Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Problem With Money

The Bible does not say, as some have erroneously supposed, that money is the root of all evil. Rather, it says, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). In other words, money and material possessions are not the problem, but it is our attitude toward them that determines whether they are a blessing or a curse. Are we putting our trust in our wealth and possessions? Then we are in trouble, because we are looking to material things to solve spiritual issues.

God is not against wealth and riches. In fact (brace yourself here, because I’m going to show you something that offends the religious spirit), God promises wealth and riches to those who are upright:
Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who delights greatly in His commandments. His descendants will be might on earth. The generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches will be in his house. (Psalm 112:1-3)
Now, the falsely pious will object, “But He is talking about spiritual wealth and riches” — as if the world is divided between spiritual and material, so that one has nothing to do with the other (that’s the error of Gnosticism). But if you will examine the context, you will discover that He is talking about wealth and riches in the natural. In the ancient Hebrew mind, the spiritual has everything to do with the natural, for God, who is spirit, is the creator of the heavens and the earth. So "wealth and riches" are a spiritual issue, but they are material, as well.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul said something amazing about the grace and abundance of God:
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)

This not only has application in the area of money and finances, but in the context of 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, we discover that this is specifically about money and finances. Paul was raising funds for the believers at Jerusalem, and using this as an opportunity to teach the Corinthian church about giving.

Some people are content to have just enough money to get by. But that is just false piety rearing its head again. It is, in fact, a selfish and unbiblical attitude. God does not want us to have only just enough, He wants us to have more than enough! If we have only just enough to meet our own needs, then we have nothing left to give to good works. But the grace of God abounds to us so that we not only have enough to fully meet our needs, but we have plenty more besides to give to every good work.

Abundance means “without bounds” or “beyond the boundaries.” It is overflow. It is more than enough. God desires to give wealth and riches to the upright so that we may have abundance for every good work — not just a few good works, but for many good works. Can you imagine having abundance of finances so that you can give to the variety of godly works, missions and ministries that come before you? That is what God envisions for you and me.

The problem about money does not arise because we have more than we need. The problem arises when we think that money is about us rather than about God’s desire to bless us and bless others through us.

Money is a great medium of exchange, so that we can actually give ourselves to the work of God all around the world. Money is a gift from God so that we can reveal His heart, His love, His goodness.

If money is a problem for you, check your heart. For it is the attitude of our heart toward money that causes us trouble. We err when we look to money to rescue us. We err when we think that money is just for our benefit. We err when our desire is only to have just enough. Don’t sit on the blessing God desires to give to someone else through you. Look to God to not only meet all your financial needs in every way, but to give you great abundance, so that you may have plenty to give to every good work.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Abundance of God

There is no lack in God. He never comes up short, never runs out, never does without. There is always enough, and plenty more besides. Our God is a God of abundance.
  • I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me. (Psalm 13:6)
  • The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures ... My cup runs over. (Psalm 23:1-2,5).
  • How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, and You give them fro the river of Your pleasures. (Psalm 36:7-8)
  • You visit the earth and water it, You greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; You provide their grain, for so You have prepared it. You water its ridges abundantly, You settle its furrows; You make it soft with showers, You bless its growth. You crown the year with Your goodness, and Your paths drip abundance. (Psalm 65:9-11)
  • In His days the righteous shall flourish, and abundance of peace [Hebrew shalom, nothing missing, nothing broken], until the moon is no more. (Psalm 72:7)
  • For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly. (Psalm 84:11)
  • But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth. (Psalm 86:15)
  • Return to your rest, O my soul, for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. (Psalm 116:7)
  • Deal bountifully with Your servant, that I may live and keep Your word. (Psalm 119:7)
  • The righteous shall surround me, for You shall deal bountifully with me. (Psalm 142:7)
  • The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)
  • And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)
  • Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us. (Ephesians 3:20).
  • And grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 1:14)
Step over into the abundance of God. He does not lack, and He does not hold back any good thing from those who are made righteous through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. His grace and provision is abundant toward you.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Seeing the Kingdom

Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3)
Jesus was not talking about going to heaven. In fact, the words “born again” literally mean “born from above.” That is something that happens by the Holy Spirit, through faith in Jesus Christ. It is much more about being of or from heaven than going to heaven.

Jesus is talking about seeing the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is the rule and reign of God, in heaven — and on earth. And in order to see this kingdom, Jesus says, we must be born from above.

Any person who is not born from above, by the Spirit of God, cannot see the kingdom. But turn that around, and we discover that anyone who is born from above can see the kingdom of God.

Are you born from above? Then you have the capacity to see God’s kingdom, His rule and reign demonstrated on earth.

Not only that, but as a child of heaven, you have the authority of the Lord’s Prayer to call forth the kingdom of God and direct the will of God to be done on earth just as it is in heaven.

The ministry of Jesus was all about bringing forth the kingdom of God on the earth.
  • He came preaching, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15).
  • “When the multitudes knew it, they followed Him; and He received them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who had need of healing” (Luke 9:11).
  • Not only that, Jesus sent His disciples to do the exact same thing: “Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such as they set before. And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near you’” (Luke 10:8-9).
  • The healing signs and wonders of Jesus and His disciples were a demonstration of the power of God’s kingdom: “If I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 11:20).
Are you ready to see the kingdom of God? If you are born from above through faith in Jesus Christ, you qualify. The kingdom is all around you, here and now. Meditate on the Lord’s Prayer, understanding that you have authority to call for the will of God to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Begin to act on that. Then watch in expectation.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Receive What He Has Done for You

Good Friday — The best way to honor this day, and more importantly, the day that this day commemorates, is to receive what Jesus did for you on the Cross:
  • A great ransom has been paid for you. "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mark 10.45).
  • He came to find you and save you. "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19.10).
  • The works of the devil have been destroyed on your behalf. "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3.8).
  • Abundant life has been won for you this day. "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy," Jesus said, "I have come that they may might have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10.10).
  • The favor of the LORD is upon you. "The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD" (Luke 4.18,19).
  • Everlasting life. "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3.16).
Receive the salvation, the healing, the freedom from bondage, the prosperity and wholeness in every area of your life that Jesus has won for you on the Cross. Lay hold of it by faith, confessing that Jesus is Lord and believing in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead (Romans 10.8-9). Give Him thanks and praise His name.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Commandment of Love

If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. (1 John 4:20-21)
You cannot love God and hate your brother. It’s impossible.Once, a man who was skilled in the Law of Moses came to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus answered:
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40)
Notice that Jesus said, “The second is like it.” The commandment to love your neighbor as yourself is not given in addition to the first commandment, it is inherent in it. The second is just like the first. They are twins joined together. Break the one and you have broken the other.

If someone does not love his brother, or his neighbor, whom he has seen, then how can he say he loves God, whom he has not seen? The author of Hebrews tells us 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). If we do not love our brother, who was created by the God who is invisible, then we do not love the God who created him.

It’s time to get serious about love. On the night He was betrayed, He spoke to the intimate gathering of His disciples and said, “These things I command you, that you love one another.” The day before Good Friday is known as Maundy Thursday in commemoration of this. Maundy means “commandment” or “mandate.”

On the next day, Good Friday, Jesus powerfully demonstrated His love for God and man through His obedience and sacrifice.

Love God and one another.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Poverty is No Blessing

He raises the poor out of the dust,
And lifts the needy out of the ash heap,
That He may seat him with princes —
With the princes of His people.
(Psalm 113:7-8)
There are many Christians who have a poverty mentality. They seem to think of poverty as some sort of blessing—not one they want to be blessed with, necessarily — but a blessing nonetheless. These same people also tend to think that prosperity is a sort of curse — but like Tevye the Milkman in Fiddler on the Roof, they would not mind being cursed with it. What these same people do seem to mind, though, is when other people teach that God wants to deliver all His people out of poverty into prosperity.

According to the Bible, however, poverty is not a blessing. Look at Deuteronomy 28, for example. It gives us a list of blessings (vv. 1-14) and curses (vv. 15-68). Poverty, along with sickness and failure, is not found among the blessings, only among the curses.

Some might ask, “But didn’t Jesus bless poverty in the Sermon on the Mount?” No, He didn’t. He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3). There is a blessing for the poor, but poverty is not that blessing, nor it is blessed.

“Blessed are the poor.” But the poor are not simply those who have nothing. The poor are those who are totally dependent upon God, who realize that without God, they have nothing. A person can have nothing, and yet be trusting in his own efforts and devices to see him through. That is not who Jesus is talking about. On the other hand, a person may have much wealth, and yet be totally dependent upon God, realizing that, without God, he has absolutely nothing. Such a person is “poor in spirit.”

Now, “poor in spirit” is not a poverty mentality. Jesus is not advocating lack. That would violate the 23rd Psalm, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want [be in lack].” Jesus is advocating trust, and there is great blessing on that. The Bible says, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). God is not pleased by poverty and He does not reward it all. But faith pleases Him and receives great reward from Him. That is why Jesus declared that the poor in spirit are blessed. They do not possess a poverty mentality, but a blessing mentality.

Poverty is not a blessing. Jesus did not say, “Blessed are the poor, because you are going to stay poor.” No, the poor in spirit — those who trust in God alone — are blessed because the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. Jesus was not speaking of future expectation, “the kingdom will one day belong to them,” but of present reality, “theirs is [present tense] the kingdom.” It should be instructive to us that, in the kingdom of heaven, there is no poverty or lack, but prosperity and provision.

Jesus has no intention of leaving those who are poor in spirit in poverty. As the psalm writer said, “He lifts the poor out of the dust … that He may seat him with princes.”

Poverty is not a blessing but a curse. But being lifted out of the dust and seated with princes — that’s abundance of blessing.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Scandal of Prosperity

Let the LORD be magnified, Who has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant. (Psalm 35:27)
God has pleasure in the prosperity of His people. But oddly, some of God’s people are scandalized by that teaching. Oh, they are okay about having prosperity for themselves, but they get offended when someone says that God’s will and desire is for all His people to enjoy prosperity. It goes against years of training they have had in the world, and in church teaching influenced by the world — that faith is uncertain, and you never know what God is going to do, that God is out to get you and will make you sick and broke to teach you a lesson.

They ignore God’s continual desire, repeated often in Scripture, to bless His people — not just a little, but a lot, in fact, abundantly (without boundaries). They know the 23rd Psalm: The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want (be in lack), He makes me lie down in green pastures, He anoints my head with oil, my cup runs over. But for them, that is about when we die and go to heaven — never mind the fact that He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies. There are no enemies in heaven, so Psalm 23 is a picture of what God desires for His people in this life.

God is not a respecter of persons. What He does for one He desires to do for another. Psalm 23 is for all of us, not just for David and a select few.

A couple of decades ago, many Christians, even pastors, were appalled when Oral Roberts began to teach that “God is a good God” and “Something good is going to happen.”

Then, a few years ago, when Bruce Wilkinson came out with his book on The Prayer of Jabez, many people were scandalized again. How dare he suggest that we can ask God to bless us big, and then expect to receive it!

These same people are once again offended by Joel Osteen’s new book, Your Best Life Now, because he teaches that God wants to bless and prosper His people.

But the Bible portrays the wild extravagance of God toward His people. Look, for example in Deuteronomy 6:
So it shall be, when the LORD your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant — when you have eaten and are full—then beware, lest you forget the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. (Deuteronomy 6:10-12)
That is God’s idea of blessing on the earth. Notice that the caution is not against prosperity, but against ingratitude. God is not against us having things, but only against things having us and causing us to forget Him.

Now, some will say, “Yeah, but that was for Israel, under the old Mosaic Covenant.” But the New Testament does not do away with the Old Testament. Rather, the New Testament fulfills the Old. The Bible tells us that Jesus is the mediator of a better covenant, based on better promises (Hebrews 8:6).

Instead of being outraged, offended, and scandalized by the abundance of prosperity and blessing God desires towards us, let us lay hold of it by faith, and affirm with David, “Let the LORD be magnified, Who has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant.”

God wants to bless and prosper you. Believe it in your heart, confess it with your mouth, and gratefully receive all He has for you, that you might be both blessed and a blessing to all those around you.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Prosperity and the Rightness of God

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne. (Psalm 97:2)
What does prosperity have to do with the righteousness of God? Everything. God is not opposed to prosperity. He is not even just neutral about it. He is all for it. As Psalm 35:27 says, “Let the LORD be magnified, Who has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant.”

If you study the Hebrew word for “righteousness,” tsedeq, you will discover that it also means “prosperity.”

You see, righteousness is really about rightness. It is the rightness of God, the rightness of His person, and the rightness He has built into the structure of the world.

In fact, says the psalm writer, rightness, along with justice, are the foundation of God’s throne. Rightness is doing what is right, and justice is setting right the things which have somehow ended up wrong. God does what is right and sets things right because He is right.

When the rightness of God prevails in a situation, then prosperity naturally follows. I say “naturally,” because it is the very nature of God’s rightness to prosper. Poverty, lack and failure are not from God. They are not right, so the judgment of God comes to set things right for His people, to bring prosperity, provision and success.

It is the very nature of the kingdom of God. Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness [‘His way of doing and being right,” Amplified Bible], and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

God’s way is totally good and brings no lack.

If you want prosperity, seek after the rightness of God, that is, His way of doing and being right.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Who is it All About—Really?

I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine. (Song of Solomon 6:3)
Today we hear a lot of Christians say, “It’s all about God, all about Jesus.” In fact, I have said that quite a bit myself. It is true enough, and I will continue to say it. But let’s dig into it a little deeper by taking a moment to consider the gospel and ask, Who is it all about?

Well, on the one hand, we say that the Gospel is about Jesus Christ, because it is about what He has done on the Cross. But on the other hand, we also say that the work He did on the Cross, He did for us. After all, if it were not for our tremendous need for redemption, Jesus would not have had to come to redeem us.

So, who is the Gospel all about? Well, its all about Him — and us. Its all about Him because everything is about Him. But its about us because He has made it about us.

And so it is with every aspect of our relationship with God. It is all about God — but He makes it about us, as well. For God is love, and love gives and serves. Solomon revealed this divine reciprocity in the Song of Songs:
I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine. (Song of Solomon 6:3)

I am my beloved’s, and His desire is toward me. (Song of Solomon 7:10)
So, to answer the question, Who is it all about? It is all about Jesus — but He makes it about us, too.

We should never make anything all about us, for that leads to barrenness and despair. But recognize that it is all about Him, and let Him make it about us, too, and then there is life and abundance and fruitfulness — for the branches are now abiding in the vine.

Those who receive the Lord Jesus Christ and call on His name belong to Him, and can say along with the Shulamite maid in the Song of Songs, “I am my Beloved’s and He is mine. I am my Beloved’s, and His desire it toward me.” Who is it all about? The Lord — and His beloved.

Friday, March 18, 2005

The Flow of Bold, Perfected Love

Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us. (1 John 4:17-19)
What is the love of God all about in our lives? That we may have boldness in the day of judgment. Boldness is outspokenness, assurance, confidence. As we stand before God, both now and forever, we can have boldness and confidence.

“Because as He is, so are we in this world.” Jesus has boldness before the Father because He is in a perfect love relationship with the Father. This relationship never had need to be perfected, as does our relationship with God, but has always abided in perfection.

In verse 12, John revealed that the love of God has now been perfected in us, if we love one another. Therefore, just as Jesus walked the earth in the perfect love of the Father, so now do we. It is not about what we have done or deserve, it is about His love. There is a tremendous freedom in that, and an empowerment to show forth the love of God in mighty ways, just as the Lord Jesus did.

Just as that perfect love relationship continues between the Father and the Son, so does it continue for us on this planet. The Lord Jesus taught us to pray for the kingdom of God to keep coming forth and the will of God to keep being done on earth as it is in heaven. Now we see that this is actually the flow of God’s love perfected in us. It is the bringing together of heaven and earth, “because as He is, so are we in this world.”

“There is no fear in love.” Fear is the opposite of boldness. There is no confidence or assurance in fear. There is only torment. Fear does not bring torment — fear is torment, and that does not come from God.

If you have fear in your life, it is a sign that you are not yet letting the love of God have its way fully in your life. But you do not have to subject yourself to fear. You can, instead, resist it by bringing it before God, who is love. In the presence of perfect love, fear withers and dies and is no more. Perfect love renders its judgment on fear — and casts it out!

“We love Him because He first loved us.” Here is the perfection of love — He first loved us, and now we love Him. The circle is complete. To love Him includes loving all those whom He loves. There is no torment in that, no fear of judgment, only bold confidence before God. As He is in heaven, so are we on the earth.

If there is any fear, we just need more revelation of God’s love. So ask the Father to reveal it to you. Embrace His love, and meditate upon it. Let it flow into you. Be very intentional about it: “Father, I receive all the love You have for me. I yield myself to the work of Your love in my life. I let go of fear and lay hold of the boldness which comes through Your love.” Be very intentional, also, about letting God’s perfect love flow through you to others by your words and deeds.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Believing the Love

And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:16)
Notice that he is not simply saying, “We have known and believed God.” Rather, he says, “We have known and believed the love that God has for us.”

This knowledge is not theoretical, but experiential. John is declaring that we have experienced the love God has for us. And in experiencing the love of God, we have experienced God Himself, for God IS Love.

The author of Hebrews said, “He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). John is not the author of Hebrews, but if the Holy Spirit had used him to write it, I believe this verse might well have read, “He who comes to God must believe that He is Love.” And then we would see clearly that the reward that comes to those who diligently seek God actually comes forth from His love — and is there anything that love withholds from its beloved?

There is a great confidence that comes from experiencing the love of God. To paraphrase, We have experientially known and entrusted ourselves to the love God has for us. When we open ourselves to the love God has for us, there is no doubt. All the questions are settled. We quietly abide in faith and in God.

Paul said that faith expresses itself through love (Galatians5:6). This is because, in a very real sense, faith is created and formed by love. In another place, Paul said that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Since God is Love, we may also say it this way: Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Love.

We abide in faith, we abide in love, we abide in God.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Signs of Abiding in God

By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. (1 John 4:13-15)
Are you abiding in God? Is He abiding in you? The Bible says you can know, and the apostle John shows us how.First, remember that this is in the context of the love of God working in us and through us. In verse 12, John said, “If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.”

Now in verse 13, John asserts, “By this we know that we abide in Him, and He is us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” Both verses speak about God’s abiding in us and our abiding in Him. But other than that, what do these verse have to do with one another? What does the Spirit have to do with love? Everything. For the love that has been perfected in us, that works through us and flows to others, is the love that comes by the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Remember that the fruit of the Holy Spirit is “Love, joy, peace …” Love is at the head of the list. Love is the highest expression of everything God is. In fact, as John tells us, God IS Love. So the Spirit of God is the Spirit of Love.

God has given us His Spirit, the Spirit of Love. When we walk in that love and let it flow toward others, the Love of God is doing its work and become a witness to us that we are abiding in Him and He is abiding in us.

But there is also another work the Spirit of God does in us by which we can know that God abides in us and we in Him. For John continues in verse 14, “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.”

In his Gospel, John recalls Jesus speaking about the Holy Spirit, “He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you” (John 16:14). That is what the role of the Holy Spirit is in us—to glorify Jesus and take the things that belong to Jesus and reveal them to us. He is a witness, resident within us, of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Love that is the fruit of the Spirit is the same love demonstrated by the Lord Jesus when He laid down His life for us. (In John 17, we learn that it is the same love with which the Father loves the Lord Jesus, and the exact same love with which the Father loves us.) In the Book of Revelation, John tells us, “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” In other words, whatever the Holy Spirit says and does in us is always about Jesus.

The Holy Spirit testifies, or gives witness, to us that the Father send the Son to be the Savior of the world. Having this witness within us, we begin to testify to the same thing, and that testimony itself become a sign that we are dwelling in the Father and He in us.

“Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God” (v. 15). The apostle Paul reminds us that “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). Since that is so, the heartfelt confession that Jesus is Lord again becomes a witness to us that we are abiding in God and He is abiding in us.

Is the Spirit of Love at work in you bringing forth love to others? Is the Spirit of Prophecy speaking forth in your life, bearing witness to the testimony of Jesus? These are the signs by which you be confident that you are dwelling in God and God is dwelling in you. If these signs are obscured in your life, repentance and crying out to Jesus are wonderful opportunities for renewal.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

How to Increase Your Greatness

You shall increase my greatness,
And comfort me on every side.
(Psalm 71:21)
Here is a man (probably David) who trusts completely in God. “In You, O LORD, I put my trust” (v. 1). Behind the name LORD (all caps) is the Hebrew name Yahweh, the personal name of God, the name by which He revealed Himself in covenant with His people. The writer of this psalm is leaning hard into the covenant God has made with him. His expectation has been set by the promises of God’s protection and provision, and so he is full of confidence in the LORD.

The actions and impulses of his life, his motions and emotions, are consistently focused on Yahweh. “Be my strong refuge, to which I may resort continually” (v. 3). “My praise shall be continually of You” (v. 6). “But I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more” (v. 14).

This is a man who has walked with the LORD for years, faithfully declaring His works (v. 17), and now, even in his old age, his desire is to proclaim the LORD to the next generation. “Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come” (v. 18).

He is not settling back to reminisce about the “good old days,” he is pressing forward to prophesy the future to all who will embrace the strength and power of Yahweh. He has become a father to generations. The essence of fatherhood is inheritance, and inheritance is the secret of greatness.

He has a divine perspective on his life; he takes the long view. Though he has known great and severe troubles, troubles which are not yet past, he trusts God to restore him in a powerful way (v. 20). Then, in verse 21, he declares, “You shall increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side.” There is a greatness to his life, a majesty of mighty deeds. As he continues steadfastly to declare the righteousness and strength of God to the generations, he sees only increase in greatness. God has him surrounded with comfort on all sides. This echoes an earlier prayer of David, “For You, O LORD, will bless the righteous; with favor You will surround him as with a shield” (Psalm 5:11).

Yahweh, our covenant God, is a God of abundance. That abundance is released toward those who are abundant toward Him.

God is willing. Are you? Lay hold of the increase of greatness by the consistency of a life that implicitly trusts, thankfully acknowledges, and faithfully declares the goodness and power of God.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Seeing God Through Eyes of Love
No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. (1 John 4:12)
God is invisible — that is, He cannot be seen with the human eye. We often tend to value that which can be seen over that which is invisible. But in fact, all that can be seen was made by Him who cannot be seen. So don’t let the invisibility of God throw you.

Now, notice what John does here. He says, “No one has seen God at any time.” Then he follows it up with “If we love one another …” Does that seem abrupt to you? A non-sequitur? I mean, what does loving one another have to do with “No man has seen God at any time?”

Remember what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). God is invisible, He cannot be seen with the human eye — and yet, it is still possible to see God.

Or what did Jesus say to Nicodemus in explaining the new birth by the Spirit? “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). Jesus is talking about the wind and the Spirit (the Greek word for “wind” and “Spirit” are the same — pneuma).

We cannot see the wind but we can perceive it at work. In the same way, we cannot see God with the human eye, but that doesn’t mean we cannot perceive Him at work. This kind of seeing has to do with purity of heart and with love. “No man has seen God at any time,” John tell us. And yet, “If we love one another, God abides in us.” Not only that, but John adds, “and His love is perfected in us.”

What does love have to do with seeing God? Everything. But it is not just about our love for God or even His love for us. It is about His love working through us — being perfected in us.

If we love one another, God abides in us. This does not mean that God comes to abide in us when we love one another, for we cannot love one another until God does come to abide in us. Rather, our love for one another is the sign that God abides in us and that His love is doing its perfect work in us, fulfilling its mission in us.

In other words, when we love one another, we are seeing God at work. Even though we do not see Him with our physical eyes, we see His love doing its thing. We are experiencing God at a deeper level than our eyes can ever reveal.

Now, go back to the beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” To be pure in heart means to have an undivided heart, one that is all for God. A divided heart fences off sections from God and from others. It is holding back from God and others and keeps us from loving them freely. God does not hold back His love from us, but we can hold back His love from flowing through us to others. It is only when our hearts are undivided, and we give God free reign in us completely, that we begin to perceive His love perfected in us.

Welcome the rule and reign of God in your heart, giving yourself completely to Him. Let His love do its perfect work in you, reaching out to love one another. Then you shall see God.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Healthy, Wealthy and Wise!

Happy is the man who finds wisdom,
  And the man who gains understanding;
For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver,
  And her gain than fine gold.
She is more precious than rubies,
  And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her.
Length of days is in her right hand,
  In her left hand riches and honor.
(Proverbs 3:13-16)
Here is God’s desire for His people: Wisdom! Wisdom brings happiness. So, we see that God wants us to be happy. Some will protest, “No, God wants us to be holy,” as if holiness and happiness are in some sort of competition (they are not) and we have to choose between one and the other (we do not).

Other people will want to “spiritualize” the whole thing, by which they actually mean to divorce the spiritual from the material and ignore the material altogether. But what happen in the natural has everything to do with what happens in the spirit, and in fact, flows from the spirit.

Still others will say that these are only principles, not promises. But is God a respecter of persons, doing for one what He will not do for another? No, he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him in faith (Hebrews 11:6). He will show His salvation to all who love Him (Psalm 91:16). Nothing is left out of that salvation.

Even others suggest that, since God is sovereign, we can never know what He’s going to do? But we can know what God is going to do — He’s going to keep His Word. The sovereignty of God does not mitigate that in any way. Rather, His sovereignty is the assurance that He is going to do whatever He has said He will do.

This does not mean that there is nothing that can block us from receiving these things. There are things that can become a great obstacles to fully enjoying God’s blessings. Unbelief is one. Unwillingness to forgive is another. But if we are willing to deal with those roadblocks, God will move heaven and earth to fulfill His Word on our behalf.

Now, notice that Wisdom is pictured as holding out her hands. In her left hand is length of days, that is, long life. God’s promise has as much to do with the natural realm as with the spiritual. This is not a protracted state of feeble, doddering life, but life that is vibrant and healthy. It is youth renewed by that satisfying of our desires with good things (Psalm 103:5). It is life that is fresh and flourishing and fruitful, even in old age, to declare that the LORD is righteous (Psalm 92:14-15).

In her left hand, Wisdom brings forth riches, not only spiritual riches, but material riches as well. “Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who delights greatly in His commandments …Wealth and riches will be in his house” (Psalm 112:1, 3). Here again, wealth and riches has as much to do with the natural realm as with the spiritual.

Wisdom also brings honor. “The LORD will give grace and glory (the NIV says “favor and honor”); no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11). Wisdom releases the favor of God into our lives.

Honor is not an idle “feel good” concept. It has substance to it. The word for honor/glory here is kabod, and literally refers to the weight of good and valuable things. Spiritual blessing, certainly, but also material blessing as well. God does not withhold it from those who walk uprightly, those who walk in wisdom.

God wants you and me to be healthy, wealthy and wise. He wants us happy as well as holy. He wants us to live long and strong on the earth, and to be fresh and flourishing and fruitful, even in our old age. The main thing is to lay hold of the wisdom of God.

Monday, March 7, 2005

The Shepherd of Abundant Life

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have lie, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)
Jesus is making a contrast between Himself, as the Good Shepherd (John10:11), and the thief who tries to sneak into the sheepfold. This thief is the devil, false teachers, the spirit of religion, and all who rebel against the authority of God. The thief comes for three purposes:
  • To steal. He does not add anything good to your life, but comes to take good away from you.
  • To kill. He may promise you a good life, but he actually comes to take your life away. He is a murderer.
  • To destroy. He comes to completely destroy you and everything about you — your life, your work, your home, your family, your inheritance.
Many people, even many Christians, believe God comes to steal, that is, to take good things away from us, to kill us or destroy us. They believe He does these things to punish us for sin, to teach us a lesson, or to test our faith in some way. They think He is waiting to pounce on us in judgment.

They’ve got the wrong guy. Jesus, who is the express image of God, does not come to do any of those things. He comes to give life, not just a little, but abundantly. He is overflowing with life, and He comes that you might overflow with it also. He is waiting for you to turn to Him so He can rescue you.

This abundant life is not just about living long, or even living eternally. It is much more. It is a quality of life. It is health and wholeness and prosperity. It is a life filled full to overflowing with the life and blessing of God.

Sunday, March 6, 2005

The Shepherd of Prosperity

The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want. (Psalm 23:1)
Everything about this great Psalm speaks of prosperity and wholeness. We might even say that it is the very definition of peace, the fullness of the Hebrew shalom.

“The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” The LORD supplies all that we need. There is no lack with Him.

“He makes me to lie down in green pastures.” Sheep lie down when they are full, when they’ve had all they want to eat. The LORD our Shepherd takes us to places where there is more than enough to meet our needs. We don’t lie down in dry, dusty fields, having eaten all the grass. No, He leads us to where the pastures are green, even after we’ve eaten our fill.

“He leads me beside the still water.” There is a place of peace and calm, even in the midst of the storm. And that is where our Shepherd takes us. He gives us to drink from the river of His pleasures (Psalm 36:8).

“He restores my soul.” Restoration to wholeness. We do not come up short in anything.

“He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” He leads us into what is right, what is good, and what leads us into the prosperity of God.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” This is not about death, but about life, for He leads us through the valley of the shadow of death. The devil is the false shepherd who comes to steal, kill and destroy. But Jesus is the Good Shepherd who comes to give us life more abundantly (John 10:10).

“For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Our prosperity comes from our relationship with Him. He provides for us, guides and directs us, and gives us His protection.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” Here is how we know that this Psalm is not just about heaven, but especially about this present life: We will have no enemies in heaven! God sets that table for us, even in the presence of our enemies. He abundantly satisfies us with the fullness of His house (Psalm 36:8).

“You anoint my head with oil.” This is the sign of His favor and hospitality, but also of His enabling in our lives. The anointing lifts the burden and destroys the yoke (Isaiah 10:27). It is a sign of our prosperity.

“My cup runs over.” Not only are all our needs met, but we have more than enough. Our God is able to make His grace abound to us so that we always have all sufficiency in all things—and abundance for every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8)

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” The prosperity of God in our lives is not a passing thing. It endures all our days. His goodness and mercy are always with us.

“And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” The secret of true prosperity is dwelling with Him. So deep is His love and so rich is His grace toward us, He takes us into His abode. We are not merely welcomed as visitors, but given a dwelling place forever in His presence.

The LORD is our shepherd. He is the Good Shepherd, the shepherd of our prosperity.

Saturday, March 5, 2005

Believe the Glory

Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Hosts;
The whole earth is full of His glory. (Isaiah 6:3)
In Isaiah’s vision of the LORD, recorded in Isaiah 6, the seraphim, fiery angels of God, declared that the whole earth is full of God’s glory. Think of it — the entire earth is full to overflowing with the glory of God. Always has been, always will be.We don’t have to bring the glory down. It’s already here. Our job is simply to believe it, to get into agreement with it, to think, act and speak according to it.
Father, we need a much greater knowledge of your glory in our world. Give us wisdom and revelation by Your Holy Spirit, that we may know and experience You more and more, and so change our world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Friday, March 4, 2005

I Have Trusted, Therefore I Shall Rejoice

But I have trusted in Your mercy;
  My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
  Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
(Psalm 13:5-6)
Here is a perfect picture of faith and expectation: “I have trusted … I shall rejoice.” What is David trusting in? The mercy of God. This is the Hebrew hesed (pronounced with the guttural ch as in “chanakuh”). It is the covenant love of God, that is, the love by which He covenanted Himself to His people, the promise to always show them His kindness and mercy. It is the steadfast love of the LORD that endures forever (as seen, for instance, in Psalm 136). It is the Old Testament counterpart of the New Testament agape.

Because David has trusted in the steadfast, faithful mercy of God, he has every expectation that he will be rejoicing in its fruit. The word for “rejoice” here is gul, which literally means to spin. It is whirling and twirling with wild delight.

And what is it that David expects to rejoice in? The salvation that comes from God. This salvation is deliverance, healing, restoration, protection, prosperity — whatever is needed for a life of wholeness overflowing with goodness. The Hebrew word is Yeshua, which is the Old Testament name for Jesus.

Because I have trusted in the hesed of God, I will rejoice in His Yeshua. Or, because I have trusted in the steadfast, covenant love of God, I will whirl and twirl with delight in Jesus.

Yes, David is living in between the mercy of God and the salvation He expects to see — or as some put it, between the “Amen!” and the “There it is!” It is a time of patience filled with anticipation. David knows fulfillment is coming, and he has no doubt that soon he will be kicking up his heels with powerful emotion, with dancing and singing. In fact, he is ready now to begin celebrating, and why not? “I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me.” He is considering it a done deal, so let the party begin!

Are you trusting in the faithful mercy and love of God — His hesed, His agape? Then rejoice. Let your heart spin with delight, let your feet kick up in dance, let your voice bellow in joyful songs of praise, because the salvation of God is starting to unfold in your life. Jesus has all that you need, all that your truly desire, and He has come to dwell inside you. So relax into Him by faith, and let the celebration start.

Thursday, March 3, 2005

Laying Hold of Prosperity

It is quite possible for a person to prosper in their soul and yet not be experiencing prosperity in all things. We see this in John’s prayer for Gaius: “I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 2).

Gaius was, apparently, very prosperous in his soul. And yet, here was John praying for him to prosper in all things (that is, material blessing and success in earthly endeavors). Gaius had soul prosperity, but still needed the prosperity of health in his body. Prosperity of soul, though necessary to sustained health and prosperity in all other things, does not make them automatic. They must be appropriated. That is, we must lay hold of them.

God has provided these things — soul prosperity, bodily health and prosperity in all things—for all His people. For He is no respecter of persons. What He desired to do for Gaius, He desires to do for you and me, as well. But we must know how to receive them as our own.

But first, let’s deal with a problemof thinking that often blocks us from receiving, the question of our worthiness. Many Christians think that they are simply unworthy to receive the blessings of the Lord. But they should not feel that way at all. If they have received the Lord Jesus Christ, then they are accounted as righteous before God, not with their own righteousness, but with the righteousness of Jesus Christ Himself. This means that when God looks at us, He sees Jesus. There is no question in His mind about our worthiness before Him, for Jesus is completely worthy. So there should be no question in our mind either, not if we are trusting in Jesus.

Now, just as the salvation of our souls is a matter of faith, not of works, so it is with our prosperity. We receive it by faith. The Bible says that faith comes by hearing the Word of God. For the Word of God reveals the will of God, God’s plan and purpose for His people. As an apostle writing under divine inspiration, John, in his prayer for Gaius, reveals the heart of God for all His people — He wants us to prosper in all things and be in health. Therefore, prosperity is about what God says, and not about what we do. We do not need to somehow come up with our own prosperity. All we need to do is believe the Word of God and do what He says. Then the prosperity of God will start to show up in our lives.

Are you ready to believe God’s Word and His desire to prosper you in all things, as expressed in 3 John 2? Then begin to lay hold of that prosperity by faith. Instruct your soul, “I have the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, I am worthy of God’s blessing and prosperity. I now receive His prosperity in every area of my life.” In this way you will begin to bring your heart and mind into line with the promises of God. Then watch with expectation for you prosperity to begin to manifest.

Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Exercising Your Authority to Bless

We believe that God is a God of blessing, and that He has authorized us as agents of His blessing. We are learning and stretching out in this area. For instance, when we go out to eat now, we not only bless our own food, but all the food in the joint, that there might be a revelation of the goodness of God and an experience of His peace in those places.

Now, when I say, “bless the food,” I do not just mean that we ask God to bless it for us. Jesus gave us authority to bless when He taught us to pray, “Your [the Father’s] will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” So we take that authority and exercise it even when we pray at meal time — “I bless this food in Jesus’ name” — believing that the will of God will be done in that food, exactly as His will is being done in heaven. Can you imagine eating food that is charged with the power of heaven? Now go a step further and imagine charging it with the power of heaven! Every believer is an authorized agent.

Take the authority you have in the Lord Jesus Christ — the authority of His name, the authority of His blood, the authority of how He taught us to pray — and begin bringing forth the blessing of God’s kingdom upon the earth. The world does not need our condemnation, it needs the blessing of heaven to transform it into what He has called it to be.

Matter and Matters of the Spirit

Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. (3 John 2)
Many Christians seem to have an either/or mentality when it comes to prosperity. Either you can prosper in the world and in material things, or else you can prosper in your soul — but you cannot do both. They pit one against the other.

The apostle John, however, very conspicuously brings them both together. “I pray that you may prosper in all things … just as your soul prospers.” Expressing the heart of God, he links them together, laying one on top of the other. There is a priority, prosperity of the soul, but they both work together.

You see, there is no conflict between the material world and the Spirit, as some suppose, for the material world comes forth from the realm of the Spirit. The problem occurs when people focus exclusively on one side or the other. On one hand, there are people who believe that reality is completely and only about the material world, that which we can experience with our senses. On the other hand, there are people who think that the material world is inherently evil and that only the spiritual realm is good, or of any value.

Both views miss the mark completely — they do not represent Biblical truth. They utterly miscomprehend the purpose of God and the nature of the universe. There is no contradiction between the natural and the spiritual, or between heaven and earth. Notice how Jesus brought the two together in the Lord’s Prayer when He taught us to pray, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” God is not out to eliminate that which pertains to the earth, to do away with the material world. Rather, He is out to bring the earth into line with the prosperity and wholeness of heaven.

God has blessed the natural world with His presence. This was the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ — the Second Person of the Godhead taking on human flesh to dwell in the material world. His purpose was not to destroy, but to redeem. In Romans 8, Paul tells us that all of creation is groaning together, waiting for the revelation of that redemption to unfold.

In the early Church, there was a group of people who taught that spirit is good, but matter is evil. These were the Gnostics, and they were roundly condemned as heretics. A similar group taught the Jesus was spirit, but did not really come in the flesh. These also were rejected by the early Church because they were not consistent with the apostolic witness.

The apostle John, in his first epistle, dealt with an early manifestation of such teachers when he wrote,
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. (1 John 4:2-3)
So John is fully consistent with the will and purpose of God when he says, “I pray that you may prosper in all things.”

God wants you to prosper in the world as well as in your soul. He wants to bring His redemptive work into all things, and He wants to do it through you. So embrace His grace, believe His Word, and come into agreement with His wonderful plan for you, your family, your home and your business — these are your ministries.

Tuesday, March 1, 2005

The Life-Changing Message

While I’m thinking about it: The message does not come forth just because there is information. It comes forth because there is anointing — an impartation from God that removes burdens and destroys yokes (Isaiah 10:27). And it comes forth because there is a revelation of the heart of God. Then the message moves far beyond information to transformation.

Material, Earthly Blessing

Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. (3 John 2)
The Greek word for “prosperity,” euodoo, literally means a good journey, that is, one that goes well and successfully reaches its destination. In its general application, it means to be successful, to do well, to be fulfilled, even to abound.

Hear the words of two venerable Bible teachers from the past, on the meaning of prosperity in all things in 3 John 2:
It would apply here to any plan or purpose entertained. It would include success in business, happiness in domestic relations, or prosperity in any of the engagements and transactions in which a Christian might lawfully engage.
Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible

Prosperity in secular affairs. That thou mayest Prosper and be in Health, even as thy Soul Prospereth. These three things, so necessary to the comfort of life, every Christian may in a certain measure expect, and for them every Christian is authorized to pray; and we should have more of all three if we devoutly prayed for them.
Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible
Prosperity “in all things” refers specifically to prosperity in material things and in earthly endeavors. John does not ignore the prosperity of the inner man, the soul and the spirit. Far from it! Rather, he teaches us that prosperity of soul is the foundation for material and physical prosperity. There is no true prosperity which does not first bring the soul into line with the will of God.

Let God set your heart in order, then boldly believe Him to prosper you in all things — in your home, your family, your finances, your business. He is not a God of failure, but of success, and He will cause you to fulfill your destiny of blessing on the earth.