Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Without Faith, Nothing Matters

He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. (Luke 16:10)
Ongoing examination of faithfulness. The Greek word for “faithful” is pistos, the exact same word for “faith.” We use the word “faithful” (adjective) because it is in the descriptive position, e.g., “He who is faithful.” Faithful literally means “full of faith.”

What I want you to notice first is that this is not primarily about trustworthiness. Trustworthiness, the ability to be trusted, is a good and important thing, even a necessary thing. But it is a secondary result of pistos, not the main thrust. Faithfulness is first of all about faith.

Let me put it this way. God is not looking first of all for men whom He can trust. God is looking first of all for men who can trust Him. If they are able to depend on Him, then they will be dependable themselves.

To understand the truth of this, study the lives of Abraham, Moses, David and Peter. They all messed up plenty of times. BUT, they all learned how to believe God, and that is what made all the difference for them.

You see, faith — pistos, the ability or act of believing God — is what pleases Him. The Bible says, “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).

Without faith, there is absolutely no pleasing God. This is because, if something is not of faith, it is not of God. It does not come from God, therefore it cannot please Him. Paul went so far as to say, “Whatever is not from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).

On the other hand, when we have faith and use it, which is what it is means to believe, God is greatly pleased. In fact, it excites Him, stirs His heart toward us, so much so that He rewards us greatly for seeking after Him in faith. Faith is believing God, and that honors Him.

Now, notice the passage above. The contrast is between the man who is faithful (full of faith) and the man who is unjust. The Greek word for “unjust” is adikos. It is made up of two parts, 1. a, the alpha privative, and 2. dik√©, which has to do with righteousness, or rightness. Taken together, the word signifies that righteousness is absent. That is, there is no justness in it.

Why is the unjust man deemed unjust? Because he has no faith. Therefore, it is impossible for that man to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Whatever is not of faith is sin, so all his deeds, lacking faith, are unjust — the rightness of God is not in them.

There is an inherent comparison being made in Jesus’ statement. It is the comparison between the man who is faithful in what is least and the man who is faithful in what is much. It turns out that they are both one and the same. It cannot be otherwise. For if a man is not full of faith—believing God and therefore pleasing to God — in the little matters, then how in the world can he be full of faith in more important matters. He lacks the most essential ingredient to dealing with all matters great and small. That essential ingredient is faith.

A person may be very nice, of very good character and full of good intentions. He may be thoroughly punctual and diligent in everything he does. But if he does not exercise faith in God, then he is not faithful in the biblical sense. In fact, in biblical terms, he is unrighteous. You see, doing right is not just a behavior, it is a matter of the heart, a heart full of faith.

Everything in life is all about God. Absolutely everything! Everything works because of Him. Everything finds its fulfillment in Him. This is because He is, and He is the rewarder of all who diligently seek Him by faith.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Five Things Working Together for Your Good

A favorite passage for many Christians has been Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

The common understanding of this text has generally been that all things, whether they be good, bad or indifferent, all work together in the plan of God to bring about good for those who love Him.

I would like to challenge that interpretation. I think it has brought about a great and virulent misunderstanding of the text.

Yes, I know that there are some translations that render it as, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good” (NASB), making God the subject of this verse. But that is not found in the majority of the Bible manuscripts or lectionary readings in the early Church. The majority of texts have “all things” as the subject.

In other words, this verse is not about what God does in all things, but rather what “all things” do.

(Two things to note here in passing: 1. The “things” (as in "all things") is not necessary to the translation. We may just as well simply say, “all work together for good.”2. The working together of all things is present tense, that is, what "all things" are at work doing for us right now.)

What difference does it make? Well, it means that we do not have to tolerate, accept, bless or be thankful for any of the bad or evil things that happen in our lives, as if they are somehow necessary for our good (they are not), or that they somehow add to the quality of our lives (they do not).

Certainly God can take a bad situation and bring good out of it. After all, that is what our redemption is about, God buying back and setting free that which has come under the power of evil. But that is not at all the same as evil somehow working to bring about good.

Certainly God can also teach us in the midst of evil things that may happen to us. But evil is not in any way our teacher. God is the teacher, and He has given us the Holy Spirit to teach us whatever we need to know.

Evil is about bringing about evil, not about bringing the good. Even if evil could work together with good, the result would not be good, but a mixture of good and evil, and that is essentially evil, because evil is the lack of good. Even a little lack of good, as in a mixture of good and evil, is still a lack of good, and therefore ultimately evil.

No, God is good, and He does not cooperate with evil to bring about good. Rather, He works to deliver that which is good from that which is evil.

So, if the “all things” of Romans 8:28 is not about evil things as well as good things working together for the good, then what are they about?

Well, I’m glad you asked. I believe the “all” here is speaking about the things that Paul has already talked about earlier in Romans 8. Here is what I find working together for good, and they are all in themselves good. Although there may be many things trying to work against us for evil, there are also many other greater things working together for our good:

1. The earnest expectation of Creation. “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God ... For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now” (Romans 8:19, 22) When God created the heavens and the earth, and everything in them, He pronounced them “good.” Though they have been subject to the Fall, there are laws still present within Creation for bringing about the good. For example, there is a law of sowing and reaping: If you sow evil, you will reap evil. But if you sow good, you will reap good.

2. The firstfruits of the Spirit. “Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23). We have the fruit of the Spirit and gifts of the Spirit at work in us. The Church received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the “Feast of Firstfruits.”

3. Hope. “For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?” (Romans 8:24) The Greek word for “hope” is elpis, and refers to a positive expectation, a joyful anticipation. Because it is oriented toward the future, it helps us stay on track in the present.

4. Patience. “But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance” (Romans 8:25). If we are oriented by hope, then we also need to have perseverance. The Greek word for “perseverance” is hupomone, and means “constancy, endurance, patience.” Hope and patience work together.

5. The Holy Spirit helping our weakness. “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercessions for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27). The Holy Spirit intercedes for us, and His intercessions perfectly express the will of God for us.

Which brings us up to verse 28: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

So this is not about good working together with evil to produce good (which is logically impossible to begin with). This is about all the things Paul has already mentioned — the groaning of Creation, the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit at work in us, hope, patience, and the Spirit Himself interceding for us — it is all these things which are working together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.

These things have a specificity to them which we can lay hold of by faith, and they are more than adequate to deal with any adversity we might face.

The Gateway Between Prosperity and Worthlessness

I will set nothing wicked before my eyes. (Psalm 101:3)
David, psalm writer and king, made this commitment before the LORD, but he wasn’t just talking about his eyes, he was talking about his heart. Whatever you give place to with your eyes, that is what invades your imagination and enters your heart.

The operative verb here is “set.” It means to appoint, fix in place, or establish before you. It is not talking about things that may simply pass before you, things over which you have no control. This is about what you choose. Proverbs says,
As he thinks in his heart, so is he. (Proverbs 23:7)
The Hebrew word for “think” which is used here literally means “to act as gate keeper.” We can choose to let certain thoughts come in and have a place in our hearts, and we can choose to keep other thoughts from being established in us. The choice is ours — we are the gate keepers of our own hearts. But whatever we allow to be at home in our hearts, that is what determines the sort of person we are. The quality of our thoughts reveals the quality of our character.

Want to know what a man has given place to in his heart? Its not hard to find out. Jesus gave us the key.
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45)
So the secret is to listen to the words of a man’s mouth. If you listen long enough, you will discover what is going on inside him in abundance. You’ll find out even quicker if you listen to him when he is under pressure. You’ll know what kind of a gate keeper he is, what he has set before his eyes.

Now, let’s consider the word “wicked.” David said, “I will set [establish] nothing wicked before my eyes.” There are a few Hebrew words for “wicked,” but the one used here is belial. You may have come across this word transliterated into English, particularly as a description of character. The Bible refers to various men as “sons of Belial.” These are good-for-nothings, worthless fellows, up to no good. That is what the word belial means: worthless and without profit. It describes a path that leads to destruction.

David determined that he would not set worthless, unprofitable things before his eyes. He would not let them pass through the gate of his heart. This is very much like what Paul counseled his disciples in Philippi:
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)
What a powerful benefit this brings. The God of peace (and the peace of God) will be with you. Paul was writing in Greek, and the word he used for “peace” is irene. But, no doubt, he would have had the Hebrew shalom in mind, a word which describes completeness — nothing missing, nothing broken.

What you set before your eyes, what you entertain in your imagination, what you let into your heart, can lead you to destruction — or into the peace and prosperity of God.
Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. (3 John 2)
The prosperity of your soul is another way of talking about what you let through the gateway of your heart. There is a direct relationship described here, indicated by the word “as.” If you limit the prosperity of your soul by what you let into your heart, you also limit the prosperity of your life. Fill your heart with worthless things, and so will your life be filled with worthlessness. Or let the things of God dwell in your heart in abundance, which is always profitable, and your whole life and being will overflow with the prosperity of God. As you think in your heart, so are you, and so is your life.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Prosperity: Doing Good and Doing Well

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 1:3)
This is a man who is noted for what he does as much or more than for what he doesn’t do. What he doesn’t do is walk in the counsel of the ungodly, stand in the path of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.

(Notice that this is not about avoiding the ungodly, sinners and mockers, but about not walking in their counsel, not aligning with their path and not taking the position of a mocker. Choose your companions carefully because we tend to become like those with whom we associate.)

What he does do is delight in the law of the LORD and meditate on it at all times. It is his self-talk. It fills his thoughts. He considers everything in the light of it. He greatly honors it. He loves it because it reveals the heart of God, and it is the heart of God that he is after.

This man is established, that is, he is stable. He is fruitful — his life brings forth sustenance and sweetness. He remains fresh and flourishing, full of life and vitality. And everything he does prospers — moves forward, succeeds, advances, breaks out, comes mightily, goes over the top and is profitable.

As in everything, this is all about God, and God is good. So prosperity is about doing good. You cannot do evil and prosper. You may have a measure of success and gain by doing evil, but what you do cannot be called is prosperous. It simply will not last because it does not come from God.
The ungodly are not so,
  but are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
The ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,
  Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous,
For the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
  But the way of the ungodly shall perish.
(Psalm 1:4-6)
True prosperity is about doing good and doing well at it.

Friday, November 26, 2004

The Stargate Into the Courts of the LORD

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him and bless His name.
For the LORD is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.
(Psalm 100:4-5)
See how powerful is the act of giving thanks and praise to the Lord. It brings you through His gates and into His courts.

No matter what kind of circumstance you may find yourself in, or how desparate your situation may be — immediately begin giving thanks and praise to God (there is always something to praise Him for).

It will be as if a stargate has materialized and opened up in front of you (sci-fi reference). It is the gateway of the Lord that leads you into His presence. There is no way you can enter without it, and it is impossible to give thanks and praise without at least some faith.

When you give thanks and praise, you will find that the heavens have opened up for you. You are standing in the courts of the LORD — Yahweh, the God of Covenant. Your heart cannot help but be changed in His presence. Your outlook will quickly change as well because now you are approaching your situation with faith and the goodness of God.

If you will learn to live in a state of thanksgiving and praise, you will find yourself continually dwelling in the courts of His presence — and it just keeps getting sweeter and sweeter. (See Psalm 91 for more detail).

Thursday, November 25, 2004

The Cup of Salvation—Jesus!

What shall I render to the LORD
  For all His benefits to me?
I will take up the cup of salvation,
  And call upon the name of the LORD.
I will pay my vows to the LORD
  Now in the presence of all His people.
(Psalm 116:12-14)
The psalm writer finds himself in this wonderful relationship with God. His opening words are “I love the LORD” (v. 1). After enumerating specific kindnesses of the Lord, he asks himself, What shall I render, or turn back to the LORD? How shall I show Him my thanks and praise?

His answer is elegant, “I will take up the cup of salvation.” God has given me this cup of salvation — I will receive it, welcome it, take it up and drink heartily from it.

The Hebrew word for “salvation” is yeshua, and means to save, heal, keep, set free, and cause to prosper. More than that, it is the salvation that comes from God. You see, it is made up of two words: Yahweh, the personal name of God (rendered as LORD, all caps, in our English versions) and yasha, which means to save. Yeshua is the shortened form of this combination. This salvation is all God’s doing.

How shall I give thanks to the Lord? I will drink deeply from the cup He has provided for me. I will drink of the salvation, the healing, the deliverance, the security, the prosperity He has for me. I will gladly receive it. I will not refuse it. I will not forget it. I will not say, “I’m not worthy,” because it is not about me, it is about Him. Therefore, I will set it on my lips and receive it into my life.

Now, there’s another thing I want you to know about the word yeshua — it is rendered in the New Testament as the name Jesus! You see, Jesus is the salvation of God. So it is very fitting that the psalm writer says, “I will take up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the LORD,” because that name is Yahweh, and Yahweh saves (Yeshua, Jesus!)

“I will pay my vows to the LORD now in the presence of all His people.” I will commit myself to the Lord and take my place among His people. I will stand up in the midst and give Him all the praise and glory! I will open my mouth and declare the goodness of His salvation.

Don’t just sit there. Drink of that cup. Receive the salvation that comes from the Lord. Call on His name — Jesus! Do you need healing? Speak out healing in Jesus’ name. Do you need prosperity in some area of your life. Receive it from the Lord. Do you need to be set free from something? Call on the Lord and drink from His cup. Believe it all — it’s all for you in Jesus’ name. Then rise up in the midst of the people and declare the salvation of the LORD.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Don’t Hold Back—Bless the LORD!

Bless the LORD, O my soul;
  And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
  And forget not all His benefits.
(Psalm 103:1-2)
’The Hebrew word for “bless” is barak. Directed toward God, barak means to kneel, to adore. To bless the Lord is to bow before Him, giving Him thanks and praise. It is an act of love.

David is the psalm writer here, and he is instructing his soul to bless the Lord with every good thing he has going for him: body and soul, life and all his possessions. They were all created for the purpose of praising and loving on the Lord.

Now notice how he instructs his soul to praise the Lord. “Forget not all His benefits.” The Hebrew word for “forget” means to ignore, mislay, or wither. To remember something is to mark it well, to keep it in your thoughts, in your heart. To forget something is to ignore it, to let it wither inside you. There are some things we ought to forget, but the goodnesses and kindnesses of the Lord are not among them.

David’s counsel to himself is to actively take up the gracious dealings of the Lord and give thanks for them — by name. Here is his list:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
  Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
  Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth [desires] with good things,
  So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
(Psalm 103: 3-5)
Notice the tense of these benefits. They are not past tense, they are ongoing. They are not just things God had done in the past, they are things David could always depend upon God to do. David was not simply thanking God for past faithfulness, he was praising God that it is His nature to be faithful, to forgive, to heal, to redeem, to bless, to renew. David was not just reciting his history with the Lord, he was laying hold of his future with the Lord. So there was an electricity to his thanksgiving which made it active and powerful. David was in a wonderful, ongoing covenant relationship with Yahweh, the Maker of heaven and earth.

So as you approach Thanksgiving, lift up your voice to the Lord and bless His name. It would certainly not be out of place for you to bow your knees before Him, even get down on your face before Him in adoration. Give yourself to Him with all your heart, all your life, all your possessions, all that is good within you (because it all came from Him in the first place).

Take the list of benefits David named and set them before your eyes. Establish them in your heart. They belong to all those who are in Christ Jesus. Bless God for them. Don’t hold back. Shout joyfully, dance exuberantly. Get loud and wild in your praise to God. As you do, the things of the Lord will certainly not wither inside you. They will thrive in your spirit, and His joy will strengthen and bless you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Ministering Out of the Overflow of God's Abundance

Our God is a God of abundance. More than enough. His paths drip abundance. David said, “My cup runs over” (Psalm 23:5). Running over. Overflow.

Someone has said that Egypt was a land of “not enough,” the wilderness was a land of “just enough,” but the Promised Land was a land of “more than enough.” It was a land flowing (overflowing) with milk and honey.

Another psalm writer gave this musical notation: “Both the singers and the players on instruments say, ‘All my springs are in you.’” (Psalm 87:7). The “you” refers either to the Lord Himself, of else to His holy city, Zion. Either way, it refers to abundance that comes from God. For what is a spring if not an overflow?

Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Overflow.

Paul understood the overflow of God as the abundance of His grace. “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). This is the abundance of God so that we may also have abundance.

This is not just spiritual abundance, as if the spiritual could be separated from the natural. This is spiritual abundance that flows forth into the natural. In fact, in the context of 2 Corinthians 9, this verse moves from the general truth of God’s abundance in our lives to the particular abundance of God in our finances — a.k.a. money.

Yes, God’s abundance is as much about our money as about anything else in our lives. God wants to bless us with an abundance of it — more than enough — so that we can overflow with financial blessing into the lives of others. He wants to give us more than enough so we can have abundance for every good work.

This has always been God’s way. In the covenant document of Israel, the Book of Deuteronomy, God says, “And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth that He may establish His covenant” (Deuteronomy 8:17). The power to get wealth comes from God so that He may establish His covenant on the earth. It is a covenant of blessing.

Psalm 112 talks about the blessing on the righteous, those who fear the LORD and delight greatly in His commandments. “Wealth and riches will be in his house” (v. 3). Why? Because he is “gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous. A good man deals graciously and lends” (vv. 4-5). God blesses the righteous with wealth so that they can overflow with blessing toward others.

Some Christians have a very stingy spirit. “I don’t need much, just enough to get by,” they say, imagining themselves to be very pious and humble. But in fact, they are grudging and miserly. They are withholding the blessing with which God wants them to bless others. They are stopping the abundance of God in their lives. They have no overflow, consequently they have no flow either. They become stagnant pools — a blessing to no one.

In the season of Thanksgiving, ought we not to give thanks for the bounty of the Lord by letting it flow through us to others? Ought we not to sow bountifully, so that we may reap bountifully, so that we may sow even more bountifully, and thus multiply blessing to many. We will not come up short if we do. Rather, we will experience the current of God’s compassion, the flow of His love into the lives of others. We will be ministering to others out of the overflow of His passion and power at work in us. Its all good.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Yada, Yada, Yada

Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
(Psalm 106:1)
Fans of Seinfeld will, no doubt, recognize “yada, yada, yada” as one of the sitcom’s many buzz lines. It was used as a conversation filler, a vapid formulation along the lines of “blah, blah, blah.”

In the interest of redeeming the culture a little bit, I’d like to introduce a new understanding to that phrase. Or more precisely, I’d like to reach back to an ancient Hebrew word: yadah.

Yadah is built on the root word yad, the Hebrew word for “hand.” It literally means to hold out, or extend the hand. This gesture is characteristic of offering thanks or praise. Consequently, it is used in the Old Testament variously to express gratitude and worship. When we give our thanks to the Lord, we extend uplifted hands, stretching forth ourselves in worship.

We lift up our hands to give ourselves to the Lord, or to entrust something into His hands. We lift up our hands in surrender to Him, also an act of trust. We lift up our hands to receive blessing from the Lord. We lift up our hands for our Father to take us up into His arms. We lift up our hands to say, “Here I am, Lord. I see You, do You see me?” Lifting our hands to God is an act of thanks, an act of praise, an act of trust.

So, the next time you hear the phrase, “yada, yada, yada,” don’t think “blah, blah, blah.” Redeem the culture. Think “praise, praise, praise,” “thanks, thanks, thanks,” or “trust, trust, trust.”

Extend your hands to heaven and joyfully shout, “Yadah! Yadah! Yadah!

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Love and Submission

Wives, submit to our own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it. (Ephesians 5:22-25)
Here are a few observations about this passage on the relationship between husband and wife. First, notice that this is given in the context of mutual submission, as we see in verse 21: “Submitting to one another in the fear of God.”

Second, this is about the relationship between husbands and wives, not between men and women in general.

Third, notice that, in the context of mutual submission, no special burden is placed on the wives. Although there is added explanation about the significance of the husband/wife relationship, the command in general (“submit to one another”) is simply reiterated in particular (“wives, submit to your husbands”).

Finally, the command to husbands is to love their wives. Paul does not say, “Husbands, make your wives submit.” Nor does he say, “Husbands, be the boss of your wives,” or “Husbands, lord it over your wives.” No, there is nothing of the kind. The obligation of husbands is to love their wives — pure and simple. The example for husbands is the Lord Jesus Christ, who loved the church and gave Himself for it.

Husbands are to love their wives. Wives are to also love their husbands, since the Second Great Commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. The wife loves her husband and submits to him. The husband loves his wife, and in the command to “submit to one another,” he submits to her as well. That is paradoxical, and may seem hard to understand, but only outside the bounds of love.

When love is in view, submission is not a problem, not for husband to wife, not for wife to husband. It is the very nature of love to give and serve. So even if a wife is not submitting to her husband, the response of the husband is to love her and give himself for her. (A study of 1 Corinthians 13, the “Love Chapter” is more than appropriate here)

Is that not the way of God, who is love (1 John 4:8)? And will not love win the day?

Friday, November 19, 2004

The Testimony of Jesus—Where We Go From Here

And they overcame him [the accuser of the brethren] 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)
Isn’t it good to be an overcomer? Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered. We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us so, and this is the victory that overcomes the world — our faith. Yes, it is good to overcome.

In this verse, we see three things by which we overcome, and they are all about Jesus:
  • The blood of the Lamb
  • The word of our testimony — Jesus in us
  • We love Jesus more than our own lives.
The truth is simple: When we are centered and focused on Jesus, we overcome.

But now, let’s take a closer look at the word of our testimony. This is not about what we were before Christ. As Graham Cooke says, that’s our history. Our testimony is the life of Jesus at work in us now. Not just what He has done, but what He is doing in us. Our testimony is not static. It is dynamic and alive, advancing us in the things of God.
For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. (Revelation 19:10)
The testimony of Jesus is what He is doing in us and through us. It is not oriented toward the past, but toward the future. It goes forward. That is why it is called the spirit of prophecy. Prophecy is all about Jesus, what He is doing in us, and where this is all heading.

Let Jesus have His way in you. Let the Spirit of God bring forth the life, power and passion of Christ in your life. Let the word of your testimony, the testimony of Jesus in you, be fresh and vibrant. Its all headed in a very good direction (Revelation 21-22).

The Authority of Heaven and Earth

Did you know that Christians have authority in heaven and on earth? We have authority on earth because we were born here. In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, He created man. The Hebrew for “man” is, adam, from adamah, the Hebrew word for “earth.” Not only did God create man, but He gave him dominion, or authority, over the earth (Genesis 1:26).

We have the authority of heaven because, if we know the Lord Jesus Christ, we have been “born again” — literally, “born from above” (John 3:3) by the Spirit of God. Not only that, but Paul tells us that God has seated us in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6). Jesus is seated on the throne of heaven, at the right hand of the Father, and we are seated there in Him, far above all principality, power, might and dominion (Ephesians 1:21).

In His earthly ministry, Jesus taught His disciples about how to exercise the authority of heaven on earth.

We have the authority of the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). These are not requests, by the way, because the mood is imperative: “Kingdom of God, come! Will of God, be done!” Jesus has given us the authority to look at how the will of God is done in heaven and call it forth to be likewise done upon the earth.

We have the authority to bind and loose. Jesus has given us the authority of heaven to bind and loose things upon the earth. “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18).

As we bind and loose things upon the earth, we will see that they are also bound and loosed in heaven. The Greek tense actually means that what we bind and loose on earth will have already been bound and loosed in heaven. Here again is the authority to bring forth the realities of heaven upon the earth.

We have the authority of agreement. “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:19).

This is earth and heaven coming together, like Jacob’s ladder, with angels ascending and descending. As we come into agreement with each other on earth, it will be done for us by our Father in heaven.

Have you ever applied for a grant before. Well, this is a heavenly grant from God that changes things on the earth.

Our agreement must be, not only with each other, but with the will of God as well, because God will not do anything for us that goes against His revealed will. Fortunately, we can discover the will of God by meditating on His Word, because His Word reveals His will.
Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. (1 John 5:14-15)
We have the authority of Jesus’ name. Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18.20). In another place, Jesus said,
Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. (John 16.23-24)
You see, this is all about Jesus. We come together in His name, we bind and loose in His name, we ask in His name. That does not mean tacking on “In Jesus’ name” to everything we do. It means we have the authority to act on His behalf and according to His purposes. It means to do as He would do and ask as He would ask, because that is where our authority is — in Jesus.

We have the authority of the Great Commission. After the resurrection, and before Jesus ascended to heaven, He gathered the disciples and said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). This was not idle chatter, Jesus was going somewhere with this. He was preparing to extend this authority to His disciples. How else would they be able to fulfill this next command?

“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 28.19-20)

If you have received the Lord Jesus Christ, you have both the authority of heaven and earth. Are you learning how to walk in it?

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Soaking in the Goodness of God

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen. (2 Corinthians 13:14).
The grace of Jesus. The love of God. The communion (fellowship) of the Holy Spirit.

Pause and meditate on that for about ten minutes (longer if you can — but ten minutes is better than no minutes). Let the Lord unpack that in your spirit. Then soak in it for the rest of your life.

Is there any problem or circumstance that you or I could ever have that cannot be solved by the grace, love and fellowship of the Holy Trinity? I don’t think so.

Letting Out the Net

Last night in our life group, as we contemplated the love of God during our worship time, I had a vision of the ocean, enormous and deep. I looked and I saw a big fishing boat. God was at the stern and He was letting out a very lengthy net, and as long as I watched, He kept letting it out.

In the context of our worship, I believe the ocean is the love of God, infinite in all its dimensions — big enough to encompass the whole world. God is love and God is omnipresent, therefore His love must be omnipresent as well. And though the whole world is surrounded by His love, not all are ready or willing to receive it. But God is letting out His net for a big, big catch, to bring many into a restored relationship with Himself. It’s a divine “catch and release,” to capture the hearts of men and nations, and release them into the experience and deep awareness of the ocean of His love.

This is a coming harvest. I believe it is coming soon and that it will be like none we have ever experienced before. So vast is His love!

Seeing in the Spirit

Did you know that it is possible to look in the spirit and see? Consider Joshua and the children of Israel, as they stood before the mighty walled city of Jericho. The LORD appeared to Joshua and said, “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king and the mighty men of valor” (Joshua 6:2).

In the natural, the city of Jericho did not yet belong to Joshua and the army of Israel. Yet God was telling Joshua to see that this actually was so. The Lord was not directing Joshua to look in the natural, but to see in the spirit.

Anybody with eyeballs can see things in the natural. But to see in the spiritual realm, we need to draw upon the resources of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.

When we are born again, we have the right to see in the spirit, because we have the Holy Spirit inside us. We also have the right to hear in the spirit, because Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice.” God has also given us His Word, so we have the right to see everything He says to us in the Word. We should expect to see it in the spirit.

To see with our spiritual eyes, we must look past what our natural eyes reveal to us, because they to not show us the whole truth. Often, what we see with our natural eyes may not even reveal the truth to us at all. Our eyes can show us things that are facts, but not necessarily the truth.

There are facts and there are truths. Facts are of the natural realm, but the truth belongs to the spiritual. There may be a divergence between them for a time, but the facts must eventually line up with truth. (The realm of the spirit is greater than the natural realm, for the natural comes forth from the spiritual — God, who is spirit, is the creator of the natural, physical realm.)

The fact for Joshua was that Israel did not yet possess or defeat the city of Jericho. The truth, however, was that God had already given the city into Joshua’s hands. Joshua’s job was simply to see this and do what God showed him to do.

Learn how to see in the spirit: When God shows you something in His Word, immediately begin to agree with it. Speak it out with your mouth. The Bible says that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). In other words, faith comes by a continual receptivity to the Word. As you speak in agreement with the Word, let it fill your heart and your thoughts. Expect pictures of it form in your mind, bubbling forth from your spirit into your imagination — you may even receive visions and dreams. The more you learn to see that thing which God has spoken, the more your expectation will grow that it will come to pass.

Remember, your job is not to try and figure out how to make it come to pass. Your job is to see it in the spirit and believe. Then let God show you what you need to do about it — He already has it all figured out. As you do, you will eventually see it come to pass in the natural, because the facts must eventually line up with the truth, and the natural must eventually line up with the spiritual.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Ignore, Deny or Confess: Dealing with Sin by Engaging the Word of Life

Reading in First John, chapter one.

John opens with a brief exposition of Jesus Christ, whom, “We have heard …we have seen with our own eyes … we have looked upon and our hands have handled.” He is the Word of Life made known in the flesh. Now John bears witness and declares that same Word of Life who was with the Father in heaven and manifested on the earth. But there is more, and it makes for fullness of joy—there is fellowship with the Father and with the Son.

Then John goes after some theological ideas which were incorrect, which do not line up with the fellowship we have in the Father and the Son. It has to do with sin, our teaching about it, our attitude toward it. What do we do? Ignore it, deny it, or confess it.

Ignoring sin. There was a teaching going around that said sin does not matter, that we can safely ignore it and live as we please — and still have fellowship with the Father. John responds clearly, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” Therefore, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” Our darkness has nothing in common with the God of light. There is no place where they can connect together, and so, by definition, there can be no fellowship. “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” We must acknowledge the light of God, and let it direct us, then the blood of Jesus can cleanse us from all our darkness.

Denying sin. There was a teaching going around that sin is not a reality at all, but a deception, and that this is the truth which sets us free. But that actually turns the truth on its head. John said, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” To say we have no sin, that it is not a reality, is a self-deception. It is a denial of God’s Word. “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us.

Confessing sin. Instead of ignoring sin, or denying it, take it to the Lord. He is bigger, greater, and much more powerful than our sin, and He has already provided the solution for it. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The Greek word for “confess” is homologeo, which means to “say the same thing.” To confess our sins means to say the same thing about it that God says. It is coming into agreement with God about our sin: that it is real, that it is wrong, that it is darkness, that it does not belong in our life. When we come into agreement about the nature of the problem, then we are ready to receive the solution that God has prepared. The Bible says that God made Jesus, who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). That is why, when we confess our sins, God can rightfully forgive and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. It is about Jesus Christ, God’s Son.

It is not faith to ignore or deny sin, because that is contrary to what God has said. Faith approaches God with repentance and confession, believing that He is full of faith to forgive and cleanse us in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the very Word of Life.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The Declaration of Wondrous Works

“We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks!
For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near.” (Psalm 75:1)
As we enter the season of Thanksgiving, it seems quite appropriate to stop and consider the wondrous works of the Lord. The Bible has much to say about signs and wonders. The early Church cried out to God for boldness, and that He would grant signs and wonders in the name of His “holy servant Jesus” (Acts 4:29-30).

The nature of signs is that they direct our attention. The nature of wonders is that they cause us to stand in awe. In the Bible, signs and wonders point us to the same thing — the name of the LORD.

Names are very important. They reveal the nature and character of the one who is named. The Hebrew name for Jesus is yeshua, the word for “salvation.” It includes deliverance, healing, restoration, even prosperity. In other words, however you need to be saved, it can be found in the name of Jesus. When we know the name of Jesus, we are then in a position to receive who He is and what is contained in His name.

Names are very powerful. They carry authority. Jesus taught us, when we pray, to ask the Father in Jesus’ name. This is not about some little formality we go through, tacking “In Jesus’ name” on at the end of our prayers. That would be treating the name of Jesus as a matter of magic, not of faith.

Praying in Jesus’ name is a matter of authority, the authority of Jesus. When we pray in His name, which means to ask as He would ask, it is just as if Jesus Himself is praying to the Father. Jesus promised that such prayers will be answered, for the Father will not deny the Son.

Back to signs and wonders, then. Signs and wonders direct our attention to the name of the Lord. What is more, they reveal that He is present, for where His name is, there He is also. Signs and wonders show that He is close enough to touch, if we would simply reach out in faith, for the Bible says, “Whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

No wonder the early Christians called for signs and wonders, not to be satiated with the sensational, but that the name of the Lord Jesus Christ be exalted, and that many would turn to Him and be saved.

We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks to You.
For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near. Amen.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Faithful, Full of Faith

Reading in the book of Third John this morning, I was struck by this passage, where John commends Gaius, an elder in the church:
“Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, who have borne witness of your love before the church” (3 John 5).
The word “faithfully” impresses itself upon me. We usually think of faithfulness as being loyal, dependable, consistent, and thus, trustworthy. But I believe that those are actually the by-products, or benefits of faithfulness, but not its essence.

In the Greek, the word is pistos, the word for “faith.” In the adjective form, we simply say “faithful.” Yet somehow we fail to see that the real meaning here has everything to do with having faith. The essence of faithfulness is faith. Turn the word “faithful” around and you can see that it is about being “full of faith.”

When we are full of faith, trusting God and His Word, our words and deeds will correspond with that faith. They will line up and be in agreement with that faith. Then we will find a consistency in our manner of life, because God never changes and His Word never fails. When we are full of faith in God, we ourselves will be seen as dependable, loyal, trustworthy.

The Bible says that faith expresses itself through love. Gaius was faithful. He believed God and was full of faith. His faith was full of love and his love was full of action. The church gave witness to his love, and John commended his faith-filledness.

Secrets of a Peaceful Heart

In You, O LORD, I put my trust;
  Let me never be put to shame.
Deliver me in Your righteousness, and cause me to escape.
  Be my strong refuge,
  To which I may resort continually;
You have given the commandment to save me,
For You are my rock and my fortress.
(Psalm 71:1-2)
The psalm writer has found the secret to a peaceful heart, and it has to do with the word “continually,” which is found three times in this joyful hymn of praise. It speaks of more than just habit. It has moved past being a discipline and has become a conditioning of the heart. It is a consistency, a constancy, a full dependency without reservation. It is a joyful abandonment of the self to God. There are three movements which arise continually in the heart of this worshipper:
  • A continual habitation. “Be my strong refuge, to which I may resort continually.” The KJV renders it “habitation.” A habitation is a dwelling place, a place of residence — it’s where you live. When our habitation continually in God, as was the psalm writer’s, it is a strong refuge, a mighty fortress high upon a rock. It is an impregnable abode, the only place where we are truly secure.
  • A continual praise. “By You I have been upheld from birth. You are He who took me out of my mother’s womb. My praise shall be continually of You” (v. 6). This man was brought to the wonderful realization that God continually sustained him, and so he lived in continual praise of God. “My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing to You, and my soul, which You have redeemed. My tongue also shall talk of Your righteousness all the day long” (vv. 23-24).
  • A continual hope. “But I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more” (v. 14). This was his enduring response, especially when adversaries conspired against him. The biblical idea of hope is not about doubt and uncertainty. It is waiting in faith, patiently trusting in God. It is a positive expectation about the promise and power of God, a joyful anticipation of His grace and goodness. The psalmist goes on, “My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness and Your salvation all the day. For I do not know their limits” (v. 15). He knew no limits to God’s righteousness and salvation because there are no limits to be found. Though we spent eternity diving into the depths of God’s love and goodness, we will never touch bottom. There will always be further to go in Him.
A continual habitation in God, a continual life of praise and adoration, a continual expectation of His goodness — three secrets to a peaceful heart.

Friday, November 12, 2004

The Divine Balance of Power and Love

For the last couple of days, I have been considering the relationship between power and love, because that is what the prayer of the early Church in Acts 4 is about (see below).

God’s love and power always go together. David declared, “I will sing of Your power. Yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning. For You have been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble” (Psalm 59:16). The mercy of God is the Hebrew hesed. It is the covenant love and faithfulness by which God has pledged Himself to His people. It is the Old Testament counterpart to the New Testament agape — divine love.

For David, the power and mercy of God are inseparable, even synonymous. It is impossible for God to be loving and yet remain powerless to help His loved ones. Just as impossible as it is for Him to be powerful and yet uncaring toward His own. No, God’s love and power go together. There is no schizophrenia in God. His love and power are in perfect harmony — a reciprocal relationship: God’s love expresses His power; God’s power expresses His love. It is the divine balance.

One day a leper came to Jesus and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then Jesus put out His hand and touched Him saying, “I am willing; be cleansed” (Matthew 8:2-3). The ministry of Jesus continually shows us that God is both willing and able to cleanse, heal and set free.

The early Church asked for boldness and power, not for their own gain and glory, but for the glory and honor of God, and for the sake of the people to whom they were called to minister. They were not possessed by the love of power. They were crying out for the very real and tangible power of love to be to shed abroad through them. They took on the servant heart of Jesus, the very expression of God’s own heart, to love, give and serve.

In the remainder of the Book of Acts, we find that God did indeed stretch out His hand to heal. Signs, wonders and miracles followed to bless multitudes and focus their attention on the Lord Jesus Christ. Because God is both willing and able. Because His love and power go together and express each other.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

The Servant Heart Connection

Take another look at Acts 4:29-30, the prayer of the first Christians as they cried out to God for boldness:
Grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your Word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy servant Jesus. (Acts 4:29-30)
There is a very important word that occurs twice in this passage, and it makes all the difference in the matter of boldness and the manifestation of God’s healing signs and wonders. Can you spot it? It is the word “servant.”
Grant to Your servants . . . through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.
This is about God through and through. His servants, His Word, His hand, His holy servant Jesus. And if it is about God, then it must be about love. It is the “algebra of love”: God is love, love gives and serves.

Even Jesus, who is fully divine as well as fully human, rejoiced to be the servant of God. He came to obey the Father’s will, and thereby reveal the Father’s heart. He did nothing of Himself, not of His own will, His own thoughts, His own emotions. It was all the Father. Jesus said,
Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. (John 5:19)

I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. (John 5:30)

I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him. (John 8:28-29)
Jesus also became a servant toward us, for our sake. The Bible says that He “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:7-8). Jesus Himself said, “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

When those first Christians cried out to God for boldness, signs and wonders, they identified themselves with the servant heart of Jesus. They came asking as servants, just as Jesus their Master was a servant. And so they received.

If it is boldness you need, then tie into the love of God and become His servant for the sake of others. If you long for the healing miracles of God to be revealed in and around you, then go after the heart of the Father and His hand will follow.

Root out every thought of self-glory or of seeking a better position for yourself. The very best position is the servant position — it is the one Jesus chose. Let go of pride and bow down low, toward God and others. Then you will experience that great boldness which can only come from Love. Stretch our your hand to serve, and God will stretch our His hand to heal.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The Source of Boldness

Grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy servant Jesus. (Acts 4:29-30)
This is one of the powerful evangelistic prayers of the early Church. Peter and John had just been arrested for preaching the Gospel, admonished by the magistrates to cease, and released on their own recognizance. So they gathered with the Church and cried out to God for boldness. That is the prayer you see above.

We see the answer to this prayer in the next verse: “And whey they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the Word of God with boldness” (v. 31).Boldness comes from the Lord. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. As Paul would later remind Timothy, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Boldness is a matter of faith. That is why some translations render it “confidence” (con, “with”; fide, “faith”). Where there is boldness, there is no intimidation. God has not given us a spirit of fear or intimidation. His Spirit is a spirit of power, love and sound mind (sometimes rendered “self-control”).

Earlier, Jesus promised the disciples, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me” (Acts 1:8). This was fulfilled a short while later on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). In the New Testament, power is the ability to operate in the supernatural, the divine working of miracles.

Now in Acts 4, the disciples were crying out for a greater experience of boldness, “all boldness”, and the power of the Holy Spirit. They desperately wanted, and needed, to walk in the fullness of it.

But notice how they asked God to increase their boldness — by stretching out His hand to heal, that signs and wonders may be done in the name of Jesus. They were not out to simply declare the Gospel by words, but also to demonstrate it by the power of God.

They had already seen the miraculous healing of a lame man at the temple gate — that’s what got Peter and John thrown into jail in the first place. Now they wanted to see the healing miracles multiplied. They wanted to keep on preaching the name of Jesus and doing the works of Jesus. Just as the Holy Spirit anointed Jesus with power, so that He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed of the devil (Acts 10:38), they wanted to operate in the same way with the same Holy Spirit anointing. For that is the commission Jesus gave them.

Is the Church today meant to walk in any less boldness, in any less manifestation of God’s power and might? I don’t think so. If anything, the need is greater today that it was back in the first century.

Does this stir up something inside you, as it does me? A desire for a more vibrant witness, a greater effectiveness in ministry and outreach? Then marinate in these Scriptures for a while. Paul said that faith comes by hearing, and hearing comes by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Meditate on this Word until faith begins to arise in your heart to believe God for Holy Spirit boldness, and the working of signs, wonders and healing miracles. Then begin praying the prayer that those early Christians above prayed. And have an expectation for Holy Spirit boldness, for God’s healing hand, and for signs and wonders in the name of Jesus.

For more about the powerful prayers of the early Church, see Praying With Fire: Learning to Pray With Apostolic Power.

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

The Connection Between Spiritual and Natural

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3)
The Word of God says that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. Many Christians will say, “Yes, every spiritual blessing” and think that this has nothing to do with the physical or material blessing. But I tell you that spiritual blessing has everything to do with physical blessing.

The spiritual realm is not secondary to the physical realm. It is not some lesser reality than physical reality. It is not some side issue to be relegated to a more convenient time.

No, the spiritual is the primary reality out of which all other reality comes forth. It is the greater and higher reality from which the physical realm is derived. We can see this in the very first verse of the Bible, Genesis 1:1. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Who is God? The Bible says that God is Spirit (John 4:24). He is the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God (1 Timothy 1:17). The author of Hebrews said, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible” (Hebrews 11:3).

God is Spirit. The world is physical. We cannot see God, we can only see the world which He made. The spiritual did not come forth from the natural, but the natural came forth from the spiritual. Therefore, the spiritual realm is the greater reality.

The Word of God is spiritual, and by that Word, God calls forth things in the natural realm. That is why Jesus could calm the wind and the waves with a word, why He could rebuke a fever and cast out demons with a word. He also taught His disciples to speak to the mountain with faith-filled words, to affect change in the natural from the realm of the Spirit. For the physical comes forth from the Spirit.

So when Paul teaches that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies, he is telling us of that greater reality out of which all other realities flow.

These blessings come to us through the Lord Jesus Christ, and are available to all those who trust in Him. Lay hold, therefore, of every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus and expect every aspect of your life to be powerfully changed according to the goodness of God and the passion of His love at work in you. Do this by declaring the promises of God over your life and circumstances and expecting to see them happen. The natural must eventually line up with the Word of God.

Monday, November 8, 2004

The Fear of the LORD: Experiencing God's Fullness

An oracle within my heart
  concerning the transgression of the wicked:
There is no fear of God before their eyes.
(Psalm 36:1)
David the Shepherd King is here contrasting the wickedness of men with the faithfulness of God. It is an implicit study in the fear of the Lord.

The wicked know nothing of the fear of the LORD. Consequently, they think that everything is about them. They flatter themselves in their own eyes. They think that their exercises of iniquity and hate demonstrate the freedom of their will, little realizing that they are actually ensnared by those very things. They speak wickedness and lies because that is what is in their heart in abundance. They sow deceit and thereby become ultra-susceptible to being deceived. They have long ago ceased to be wise and to do good. In fact, they abhor good rather than evil. They have set a course for their lives that can only end in destruction. (Psalm 36:2-4).

Now listen as David talks about the fear of the Lord. He does not define it, he expresses it. We see this even in the inscription to this psalm. “A Psalm of David the servant of the LORD.” It is easy to be a servant when the Lord is your Shepherd.

Now, the fear of the LORD is not about terror. It is about going after God with everything that is in us. It is about revering His name. It is about following after Him, seeing His heart and walking in His ways. It is recognizing that His love is everlasting and His favor is the pathway to blessing. It is welcoming His revelation. It is entrusting ourselves completely into His hands.

And so David displays the fear of the LORD when he writes,
Your mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens;
  Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the great mountains;
  Your judgments are a great deep;
O LORD, You preserve man and beast. (vv. 5-6)
You see, it is all about God — His mercy, His faithfulness, His righteousness, His judgments. Our minds were made to express His thoughts. Our emotions were made to express His heart. Our will was made to communicate His good will.

Before Christ, we were disconnected from God, so we tried to think our own thoughts, vent our own emotions and enact our own wills. We had no fear of the LORD. But all those who have been born again — born from above by the Spirit of God through faith in Jesus Christ — are reconnected to the one true source. David describes the magnificent results of being reconnected to God:
How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God!
  Therefore the children of men put their trust
  under the shadow of Your wings.
They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house,
  And You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures.
For with You is the fountain of life;
  In Your light we see light. (vv. 7-9)
Abundantly satisfied. The experience of God’s fullness. Drinking from the river of His pleasures. A fountain of life. Light that vanquishes all darkness. Indeed, how precious is the lovingkindness of the Lord.

Those who fear the Lord need not fear anything else. But those who do not fear the Lord will live in the fear of everything else.

Blessed Beyond All Recognition

Can you stand to be blessed? I mean blessed BIG? How about blessed beyond all recognition?

“Wait a minute,” someone is saying, “I’m not good enough for that.”

Well, you’re right. You’re not good enough — if you are trusting in yourself and what you can do. But you see, blessing is not about you. It’s about God — always has been, always will be — and God has a heart to give. I call it the algebra of love: “God is love. Love gives and serves.”
For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
The LORD will give grace and glory;
No good thing will He withhold
From those who walk uprightly. (Psalm 84:11)
Hmmm — “walk uprightly.” Isn’t that about us and what we have to do? No, it’s still about God. It can’t be about us because we don’t have that kind of righteousness of ourselves—that got lost in the Garden of Eden. But when Adam fell, God immediately plotted a solution, and it came to fulfillment nearly two thousand years ago on a Cross outside Jerusalem.

You see, the Bible says that God made Jesus, who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). In other words, Jesus took our sin on Himself, carried it to the Cross, and through Him we are made righteous, counted as being in right relationship with God. We receive this through faith in the Lord Jesus.

The upshot is that all those who are walking in Jesus are walking uprightly — walking in His righteousness. And that perfectly fulfills God’s requirement for blessing. Therefore, no good thing will He withhold from those who believe Jesus.

Yeah, but, blessed beyond all recognition? Where does that come from? Well, it comes from Ephesians 3:20: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to His power that works in us.”

Notice again, that it is all about God. It is according to His power that works in us. God is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask, superabundantly more than we can even think or imagine.

Imagine being so changed by the love of God, His power at work in you, and all His promises fulfilled in your life that friends and family have to stare hard, because they don’t even recognize you. They have to ask who you are and what happened to you, so drawn to the life of Christ and the fire of His passion burning inside you that they have to know how to have it themselves.

Now that’s blessed! Blessed beyond all recognition. And it’s all there for you in Jesus.

Sunday, November 7, 2004

An Open Heart Is An Open Heart

He who gives to the poor will not lack,
But he who hides his eyes will have many curses.
(Proverbs 28:27)
When we close our eyes to those in need, we close up our heart. Ironically, that opens the door for curses to come into our lives. It is not that God closes His heart toward us. Not at all. It is just that, when we close our heart towards our brother in need, it is also closed towards God. God’s heart remains open, and His desire to bless us is unabated. But our heart is not able to receive His blessing because a closed heart is a closed heart — nothing gets out, nothing gets in.

God’s heart is an open heart. That is His nature. His heart is open to us and open to all those in need. After all, aren’t we just as much in need of God’s love and mercy as our brother. So when we open our heart to those in need, it is thus open towards God as well. In fact, our heart becomes an expression of God’s own heart. For an open heart is an open heart — open to God, open to man.

Saturday, November 6, 2004

Developing a Bountiful Eye

God has always placed a premium on helping the poor. Let the following passages soak in a bit.

Blessed is he who considers the poor;
The LORD will deliver him in time of trouble.
The LORD will preserve him and keep him alive,
And he will be blessed on the earth;
You will not deliver him to the will of his enemies.
The LORD will strengthen him on his bed of illness;
You will sustain him on his sickbed.
(Psalm 41:1-3)
The blessing of the Lord — deliverance, preservation, strength and healing — belongs to those who help the poor.
“He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD,
And He will pay back what he has given.” (Proverbs 19:17)
When we give to the poor, we are lending to the Lord. How we treat others bears a direct relationship to how our heart is toward the Lord. Remember the dividing of the sheep and goat nations in Matthew 25:31-46? How we treat Jesus’ brethren is exactly how we are treating Him.

The Apostle John said, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also” (1 John 4:20-21).

Whenever we give to the poor, it is the Lord who will repay, and He always pays back with interest — good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over (Luke 6:38).
He who has a bountiful eye will be blessed,
For he gives of his bread to the poor. (Proverbs 22:9)
Develop a bountiful heart. If you sow bountifully, you will also reap bountifully. You see, there is a flow to blessing. The more you let it flow through you to others, the more you will experience its energizing current. It is the love of God in action.
He who gives to the poor will not lack,
But he who hides his eyes will have many curses.(Proverbs 28:27)
You do not come out a loser when you give to the poor, only when you turn away from them. Give to the poor and you will not lack, for God will take care of you.

Faith point: Faith works through love (Galatians 5:6). The NIV says, “faith expressing itself through love.” Or as the Amplified Bible has it: “faith activated and energized and expressed and working through love." Remember the poor by your faith expressing itself through love.

Healing Scriptures and Prayers

Healing Scriptures and Prayers
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

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

Friday, November 5, 2004

Anointed With Power

Power is the ability to get things done. In the New Testament, the Greek word for “power” is dunamis, the power for working miracles. It is the power Jesus had.
“God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power [dynamis] , who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. (Acts 10:38)
Jesus did not draw on His divine nature as the Son of God. Rather, being fully human as well as fully divine, He drew on the Holy Spirit and the power with which He was anointed in His human nature. The dyunamis with which He was anointed was the power of the Holy Spirit, and it was out of this anointing that He was able to heal all who were oppressed by the devil.

Remember the story of the woman with the issue of blood? She heard Jesus was passing by, and she crept up behind Him, saying to herself, “If I can touch the hem of His garment, I shall be healed.” She did. And she was.

Jesus turned around and said, “Who touched Me?” Well, they were in the middle of a great crowd of people pressing in. Peter’s answer was, if I may paraphrase, “Lord, who didn’t touch You?” But Jesus said, “Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power [dynamis] going out from Me” (Luke 8:46).

The touch of faith drew dynamis out from Jesus’ body. The woman experienced that power coming forth, for she was immediately healed. Jesus experienced that power going forth from Him, and knew it was by a touch of faith. This dynamis was tangible, a power that could be conveyed through a faith-filled touch, even through the fringe of a prayer shawl.

This same dynamis of the Holy Spirit is available for all who know the Lord Jesus. Before He ascended to heaven, Jesus gathered His disciples together and gave them this promise: “You shall receive power [dynamis] when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me” (Acts 1:8). This was fulfilled ten days later at Pentecost.

We have this dynamis power so we can be witnesses concerning Jesus. A witness is someone who presents evidence, someone who produces proof. As Holy Spirit-filled disciples, we have dynamis power to produce proof and bring evidence of who Jesus is and what He has accomplished for the world. It is healing power, delivering power, even power to bring the dead back to life.

Have you felt power go out of you lately?

Thursday, November 4, 2004

A Declaration of Dependence

About prayer. For many people, prayer is merely a form, and they view it as ineffectual. Small wonder, if prayer is really nothing more than a form. Such folk are quick to talk about “putting feet to prayer” by following it up with action. But I suspect that those who say that often have their faith more in their action than in prayer.

Yes, it is important to follow up prayer with appropriate action, but if the thing is not first won in prayer, it will not be effectively achieved in action. That’s why so many people settle for so much less than what they have asked in their prayers. Better to trust in God’s answer and then let our action flow forth from that.

There’s a saying that I have heard for years, at least as far back as my days in Bible college in the ‘70s: “Pray as if everything depends upon God; work as if everything depends upon you.” It sounded good at the time, but now I think it is really a source of trouble for us. It’s more like a schizophrenia. Who are we really depending on — God or ourselves? A mixture of iron and clay will never hold up.

The Lord says that His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways than our ways (Isaiah 55). I don’t know about you, but I am very weary of depending on my thoughts and my ways of getting things done. I want God’s thoughts and God’s ways, which are very accessible to us by His Word and Spirit.

I’m done depending on me — on my thoughts, my words and my ways. I stamp out such dependence wherever I find it because it is actually nothing more than independence from God, and independence from God leaves me nowhere and with nothing. Rather, I confess with the apostle Paul, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God who also made us sufficient ministers of the New Covenant” (2 Corinthians 3:5-6).

So I have put a new twist on an old saying, one which I think is more powerful: Pray as if everything depends upon God; work as if everything depends upon God.

Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Vision of Jesus on a White Horse

Tonight during our worship time at “Life Group” (care group, home group, small group, cell group, shepherd group) I experienced a brief vision of Jesus — an image of Him riding on a white horse, charging to battle, a la the Book of Revelation. I first saw Him, as if viewing from an overhead crane shot, which then panned down beside Him as He rode. He rode with purpose and with passion, and there were many others riding with Him, many of whom I recognized. I looked for my son there and saw him. I looked for my daughter there and saw her, as well.

Then I saw Jesus charging forth, as if bursting through time and space. He unsheathed His sword and was waving it, preparing to strike as He came upon the enemy. I cried out, “But, Lord — won’t they repent?” You see, my prayer for the wicked has usually been that God would bring them to repentance, and if they would not come to repentance, to then bring them to judgment, so that they would cease to be an affliction and a torment on the innocent. But the Lord showed me that He was going to use the sword to cut through the chains and cords that held them captive, to free them from their bonds.

We often think of the judgment of God as a negative thing. But it is really a good thing because God’s judgment sets things right, the way they are supposed to be. For example, God’s judgment on darkness is light. God’s judgment on poverty is prosperity. God’s judgment on sin is righteousness. God’s judgment on sickness is healing. God’s judgment restores thing to the way they are supposed to be, were meant to be from the beginning. God’s judgment delivers us from bondage into freedom. Indeed, the Lord Jesus took all these things on Himself at the cross and experienced the full measure of God’s judgment so that we could be free of them.

Now, there are indeed some who love darkness rather than light, and the very presence of God, who is the Father of Lights, will be a torment to them. And for those who are hardened in selfishness, the self-lessness of God’s love will be intolerable to them. For those who are adamantly evil, the eternal goodness and omnipresence of God will be a judgment upon them.

But for those who desire to be set free and are willing to trust in the Lord Jesus, His judgment is precious. It is exactly what His name means: In the Hebrew language, His name is Yeshua and means salvation, deliverance, healing, prosperity and security.

His sword is the Word of God — the truth that judges every lie and sets free whoever will receive the truth and come into relationship with Him.

A New Heart, A Now Song

Been thinking about worship today, and some of the infighting that has gone on in the Church over worship music, old and new. Part of the problem has been that, although music may well be a part of worship, it is not the heart of worship. So some people feel like they can’t worship with new music, and others feel like they can’t worship with old music. But they’ve missed it — the problem is not in the music.

Old music is not the answer, because people tend to use the old music in old ways, and it becomes little more than sentiment. New music is not the answer either. For one thing, it is easy for the new music to become the old music pretty quickly, and it begins to be used in old ways. On top of that, it is also possible to use the old music in new ways.

But the real solution lies somewhere else. The problem is not the music we use in worship, but the heart with which we approach worship. What we need is not new music but a new heart — one that is focused on the Lord, one that is in love with Jesus, one that is open and obedient to the Holy Spirit. When we have that, music is not a problem. With a new heart, we can always sing a new song, whether it is a traditional hymn or a contemporary piece. For it will neither be an old song nor a new one — it will be a now song, freshly emerging from a heart that is in communion with the Lord.

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

The Secret of a Merry Heart

All the days of the afflicted are evil,
But he who is of a merry heart has a continual feast.
(Proverbs 15:15)
Let there be no doubt — a merry heart is better! What we see reflected in this proverb is an attitude and a priority. Some people look for the silver lining to a dark cloud, others look for the dark cloud to a silver lining. But the priority, and I believe the real reason for a merry heart, is spelled out in the next proverb:
Better is a little with the fear of the LORD,
  Than great treasure with trouble.
Better is a dinner of herbs where love is,
  Than a fatted calf with hatred.
(Proverbs 15:16-17).
There is nothing wrong with having great treasure and feasting on a fatted calf. May the Lord bless you and me with both! But they are insufficient to satisfy our hearts. What we really need is to walk in the fear of the LORD and in love.

Now, some people might conceive of the fear of the LORD and love to be two different and contradictory things. But such people really misunderstand both. They are not separate, nor does one contradict the other. They are actually two ways of looking at the same thing.

The fear of the LORD is not a matter of cringing in terror, it is a matter of respect and awe and reverence. Have you ever stood at the top of the Empire State Building or gazed out over the Grand Canyon. We call such views “breath-taking,” so stunning that they take your breath away for a moment. It is awesome, or to use an old word in an old way, it is awful (read “awe-full,” full of awe). That is what the fear of the LORD is like — living in recognition of the awesomeness of God and His powerful greatness.

The other side of this equation is love. “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is.” As much as we should live in constant awareness of God’s great and awesome power, we should also dwell and meditate on the awesomeness of His love.

The man who learns to walk in the fear of the LORD and dwell in the love of God will have a continual feast. For this is the secret of a merry heart.

Election Day Prayer

Oh, let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end,
  But establish the just;
For the righteous God tests the hearts and minds.
(Psalm 7:9)

My daily habit is to pray through the book of Psalms. There are 150 psalms and 30 days in a month. Doing the math, it works out that I can pray through the book of Psalms in a month, taking five a day. For example, on the first day of the month, I pray through Psalms 1-5, on the second day I pray Psalms 6-10, and so on. Now, I don’t always pray through all the psalms for a given day; sometimes I am moved by a particular psalm, or even by a specific passage within a psalm. So, it’s a flexible plan.

Election day falls on the second day of the month, and doing the math, that means Psalms 6-10. During this campaign season, the prayer that has been continually impressed upon me is this very plea found in Psalm 7:9. “Oh, let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end, but establish the just; for the righteous God tests the hearts and minds.” So this psalm, it seems to me, is very apropos for the day.

How will we vote today — will it reflect the righteousness and the justice of God, or will it reflect the wickedness of the wicked? Both are at work in our country, and both are within our reach. The answer lies in the last line of the verse: “For the righteous God tests the hearts and minds.” In other words, God is the One who knows the truth about all the candidates. He knows what they have spoken, whether it is truth or lies. He sees the hidden motivations of their hearts. And He searches our hearts and minds as well, to know what we are truly seeking. Psalm 12:8 says, “The wicked prowl on every side, when vileness is exalted among the sons of men.” In the end, we shall all receive what we are crying out for, what we are giving honor to and exalting, whether that be righteousness or wickedness.

So, before we cast our ballots, as Christians we must first search our hearts to know our own motivations. Then we must pray to know the mind of the Lord in this matter. Only then will we be prepared to vote.

Monday, November 1, 2004

Rooted and Established

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 1:3)
This is talking about the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, stand in the path of sinners, or sit in the seat of the scornful. Instead, he delights in the Word of God, and he is always meditating on it, pondering it by speaking it to himself over and over.

To be planted, in this Hebrew context, is to be rooted and established. It is not enough to simply dig a hole and drop a tree into it. A tree is not really planted until it begins to extend its roots downward and outward to tap into the moisture of the river. It becomes integrated with the soil so that it cannot be easily blown over or uprooted.

It is only when a tree is rooted and established that it can begin to produce fruit, to be fresh and green, and to prosper. And it can only be rooted and established by staying in one place.

There are many Christians who jump from church to church, from group to group, never staying long enough to become a part of any congregation or fellowship. So they never get rooted or well-grounded. Consequently, they do not bear good fruit, they do not prosper, and they do not stay fresh and green. They begin to wither because they have no stability.

Stability is an important part of discipleship. That is why for centuries monks and monasteries have always had a “vow of stability,” committing themselves to stay in one place and work out whatever differences they might have with their brothers or leaders.

This is a strong feature of Benedictine communities. In The Rule of Benedict, written about the sixth century, Benedict of Nursia featured stability prominently. He noted that there were many monks who went about from place to place, soaking up the benefits of each place, but never becoming a productive member. They went about everywhere, but never became a part of anywhere. He called them gyrovagues. They were pointless wanderers. They had no purpose. They added nothing to the prosperity of a house, spiritually or otherwise, and were really nothing more than parasites.

But those who delight in the Word of God must learn to be a true part of God’s people. For God is love, and love cannot flow in isolation. We must be part of a community of faith in Jesus Christ. That is we will find stability. Then we will begin to see the blessing and power of God’s love manifest in life-changing, world-changing ways. That is where we will find fruitfulness and prosperity, and where we will remain fresh and green.
Those who are planted in the house of the LORD
  Shall flourish in the courts of our God.
They shall still bear fruit in old age;
  They shall be fresh and flourishing,
To declare that the LORD is upright;
  He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him
(Psalm 92:13-15)

Declaring the Day

This is the day the LORD has made;
I will rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24
Many Christians are familiar with this verse. In the context of the Old Testament, and as it was used ceremonially, it referred to a special day of celebration, a culmination of many days. It was not just about being thankful to having another day of living, but it was a day set aside to rejoice in a special victory.

Under the New Covenant we have in Jesus, every day is now a day of victory and rejoicing, celebrating who He is and the wonderful, multifaceted salvation He has won for us.

Paul said, “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). “Thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:14).
In all these things, we are more than conquerors though Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, not things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)
The Apostle John declared, “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).

If you know Jesus, today is the day that the Lord was made for you to rejoice and celebrate the victory with Him. Therefore, shout for joy and be glad this day. Whatever situation or circumstance you are dealing with today, declare His victory over it. For Jesus is Lord, and His victory is your victory.

This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it!