Thursday, December 30, 2004

Getting a Revelation of Jesus

All you and I really need is simply more revelation of Jesus. If there is any problem in our lives, it is that we do not know Him well enough. We just need to know Him more.

Fortunately, God has gifted us with many ways to know Jesus more. The only problem is that we have learned to not avail ourselves of them and press on into the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

Baptism. Baptism is often called a sacrament — an outer visible sign of an inner invisible reality. In other words, baptism is a sign, a sign from God. When you were baptized (if you were baptized), you may have thought you were giving God some kind of sign. But actually God was giving you a sign that you were being received into His family. To put it simply, in baptism we are buried with Christ and raised with Him to walk in newness of life. Take time to reflect on your baptism in Christ — it is a revelation of Jesus.

The Lord’s Table. This is also called a sacrament. Paul said that as often as we partake of it, we proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. The Lord’s Table is a communion, a fellowship we have with the Lord Jesus, and each other as the body of Christ. We receive the sign of His body given for us and His blood shed for us. It is a revelation of Jesus that goes beyond words.

Gathering in His Name. Jesus said that wherever two or more are gathered in His name, He is present in their midst. He was not talking about merely His omnipresence as the Second Person of the Trinity. No, He was talking about a presence that is a self-revelation of Himself. The key is not simply to gather, but to gather in His name. That is, when we come together and recognize that it is all about Him. We gather to act and think and speak and do as He would act and think and speak and do. According to His promise, gathering in His name becomes something sacramental, a sign of His revelatory presence.

The Word of God. God has given us His Word in the Scriptures, and it speaks to us about Jesus. The Old Testament foretells Him to us; the New Testament reveals Him to us. The Scriptures are a mode of revelation, but Jesus is the Word made flesh. Truth is a Person, and every revelation of truth is a revelation of Jesus.

The Holy Spirit. Jesus promised that the Father would give us the Holy Spirit: “When the Helper comes, who I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me” (John 15:26). “He will glorify Me, for He shall take of what is Mine and declare it to you” (John 16:14).

Worship. Worship is a revelation of Jesus. Paul said, “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). Worship is a spiritual activity. That is, when we worship, we are engaging with the Holy Spirit. When we worship, we are proclaiming that Jesus is Lord, and we cannot do that without a revelation of Jesus by the Holy Spirit.

Praying in the Spirit. A.k.a. “praying in tongues.” This again is an activity of the Holy Spirit engaging with our spirit. Paul said that if someone prays in tongues, he is speaking mysteries in the Spirit (1 Corinthians 14:2). In the Bible, a mystery is a secret—not one that God is keeping from us, but one God is revealing to us. So whenever we pray in the Spirit we are receiving a revelation of Jesus, because it is the role of the Holy Spirit to take of what belongs to Jesus and declare it to us.

If you need more revelation of Jesus — and you and I both do — here are seven powerful ways to receive it.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Don’t Try Harder. Love God More.

Consider the following statements. Which one sounds like religion, and which one sounds like relationship:

1. God blesses you for good behavior and punishes you for bad.
2. God blesses you, period, and brings forth righteousness in your life.

Which one sounds like Christ?
Which one sounds like Christianity?
Which one sounds like the Church?

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Have you ever noticed that fruit is not something you find clipped on to a tree? Fruit comes forth from within the tree. It is not a lifeless add-on. It is the manifestation of the life that is within the tree itself. The fruit of the Spirit is not behavior we affix to our lives, it is the life of the Spirit manifesting in within us.

What we really need is not an imitation of Jesus, but a revelation of Jesus. We do not need to mimic His life, clipping on His behaviors on to our branches. That is the way of barrenness. What we really need is for Him to live His life in us. He is the vine, we are the branches. Our life comes from Him; His life flows through us.

The Christian life is not a matter of trying, it is a matter of yielding. Mike Bickle says, “Don’t try harder. Love God more.”

Mercy and Justice

"I will sing of mercy and justice;
To You, O LORD, I will sing praises."
(Psalm 101:1)
Here is God's mercy and here is His justice. They are both needful things, but notice that God's mercy comes first.

This mercy is the Hebrew word hesed. It is the covenant faithfulness of God, the love by which He has committed Himself to His people. Its counterpart in the New Testament is agape, the divine love of God.

The justice of God is that by which He sets things right. It is a word of restoration, and it is a good thing. Where the innocent are being oppressed, harassed and distressed by the wicked, it is the justice of God that comes that brings the wickedness of the wicked to an end. If God does not do that at some point, the innocent will suffer in perpetuity. Thank God for His justice.

And thank God for His mercy, for He will come by mercy to all who will receive it, who will repent and turn to Him and call on His name. My prayer is that God will bring the wicked to repentance and salvation in Jesus Christ. But if they will not come, if they will not receive the grace, mercy and love of God, then I pray that God will bring them to judgment — to set things right so that the righteous and the innocent be no more ground under the heel of the wicked.

The day of judgment must come, and let us be in agreement with it. But let us first be in agreement with the hesed, the faithful mercy of God.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Not to Worry

Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? (Matthew 6:27)
These are words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount. He is talking about faith, and worry is not a manifestation of faith. To worry means to be anxious and troubled with cares. Worry is not life-giving, but something that sucks life out of you. It does not come from heaven. it comes from hell. It is not of God but of the devil, the accuser of the brethren. Be done with it. Jesus shows us how:
Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow or reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:26)

So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the filed, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed life one of these. (Matthew 6:28-29)
If you’re going to be thinking about things, don’t focus on your lack. Focus instead on the provision made for you by the Father. When the Lord is your shepherd, you shall not be in lack.
Now if God so clothes the grass of the filed, which today is and tomorrow is thrown not the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? (Matthew 6:30)
You see what the problem is? It is “little faith.” It is not faith totally absent, but faith ungrasped, unexercised, unactivated. Its one thing to have faith, but quite another to live by it.

Most people, even many Christians, have no idea where faith comes from and how to use it. In fact, they don’t even realize that faith comes from somewhere and that there are definite ways to activate it. To them, faith is something like a fog that rolls in and can easily roll out again.

But the Bible says that faith comes from somewhere, and in a specific manner. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17).

Ah, faith comes by hearing — but not just hearing any old thing. It comes by hearing the Word of God. You see, God’s Word is life, an incorruptible seed. When we receive that seed by hearing and meditating upon it, it gives birth to faith in our hearts. That’s a work of the Holy Spirit, sowing that seed and brooding over it within our spirit. The life of faith comes from that seed, believing what God has said in His Word. That’s why the man in Psalm 1 is such a blessed man — He constantly meditates on the Word of God, believing the promises and receiving their benefit.

Many people meditate on the lies of the devil — that’s what worry is all about. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God; worry comes by hearing the lies and accusations of the devil.

There are also definite ways to activate, or exercise faith. Jesus said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you” (Luke 17:6).

The Word of God is a seed; faith is a seed. But it is not enough just to have them. You must plant them. The way you plant them is by speaking them out. You can say to the mulberry tree and it will obey you.

Many people speak out all their worries and fears. They are always talking about their problems and how things are getting worse. But nothing will ever get solved by worrying, and it will never get them anywhere with God.

The Bible says that, without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). In other words, faith pleases God. Worry does not. Faith pleases God because it comes from Him in the first place; worry does not come from God but from the enemy. Faith is believing what God has said; worry is believing the whispers of the evil one.

Worry cannot add one cubit to your stature. It cannot make you any taller, although it might make you shorter as you hunch and slump under the burden of care. But I heard of man who added to his stature, not by worry, but by faith. His desire was to be on the police force in his community, but he was too short to qualify. With a strong sense of call to this work, he began to exercise his faith, believing God to make him tall enough to meet the requirement. And so he was. Worry could not do that. But faith certainly did.

I heard another man who believed the promise of God in Psalm 103:5 and began to confess, “God satisfies my mouth with good things, so that my youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” One of the visible results is that his hair, which had been graying, began to turn dark again. Worry can only turn your hair gray, but faith can renew your youth and vitality.

Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For after all these things the Gentiles [pagans] seek. For your heavenly Father knows you need all these things. (Matthew 6:31-32).

“Do not worry, saying …” Notice that worrying is exercised by what you say, just as faith is. You have a choice about what you can say. You can speak words of worry, whispering fear over your life, or you can speak words of faith, confessing the Word of God over your life. (Hint: choose faith)

You see, it always comes back to God. That is why Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. Faith is activated by believing the Word of God in your heart and speaking it with your mouth. Faith and worry do not mix. Therefore, speak only words of faith over your life.

Monday, December 27, 2004

A Vision Concerning the First Nations

Yesterday in worship, I heard the Lord speak to me about awakening and revival among the Indian tribes, the First Nations. They have been on my heart for the past five or six weeks (around the time of Thanksgiving, which seems very appropriate). I have found myself crying out the word “heya” in praise and prayer. It arises in Indian chants and appears to be a phonetic filler word, a sort of Indian madrigal. White people say “fa la la;” Indians say “heya” (perhaps I have understood that usage wrongly — if so, I welcome correction).

As I have called out that word, the Lord has shown me new significance. I think of “Hey, Yah” — calling out to the God whose name is Yahweh. Yah is a “nickname” of Yahweh. We find it in Psalm 68:4, “Extol Him who rides on the clouds by His name Yah.” It is also the Yah in Hallelu Yah, a.k.a. hallelujah —“Praise Yah!” Also, in Hebrew, the verb for being (i.e., “is” and “am”) is hayah. This appears to be the basis for the name Yahweh, the God who Is.

And so my worship has, of late, been punctuated with heya / hayah / Hey, Yah!

Well, yesterday in worship, a heavy travail was upon me for the First Nations, particularly the Seminoles, the tribe that is local to me in Tampa, FL. This was aided by the drums in worship, which had somewhat of an Indian sound. At one point in the service, we were saying Yes to the Lord, giving ourselves to Him in obedience and openness of heart to whatever He wants to do in and with us. Pastor Rick then identified for us that we were not saying it just for ourselves, but also for the sake of others. That is when travail broke heavy upon me and I began to weep. I ended up face down on the floor, gushing snotty tears.

I heard the Lord say that 2005 would be the year for great awakening and revival in the First Nations. Now, I recognize that the Lord has already been starting a mighty work among them, but what I was hearing is that it is going to break loose in a powerful way in this coming year.

In particular, I saw the Seminole nation coming into this great move of God. I saw the name of Jesus being lifted up in the tribal councils. I saw Him in the midst of the Seminole people, as every knee bowed before Him in worship. I saw the Hard Rock Café, in Tampa, become The Rock Café, no longer a house of gambling, but a house of the Sure Thing. No longer were people coming away from it impoverished, but they came rejoicing in the prosperity of God.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Wise Men Discern Kings

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea I the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:1-2).
Two years have passed. The infant Jesus is now a “young Child.” Angels in the heavens had announced His birth to shepherds. A star in the East signified to the Wise Men.

The Greek word for “wise men,” magi, refers to a group of philosophers and priests, probably of Medo-Persia, who were interested in medicine, astronomy and related sciences. Though probably not kings, they would certainly have been sought out by kings for their wise counsel and insight.

The Magi in Matthew apparently had some access to the Hebrew Scriptures and developed an interest in Messiah. When they saw the star, they were put in mind of a prophecy in Numbers 24 spoken by Balaam. Balaam was a mercenary prophet hired by the Moabite king for utter a curse on Israel. But try as he might, Balaam was quite unable to perform that task. Instead, he brought forth a far-reaching declaration from heaven.
The utterance of him who hears the Words of God,
  and has the knowledge of the Most High …
I see Him, but not now;
  I behold Him, but not near;
A Star shall come out of Jacob;
  A Scepter shall rise out of Israel.
(Numbers 24:16-17)
This Star in Numbers is Messiah blazing with the authority of heaven. The scepter speaks of His rule over the earth from the midst of His people. In Matthew, the “star” is the Greek aster, and literally means “rising.”

The Magi stated their purpose: “We have seen His star [His Rising] in the East and have come to worship Him.” They came to honor the King of the Jews, to bow before Him, to reverence and adore Him, to kiss Him and honor Him with tribute

Now go to Jerusalem. Herod has found out about this trek. He gathers the Jewish priests and scribes to find out where this Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem of Judea” comes the answer, based on the prophesy of Micah 5:2:
But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
  Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
  Who will shepherd My people Israel.
Having discovered the place, Herod then summoned the Magi to determine the time the star appeared. “That I may come and worship Him also,” he says falsely. His real intent is to kill this rival king, though this was not yet apparent.

The Magi followed the star on to Bethlehem, full of joy when they realized their journey’s end and set their eyes on the young King. They fell down on their faces and worshipped Him. Then they arose and opened their treasuries and presented Jesus with gifts. Do not suppose that these were three little jars, Whitman’s Samplers. No, the Magi dug deeply into their treasuries and brought out their gifts in great quantity — they were honoring a King!

Now, understand that we do not know how many Magi were on this mission. Traditionally, they are numbered as three, but there is no real indication of this in Scripture. There were three gifts presented, but there may have been many wise men presenting them. There may well have been a whole company of Magi, along with an entourage — quite a conspicuous caravan.

The gifts of the Magi were very significant, demonstrating the wisdom and prophetic insight of these men.
  • Gold ~ a gift befitting a King.
  • Frankincense ~ a gift that honors the deity of this King.
  • Myrrh ~ a gift that recognizes the humanity of this King.
Having worshipped Jesus and bestowed their gifts upon Him, the Magi departed. But they were warned by God, in a dream, that they should not return to Herod, and they returned to their home by another way.

Joseph, a dreamer himself, was warned that Herod was out to destroy Jesus. God told him to take Jesus and Mary into Egypt. When Herod’s men came to Bethlehem, they found the Holy Family had departed.

Herod was furious. He commanded the slaughter of all young boys in Bethlehem, two years old and under, “according to the time which he had determined from the wise men” (Matthew 2:16).

The Magi were men of discernment, studying the Scriptures, believing the Word and following wherever it led them. They correctly discerned the kings. They offered no worship to Herod, brought him no gifts. They held their honor for the true King only and worshiped Him alone. As they honored God, God honored them, and brought them safely home.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Truth Lying in a Manger

And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 1:7)
What happened to all the wonderful promises of God which had been announced to Mary by the angel Gabriel? This child was supposed to be a king — the eternal heir to the throne of David. He was the Holy One of Israel, the Son of God. How could He be making His entrance into the world in a lowly stable. How could He be wrapped in commons strips of cloth and cribbed in the feeding trough of animals?

Mary was unperturbed. In the natural realm, all these things simply did not add up. Ah, but Mary was no longer meditating on the natural. Her heart was fixed on the spiritual. She lived in the natural, but she dwelt in the Spirit. She was unmoved by physical circumstances. She pondered the promises of God.

The manger and the stable and the lack of accommodations in the inn were merely facts. But Mary was tapped into the truth. The truth was everything that had been spoken to her by the Lord’s messenger. She received that rhema word and rejoiced in it. She magnified the Lord and let the things of God so fill her heart that there was simply no room for anything else to come and disturb the calm state of her soul. The facts mattered little to her, for facts change and must eventually come into alignment with the truth. When Mary cradled her infant Son, she held onto the Truth, and so possessed herself in the peace of God.

Rejoice in the promises of God. Let His Words fill your heart. Embrace the Truth, for Truth is a Person — the Lord Jesus Christ — and He has come to deliver you and restore you to full and complete fellowship with God.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Rhema of God

Let it be to me according to your word. (Luke 1:38)
The angel Gabriel continued his answer to Mary concerning how this great prophecy would be fulfilled. He drew upon the testimony of Elizabeth:
Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible. (Luke 1:36-37)
The Greek word translated “indeed” is actually the word translated “behold” in verse 31. Gabriel was calling on Mary to behold something again, only this time, it was something she could verify with her natural senses, though its significance still required spiritual understanding. Mary certainly understood that Elizabeth’s conception was miraculous. For Elizabeth, who even in her younger years had been barren, was considerably beyond childbearing years — and yet she was now in her sixth month of pregnancy.

“For with God nothing will be impossible.” Instead of “nothing” read “no thing.” Same meaning in English, but I want to reveal the underlying Greek word. That word rendered "thing" is rhema. “With God, no rhema will be impossible.”

So, what is a rhema? It is a word that is acutely spoken or articulated. It is an utterance or saying that has a personal application meaning. In the Bible, it is often a word directly delivered from God. That is why, with God, no rhema will be impossible — because it comes from Him in the first place. His Word will not return fruitless but will be fulfilled in all His purposes.

No wonder Gabriel twice enjoined Mary to behold, for he was bringing a word from the Lord, a rhema that required her full attention and spiritual vision.

Mary’s reply to this was quick and succinct: “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Mary was speaking very directly — “Behold!” Gabriel, who had brought a revelation of God’s heart, was now receiving a revelation of Mary’s heart.

Mary presented herself as the “maidservant of the Lord.” She had seen the servant-heart of God, and now she responded to Him in kind (the initiative always belongs to God). Surely, this is one of the mysteries angels intensely desire to look into and are craning their necks to see (1 Peter 1:12).

“Let it be unto me according to your rhema.” Her heart was lined up with God’s and she was in full agreement with His Word. She received this wonderful Word, believing it in her heart and confessing it with her lips. Heaven and earth were coming together. His Word would now be fulfilled in her. His kingdom would now come, and His will would now be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

“And the angel departed from her.”

Paul says that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word (rhema) of God (Romans 10:17). Mary heard the Word of God delivered by the angel, and faith rose up within her. She believed it, she spoke it, it was done.

When God impresses His Rhema upon your heart, let it do its work in your spirit. As your heart fills up with it, begin to speak in agreement with it. Give yourself completely to the Lord. Let His servant-heart develop within you a like heart. Then speak out in full agreement with His promise for you: “Let it be to me according to Your Word.”

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Overshadowed by the Holy Spirit

Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

And the angel answered and said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you” (Luke 1:34-35).
The angel Gabriel had spoken to Mary about wondrous things which would take place — things which would not only change her life, but change her world completely for the better.

“How can this be?” she asked. This was not a question of unbelief, or even doubt, as was Zechariah’s question. Zechariah asked in unbelief: “How shall I know this?” In mercy, Gabriel silenced his lips that he might learn to hear.

No, Mary’s question was faith seeking understanding. And so Gabriel explained: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Highest will overshadow you.” In other words, this was not about man but about God.

This was a God-thing, and reminiscent of the Creation: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2). The Holy Spirit was brooding over the earth, overshadowing it.

On the Sixth Day, God said, “Let us make man in Our image” (Genesis 1:26). The root of the Hebrew word for “image” literally means “to shade.” We can read this verse: “Let us make man in Our shadow. Let us overshadow Him with Our likeness.” When God created Adam, breathing into his nostrils the divine breath of life, He was overshadowing him.

Now the Holy Spirit would brood over Mary, and the power of God would overshadow her, to bring forth the Second Adam.

“That Holy One who is to be born,” the angel continued, “will be called the Son of God.” This was fully humanity and full divinity coming together, the eternal Son of God, Second Person of the Trinity, taking upon Himself human flesh.

God overshadows us still. Jesus said, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you” (Acts 1:8). This was fulfilled at Pentecost, in Acts 2. The Greek words for the Holy Spirit coming upon Mary are the same words used for the Holy Spirit coming upon the disciples.

Later, in Acts 5, we see this Holy Spirit power in action as people lined the way where Peter passed, bringing their sick out on beds and couches, that the shadow of Peter might “fall on” them. The Greek word for “fall on” is the same word for “overshadow” in Luke 1:35. In Luke, this overshadowing produced new life in Mary. In Acts, it produced healing in as many was were touched by it.

Jesus has come, and all who receive Him can now walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, overshadowed by the life-changing glory of God.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Christmas in Zion

For the LORD shall build up Zion;
  He shall appear in His glory.
He shall regard the prayer of the destitute,
  And shall not despise their prayer.

This will be written for the generation to come,
  That a people yet to be created may praise the LORD.
For He looked down from the height of His sanctuary;
  From heaven the LORD viewed the earth,
To hear the groaning of the prisoner,
  To release those appointed to death,
To declare the name of the LORD in Zion,
  And His praise in Jerusalem,
When the peoples are gathered together,
  And the kingdoms, to serve the LORD.
(Psalm 102:17-22)
Is this not the promise of Christmas? Has not the LORD heard from heaven? Has not Messiah come to set prisoners free, to deliver lives from destruction, to declare the salvation of God?

The time shall come, and it shall be fulfilled that all peoples and nations shall gather together before the LORD, to serve Him and love His name.

O come, let us adore Him — Christ the Lord!

Monday, December 20, 2004

Beholding the Favor of God

Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call his name JESUS. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the LORD God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end. (Luke 1:31-33)
Having greeted Mary as the “highly favored” of God, the angel Gabriel begins to describe, in wondrous terms, what that favor was about to mean in her life.

“Behold!” the angel said. The word means “to see.” But in the Bible it is generally used to mean more than merely seeing with the natural eye. What the angel was telling Mary to behold had not yet happened and could not yet be seen in the natural.

No, the angel was drawing Mary’s attention to the spiritual. This is not less real than the natural, but more real, because the natural comes forth from the spiritual by the Word of God. To behold means to carefully consider, to focus on and give attention to. To behold in the spirit means to let the Word of God become more real to you than what you can see with your physical eyes. It is believing what God says more than what your senses say.

“You will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son.” Gabriel was using the language of the prophet Isaiah, “Therefore the LORD Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son” (Isaiah 7:14). The messianic significance of this was not lost on Mary.

“And shall call His name JESUS.” His name literally means, “Salvation,” certainly a most appropriate name for God’s burden-lifting, yoke-destroying Anointed One.

“He shall be great and will be called the Son of the Highest.” An exalted Name used of an exalted Person, and in context is indicative of His divinity. Mary was called to envision the greatness of this Child.

“And the LORD God will give Him the throne of His father David.” This is a reference to His humanity — for Jesus is fully human as well as fully divine. There is a throne and an inheritance which rightfully and legally passes to Him in the lineage of David. Again, it is of great messianic significance.

“And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” This speak of His dominion and of His eternity. As we see later in the New Testament, there is a broadening of this house which is called the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16).

The angel was calling Mary to see in the spirit that which had not yet manifested in the flesh. Nor would it manifest in the flesh until she could see it in the spirit. The Word of God was being spoken to her, and that is what she was called to see. For that is how God works. The Bible says, “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 speaks in the Spirit and then it is seen in the natural.

It takes spiritual vision to see the great things God desires to bring forth in the natural. If you will learn to see in the spirit that Word of God by which all things are made, then you will be able to see the world change before your natural eyes. How is your vision?

Sunday, December 19, 2004

The Highly Favored of God

Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. (Luke 1:30)
The angel Gabriel had been sent to Nazareth, a city in the Galilee district, to Mary, who was betrothed to Joseph. He said, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”

That was quite a greeting — to discover the great favor of God so fully upon her life. She did not know what to make of it. How could it be? She was just a young woman, a teenager.

The angel reassured her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” Yes, God was for her, not against her. Not only that, He was ready to extend the full weight and authority of His goodness and power on her behalf. For that is what the word “favor” means. It is the Greek word charis — grace!

God’s grace was making an entrance into the world in a manner and fullness never seen on earth before, and it was now being announced to this young Jewish girl. This grace was not just for Mary, but for the sake of the whole world. Mary was blessed as the vessel of entry for this new and ultimate expression of God’s favor upon mankind.

Mary was highly favored of God, but so are you if you have received the Lord Jesus Christ. Are you ready to believe the favor of God and receive this great blessing? Are you ready to walk in the power of it, backed by the decree of heaven and the love of God?

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Tapping Into the Limitless Thinking of God

My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness
and Your salvation all the day,
for I do not know their limits”
(Psalm 71:15)
The word for “shall tell” means to enumerate, to list, to articulate. David, the psalm writer, was saying, “I could list out the righteousness and salvation of God all day long and I would not reach the end of it. In fact, I don’t know any limit to the goodness and rightness of God on my behalf.”

There are no limits in God. What is more, there is no limit to His goodness toward those who trust in Him. There is no limit to what He will do for His people.

Since there is no limit to God’s mercy and grace toward us, we need to develop limitless thinking in our walk with Him. Our thoughts are limited because we are limited. They are finite because we are finite. But God’s thoughts are far above our thoughts:
For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
(Isaiah 55:8-9)
However, this does not mean that we cannot know His thoughts. God, out of His limitless thinking, sent His thoughts to the earth so that we could know them and walk in His ways. He sent His word to the earth like rain and snow, and His words reveal His thoughts to us.
For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater — so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth. It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11).
We were created to walk in His ways. Our minds were not made to think our own thoughts — that only happened as a result of the Fall, when Adam became spiritually disconnected from the mind of God. Our minds were made to think the limitless thoughts of God, and we will be doing that throughout eternity.

We can know the thoughts of God. This is important because our faith is limited by our thoughts. But if there were no limit to our thinking, then there would be no limit to our faith. So, the solution is simple — stop thinking your thoughts, and start thinking God’s thoughts.

Begin by putting your hand on the problem — that’s right, place your hand on the top of your head—and say this: “My mind was not made to think my own thoughts. My mind was made to think the thoughts of God.”

How do we think the thoughts of God? How do we tap into the mind of God? Here a three effective ways to begin:

First, set your heart on obedience to the will of God. Have an attitude that, whatever God reveals to you, that is what you are going to do. Jesus said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority” (John 7:17). If we are prepared to do the will of God, we will know His will. It will be revealed to us.

Second, get into the Word of God. It contains the mind of God. God has revealed His thoughts to us in His Word. Therefore, spend a lot of time in the Word. Focus your attention on it and study it carefully. Meditate on it deeply and let it renew your thinking.

The Bible says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). Our understanding was not made to be our master or our guide. It was made to be our servant, the interface between the mind of God within us and the world around us.

Let the Word of God be your understanding and guide you into the thoughts of God. You can spend the rest of your life meditating on the Word of God, and it is so deep, you will never touch the bottom of it. You will never get to the end of it. God’s thoughts, revealed in His Word, are limitless.

Third, pray in the Spirit. The Apostle Paul said that the man who prays in a tongue speaks mysteries (1 Corinthians 14:2). In the Bible, a mystery is a secret, not one that God is keeping from us, but one that God is revealing to us. When we pray in a tongue, Paul says, the understanding of the mind is unfruitful (v. 14). The mind does not understand — it is a mystery. But the spirit prays and understands perfectly well.

This is the mind of God coming from heaven, by the Holy Spirit into our spirit, through our spirit and into our mouth, Thus the mind of heaven is spoken into the world, heaven and earth coming together in a powerful way. These are mysteries, the mind of God coming from heaven, being revealed in our spirit by the Holy Spirit. The Bible says,
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him”

BUT God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God…. No one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.
(1 Corinthians 2:10-11)
Paul said that this is the mind of Christ (v. 16). Though it is a mystery to the understanding of our minds, this revelation of the mind of God will often eventually percolate forth into our understanding. So Paul was able to conclude, “I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding” (1 Corinthians 14:15).

As you receive the limitless thoughts of God, by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, and your faith is not hindered by your own understanding, you will begin to walk in limitless ways and experience the abundance of God in every area of your life.

Definition: Faithfulness

Faithfulness — the ability to walk in faith, exercise faith, be full of faith.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Apply the Pressure of Praise

I have become as a wonder to many,
But You are my strong refuge.
Let my mouth be filled with Your praise,
And with Your glory all the day.
(Psalm 71:7-8)
This psalm was probably written by David, quite possibly when he was deposed from the throne by his son Absalom. He was experiencing “great and severe troubles” and needed to be brought up “from the depths of the earth” (v. 20). Such circumstances were not particularly new in his life — he had experienced many difficult times before. But he learned how to deal with them and gain the victory, and that is what he is now doing in this psalm.

“I have become a wonder to many.” The Hebrew word for “wonder” means miracle, sign or wonder, something everyone could see. Here was David, who had risen so high and was now brought so low. His enemies were amazed and took this as a sign of their victory. His friends wondered, “How can this be?”

Nevertheless, David turned to Yahweh as his strong refuge. The Hebrew word for “strong” which is used here reveals forcefulness, security, even majesty. Even in the midst of his severe troubles, David found in the LORD a majestic citadel, strong and secure.

Having come to this place of trust in the LORD, David dedicated himself to praise and honor Him. “My mouth shall be filled with Your praise.” The word for “filled” means that his mouth was consecrated, set apart for praising God. His mouth was so full of praise, there was no room for anything else.

When you find yourself in crisis, what you do with your mouth can either sink or save you. You can speak out of fear or you can speak out of faith. You can begin cursing or you can begin praising. However, a mixture of both — fear and faith, cursing and blessing — will not do. “A double-minded man is unstable in all his way. Let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:6-7). It must be nothing but faith and praise that comes out of your mouth if you want to see the victory.

It is a matter of the heart. Jesus said that the mouth speaks out of the abundance of the heart. David understood this, for the LORD called David a man after His own heart. In other words, David was always turning to the LORD, trusting in Him and giving Him honor and glory. So when the pressure came, out of the abundance of David’s heart, his mouth brought forth praise and glory to God.

The psalm continues, “But I will hope continually and will praise You yet more and more” (v. 14) David set his expectation on the LORD. The pressures in his life did not cause him to back down one bit — he kept on looking to God. In fact, he even turned up the heat on his worship: “I will praise You yet more and more.” When trouble escalated its pressure, he escalated his praise. He applied the pressure of worship — pressing in for God.

“My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness and Your salvation all the day” (v. 15) The words “shall tell” literally means to enumerate, to list out. It is not a generic little thing he is doing. He is talking about a declaration of praise that is definite, particular, specific. It is thoughtful and articulate.

“All the day.” Just as there was no room in his mouth for anything but praise, so there was no room in his day for anything but enumerating God’s goodness and rightness, and the salvation that comes from the LORD. Why talk about the problem when you can talk about the solution.

“For I do not know their limits.” Though David listed out and articulated the righteousness of God, it was more than he could ever show. He had never experienced the limit of God’s goodness to him. There was never a time when God said, “No, David, that’s all I’m going to do for you.”

The Apostle Paul well understood this. He prayed for the believers at Ephesus that they would be able “to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height — to know the love of Christ which passes all knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19). This love is so profound and intense that Paul slipped into wondrous doxology: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20).

David did not know the limits of God’s rightness, goodness, love or grace because, for those who turn to the LORD, there are none.

Now also when I am old and grayheaded,
O God, do not forsake me,
Until I declare Your strength to this generation,
Your power to everyone who is to come. (v. 18)

David may have been an old man nearing the end of his life, but he was not about to let go, or be let go, from life until he declared the strength and power of God to the next generation. This was not about David — this was about Yahweh, and the manifestation of His strength, His victory.This is how David could say with confidence,
You, who have shown me great and severe troubles,
Shall revive me again,
And bring me up from the depths of the earth.
You shall increase my greatness,
And comfort me on every side. (vv. 20-21)

Revival, restoration, increase, greatness and comfort. David was not in despair; he was in faith! He had great expectation because he offered great praise to a great God.

No one is immune to great and severe troubles. So learn to be like David, who followed after the heart of God. Always turn to the LORD, in good times and bad. Dedicate your mouth to His honor alone. Whenever troubles arise, apply the pressure of praise, and never stop — press on to victory!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Possessing the Prosperity of God

A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows,
God in His holy habitation.
God sets the solitary in families.
He brings out those who are bound into prosperity.
But the rebellious dwell in a dry land.
(Psalm 68:5-6)
Here we see the prosperity of God. It is a prosperity birthed in love, because God IS love.

We often think of prosperity in terms of finances. Think bigger. Prosperity certainly includes finances, but is by no means limited to them.

In this psalm, we discover that the prosperity of God toward the fatherless is to be a father to them. There may be many ways a person becomes fatherless: through death, through imprisonment, through abandonment, through abuse, even through neglect. But God will be a Father to all who turn to Him, for that is His nature and the tenderness of His heart. The essence of fatherhood is inheritance. Because God becomes father to all who turn to Him, they find their inheritance in Him.

The prosperity of God toward widows is that He becomes their defender, their provider, their advocate in every situation. God is all about being a husband. For example, Israel is spoken of as His wife, so much so that, when she strayed by following after other gods or turning her trust toward the nations, it was seen as an act of betrayal and infidelity, even adultery. The passion of God for His bride is dramatically portrayed in the Song of Songs, a poem of deep intimacy and tenderness. In the New Testament, we see Christ and His bride, the Church.

The prosperity of God toward the lonely is to bring them into families, into community, into fellowship. He sets them into relationship within a house, which speaks of purpose and destiny.

The purpose of God is to free all those who are bound, whether by emotional bondage, cursed lives, poverty or lack, even sickness. He brings them out to prosperity — freedom, stability, blessing, provision, and health. The Apostle John, who had a profound revelation of the love of God, demonstrated that love when he said, “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 God begins with the inner man, the heart. That is why the last line in our text says, “But the rebellious dwell in a dry land.” The rebellious is the one who has turned away from God. He has hardened his heart against the Father. He dwells in a desert land, not because of God’s unwillingness to bless, but because of his own unwillingness to receive. His heart and his hand are closed toward the very source of life and blessing.

It is a holy habitation to which we are called. All those who answer that call, who turn to the Father heart of God, who commit themselves to Him, will find in Him their Father, their Husband, their place of belonging, and their source of freedom and blessing. They will experience His tender mercies and the sweet intimacy of His presence, and they will become the possessors of His glory.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

One Thing

Watching “City Slickers” today. My favorite scene is when Curly (the cattle boss played by Jack Palance) and Mitch (the city slicker played by Billy Crystal) are riding together and talking about life. Curly has just nailed Mitch’s problem on the head:
Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?
Mitch: No, what?
Curly: This. (Curly holds up one finger)
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing.
And that’s the secret of life!

David said, “One thing I have desired of the LORD. That will I seek forever” (Psalm 27:4).

When Jesus was visiting and teaching at the home of Martha and Mary, Mary sat at His feet while Martha busied herself in service and was distracted by it. After a while she came to Jesus and complained, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell here to help me.” Siblings.

Jesus answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41).

It is very easy to get worried, troubled and distracted by many things, but God calls us to only one thing. “I am the LORD your God … you shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:2-3). Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). We are not even to seek the other things, just the one thing. Then all the other things will be taken care of.

Our hearts are big enough for one thing only. Soren Kierkegaard said, “Purity of heart is to will one thing, and that the good.” When there are two things, our hearts go back and forth, wavering between them. It is double-mindedness. James said, “Let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:7). David said, “Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your name” (Psalm 86:11 NIV).

David realized that only one thing was necessary, and sought after it diligently: “That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in His temple” (Psalm 27:4). At the time, he and his army were surrounded by the enemy, and could easily have been overwhelmed. “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living” (v. 13). But he pursued the one thing, the only needful thing — the presence of the LORD.

Martha was distracted by many things. Mary sought only one — the presence of Jesus. “Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

All we really need is one thing — the presence of the LORD. And that is the secret of life.

Friday, December 10, 2004

The Inebriating Rivers of the Holy Spirit

Doing research for a new book (Miracles and Manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the History of the Church), I came across this item, a commentary by Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers (AD 315-367) on Psalm 64 concerning the Holy Spirit.
Psalm 65:9,10 “Inebriate its rivers, multiply its generations. He will rejoice in its misty rain, when it arises.” [Hilary is obviously working from a Latin translation.]

Hilary’s comments: “The Holy Spirit is called a river. When we receive the Holy Spirit, we are made drunk. Because out of us, as a source, various streams of grace flow, the prophet prays that the lord will inebriate us. The prophet wants the same persons to be made drunk, and filled to all fullness with the divine gifts, so that their generations may be multiplied…. We begin to have insight into the mysteries of faith, we are able to prophesy and to speak with wisdom. We become steadfast in hope and receive gifts (plural) of healing. Demons are made subject to our authority.”

[Kilian McDonnell and George T. Montague, Christian Initiation and Baptism in the Holy Spirit: Evidence from the First Eight Centuries. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical 1994, Second, Revised Edition, pp. 183-4. Citing Hilary, Tract on the Psalms, 64:14; CSEL (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum) 22.246.]
However well Hilary may have captured the essence of this psalm passage, he gives us an interesting insight into the mind of the fourth-century Church: There is a fullness, an inebriation of the Spirit that brings forth words of wisdom, words of prophecy, a boldness of faith, gifts of healing and authority over the demonic. Hilary speaks of them as being fully present in his day.

Jesus promised the disciples, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8). On the day that happened, the Spirit-filled disciples were mistaken for drunken wine-bibbers, so much so that when Peter rose up to speak, he began, “These are not drunk, as you suppose… but this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:15-16).

Paul also knew of this Holy Spirit inebriation: “Do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). Being filled with the Spirit is very different from being filled with wine. The filling of wine leads to wasteful strife. But the filling of the Spirit leads to fellowship and unity — singing to each other with Spirit-led psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord, giving thanks always to Him, and submitting to one another (Ephesians 5:19-21).

These are the Rivers of Living Waters. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). John notes for us that Jesus was speaking of the Holy Spirit (v. 39).

Step into the flow of the river of God and let the inebriation of the Holy Spirit come upon you. Become drunk in Him, letting Him direct you in all you say and do. Care not for you own will and ways, your own strength and gifts, your own understanding. Yield yourself, and control of yourself, to the Holy Spirit of God. Let His River flow through you.

Thursday, December 9, 2004

Led By Light and Truth

Oh, send out Your light and truth!
  Let them lead me;
Let them bring me to Your holy hill
  And to Your tabernacle.
Then I will go to the altar of God
  To God my exceeding joy;
And on the harp I will praise You,
  O God, my God.
(Psalm 43:3-4)
The psalm writer was desperate for the joy of the Lord. So he cried out to God that he might be led by Light and Truth, all the way into the dwelling place of the LORD.

David said that in the presence of the LORD there is fullness of joy, and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11). In another place he said,
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.
(Psalm 36:7-9)
So in Psalms 42 and 43, the psalm writer longed for the house of the Lord, the tabernacle of the Most High. He was unsatisfied and he wanted to be abundantly satisfied, so he cried out for Light and Truth.

This has “Jesus” written all over it. For He is the fountain of life. “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). He is the Light which gives light to every person coming into the world (John 1:9). This light shines in the midst of the darkness and the darkness can NEVER swallow it up (John1:5).

Jesus is also the Truth. He said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). You see, truth is first of all a person—the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31).

Get into relationship with the Truth. Let His words abide in you. Then you will find yourself coming into an intimate, experiential knowledge of and personal relationship with the Truth. And when you do, you will find that you have come into a place of freedom.

“Send out Your light and truth, let them lead me.” That is what the light and truth of God does. That is what Jesus does. He leads us, shepherds us along the way we should go. When we follow Him, He will lead us to the tabernacle of the Lord, for He is Himself the Lord’s tabernacle. Jesus is the fully divine Son of God forever clothed in humanity. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

All who receive the Lord Jesus Christ are now also the tabernacle of the Lord, the dwelling place of God. We are living stones being built up as a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5). We are the dwelling place of joy, for the LORD is our exceedingly great joy, and in His presence is fullness of joy. In His presence are pleasures forevermore, and He gives us to drink for the river of His pleasures. Everything else pales in comparison.

The Flow of Favor and Prosperity

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)
This is a wisdom psalm that tells you how to be blessed. Wisdom invariably leads you down the path of blessing.

Who is the person being blessed here? The one who considers the poor. The poor are those who are helpless, powerless. To consider them means to act prosperously toward them, to cause them to prosper, to give guidance and direction, to instruct in wisdom.

The way to blessing is all one — it all flows in one direction — but there are many facets to it. In Psalm 1, the blessed man is the one who continually meditates on the Word of God. He is the same man who will seek to prosper the helpless, because that is what he finds in his meditation on the Word. Because he opens his heart to bless others, he comes to a richer understanding and fellowship with the LORD of all blessing. He not only receives the blessing, he understands the heart of blessing, and so he knows how to walk in it day by day.

Now, to be blessed is to be made prosperous with the prosperity of heaven. It is the grace and favor of God—all the power of heaven extended on your behalf. It is sowing and reaping, as we see demonstrated here. Sow prosperity into the lives of others, and you will reap prosperity in your own life. It is the will of God being done on earth as it is in heaven.

Note how David details the blessing in this instance:
  • Deliverance in time of trouble. Rescued, released into freedom.
  • Preserved and kept alive. Guarded, protected, hedged about on all sides.
  • Blessed on the earth. The favor and prosperity of God manifest in this life.
  • Kept from the will of his enemies. God prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies (Psalm 23:5).
  • Strengthened on his bed of illness. Encouraged, refreshed, stabilized in time of illness.
  • Sustained on his sickbed. Restored to health by the power of God.
Bless the poor and God will bless you. Show favor to the poor and God will show favor to you. Prosper the poor and God will prosper you. The blessing is not static, it is a flow that keeps refreshing and giving life. So live with an open heart and an open hand, which are thus able to both give and receive. The blessing of God is a river — let it flow.

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

The Expression of Joy Godward

You have filled my heart with greater joy
Than when their grain and new wine abound.
(Psalm 4:7 NIV)

Those who sow in tears
Shall reap in joy.
(Psalm 126:5)
The song of joy is inherently the song of thanksgiving. W. E. Vine defines thanksgiving as the expression of joy Godward (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words).

Joy is the anticipation and celebration of harvest. The prophet Joel foretold a time of harvest joy for the people of God:
The LORD will answer and say to His people, “Behold, I will send you grain and new wine and oil, and you will be satisfied by them; I will no longer make you a reproach among the nations.” … Be glad then, you children of Zion, and rejoice [shout for joy] in the LORD your God; for He has given you the former rain faithfully, and He will cause the rain to come down for you—the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month. The threshing floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil. (Joel 2:19, 23-24)
This speaks of the time of Messiah, who releases Pentecost. Pentecost was the harvest festival of Israel, a time of returning thanks to the LORD and celebrating His goodness. The Pentecost of God, prefigured by all other Pentecosts, was the promise of the Holy Spirit being given by the Father to His people.

Before Jesus ascended to His heavenly throne, He told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for this promise to be fulfilled: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). This happened ten days later — fifty days after the Passover, when Jesus was offered for the sins of the world. (The word “Pentecost” means “fiftieth.”)

Because Jesus came at Christmas, and went on to Calvary, we can now live in the great harvest celebration of God. It is the time of feasting on the Living Bread — Jesus, of drinking deeply of the new wine of His Spirit, and of living powerfully in the oil of His anointing. Sing the new song and release the expression of joy Godward.

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Songs of His Presence

In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalm 16:11)
Christmas is a season of joy! It is about the presence of the Lord, so it MUST be about joy, because in His presence is fullness of joy. That’s why there are so many carols sung at this time of year. The word “carol” comes from kara, the Greek word for “joy.”

Isaiah prophesied of Messiah: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). Matthew’s Gospel declares, “So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet saying, ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us’” (Matthew 1:22-23).

Jesus is “God with us.” Fully human, yet fully divine. He IS the presence of the Lord. As He said to His disciples, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

Joy is all about the presence of the LORD. If you need joy, the answer is simple — get into His presence. Get in His Word, the Scriptures, and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the heart of the Father to you. An old rabbinic proverb says, “When two study Torah, there is the Shekinah.” In other words, when two get together to study the Word of God, the Glory-Presence of the LORD shows up.

So, get in the Word and let His presence begin to fill you. Then begin to lift up and exalt His name. The Bible says that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, and His salvation is nothing buy joy.

What is the name of the LORD, the name of salvation? It is JESUS! In Hebrew, His name is Yeshua, the word for “salvation.”

Sing the songs of joy, songs of His presence, the carols celebrating the birth of Christ, God with us. Press into His presence. He is there with you. He is at the malls and shopping centers. He is there in all the schools, secular and otherwise. He is there in all the office buildings downtown. Call out His name and give yourself completely to Him who gave Himself completely to you. There you will find Him, and He will fill you with the joy of His presence.

Monday, December 6, 2004

One Thing I Have Desired

The LORD is my light and my salvation;
  Whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the strength of my life;
  Of whom shall I be afraid?
(Psalm 27:1)
David begins with this declaration. It turns out that, in the natural, the enemy is lining up against him. But he is not focusing his attention on that. Instead, he is singing a praise to Yahweh. Darkness is gathering around him, but he is declaring Yahweh to be his light. He is confessing Yahweh as his deliverer, his rescuer, his salvation. In himself, he has no strength. It matters very little, for he proclaims Yahweh to be the strength of his life. No fear here. No need for it.
When the wicked came against me
  To eat up my flesh,
My enemies and my foes,
  They stumbled and fell (v. 2)
David brings to mind past deliverances, how Yahweh came to his rescue and his enemies fell.
Though an army may encamp against me,
  My heart shall not fear;
Though war may rise against me,
  In this I will be confident. (v. 3)
God delivered him in the past, God will deliver him now. God has not changed. God has not disappeared. Therefore, David has a deep, abiding confidence in God. He is secure because he takes his refuge in Him.
One thing I have desired of the LORD,
  That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD
  All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD,
  And to inquire in His temple. (v. 4)
Never mind how the enemy was waiting to swallow him up. David was focused on something more important, something which was the key to his victory. Forget the armies, forget the trash talk of the enemy. There is something far more significant which David desired with fierce passion and sought intently. It is his sole request of the LORD:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD.
This was David’s focus—to dwell, to take up residence, to make his abode, to become established in the house of God, in the very presence of Yahweh. He did not want to be a tourist, he wanted to know it as home for the rest of his life.
To behold the beauty of the LORD.
There was something he longed to gaze at intently, to perceive deeply, to contemplate thoroughly. He intensely desired to behold, have visions of, and prophesy the beauty of Yahweh—how pleasant, agreeable, delightful, marvelous, gracious and majestic is the LORD. We become life whatever we behold, and nothing remains the same when we learn to behold the LORD.
And to inquire in His temple.
The Hebrew word for “inquire” is baqar and literally means to plow, or break forth. It is to thoroughly seek out and consider. David wanted such a deep revelation of Yahweh and an intimate experience of His presence, so that he might consider everything in his life in the light of it. To “plow his fields” in the intimate knowledge of God. To hold nothing back, but to break forth with all the issues of his life in the presence of the LORD.

What is your desire? Where do you dwell? What are you beholding? What controls your perspective?

Saturday, December 4, 2004

Yahweh, Show Whose Side You’re On

Show Your marvelous lovingkindness by Your right hand,
O You who save those who trust in You
(Psalm 17:7)
David, the psalm writer, is here asking God for a marvelous display of His hesed, His covenant love and mercy. He wants God to set it apart and make it distinct, to put on a wonderful show of it that may be seen and experienced by all. “Distinguish Your favors,” would be a literal translation here. We might even paraphrase it, “Show whose side You’re on.”

David is invoking the right hand of God, calling on the power of God to deliver him from his present distress. For the right hand represents power, the ability to do things. It is not haphazard, there is an intentionality inherent in it. In the New Testament, we see that the Lord Jesus Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father (Ephesians 1:19-20). He is the highest expression of God’s covenant love and salvation.

“O you who save.” This is addressed to Yahweh, the covenant name of God. The word for “save” here is yasha. This is the salvation that comes from Yahweh, and again points to Jesus. The Hebrew name of Jesus is Yeshua, which means “Yahweh saves.”

There are times when we cannot discern the hand of God in our affairs, and we just go on and trust the revelation of His heart toward us. But it is more the norm for us that we should run to Him for refuge and protection, to watch for and expect the strength of His arm, His right hand, to come forth on our behalf.

“Show us Your love, O Lord, by Your right hand.”

Trust in the heart of the Father, and expect His love to be shown by the manifestation of His hand.

Friday, December 3, 2004

What Can the Righteous Do?

In the LORD I put my trust;
  How can you say to my soul,

"Flee as a bird to your mountain,
  For look! The wicked bend their bow,
They make ready their arrow on the string,
  That they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart.
If the foundations are destroyed,
  What can the righteous do?"

The LORD is in His Holy temple,
  The LORD’s throne is in heaven;
His eyes behold,
  His eyelids test the sons of men.
(Psalm 11:1-4)
Here are two guys. One is becoming unhinged, the other is unflappable. One thinks this is all about what the righteous can do, the other recognizes that this is all about God. One thinks the foundations have been destroyed, the other knows that Yahweh is the foundation, and He has not budged on inch — never has, never will.

There is never a need for hiding in fear. The need is for walking in faith. God has not given us the spirit of fear, as Paul told Timothy, but of power, love and sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). Faith and fear are opposed to each other. The result is that faith mixed with fear is severely compromised.

The LORD in His temple. He is seated on His throne. A throne is a place for ruling and reigning. In other words, God is still in charge. You knew that already, and you probably already knew that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, far above all principality, power, might and dominion. That’s what Paul said in Ephesians 1:20-21.

But did you know that, if you have received the Lord Jesus Christ, you are seated with Him in the heavenlies as well. That’s what Paul said in Ephesians 2:6. In other words, you also are enthroned in the heavenlies with the Father and the Son, far above all principality, power, might and dominion.

So what can the righteous do?
  • First, get the kingdom perspective, and make it your priority. Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Keep your eye on God and trust in Him, and everything will be taken care of.
  • Second, remember where you are seated (Ephesians 2:6).
  • Third, learn what the Lord’s Prayer means when is says, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” You see, as a Christian, you are an agent of the kingdom of God. You can call the kingdom forth on earth (“Your kingdom come” is in the imperative). You can call for the will of God to be done on earth just as it is done in heaven (“Your will be done” is also in the imperative). So look and see what the will of God is like in heaven, and call for it to be done on the earth.
Q: What can the righteous do? A: The LORD reigns.

First Things

Going over some research for Miracles and Manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the History of the Church, I came across this item and filed it for future reference. It does not pertain to my book, but it does pertain to my heart. It comes from Basil the Great (circa AD 330-379), a Christian leader and teacher from Cappadocia:
The time which you lend to God is not lost. He will return it to you with large interest. Whatever difficulties may trouble you, the Lord will disperse them. To those who have preferred spiritual welfare, He will give health of body, keenness of mind, success in business, and unbroken prosperity. And, even if in this life our efforts should not realize our hopes, the teachings of the Holy Spirit are none the less a rich treasure for the ages to come. Deliver your heart, then, from the cares of this life and give close heed to my words. Of what avail will it be to you if you are here in the body, and your heart is anxious about your earthly treasure?
Homily 3, “On the Firmament.”
Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8
Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

There is only one priority — seeking God’s kingdom and His way of doing and being right. Everything else flows from that. Its all good.

Thursday, December 2, 2004

We Need the Blessing

Blessed is the man … (Psalm 1:1)
We need the blessing. It is not a luxury, it is a necessity. If we are not living under the blessing, then we are living under the curse. Those are the only choices. So, we need the blessing — not just a blessing, the blessing.

You see, the blessing comes from heaven, from God. It is the power of heaven itself being extended on our behalf. Jesus taught the disciples to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” That is what the blessing is, the kingdom of God coming forth, the will of God being done on earth as it is in heaven.

Jesus came and went to the Cross so that we could be delivered from the curse and receive the blessing:
Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:13).
God wants us to have the blessing, to live in the blessing, to walk in the blessing, to enjoy the blessing with Him. Because the blessing is all about God.

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

God is Full of Faith

Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments. (Deuteronomy 7:9)

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:9)

God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
The testimony of Scripture, in both the Old and New Testaments, is that God is faithful. In the Old Testament, the word for “faithful” is the Hebrew aman. We find the same word in Genesis 15:6, speaking of Abraham’s faith: “He believed [aman] God, and He [God] accounted him for righteousness.”

You might recognize that aman sounds very much like amen.” That’s because they are cousins, and follow the same principle of faith. When we say “amen,” as in prayer, it means that we are believing that prayer to be answered (At least, we are supposed to be believing for the answer. Of course, many people have no real idea what “amen” means. For them it has become little more than a tagline.)

In the New Testament, the word for “faithful” is the Greek pistos, the same word for “faith.” You see, God is very much a God of faith. In fact, He is “full of faith” as the English word “faithful” literally means. Consider the faith of God:
  • Jesus told the disciples, “Have faith in God” (Mark 11:22). Literally, the Greek means “Have faith of God.”
  • Paul said, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Faith does not come from us, it comes from God, and is itself a gift of God. God cannot give what He does not have.
  • Faith is a fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, … faith” (Galatians 5:22, KJV). All these fruits are brought forth in us by the Holy Spirit because they all come from God.
You see, the nature of Biblical faith is to believe the Word of God. If we do not believe God and what He has said, then in Bible terms, we are in unbelief.

The Bible says that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for” (Hebrews 11:1). That is, faith is the underlying reality of what we expect to see fulfilled. Is that not what God does when He speaks His Word? He has every expectation of seeing it happen. For example, when God created the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1, and darkness was on the face of the deep, God said, “Let there be light.” He believed what He said and had every expectation that light would appear. The result: “And there was light.”

That is how it always is with God. When He speaks His Word, He expects it to be fulfilled. The LORD said through the prophet Isaiah, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). That is faith.

Faith, believing the Word of God, is how God Himself operates. “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 had confidence in His own words. He did not go by what was visible, but by what He was saying — His will being expressed in His words.

If God is full of faith in His own Word, then ought we not also to be full of faith in His word, believing God to fulfill everything He says? If God operates by faith in everything He does, ought we not also to operate by faith in God’s Word in everything we do? No wonder Hebrews 11:6 says that, without faith, it is impossible to please God, because faith is what God Himself is all about.

So when Jesus said, “Have faith of God,” He was teaching the disciples to line up with the way God does everything. That is why He could then go on to say, “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says” (Mark 11:23). [By the way, the word “assuredly” there is the Greek word amen, a powerful word of faith.]

God is full of faith, and we can have the kind of faith that God has. Therefore, we can operate in the same way God operates, speaking His Word and expecting it to be fulfilled.