Monday, January 31, 2005

Faith Pleases God

But 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 diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)
Faith pleases God. In fact, without faith, it is impossible to please Him. But the Bible says that, by faith, “the elders obtained a good testimony” (Hebrews 11:2). That is, God was pleased because they believed Him.

This is what happened with Enoch. “By faith Enoch was translated so that he did not see death … for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God” (v. 5). This is the evidence that Enoch was full of faith: He pleased God.

The Greek word “please” is emphatic. It is not about being merely pleased, but being well-pleased, fully and entirely gratified. God takes the greatest pleasure when we believe Him. Biblical faith arouses God’s pleasure and fully satisfies Him.

Faith is the only basis by which we may approach God. We do not come on the strength of who we are and what we have done. We come because of who He is and what He has done.
He does not delight in the strength of the horse;
He takes no pleasure in the legs of a man.
The LORD takes pleasure in those who fear Him,
In those who hope in His mercy. (Psalm 147:10-11)
The Bible says that those who call on the name of the LORD shall be saved (Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21). We call on His name, with faith that He is there, and that He is who He says He is. We call on His name, trusting that He will do what He says He will do.

So, faith is not about us and our works, but about God and His Word. Faith is believing the Word of God, for that is how faith comes, by hearing the Word (Romans 10:17). God is fully pleased with those who believe His Word and greatly displeased with those who don’t.

God rewards those who diligently seek Him, that is, those who seek Him by faith. This means that our focus is on God alone — His will, His way, His Word — and not on ourselves. The heart that diligently seeks God says:
  • God’s ways are higher than my ways; I want God’s ways.
  • God’s thoughts are higher than my thoughts; I want God’s thoughts.
  • God’s works are greater than my works; I want God’s works.
At Lakewood Church, in Houston, Texas, Pastor Joel Osteen begins every service by holding up his Bible and making this powerful declaration: “This is my Bible. I am what it says I am; I have what it says I have; I can do what it says I can do.”

This is the kind of faith that pleases God and lays hold of His reward.

Faith — taking God at His Word — pleases God. Trust completely in Him, and in yourself not at all. Believe that He is who He says He is and that He will do for you what He says He will do. That simple faith will please God, and His pleasure will result in your delight.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Faith is Evidence

Faith is … the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
The Greek word for “evidence” is elegchos, which means proof or conviction. A. T. Robertson translates this phrase as “the proving of things not seen.”

The English word “evidence” refers to that which is obvious or can be seen. This might seem to be a funny way for the author of Hebrews to talk about things which are not seen. But he is making a point about things which can be seen with the natural eye, and things which are seen apart from the natural eye. He is talking about seeing things in the Spirit.

Just as faith is the substance, or underlying reality, of the promises of God which we expect to see fulfilled, faith also makes evident, or obvious to our spirit, the things which we cannot yet see in the natural. Faith is able to make it obvious to us on the spiritual level because faith is itself a spiritual matter. It comes from the Spirit of God by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17).

The Greek word used here for “things” is pragma, which is where we get our English word “pragmatic.” It refers to things which are under consideration, things which have been, or are being accomplished.

These things are accomplished on the spiritual level even though they are not yet visible on the natural level. This is the true nature of things — first the spiritual, then the natural. The natural comes forth from the spiritual, because all the natural realm was created by God, who is Spirit.

Hebrews 11:3 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.” In other words, everything that is now seen comes from that which is invisible, namely, the Word of God.

Faith lays hold of the Word of God, and makes it obvious to us that what God has promised is being accomplished at the spiritual level, even though we do not yet see it at the natural level.

Paul understood this well, for he instructed the Corinthian believers, “We walk by faith, not by sight.” First comes faith, then comes sight.

Jesus taught the disciples this same principle, although in a bit different way. “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (Mark 11:24).

Notice the tense of Jesus’ words. He did not say, “Believe that you will receive” (future tense) but rather, “Believe that you receive” (present tense). The NASB has this as “believe that you have received.”

This is significant. The receiving does not happen when we see it manifest in the natural. The receiving occurs when we pray believing. First comes believing, then comes receiving.

Believing leads to receiving; faith leads to sight; the spiritual leads to the natural. The pattern is consistent throughout. What we see by faith in the spiritual, we will eventually see by sight in the natural. Faith is the evidence.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Faith is Substance

Faith is the substance of things hoped for. (Hebrews 11:1)
The Greek word for substance is hupostasis and refers to the underlying (hupo) state (stasis) of a thing. Similarly break down the English word “substance” and we find: sub (under) and stance (stand). Substance is that which stands under a thing.

In Greek, the word hupostasis had a legal meaning which signified a foundational document, such as a title-deed. That is why Greek scholars Moulton and Milligan rendered this translation: “Faith is the title-deed of things hoped for.”

A title-deed is an important document. It shows ownership. For example, I have a car sitting in my driveway. I know that it is my car because I possess the title-deed, which demonstrates my ownership. If anybody wants to do anything with my car, they have to come and see me, because the car belongs to me. If I decide to sell the car or give it away to somebody, I will have to sign the title-deed over to them, because that will be their proof of ownership

If I have the title-deed to a piece of property, I do not even have to see the property to know that it belongs to me. I know it is mine by reason of the title-deed. As long as I possess that title-deed, there is no question that I am the owner.

Let’s talk a little bit about hope. Today we often use the word “hope” in a wavering, doubtful sort of way: “Gee, I certainly hope such and such will happen, but maybe it won’t.” Not so in the Bible. The Greek word for “hope” in the New Testament is elpis. It refers to an anticipation, a positive expectation. The same is true of the Hebrew word for “hope” in the Old Testament. In the Bible, “hope” is not a word of doubt, but of confidence, and that is how it is used in Hebrews 11:1.

Now, let’s put it all together: Faith is the substance, the underlying reality, the title-deed of things we are expecting.

Remember that we are talking about Biblical faith, that is, the kind of faith the Bible talks about. It is the faith that comes by hearing the Word of God, the faith that believes the promises of God.

When we believe what God has promised in His Word, we possess the title-deed to whatever it is that He has promised. That thing is ours, it belongs to us. Because we have believed God’s promise, we have every right and expectation to see it come to pass. It makes no difference whether or not we have seen it yet, it belongs to us anyway.

Do you have faith that what God says is true? What promises of God are you specifically believing Him for? Do you expect to see them happen, or are you still uncertain? Remember that faith (believing the Word of God) is your title-deed to what God has promised, then your hope will be sure.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Faith Comes By Hearing

Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. (Romans 10:17)
In the Biblical concept of faith, faith is believing what God has said. That means that faith is integrally related to the Word of God. If it is not related to the Word, then it is not faith.

According to Paul’s statement above, which he addressed to the Christians at Rome, there is a particular way in which faith arise within, or comes to a person. There are also particular ways in which it may not be said that faith comes.
1. Faith does not come by seeing. Paul said, “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Some people say, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” But the trouble is that our eyes can so easily deceive us. We do not see in order to believe, we believe in order to see.

2. Faith does not come by feeling. Biblical faith is not an emotion. It may often be accompanied by an emotional elation, but it is not itself an emotion. Real faith endures even when the emotional high fades away. Emotions do not lead us into faith, but faith leads us into healthy emotional balance.

3. Faith does not come by thinking. Biblical faith is not a matter of the mind, but of the spirit. It is not antithetical to thinking, or logic or reasoning, but it transcends them. Faith goes beyond where our limited thoughts can take us. We do not understand in order to believe, we believe in order to understand.

4. Faith does not come by will-power. Biblical faith is not a matter of volition. It is not a choice, though it may involve a choice. It is not a matter of “bucking up” and believing. A faith driven by will-power may be very sincere, and yet be sincerely wrong. Faith must have a proper basis. We do not make something true by choosing to believe it, we discover the correct choice by believing the Word of God.
Faith comes by hearing. Hearing is receiving what has been spoken, and what we receive by hearing settles into our spirits. However, Biblical faith does not come by general hearing, receiving anything and everything that we hear. For we might hear the wrong thing and end up believing the wrong thing.

“Faith comes by hearing” is a very important truth. But the second half of Paul’s statement is equally important: “Hearing by the Word of God.” It is only when we hear and receive the Word of God that true Biblical faith comes to us.

The Word of God comes by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. When we hear the Word, the Holy Spirit takes and plants it in our spirit, and faith begins to arise within us.

The Word of God is our starting point for faith. Get into your Bible and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal it to you. Receive the Word and meditate on it. Let it settle into your heart and instruct your emotions. Let it transform you by renewing your mind. Let it direct your will and every choice you make.

The Glory Comes

Above it stood seraphim…And one cried to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
The whole earth is full of His glory!”

And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. (Isaiah 6:2-6).
Isaiah saw the LORD on His throne, high and lifted up. The seraphim exalted God in His holiness with wave after wave of praise and worship. With each new wave, the doorposts of the temple shook and the whole place was filled with smoke, and the glory of God manifested before Isaiah’s eyes.

Today, the temple of God is not a building of stone, but is found in the hearts of His people, in whom He dwells. This is certainly true of the Church as a corporate unity, for the Apostle Peter said, “You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).

It is also true of each individual believer in Jesus Christ. Paul said, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price: therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

We are the temple of the LORD, and He is in residence. As we learn to see Him high and lifted up in our hearts and exalt His name in our lives, there will be a shaking and cloud of glory.

The shaking comes to remove everything in us that does not come from God, and therefore does not belong in our lives. God shakes out all the things that cannot be established in us, because they do no come from Him, in order to establish in us things that can never be shaken.

The cloud of glory is the presence of the LORD. “And it came to pass, when the priests came out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD” (1 Kings 8:10-11).

The glory of the LORD is the manifestation of His greatness and goodness. When His glory is with us, we cease from our own efforts, our own strength, our own glory, to rest in His. He abides in us; we abide in Him.

Lift the name of the LORD up high over everything in your life. Let Him abide in your heart, and let your heart abide in Him. Let Him shake out the things in your life that do not belong, and establish wonderful new things in you which can never be shaken. Let Him be your strength and your glory, and your life will be marked with His power and goodness.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Prepared to Declare God's Glory

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
  The whole earth is full of His glory!”

And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.
(Isaiah 6:1-4)
The seraphim are the fiery beings who minister before the LORD. Their name comes from the Hebrew seraph, which signifies fire. God is a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24). He makes His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire (Psalm 104:4). Jesus came to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Luke 3:16). Fire is a purgative, a cleansing agent. Fire purifies.

The seraphim are six-winged creatures. With two wings they cover their face, and with two wings they veil their bodies, because of God’s awesome presence. With two wings they hover round about God’s throne to serve at His pleasure.

They cry out to one another, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts.” This is no static demonstration. They cry out continually to one another with the holiness of Yahweh, each time with fresh wonder and revelation. Their song is always new.

“The whole earth is full of His glory.” The Hebrew word for “glory” is kabod. It speaks of the weight, the abundance, of God’s goodness.

The glory of the LORD fills the earth. This is not a reference to some future event, or when Christ returns. It is a now revelation: Right now, at this very moment, the earth is full of God’s glory. It always has been. There was never a moment when this was not so.

The reason we have not experienced the fullness of God’s glory and goodness in the earth is because of sin. Sin renders us incapable of receiving it. For our sakes, God shields us from the bright fire of His glory, lest we be destroyed by it because of our iniquity.

Each time a seraphim proclaimed the holiness of God, the door posts were shaken, and the temple was filled with smoke. Isaiah felt the weight of God’s glory and became keenly aware of his own unworthiness, his incapacity to bear it. He cried out.
Woe is me, for I am undone!
  Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;
  For my eyes have seen the King,
  The LORD of hosts.
(Isaiah 6:5)
To be undone means to utterly perish, be cut off and destroyed. Isaiah had witnessed this in King Uzziah, who had been cut off and destroyed because of his arrogance before God. The uncleanness of pride in his heart showed forth as the uncleanness of leprosy in his flesh. But now Isaiah was seeing the true King, the LORD of all the hosts of heaven. And now he realized the uncleanness of his own heart, and recognized how that had filled his lips. For just as Jesus said, it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.

Isaiah was now in full repentance mode, not only for himself, but for his people, as well. He identified himself with their leprous hearts and corrupt lips, painfully acknowledging that he was just like them. He held back nothing before the LORD, but exposed himself completely. No justifications, no explanations, only repentance.

God, in His goodness, brought forth a solution.
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it and said:

“Behold, this has touched your lips;
  Your iniquity is taken away,
  And your sin is purged.”
(Isaiah 6:6-7)
The seraph, fiery servant of the LORD, took a live coal from the altar of God, the altar which was kindled by God and burns perpetually before Him (Leviticus 9:24; Leviticus 6:12-13). He touched the coal to Isaiah’s unclean lips and burned away all the iniquity. Now Isaiah was prepared to declare the glory of God.

God has a solution for you and me, as well, so that we might know His glory. The Bible says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). It is the ultimate cleansing, preparing us not only to experience the goodness of God for ourselves, but also to reflect His glory to others.

Dreaming Unto Gladness

When the LORD brought back the captivity of Zion,
  We were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
  And our tongue with singing.
Then they said among the nations,
  “The LORD has done great things for them.”

The LORD has done great things for us,
  And we are glad.
(Psalm 126:1-3)
Dream — a communication from a deeper realm, a vignette from the spiritual dimension. Dreams bring to light things thought impossible, or improbable, and bid us to follow on to the place of hope and gladness.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Seeking God—and Finding Prosperity

He did what was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. He sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God; and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him prosper. (2 Chronicles 26:4-5)
This was God’s assessment for much of King Uzziah’s 50 year reign:

  • He did what was right in the sight of the LORD. This was something he learned from his father, an important spiritual inheritance that was communicated to him.
  • He sought God. This speaks of intense desire and diligent pursuit. It was not an occasional musing in which he engaged himself, but a consistent lifestyle of following after the LORD and His ways. It was a deliberate action, a setting of his heart toward God.
  • As long as he sought the LORD, God made him prosper. The word for “prosper” means to push forward, to break out, to come mightily, to go over and be profitable.
True prosperity is built on a foundation of diligently seeking God and following His ways.

Verse 15 goes on to say that Uzziah’s fame spread far and wide “for he was marvelously helped till he became strong.” The word “marvelously” is a word of distinction. This was exceptional and extraordinary, the favor of God surrounding him without limit, stabilizing his position and making his prosperity secure.

God was the source of Uzziah’s prosperity, and it lasted as long as Uzziah sought the LORD. Sadly, pride entered in and Uzziah began to seek himself instead, and on that day all his prosperity was lost.

God is all about prosperity. In fact, it is impossible for Him not to prosper. If you will seek after the LORD with all your heart, you will find yourself in the presence of you prosperity. As Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” God will show you His extraordinary favor, and so shall you prosper.

Who is High and Lifted Up?

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. (Isaiah 6:1)
This was Isaiah’s life-changing vision of the Lord. It not only transformed him forever but called forth things of God which have forever changed the world.

Now, Isaiah’s opening sentence is not a mere chronological reference. For it does not just tell us about the calendar, it tells us about the times in which Isaiah lived and the people to whom he was called to prophesy.

You can find out about King Uzziah in 2 Chronicles 26, where we see God’s assessment of his life and reign. “He did what was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. He sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God; and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:4-5).

King Uzziah did well for fifty years (quite a long reign for those times). “His fame spread far and wide, for he was marvelously helped till he became strong” (2 Chronicles 26:15). Uzziah sought after the LORD and the LORD helped him marvelously. Divine favor was upon him and he prospered and became strong.

But something happened when Uzziah became strong. It did not have to happen. There was nothing about his strength and prosperity which made what happened next inevitable. But it happened anyway. Here is what we read about Uzziah in the very next verse:
But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the LORD his God by entering the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. (2 Chronicles 26:16)
His heart was lifted up. It was lifted up, not because he was strong and prosperous, but because he did not keep his heart well. He let pride come in. He presumed upon God and unjustly assumed that he could go wherever he wanted to go and do whatever he wanted to do. He thought that the rules no longer applied to him, that the kingly anointing which was upon him also fitted him for priestly duty.

Azariah, the chief priest, went in with eighty priests of the LORD and called Uzziah down because of his arrogant behavior. “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have trespassed! You shall have no honor from the LORD God” (2 Chronicles 26:18).

Uzziah became furious, still standing with the censer in his hand, ready to burn incense. And as he foamed and fumed at the priests, right at that moment and in that very place in which he had no business being, leprosy broke out on his forehead. The uncleanness of his heart suddenly became manifest in his body. This sign of leprosy made it apparent to all, especially to Uzziah, that he had no right to minister in the Temple.

“King Uzziah was a leper until the day of his death. He dwelt in an isolated house, because he was a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the LORD. Then Jotham his son was over the king’s house, judging the people of the land” (2 Chronicles 26:21). Uzziah not only lost his health, he also lost his reign.

Jotham reigned only sixteen years. He did what was right in the sight of the, the Scripture says, “but the people acted corruptly” (2 Chronicles 27:2). Pride, the uncleanness of Uzziah’s heart, had infected the nation.

So these were the conditions in which Isaiah had his vision: the tragic end of a prosperous and healthy reign, and the uncleanness of an entire people.

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up,” Isaiah says.

Uzziah saw Uzziah high and lifted up. Isaiah saw the LORD high and lifted up. Who is high and lifted up in your life?

Its not about us, its always about God. When we lift ourselves up, we will always meet with failure and loss. But let us learn to see the LORD high and lifted up, and we will be properly oriented for a life of prosperity, strength and joy. For God will marvelously help us.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Exalting the Name of Jesus

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)
Many Christians look forward to the day when Christ returns, and every knee bows to Him, and every tongue confesses that Jesus is Lord. The coming of Christ will certainly bring this to pass in all its fullness. This passage in Philippians, however, is not just talking about some future day. It is just as much for us today. In fact, it was just as true for the believers in the first century. It is an eschatological teaching — God’s truth about the “last days.”

Biblically speaking, we have been in the “last days” for almost two thousand years, ever since the Cross. For that is what precedes the “therefore” in Philippians 2:9. (Whenever you see a “therefore,” find out what its “there for.”)

The Cross is the reason God has exalted Christ and given Him the name which is above every name. First the Cross, then the exaltation. That is God’s way.

Friends, we are now living in the time of the exaltation of the name of Jesus, the time when every knee must bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord. Notice that it is at the name of Jesus that every knee shall bow.

Many Christians are waiting for the return of Christ for every knee to bow. However, it is not just at the return of Jesus that every knee shall bow, but at the name of Jesus. In other words, we do not have to wait for the Second Coming for these things to happen.

We can see them come to pass now, if we will exalt the name of Jesus. You see, Jesus has given us the authority of His name:

He has given us authority to bind and loose in His Name. “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. Again I say to you that it two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered togetherin My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:18-20).

When we come together in Jesus’ name, that is, for His purposes and pleasure, the very presence of Jesus begins to manifest, and He never shows up without His authority. So it is in His name, acting on His behalf, that we have the authority to bind and loose upon the earth.

He has give us authority to ask anything of the Father in His name. “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you” (John 15:16).

“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).

We are given the authority of Jesus’ name for the purpose of bringing forth fullness of joy and bearing fruit that remains.

He has given us the authority to perform signs and wonders in His name. “And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover. (Mark 16:17-18)

This is part of the Great Commission which Jesus has given to His Church. It was for then; it is for now. We are called to exalt the name of Jesus, to act on His behalf in the world. As we exercise the authority of His name, demons must acknowledge that He is Lord and bow before Him. Sickness and disease must flee. New tongues come forth to praise and exalt His name and declare His Lordship.

Every believer has authority to bind and loose in the name of Jesus. We have authority to ask in His name. We have authority to cast out demons and lay hands on the sick in His name and expect to see them recover. For at the name of Jesus, every knee must bow before Him, and every tongue must confess that He is Lord. Our job is to believe this and exalt His name over every situation.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

In Praise of Mercy AND Justice

I will sing of mercy and justice;
  To You, O LORD, I will sings praises.
(Psalm 101:1 NKJV)
The KJV has “I will sing of mercy and judgment.”

We don’t often like to think of mercy and judgment together. We tend to think of them as violently opposed to one another. We make it an either/or proposition: Either mercy, or justice, not both. But David sings of both mercy and justice, for they both belong to God, and they are both good, worthy of all our praise.

We can easily understand how the mercy of God is good, especially when we recognize how much we are in need of God’s mercy. But God’s justice is equally good—and equally necessary. We think that God’s justice is against us, but it is really intended for us.

You see, it is the judgment of God that comes and sets everything right, that restores what has been stolen, mends what has been broken, heals what has been stricken. God has a plan of blessing and abundance for the earth, and it is His judgment that works to bring everything into line with that plan. If His justice fails, then His good plan fails as well.

Mercy and justice must go together. Without justice, mercy is meaningless, for at the end of the day, everything remains a botch-up, a mess, a curse and not a blessing. On the other hand, without mercy, justice is a hollow victory, for God will have no one left to enjoy it with Him, and His blessing goes unfulfilled.

But, praise to God, He found a way to fulfill both mercy and justice. God had mercy on us in the Lord Jesus Christ, who came and took the severe judgment of God upon Himself. Jesus was judged instead of you and I, and when we receive Him, the mercy of God judges us as having been brought into line with His plan of blessing. And so His plan is fulfilled and His victory is sweet.

Praise God for both His mercy and His Justice. For His justice comes to set things right, and His mercy comes to set us on the right side of His judgment.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Greater Than the $42 Million Inaugural Ball

Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns;
  The world also is firmly established,
It shall not be moved;
  He shall judge the peoples righteously.”

Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
  Let the seas roar, and all its fullness;
Let the field be joyful, and all that is in it.
  Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the LORD.

For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth.
  He shall judge the world with righteousness
  And the peoples with His truth.
(Psalm 96:10-13)
Yesterday we witnessed the inauguration of a president, but this psalm speaks of a much greater rule and reign — a divine enthronement. George W. Bush is President of the United States, but Yahweh is the Lord Almighty, King Over All.

Unlike many earthly kings and rulers, the LORD judges rightly. The judgment of God may at times seem to be a terrible, fearful thing, especially to those who are on the wrong side of that judgment. But it is really a good thing, because the judgment of God comes to set things right, to shake out what is evil and to establish what is good.

When God judges, He judges with righteousness. That is, He does what is right, and in the rightness of His judgment, there is a revelation of truth. When we know the truth of God, it sets us free. This is not merely a theoretical or philosophical understanding of the truth, but a personal, experiential relationship with the one who is Himself the Truth — the Lord Jesus Christ.

What a difference the truth and righteousness of God’s reign makes:
  • "Let the heavens rejoice.” The Hebrew word here means to be joyful, blithe, gleeful, merry.
  • “Let the earth be glad.” The word here refers to spinning, whirling, twirling with wild exuberance.
  • “Let the seas roar and all its fullness.” The oceans and all that is in them joins in the celebration.
  • “Let the field be joyful and all that is in it.” The Hebrew here literally means to “jump for joy.”
  • “Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the LORD.” The word for “rejoice” here literally means to “shout for joy.”
The kingdom of God is a party! Not a quiet observance or somber commemoration, but a wild, enthusiastic, joy-filled party. The President’s $42 million dollar inauguration extravaganza is small potatoes next to this blow-out celebration of God’s rule and reign.

The lanterns for His great party have been strung and the light shines brightly in the darkness, for all who will turn toward this kingdom and draw near. Moses saw these party lights burning in a bush. The voice of God called out for him to take off his sandals (his man-made works), step onto the dance floor and let the holiness of God completely transform his life.

Jesus calls us all to the party. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). “I have come that you may have life, and that you may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). The kingdom of God is His rule and reign, and this righteousness is about His way of doing and being right. Jesus IS that way, the way of faith that, when we entrust ourselves to Him, brings forth the abundance of God upon the earth

This celebration is growing exponentially. For not only are we called to follow in the way of God’s kingdom celebration, we are also commissioned to call it forth. Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). One day God’s kingdom reign will be made known in all its fullness, and there will be no place on earth where it is not celebrated.

Come with Jesus and join the celebration of God’s rule and reign. Call for His kingdom to come forth in greater measure, the will of God being done, and the earth will become much more like heaven.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Psalm 911

I dwell in the secret place of the Most High
And abide under the shadow of the Almighty
I say of Yahweh, “My Refuge and my Fortress,
My God in Whom I Trust.”

Surely, He shall deliver me from the snare of the fowler.
From the perilous pestilence.
He shall cover me with His feathers,
And under His wings I shall take refuge.
His truth shall be my shield and armor.

I shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Of the arrow that flies by day,
Of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.

A thousand may fall at my side,
Ten thousand at my right hand.
But it shall not come near me.
Only with my eyes shall I look,
And see the reward of the wicked.

Because I have made Yahweh my refuge,
The Most High my dwelling place,
No evil shall befall me,
Nor shall any plague come near my house
For He shall give His angels charge over me,
To keep me in all my ways.
In their hands they shall bear me up,
Lest I dash my foot against a stone.
I shall tread upon the lion and the cobra
The young lion and the serpent I shall trample underfoot.

I have set my love upon Yahweh,
Therefore, He will deliver me.
He will set me on high,
Because I have known His name.
I shall call upon Him, and He will answer me.
He will be with me in trouble
He will deliver me and honor me.
With long life He will satisfy me,
And show me His salvation — His Yeshua, JESUS!
(adapted from Psalm 91 by Jeff Doles)
Notice the abundance of God’s names in this Psalm: Most High, Almighty, Yahweh (LORD), My Refuge, My Fortress, My God in Whom I Trust, My Dwelling Place. We might even add, My Shield and Armor.

And then there is the name of Jesus, hidden in the English text, but clear in the Hebrew. It is the name Yeshua, the name which literally means “salvation.” In the New Testament, this name is rendered as Jesus.

In this Psalm, the LORD says, “I will set him on high, because he has known My name.” There is a relationship indicated here where the psalm writer knows the LORD and the LORD knows the psalm writer. This knowledge is personal and intimate.

The psalm writer knows the LORD because the LORD has revealed Himself to the psalm writer in experiential ways. The names used by the writer indicate the breadth of these experiences.

Along with the psalm writer, say of the LORD, “My Refuge and My Fortress, My God in Whom I Trust.” Then you will begin to dwell in the secret place of the Most High and abide in the shadow of the Almighty. Set your love on the LORD and call on His name, and He will show you His salvation — Jesus!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Fully Authorized Agents of Heaven

Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6.10)
Notice that the mood of these phrases is in the imperative. That is, they are not requests, but commands:

Kingdom of God, come!
Will of God, be done on earth as it is in heaven!
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus has given us the authority to exercise these commands. To put it another way, we are fully authorized agents of heaven.

Our authority comes from heaven, and it is given to us to exercise upon the earth.
  1. Wherever we see a situation on earth where the kingdom of God is not manifesting, we have authority to call God’s kingdom forth.
  2. Wherever we see a situation where the will of God is not being done, a situation that is out of sync with heaven, we have authority to call for God’s will to be done.
We need a revelation of who we are in Christ, of what He has commissioned us to do, and of the authority and power we have been given in the name of Jesus to perform it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

What’s it Like in Heaven?

Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6.10)
No doubt, you recognize this sentence from the Lord’s Prayer. It is what Jesus taught His disciples to pray. Here are few questions for you to chew over:
    • Was it God’s will, in Jesus’ day, for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven?
    • Is it God’s will today for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven?
    • What is it like in heaven?
    • Is it a place of blessing or of cursing?
    • Of provision or of lack?
    • Of prosperity or of poverty?
    • Of health and wholeness or of sickness and disease?
    • Is it a place of death or of life?
    • What would the will of God being done on earth as in heaven look like?
    • Can we pray for provision and expect to receive it?
    • Can we pray for healing and expect to receive it?
    • How about raising the dead? Can we pray for that and expect to receive it? (Jesus sent the disciples out to, among other things, raise the dead — and they did! And there are many instances in Church history of the dead being restored back to life — but that’s an article for another day.)
      Jesus said, “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (Mark 11:24).

      Monday, January 17, 2005

      The Overflow of Harvest This Year

      This is a year of Great Overflow, a year of Great Harvest. Will it be a great year for you? That depends. What have you been sowing? You will have a harvest this year. Will it be a blessing or a bane?
      Whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. (Galatians 6.7)

      He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. (2 Corinthians 9:6)
      Sow blessing, reap blessing.
      Sow evil, reap evil.
      Sow stingily, reap stingily.
      Sow bountifully, reap bountifully.
      “Behold the days are coming,” says the LORD,
        “When the plowman shall overtake the reaper,
        And the treader of grapes him who sows seed;
      The mountains shall drip with sweet wine,
        And all the hills shall flow with it.”
      (Amos 9:13)
      If you’ve been sowing well, get ready to reap well. If you’ve been sowing poorly, repentance is a wonderful thing — a place of beginning again. Start sowing well.

      No Rules, Just His Rightness

      (with thanks to Outback, from whom I have adapted this title)
      Beloved, I prayer that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. (3 John 2).
      God wants us to prosper in all things and be in health. That is His will and desire for you and me. Even more than that, He wants us to have prosperity in our souls, for that is how all other prosperity comes forth.

      Some people look at “just as your soul prospers” and think, “Aha. Rules !” But that is not at all what God is talking about here. Prosperity of soul is not about keeping rules and tallying points to see if you can somehow be good enough to merit.

      Forget rules, forget merit, forget trying to earn something from God — you’ll never make it. You can never tick off enough accomplishments, never perform enough maneuvers, never change yourself enough to earn true prosperity.

      As in all things in the Christian life, so it is with soul prosperity: Its not about you, its about Him. No rules, just right. But it is not about your rightness, it is about His. It is not about your life flowing through you, it is about His.

      The Apostle Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

      Soul prosperity is not about keeping rules, or even about trying to do right. It is about giving up. It is about quitting from all that and surrendering to Jesus Christ. We do not live by rules, requirements, systems or scorecards. We live by relationship with the Son of God, living this earthly life by faith in Him, believing all He has said, trusting all He has already done for us, and letting the life of His Spirit flow through us. That is true prosperity of soul — no rules, just His rightness.

      Sunday, January 16, 2005

      Words That Literally Change the World

      The spiritual realm is greater than the physical realm because the physical realm comes forth from the spiritual. For God is spirit (John 4:24), and He is the creator of the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:10).

      The natural, physical realm was created by words — that is, the Word of God. “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).

      We are authorized to speak the Word of God on the earth. The psalm writer said, “With my lips I have declared all the judgments of Your mouth” (Psalm 119:13).

      Consider the power of the words that come out of your mouth. Consider how greatly the world could change if we learned to put God’s Word in our mouths.

      Saturday, January 15, 2005

      All Authority in Heaven and Earth — In Our Midst!

      Where two or three are gathered in My name, I am there in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20)
      Whenever we come together in the name of Jesus, to act as He would act and ask as He would ask, we can be assured that Jesus is present with us. This is not the general omnipresence of God, but His special manifest presence. It is a revelation of Jesus.

      As I was thinking about this the other day, the Holy Spirit reminded me of what Jesus promised the disciples in the Great Commission:
      All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth… And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20)
      So here are two promises of Jesus manifest presence with us.
      1. As we come together in His name.
      2. As we go out to fulfill the Great Commission.
      Now, let me ask you: When Jesus comes and makes His presence known, does He show up with His authority, or does He leave it behind?

      That’s a silly question, isn’t it? Of course Jesus comes with all His authority, and He comes ready to exercise it.

      So when we come together or go out in His name, Jesus is with us, and all the authority He possesses — the authority of heaven and earth — is with us also.

      Think of it. Whenever we gather to worship, to love, serve, give or fellowship in the name of Jesus, all the authority of heaven and earth is present in our midst, ready to be exercised. Whenever we go out to minister in the name of Jesus, all the authority of heaven and earth goes with us, ready to do the works of Jesus.

      Hmmmmm. Since that is so, what ought our discipleship to look like?

      Study the works of Jesus in the Gospels. See what He did with His authority and how He exercised it. Then when two or three of you gather in His name, or go out to minister in His name, begin learning how to exercise His authority to do the works of Jesus in the name of Jesus.

      Friday, January 14, 2005

      Let’s Have a Symposium

      Do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18)
      On the day of Pentecost, 120 disciples were all with one accord in one place, when suddenly “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4). Jews from every nation were staying in Jerusalem for the festival, and were startled at what was happening:
      “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear each in our own language in which we were born? …We hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” So they were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?”

      Others mocking said, “They are full of new wine.”

      But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raises his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, … These men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

      And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
      That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
      Your sons and you daughters shall prophesy,
      Your young men shall see vision,
      Your old men shall dream dreams.
      And on My menservants and on My maidservants
      I will pour out My Spirit in those days;
      And they shall prophesy.
      (Acts 2:7-18)
      Here was a wonderful thing happening to the people of God, and extending to all flesh — and it looked just like drunkenness! But what a powerful kind of “drunkenness” it was. Not at all like being drunk with wine, which leads to everything falling apart.

      [GreekSpeak Alert] Actually, the Greek word for “dissipation” in Ephesians 5:18 is asotia is a form of the Greek word for “save” but with the “alpha privative” (the “a” which deprives the word of its usual meaning in order to create an opposite). So the word asotia means the opposite of salvation. That is, there is no redeeming quality to it. It does not bring about deliverance or healing. It does not lead to wholeness, but only brings about disintegration.

      The reason getting drunk with wine is so useless and destructive is because the senses are impaired and self-control quickly fades. The wine is now in charge, and it was never meant for that role.

      But it is not drinking that is really the problem, nor even being drunk. The real problem is the substance to which one is yielding himself.

      “But be filled with the Spirit.” Paul’s readers were using wine for a role which really calls for the Holy Spirit. So he told them to be filled with the Spirit. There are three things to note about this:
      1. We are to be filled, not just a little, but all the way to overflowing. So full, in fact, that there is no room for anything else. In other words, yield to the control of the Holy Spirit and let Him have His way with you completely.
      2. We are to be filled, not just on occasion, but all the time. The tense of this verb in the Greek signifies a continual action. That is, keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit.
      3. We cannot do anything at all to fill ourselves with the Holy Spirit. Paul did not say, “Fill yourselves with the Spirit.” It is the work of the Father. As in all good things, He initiates, we respond. And it is the role of the Spirit to do the filling, and not just be the substance with which we are filled. Our role is simply to yield to His work in us.
      Well, what does all this have to do with a symposium? Quite a bit, as it turns out. You see, [GreekSpeak Alert] the word “symposium” ultimately derives from the Greek word sumpotes, which literally means “drinking companion.” That leads to the Greek sumposion, people coming together to partake of inebriating potables — that is, to drink.

      So, let’s have a symposium. Come and be my drinking companion, and let us partake of the Holy Spirit, yielding ourselves completely to Him.

      Get drunk on the Spirit, the promise of the Father to all those who receive the Son. Soak in His love and marinate in His goodness. Let Him inebriate you and fill you with His utterances, prophesies, dreams, visions, and all the outworkings of the great salvation you have received in the Lord Jesus Christ.

      Thursday, January 13, 2005

      When Your Heart is Overwhelmed

      Hear my cry, O God;
        Attend to my prayer.
        From the end of the earth I will cry to You,
      When my heart is overwhelmed;
        Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
      (Psalm 61:1-2)
      This is a psalm of David. He is far away from where he longs to be, even desperately needs to be. Physically, he is far away from home and the sanctuary, the house of prayer. But he is undeterred. Even from the edges and fringes of his existence he cries out to God, confident that he will be heard.

      “When my heart is overwhelmed.” Covered over, weighed down, even incapacitated and unable to function. Some people find themselves overwhelmed and then capitulate. They say, “Well, under the circumstances …,” little realizing that they do not need to remain “under” the circumstances. God offers a powerful alternative.

      “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” This is a place of restoration, a place of going up, a place of rising above. A place of breakthrough to a level that is much higher than that which overwhelms him. But also a place David cannot get to by himself. So he calls on God to do what only God can do. “God, get me there.”
      For You have been a shelter for me,
      And a strong tower from the enemy. (v. 3)
      David has history with God. God has delivered him in the past and brought him to security. Though David’s heart fluctuates, God does not change, so David casts himself onto God’s steadfastness.
      I will abide in Your tabernacle forever;
      I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. (v. 4)
      When David finds that his heart is overwhelmed, he looks to his abiding place, the tabernacle of God. And though he is far away from the physical structure, he is not far away from God.

      The Hebrew word for “shelter” in verse three means “refuge.” In verse 4, the word for “shelter” literally means “covering.” David is not speaking of a visitation, merely taking shelter from the storm. No, he has determined in his heart (“I will”) that he will look to God as his habitation — forever!

      He does not want to be overwhelmed by the cares, anxieties and circumstances of the world. He wants to be always overshadowed by the covering of God’s wingspread. He wants to overwhelmed by the love and goodness of God.

      When you find yourself overwhelmed, do not hesitate or delay. Immediately call out to the Lord and run to Him for refuge. Find in Him your permanent dwelling place. He will deliver you and cover you over with His protection, His provision and His grace.

      Wednesday, January 12, 2005

      Defeating Fear With Faith

      Whenever I am afraid,
        I will trust in You.
        In God (I will praise His Word),
      In God I have put my trust;
        I will not fear!
      (Psalm 56:3-4)
      Notice how David moves from fear to no fear. He is not denying that he has moments of fear and anxiety in his life. Rather, he is showing us how he deals with those moments.

      First, there is the moment of recognition, “Whenever I am afraid.” He becomes aware that fear has gotten a hold on him, but he does not look at himself as a victim, helpless to do anything about it. Nor does he take a defensive posture. Instead, he goes on the offensive and launches an attack against that which has attacked him.

      “I will trust in You.” Fear is a toxin, but faith is the antidote. When fear tries to get to David, he immediately reaches for faith. He does not even try to speak to fear or reason with fear — he focuses his attention in the completely opposite direction, for faith is the opposite of fear. He does not set his mind on the problem, he sets his mind on the solution.

      “In God (I will praise His Word), in God I have put my trust.” Notice the tense here: In God I have put my trust. This is not something new to David, but something he has developed as a habit. He has learned the discipline of faith, and now it has become his conditioned response: When fear comes, he responds with faith.

      How did David learn this disciplined response of faith? By turning to the Word of God. His faith in God has very much to do with the Word of God. God is not separate from His Word. In fact, another psalm declares that God has exalted His Word even about His Name. For the Word reveals, not only the will of God, but the heart of God for His people.

      David has meditated on that Word, day and night (Psalm 1:2-3), and has seen that heart. He has come into an intimate relationship with God through the Word. The promises of God are sweet to him. What is more, they are strength. That is why David praises the Word of God, why he has put his trust in God, and why, whenever fear strikes against his heart, he will quickly trust God again.

      There is a conscious choice being made here. David chooses to meditate on the Word, the promises of God, instead of fear (which is the lie of the devil). He is active and intentional in his praise of the Word. He does not speak words of fear, repeating the lies of the enemy. He puts the words of faith in his mouth and thereby sets faith even deeper into his heart. For the Bible says that faith comes by hearing, and hearing comes by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). So, as he meditates on the Word.

      In the Hebrew mind, meditation is not a silent function, but a vocal expression of the heart. The Hebrew word for “meditate” literally means to mutter or murmur. In this mindset, you can tell when someone is meditating because you will see their lips moving. Meditation is “self-talk,” speaking the Word of God to your heart. As the Word fills the heart, faith increases.

      Through this process of meditating on the Word, the promises of God, David is therefore able to shift his focus to faith and trust in God. And so he comes to the place where he can confidently say: “I will not fear!”

      Keep the Word of God in your heart, in your thoughts, and in your mouth. Literally open your mouth and speak forth God’s promises, and see how that will release faith into your situation. Then, whenever fear tries to come after you, you will be in a position to quickly trust the Lord in that matter. When you are “tanked up” on the Word of God, you will find yourself boldly declaring, “I will not fear.”

      Tuesday, January 11, 2005

      The Flow of Love

      Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)
      Remember that there are two parts to God’s commandment (1 John 3:23):
      1. Love God by believing on the name of His Son Jesus Christ.
      2. Love one another.

      In the first part of chapter 4, John deals with the first part of that commandment, discerning the of truth and the spirit or error on the basis the Lord Jesus Christ, His humanity as well as His divinity. Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God. Any spirit that denies this confession is not of God (1 John 4:2-3).

      Now John is addressing the second part of the commandment. “Beloved, let us love one another.” Here in the space of six words, he presents us with two instances of love. First, there is his love for those to whom he is writing, the love of a father for his children. Second, there is the love he exhorts them to have for one another. Why? Because love is of God. John then gives us a third instance of love, and it is the most important one, for it identifies the source of all love — God.

      This has practical ramifications, for John says, “He who does not love, does not know God.” This knowledge of God which John talks so much about is not only an intimate experience of God, and the discerning between truth and error, it is also a knowledge that transforms.

      Before we go further, note that John is not here disregarding faith in the name of Jesus Christ as the basis of knowing God. Rather, he is assuming it, since he has just written about the importance of that very thing. But it is not enough to say, “I love, therefore I know God,” because love must be defined.

      John’s point is this: It is incongruent for someone to say that he knows God if he does not practice love. That is, it does not jibe. Why? Not only because love is of God, but more importantly because God is love.

      Love is more than an attribute of God which can be described by an adjective (i.e., God is loving). It is part of God’s very essence — who He is — described by love as a noun and demonstrated by love as a verb. There are only a few instances where God is spoken of in such crisp, ontological terms: God is Spirit, God is a consuming fire, God is love.

      “God is love” not only tells us about who God is, but also tells us why God does what He does. He acts in love, grace and mercy precisely because that is what He is. He would be going against Himself to act in any other way.

      God’s love is transforming, so that, a person who does not love, really has not yet come to know God, to have intimate revelation of who God is and what He is like.

      So, John tells us that love is of God and that God is love. Then he goes on to define love even closer, to show what love looks like on the ground, “on all fours.”
      In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:9-10)
      Here we see that John has not departed at all from the first part of the commandment (believe on the name of Jesus Christ), because when he starts talking about love, we discover that it is defined for us by what the Lord Jesus Christ has done.

      This is God’s love in action — made known, manifested, revealed, defined — God sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him. It is the Gospel in a nutshell, the essence of life to all who believe it and receive Him, even in the midst of a world that has fallen into death.

      God is love, and it is the very nature of love to give and to serve. Giving and serving are not works which are alien to God, works which He assumes on a temporary basis for strategic purposes. No, they are native to God, the outworking of who and what He really is.

      It is what I call the “algebra of love”: God is love. Love gives and serves. Every true instance of loving, giving and serving ultimately traces back to God, for “love is of God.”

      Love is of God and not of us, at least not in a primary way. God always takes the initiative. As John defines it for us, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us.” Our love is a response to God’s love made know to us.

      God first loved us and sent His Son to be the “propitiation for our sins.” God’s love solved the problem of sin for us, not in a theoretical way, but in a very real way. God’s love did not just provide a cover for sin, papering it over in an “out of sight, out of mind” sort of way.

      There must be some actual basis for dealing with sin. A debt cannot be forgiven without the cost being borne by the forgiver. So God, in His love, has dealt with the sin of the world by directing His wrath on sin fully toward the Lord Jesus Christ, who took our sin and was nailed with it to the Cross.

      So God bore the cost of forgiveness of sin by giving His Son. Jesus bore the cost by giving His life. All this has been done for you and me out of love. So John concludes this matter with the perfect logic of love:
      Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:11)
      Once again we discover that it is all about God. Even love is all about God because it is the love of God with which we love one another, and even love God Himself. Love comes from God and returns to God in a perfect circle.

      Father, give us more revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ, and how You made Your love known to us through Him, so that we may love You more perfectly by trusting Him more fully, and that we flow with Your love to others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

      Enter at Your Own Risk

      Since we have decided to call our blog The Faith Log, it seems good to take a moment say a word about what we mean when we talk about faith.

      First, the kind of faith of which we speak is not about believing in general. We do not recommend that you should simply have faith. That is not enough because faith must have an object. That is, our faith must be in something. Nor is it enough to simply just have faith in something, as if faith in anything will do. There are many things which cannot be trusted without dire consequences. In other words, not only must faith have a definite object, it must have a sufficient object.

      Second, we are not talking about positive thinking. Positive thinking may have a place, but not the prime place because positive thinking is generally about what you and I can do. Also, it is possible for you and to be positive about something and yet be positively wrong.

      Third, what we are really talking about is Biblical faith. That is, the kind of faith that the Bible talks about. That’s why we have subtitled this ‘blog “Exploring the workings of Biblical faith.”

      The Bible kind of faith is believing what God has said. The Apostle Paul said, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). This kind of faith does not come by hearing just anything, but by hearing the Word of God.

      Now there is a mental assent and emotional commitment that comes from hearing a great many things, but that is not what the Bible calls faith.

      This also points up the difference between Biblical faith and positive thinking. Positive thinking is about what man can do. Faith is about what God has promised to do. A man can be mistaken in his own personal expectations, but God cannot deceive or be deceived. In other words, what God says will happen, will happen.

      So, Suzanne and I choose to believe the Word of God, and not just any old thing that bids for our commitment of trust. This means that there are some things that we will reject as a basis for faith. We will always seek what the Word of God has to say about a thing, and that is what we will believe.

      That is why, as you read through The Faith Log, you will find that there are some things about which we are very strident. We do not apologize for this, but we do want you to be aware of this. We love you and welcome you whether you agree or disagree with us, but we do want you to understand that you enter at your own risk.

      Monday, January 10, 2005

      The Spirit of Truth and the Spirit of Error

      You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)
      “You are of God.” That means that they are those who confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. That is the definition the Apostle John has just established in verses 2 and 3.

      “Little children.” John is speaking very tenderly with them, as a father with his children. This not only indicates John’s advanced age, but more importantly, the well-established relationship he bears, for he has been a father of the faith to them.

      “And have overcome them.” These little children, who are “of God,” have overcome those who deny that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. Jesus is the great dividing line. Those who confess Him in His humanity and historicity, as well as in His divinity, overcome those who do not. They are not deceived.

      The cause of this decisive victory is not themselves, but God in them. He abides in them because they have believed on the name of His Son Jesus Christ. What is more, He is the source of their faith in Jesus Christ, and of the confession they make concerning Jesus Christ.

      However, there is also one who is in the world, who is the source of unbelief and denial. This is the devil, and he is the source, not of the created earth, but of the world-system that is in rebellion against God.

      He seeks to hinder and obscure the revelation that Jesus Christ is both fully human and fully divine. He will allow one confession or the other, but not both together, because that sounds the death knell for him. In the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ, God and Man are reconciled and heaven and earth are brought together. That means destruction for what the devil is trying to do. But that is indeed why Jesus came, to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).

      The truth and the cause John brings forth is this: God in us is greater than he who tries to influence us from the world-system.
      They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us: he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:5-6)
      John has already stated that those who deny that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh are not of God. What is the source of their unbelief and denial, then? It comes from the rebellious world-system. They speak as of the world because they have listened to the lie of the world and believed it. Because they listen to the world-system and speak what it says, the world-system, in turn, receives them and their words.

      “We are of God,” John boldly counters. But how can he be so audacious as to say such a thing? It is because he has seen Jesus with his own eyes, heard Jesus with his own ears, touched Jesus with his own hands. He comes as an personal witness to the life and ministry of Jesus, declaring both the humanity and divinity of the “Word of Life” (1 John 1:1-4).

      “He who knows God hears us.” Just as those who are of the world-system receive the unbelief and denial of the world-system, so those who are of God receive the confession that comes from God, and those who make such confession. Those of the world receive the witness of the world. Those who are of God receive the witness of God. The witness of God is greater because He who is in us is greater than he who is in the fallen world-system.

      Those who have the witness of the Holy Spirit in them hear and receive the teaching of the Apostles. Or to put it another way: Those who know God, who are growing in personal relationship with Him and who increasingly discern, or recognize His voice, hear those who come speaking that which is of God.

      John concludes the matter: By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. That is, those who receive the spirit of truth — who believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and confess that He has come in the flesh — are of the truth of God. Those who do not, are of the error the world-system.

      There is a conflict in the world today between the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. It is a conflict between the God who created heaven and earth, and the fallen system of a world in rebellion. The outcome is certain, for God, who is the source of our faith in Jesus Christ, dwells in all those who confess Jesus Christ, and He is greater than the one who foments the rebellion of the world against Him.

      Overflow and Outspokenness

      The year of 2005 is a year of overflow. God has brought this message through many of His people through visions and prophecies. More specifically, it is a year of the overflow of His glory. It is a year of increase in miracles, supernatural manifestations of His goodness. It is a year of “suddenlies.” That is, there will be things that, when they start to happen, they will happen quickly, and suddenly things have unexpectedly changed.

      In worship last Sunday, the Lord showed me that there will also be an increase in evangelistic anointing, the Good News of Jesus Christ being ministered in increasingly effective ways. This is not surprising because the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the manifestation of God’s glory and grace.

      This year is a year when seed shall be sown and quickly come to harvest. Amos prophesied such a day:
      “Behold the days are coming,” says the LORD,
        “When the plowman shall overtake the reaper,
        And the treader of grapes him who sows seed;
      The mountains shall drip with sweet wine,
        And all the hills shall flow with it.”
      (Amos 9:13)
      This is a year of outspokenness. Last week, I logged on concerning outspokenness, or boldness toward God. On Sunday, the Lord showed me that if we will be outspoken toward Him — dwelling in intimate relationship with Him and boldly reaching for those things He has so freely promised — then we will also be in a place of outspokenness toward others in sharing God’ great goodness, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

      This is the year of overflow. Are you ready to step into it, to exercise your faith and reach for the grace and goodness of God, to extend it to others? Are you ready to lay hold of Holy Spirit boldness in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ?

      Saturday, January 8, 2005

      A Point on Discerning Bad Theology

      Reading in In Praise of the Inexpressible: Paul’s Experience of the Divine Mystery by Jean Paillard, and I came across this quote which I think is eminently true. Thought I’d share it with you:
      Any theology that does not result in singing God’s praise is simply bad theology. (p. 82)
      Or to put it another way: Good theology leads to wonderful doxology. Is that not what we are really supposed to mean by the term orthodoxy?

      Discerning the Spirits

      By this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. (1 John 3:23).
      God has given His Spirit to be a witness to us of God’s presence abiding in us. “By this we know.” In the Bible, knowledge is not merely theoretical, it is experiential. That is, we know something by experiencing. Here, the experience is one of discernment. It requires an awareness of sources.

      So what is this witness of the Spirit to which John refers? We discover that in 1 John 4. (There are no chapter divisions in the Bible, those were added later.)
      Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the antiChrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. (1 John 4:1-3)
      The spirits themselves need to be discerned. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul talked about the gift of discerning the spirits. There is the Holy Spirit, who is true and speaks truth. There are also false, demonic spirits. Then there is the human spirit.

      You and I are human spirits who have souls and inhabit bodies. Altogether, that is what we are — spirit, soul and body. Now, it is possible for the human spirit to be influenced by the Holy Spirit. God designed us that way. In fact, His purpose is for us to be filled with and indwelt by the Holy Spirit — God Himself present in us.

      Unfortunately, since the Fall of Adam, it is also possible for us to be influenced by false, demonic spirits. That is why we need to test the spirits. For there are pseudo-prophets (Greek, pseudoprophetes) who are bringing false messages, influenced by spirits which are not of God.

      So how can we tell the difference between the witness of the false spirits and the witness of the Holy Spirit? John lays it out very simply:
      1. Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God.
      2. Every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God.
      Once again, it is all about Jesus. The role of the Holy Spirit is to take what belongs to Jesus and reveal it us — to show us Jesus. He speaks the truth to us about who Jesus is and who we are in Him.

      So this is how you tell the difference. Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God. The Greek word for “confess” is homologeo and means to “speak the same thing,” that is, to speak in agreement.

      Now, John was addressing an issue that was becoming very controversial in his day, but it also has serious ramifications for us today. You see, there were teachers and groups who, though they taught that Jesus was divine, they denied that He was truly human. They agreed that He was spirit, but they denied that He was also flesh and blood.

      There are groups today who will speak of the “Christ-Spirit within” but who will deny the humanity of Jesus. They affirm a philosophical Christ, an ideal that is vague and ethereal, but deny the concrete reality of the historical Jesus. John says that will not do. Their teaching does not come from God. It does not represent the witness of the Holy Spirit.

      Why is this important? Because John writes to give witness to “that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of Life” (1 John 1:1). John was not presenting philosophical ideas but declaring that which he personally experienced, saw, heard and touched — a historical person, Jesus Christ, Son of God, fully human and fully divine.

      It is a matter of fellowship. “That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). You cannot fellowship with an idea or a philosophy. You can only have a personal experience with a person. We have fellowship with the Father because have been reconciled to Him by the humanity of Jesus Christ, and the historical event of the Cross and Resurrection.

      A philosophical idea may be a fine solution if the problem at hand is philosophical. But our problem is historical — the Fall of Adam, of which every one of us has been a part. Historical problems require historical solutions. Of course, there are those who deny that the problem is historical at all. They deny that there was ever such an event in history known as the Fall. They deny the true nature of the solution because they deny the true nature of the problem. So they deny that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.

      John definitively declares that their witness does not come from God. In fact, he identifies it as the spirit of antiChrist. That is, they are coming against Christ. It matters not that they may profess a “Christ-Spirit” within. If they do not confess the humanity and historical reality of Jesus, then they are actually denying Christ.

      The Apostle John has given us an important dividing line between what is true and what is false. The witness of God’s indwelling Spirit is that Jesus Christ has indeed come in the flesh, that He is fully man, that He has entered into our time and space existence as a historical human being. It is by this same Spirit that we understand, discern and experience the presence of God abiding in us.

      Friday, January 7, 2005

      The Solution: More Revelation of Jesus

      Considering the Church at Galatia and Corinth today. Paul wrote them letters in which he dealt with some pretty serious difficulties, including some very pernicious problems.

      The Galatians were becoming deceived by a group of Jewish Christians who believed that one had to become Jewish before becoming Christian. This was actually a justification-by-works mentality, a performance-based religiosity, the spirit of religion. In a word — legalism.

      The Corinthians had a bagful of their own problems: factionalism and strife between brothers, believers hauling each other to court to be judged by worldly standards, sexual promiscuity, gross negligence of poorer brothers, pride and abuse regarding spiritual gifts.

      But what they all really needed was more revelation of Jesus — who He is, why He came, what He came to do, and who we are in Him. And in various ways, that is the need Paul addressed.

      For example, in the book of Galatians, Paul presented the Lord Jesus Christ as the “seed” (not “seeds,” plural) of Abraham, and declared that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law. Powerful stuff.

      For another example, in 1 Corinthians 13, sometimes called the “Love Chapter” of the Bible, when Paul was giving a revelation of love, was he not really offering us a revelation of Jesus Christ. I mean, we can replace every occurrence of the word “love” in that chapter with the name of Jesus, and it will always make perfect sense.

      The more I think about it, the more I become convinced that all we really need is more revelation of Jesus.

      Think on Jesus in everything you do. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal Him to you more and more, that He may be glorified in you more and more—in your spirit, soul and body.

      Thursday, January 6, 2005

      The Worship / Healing Connection

      Just received an email from a friend who is a worship leader. She expressed her desire to explore more deeply the connection between worship and healing.

      Indeed, there is a connection, a very powerful one. Its about prosperity of soul, a matter of the heart. The Apostle John revealed this key when he prayed for his friend Gaius:
      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 the soul, the inward being, has much to do with the health of the body and the prosperity of the outer man. Simply put, prosperity is success and well-being. The well-being of a person’s soul is a determining factor in the well-being of their life.

      A person who walks in prosperity of soul can expect also to experience good health and success in all their affairs. Conversely, if success is lacking and health is failing, perhaps there is something in their inner life which needs their attention.

      Worship is an activity that tends to bring the soul into well-being. One reason is that worship is not self-centered (although some Christians approach worship in a way that is very nearly self-centered). The soul that focuses on itself is a soul that is withering on the vine, cut off from its source. True worship is an antidote because it focuses the heart on God alone — and that is the road to soul prosperity.

      That’s just one connection between worship and healing. Another connection is what happens when we gather in Jesus’ name, which is what we do in worship. Jesus said that where two or more gather in His name, He is there in the midst of them.

      To gather in the name of Jesus means, again, that it is all about Him. The focus is not on us, its on Him. We are there for His purposes, to bring forth His will, to express His heart, to do His works. That is how His presence gets manifested.

      When Jesus is in our midst, He is there to do what He has always done, because He never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. So just as, in His earthly ministry, Jesus went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed of the devil, so it is today as He gathers in our midst. He is ready to heal and set free all who come to Him — the worship/healing connection.

      Baptism and the Lord’s Table are also signs of His presence. They are a revelation of who He is and what He came to do. Historically, from the very early days of the Church, the celebrations of these sacraments* have been occasions for healing.
      In worship, we pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Worship is a revelation of heaven, where there is no sickness or disease. When we understand that, we begin to see that the will of God being done on earth will include the healing of those who are sick.

      There are certainly other connections we can find between worship and healing, but meditate on these for now.

      The Bible says that God is looking for those who will worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. So ask the Holy Spirit to show you Jesus, who is the Truth. For it is the role of the Holy Spirit to take the things of Jesus and reveal them to us. When you come into that place of worship, you will find it to be a place of healing.

      * A sacrament is an outward, visible sign of an inward, spiritual reality.

      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.

      Wednesday, January 5, 2005

      The Abodes of God

      Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. (1 John 3:24)
      The commandments of the Lord are these: Believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another (1 John 3:23). On our own, these are very difficult — in fact, they are impossible. But with God they are simple: Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17), so it becomes easy to believe in Him when we have received His Word. And God is love (1 John 4:8), so with Him at work in us, it becomes easy to love one another. The Bible says that faith expresses itself through love (Galatians 5:6).

      It is really not a matter of doing a work, but of receiving a gift. It is letting His Word and His Love be at work in you. It is not your work, it is His work in you. It is allowing God to be who He is in you. That is why John said, “He who keeps His commandments abides in Him,” because it is all about God living and working His way in you. By faith, we become His dwelling place. Not only do we abide in God, John says, but God abides in us.

      God abides in us. That’s potent, or perhaps I should say omnipotent (seeing that we are talking about God).

      Remember in John 14, when Jesus said, “In My Father’s house are many mansions. …I go to prepare a place for you” (v. 2) The translation “mansions” lead us in the wrong direction. We think of mansions as huge houses set apart. That is not at all what Jesus was talking about. He was not picturing places of separateness, but places of intimacy. The Greek word is mone, and refers to dwelling places — abodes. The NIV says “rooms.” Jesus has prepared rooms for us to dwell within our Father’s house.

      This is not “end time” truth, or about when we die someday. It is about right now, in this life.

      Jesus continued, “If I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (v. 3).

      Jesus went to prepare a place for us — He did this at the Cross. He was gone for three days, and then He returned (the Resurrection) to receive us to Himself.

      Now our abiding place is in Him, and we dwell in His Father’s house. Right now. Not only that, but Paul says that we are now seated in Christ Jesus at the right hand of the Father, far above all principalities, power, might and dominion (Ephesians 2). That is, not only do we dwell in our Father’s house, we rule and reign from there as well.

      Again, Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23).

      The Greek word for “home” is mone. The KJV renders it, “make our abode with him.” This is the word translated “mansion” in verse 2. These are the only two places in the Bible where this particular Greek word is used.

      Jesus also promised this:
      I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever — the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17)
      The Greek word for “abide” is meno (closely related to mone). God has prepared a place for us in His house, and a place for Himself in us, and He dwells in us by the Holy Spirit.

      Remember that, in his epistle, John said that we would know that God abides in us, and this knowledge would be by the Spirit whom He has given us. This is the Spirit of truth whom God has given to dwell in us. He knows us and we know Him, because He dwells in us.

      When we keep God’s commandments (believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and walk in love) we know that we are abiding in God and God is abiding in us, and He gives this witness to us by His Spirit. Enter into this love relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Believe and abide. Be at home in Him and enjoy His abiding presence in you. These are the abodes of God — us in Him, and Him in us.

      Tuesday, January 4, 2005

      Outspokenness Toward God

      Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. (1 John 3:21-23)
      “Beloved.” John is speaking very tenderly and pastorally to his readers. “If our heart does not condemn us.” To condemn (Greek, kataginosko) is to “know against,” to find fault with. This is not the nagging of an overly scrupulous conscience or some kind of pathological introspection. Those things will never give you any peace. No, as we will see, John has something very simple and specific in mind.

      “We have confidence toward God.” The English word “confidence” derives from two Latin words: con, “with” and fide, “faith.” Confidence is acting with faith and assurance. The Greek word in our text carries the same idea and literally means “outspokenness.”

      “Because we keep His commandments and do those things which are pleasing in His sight.” Here we learn the issue in which we should have clear conscience and confidence toward God: keeping His commandments. Now, John is not talking about the Ten Commandments, or the 613 precepts of the Mosaic Law, or any kind system of rule-keeping or point-scoring at all. After all, John is not known as the Apostle of Law, but as the Apostle of Love. So what are these commandments John has in mind, which will lead us into bold assurance with God? They boil down to one commandment with two facets. This is His commandment:
      1. Believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ.
      2. Love on another.
      Life does not get any simpler than that. But when did God ever give this commandment?

      It happened one day when a scribe started paying attention to what Jesus was preaching and teaching. Quite taken with how well Jesus had answered the controversial questions of the Sadducees, this scribe went up to Jesus and asked, “Which is the first commandment of all?”

      Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.… And the second, like it, is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).

      Jesus went right to the heart of the matter and addressed the matters of the heart. This simple commandment, “Love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself,” is what all the commandments of God are actually about. In fact, it is what the whole kingdom of God is about. That is why, when the scribe received this revelation and fully embraced it, Jesus declared, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

      This is what John was talking about in his epistle. The commandment to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength is rendered by him as “Believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ.” “Love your neighbor as yourself” corresponds with “Love one another.”

      This is what we live by: Love — love for God (believing in His Son) and love for each other. If we are living by love, then our hearts have no reason to find fault with us.

      Therefore we can have a holy outspokenness toward God. This is not a law relationship but a love relationship, a divine mingling of God’s love toward us and our love toward Him. It is a relationship of trust and assurance. In such a relationship it is then quite natural that we can ask of God and expect to receive from Him whatever we ask.

      Is this not what Jesus meant when He said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness [i.e., love God and love one another], and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

      Its not about what you know. John was addressing people who had been exposed to an early form of gnosticism, a false teaching which prized “secret” forms of knowledge (“Gnostic” is derived from the Greek verb ginosko, “to know”). Notice how John turned that on its ear:

      We do not ask and receive from God on the basis of some secret knowledge that we have acquired. In fact, it is more about what we don’t know — i.e., our heart does not know anything against us. Rather, our confidence towards God comes out of being in a love relationship with Him.

      In other words, its not about what you know, its not even about who you know. Its about who you love.

      When we walk in love for God and each other, committing ourselves to Jesus, then we have come into a wonderful place of outspokenness toward God, a place where we can joyfully call out for Abba, Father — Daddy! In that place we can ask God whatever we like and fully expect to receive it from Him.