiah and, through faith, bring us to restoration and wholeness in Him.

The coming of King Jesus into the world reveals the glory of God and the peace of God but also the pleasure of God.



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.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Shepherds’ Wonder, Angels’ Awe

On the night of Jesus’ birth, an angel of the Lord appeared to lowly shepherds tending their flocks in a nearby field. The glory of the Lord flooded them with brilliant light. They had never seen anything like this before and it was far beyond anything they could have ever imagined.

They were terrified. But then they heard a voice that turned their terror to wonder:
Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.” (Luke 2:10)
Good tidings! Great joy! And it would be for all people, even those of low estate and low esteem — like the shepherds. Quite unexpectedly, they now found themselves at the hinge point in the history of the world, and the birth of a king was being heralded to them. In a field. At night. By an angel of the Lord.
“For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (v. 11)
This was not about just any king, but about the King. The Anointed One promised by God through the prophets long ago. The descendent of David who would sit on his throne and reign forever. This was about Christ the Lord — the Messiah King!
“And this will be a sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling, lying in a manger.” (v. 12)
Such an exalted King; such a humble entrance into His domain. Wrapped in strips of old cloth and cradled in a feeding trough. That would be the sign to the shepherds. Surely they needed that sign or else they would have been looking in all the wrong places for all the wrong reasons. Expecting to see finery and a royal court in attendance, they would have felt very much out of place.

Now a multitude of the heavenly army appeared, for as marvelous as this news was for shepherds, it was just as wonderful for angels. They could no longer remain silent but began praising God:
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men. (v. 14)
The angels were well aware of the glory of God that flooded heaven and filled the earth (Isaiah 6:3), but now they were witnessing the announcement of good news and redemption entering the world. It is something that, as Peter says, the angels of God eagerly desire to look into, stooping down and craning their necks, as it were, to gaze upon this great mystery (1 Peter 1:12). What they had greatly anticipated was now being realized, and they were in awe.

At the birth of Jesus the Messiah King, shepherds trembled in unexpected wonder and angels stooped deeply in awe.



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.

Monday, December 7, 2009

His Coming Brings Divine Dominion

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.
(Isaiah 9:6 ESV)
So far in this prophetic song, Isaiah has spoken of the dawn of a great light in the midst of darkness (see His Coming Brings Light), the enlargement of the nation of Israel, ecstatic joy like that of the harvest and of portioning out the spoils of victorious battle. He has sung of the yoke being shattered, the burden being destroyed, and the rod of the oppressor being broken (see His Coming Brings Increase and Joy).

How would all this come about? Isaiah reveals the surprising answer, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.” The dawning of the light comes in the birth of a child. Not just any child, but one that is given, or sent, by God. This is the Anointed Son prophesied by King David in Psalm 2:
“Yet I have set My King
On My holy hill of Zion.”
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 2:6-9)
It is this Messiah King of which Isaiah now sings. For the government will rest upon His shoulders and to Him will be given dominion — a kingdom. He is called by a series of titles, all of which emphasize His divinity.
  • Wonderful. The Hebrew word refers to miracles that distinguish Him from all others and inspire wonder. Messiah would not only work wonders but would Himself be a wonder.
  • Counselor. This speaks of great wisdom and purpose, and the ability to guide His people with divine counsel.
  • Mighty God. He does not come as merely a divine-like being but as the one true God, as this name indicates elsewhere in Scripture (see Deuteronomy 10:17; Jeremiah 32:8; Nehemiah 9:32; and especially, because it is so close in context, Isaiah 10:21). It is a name that indicates divine power and strength.
  • Everlasting Father, or Father of Eternity. As such, He will not decline, as other kings must, but will rule and reign forever.
  • Prince of Peace. His reign is one that brings peace (Hebrew, shalom). This is prosperity of every kind and wholeness in every way.
Isaiah now turns our attention to the kingdom of this eternal King.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
There will be no end,
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it
With justice and with righteousness
From this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
(Isaiah 9:7 ESV)
The Holman Christian Standard Bible renders it this way: “The dominion will be vast and its prosperity will never end.” The reign of God’s Messiah King will increase until His glory is revealed in all the earth, and every nation of the world will experience the peace and prosperity of His dominion. This was God’s plan in choosing Abraham in the first place, and making of Him a great nation. And this was His purpose in choosing David, a “man after My own heart,” to be its king.

This divine plan is now in the process of being fulfilled in the reign of King Jesus, son of David and son of Abraham, to redeem humanity, restore all of creation and accomplish the mandate God gave Adam to “be fruitful and multiply,” “fill the earth and subdue it,” and “have dominion” (Genesis 1:28). He is now establishing and enlarging His kingdom throughout the earth. It is a kingdom of justice and rightness that will last forever.

Though it has not yet come in all its fullness, this kingdom is already breaking into the world and it will be complete when the King comes again. Just as Jesus first entered the world as a child but then grew up into His destiny, likewise, His kingdom starts small but continues to grow until it will one day fill the earth. For it is the zeal of the LORD of Hosts, the intense desire and purpose of God, to bring it through to completeness.

The coming of King Jesus the Messiah brings the dominion of God into all the world.



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.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

His Coming Brings Increase and Joy

You have multiplied the nation;
You have increased its joy;
They rejoice before you
As with joy at the harvest,
As they are glad when they divide the spoil.
(Isaiah 9:3 ESV)
The prophet Isaiah has slipped into prophetic poetry (beginning in verse 2; see His Coming Brings Light). It was not the song the people in his own day were singing but one that would arise in the northern and southern territory of Galilee. It is cast in a prophetic tense, and that he sings it as though it were already accomplished demonstrates the surety that it would come to pass.

The Hebrew word for “multiplied” means increase, abundance, expansion, enlargement, to become great and many. Israel, the people of the promise given to Abraham, would multiply and increase, in number and influence, because of the light that would dawn in Galilee. But there would also be an increase in joy, like that of harvest time. The time of sowing in tears past; the time of reaping and gathering begun. A festival time. And gladness, like that of dividing the spoils. Ecstatic joy! The Hebrew word for “gladness” here literally means to turn about or spin around. Why? Because the enemy has been broken and what was stolen has been restored, with plenty more besides. See how the prophet sings in verses 4-5:
For the yoke of his burden,
And the staff for his shoulder,
The rod of his oppressor,
You have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
And every garment rolled in blood
Will be burned as fuel for the fire.
(ESV)
The lifting of the burden, the breaking of the yoke, deliverance from the oppressor — this is the work of the anointing (see Isaiah 10:27; the KJV particularly brings out that this is anointing). It is the work of the Anointed One — Messiah! It is fulfilled in the coming of King Jesus, who took the text of Isaiah 61as the charter of His ministry. Standing in the synagogue to read, as He began His ministry, He unfolded the scroll of Isaiah to that place and began:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.
Then sitting down to teach, He announced, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:17-22). It was the kingdom of God breaking into the world. Not all at once and in all its fullness, but as a seed that has been growing and expanding ever since.

All this the prophet foretold would begin in Galilee, in the circle of the nations. For as Isaiah 9:6-7 will go on to show, it is not only for Israel’s, but for all the nations of the earth (see His Coming Brings Divine Dominion).

The coming of King Jesus the Messiah into the world brings abundance of blessing and ecstatic joy.



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 4, 2009

His Coming Brings Light

The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
On them has light shined.
(Isaiah 9:2 ESV)
Isaiah 9 is a messianic prophecy. That is, it foretells the coming of Messiah into the world. Verse 1 speaks of the judgment the northern tribes of Israel were about to experience because of their rebellion against God. But there was also a promise of a time of restoration:
But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. (ESV)
Zebulun was in lower portion of Galilee and Naphtali in the upper. But both were overshadowed, oppressed by the Syrians and Phoenicians and corrupted by their ways. The “way of the sea” was the region of the Sea of Galilee. “Galilee” comes from a Hebrew word that means “circle.” These tribes were surrounded, encircled by the nations in upper Galilee.

However, the light of Yahweh would once again break through the darkness and shine brightly in this region. After a long night, a new dawn would come.

Matthew finds this new dawn in the ministry of Jesus. However, it was not just the dawning of Jesus’ ministry, but the kingdom of God arising in the earth, now present in the person of the King.
Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:
The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles:
The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,
And upon those who sat in the region
    and shadow of death
Light has dawned.
From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:12-17)
Years before, an old man named Simeon had been watching for its coming, for he had received a promise from God that he would see it in his lifetime. On the day Mary and Joseph brought their infant Child for dedication in the Temple, the Spirit of God led Simeon in also. When he saw Jesus, he took Him up in his arms and praised God:
Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,
According to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your salvation
Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”
(Luke 2:29-32)
The coming of King Jesus the Messiah into the world brings a light that reveals the glory of God to all the nations of the earth.



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.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

God Rest You Merry

God rest you merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember Christ our Savior
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from satan’s power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy
This, of course, is from that hearty old English carol, “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen.” It speaks not only of comfort, but also of joy and merriment, just as the Gospel does, the good news that King Jesus has come into the world.

In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah brought God’s promise of comfort for His people, comfort that would be fulfilled through the Messiah, the Anointed (see Christmas in Isaiah):
“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!”
Says your God.
“Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her,
That her warfare is ended,
That her iniquity is pardoned.”
(Isaiah 40:1-2)
In verse 11, he speaks of God coming to them as a tender shepherd:
He will feed His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs with His arm,
And carry them in His bosom,
And gently lead those who are with young.
David knew Him as “The LORD My Shepherd” and drew great comfort from the assurance that His rod and staff were always present to protect and guide (Psalm 23:1, 4). In the New Testament, He is revealed in King Jesus the Messiah, who said of Himself, “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

Comfort.

But also great joy. On the night of Jesus’ birth, the angels announced to shepherds in a nearby field “good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10). The shepherds came glorifying and praising God for this marvelous news (v. 20). Likewise, when the wise men, seeing that the star which guided them on their quest came to its rest over the place where the young Child was, they “rejoiced with exceeding great joy” (Matthew 2:10) — joy without limit.
From God our heavenly Father
The blessed angels came
And unto certain shepherds
With tidings of the same
How that was born in Bethlehem
The Son of God by name
O tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy
The apostle Paul spoke of the kingdom of God, the one Jesus announced was now present in the world, the one over which Jesus now ruled and reigned at the right hand of the Father, as a kingdom of joy: “The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). And he offered this benediction: “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

The apostle John, who experienced firsthand the joy of knowing King Jesus in His earthly ministry, said:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life — the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us — that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.
Not only because Jesus has rescued us from satan’s power — and indeed, as John notes, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8) — but more than that, because it is in Jesus the Messiah that we have fellowship with God.

Now, this is indeed cause for comfort, joy, and merriment. It is the greatest news we could ever receive, and the third verse of this old carol shows us how to celebrate it:
Now to the Lord sing praises
All those within this place
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace
This holy tide of Christmas
All others doth deface
O tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy
God rest you merry in this Advent and Christmas season.

You can listen to a bit of this carol as well as the other songs from our Christmas album here.

He Come from the Glory:
A Walking Barefoot Christmas


Available at Amazon for immediate download in MP3. You can also order it as a CD.

We have also put together a little PDF booklet with song lyrics and CD info, which you can download here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

He Come from the Glorious Kingdom

He come from the glorious kingdom.
That’s a line from a traditional Christmas carol of the West Indies, “The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy.” We include that song in our Christmas project. In fact, we named our Christmas album after it: He Come from the Glory.
The Virgin Mary had a baby boy
The Virgin Mary had a baby boy
The Virgin Mary had a baby boy
And the name of that child was Jesus

He come from the glory
He come from the glorious kingdom
He come from the glory
He come from the glorious kingdom
I’ve adapted the song a little bit, adding a little bridge section and some new lyrics, which is why we call this carol “He Come from the Glory” instead of by its traditional name:
Oh, the shepherds bow and the angels sing
And the wise men, they come a’wondering
Hallelujah for the newborn King
The name of that child was Jesus
Jesus came down here from the kingdom of glory, the kingdom of God. But He did not just come down to us from that glory and kingdom; He came with them, bringing them to us. Indeed, He came as the king of that kingdom.

The more I study the Gospel, the more I see that it is the good news about the kingdom of God, the rule and reign of God through Jesus the Messiah King. That is why, when Jesus grew up and began His ministry, He said, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15; see The Gospel Jesus Preached). Every promise and prophecy of the Hebrew Scriptures converged on this, the coming of the King with His kingdom (see The Gospel of the King and The Gospel of God’s Messiah King).

You can listen to a bit of this carol as well as the other songs from our Christmas album here.

He Come from the Glory:
A Walking Barefoot Christmas


Available at Amazon for immediate download in MP3. You can also order it as a CD.

We have also put together a little PDF booklet with song lyrics and CD info, which you can download here.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Against Hope, with Hope He Believed

Against hope, with hope he believed. (Romans 4:18 HCSB)
Abraham received a promise from God. Not only that he would have a son, but also that he would father a nation that would bless all the families and nations of the world. By the world’s thinking, there was no reason to believe that this could ever be so. After all, Abraham was an old man and Sarah was well beyond child-bearing years. No matter. God had spoken and that was enough to settle it in his heart.

So, against hope, with hope Abraham believed. The Greek word for “hope” does not speak of what is tentative, as we often think of it today, but of what is sure and certain. It is a positive expectation, a joyful anticipation. That is what Abraham had.

Understand, though, that hope was not the object of Abraham’s faith. For some people who believe in the maybe-so-maybe-not variety of hope, hope seems to operate as a kind of faith all by itself. “Oh, there is always hope,” they say. No, hope is not the object of faith. Rather, faith is the basis for hope. The author of Hebrews says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

The Greek word for “substance” speaks of the underlying reality of a thing. It was sometimes used to refer to the title deed for a piece of property. If you possessed the title deed for a piece of land, you possessed that land itself. The title was the underlying reality of ownership for the property. In the same way, faith is the underlying reality of things hoped for. That is, it is the basis for having a positive expectation about a thing.

Understand also that faith is not the object of itself. It is not enough to say, “Have faith,” as if the desire to believe a certain thing is sufficient reason to expect to see that thing. No, faith must have a basis. Elsewhere in Romans, Paul says, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). Indeed, faith is about believing what God has promised. When God speaks a word, that is sufficient reason for believing whatever God has said.

That’s how it was with Abraham. God made a promise; Abraham believed it. Even though all the circumstances in the world appeared to be against it ever coming true, Abraham received the word of promise and had faith that it would come to pass. Against hope, with hope he believed. The joyful anticipation of hope came by faith, and faith came by the Word of God.

It does not matter what in the world is going on in your life right now. It does not matter how you feel or what others may think. God has spoken a promise about it. Find that promise in His Word and let it fill your heart with faith. Then you will have a solid basis and a joyful reason for expecting a positive outcome.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Time of Comfort, Joy and Thanksgiving

For the LORD will comfort Zion,
He will comfort all her waste places;
He will make her wilderness like Eden,
And her desert like the garden of the LORD;
Joy and gladness will be found in it,
Thanksgiving and the voice of melody.
(Isaiah 51:3)
“Waste places” refers to what has been laid to ruin. What once was abundance has now become desolate, a waste land. This is what happened in the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, when man rebelled against God. Adam unplugged from the life of God, and in so doing, brought the world into a state of ruin. Likewise, Israel, by her idolatry and spiritual adultery, defiled the land and brought ruin upon it.

“Wilderness” refers to that which is untamed. Barren desert land that has not been cultivated. In the beginning, the Garden of Eden was only a small portion of the earth. God’s plan was for man to extend the boundaries and make all the world a garden of “pleasure” (the Hebrew word “eden” means “pleasure”). God’s plan for Israel was that they would bring His salvation and redemption into all the earth. He said to them, “You shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). The function of priests is to intercede. As a kingdom of priests, Israel was to be a mediator between God and all the nations of the world, to extend the boundaries of His blessing everywhere. But again, like Adam and Eve, Israel failed because of her rebellion against God.

However, God did not cease from His plan. He promised that there would be a comfort, a consolation for Israel and all her waste places. It was a promise not only of restoration but also of fulfillment. God would once again bring Israel into her destiny. The Garden of Eden would once again be established — and enlarged to include all the nations.
Listen to Me, My people;
And give ear to Me, O My nation:
For law will proceed from Me,
And I will make My justice rest
As a light of the peoples.
My righteousness is near,
My salvation has gone forth,
And My arms will judge the peoples;
The coastlands will wait upon Me,
And on My arm they will trust.
(Isaiah 51:4)
God would bring His light and justice to the peoples, the nations. Even the far off lands would look to Him in patient expectation, and they would trust in Him.

This is the kingdom of God, the rule and reign of God that brings light and life into the world. It is the righteousness of God revealed, the justice that sets things right. It is the will of God being done on earth as it is in heaven — heaven and earth becoming one. It finds its completion in Jesus the Messiah King, who fulfills the purpose of Israel and brings the light of God to the nations. Even in infancy, when Jesus was presented in the Temple for dedication, Simeon saw this and gave thanks to God:
Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,
According to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your salvation
Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles [the nations],
And the glory of Your people Israel.
(Luke 2:29-32)
As Isaiah observed so many years ago, it is a cause of comfort and joy, gladness and thanksgiving. What God has started out to do in the beginning, He is now in the process of bringing through to completion in the reign of King Jesus.

It is more than appropriate that the season of Thanksgiving leads us into the season of Advent and Christmas, pointing us toward the source of true comfort and joy.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

To the Hearer of Prayer All Flesh Will Come

Praise is awaiting You, O God, in Zion;
And to You the vow shall be performed.
O You who hear prayer,
To You all flesh will come.
(Psalm 65:1-2)
The Hebrew word for “awaiting” literally means “silence.” As it is used here, it signifies the stillness of anticipation and yieldedness to the God of Zion. “Vows” are the dedications and commitments made to God.

Zion’s God is called, “Hearer of Prayer” (Hebrew, shama tephillah). Not as one who hears idly or indifferently. Rather, what is implied is that God hears with great regard and answers the prayers of all those who come to Him. It is for this reason, when word of it gets out, that all humanity will come before Him and, finding Him to be the Hearer of Prayer, will commit themselves to Him without reserve.

Does it sound na├»ve today to think that all humanity will come to Yahweh, God of Zion, when there is so much conflict in the world against the people of Yahweh? Yet back when this psalm was written, the situation was considerably worse. The surrounding nations were exceedingly vicious towards Israel. But God’s plan all along has been to reach out to the nations through the descendents of Abraham and bring His goodness, His salvation, His shalom into all the earth.
Also the sons of the foreigner
Who join themselves to the LORD, to serve Him,
And to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants —
Everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath,
And holds fast My covenant —
Even them I will bring to My holy mountain,
And make them joyful in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
Will be accepted on My altar;
For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.
(Isaiah 56:6-7)
Jesus was passionate for this cause. It was why He cleared the moneychangers out of the court of the Temple that was reserved for the Gentiles (the nations) to come and worship the Lord. “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves’” (Mark 11:17).

That physical structure, however, was destroyed in AD 70, just as Jesus predicted (Matthew 24). It was only a type and a shadow, whose function and purpose is now fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah:
But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:11-12)
And now there is a new temple, one not made of dead stones but of living flesh, not made by human hands but by the hand of hand of God. 
Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ … But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. (1 Peter 2:4-5, 9-10)
It is a living house of prayer for all nations, for everyone who will come and believe the promise. This is why, before He ascended to His throne at the right hand of the Father, King Jesus sent out His disciples with this commission:
All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20)
This commission will not fail but will do just as Jesus said. The nations will come. In the end, there is the song of praise sung to the One who sits at the right hand of the Father:
You are worthy to take the scroll,
And to open its seals;
For You were slain,
And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
And have made us kings and priests to our God;
And we shall reign on the earth.
(Revelation 5:9-10)
The time is coming, and already is, when all flesh will come to the God of Zion. From every tribe and tongue and nation, they will come in faith to the Hearer of Prayer, to be discipled as kings and priests before Him.

Friday, November 6, 2009

We are Receiving a Kingdom

Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32)

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. (Hebrews 12:28)
Jesus came into the world preaching, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15), and He said that it is the Father’s desire to give us the kingdom. The author of Hebrews says that we are receiving that kingdom.

Note the tense. It is not “we have received,” as if it has fully arrived and we have taken complete possession of it, nor is it, “we will receive,” as if it is all and only in the future. But it is “are receiving,” and that speaks of something that has already begun, is now in progress and will one day be complete.

It pleases God to give us His kingdom. That must have something to do with faith, since without faith it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). We receive this kingdom by faith, that is, by believing what God has said and living by it. As we do, it will begin to manifest more and more in our lives and in the world. The author of Hebrews, in his context, shows us something of what this kingdom means:
You have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God (the heavenly Jerusalem), to myriads of angels in festive gathering, to the assembly of the firstborn whose names have been written in heaven, to God who is the judge of all, to the spirits of righteous people made perfect, to Jesus (mediator of a new covenant), and to the sprinkled blood, which says better things than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:22-24 HCSB)
  • We have come to Mount Zion. This is where God has chosen to dwell and manifest His presence among His people.
  • We have come to the city of the living God. This is the city Abraham was seeking, the city “which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10). Now we have come to that city and Paul reminds us, “You are the temple of the living God” (2 Corinthians 6:16).
  • We have come to the heavenly Jerusalem. Heavenly Jerusalem speaks of a higher realm. In the Jewish mind, this represented the expectation of a future age. Now we have come to that city and the reality of heaven is already breaking into the world.
  • We have come to myriads of angels in festive gathering. The angels of God are now gathered together in a joyful convocation, a festival of praise because God has done what He promised, King Jesus has come into the world to redeem humanity and creation, and has ascended to the throne of God.
  • We have come to the assembly of the firstborn whose names are written in heaven. “Firstborn” shows that we have a Father, God, and that He has an inheritance for us, which is His kingdom. It is not just for us individually, but together as an assembly, a community of faith. Our names are written together on the citizen rolls of heaven. Paul says, “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God”: (Ephesians 2:19). “Our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).
  • We have come to God who is the judge of all. “Judge” speaks of God’s sovereign rule and authority over all. He is the one who sets all things right in the world and that is what His kingdom is about.
  • We have come to the spirits of righteous people made perfect. This speaks of our communion together, a connection stronger than death, even with those who have gone before us and no longer walk this planet. While we are still in the process of reckoning ourselves dead to sin but alive to God (Romans 6:11), they have been made thoroughly and completely perfect in Jesus the Messiah. “Perfected at last!” is the sense of the text.
  • We have come to Jesus, mediator of a new covenant. Jesus is the reason for how we have come to all these things. All the blessing of the kingdom is summed up in the new covenant, of which He is the mediator.
  • We have come to the sprinkled blood, which says better things than the blood of Abel. This is the heart of the covenant: the shedding of blood, demonstrating the surety of the promise. In the new covenant Jesus mediates for us with the Father, Jesus is the sacrifice — He gives us Himself. This covenant, and the blood by which in which it was cut, speaks incomparable things for us, more than any other blood ever could. The blood of Abel cried out for revenge, but the blood of Jesus speaks of the redemption and restoration of humanity and all creation.
Regardless of what is happening in the world, the kingdom of God, which we are now receiving, cannot be shaken. Rather, it is already breaking into this present age to shake the world, as God sets things right in and through those who believe Him and receive King Jesus by grace through faith.

It is the Father’s good pleasure to give us His kingdom, and those who receive the king receive the kingdom.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Soul of Prosperity

But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
(Psalm 1:2-3)
True prosperity does not come from outside us. It arises from within. It begins as delight in the Lord and in His ways, His instruction (torah, the Hebrew word for “law” can just as well be translated as “instruction”). That is, it starts as an attitude, an orientation of the heart. It grows and develops by giving diligent attention to the Lord and His instruction. In other words, it is a matter of the soul, the inner being.

God is big on that. Indeed, He promised that He would make a new covenant with us in which He would internalize His ways in our hearts.
Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah … I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (Jeremiah 31:31, 33)
More than that, He promised He would give us His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, so that we would not only be able to understand His ways but also to do them.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
God has fulfilled His promise. He has cut a new covenant with us in the blood of Jesus the Messiah. At the Cross, Jesus defeated all the powers that stand against us. At the Last Supper, He took the cup of wine and said, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). Then at Pentecost, fifty days after the Resurrection, God put His Spirit within us, to enable us to fulfill all that is required and do what is right. All who receive the Lord Jesus receive the Spirit of God. That now changes everything, for Paul tells us,
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
What the law engraved on tablets of stone could not accomplish in us, because it was external to us, the Holy Spirit dwelling within us can. As we yield to Him, He brings forth this fruit in our lives. This positions us to live in divine prosperity in all things. The Apostle John’s prayer for Gaius in 3 John 2 shows that this is the desire of God for everyone of us:
Beloved, I prayer that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.
When we are out of joint with God, we are out of joint with ourselves, with others and with creation as well. But as we turn to Him, we come into proper alignment. Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). The kingdom of God is His rule and reign; His righteousness is the rightness of His way of doing and being. When this becomes our priority, everything else will be taken care of itself. This is the prosperity of soul that prepares us for prosperity in all things.

Prosperity of soul is the soul of prosperity.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Divine Portrait of Prosperity: Psalm 1

It is the first of the month and, as is my habit, I am praying through the first five psalms — one hundred and fifty psalms divided by thirty days in a month equals fives psalms a day. By the end of this month I will have gone through the book of Psalms, ready to begin again on the first of next month. I have been doing this for twenty years or so and it is been a very profitable practice.
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
(Psalm 1:2-3)
Here is a divine portrait of prosperity, and how it comes. Picture a tree, well irrigated and well established, healthy and strong. It is always bringing forth fruit. When the harvest comes, it offers an abundance that bless many. Afterwards, it does not dry out or wither, but sets about to produce more. Picture a man or woman who is like that tree — whatever he or she does goes well and finds success. That is divine prosperity.

How does one get to that place? First, by avoiding those things that lead in the opposite direction — the counsel of those who have no regard for God, the path of those who do not walk in His ways, those who mock the good and prefer evil (v. 1). The fruit of their lives will be bitter and toxic, blown away like in the wind like chaff (v. 5).

It is not enough, however, to avoid evil things. They must be replaced with the good. The secret to that is found in verse 2: Delighting in the law of the Lord and constantly meditating in it. The Hebrew word for “law,” torah, actually means “instruction.” God has given us instructions in His Word that lead to prosperity in all things. Our part is to delight in it and meditate on it continually. To dig into it with relish and chew on it for all its worth. To pursue it diligently for the purpose of doing it.
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Joshua 1:8)
Now, notice what it does not say. It does not say that God will make our way prosperous for us. It says that we will make our way prosperous. God will show us the way, but we must be diligent to walk in it. It is in meditating that we take hold of God’s wise direction, but it is in doing it that we make our way prosperous, for the instruction of the Lord leads us into good success.

God has provided us the way to be firmly established and fruitful, to enjoy divine prosperity and success in every area of life. It is living in and living by the instruction of the Lord.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Prayer for the Leaders of Nations

All the kings on earth will give You thanks, Lord,
when they hear what You have promised.
They will sing of the Lord’s ways,
for the Lord’s glory is great.
(Psalm 138:4-5 HCSB)
This is the kingdom of God coming, the will of God being done on earth as it is in heaven. It is my prayer and my expectation.


O God, who commanded light to shine out of darkness, give to the kings of the earth the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. That they may hear what you have promised, rejoice in Your ways and give You thanks. Amen.

(See also When All the Kings of the Earth Shall Hear.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Algebra of Our Inheritance

O LORD, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
You maintain my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Yes, I have a good inheritance.
(Psalm 16:5-6)
Here is the algebra of our inheritance. Yes, we have a good inheritance.
  • Jesus is heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2)
  • We are joint-heirs with Christ. (Romans 8:17)
  • We are heirs of all things.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Divine Portrait of Prosperity: Psalm 112

Blessed is the man who fears the LORD,
Who delights greatly in His commandments.
(Psalm 112:1)
“Blessed” speaks of great happiness and bliss. What is the cause of such an exceedingly happy condition? The fear of the Lord, and delighting in His commandments.

The fear of the Lord speaks of living in supreme awe of Him. It is loving what He loves and hating what He hates. It is recognizing that His displeasure is greatly to be avoided but His favor is greatly to be desired. To delight in something is to have a desire for it, to take pleasure in it. Here, it is modified by the word “greatly,” which speaks of exceeding abundance, completeness, and diligence. This delight, desire and pleasure is wholehearted and intense. When we start to understand how awesome God is, how great His love and how marvelous His favor, we begin to take intense pleasure in His ways — and that leads to bliss, as this psalm describes.

What does the fear of the Lord look like in the everyday life of a person who has it?
He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous.
A good man deals graciously and lends;
He will guide his affairs with discretion. (vv. 4-5)

His heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. (v. 7)

He has dispersed abroad,
He has given to the poor. (v. 9)
  • He has received grace and favor from the Lord, so he shows grace and favor to others.
  • He has experienced compassion and mercy from God, so he knows how to extend compassion and mercy to others.
  • He is not stingy with what is his, but generously lends to others.
  • He shows good judgment in all his dealings. The HCSB has, “conducts his business fairly.” He makes sound business decisions that are equitable and promote what is good.
  • His trust is in the Lord and he lets that settle all the worries and concerns of his heart.
  • He not only lends freely, He gives generously to the poor. The Hebrew for “disperse” literally means to scatter. He understands the paradox of Proverbs 11:24, “There is one who scatters, yet increases more; and there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty.”
That’s a short sketch of how the fear of the Lord gets lived out. Now, let’s take a brief look at what the prosperity of such a person looks like.
  • “His descendants will be mighty on earth; the generation of the upright will be blessed’ (v. 2). His descendants will receive a spiritual inheritance that, if they will follow it, will lead them into a life of blessing, abundance and significance.
  • “Wealth and riches will be in his house, and his righteousness endures forever” (v. 3). Because he is making good decisions and doing what is right, which leads to prosperity, prosperity will fill his house. The results of living well will endure for the next generations. As Proverbs 13:22 says, “A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children.”
  • “Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness” (v. 4). This does not mean that he will never have to go through dark times (or poor economies), but that when he does, there will light to lead him through it to the other side. The surrounding darkness will not cause him to fear because he is focused on the light that comes from the Lord.
  • “Good will come to a man who lends generously” (v. 5, HCSB). Because he does what is good, goodness comes back to him. It is the principle of sowing and reaping. Jesus put it this way, “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38). This is not just about money, as some think, but about how we deal with each other in general: When we show goodness to others, it will come back around to us.
  • “Surely he will never be shaken; the righteous will be in everlasting remembrance” (v. 6). Living in awe of God brings him into a place of stability. There may be earthquakes, but when the dust clears, he will still be standing. He will have a testimony and the significance of his life will remain.
  • “He will not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord” (v. 7). Bad news, failing economies, and financial disasters will not strike fear in him because his life and prosperity — his blessing — is founded upon God. His focus and trust are in the Lord.
  • “His heart is established; he will not be afraid until he sees his desire upon his enemies” (v. 8; the HCSB has, “In the end he will look in triumph on his foes”). He does not focus his heart on the adversarial circumstances that surround him, but on the Lord. He does not fear when leaders forecast gloom or threaten catastrophe. The peace of his heart is settled on God and nothing can disturb the calm state of his soul.
  • “His righteousness endures forever; his horn will be exalted with honor” (v. 9). His influence and honor will increase and the effect of living God’s way will continue to make him a blessing to others.
  • “The wicked will see it and be grieved; he will gnash his teeth and melt away; the desire of the wicked shall perish” (v. 10). The wicked are those who are at odds with God’s way of doing things. Great blessing will come to those who live in awe of Him and walk in His ways, but for the wicked there is only grief, despair and frustration of purpose. They will fade away, therefore do not let your heart be troubled by them.
The psalm writer gives us just some of what it means to live in awe and delight of God and to know His prosperity. Jesus puts it all very succinctly: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

The blessing of a divinely peaceful and prosperous life follows from living in awe of the Lord and walking in His ways.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Divine Portrait of Prosperity: Psalm 144

David sings of the prosperity of His people and asks God to deliver them from the hand of those who speak lying words and act falsely. It is a picture of national prosperity.
That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth;
That our daughters may be as pillars,
Sculptured in palace style;
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;
That there be no breaking in or going out;
That there be no outcry in our streets.
Happy are the people who are in such a state;
Happy are the people whose God is the LORD!
(Psalm 144:12-15)
This echoes the blessing of Deuteronomy 28:1-14, the prosperity that follows a people who live in awe of the Divine, listen to His voice and walk in His wisdom. It is a covenant promise initially given to Israel, but God has broadened it to include all nations and peoples — He will not turn away anyone who comes to receive His grace. That is why Jesus came, to rescue, redeem, reconcile and restore what was lost. His reign brings peace, prosperity and protection to those who honor Him.

God desires to bless our country with peace, prosperity and protection, and He will do it if we will turn to Him.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Gospel Jesus Preached

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)
Jesus came preaching the gospel — the good news about the kingdom of God. What was the message? “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.” The Greek word for “time” here is not chronos, the word for chronological or sequential time, but kairos, a word that speaks of the rightness or ripeness of a time. It signifies the acute presence of a propitious moment.

The announcement of the gospel Jesus preached is that the time has been fulfilled, the acute moment for the kingdom of God has arrived. That kingdom is now at hand. That is, it is here. It has come upon the scene and is now present among us.

This kingdom is the one God promised long ago to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The one that would reign over all nations and be a blessing to all the families of the earth. The one that would have God’s Anointed — the Messiah, the Christ — as its king. This kingdom had finally arrived — present in the person of King Jesus — and now the world would never be the same again.

John the Baptist came earlier to prepare the way for this King and this kingdom. He brought a baptism of repentance, because this kingdom would be about pardon for and freedom from sins (Mark 1:4). Many in Jerusalem and Judea came to him at the Jordan River and were bathed by him in its waters, confessing their sins (v. 5). John baptized them with water but he declared that the One who would come after him would baptize them with the Holy Spirit (v. 8).

When Jesus came to be baptized of John — not for any sin of His own — the heavens parted as He came up out of the water, the Holy Spirit descended on Him, and the voice of the Father declared, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (vv. 9-11). This identified Jesus as the fulfillment of Psalm 2 — the Messiah, Son of God, established as God’s King in Zion.
“Yet I have set My King
On My holy hill of Zion.”
I will declare the decree:
The LORD has said to Me,
“You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You”
(Psalm 2:6-7)
Immediately, Jesus was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness where He was tested for 40 days. When He emerged, He came announcing the presence of the kingdom and called for this response: “Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

The Greek word for “repentance” is metanoia and refers to a change of mind, a change of heart, a change of attitude, a change of will, the way you think and respond. It is a fresh start, departing from an old, dead way in order to embrace a new and living reality.

True repentance must be followed by a fresh faith. There is no point in having a new beginning if you go right back to the same old ways of thinking and acting. Repentance is a change of belief that naturally results in a change of life.

The object of this fresh faith is the gospel, the good news Jesus preached: The kingdom of God is here. The rule and reign of God has come into the world in the person of the King, Jesus the Messiah. And that changes everything!

The kingdom of God has not yet come in all its fullness, though, but it has already begun. Jesus said, “From the days of John the Baptist the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it” (Matthew 11:12 NIV). Luke’s Gospel has it this way: “The Law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it” (Luke 16:16). Ever since those days, the kingdom of God has been forcefully advancing, pressing into the world, and those who are ready to take it by faith are pressing into it.

It has already come; it is not yet in fullness.That sounds like a riddle, and theologians have referred to this as the paradox of already/not yet. What it means is that we are living in the in-between time. Every good story has a beginning, a middle and an end. We are in the middle. Our part in this story is to believe in the kingdom that has begun and will one day be completely revealed on earth.

This in-between time requires constant repentance and constant faith. Every day is a new opportunity to turn from the old way of this present age and embrace the new reality of God’s kingdom breaking into the world. An opportunity to yield to the Spirit of God, given to us at Pentecost to dwell in and empower everyone who receives Jesus as King, and see heaven break forth on earth.

The kingdom of God has come into the world and those who turn and believe King Jesus press into it by faith.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Gospel of the Nations

Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:5-6)
God’s plan, ever since Adam plunged creation under the curse through rebellion against Him, has always been to redeem the world and its inhabitants. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1).

To this end, God chose Abraham and made him a promise: “In you all the nations shall be blessed” (Galatians 3:8; see The Gospel of Abraham). He confirmed this to Abraham’s son, Isaac, and to Isaac’s son, Jacob (see The Gospel of the King).

Through Jacob, He created a nation, Israel, that they might be a priestly people. “You shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). The purpose of a priest is to act as mediator between God and the people, to represent God to the people and the people to God. The purpose of a priestly nation is to represent God to the nations and the nations to God. God’s covenant with Israel was never just for Israel’s sake, but for the sake of the whole world, all the families of the earth — the nations.
For thus says the Lord of Hosts, “Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,” says the Lord of Hosts. “The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,” declares the Lord of Hosts. “The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,” says the Lord of Hosts, “and in this place I will give peace,” declares the Lord of Hosts. (Haggai 2:6-9 NASB)
God is bringing in the wealth of the nations to rebuild His temple. The immediate reference in Haggai was to the natural resources of the nations being used to rebuild a physical temple, but there is also a deeper significance. For the Jews of the Second Temple era, it held great eschatological importance, speaking to the final outworking of God’s purpose in the world. The author of Hebrews picks up on this theme:
But now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. (Hebrews 12:26-28)
This is not about a physical temple but an enduring kingdom, the rule and reign of God on the earth, which cannot be shaken. It is no longer just a future hope but a present reality. Though it has not yet been fully realized, it has already begun, for we are now receiving it (present continuous action).

What the prophet Haggai did not understand is now made plain in Jesus Christ. The enduring temple in the kingdom of God is not a physical entity that can be shaken but a spiritual one that cannot. The wealth of the nations is not their natural resources but their people. Peter tells us, “You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). This temple is composed of “living stones” from all the nations of the earth—all who receive Jesus the Messiah as King:
And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10)

Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth — to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people — saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.” (Revelation 14:6-7)
After His resurrection from the dead and before He ascended to His throne at the right hand of the Father, the Lord Jesus appeared to His disciples and said:
All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20)
God’s plan to restore the world and set everything right is fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah, who now reigns as King over all. He is calling the nations to embrace His divine kingdom, become part of His living temple, enjoy the glory and goodness of His house and experience the fullness of God’s shalom — peace and wholeness.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Gospel of the Resurrection

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you … For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
The gospel is the “good news” that Jesus the Messiah died for our sins, was buried and rose again the third day. All this is as God foretold in the Old Testament. It is important to note that, as significant Messiah’s death for us on the cross is to this message, it is utterly incomplete without His resurrection from the dead three days later. As Paul so forcefully observes, “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” (1 Corinthians 15:7).

There is a causal relationship between sin and death: “Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Death came into the world because of sin (treason against God), and the only way death can be overcome is by dealing with sin. So the resurrection of Messiah demonstrates that He has not only conquered death but has broken the power of sin as well.

The Resurrection is much more than that, though. The expectation of the Jews was that there would be a resurrection of the dead at the end of the age in which God would establish the righteous once and for all upon the earth. What they did not understand, though it was there in their Scriptures, was that Messiah would be raised from the dead. A messiah who needed resurrection was for them a contradiction in terms.

So it was a puzzlement, even to the disciples, when Jesus the Messiah, Son of the Living God, as Peter recognized (Matthew 16:16), was nailed to a tree. On that day they had no expectation that He would be resurrected three days later, though Jesus had foretold them of this a number of times. They were as surprised as anyone else to discover that this had indeed come to pass.

It meant that the end of the age had come upon them in an unexpected way, that it had somehow broken into the world ahead of time. And now here was Messiah who, through His faithfulness on the cross, contended with the powers of darkness, sin and death, and emerged victorious over them all, raised up by God the Father and established as righteous King over all.

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the guarantee that all who receive Him will likewise be raised again from the dead at the end of the age and established once and for all upon the earth. He is the “firstborn from the dead” (Colossians1:18), the firstfruits of what is to come.
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)
The resurrection of Jesus is also the promise that our life between now and that future day when we stand once again upon the earth is not meaningless but significant. What we do now will make a difference then. For the kingdom of God is already breaking into the world (Matthew 11:12; Luke 16:16), the power of the resurrection is already at work in us (Ephesians 1:15-20; 3:20), the darkness is already passing away and the true light is already shining (1 John 2:8). So Paul concludes his resurrection teaching with this strong encouragement: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

The good news of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the guarantee that the power of sin and darkness has been defeated, the kingdom of God has broken into the world, the power of God is now at work in and through those who believe, and at the return of the King our bodies shall be raised from the dust and we shall stand once again upon the earth with our Redeemer.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Gospel of New Creation

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)
There is a new creation coming. It is not a another creation or a different creation but a renewal of creation. God never gave up on the first as a failed creation. Adam rebelled in the Garden of Eden and by doing so, as God’s representative king on the earth, plunged all creation under a curse. But God never set it aside. Instead, He made a way to redeem it.

This plan reached its climax in Jesus Christ, God and Man joined together in one person, who is called the Last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45). At the cross, He defeated the powers of darkness, the devil and all his works (Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8), then was raised by God the Father as the “firstborn from the dead” (Colossians 1:18). It was through the Son of God that the first creation came into existence; it is through the Son also that the renewal of all creation has now begun.

This new creation is not yet complete. We live in between the time of the new beginning and the final fulfillment. Indeed, even creation itself longs for this completion:
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 8:19-22)
The bodily resurrection of Jesus the Messiah from the dead is the guarantee that all creation shall be renewed. For all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Him (Matthew 28:18), and He rules and reigns as Lord of all, not as a divine but disembodied spirit but as the eternal God/Man who is forever embodied in the stuff of creation. When He comes again, the heavens and the earth will be made new (Revelation 21:1) and “we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).

The renewal of creation has already begun in Jesus the Messiah, and those who are in Him, who belong to Him by faith in Him, are already part of it. It is as Paul said, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Gospel of Abraham

And the Scriptures, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” (Galatians 3:8)
The gospel is God’s plan to justify the “Gentiles,” the “nations” — the Greek word is the same, ethnoi — to declare them righteous when He comes to judge the world and set things right. It is the good news He preached to Abraham when He promised that He would bless all the nations of the world through him.

The word “justify” means to declare one to be righteous. It is the act of a judge, the decision or finding he makes in a case brought before him. When God justifies you, He finds for you, in your favor, and not against you. It was God’s purpose all along to find for the nations of the earth, and it is happening through Abraham’s seed. 
Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “and to your seed,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. (Galatians 3:16)
This Seed of Abraham is Jesus of Nazareth, descendant of Abraham through Isaac, Jacob, Judah and eventually King David. He is the Messiah who was promised throughout the Old Testament. He was never meant for Israel’s sake alone but as God’s redeeming king for every tribe and tongue on earth.
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:26-29)
The good news God preached to Abraham, to bless all the nations of the earth through him, is fulfilled in the Seed of Abraham, Jesus the Messiah. Through faith in Him, we too are become Abraham’s seed, both to be blessed and to be a blessing.

(See also The Gospel of the King)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Upright in Heart

My defense is of God
Who saves the upright in heart.
(Psalm 7:10)

Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous;
And shout for joy all you upright in heart.
(Psalm 32:11)

Oh, continue Your lovingkindness to those who know You,
And Your righteousness to the upright in heart.
(Psalm 36:10)

The righteous shall be glad in the LORD, and trust in Him.
And all the upright in heart shall glory.
(Psalm 64:10)

But judgment will return to righteousness,
And all the upright in heart will follow it.
(Psalm 94:15)

Light is sown for the righteous,
And gladness for the upright in heart.
(Psalm 97:11)

I will praise You with uprightness of heart,
When I learn your righteous judgments.
(Psalm 119:7)
The Hebrew word for “upright” is yashar and speaks of being straight, level, right, pleasing, just, fitting, proper. To be upright in heart is to be transparent, open before the LORD. David knew much about this. His heart was so opened up to God that he was called “a man after My own heart” (Acts 13:22).

David learned that there is no hiding out from God. He had tried that and it didn’t work — he became sick inside and out (Psalm 32:3-4). It was not until he became honest before God, confessing his sin, that he not only experienced relief but also an unexpected sense of elation, for he discovered once again the graciousness of God (see Surrounded by Faithful Love and Joyful Shouts). He recommends that same kind of transparency of heart before God, because there is gladness, and twirling and shouting for joy to be had (32:11).

To be upright in heart is to know God (Psalm 36:10). Knowing God is not about having information about Him but relationship with Him. It is personal, not perfunctory. The focus is not on duty but on delighting in Him. Paul’s prayer for the Church was that “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him” (Ephesians 1:17), to know God more and more, deeply and intimately.

To be upright in heart is to trust in the LORD. It is the transparency of faith. We can depend on Him to defend and deliver us (Psalm 7:10), enlighten and guide us (97:11), instruct us in what is right and good (119:7). It is faith in God that actually pleases Him. Not that our deeds are unimportant, but they must come from an open and trusting heart that is turned toward God. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

For those who know, honor and love the LORD, who diligently seek after Him, who are transparent before Him and confident in Him, the rewards are really quite magnificent. He will spread out His steadfast love and faithfulness to cover them (Psalm 36:10, see The Prevailing Love of God). When He comes to set everything right, they will be around to see it (94:15) and their boast will be all about what He has done (64:10), with ecstatic praise, joyful shouts and wild dancing. These are the upright in heart.